Lake County, Oregon
Genealogy & History

Lake County History

Lake County and Lakeview, Oregon

A section of Oregon of which but comparatively little is known, owing its remoteness and inaccessibility from the railroad is, Southeastern Oregon. This part of the state, however, is rich in natural resources, and it will not be long in the future until it will begin to attract serious attention from the immigration pouring into the West.

Lake county, so called owing to its being the center of the great lake district of Southern Oregon, is perhaps the most favored section of this part of the state. Twenty-five years ago this section was occupied by not exceed 10 white persons, who had braved the hardships and privations incident to settling in a new country. These men, thus early even, saw a future for Southeastern Oregon, as had the early settlers discounted the possibilities of the Willamette valley. From this early vanguard of civilization the population of Southeastern Oregon has steadily increased until it is now about 3,000. The section of country in which these people live is prosperous, the principal towns are the centers of culture and wealth and the developments of these give every indication of a progressive and intelligent people.

Lakeview, the seat of justice of Lake county, is reached from the town of Ager just south of the California line of the Southern Pacific railroad. The route which is covered by stage presents a great variety of scenery. Some of the views commanded from the higher elevations of the mountains crossed by the stage on this journey are truly majestic in their grandeur, while the beauties of the road on the lower levels of the valleys appeal strongly to the traveler over this route.

Lake county today is by no means a wilderness. From its remoteness one might reasonably expect to find here a civilization not so far advanced as is noted among the people of the more accessible portions of the West. The people of the towns of this section are in just as close sympathy with the outside world as are the best informed people of Portland. The leading papers of the country find a large sale at Lakeview and Linkville in this section. The well-to-do people of these towns have fine homes which are often elegantly furnished, and that the people are readers is attested by the many fine private collections of books which are found in private residences here. There is a warmth of welcome to strangers in these settlements remote from railroad lines that is lacking in towns more easily reached, and it can be safely stated that no traveler ever visits the leading towns of Southeastern Oregon without regretting when the time of this departure arrives that his stay here could not have been a more protracted one.

Lake county, as before stated, is the center of the great lake district of Southern Oregon. On account of the large surface area of water exposed here, together with the elevation of the section, which is from 4,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level, the rain fall here is far in excess of what it is in other parts of Oregon lying east of the Cascade range of mountains. Lake county is bounded on the north by Crook, on the east by Harney, on the west by Klamath, and on the south by the California line. The lake district here is one of the most interesting parts of the coast. The lakes in Lake county have no visible outlets, and in consequence their waters are somewhat brackish. The largest of the chain of lakes here is Goose Lake. Almost half of the body of this lake lies south of the California line. Its greatest area from north to south is about 50 miles. From east to west it is about 15 miles. On the east side of Goose Lake, extending for its entire length, is one of the most fertile strips of agricultural land in the Pacific Northwest. This constitutes the famous Goose Lake valley. This is at the present time the most thickly populated section of Lake county. Goose Lake has no surface outlet and it does not overflow except during unusually wet springs. Its waters are comparatively fresh and they teem with the choicest varieties of game fish. The character of the country on the west side of Goose Lake is for the most part abrupt, rugged and mountainous, but it is covered with a dense growth of the finest timber.

Twenty-five miles north of Goose Lake is Lake Albert. Twenty miles northwest of the latter lake is Summer Lake. These is much of interest in the peculiar formation of Lake Albert. It is oblong in shape, and has a surface area of perhaps 60 square miles. The basin which the lake occupies if formed by a fault in the surface rock, so that while the bottom of the lake slopes gradually from the west, its eastern shore-line rises abruptly to an elevation of 1,000 feet. The water of this like is intensely brackish. It is said to contain in solution carbonate of soda and glauber salt. Summer Lake has an area almost equal to that of Lake Albert. From the eastern shore of this lake a broad, level and fertile stretch of agricultural land extends out for some distance, while the country lining the western and southern boundaries of the lake is of a mountainous character. This lake has an outlet, and its waters do not, therefore, contain so much chloride of sodium as do those of Lake Albert.

South of Lake Albert is what is known as the Chewaucan country, a large tract of valuable agricultural land, which, at the present time, is used principally for stock-raising purposes. A few miles northwest of Summer Lake is another small inland body of water known as Silver Lake. Beyond this latter body is a large area of marsh and meadow land, which is rapidly filling up with settlers. Warner Lake is in the southeastern portion of the county. This lake is described as a succession of smaller lakes, or large pools, separated here and there by marshal plats. The water in certain of these pools is totally absorbed during the summer months. After the water has evaporated the residium is a thick crust of salt, which is used by the ranchmen of this section for their stock. Warner Valley is a long, narrow defile, with precipitous walls on either side. It is 60 miles long by about 8 miles wide at its greatest width.

Lake county is one of the largest counties in the state, it having an area of about 8,000 miles. At least one-third of the county is susceptible of a high state of cultivation. The remaining two thirds of the county consists of broken land, but thousand of acres of this afford excellent pasturage for horses, cattle and sheep. Some of the hills of the county are covered with a stunted growth of timer, while on some of the other elevations are large and valuable bodies of sugar pine and cedar, which will furnish an ample supply of timber to meet the local demands for many years in the future. The farming lands of Lake county are chiefly located in the valleys already described. The character of the soil of these lands is a rich, black loam, and it produces abundant yields of all kinds of cereals and garden produce without the aid of irrigation. The hardier fruits and vegetables of all kinds do well here.

