Prairie City, Oregon
by Jo Southworth


Reprint from The Blue Mt. Eagle
August 31, 1972

Prairie City is located in such a delightful spot, it makes one curious about the pioneers who chose the site. The beginning of the Prairie City story was in the summer of 1862. Restless miners who had failed to find their fortunes in the mines of California were passing through Eastern Oregon on their way to mines in the Salmon River country in Idaho or the Auburn area in Baker County. A group of probably 50 or 60 such people, sometimes called the Woman Party because it included two white women, camped on Dixie Crk. The spot was above the present location of Prairie City, about three and one half miles from where Dixie Creek joins the John Day River.

I imagine the two women enjoying the beauty of the place and being very tired of traveling. For they are credited with panning enough gold in Dixie Creek to start a new mining camp right there.

Southern Civil War loyalties of the group were expressed in the choice of the names of Dixie Town and Dixie Creek. Other miners headed for Auburn joined the group until there were 300 to 400 people mining up and down the creek from Dixie Town.

H.H. Hyde and George Dollina soon started general stores in some sort of shelter with merchandise brought in by pack train from The Dalles. Two saloons opened next. Then Jules LeBret built a livery stable. Someone opened a butcher shop. A Mr. Clark and William Davis ran a hotel. This business section and the homes were all on land included in miners' claims. The population was continually changing as new miners disenchanted with other mines, arrived, and miners discouraged with their luck on Dixie Creek left.

In 1865 Perine and Hobson built a small sawmill up the creek so lumber was available. Eventually that mill was moved across the valley to Squaw Creek.

Henderson Harrier homesteaded at the mouth of Dixie Creek about 1864. In 1868, E.W. Webster and Vinton A. Hartley built a saloon on government land at the base of the hill in what became the northeast section of Prairie City. A.E. Starr and William Kroppe built cabins nearby. Then others from Dixie Town moved to the new location.

J.W. King was hired to survey and plat the town as the people wanted it to be permanent. His suggestion of the name Prairie City was adopted.

The miners grew more and more anxious to work their claims under the buildings at Dixie Town. Finally in 1872 when the town was ten years old, the last residents were forced to move to Prairie City. H.H. Hyde had opened the first store again in the new town. He co-operated with the Odd Fellows in the building a sizable building. Frank Flageolette's saloon-hotel building became the Hartley Hotel. Mrs. Cooley ran a boarding house. Jules LeBret's livery stable was one of several businesses that moved from Dixie Town to Prairie City.

The miners sold or leased their tailings from the placer claims to Chinese miners who worked them for a number of years. The economy of the immediate area became more and more agricultural.

By 1880, there were numerous businesses - a doctor, lodges and a good school. But the future held serious fires, the coming and going of the railroad, a time of being the medical center of Grant County and great growth in the lumber industry to keep life in Prairie City always changing and interesting.

[Thanks to Mr. David Tureman and "An Illustrated History of Baker, Grant, Malheur and Harney Counties" pub. 1902.]






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