Monday, June 17, 2019

Sneaky Citizens Change the Fate of Towns by Paty Jager

I'm not sure what it says about me, but I tend to find towns and communities in the history of Oregon that became important due to disgruntled citizens who took measures to get what they wanted.

The first time I featured a unique change of venue for a post office was in my book Marshal in Petticoats. While researching the gold area of NE Oregon, I discovered a town that lost its identity overnight.

Susanville, Oregon
The community of Susanville, Oregon sat  20 miles from Austin, Oregon in the Blue Mountains, on the middle fork of the John Day river and Elk Creek. It was established in 1865 when gold was found. It was named for one of the earliest inhabitants, Susan Ward.

One evening the miners living at a mining camp 2 miles up Elk Creek from Susanville, decided they were tired of wasting time walking to Susanville to get their mail. Under the dark of night, they entered town and stole the mailboxes, cancelling stamp, ink pad, and the building. The people of Susanville woke up the next morning to an empty space where the post office had been.

Now that the camp up the creek was named Susanville, the original Susanville changed their name to Galena.

Something similar happened in SE Oregon. I learned about this while researching for my books Davis and Brody of the Letters of Fate series. While doing my research I discovered the largest town on the freight road from Canyon City a gold mining town to Ft. McDermitt, Nevada was Harney City or Ft. Harney.

Harney county was originally part of Grant County to the North. But it was a several days ride for anyone in the southern part of the county to get to the count seat in Canyon City. When Harney County was made, Harney City was given the temporary county seat.

Burns, Oregon
Burns and 3 other towns were vying for the county seat. In trying to sway voters to pick Burns, the Burns Time Herald printed this in their paper May 17th 1890:  "public buildings erected in Burns are not liable to destruction from cloud-bursts” and that “[the town] is free from the annual mosquito and gnat visitation that afflicts other parts of the county.” Other reasons given were: “Burns has the only brewery in the county” and “the Burns Brass Band, of 18 pieces, is the only band in the county.”

They voting occured and the results were: 512 votes for Burns, 415 votes for Harney City, with the rest of the contenders sharing the remaining 89 votes.

But before these counts were officially made the paper said Burns had won. However, the Harney City citizens  filed a petition saying men from Burns had made threats, bribed, and paid children and drunks to vote for Burns. One of the statements on the petition read: “[Burns] is an unhealthy and sickly place and the inhabitants thereof not law-abiding but notorious and dangerous. Many of the buildings therein of old wood and about to fall in….There is great danger of flood at all times.”

Burns citizens also claimed that Harney City also padded the ballot box.

This feud and petition went on for three years after which time the courts gave the county seat to Burns where it has been ever since. During the feud there were some citizens of Burns who stealthily entered the courthouse in Harney City and stole county records hoping to move the county seat by way of the town who held the records was the county seat. However, they were caught and the records replaced until the state determined the change.

Right now my Letters of Fate Trilogy box set is on sale for $0.99! Get it while it's on sale!

Letters of Fate Trilogy
Three historical western novels filled with steamy romance and the rawness of a growing country.
Davis Weston receives a letter from his sister asking him to marry a friend. Widowed with two small children and a ranch to run, Mariella Swanson knows she needs help, but isn’t sure her heart, or neighbors, will accept her marrying a stranger. Can the two compromise or will fate once again leave them alone?

After receiving a letter, Brody Yates finds himself escorted across the country to work on a ranch rather than entering prison. However, a revenge driven criminal, the Oregon high desert, and his grandfather’s beautiful ward may prove more dangerous than anything he’d faced on the New York docks.

The last thing Isaac Corum needs or wants is a snooty woman. Dang it all, the woman doesn’t do a single blasted thing she’s told, and Isaac can’t just sit back and let her go traipsing off into the mountains alone…

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 40 novels, 8 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

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photos- Harney County Library


Agnes Alexander said...

I'm glad to see that city politics isn't a new thing to this time in history, Thanks for posting this, Paty.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Agnes! Yes, politics have been going round and round for centuries!