Crescent, Crown, and Great American: Buckeye

by Grace Meadows

This started out as an inspired-by-“Ghost Mine”-via-article-in-Ruralite follow-up to 29 Sep 2013’s “Chinese Food for Thought,” where “Ghost Mine” is a series shot in the Sumpter area and airing one more week on the Syfy Channel and Ruralite is the magazine put out by Oregon Trail Electric. The article writer had equated Crescent Mine with Buckeye Mine, which I had done at one time myself until I found out it wasn’t quite true.

Then I started looking at the maps and getting distracted by letters and mine claims. I haven’t had frequent access to hundred-year-old documents and the WOW factor just carried me away. I am limiting myself to two maps in this article, but hope to delve into an Indenture “entered into this 13th, [sic] day of December, A. D. 1906,” and a “Financial Statement of the James B. Sipe Mining Company and General Report of Development Work from June 15th, 1905 to December 15th, 1910” in another article. These and other documents are courtesy of the Sumpter McEwen Masonic Lodge, and how they came to have them is yet another third or fourth story.

The Buckeye Mine is actually made up of several different lode claims. I’ve taken to calling it the Buckeye Group to help me remember. Sumpter historian Brooks Hawley called it the Buckeye Group, too.


The Buckeye Group

Surveyed Sept 11-15 1914 by Park A. Reed

Sumpter, Oregon.

Changes made in location of claims by C.F.K. Jan 1915.

This reduced copy from part of a larger map, 1969, belonging to McEwen Lodge.”

The Crescent and Great American lode claims are seen from above with squiggly lines marking tunnels. There’s a road coming up from the lower left and curving across slope to be parallel to the ridge line and end where Great American/Buckeye Tunnel No. 1 goes into the mountain. On this road, there were a stable, a boarding house, a bunk house, and a blacksmith’s shop. The blacksmith’s shop is closest to the tunnel opening and the stable is farthest from it and the only building on the downhill side of the road.

The Crown is south of the Crescent, and at first it looks like the side view must be of the Crown. Keep staring at the map, though, and it becomes clear that the side view is of the Great American and the Crescent. Great American Tunnel No. 1 comes to an end under the Crescent rectangle in the overhead view. You see Kennerly Crosscut. There’s the Face of Tunnel No. 2 and Grave’s Shaft, all within the Great American “square.”

Lo and behold, in the side view you can also find the Kennerly CC marked on Tunnel No. 1 and Grave’s Shaft dropping down into Tunnel No. 2. Light bulbs go on.

The road in “Ghost Mine” went up to the opening of Tunnel No. 4, in the Crescent rectangle, high on the mountain side. The rise found in the middle of the second season of the series is the shaft that connected Tunnel No. 4 to Tunnel No. 5. Crescent’s Tunnel No. 5 lets a person clamber up onto the mountain slope to look southwest over the Cracker Creek drainage toward Sumpter Valley. Take the easier horizontal exit from Tunnel No. 5 and you’re looking northeast over the Rock Creek drainage toward Baker Valley. A mine tunnel that goes all the way through the mountain right here in our little ol’ neck of the woods!

From above, you can see that Tunnel No. 3 curved as it reached the boundary between Crescent and Crown and headed almost due north until it ended close to directly under the ridge line. Imagine dropping a deep shaft from Tunnel No. 4 and intersecting Tunnel No. 3 near its unnamed crosscut. Probably not practical from a mining point of view, but awful fun from the gee-whiz angle. It looks like a long way down. How far would it be?

For that answer, we turn to a different cross-section, the “Vertical Section following the vein from the North Pole Mine through the Sipe Mine” from “U.S. Geological Book page 658, 22nd Annual Report 1900-1901, Part II, Ore Deposits. Chas. D. Wallcott, Director.”


The piece of paper is beat up, but still quite legible. The top of the mountain is at 8600’. Tunnel No. 5 is called Rock Creek #2 and is 315’ long. The shaft from the surface down to No. 5 is called Bruce Shaft and is 40’ deep. The shaft from No. 5 down to Tunnel No. 4—Tunnel #3 on this map—is 60’.

The different labeling makes me wonder if the blue map includes tunnels from the Crown, whereas the cross-section above has only Great American and Crescent. Tunnel #1 seems to be the same as Tunnel No. 1, and it’s 590’ long. Tunnel #2 and Tunnel No. 2 both have Grave’s Shaft dropping down into them. The tunnel is 282’ long and the shaft is 90’ deep. On the blue map, a 20’ long Gleason Tunnel exists from off the top of Grave’s Shaft. This tunnel doesn’t appear on the white map. The 683’ long K Tunnel of the blue map looks to be Tunnel No. 3 from the white map. In the financial report, I do recall seeing a reference to K Tunnel. The blue map also shows two unnamed, short tunnels on the Rock Creek side of the mountain, one above and one 20’ long one below Rock Creek #2.

