Reflections from an editor

By Mark Furman

Serving Baker County since 1870.

Mark Furman.jpg

Mark Furman

At the dawn of a new millenium, the staff of Baker City Herald shouldered the responsibility of history and put Job 1 — covering Baker County — back on the front page every day.

As far as slogans go, what it lacks in flourish is more than made up by the sincere honesty of the mission.

It’s close to my heart, at least: For a fraction of the Herald’s existence, I steered the ship as the paper’s editor.

On July 4, 1999, Jayson Jacoby put out the Baker City Herald with me watching over his shoulder. Almost 8 years later, he published some nice words upon my departure, recalling how he feared he had watched me sail down a snowfield north of Marble Creek Pass to my detriment later that same day pre-Y2K.

Suffice it to say:

Baker City is my old hometown.

And when I read that, I hear Jimmy Lloyd Rea, with Big Bad Bob smiling on behind him on drums.

Fondly I recall my frustration as I’d sit with Pearl Jones to convince her to continue writing Baker County history stories for the paper — and to allow me to cut them down for length (can you IMAGINE her with a blog or Tumblr or Facebook page?!). I felt like an echo of that young Pearl sitting at the foot of Loy Wisdom and other ladies who had made the journey over on the Oregon Trail as children.

Baker boasts so much history, much of it chronicled in the pages of the Herald.

So much had changed the last time I got back to Baker — for the better by a big margin.

And so much has changed since then.

On my way out of town this last time, I visited Phyllis Badgley. She spoke of the seasonal shadows on the Elkhorns with affection. She almost apologized for spending all of her life in Baker, save for those years as a nurse in Tacoma during the war.

Having myself urged many people over the years to “Visit Baker City” or even move there, she didn’t need to apologize. Even though I’ve made a home elsewhere, Baker is a big part of my heart.

Before the pandemic, I’d become that guy who ordered a beer from Baker in Eugene, wearing my late friend Moose’s old Barley Brown’s shirt, just so I could talk off anyone’s ear about Baker (even if it took a global pandemic to get Tyler to put it in a can!).

After the pandemic? I’ve grown to love my garden, but working from home while proctoring the online educations of two young children is for the birds. Time will tell.

I’d leave you this memory, from the stage at a visioning event at Baker High years ago, offered (if memory serves) by Dan Warnock Sr.:

In 20 years, Baker will be a place that’s too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, and when people say howdy, they mean it.

Howdy.

Herald helped inspire local historian

By Gary Dielman

The Baker City Herald has been publishing for 150 years under several mastheads and owners: Bedrock Democrat, Morning Democrat, and Baker City Herald, then, after merger of the last two, there was the Democrat-Herald, and finally back to Baker City Herald. If not for all those years of publication, I doubt I would have ever started writing about Baker City and Baker County history.

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Gary Dielman

The best early local history is Isaac Hiatt’s “31 Years in Baker County,” published in 1893. In the Introduction Hiatt wrote, “To the proprietors of the Bedrock Democrat many thanks are due for the privilege accorded by them of examining the files of that paper.” I share his sentiments about our local newspaper.

The Baker County Library has microfilm of Baker County newspapers going back to the first edition of the Bedrock Democrat right up to about three years ago, when the University of Oregon quit microfilming Oregon newspapers.

About 15 years ago I was fortunate enough to acquire my own collection of about 2,000 editions of newspapers dating from about 1900 to 1915. I started reading them beginning with the oldest editions — mostly Morning Democrats and Baker City Heralds. When I found a news item I considered of historic interest, I typed into my laptop computer a summary or copied it verbatim. I’m about ready to start adding items from the 1911 editions. So far my searchable database totals almost 15,000 items.

Some of my old newspapers are so brittle that to unfold and read them is to destroy them.

Here are some examples of what I consider “interesting” local history.

One item is from the Dec. 13, 1871, edition of the Bedrock Democrat: “The Editor of the Democrat hereby acknowledges the receipt, from Father Dielman, of a fine large rabbit, one of the several evidences of his skill and prowess as a Nimrod.” (Father Dielman was Baker City’s first preacher and responsible for supervising of the building of the Catholic chapel that originally occupied the site of St. Francis Cathedral. Am I his relative? Don’t know, since I research local history but not my own genealogy.)

An Aug. 28, 1872, item announced the death of Honora “Nora” Dooley, age 76. Born in County Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1796, she was the mother of John and Jeramiah Dooley, two of Baker County’s most important pioneers of 1862. “Grandma” Dooley is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery. Father Dielman officiated at her funeral. She has the distinction of having the third-oldest date of birth in the cemetery’s registry.

The 1873 Fourth of July celebration: “The grounds at Fisher’s Grove, about one quarter mile from our city, was well prepared with seats to accommodate at least one thousand people. ... The grove was thoroughly cleaned of all underbrush.” (In 1908 the cottonwood grove became Geiser-Pollman Park.)

Here’s a rare item about Sparta in the July 16, 1873, Bedrock Democrat: “The most notable object which attracts a stranger entering town is the fire-proof stone building. ... The building is twenty-four by fifty feet clear inside, thirteen feet high, and built out of material, stone and cement, wholly taken from our neighborhood.”

(The Heilner brothers, Seligmann and Sigmund, had the building erected, then soon left Sparta and built a new store in Baker City. The stone building in Sparta is still standing, all that’s left of the original town.)

Well, that’s four items out of the 15,000 in my database. I wish the Baker City Herald happy 150th birthday, and many more. I look forward to every issue.

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