99 Years: August 13, 1917

I heard a presentation given by LeAnne Woolf last night to the passengers of the Starlight Express, a special night train held by Sumpter Valley Railroad during the Perseid meteor showers. This year it happened to coincide with the date of the Sumpter fire. I’ve written about the fire before, but this is a story from a different perspective, so I asked her to share it here. As always, we Sumpter history buffs love us some photos courtesy of Baker County Library digital archives.

“Ninety-nine years ago today, on August 13, 1917, Dr. Samuel Clinton Browne and his wife, Ida, left Sumpter for a day of picking huckleberries. They probably headed north out of town, toward Bourne. (That’s where the best huckleberry patches were when I was growing up.)

“He’d owned the Sumpter Hospital since 1907. It had been built in 1900 and several different doctors had operated in it. Ida was the hospital matron.

01a  hospital at left

“Due to the rising cost of gold mining without a matching rise in the price of gold, Sumpter’s population was in decline. Still, it was a good place to live.

“His hospital had a good view over the main downtown area with its planked street.


“Granite Street’s planking had been put in place in 1900, the year his hospital was built. The planks were thirty-foot long 4 x 4s.


“He and Ida could catch a show at the Ellis Opera House, one block down from the hospital, on Granite and Mill.  (Of course, catching a show in those days generally meant vaudeville. One of the “operas” advertised was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.)


“Practically next door to the Ellis on Mill Street was Basche Hardware. Like most of the brick buildings in Sumpter, it had been built in 1899, the year before his hospital. If Claude Basche didn’t have it, maybe you didn’t need it.



“A little past Basche Hardware was the Bank of Sumpter, built in 1899. A block beyond the Ellis on Granite Street, the First National Bank had also been built in 1899.

S_Basche_Hub_1900_10  01h

“There was only one brick building in town that Dr. Browne knew hadn’t been built in 1899: the Sumpter Hotel.

“The brick work for the Sumpter Hotel had been finished by July 1901, but the building didn’t officially open until Jan. 27, 1902. It cost $60,000, measured 100 x 100 feet with a rotunda of 40 x 50 and 46 bedrooms, 12 with bath. It had electricity AND steam heat.


“Sumpter had come a long way from its founding in 1862. Goodness gracious, even by 1895 it had had only one hotel, the Starr, and only about 200 people.

 S_1895_oldest photo

“Still, a large new schoolhouse had been built in 1897, less than a year after the railroad reached town. Sumpter’s population reached 300 in 1899. In 1900, just the school itself had 200 students.

school_1900_200 pupils

“By 1903, Sumpter’s population was 3300.

“Maybe it was a little odd to build a hospital right next to the school, but timber baron J.B. Stoddard, father-in-law to Sumpter Valley Railway’s David Eccles, had intended to build a house. Then he started renting out to doctors and one thing had led to another.

“That was okay. On the other side of the street from the school was the Presbyterian Church. Body, mind, and soul: all could be served in close proximity.


“Yes, Sumpter was a good place to live. Dr. Browne couldn’t have been ready for what he saw when he returned.

“The Sumpter Hotel and First National Bank would have been among the first buildings he could have recognized as he passed. Two brick buildings standing close to each other, but now just shells.

   1st Nat_Sum Hot

“The Masonic Hall, built in 1903 of stone. It burned.


“Only the vault left at the Bank of Sumpter.


“In three hours, twelve blocks of the heart of downtown was gone, at an estimated loss of half a million 1917 dollars.


“The Presbyterian Church had been the last building to burn. The hospital and school survived in part due to Miss Marguerite Harris, the local telephone operator. Down at the Sumpter Hotel, she remained at her switchboard until heat and smoke forced her to abandon her post.  She and a gentleman moved the telephone equipment out of the Sumpter Hotel as other people were bringing in furniture and belongings salvaged from other buildings on Granite Street.

“Miss Harris and her assistant Miss Hauser then ran to the hospital and filled buckets with water from a nearby well.  They soaked blankets and hung them out the windows.  On several occasions the wooden siding on the hospital and schoolhouse began smoldering but the telephone girls and other volunteers helped firefighters save those buildings.