To get back to what I was asking myself, it looks like Tunnel No. 3/K Tunnel got a lot longer after 1901 and that dropping a shaft down to it would be about 90′, except nothing seems to be drawn to scale, so I don’t really know.

As I’ve said before, so many distractions. And so many questions. What’s really intriguing is what I’m not showing you: the other three-fifths of the blue map, that actually has cross-hatching for the mines in “Vertical Section following the vein from the North Pole Mine to the Golconda Mine.” Lucky for you, those mines have nothing to do with “Ghost Mine,” so I’m not wandering into that territory.

For a while anyway.

Chinese Food for Thought

Sumpter has so much history and so many great archival photographs, it’s been hard to figure out what to tackle next. Surprisingly, turning on the television led to inspiration.

There were six episodes of “Ghost Mine” on Syfy channel in Jan-Feb of 2013. Another twelve episodes started airing in early Sept. It’s been great fun hearing behind-the-scenes chatter around town. How deep was that mysterious portal really? What local man carved the Masonic door? Who placed the Masonic rocks? All three answers involve a supposed security guard who makes his television debut in an upcoming episode. (At least I think he hasn’t been on TV before.) A more open-ended debate was which paranormalist was the worse housekeeper: Patrick or Kristen?

Anyhow, in the second season’s fourth episode, they touched on the role of Chinese in mining the West. They interviewed Greg Nokes about the massacre of Chinese miners in Hells Canyon. They neglected to mention this Snake River canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America (take that Grand Canyon!) lies on the border between Oregon and Idaho. They also neglected to mention that the Snake is over fifty miles due east of Sumpter, as the crow flies. Going up and down the hills between here and there and around through passes in mountain ranges makes the trip by land considerably longer. Couple that with having to swing pretty far north because the massacre took place in Wallowa County—north of Baker County in which Sumpter is located—and the trip’s even longer.


Sumpter is near the Hwy 7 symbol in the lower left half of the map; Granite is to the west-northwest of Sumpter

The May 1887 event, in short, saw six white men apparently ambushing, torturing, murdering, and robbing a group of up to thirty-four Chinese men at Deep Creek. In 2005, the site was officially labeled Chinese Massacre Cove. In addition to the book he wrote and the interviews he’s given, Greg Nokes wrote a short article for the Oregon Encyclopedia about the massacre, its possible cover-up, and the eventual official recognition:


photo of Chinese Massacre Cove by Greg Nokes

This was probably the worst instance of abuse of the Chinese in Oregon, and it’s good that it get talked about. Bit by bit, the Chinese who helped pioneer a lot of our area of the country are getting recognition.

The show also visited the China walls in Granite, OR, in Grant County, about 15 miles west-northwest of Sumpter, and, by the way, over 70 miles away from Chinese Massacre Cove. According to the walking tour brochure for Granite, The China Walls are about 1-1/2 miles outside of “town. Rows of hand piled rock remain at the site where hundreds of Chinese were brought into the Granite district to work abandoned claims. The claims were leased for $8 to $12 a year. The China company made all the arrangements and taxed each man $2 per season.”

I’ve stacked rocks before. If you toss them willy-nilly, the pile gets unruly and in the way in a hurry. If you take the time to stack carefully, the pile stays tidy and unlikely to roll a random rock onto your toe as you walk by. So, how do you get lots and lots of rocks out of the way so you can get to the gold-bearing sand under them? You get really tidy and very, very patient. The walls looked pretty impressive even on my small screen. I’ve been meaning to get there for a look myself ever since I saw them listed on the walking tour brochure, just as I’ve been meaning to visit Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site over in John Day since I heard of it.

The Oregon State Parks brochure for Kam Wah Chung says, “The museum was built in the 1870s, possibly as a trading post. This tiny, unassuming building became home to two Chinese immigrants, Ing “Doc” Hay and Lun On. Both became locally famous: Lung On as a general store proprietor and businessman, and “Doc” Hay as a practitioner of herbal medicine. For 50-some years, the building was a social, medical and religious center for the Oregon’s Chinese community.” Doc Hay treated Chinese, European, and American patients in his “clinic” until 1948.


Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site;

One of the surest ways to see just how important the Chinese were, though, is to turn to the Federal Census. The city of Auburn—namesake for Auburn Street in the City of Sumpter—in Oct 1861 was where gold was first found in what eventually became Baker County. In the 1870 federal census, Auburn’s population was about 450. Of those, 233 were of Chinese descent, one of them a five-year-old boy born in Oregon. Most of the Chinese were involved in mining, but there were also a doctor, three washerwomen, one male washer, a female domestic, seven traders, and six cooks.

