There's only one Baker City

January 10, 2002 11:00 pm
Baker City sits in a valley between the Wallowa (above) and Elkhorn Mountains. (Baker City Herald photograph by S. John Collins).
Baker City sits in a valley between the Wallowa (above) and Elkhorn Mountains. (Baker City Herald photograph by S. John Collins).

Royal A. Pierce laid claim to a parcel of land here in Baker Valley in 1865, setting aside the southeast quarter section for a town he called "Baker."

But somehow, people came to call it "Baker City."

Incorporated as a city in 1874, the town's official name was recorded as Baker City. That lasted until 1911, when voters approved a measure removing "city" from the name.

Reportedly, this left some of the old-time residents disgruntled, the name change having been proposed by a relative newcomer. They argued almost every state in the union had a Baker, but there was only one Baker City.

And there would be again.

Voters reinstated the name "Baker City" in November 1989. Curiously, this caused rancor with the new old-timers, who had known the city just as "Baker" their entire lives.

Baker, by the way, was named in honor of Col. Edward Dickinson Baker, Oregon's first senator.

Sen. Baker, who lived in San Francisco, wasn't a citizen of Oregon and never set foot in Baker County and he never made it to Washington, D.C., as senator. Newly elected, he died in a battle en route to the nation's capital.