Until rail connection is made between the settled districts of Lake county and the outside world, stock raising will be the principal industry of the county. Grain for the outside markets, at the present time, cannot be successfully raised here. The stock interest of this county are beginning to assume great magnitude, and the revenue derived from this source is sufficient to make the population of Lake county one of the most prosperous communities in the Pacific Northwest. A few  figures will justify the truth of this assertion. At the present writing there estimated to be on the grazing lands of Lake county 30,000 horses, 75,000 head of cattle, and 250,000 head of sheep. This county annually exports of 1,750,000 pounds of wool. Lake county mutton and beef regularly find a large sale in the Portland and San Francisco markets.

The public domain in Lake county consists of swamp, wagon-road and government lands. There are large bodies of swamp lands, the title to which has not yet been confirmed. The wagon-road grants of the county are also in an unsettled condition, but it is probable that there will soon be thrown open to entry under the homestead law. There are still some fine bodies of agricultural land in the county which are unoccupied, and which are subject to settlement under the laws of the United States. The exact number of acres of surveyed and vacant lands in Lake county is 2,626,187. The climate of this part of the state is a delightful one, and with the advent of a railroad line this will become one of the most important parts of the state.

The chief trading down for Southeastern Oregon is Lakeview, the seat of justice of Lake County. It is a wide-awake little town of about 900 population. It is situated near the head and on the east side of Goose Lake valley, about four miles distant from Goose Lake. The town is incorporated, and enjoys and excellent municipal form of government. One of the five United States lands offices of the state is located here. The receiver is Mr. C.U. Snider, and Dr. J.W. Watts is the register. Both of these gentlemen are pioneers in the state, and they are both regarded as most efficient officers. The district under the jurisdiction of this office embraces all of Klamath and Lake counties, half of Harney and Malheur counties, and a portion of Crook county.

Lakeview boasts of a number of substantial and attractive-looking buildings. Among these may be mentioned the court house, a public school which cost $14,000, and a handsome brick bank building. The Lakeview bank is a strong financial institution, and enjoys the confidence of a wide patronage. It has a capital of $75,000, and a rapidly increasing surplus. A. McCallen is the successful manager and cashier of this bank. Prominent among the business houses of Lakeview may be mentioned two hotels, two livery stables, a brewery and perhaps a score of general merchandise and other stores, The Lake County Examiner, of which Messrs. Townsend & Beach are publishers, is one of the most progressive interior publications of the state. The fraternal and social organizations are represented at Lakeview by lodges of the Odd Fellows, Masons, United Workmen and Grand Army of the Republic. The Baptist and Methodist denominations have comfortable church buildings at this point. Lakeview offers superior educational advantages. The Lakeview State Graded School provides courses of study in the common, high school and normal branches, as well as instruction in vocal and instrumental music. The school is now a sectarian one. The state has provided ample means for the purchasing of the necessary apparatus for the institution in illustrating the physical and natural sciences. The corps of instructors is composed of four well qualified teachers.

Lakeview has a good water-works system, together with good facilities for fighting fire. Near the town are established three sawmills, one roller-process flour mill, a lime kiln and several ledges of valuable building stone. A mile and a half south of town are two boiling hot springs which are said to possess mineral properties. Bath houses have been erected near these springs for the accommodation of those who may be desirous of testing the healing powers of these mineral waters. Forty miles north of Lakeview is the village of Paisley, which is situated in the Chewaucan country. Summer Lake is a trading post 25 miles to the northwest of Paisley. Silver Lake is a small settlement 30 miles still further north. Fifteen miles south of Lakeview, on the state boundary line is New Pine Creek, another small trading point.

The railroad question is a vexed one to the people of Lakeview and Lake county. It is one, however, that promises an easy solution within the near future. The Union Pacific has already made surveys for a line through the county. This would probably be its northern California extension. Reference to any map of the Pacific Northwest should be made to enable the reader to fully appreciate the absolute certainty of one or more of the transcontinental lines building through Lake County in the future. This would make a most feasible route from the north through Oregon and California to San Francisco on the south. It is a well known fact that James J. Hill of the Great Northern is biding his time when he will be able to enter California with his road. Mr. Hill is too shrewd a railroad builder to parallel the line of the Southern Pacific west of the Cascades in selecting a route south. In going south he will undoubtedly select a less expensive route than is afforded in the country crossed by the Oregon branch of the Southern Pacific, and in building through Lake county he will open up a new and wonderfully rich section of country through Lake county he will open up a new and wonderfully rich section of country where he will not have to meet competition. It is felt by those who have carefully studied the situation that he will build south from the line of the Great Northern at Butte, through Idaho and Southeastern Oregon. Mr. Hill is thoroughly familiar with the easy grades and inexhaustible resources of the country along this route and these will prove a most important inducement for him to select this route when he finally decides to enter the California field. Lake county and Lakeview offer exceptional opportunities for trade to the merchants of Portland, and a railroad that would reach this country from some point on the Southern Pacific this side of the Siskiyou Mountains would prove a most important investment from the standpoint of Portland's best business interests.

The Oregonian's Handbook of the Pacific Northwest
Edward Gardner Jones, Editor
1894, The Oregonian Publishing Co.
Contributed by Shauna Williams

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