Sumpter apparently didn’t get a count in 1870, but its 1880 census was a lot like Auburn’s 1870; in 1880 Sumpter showed a population of 261. There were seven white women, two Chinese women, and fifteen white children. Of the 237 men, 210 were miners. Of the 237 men, 195 were Chinese. There were shopkeepers and other professions among both genetic sets. Most of the whites were born in the United States, but there were also the usual English, Irish, and Scottish, as well as a few Germans, Canadians, and a French man whose accented pronunciation of his name, Rimbol, led the census taker to record “Rambo.”

Ah, more inspiration. Reading censuses can actually be pretty fascinating. Choices, choices, choices. And when you finish a session investigating the past, you’re soon hungry for more.

Students Imagine Then While Viewing Now

by Grace Meadows

historic photos courtesy of Baker County Library

While I was away in late May and early June, about 500 students from across Oregon visited Sumpter on school field trips. Some only rode Sumpter Valley Railroad Restoration’s historic steam train and visited the Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area. More did that AND visited the Sumpter Municipal Museum and took part of the historic walking tour, with accompanying historic photographs. Most who did the walking tour made it as far as Auburn Street.

The walking tour started in front of the Museum. Join me now for a taste of what the students saw and heard from their tour guide.

“Welcome to Sumpter, founded in 1862. Last year Sumpter had its 150th birthday. The Museum here was built in 1899. It has served as a store and a gas station. We’re still trying to figure out anything else it might have been. The blank concrete you’re standing on is where the gas pumps were. This is where I caught the school bus. Across the street stands the Black Market, an antiques store.

Black Mkt02

Black Market

“But around 1900, the building was smaller and was where the engineers who measured out Sumpter property worked. Next we’ll walk up to the building where their bosses worked.”


Sumpter Townsite Syndicate Engineering Department

The students then walked north along Mill St to the Sumpter Townsite Syndicate office building (discussed and displayed photographically in previous posts “Brewing Up Trouble” and “The Modern Troughs”). The attention of the students was called to the wall on the north side of the building, which was built at an acute angle from the front wall rather than at a ninety-degree angle.

Sumpter Townsite Co_nodate03

Sumpter Townsite Syndicate Office

“We know this building was built after the railroad arrived in Sumpter in 1896. There was a big curve in the track here. The Townsite building was built inside that curve.”


Brooks Hawley’s  map: Historic Sumpter

The next stop was as close to Auburn St as time allowed. North of Auburn St, the students were told, many buildings burned in the 1917 fire, as they could see in pictures on display at the Museum. South of Auburn St, no buildings burned. (If you can’t visit the Museum right at the moment, see previous post “The 1917 Fire and Granite Street” or get online to look at Baker County Library’s historical photos archive.)

As they stood at the corner of Mill and Auburn, looking around…

S_2012_North up Mill

2012 north up Mill

… they were urged to imagine a brewery, bakery, bank, newspaper office, and hardware store.

S_1910ish_Sumter north up Mill

1910ish up Mill

Over there had stood a feed store (see also previous posts “Looking Both Ways” and “The Round Trough”).

S_Pioneer Feed_1903

Pioneer Feed 1903

“The train came into town this far, and the depot stood there.

S_SVRy Depot

SVRy depot

“Where the little green store stands now…


Soda Mountain

“… was a livery stable where they parked their horses and walked the two blocks to where the real downtown was with its hotels, restaurants, cigar store, drug store, and lots of other businesses.

S_Taylor Livery

Taylor Livery

“See the building that says Sumpter Trading Post? In the 1910 photo, it said Basche, and it was also built in 1899. The Basche Hardware building burned, but the bricks of the many other destroyed brick buildings in town were used to rebuild it [see also previous post “North Mill Street: Basche Hardware and Ellis Opera House”]. It was used as City Hall from the 1920s to the 1970s, when the new City Hall was built. We had lots of potlucks and I was in Christmas programs in there, too.

“Where the new City Hall stands now, on this side of the Basche building, is where a newspaper office was. Next to that was the Bank of Sumpter. In the 1917 fire, the bank burned down and all that was left was the vault. When I was growing up, people would come look at the vault and say, ‘Oh, there was an old building here.’ Then they’d take a brick.  I remember they put up a fence so not all the bricks would disappear.

S_Bank of Sumpter_nodate02

Basche Hardware, office of “The Blue Mountain American,” and Bank of Sumpter (no date)

“In the 1990s, they put the bricks back together and built a cover over it. If you get a chance to come back to Sumpter, you can go up there and see the rebuilt vault.”

vault 02

rebuilt vault

Only one group of students had the time to sneak up as far as the vault. No one had time to visit Granite St. But they did a good job imagining old Sumpter right from Auburn St.

