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Baker County Historical Dictionary
(A very brief compilation of people & places)
 
 
ASTOR, JOHN JACOB OVERLAND EXPEDITION - Beginning with fifty ment, this expedition was led by John Jacob Astor who was born in Germany on 17 Jul 1763 and had come to America in 1784 and became a fur trader who headed up the Pacific Fur Company and had later made arrangements with the North West Company of Canada, which enabled him to expand his trade into the interior of America. He led the overland expedition from Montreal, Canada in July of 1810 which orignally included sixty men under the leadership of Wilson Price Hunt, Donald McKenzie, and Ramsay Crooksand and had dwindled to thirty-four after the winter encampment on the Missouri River about St. Louis.

Hoping to establish a trading post that would serve as operating headquarters for the Pacific Fur Company (a division of the American Fur Co.), they primarily set out following the Lewis and Clark trail along the Missouri and had engaged an enterpreter, Piere Dirion accompanied by his wife Marie and their two children, and journeyed westward by boat until they reached the Arikar Villages where they then took up the route on horse, moving westward across the Continental Divided to the Snake River and Henry's Post where they again took up the journey by boat. Impeded by reacherous rapids, sheer waterfalls, and narrow canyons, they were forced to abandon the boats and divided into four groups to continue on foot.On the 30th of December, near North Powder, Madame Dorion gave birth to their third child and the following day, continued on horseback with the Hunt group. When they reached Celilo Falls, the obtained canoes from the Indians and arrived finally at Fort Astoria, situated at the mouth of the Columbia River, on the 15th of February 1812. The first of the group to reach this area was headed by McKenzie and included two of the four groups, and had reached the fort on Janaury 18th. The last of the group, which was presumed to have been dead, included five men, two of which were Crooks and John Day - who arrived the following May.

This expedition led to the establishment of Fort Astoria and the Louisianna Purchase which followed, opened up further opportunity of trade, but following the war with Great Britian, John J. Astor sold the Nort West company on October 16, 1813 and was at the close of this war, reputed to be American's richest capitalist.

 

THE DALLES - This area on the south bank of the Columbia River, was situated at the western end of a series of rapid waters which once flowed swiftly between the ancient Indian fishing grounds of Celilo Falls 12 miles to the east and the Big Eddy. The rapids became known as "les Dalles of the Columbia." The word "dalles" was taken from the French Canadian voyageurs; it meant "flagstone", in reference to the gutter-like basalt trough that contained the roiling waters of the rapids. The rapids were called the long and short narrows, or "le grande dalles" and the "petite dalles."

Missionary Rev. Daniel Lee described the rapids as: ". ...at the Dalles, the whole volume of the river, half a mile wide, rushes through a deep narrow channel, which the action of the water has formed in the course of ages, through an extended tract of the hardest basalt. A mile brings us to the head of the chasm, which, diminishing in breadth to this point, is here only from thirty to fifty yards broad...the Small Dalles, two miles further up... here the river passes through a very deep and narrow cut in the basalt rock, which rises some twenty or thirty feet above it's surface. The water pours through this channel with great velocity... "

The area was occupied by the Wasco-pam Indians who called the place Winquatt, which means "surrounded by rock walls." The word "Wasco" means a bowl made of horn, and the suffix "-pam" refers to the people or tribe.

The Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition camped here in 1805, and again on their return journey in 1806 at a place they named "Rock fort camp."

The first white settlement began in 1838 by Rev. Daniel Lee and Rev. Henry K.W. Perkins, who established a Methodist mission then known as Wascopam Mission, which was set up to minister to the Indians. The mission was one station of the Oregon Methodist Episcopal missions, under the direction of Lee's uncle, Rev. Jason Lee, who was the Oregon Superintendent. Perkins and Daniel Lee held sermons and camp revivals throughout the Columbia Gorge, to bring the "word of God" to the Indian tribes. The mission also became an important stop for the Oregon Trail emigrants, most of whom arrived starved and weakened after their harrowing travel through the high desert of Eastern Oregon. At The Dalles, the Oregon Trail emigrants had to make a decision, whether to risk their families and possessions to raft through the treacherous rapids of the Dalles and again at the Cascade rapids in the Columbia River Gorge, or to attempt to scale the looming slopes of Mt. Hood to go overland to the fertile Willamette Valley.

Jason Lee was removed as Superintendent from his duties by the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church board in 1843. He was succeeded by Rev. George Gary, followed by Rev. William Roberts. After Lee's dismissal, Daniel Lee and Henry Perkins left Wascopam and returned back east, leaving the mission in charge of Henry Bridgman Brewer and Alvan F. Waller. Waller was appointed in 1844 to succeed Daniel Lee and Henry Perkins.

In 1848 Oregon was recognized as a Territorial Government. In 1854, Wasco became a county, and in 1859 Oregon Territory officially became a state of the United States of America. The first Wasco County courthouse in The Dalles was completed April 8, 1859.

