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On Wednesday, May 11, 1870, the first number of the Bedrock Democrat was issued-the first newspaper published in Baker County Abbott & McArthur, proprietors. The editor in his address to the public promises devotion to the interests of the people of Eastern Oregon in all things pertaining to the material interests of the people, and fidelity to the Democratic Party in political matters.
In the editorial columns the public debt and other political questions of the time are discussed. In the local columns the different mining camps of the county all receive a notice.
The miners at Auburn were jubilant over their prospects, and in the Shasta district it was announced that the waters of Camp Creek had just been turned into the Burnt River ditch to be conveyed to the Eldorado diggings. From Rye Valley it was reported that Webber & Co. made a clean up the week before which averaged two hundred dollars per day, and Green and Archambeau cleaned up an average of ninety dollars per day. At Mormon Basin Mr. Copeland had picked-up two nuggets the week before worth fifty and sixty dollars respectively. The quartz ledges in the Granite Mountains are spoken of as having attracted much attention the previous fall.
Mention is made of the Baker City post office having lately been made and designated a money order office by the postmaster general. On the 20th of April the democratic central committee had filled the vacancy on the ticket caused by Hon. L. L. McArthur resigning the office of county judge to accept the nomination for circuit judge. J. D. McFarland, of Auburn, was chosen for the position.
The return of S. Ottenheimer from a visit to Europe is mentioned as also his intention of engaging in the mercantile business in Baker City, having a stock of goods then on the day from the east.
B. Whitten had been appointed circuit judge for the unexpired term of Judge Wilson, resigned.
It was also announced that H. Bamberger would shortly open an extensive mercantile establishment in the city.
Under the heading, Treasure Shipment, it was stated that the total shipments of gold for the month of April amounted to fifty thousand seven hundred and eighty dollars.
In the advertising columns of the first number appears the names of the following persons who are here, or were until recently, J. W. Virtue, broker; R. A. Pierce, L. O. Sterns, I. D. Haines, attorneys; Dr. T. N. Snow, physician and surgeon; Reid of the Western hotel; Reynolds and Ferguson, of the express store; McCord Bros., blacksmiths; McCrary and Tracy, variety store; J. W. Wisdom, druggist; Dr. Snow, City drug store.
Dr. J. M. Boyd gives notice that he has positively withdrawn from the practice of medicine, and A. H. Brown announces that he has sold his stock of goods to Messrs, Bowen & Cranston.
In the second number issued the 18th of May, is a notice of a week of wintry weather, winding up with a snow storm on the 16th’ it is also announced that J. L. Armstrong had established a brickyard a quarter of a mile north of the city.
The pioneer stage line had reduced the time from Umatilla to Boise to three days. L. O. Sterns was appointed county judge, by Governor Woods, for the remainder of the term of L. L. McArthur who had resigned his office to accept the nomination for circuit judge. June 1st, mention is made of the large nugget of gold taken from the claim of S. A. Caldwell & Co., at Gimletville, weight 247 oz. 18 pwts., 8 grs., value $3966.64. On the 29th of May there was a snow storm all over the valley whereupon the editor was much disgusted with the poets’ who sing genial spring, its balmy breezes and budding trees,’ &c.
In July 1870 Abbott & McArthur dissolved partnership the latter retiring from the business and Abbott continuing the publication of the Democrat as sole proprietor.
With No. 12, Vol. 3, August 1, 1872, M. H. Abbott retired from the management of the paper and J. M. Shepherd assumed control as editor and proprietor, and the commencement of Vol. XI, May 5, 1875, announces that his son, H. C. Shepherd is associated with him as partner, and December 15th, 1880, announced that his connection with the paper ceased, having sold out after eight years and four and one half months of editorial labor, and thereafter it was issued by the Bedrock Publishing Company, I. B. Bowen, Jr., and J. T. Donnelly, local editors, until April 1, 1882, when there was a partial change of ownership and thereafter it was published by J. T. Donnelly & Co., until the 9th of May, 1887, when it was purchased by Bowen & Small, who have continued the weekly Democrat and in addition have published the morning Democrat a daily paper for the past six years. The office of the daily and weekly Democrat is supplied with an improved steam Cottrell press, job press and everything complete for a news and job printing establishment, the plant valued at about ten thousand dollars. A day and night force, altogether twelve persons, are employed in the mechanical department, whilst the proprietors attend to the editorial and business affairs personally. The weekly has a circulation of about twenty-five hundred copies and the daily about twelve hundred, both being liberally patronized in the way of advertisements. The yearly business of the establishment amounts to fourteen or fifteen thousand dollars.
From 1872 to 1876 the Herald was published by R. B. Boyd & Co., when it was discontinued, and for four years the Democrat was the only paper published in the county.
In 1882 the Tribune was established, G. W. Plumley, editor and publisher and in 1888 was sold to the Oregon Blade Publishing company and the Oregon Blade, daily and weekly, was published by that company until the latter part of 1892 when the daily was discontinued.
In April 1892 the publication of the daily and weekly Enquirer was begun by the Peoples Publishing Company, and in the following July the daily was suspended, and in August the plant was partially destroyed by fire necessitating the suspension of the weekly.