North Mill Street: Basche Hardware and Ellis Opera House

historic photos courtesy of Baker County Library

In “The 1917 Fire and Granite Street,” you got an idea of how many businesses were located on the main street—Granite St—of boomtown Sumpter and how wide a range of product they covered. Another street of great variety and density was Mill St. Mill is now Sumpter’s main street, also known as Highway 410. Mill almost certainly got its name from the fact that Young and Rimbol’s water-powered sawmill of the 1880s was located along the two blocks of Mill St from Granite St to Auburn Street.

As on Granite St, businesses came and went. As on Granite St, most of them burned in 1917. In “Brewing up Trouble,” I introduced one of this section of town’s most iconic buildings: the Basche Building. The Basche Building was built in 1899 and housed C.C. Basche’s Hardware Store. C.C. Basche lived on Cracker Street, north of High Street, on what used to be the road to Bourne, another mining boomtown about six miles upstream of Sumpter and now in far worse condition than Sumpter.

Image                    Image

taken 1900 to 1910                                              taken 1910ish

 The Basche Building’s iconic status comes from the fact that after it burned in 1917, bricks were gathered from other destroyed buildings and the Basche was rebuilt to be used as Sumpter’s City Hall from the 1920s to the 1970s. I attended a few potlucks there growing up and my crazy friend vaguely remembers playing an angel in a Christmas program held in the Basche. When the new City Hall was built, the Basche Building went into private ownership and the potlucks and Christmas programs moved into the new place.

By comparing the photos above with the photo below, you can see how much the front façade changed during reconstruction. In the 2011 color photo, you can also see the darkened bricks on the southern side wall that show how much of the original building remained after the flames raced through. The plumbing store to the north (your left in photo above left) and Hub Clothing to the south were both wooden buildings, and they clearly abutted the hardware store, making saving it in its entirety impossible.

old city hall_cell


In the photo above, you can see that there’s a vacant lot north of the Basche Building now. In addition to the plumbing store, there also once was Ellis Opera House, the large white building in the photo below. The opera house stood on the corner of Granite and Mill. It was built in 1898 by mine owner Guy Ellis, who lived about a block away on the south side of North Street, closer to Columbia Street than to Mill. In the Sept 3, 1899, edition of the newspaper “Blue Mountain America,” there was an announcement that the opera house was featuring “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”


taken 1900 to 1910

By the time Brooks Hawley (1902-1991) was a child, Cap Davies’ Electric Theater was located inside the opera house, too. In his description of one of the photos in the Baker County Library’s archives, Brooks writes:

“… Ellis Opera House … not that it was anything plush, but in those days a hall that would do for a traveling vaudeville troop was an opera house. The comedian in the lot would crack jokes that would put Sumpter in the same class with Salt Lake City and San Francisco, while making disparaging remarks about the hick town of McEwen, down the valley. How well I remember that stage curtain, the hole had been poked in the canvas square in the prow of the battleship Oregon so that sometimes an eye would appear, sizing up the audience before the curtain went up. What blissful anticipation. I, about 4 years old, would be perched on the front edge of a wooden folding chair, and they were the sort that needed some weight toward the back to keep them from collapsing, so down I would go with a great clatter of wooden slats.

“The opera house was really just an enormous empty dance hall with afore mentioned folding chairs that could be piled back against the wall. It has a hollow sound, awful acoustics, even as the Community Center at Baker does to this day. I had always heard of the Sumpter boom, and I used to believe that I had been in the back of the opera house when the boom went off, maybe a little confusion with the sound of a folding chair going back on me.

“Oh yes, and that stage, there I got my first taste of electricity. There would be missing bulbs in the sockets in the footlights so these were good holes to poke my fingers and get a shock.

“Downstairs was Cap Davies Electric Theater, and that was where Sumpter kids beheld the first motion pictures. They had plenty of action. I remember one about a wealthy eccentric. He had a cute little castle in a lake in his lovely garden. When he took his friends to see inside the little castle, he would rush back to the bank and reach inside a tree to pull a lever that would make the castle sink in the lake and drown everyone.”

It’s kind of hard to top that.

Brewing up Trouble

historic photos courtesy of Baker County Library

While on the subject of future tourist attraction and business opportunities, look a block south of Auburn Street. We’ve been here before, in “The Modern Troughs.” Borello’s, previously One-Eyed Charlie’s previously Ichalaba previously Whitman National Forest headquarters previously Killen, Warner, & Stewart Mining Stock previously Sumpter Townsite Syndicate. And maybe a few other things besides.

Borello's02       Sumpter Townsite Co_nodate02

Well, I was chatting with my crazy friend, and she’d been chatting with someone about how it would be interesting for a microbrew to be established in the Townsite Building. The microbrew could name its different products for the different businesses that had been housed in the building. The first brew produced, the one to become the signature bottled product, would have to be named Syndicate.

Sumpter historian Brooks Hawley doesn’t give a build date for building on his 1965 map of the boom year businesses in Sumpter. It was built after the arrival of the railroad in 1896; the track prevented the syndicate from building a rectangular building with square corners. Instead, the building is a trapezoid, where the front width is greater than the back width because the north wall was built angling away from the rails. Pictures of the interior are dated prior to 1910.

