One of the owners of the Virtue Mine, Col. J. S. Ruckles, had
Famous as a distribution and trade center, Baker City was established in 1864, and in june of 1868, an election was held with Baker being chosen as the county seat and the 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 and the Western Hotel was built on Front Street in 1865. It was the headquarters for the overland stage which came through Baker City five times a week. The Bedrock Democrat, the city's first newspaper, began printing in 1870.
In October of 1874, Baker City was incorporated. Baker City called itself the "Queen City of the Mines", and became the center for mining commerce in Northeast Oregon.
Coast-to-coast transportation became available when the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company line arrived in Baker City on August 19, 1884.
Logging began five years later when David Eccles founded the Oregon Lumber Company. The company built the narrow-gauge Sumpter Valley Railroad which was nicknamed the "Stump Dodger", and ran from Baker City 80 miles to the South. The railroad hauled lumber, passengers, cattlemen, prospectors, and loggers. It continued to carry passengers and mail until 1937, but later handled only lumber until the line was finally abandoned in 1947.
At the turn of the century, Baker City also became known as the "Queen City of the Inland Empire". with elegant restaurants in fine hotels, and the Baker Theatre was often filled to capacity for road-show company productions. All night saloons, gambling houses and hurdy-gurdy dance halls were crowded with gamblers, miners, ranchers, cowboys and sheepherders.
The Salvation Army marched along Main Street, playing their
Baker City also had a sizeable 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 same mines. After mining activity slowed to a degree, the Chinese worked as house servants and also operated laundries and restaurants. They even had their own cemetery East of Baker City, but in the early years of the 1900's, all of their remains were disinterred and returned to China for reburial.
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
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 stone mason, John Jett, expanded his business to include complete stone buildings. City Hall was built in 1903, St. Francis Cathedral in 1905, the Pythian Castle in 1907, the Rand Building in 1908, the Carnegie Library and County Courthouse in 1909, the Post Office in 1910, and the Y.M.C.A. in 1912. Many of them have been restored.
Another historic landmark, one recently restored to its' former grandeur, is the Geiser Grand Hotel on Main Street. Built in 1889 by the Geiser Family, the hotel enjoyed a reputation as the finest hotel between Portland and Salt Lake City. The hotel also served as the stage stop in the region for many years as well.
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