“But it was too much for Dr. Browne. The furniture and belongings that had been moved into the Sumpter Hotel for safety was all gone. The hospital’s view over downtown was full of emptiness and blackened skeletons of buildings. So many had lost so much. Within days he sold his hospital to Mrs. Bessie O’Neill, who within a few days more had turned it into a hotel named Mountain View.

west down Granite 06

“Others stayed behind, too. The year after the fire, in 1918, the Masons bought the Mountain View from Mrs. O’Neill and used it as their lodge until the 1970s.


“Bricks were salvaged from various buildings and used to rebuild the Basche Hardware building. You can see the dark bricks that were still in the walls after the fire and the paler bricks that were re-purposed for the reconstruction. The Basche building served as Sumpter’s City Hall from the 1920s into the 1970s.

   .old city hall_cell

“The bricks remaining at the Bank of Sumpter vault were picked over by souvenir hunters until it was fenced during my childhood. In the 1990s, it was preserved and the fence could be removed.

vault 02

“And now the hospital is a bed & breakfast, still giving a body a chance to recuperate. For the soul, you step outside and soak in the peace of the mountains and trees of our Golden Sumpter. For the mind, there is this and all the other history you haven’t heard. Yet.”


LeAnne Woolf wishes to thank Sharon Howard for her research. It was instrumental to bringing this story to life.

Grace Meadows thanks both of you!


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: http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/entry/view/chinese_massacre_at_deep_creek/


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; http://www.oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=5

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!

Future Cast

Yeah, I stole a tag line from one of the local network news’s weather reports. Figuring out what the future holds for Sumpter is just about as certain as a weather forecast. Unless you’re saying, “Periods of sun and frost in the mountains with scattered wind and rain that could turn to snow.” That weather guess is good in Sumpter any season.

I also snatch ideas I hear as I’m wandering around town or chatting with folks. I agree with those who feel Sumpter’s future has always been about the outdoors. Logging booms, mining booms, hunting season, snowmobile season, ATV season. And economically, bit by bit, outdoor recreation has outpaced outdoor cutting and digging.

Thing is, outdoor recreation can be supplemented by indoor activities, too. One crazy gal around town talks about putt-putt golf and more museums. I can see her point, though: if you have lots of tourist attractions, businesses will come in order to take advantage of the number of tourists. The wider the range of tourist attractions, the wider the range of tourists and the more types of businesses supported.

For example, many people choose to travel with small humanoids known as “children.” Not only do these people travel with these “children,” they treat them affectionately, as if they were pets or something. These people even confine themselves with these children in small metal boxes on wheels variously known as “cars,” “mini-vans,” “SUVs,” or other catchy titles. They confine themselves for miles and miles, seeking entertainment for themselves and their children.

When they find such entertainment, these people are very, very, very happy. They cannot always express their happiness with lots of money, but they do express their happiness to all their friends with children when they get back home.

“I found a great new place with lots of stuff for the kids. Next summer you have to go there.” (“Kids” is another way to refer to the children humanoids.) So next summer three or four “cars” with “children” arrive. Three carloads spend more money than one carload. And so forth.

Putt-putt golf with obstacles like obstinate mules, spinning gold pans, tipping ore cars, elk antlers, miniature trains, floating dredges, and the like would certainly be a unique course. I suppose with the popularity of the “Skeleton Creek” books and broadcast on Syfy of “Ghost Mine,” Joe Bush would need to put in an appearance, too. The Joe Bush Memorial Golf Course has a nice ring, don’t you think?

One of the oldest buildings left in town (built 1897) is in danger of being destroyed forever, and that would be a shame. I’m referring to the building that housed Sumpter’s first steam plant. It’s on the south side of Auburn Street, second building down from Columbia Street. If renovated, it could hold exhibits about steam power and refer tourists onward to the Fremont Power Plant, making sure they spent plenty of time in our area. The steam plant building might also host information about the Chinese workers who were so much a part of early Sumpter.

And all this done in a child-friendly way, of course, almost a children’s museum. The kids could crawl in and out of tunnels that represent those supposedly built by the Chinese under parts of Sumpter. They could twist and turn big gear replicas and giant plastic pistons of the steam workings. How about a nice big diorama of Sumpter as it looked in 1903, at the peak of its population? I think I just moved the cars from beside the building to the junkyard and added a wing. Multi-level tunnels!  Make them big enough for me, too!