S_townsite_interior_nodate                S_townsite_1900_10_interior02

According to Wikipedia, Whitman National Forest—the precursor to the current Wallowa-Whitman National Forest—was established July 1, 1908. So the interior pictures may represent townsite offices, mining offices, or forest offices, depending on when each business occupied space in the building and when the photos actually were taken.

As to where the microbrewery would get its ingredients, hops grow in several places in Sumpter. They’re found outside the old Basche Building two blocks north of Auburn on Mill Street. They’re found growing up the outside of one of the old homes two-and-a-half blocks east of Mill on Auburn. I have no idea how good they are for brewing, but hops grow here. In the photos below, they are a bit dormant.

old city hall_cell       Toll house

So, a microbrewery in an historic building in town, lots of brew names to choose from, and local conditions that allow use of a local crop. What could be better? Hey, there’s a lot of old apple trees in Sumpter, too, so the brewery could add those tart little suckers to one of their mixes. Whether it’s a porter or a hard cider, how about that be the bottle marked One-Eyed Charlie’s?

By the way, according to one source, those first Sumpter townsites cost $25 each. What a deal!

The 1917 Fire and Granite Street

historic photos courtesy of Baker County Library

I don’t really like to talk about the 1917 fire. I definitely don’t like to look at pictures of the aftermath. But the fire is as much a part of the history of Sumpter as the rest of the months and years of her existence.

Fire was ever the enemy of the wooden towns of the Old West. The drive to get buildings up and get them up quick led to many “innovations.” Why put up two separate walls when one wall could serve two buildings? And that meant cold air couldn’t come in through the gap between buildings, either. Trees were tall and plentiful. Just cut studs for framing tall enough to stretch from the bottom of the wall to the top, even if the top was twenty or more feet up.

To a fire, this balloon construction of continuous studs from base to roof was an open invitation to leap as high as flames could reach. If a wall happened to be insulated, it was usually with paper or sawdust. Most sidewalks, if they existed, were wooden. Sumpter had a high class two blocks of businesses where even crossing the street you were above the mud on 4” by 4” thirty-foot lengths of planking.

As mentioned in “Early and Later,” the planking of Granite St from Mill to Cracker started in 1900. The piles of planking are shown in below left photo taken in March or April of 1900. Construction of the Sumpter Hotel has not yet been started. The photo below right was taken in 1906 from just a little farther east than the left-hand photo. From the higher angle, the planked street looks very smooth. The Sumpter Hotel has been open for four years. Both photos are of Granite St looking west from Mill St.

Image   Image

At approximately one o’clock on the afternoon of Aug 13, 1917, a fire started in the Capital Hotel and spread rapidly. According to Miles F. Potter in Oregon’s Golden Years, it took only three hours to destroy twelve blocks of businesses and homes, causing an estimated loss of $500,000. The photos below were taken from the steps of the school and show the spread of the fire across Granite St.

Image   Image


People removed items from many buildings, storing them within the brick walls of the Sumpter Hotel. But it, too, burned.



Sumpter Hotel, 1901


Sumpter Hotel, 1917 (First National Bank in background)

First National Bank, 1906                   First National Bank, 1926

         Image    Image

What good does it do to string hose across a street to fight fire when the street itself is burning? How do you counter August heat and afternoon winds? In the end, it is said, they used dynamite to keep the fire from spreading into the forested hills surrounding town.

From the river to Columbia Street, Granite Street lost: Baird’s store, John Arthur’s The Louvre (wine and women), Cato Johns’ store, Hickock Hardware, Sullivan Brothers (the toughest saloon in town), Tedrowe Hotel Bar, Capital Hotel* and Bar, Starr* Hotel, Gagan & Sloan Saloon (previously Kentucky Liquor Store and previous to that Phoenix Saloon), Portland Café (lunch for twenty-five cents), Gem Saloon, Sumpter Meat Co., a barbershop, a shoe store, the Oregon Restaurant, First National* Bank, W.R. Hawley Store and Hobson Mercantile Co (shared brick building), the post office (in what had once been Columbia Market*), Bank Saloon, Board of Trade Saloon, Elite Cigar Store, Beamer’s Harness Shop (previously Hub Clothing Store), Vienna Café, Mercer Drugs, Landreth & Campbell Jewelry, The Club Saloon, Anna Weigand’s dress shop, Sumpter* Hotel, Edwards Drugs and Soda Fountain, C.P. Holly’s Harness Shop (once Dick Neill’s dry goods*), Ellis Opera House, the brick Sumpter Power & Water office, and the homes of Dr L.F. Brock, Clark Snide, and George Peet. Across Columbia St, the hospital* and school* survived.

