Business and Fun in ’62 And ’63

About the Middle of October 1862, the first church organization in Baker County was effected under the supervision of Father Mesplie, of the Catholic Church, who came from Canyon City for that purpose. A long building was secured at the cost of six hundred dollars, but services were not held regularly, owning to the distance the priest had to travel.

About the same time Miss O’Brien, now Mrs. Packwood, commenced the first school taught in Baker County, having about forty pupils in attendance. A lot was donated to her for school purposes and a sum of money raised by subscription to pay for the building of a house. She taught six weeks and gave up the position to Mrs. Stafford who continued the school until some time in the winter when she was taken sick and died. The same fall and winter Mrs. Chandler taught a school near Pocahontas in Powder River valley.

In the latter part of summer of 1862, Mr. Comstock constructed a toll road from Auburn down Powder river to the valley, which he soon sold to Moore and Norcross, of Auburn, and some-time in the winter they sold it to Mr. Place who kept it up as a toll road for several years when it became a county road, land is now one of the most important thoroughfares in the county, being the route traveled from Baker City to all the mines and settlements on upper Powder and upper Burnt rivers, and also across the divide to the John Day country. There was a good road from Washington ranch across the hills to Auburn, very good for pack animals, but for heavily loaded teams it was somewhat like Jordan-a hard road to travel, but so long as packers and teamsters continued to cross the valley at the west side, it was much the shortest route to Auburn from Washington ranch, and consequently most of the travel was over that road. When the road from Grand Ronde valley through Pyle’s canon to the northwest corner of Powder river valley was opened in 1863, the road on the northeast side of the valley became the main route to Auburn and also to Idaho by way of the old emigrant road across the hills to Burnt river.

As the Boise mines became more developed the business of transportation from the Columbia River increased rapidly, and on the 22nd day of April 1865, Place’s Wagon Road and Bridge Company was organized with a capital stock of one thousand dollars, C. M. Foster, C. E. Place and J. H. Ingraham, stockholders. A toll road from Powder River to Burnt River by way of Pleasant Valley, and that became the principal route of travel. On May 15th, 1869, the capital stock of the company was increased to ten thousand dollars by unanimous vote of the stockholders.

April 1, 1879, the road was sold to Baker County and was declared a public road.

In the fall of 1862, people began to leave Auburn and vicinity for the newly discovered Boise mines, and as the season advanced their numbers increased till by midwinter there was a constant stream of emigrants to Idaho. Numbers of men left families at Auburn without provision for the winter, and many times the people were called upon to help the needy and always responded with liberal donations.

Some miners took a notion to give the children of the town a feast of duff. Into fifty pounds of flour they put three cans of Preston & Merrill’s yeast powders, a quantity of fruit and such seasoning as a duff on a large scale required, and after thoroughly mixing the ingredients together, put the mess into a large sack and thence into a large boiler and set it to cooking. The yeast powders raised the stuff to a size beyond all expectation, and the boys had to bestir themselves to keep it under control as it swelled higher and higher towards the roof of the cabin. But the cooking was finally finished successfully and the monster duff was laid on a table, carved up and portioned out to the hungry and expectant children. The duff was really good and the way the little ones enjoyed it was a grand treat to the miners who made the feast.

After the Auburn Canal Company purchased the ditch of the A.W.M. Co., they shipped at one time seventy thousand dollars worth of supplies, besides smaller amounts at other times. Had it not been for the supplies sent by the Canal Company there would have been great suffering in and about Auburn in the winter of 1862-3. Even as it was there was sufficient difficulty in obtaining ‘grub’ or, the part of many persons, to make the point in question asked by a certain man at Pocahontas, easily seen and the humor of it appreciated. Some one told the man that he knew a person at Mormon Basin of the same name and inquired if he was a relative of his. The interrogated person looked at the questioner as if a most serious matter were involved, and asked: “Has he got any grub?”

During the three months of winter, mining operations were suspended and miners had little to do except to amuse themselves. Dancing was one kind of amusement of frequent occurrence as would appear from the statement of a gentlemen who had a nice suit of clothes. There were numbers of young men in Auburn at that time not well equipped in that respect, and the gentlemen referred to being of an accommodating disposition, kept his extra suit of clothes loaned out about half the time to young men who wanted to attend the dances.