The Oregon Donation Land Act of 1850 drew settlers to Oregon by the thousands. The act limited land grants to whites and half-breed Indians. It excluded full-blood Indians, Negroes, Hawaiians, and Asians. By the time the act expired on December 1, 1855, settlers in Oregon had filed for 7,437 patents that covered more than 2,500,000 acres of land.

Camp Drum, the precursor to Fort Dalles, was established in 1850 following the Whitman massacre. Camp Drum was renamed Fort Dalles in 1853. Between 1853 and 1855 the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Oregon Territory, Joel Palmer, held several treaty negotiations. The Wascopam Indians, who signed the treaty in June of 1855, were removed to the Warm Springs Reservation. Several Indian tribes refused to leave their ancient ancestral lands and move to reservations. They refused to sign the treaties, and went to war. Fort Dalles was a central military location during the Yakama Indian war.

The arrival, early in 1856, of Col. George Wright with several divisions of the reorganized 9th Infantry, began Fort Dalles' busiest period. Determined to enforce treaty compliance, Wright moved north after being delayed by a raid at the Cascades in which both the military outpost and civilian settlement came under attack by Klickitat Indians. Fort Dalles was now headquarters for a regiment, the main military depot for all goods and supplies destined for soon-to-be Forts Simcoe and Walla Walla to the north and east.

Fort Dalles was officially incorporated as Dalles City on June 26, 1857.

The end of the Yakima Indian War and the removal of regular troops during the Civil War hastened the fort's demise. Fort Dalles was inactive after 1867, but the government money that built and maintained it had been a spur to local growth and social institutions. The fort supplied the first sawmill, the first newspaper, the first school but for the mission school, a fine military band, and even a makeshift theatre. The community's name evolved several times, becoming Dalles City, and eventually The Dalles.

At the end of the overland Oregon Trail, and with the opening of the gold fields, many people came through by stage, wagon, and riverboat. Those who stayed, raised stock and farmed wheat, and built mills and warehouses. The Dalles became a thriving community.

By 1862 railroad portages operated on both shores of the Columbia River at the Cascades. By 1863 work was completed on the Dalles and Celilo railroad, a portage railroad around The Dalles, owned by the Oregon Steam Navigation Company.

Many Chinese workers came to The Dalles, to work the fisheries, railroad, and the gold mines in Eastern Oregon and Washington.

In the 1900's The Dalles saw the completion of the Celilo Canal which was finished in 1915; the Bonneville Dam in 1938, which increased the town's importance as terminal for river shipping, mostly by barge; and the completion of The Dalles Dam on March 10, 1957 which spans the Columbia River at The Dalles which was constructed to generate hydro-electric power and improve navigation down the Columbia by eliminating the stretch of turbulent water hindered navigation from The Dalles to the mouth of the Deschutes River. When The Dalles Dam went into operation, the backwaters inundated Celilo Falls, destroying the ancient Indian fishing grounds that had been in use by Northwest tribes for over 10,000 years.

Information and text kindly provided (2012) by Susan Buce, member, board of directors for Wasco County Historical Society, and the Wasco County Museum Commission for Fort Dalles.

 

GRIFFIN, HENRY - One of a small party who went in search of the fabled Blue Bucket Mine in which parties previous had said to have found gold - Henry and his two companions moved eastward toward the Baker Valley and there discovered gold nuggest in a creek, afterwards called Griffin's Gulch. This brought upon the gold rush to the area, where stampedes of miners flocked into the gold fields; and after the mining began to diminish, Henry moved to Baker City where he died in January 1883.

 

HUNT, WILSON PRICE - Born in New Jersey on 20 March 1783, and engaged in the mercantile business in St. Louis, he was the fur trader and explorer who had courageously led the Astor Overland Expedition which included John Day and Pierre and Madame Dorion which arrived in Astoria on the 15th of February 1812.

In search of Indian trade, he sailed for Alaska on the Beaver and returned in February of 1814 to find Duncan McDougal had sold out to the British and at this point left Oregon and returned to St. Louis where he married and resided. He died on 13 April 1842.

 

MEEKS, STEPHEN - Born in Washington county, Virginia on 4 July 1807 and older brother of Joseph Meek (Sherrif & U.S. Marshall), he was a trapper and mountain guide who went to work for William Sublette, in 1827. Meeks came to Oregon in 1835 and worked for Dr. John McLoughlin at Fort Vancouver, accompanied Tom McKay on a trip from French Prairie to Yerba Buena (now known as San Francisco) and guided a party from Independence, Missouri to Fort Hall in 1842.

Among his explorations, Meeks helped survey the townsite of Falls City (now part of Oregon City in 1842; guided a party from French Prairie to Fort Sutter, CA in spring of 1843; went to St. Louis in 1843 and while there married an immigrant girl, Elizabeth Schoonover, in 1845.