There were other losses and other saves, but those are for another time.

*tagged in photographs in this and previous articles From Auburn Street; information on which businesses existed came from Brooks Hawleys’s 1965 map

Early and Later

historic photos courtesy of Baker County Library and Baker Heritage Museum (apologies for the small size, but couldn’t seem to make them larger)

As indicated in previous articles “Looking Both Ways” and “Rest Your Weary Head,” there were many hotels in boom-years Sumpter. “Rest Your Weary Head” discussed the Belvedere—which didn’t burn until 1925—and five of the hotels that weren’t seen again after the fire of 1917. In the paragraphs to follow you’ll explore the first-established hotel in Sumpter and the hotel where the fire started.

Below is the oldest photo of Sumpter known to exist; it was taken in 1895. This is Granite Street, looking west toward the Powder River whose flood plain separates the flat area the town was built on from the hills. (Most photographs taken of Granite St look east into the center of the business district, as with the final photo shown in this article.)There were about 200 people living in Sumpter in 1895 according to Sumpter-born Sumpter historian Brooks Hawley (1902-1991). The flagpole in the center of the photo was erected in 1890 in the middle of the intersection of Granite and Centre (this is the spelling on the plat) Streets. The town was first platted in 1889 by Charles Rimbol. In Oct 1896, the railroad arrived. Sumpter was incorporated in 1898. The tree in the photo was the only tree left in downtown Sumpter, and it stood on the corner of Granite and Mill. The tree burned when Granite Street burned.

S_1895_oldest photo

Most of the buildings in the 1895 photo were replaced by newer buildings over the years. One exception was the Starr Hotel, about the westernmost building on the right side. It stood mid-block between Cracker and Centre Streets. The photo below has been cropped to make the Starr’s black sign sticking out into the street more noticeable. Closer up, the second building on the right is Duckworth’s Red Front Store, with its false front and eyebrow-roofed porch. Henry Duckworth was born in Yorkshire, England, and the family crossed the plains to settle in Auburn in 1870, later moving to Sumpter. In 1899, the Red Front was owned by W.C. Calder. The building burned down May 1900.


In the 1900 photo of Granite Street looking east, below, a lot has changed, but the Starr still has a black sign sticking out into the street. The tall brick building beyond the Starr is First National Bank, built 1899. It is on the northwest corner of Granite and Centre. The twenty-mule team is on its way to Red Boy Mine. A lot of photos of machinery bound for the Red Boy were taken in the early 1900s. The big white building a couple doors east of the bank is Columbia Market. Between the bank and Columbia Market is a lower brick building built it 1900, replacing the Red Front Store. Not quite visible is the raising of planking over these two blocks of Granite St from Mill to Cracker; construction of the planked street began in 1900 at the Mill St end.


In 1897, almost directly across from the Starr, the Capital Hotel was built. A May 20, 1898, article in the Morning Democrat called it “the leading hotel of Sumpter…” and gave a brief description of P.J. Griffin, owner of what was then called the Spencer. “On the first of April he bought this hotel. It is a large and commodious building, having thirty eight bedrooms. It is thoroughly lit by electricity, and has all the modern improvements. The table is furnished with all the market affords, and is a cardinal feature of the house. His wife aids him in the supervision of the hotel, and we bespeak for them a large and growing patronage.” Griffin had previous experience with hotels in Boston and in British Columbia. One suspects he later had something to do with the Hotel Griffin discussed so much in previous From Auburn Street articles. It is my understanding that the photo below accompanied the Morning Democrat article.


Brooks Hawley calculates that this next photo of the Capital (below) was taken about 1901 and that the small boy on the porch with his parents is Elwood Denny at the age of 3. Elwood graduated from Sumpter High School in 1915. Mr & Mrs A.L. Denny had become owners of what is now clearly marked as the Capital Hotel.


By 1914, the wear and tear of dirt, dust, heat, cold, and snow were showing on the Starr (near left, below) and the planked two blocks of Granite St. The Capital Hotel (right side of photo) still looks pretty good. Three blocks to the east, at the top of Granite St, the school (center of photo), built in 1897, looks resplendent in its white paint. A smaller white building to the left of the school is the hospital that was built in 1900. In three years, the only two buildings seen in the photo below left standing would be the school and the hospital.


Rest Your Weary Head

historic photos courtesy of Baker County Library

The bird feeder has been amazing this last week with chickadees, juncos, finches, and nuthatches on their ways from winter lands to summer lands.

Modern-day Sumpter is used to transitory guests. At either end of Sumpter are rv parks. Scattered throughout are private residences for short-term rental. On Mill Street, from south to north, are the cabins of the Scoop ‘n’ Steamer across from the Sumpter Stockade with rooms and tent-camping available. Farther north is The Depot Inn, located on the southern edge of what once was Depot Square (see previous article “Looking Both Ways”).