An illustration of the rough rollicking style of fun in which miners sometimes indulge, was afforded by the manner in which they conducted a love affair to a successful termination. Some miners on French-gulch noticed that one of their comrades had been in a despondent mood for some days, and knowing that he had not been over to Blue canon, where his best girl lived, since the change came over him, they readily surmised the cause of his despondency, and upon questioning him, learned the facts of the case. The elderly gentlemen who always makes himself disagreeable to ardent lovers by the manner in which he plays the part of the old man in the case, had forbidden young Lochinvar paying any more attention to his daughter, and had mercilessly crushed the fond hopes of the young people. Father Grimes as he may be called, though he must not be mistaken for the meek and mild old Father Grimes who used to wear an old blue coat all buttoned down before,’ had other plans for his daughter in which mercenary motives formed the basis. The miners who heard the young Lochinvar’s story had but little respect for that kind of parental authority which would sacrifice a child’s happiness at the shrine of mammon. But well they knew that the hero in the present case lacked the spirit and mettle of the-”Young Lochinvar’ who ‘is come out of the west’, and well they knew that he would never seek his bride with that fearless impetuosity of the minstrel’s hero when-
“He stayed not for the brake, and he stopped not for stone,
He swam the Eske River where ford there was none;”
no, they could not expect such daring on the part of their hero;
they could not expect him to venture even upon the foot log which spanned Blue canon’s turbulent tide,
to say nothing of invading the Grimes cabin with only a broadsword in his belt,
as the minstrel says his hero did when he alighted at Netherby gate
“So boldly he entered the Netherby hall,
‘Among bridesmen and kinsmen, and brothers and all.’

Although there was little prospect of the French gulch and Lochinvar surmounting difficulties after the manner of the Scotch lover, yet those who undertook the management of his case, viewed the matter in a practical, rather than a romantic light, and resolved that he being.

‘So faithful in love,’ merited equal success with his Scotch prototype even if he were not “so dauntless in war’, and accordingly they laid a plan to carry out their resolve.
Finding that Lochinvar was truly and seriously in love and would be willing to incur the personal risk of making an affirmative answer to the usual question asked by a minister when a person in his condition is arraigned for the purpose of being questioned as to his intentions-provided, of course, that he did not have to incur the further personal risk of meeting Father Grimes with his blue coat off and his sleeves rolled up-the miners promised to ward off the last named danger, and, if the intended bride agreed to the arrangement, have them married forthwith, the only other condition being that Lochinvar should furnish ten gallons of whiskey for the occasion. This being agreed to, a deputation was sent to interview the intended bride, and make arrangement for the wedding, if she would undertake to play the part of the fair Ellen. The young lady loved Lochinvar truly, and was a verse to her father’s plans, and so she did not hesitate to engage in the scheme.

The old man had work to do at night some distance from his cabin, and the young lady was instructed to be ready for flight the next evening, and they would be on hand to conduct her to French gulch. A minister who lived near the top of a steep hill at the head of the gulch, was interviewed the next day, and engaged to solemnize the marriage, if anything connected with such proceedings could be called solemn.

According to appointment the three French gulch miners were at the Grimes cabin on Blue canon the next evening where they found the young lady in waiting, but of course she had not had an opportunity to dress for the occasion, yet this was not an objection of any great consequence. The escort set out with her across the ride to French gulch in a direct line, jumping logs and tearing through brush in a manner which would remind a spectator of the old saying, that, ‘the course of true love never did run smooth.”

A lady who lived’ on French gulch loaned the bride one of her own dresses and assisted her to arrange her toilet and in the course of an hour it was pronounced complete, when the bride with a numerous escort set out to meet the groom at the minister’s house.

Just as they began to ascend the steepest part of the hill, some one called out that old Grimes was coming. A regiment of well drilled soldiers could not have set out on the double quick more promptly than that party did. Reaching their destination the ceremony was performed without waiting for the bride to recover her breath, when, finding that it was a false report about the wrathful parent being in hot pursuit, they returned more leisurely to the house of Mrs. Page to dance and carouse the remainder of the night still expecting a visit from the indignant father Grimes. Near midnight their expectations were realized. Mr. and Mrs. Grimes burst into the house with a fury more intense than that of the parents of the fair Ellen when the brave Lochinvar led her away from the expectant groom who was

‘a laggard in love, and a dastard in war,’ for the minstrel says of them that
‘her mother did fret, and her father did fume.’

which is an expression entirely too mild to represent the humor of the occasion. Immediately after entering the house they were surrounded by a score more of hilarious miners, one of whom mounted a stool for a rostrum and began a speech setting forth to Mr. Grimes in glowing terms, the great good fortune which had befallen him in the acquisition of a son-in-law whom he represented to be the possessor of great tracts of land in the Willamette valley, and endowed personally with all the noblest attributes of manhood.

Whenever either of the indignant parents interrupted the speaker, a miner was ready with a bottle of whiskey to thrust into the open mouth, with an invitation to take a drink.
The orator still held forth in his praise of the groom, congratulating the old man and calling upon him to rejoice at the great good fortune that had fallen his daughter.
Finally the enraged parents became convinced that they could not get an opportunity to vent their wrath up the offending daughter and withdrew from the scene, and the young couple ‘lived happily together ‘ever afterwards.




MLA Source Citation:

AccessGenealogy.com. Baker County Oregon Genealogy. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 20 April 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/oregon/business-and-fun-in-62-and-63.htm - Last updated on Nov 29th, 2012


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