Welcome To KEY TO THE CITY's Page For
Baker County, Oregon
once known as "Queen City of the Mines"
Chamber of Commerce.
"One of the owners of the Virtue Mine, Col. J. S. Ruckles, had begun looking for a site with water access to operate an ore processing mill for his mine. He located a site on the Powder River, about eight miles southwest of the mine. It was at this spot that Baker City was born.Baker City, famous as a distribution and trade center, was established in 1864 and in June, 1868, an election was held with Baker being chosen as the county seat and county name. Both were named for Col. Edward Dickinson Baker, U.S. Senator from Oregon, and the only member of Congress to die in the Civil War.A mail route was established in 1866, linking the two major mining towns of Eastern Oregon - Baker City and John Day. A mercantile store was established by A.H. Brown, a saloon followed. The Western Hotel was built on Front Street in 1865, and was the headquarters for the overland stage that came through Baker five times per week. The Bedrock Democrat, the city's first newspaper, was printed in 1870.In October of 1874, Baker City was incorporated. Baker City called itself the "Queen City of the Mines," and was the center for mining commerce in Northwest Oregon.Coast-to-coast transportation became available when the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company line arrived in Baker on August 19, 1884, and then joined the Union Pacific at Huntington.The logging boom began five years later when David Eccles founded the Oregon Lumber Company and the Sumpter Valley Railroad. The company built the narrow-gauge Sumpter Valley Railroad which was nicknamed the "Stump Dodger," and ran from Baker City to Prairie City, 80 miles to the south. The railroad hauled lumber, passengers, cattlemen, prospectors, and loggers. It continued to carry passengers and mail until 1937, and afterwards only logs until 1946. It was later abandoned in 1947.Schools, newspapers, opera houses and churches were established early in Baker County with an elementary school system in 1862. The Bedrock Democrat in 1870, Rust's Opera House in the 1870's and the Catholic Church in 1871.At the turn of the century, Baker City became known as the "Queen City of the Inland Empire," with elegant restaurants in fine hotels, and the Baker Theatre opera house was often filled to capacity for road-show compnay productions. All night saloons, gambling houses and hurdy-gurdy dance halls were crowded with gamblers, miners, ranchers, cowboys and sheepherders. Salvation Army members would march along Main Street, playing their instruments and preaching to the customers of the saloons and houses of ill repute.Baker City also had a sizable Chinese population. The Chinese came to the Baker City area to work in the mines and to build water systems for the mills that serviced the mines. After the mining activity slowed, the Chinese worked as house servants and operated laundries and eating places. They had their own cemetary east of Baker City, but in the early years of this century all the remains were disinterred and returned to China.Eastern Oregon was in its second mining boom between 1890 and 1910, and the mines financed many of the fine brick, masonry and stone commercial buildings and homes that still grace the city. The Hotel Warshauer was completed in 1889. It had 70 rooms and a richly furnished interior, including a dining room which had a seating capacity of 200. It was an elegant hotel with many mining entrepreneurs from across the United States staying there while visiting the area and making deals.A major fire destroyed most of the west side of Main Street in 1888. Brick buildings were built to replace the razed structures. A master stonemason, John Jett, had expanded his business from rock foundations and ornamentation to entire stone buildings. City Hall was built in 1903, St Francis Cathedral in 1905, the Carnegie Library in 1909, the County Courthouse in 1909, the Pythian Castle in 1907, the Oddfellows Lodge in 1907, the Rand Building in 1908, the Post Office in 1910 and the YMCA in 1912"
Some of the history contained herein is the copyright property of Telfax Inc., La Grande, O regon
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Baker County Visitor Center for information about all the surrounding area.
490 Campbell Street
Toll-free: 800 523-1235
National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center at Flagstaff Hill
P.O. Box 987
Baker City, Oregon 97814
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