Sumpter of the past had many more rooms available for both transitory guests and permanent residents. My favorite exterior is that of the Belvedere (below left, date unknown), followed by the brick-built Sumpter Hotel (below right, Nov 3, 1902). Or maybe the exterior of the Capital, but I’ll stick with Sumpter Hotel for now.

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The Belvedere was owned by Barney Flynn for many years and survived the big Sumpter fire of August 1917. Destruction by flame was still its destiny, though, and it burned down in the fall of 1925. New on the site in 1956 was Dwyer’s Tavern. Elkhorn Saloon is the current business on the site, and is almost certainly in the same building as Dwyer’s Tavern.

Sumpter-born Sumpter historian Brooks Hawley (1902-1991) provides much more information about Sumpter Hotel. It was built by Dave Wilson, with the brick work being finished by July 1901 but not officially opening until Jan. 27, 1902, when 200 attended the banquet and danced to Ford’s Orchestra. Construction cost $60,000. The building measured 100 x 100 feet with a central rotunda of 40 x 50 feet, and was steam-heated. Twelve of the forty-six bedrooms had baths. The rotunda was surrounded by a balcony that housed business offices. Sumpter Hotel stood on the northwest corner of Granite and Mill, where now the highway through Sumpter makes a sweeping bend from northbound to northwest-bound.

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Sumpter Hotel bar interior.  Sumpter Hotel lobby, May 1902

The Delmonico Hotel was built in 1900. The picture below, at left, was taken in 1903. The Delmonico stood on the northeast corner of the intersection of Auburn Street and Columbia Street, a block east of Mill Street and Depot Square. The photo below, right, was supposedly taken a few years later, and shows Caleb Roswell’s Pioneer Feed Store on the southeast corner of Auburn and Mill.

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There is a reference in the Baker County Library archives about the burning of the Golden Eagle Hotel prior to the 1917 fire, but no pictures are available of the building itself. It stood half a block north of Hotel Griffin, shown below, c. 1906. The Griffin was spoken of extensively in previous article “The Round Trough.”

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The northernmost hotel in town was the Metropolitan (above, date unknown). It stood on the north side of North Street, where Centre Street came to an end. It later became a lodge for Knights of Pythias.

All but the Belvedere burned down Aug 13, 1917. The fire started at the Capital Hotel, built in 1897. Across Granite Street from the Capital was the Starr Hotel, built in 1878. In 1917, the Starr was probably the oldest building in town. The earliest picture of Sumpter known to exist, an 1895 photo, has the Starr in it. I’ll talk about the Starr and Capital more next time.

The Round Trough

historic photos courtesy of Baker County Library

I don’t suppose anyone would ever mistake a round watering trough for King Arthur’s Round Table, but I’ve watched enough Westerns to find a round trough an intriguing idea. I wonder how many more round troughs there would have been in those movies if the actors playing the bad guys were all short and fat and could have fit into a round trough after falling during the fight scenes to come up sputtering to find the good guys’ pistols pointing into their faces.

Sumpter’s Auburn Street had a round trough in the early 1900s. It was barely west of the Mill Street intersection. The captions don’t say if anyone was in charge of filling the trough—though it is noted the trough stood in front of the  Griffin Hotel—but there it is in the pictures, a community trough in the middle of the street.

 round troughround trough and pack string, c. 1900-1905

The pack string above, photographed between 1900 and 1905, looks to have taken advantage of the trough.  They stand at the edge of Depot Square with Mill St. behind them. A blur in front of the horse in the center is a foal passing through. In the background, Auburn runs uphill (east) to the Delmonico Hotel (built in 1900) at the right edge of photo. The dark wall of Columbia Brewery is at the left edge of the photo and on the far side of Mill. A sign on its exterior says BEER. There are blurs of shoppers at an outdoor merchandise stand to the right of the dark-shirted man on the far left. Taliafero’s photo studio is to the right of the brewery. The building with the sign sticking out toward Auburn is a blacksmith shop. Just uphill of the blacksmith’s is a tiny house with its fenced yard. The railroad depot is out of the photo behind the photographer. Out of the photo to the left is the Griffin Hotel.

Or at least the Griffin Hotel could be there. The buildings, street, and electric poles look raw and new, though, and Mill St looks mighty narrow.  According to historian Brooks Hawley—who was born in Sumpter in 1902—in later years Talifero’s studio was located where the blacksmith shop is in the round trough photo. In the photo below, taken between 1905 and 1917, the Brewery Saloon is the building along the left edge of the photo, and it stands roughly where Taliafero’s studio used to be. In the photo below, Taliafero’s is downhill of where the blacksmith’s was, the blacksmith’s shop has been changed and enlarged, and the tiny house has doubled in size. The buildings don’t look nearly so raw.

east_1905_1917 east edge Depot Square c. 1905-1917

So, it’s more than likely the round trough photo was taken between 1900 and 1903, 1903 being when Sumpter really got booming. Which then leads one to wonder if a teamster can turn a 20-mule team on the 80’ width of Auburn with a trough sitting there. Maybe that’s the reason it’s round, or maybe it wasn’t there anymore once the big mule teams arrived.