This same year he led a 200-wagon train of Oregon immigrants from Fort Boise on August 24th of 1845. Attempting to find a new route, the parties split at Fort Hall and when Meek's party did not arrive at The Dalles, a search party headed by Moses "Black" Harrison, was sent out to rescue them. They were located somewhere on the Crooked River and though they had suffered much and lost many lives, it was also on this disasturous trip that gold was found and the story of the Blue Bucket mine began to spread bringing miners to the area.

From this point, Meeks lived at Linn county from 1845 to 1848 at which time he went to the California mines and then returned to Oregon in 1850 and the mines in 1851. He acquired a fortune of $34,000 and invested it in land at Watsonville, California but lost land and money through litigation. He then mined in Amador county, California until 1865, the same year his wife died. Three years later, he piloted a part of thirty men to the Malhueur River mines and continued to trap and hunt the remainder of his life, which ended on 11 January 1886.

 
PAIUTE INDIANS - Living principaly in the Malheur-Harney basins, the Paiutes were of Shoshonian stock and many of their tribes were divided by hostile leaders such as Chief Paulina and Captain Egan who were both killed following the Bannock-incited war of 1878 which was brought upon by the neglect of the federal government to aid them after the white settlers intruded into their hundting territory and killed herds of bison. During this war, fifty whites were killed and eighty Indians. After this last major uprising, the Indians were transferred to the Yakima Reservation.
 

POWDER RIVER MINES/VALLEY - In 1862 three South Carolina immigrants ettled on farmlands along the north bank of Powder River and named the area Sumpter. Gold mines began to spring up over the next few years in such places as Auburn and Griffin Gulch - this area being panned and explored and brought with it hundreds of Chinese. This era was followed by the opening up of rich ore veins after the Sumpter Valley RR came in 1896 and was able to bring in the necessary machinery to mine the tunnels.

The mining town triangle consisted of Sumpter, Bourne (which was first called Cracker) and Granite which at one time boasted a three story, thirty-room hotel, but as the mining of the hard rock mines were worked out, the population began to dwindle and the buildings were deserted. Only the Sumpter Valley RR stayed to serve the agricultural and lumbering needs of the communities, and with the more modern machinery they were able to re-work some of the huge dumps of rock. The community also was shortly revived during the thirties depression period when the price of gold rose and some of the mining activity returned, but with the advent of World War II, the prosperity of the old mining regions began to fade.

 

WHITE, DR. ELIJAH - Born in New York in 1806, he was educated at the medical college in Syracuse and in 1836 appointed by Methodist Church as its physician to the Wilamette Valley mission. He sailed from Boston on the Hamilton with his wife, infant son Jason and adopted son, George and arrived at Sandwhich (now Hawaiian) Island and arrived in July at which time he and his wife taught school. The following May he arrived in Oregon and was stationed at the Lee Mission on the Willamette , but due to differences in mission policies between himself and Jason Lee, Elijah resigned and returned to the Eastern States in 1841.

Appointed sub-Indian Agent for Oregon in 1842, he led a wagon train of more than 100 hundred persons and was able to establish a code of law with the Nez Perce Indians. He sought to appease the Cayuses and Walla Wallas who were threatening to attack the mission, and was a member of the Committee of Twelve named at the second Wolf Meeting to talk of civil and military protection for the settlers.

He was prominent in the Cockstock Affair which was a dispute between two black settlers at Oregon City in which an Indian named Cockstock was hired to labor a land claim and receive a horse for payment, but before the work was finished the owner, Winslow Anderson, sold the land claim and horse to James D. Saules who refused to give the horse to Cockstock. Dr. Elijah White ordered the horse surrendered but Cockstock had enlisted four Molalla brave and they returned to Wilamette Falls armed. The clerk and recorder of the Provisional Government, George W. Le Breton, was fatally shot and another man named Rogers, was wounded by a poisioned arrow. Winslow Anderson retaliated by striking a blow to Cockstock's head, killing him. This incident prompted the organization of the Oregon Rangers in 1844, which was the first military force in the Oregon county, but because the Indians remained peaceful, it was never called into action.

In 1845, Dr. White located a pass through the Coast Range to the head of Yaquina Bay. In 1850 he became the partner of James D. Holman promoting the town of Pacific City and was in 1861 commissioned Indian Agent for the territory west of the Rockie, but went to California. In 1838 his son Jason drowned when the canoe in which Mrs. White and Rev. David Leslie was returning from a visit to The Dalles overturned in the Columbia River; and adopted son George also drowned attemtping to cross the Willamette on horseback. Eljiah died on the 3rd of April 1879.

 
Source: Dictionary of Oregon History, Edited by Howard McKinley Corning Compiled from the Research Files of the Former Oregon Writers Project with much added material 1956 by Binfords & Mort Publishers, Metropolitan Press, Portland, Oregon
 
 
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Updated 04 Jun 2013
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