HELLS CANYON AREA HISTORY

Copperfield (now Oxbow) - Copperfield is located on the eastern fringe of Baker County where Pine Creek flows into the Snake River at the Oxbow Dam.  The town was established in 1907-1908 to house the mining and railroad crews working on the Snake River.  The population reached approximately 1,000. 

 

At one time it was Oregon's most notorious town. Things got so bad that the governor sent Fern Hobbs and a cadre of National Guardsmen to establish martial law and "restore decency" in 1910. They closed the saloons, seized firearms, burned gambling equipment, and succeeded in cleaning up the town.  Copperfield is now home to employees and families of Idaho Power as well as residents with houses along the river. 

 

Cornucopia - Cornucopia is located high in the Eagle Cap Mountains at the upper end of Pine Valley.  The town was established when gold was discovered in 1880, and its population peaked at over 3,000.  The mines were closed after World War II, and many of the houses and other buildings were moved down into the valley. Today, there are just a few cabins and the remains of a hotel left in town.

 

The road up to Cornucopia was called "Bootlegger Grade", as it was built by county prisoners during prohibition.  A still was operating in the area, and as long as there was whiskey, work proceeded as usual... but when it ran out, no work got done!

 

Elevation at the mountain peak is 8,640 feet, and if you do much hiking in the area, you will no doubt find cables left from the elevated tramways constructed to carry gold ore (and workers!) for the mines. 

 

Halfway - The City of Halfway was incorporated in 1909.  The story of how Halfway got its name runs the gamut, but this is fairly close.  A new post office was being established in 1887. As it was midway between existing post offices located at Cornucopia and Pine Town, the name "Midway" was requested. The postal officials replied that there was already a Midway, Oregon, and suggested Halfway.  Two years later, the post office was moved to the current location of the town of Halfway. As it was about halfway between Pinetown and its original location near Jimtown, the name remained.  Halfway was located in Union County until 1901, when it became part of Baker County. Its current population is about 380.

 

Brownlee - The Brownlee Reservoir on the Snake River is 57 miles long and hosts beautiful recreational facilities.

 

Eagle Valley (Richland) - The story for how Eagle Valley got its name also changes, but this is the most told.  About 1860 a couple of prospectors came across a dead eagle near the place where a sizeable mountain stream emptied into the long meandering Powder River.  The creek where they saw the Eagle became Eagle Creek and the town the creek drained into was called Eagle Valley.  Many homesteaders arrived during the 1870's. 

New Bridge, just two miles north of Richland up Eagle Creek, has an even more temperate climate and boasts beautiful fruit.

 

 

The Hells Canyon Chamber of Commerce gratefully acknowledges the Baker County Library and Hells Canyon Journal for the historic photos.

Photos courtesy of Hells Canyon Journal, Baker County Library Historical Archives,

Anna Brisk, Phil Wreden, Cindy Thayer, and Timothy Bishop of Base Camp Baker

News and event information courtesy of Hells Canyon Journal

 

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