The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
Flagstaff Hill

Baker City, Or.

August 4th, 1998

In Map nametraveling from Boise Idaho to somewhere in Washington State, we happened to go through a small town in Oregon called Baker City. Since I am (and have been since the onset of our marriage) the unofficial tour guide I started looking at Baker City as a place we might want to stop. (Our family motto is: I keep us from getting bored and Bob keeps us from getting killed.) So far this has worked out very well. We decided that we would spend a couple of days in Baker City. It was our hope to find North America, both past and present. The high school version of American History left little interest in the events that made this nation what it is today. But the tales of heroism, betrayal, and sacrifice are everywhere throughout this land. From the Acadians of Nova Scotia to the defenders of the Alamo, the men and women of this land carved out a history which comes to life for us, when we are standing where it happened and listening to people who have lived there for years tell of events as they learned of them from their relatives and ancestors. Some tales like the adventures of Big image-04Nose George Peratt, were short and related only to one town, others were gigantic, encompassing thousands of people over large portions of land. So it was, as we began to explore the history of the Oregon Trail. 150 years ago, pioneers came for two thousand miles over the Oregon and California Trails to find new lives in the West. Mothers, fathers, and children walked with their wagons across endless prairies, scorched deserts, craggy summits, and swollen rivers. Days were hot and nights were bitter cold. Often, they fought starvation, and for five months straight they marched as far as twenty miles a day. Despite the distance and perils, over 300,000 departed from Missouri between 1810 and 1860, approximately 60,000 of those pioneers came to Oregon, mainly to find farmland. They often were America's newest residents. Emigrants from Germany, France, Scotland, Ireland, Norway. Even the Basque country. People, who often spoke no English, and had no experience in living on the range, gathered in Missouri to join wagon trains headed up by experienced wagon masters and armed with guide books written by those who had passed before, they put their faith and belief that the passage could be done and that the life waiting at the end was well worth the price. Many would never make it. All along the Oregon trail, there were those who would drop out and make a life wherever they were. Towns and city sprung up all along the trail. One of these was Baker City Or., a town that grew up after gold was found nearbyimage-05. We visited the historic Geiser Hotel, a landmark building with its own legacy. Newly refurbished, we spent the afternoon with its new owners, Dwight and Barbara Sidway, but that is another story. We also stopped by the US National Bank, to see the largest gold nugget found in the Northwest. This nugget, weighing 80.4 ounces or 6 3/4 lbs., was found on June 19, 1913 by George Armstrong in Grant County Or. The story is that Armstrong, following his son as they left the mine, noticed that the nugget was protruding from his son's footstep where it had sunk in the mud. He picked it up and took it to the bank for safekeeping, accepting several hundred dollars in advance. When that was spent, he sold it to the bank. Gold was selling at $17 an ounce at that time.

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