In October 1880, the first number of the Baker Reveille was issued by M. H. Abbott & Sons. In 1882 M. D. Abbott became sole proprietor, and began the publication of a daily edition which was continued until 1890. The paper was published regularly for a period of twelve years under one management, as an independent democrat. A strong independent movement being organized in 1892, with the determination of starting a paper, Mr. Abbott disposed of the plant to the Peoples Publishing company in April of that year, retaining the books and name of the Reveille himself. M. H. Abbott the senior partner died in Tacoma, July 4th, 1885, after a short illness. M. D. Abbott is still in Baker City, conducting an exclusive job printing business with Mr. J. G. Foster, under the name of Abbott & Foster.
In the spring of 1863, the Indians began to commit depredations, their first act being an attack upon a packer of the name of Mr. Porter at the crossing of Powder River on the trail leading to Clark’s creek. He was shot through the neck but escaped into the willows and finally reached Auburn and recovered. All his animals were driven off.
In June of the same year John Thompson was herding horses for the citizens of Auburn, having a corral on Poker flat in which he kept them at night. During the term of circuit court he had charge of the horses which Judge Wilson and several attorneys and others from below had ridden to Auburn, and one night the Indians raided the corral and drove the entire band of horses away.
During the summers of ’63 and ’64 horse stealing by Indians was very common throughout the country from Snake River to the headwaters of Burnt and Powder Rivers. There were good reasons for believing that there were white men in the business also, operating with the Indians, besides the white men who stole animals without any such co-operation. At that time no efforts were made by citizens in different places to pursue and recapture stolen animals. It was such a common thing to hear of horses being stolen, that a report of loss of the kind created no excitement.
In the summer of 1864 Mr. Conant and another man left Clarks creek to go to Auburn. When about two miles from Burnt river on Auburn gulch they were fired upon by Indians and Conant’s companion fell from his horse badly wounded. Conant dismounted and placed the wounded man on his own horse and, leading the other horse, escaped the Indians shooting at him all the time. Very few men would have had the nerve to remain with a disabled comrade under such circumstances.
When J. W. Virtue was sheriff he was returning from a tax collecting tour at Clarks creek and Mormon Basin, with about fifteen hundred dollars worth of dust, when he encountered a party of Indians on the summit of the mountains between Burnt and Powder rivers. He was going around the point of a bluff and came close upon the Indians, and taking his revolver in his hand he waved it at them, indicating that he wanted them to turn out of the trail. This they did quickly, no doubt thinking there were more white men near. They were driving some stolen horses and seemed anxious to get away as fast as possible. After Mr. Virtue had passed the place some three hundred yards he thought he would turn about and stampede the Indians and recover the horses. He rode after the Indians with that intention, and when near enough to start stampeding the process, it seemed to react upon himself, as he did the stampeding act with the Indians in hot pursuit for about three miles sending bullets whistling through the air about him. When he relates the incident now, he laughs at the notion he entertained of frightening Indians away from stolen horses.
In the spring of 1867, a Mr. Richardson was crossing the mountains in a wagon from Rye Valley to Burnt River. About two miles from the river an Indian was concealed on a rocky point near the road, and shot at Richardson when he came opposite the point. The wagon was just on the brink of a steep decent in the road, and at the instant the Indian fired, Richardson leaned forward quickly to seize the brake lever, and by that act his life was saved, the bullet passing very close to his back. He sprang from the wagon and fled down the gulch to Burnt river leaving his team to take chances with the Indians, but the horses made their way safely to the river.
In the month of February 1868, B. F. Koontz, started from Auburn to his home on Burnt River. Mr. Bowen who was then living at Auburn advised him not to make the attempt during such stormy weather as it then was, but Mr. Koontz was confident he could cross the mountains between Powder river and Burnt river safely on snowshoes as he was well acquainted with the route. He was out all that day and the night following, and at dawn of day the next morning became completely exhausted when near enough to his home for his calls for help to be heard by his wife. Some persons went in search of him, and found him lying on the snow, his hands and feet badly frozen. He was taken to the house and some hours afterwards died from the effects of the exposure. It appeared from such account of the trip as he was able to give, that he lost or broke one of his snowshoes, just after he crossed the summit of the mountain, and that he tried to travel with only the one shoe for a while, and then abandoned it, and tried wading through the snow for some distance, but finding it too wearying, he turned back to recover the abandoned snowshoe, but failed to find it. Turning towards home again he managed, by wading through the snow part of the time, and crawling on his hands and knees on top of it part of the time, to get near enough to his home to make himself heard. Mr. Koontz was an enterprising and honorable business man, highly respected by all who knew him.
It was he who first proposed to build a toll road across the mountains from Baker City to Burnt river at Bridgeport.
The road was afterward built by a company of which Dr. Boyd was a member and principal stockholder. The road was known as the Boyd toll road until June 1871, when John Dooley bought Boyd’s interest, and the name was changed to the Dooley road. Mr. Dooley remained in possession until 1889, and then sold it to the county and it became a public road.