Below is a 1903 photo of a boiler being transported up to the Red Boy Mine near Granite, a mining town located about 15 miles west of Sumpter. Again, the buildings don’t look as raw as in the round trough photo. The Delmonico Hotel can still be seen up Auburn just left of the boiler. Caleb Roswell’s Pioneer Feed Store is to the right of the boiler and on the far side of Mill. The line of buildings on the left ends with Hotel Griffin, next to Mill.


Red Boy boiler

So it’s tempting to believe that Hotel Griffin wasn’t built until about 1903 and the start of the boom years. Did the trough really ever stand in front of the Griffin? It can’t be seen past the mules and boiler in the photo above, but happily there’s a photo taken around 1906, and the round trough is clearly still in place, just in front of Curt Haley’s team.

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Curt Haley and his dray at water trough in Depot Square. Sign on window of hotel says it’s a stage office for Bourne, another mining town, located about six miles north of Sumpter.

Was the round trough rebuilt every time an inexperienced teamster clipped it? Or were they just so good it was never in danger? Imagine holding all those reins and sitting in front of a ton or two of metal that ain’t gonna stop on a dime. Hyah, mule, hyah. Get around there now. Pull on. Hup. Then you get them turned around and stopped, stroll up to the trough with your bucket, and start watering the team. Good on there, Sally. Fine job, Mac. You get a drink yourself, because you’ve been sitting in the dust for miles, alert against sending any wrong signal in the lines.

Thank God for Sumpter’s round trough.

Looking Both Ways

historic photos courtesy of Baker County Library; color photos courtesy of Sumpter Chatter

Sumpter’s Auburn Street is a great place to look both ways, especially if you’re standing at the street’s main intersection at Mill Street. In this age of 9-1-1 and GPS, Auburn Street is where north is separated from south. Around 1900, it was the first street coming in from Whitney and the last street coming in from Granite where you could turn around your 20-mule team.

Various historic photos and maps show a hay and feed store, the Brewery Saloon, a photographer’s studio, Hotel Griffin, and a big, round watering trough at the intersection of Auburn and Mill. One corner was open space adjacent to the railroad depot. South of the depot and the tracks was a field where impromptu rodeos were held.

July 4, 1913: Looking north and east across Auburn St from south of the railroad tracks, warehouses to the left, Catholic Church steeple to the right.

Stand at that corner in 21st-century Sumpter and for feed you see a small grocery store, for a watering hole you have to walk a block west or south to a bar, and for photos you can go look in a nearby real estate office at pictures of trees and houses. Nothing’s been built in the open space where once stood the depot. On the other side of the space is a cozy motel, so you can still rent a bed near the intersection. For impromptu rodeo wildness, you get shopping at the Sumpter Flea Market three times a summer, including the weekend nearest the 4th of July.

 Flea Market shoppers a block south of   Auburn, across Mill from the Sumpter Municipal Museum.

Tamed mounts looking for stabling as they   travel north on Mill St toward Auburn.

Standing on Auburn St looking north, you’re looking at twelve blocks where fire devastated a thriving downtown on August 13, 1917. Seven hotels no longer stand there. Numerous houses, two newspapers, three churches, about a dozen saloons, two livery stables, warehouses, whorehouses, cafes, restaurants, grocery, jewelry, clothing, and cigar stores, Edwards Drug, Hoffman Bakery, hardware stores, shoe, barber, and tailor shops are all gone.

There are signs of recovery. A gas station has stood for decades where the remarkable brick Sumpter Hotel fell. The Basche Hardware building was restored with bricks from other burned buildings and served almost fifty years as City Hall before it went into private ownership.

Turn 180 degrees and look the other way. The original townsite syndicate brick building survived the fire and out-survived a number of uses thereafter. The wooden building that held the syndicate’s engineering department still stands. From there in the 1970s arose the Flea Markets that are a major part of modern Sumpter’s economy. Across from that is another intact brick building from the 19th century. It holds the local museum, with displays devoted to the gold that brought Sumpter into being, to the life of a frontier town’s housewife, and to relics from 150 years of the city’s existence.

Walk another block and hang a right. On the way, you’ll pass two homes built in the early 1900s to support the resurgence of gold exploration by dredging. You’ll see a new depot that serves the Sumpter Valley Railroad Restoration’s current northernmost reach of a restored steam railway that first came to Sumpter in 1896. Beyond that you find the dredge that worked the valley from 1935-1954, prettier than she’s been in over forty years.

Looking both ways from Auburn Street, there’s an awful lot to see.