Welcome To KEY TO THE CITY's Page For
Baker County, Oregon
The first settlement in this vicinity was made by Hugh Asbury, John Reel, Fletch Henderson, Bill Flannigan and Dick Johnson in the fall of 1862. They built a primitive log cabin with a stone fireplace and rock chimney, and named it "Fort Sumpter" in commemoration of the 1861 shelling at the National Garrison at Charleston, South Carolina.
In 1868, a miner by the name of Winters took $ 40,000 in seven weeks from a placer mine near the Greenhorns. This deposit paid out a net of $ 125,000 over several year's time.
In 1884, the Transcontinental Railroad reached Baker City. Then the area began to "boom". The town of Sumpter was platted in 1886, and it rushed ahead and became a "rip roaring" place like all mining towns of those days. In 1896, the Sumpter Valley Railroad reached Sumpter, which added to the already growing community. The real activity was in 1899-1903, with the opening of numerous hard-rock mines and extensive hydraulic placer mining. By now, Sumpter boasted a brickyard, sawmill, smelter, electric lights, a fine gravity flow water system with reservoir and a street paved with planks and miles of wooden sidewalks. There were baseball and basketball teams, a race track, an undertaker, several assayers, a brewery, dairy, two cigar factories, an extensive China Town, hospital, sixteen saloons, livery stables and blacksmith shops, five hotels, a clothing store, three general stores, a public school with 200 students, an opera house, two banks, four churches, a telephone system, newspapers and a fire department. By 1901, Sumpter had grown to more than 30,000 people and 81 business establishments.
In 1905 and 1906, the mines began to lose yield and closed down. The area's population began to decline. The town quieted a great deal. Then in 1913, with the Columbia Mines still in operation, the dredging of the valley commenced. Sumpter began to breath again. The Columbia Mine stopped operation in 1916, leaving Nl. 1 and No. 2 gold dredges working the valley.
Sunday, August 13, 1917, the day began like any other, but by day's end, the properous town was reduced to a pile of rubble and ashes by a fire which consumed virtually the entire business district plus a great number of homes in a twelve-block area.
The No. 2 dredge worked the valley until 1923 and No. 1 until 1924. The dredge that rests at the edge of Sumpter was built by the Sumpter Valley Dredging Company in 1935. Because of World War II, it shut down from 1942-1945. It then operated under various owners until all dredging of the valley ceased in 1954. It recovered more than $ 4.5 million in gold during its heyday. It is said that over $ 4.5 million in gold was recovered by the dredging of Sumpter Valley alone.
Return to Index