Canyon City - The County Seat
From "Mt. Vernon - 60 Years of Memories"
Grant County was organized Oct. 14, 1864 shortly after the discovery of gold
in Canyon mountain in 1862 which brought many people to the county. They
later settled in the beautiful John Day Valley. Wild hay growing in the valley
and bunch grass on the hills made stock raising very profitable. Grain, gardens and fruit
grew to perfection and the game in the mountains, fish in the streams made a small paradise which
the pioneers were quick to see and take advantage of, laying the foundation for what
our valley is today.
In the John Day Valley on the south side of Mt. Vernon butte lies the town of
Mt. Vernon, named after the butte. We have no authentic knowledge of how or when
the butte was named but some legends say it was discovered and named by a Mr. Vernon
who explored and trapped this area in the early days. In 1959 the Oregon Telephone Corp.
built a road to the top of the butte and installed a mobile radio system. This was
greatly improved upon this year 1973. Since 1959 every year at Christmas time a
huge electricly lighted star shines from the top of old Mt. Vernon and can be seen
for miles around.
The first Post Office in Mt. Vernon was established in 1877 with Frank Wallace, Sr.
as postmaster. He in turn appointed G.H. Kimberling, then Nathaniel Kimberling,
then W.W. Stone to serve under him. Stone who was also Justice of the Peace was
appointed as Postmaster and served until the end of his term in 1883. At that time
the mail was carried to the Mt. Vernon area from The Dalles to Canyon City via the
"Road South" also known as The Dalles Millitary Road, by team and wagon until the
coming of the Sumpter Valley railroad into Bates in the 1890's and down into Prairie
City about 1910. Other Postmasters to follow were A.L. Black, John Chamberlin, Miss
Lightbody, Mrs. Rose Sproul and Mrs. Gertrude Damon Dustin.
When Mrs. Dustin retired in 1950 after serving 32 years, Marvin Brannon was
appointed as postmaster and is currently supervising postal activities.
In 1881 the first store was built in Mt. Vernon by E.E. Allen. Supplies being
hauled by freight team and wagons from The Dalles. Others who later owned the
store were W. Damon, Sr., H.H. Cunningham and A.L. Black. In 1932 Arthur Minor
and Phil Brady bought the stock from B.E. Stewart and shortly after began
business in a remodeled building where the store now stands and is owned and operated
by Homer Damon, grandson of W. Damon, Sr., one of the first merchants in Mt. Vernon.
Mt. Vernon's first incorporated telephone line was in 1914 owned by Bailey &
McCollum and the first switch office was in the Albert Moore home. Other early
operators, in their homes, were Mrs. Chas. Mack, Mrs. Sadie Fisher, Mrs. Valene
Green. Others have served at the switch board but Valene was "Hello Girl" for the
The first garage in Mt. Vernon was operated by Russell McLennan in 1914 or 1915.
In 1922 E.H. Rehder put up a garage where the Evans garage is now. Rehder operated
this until he sold to Howard Southwick in 1949.
In 1925 a Grange Hall was built just north of what is now the Cross Roads Service
Station. This burned down in 1949.
In 1948 the town of Mt. Vernon was incorporated with George Post as Mayor. Lee
Williams, Charles McKenna, Carl Edwards and Holbert Glover, Councilmen. Jack McKenna
firechief with Tom Negus assistant.
In May 1949 a fully equipped fire engine with 200 feet of hose was bought. We
now have two engines and a well organized with both City and Rural fire districts.
The principle industry of the valley is still stock raising agricultural purposes
and lumbering. The first sawmills here were Lambord Lumber Company and Ricketts Mill
both about one half mile east of Mt. Vernon. We now have only the Edward Hines
Lumber Company's veneer plant.
Herman DeSouza is our present Mayor --- Councilmen are Marvin Vancil, Melvin McKern
DonCates and Charles Hinshaw. City Recorder, Mrs. Herman DeSouza.
The First School House
The first school house of the community was built about 1873, about two blocks
south of main street, on what is now called Ingle Street. It was one large
room with an ante room attached in front. It and the Community Hall which
stood on the hill near the present school building served the community as a meeting
place for Church and all social activities. Billie Harrison was the
first teacher. A Mrs. Jerold taught the three month session in 1874 followed
by Miss Robbins.
In about 1882 this old building was razed and a larger and better equipped one
room structure was erected in the same location. At one time this was supplemented
by a tent house with Miss Matilda Steiner as teacher. About 1909 another room
was added and in 1916 a new building was erected where our present school
stands today. This building consisted of three rooms, a library and a basement,
each having their own "Cloak Room". Three teachers were employed. Soon more
rooms were added and in later years a gymnasium. There are now eleven class
rooms, a kitchen which is used for serving lunches at noon, eleven teachers are
employed, two busses are used to transport students to and from school as well
as to sport events and other activities.
The writing on the 1911 school Souvenir to the right is as follows:
Mount Vernon Public School
District No. 6 - Grant Co., Oregon
Bertha Howard, Teacher
Directors - H.A. Murphy, J.W. Lemons - Ralph Gilbert - C.L. Angell, Clerk
Mt. Vernon Hot Springs
For many years the Mt. Vernon Hot Springs was a popular place for recreation
and medicinal purposes. The Springs was built around 1905 by H.A. Murphy. The
bricks are believed to have been made at the sight of the hotel and as part of a
brochure published by him stated; "All roads in Grant County lead to the Mt. Vernon
Hot Springs located two and one-half miles north of the town of Mt. Vernon. From
Prairie, the terminus of the Sumpter Valley Railroad, the springs can be reached by
the Blue Mountain Rapid Transit Stage Line. When notified, the management will run
a conveyance from Mt. Vernon to the Springs. Those who drive their own conveyance
will find ample stable room and campers can turn their stock into the pasture."
The modern hotel with all the conveniences of life, is here for the accomadations
of guests whether they are in quest of health or pleasure. The elevation is
2700 feet and the mountains stretch away in the distance to heights of eternal snow.
The hotel is of red brick with wide verandas shaded with the foliage of trees. The
rooms are large and furnished with every convenience. Good rooms with board $10.00
per week, including bath. Best rooms with special board and private bath $14.00 per
week. Special rates to families. Camping privileges are free, but campers are
charged $2.00 per week for baths. Milk, cream and butter, eggs, meat, vegetables,
in fact all the produts of the farm are supplied the campers."
"The baths have been arranged with care. A special feature is the mud bath.
Anyone wishing to quit the tobacco or whiskey habit will find wonderful assistance
in these remarkable waters. There is no fake, graft or fraud. It is just the
simple cure of nature."
The temperature of the water is from 108 to 112 degrees and the springs run about
25,000 gallon every 24 hours. One endorsement for its curative properties is the
testimonial of Mr. Gordon Adams dated 1869, who came to these hot medicinal waters
and cured my rheumatism and I have never had it since."
In 1912 Mr. Murphy sold the property. For many years after it was still a popular
gathering spot of the local citizens for Fourth of July celebrations, dances, school
picnics and other evens. The swimming pool was a special attraction until it was
ruined by a flood in the "50's".
H.H. Hendricks owned the resort area from 1922 to 1941 when he sold it to
Dr. R.H. Jenkins who ran it as a resort and a sanatarium. It sold again in 1946 to
Ralph Bowen who retained ownership until 1957; then Tom and Flora Negus operated a
nursing home in the former hotel.
Roy Kolpatrick, purchased the property in 1965. They had converted it into a
family residence where they were living when it was destroyed by fire in 1968.
Nothing but the brick walls and a chimney remained standing. The Kilpatricks now
reside in a Mobile Home on the property.
©1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved
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