Pendleton, Umatilla County, Oregon


In 1868 the fortunes of Umatilla City were on the wane, owing to a decline in her trade with the mines. On the contrary the agricultural section was prosperous, and increased in wealth and population continually. It had been discovered that the hills along the base of the Blue mountains were extremely productive for grain, and thousands of acres of it had been taken up. During the two previous years the number of population in the north and east had increased to such an extent that they largely outnumbered those of Umatilla City. From the vicinity of the present towns of Weston, Milton and Centerville it was a long journey to the county seat, and the people there were desirous of having it moved nearer to them. There were enough residents on Umatilla river to defeat an attempt to remove it to the extreme north east corner of the county, which prevented an effort for that purpose and resulted in a combination to have it located at some central point on that river. M. E. Goodwin had a land claim just below the mouth of Wild Horse creek, on the edge of the Indian reservation, which offered a good site for a town, and an effort was made to secure the county seat at that point. The advocates of removal applied to the Legislature and secured passage of the Act of October 13, 1868, providing that at the next general election the county clerk should place in nomination "two candidates for county seat of Umatilla county, to wit: the present location, Umatilla Landing, as the one candidate; and upper Umatilla, somewhere between the mouth of Wild Horse and Birch creeks, as the other candidate, to be voted on at said election." If a majority favored removal, the commissioners were to call a special meeting and appoint three persons to locate the site for county buildings, and give an appropriate name to the new county seat. The Act provided that the existing county buildings be used until new ones were ready for occupancy, the time not to exceed a year. The election occurred on the third of November, less than a month after passage of the Act. The county officers were divided on the question, being governed by their personal interests, as was every one else. The vote was close, 394 being cast for upper Umatilla, and 345 for Umatilla Landing. The commissioners appointed J. S. Vinson, James Thompson and Samuel Johnson to locate and name the county seat. They selected Goodwin's location and bestowed upon it the name of Pendleton at the suggestion of Judge G. W. Bailey, in honor of Hon. George H. Pendleton of Ohio. The town was laid off and liberal offers were made by the proprietors to induce people to locate there. Mr. Goodwin, Judge Bailey and a few others who were interested in the new town, advanced money to build a court house, in order to secure the removal as quickly as possible. At that time there were only two buildings: the private residence of Judge Bailey and a little shed in which Goodwin kept hotel. When the committee reported in January, 1869, that they had located the seat of justice on land donated by Mr. Goodwin on sections 10 and 11, township 2 north, range 32 east, Judge Bailey ordered the county officers to remove their offices and records to Pendleton. He rented his dwelling house for their offices, reserving the cellar for a jail. All but the Treasurer obeyed the order.

     Suit was brought by the people of Umatilla to compel them to return. Judge J. G. Wilson decided that the removal was premature, as Umatilla was the proper county seat until new buildings had been erected. The decision was rendered early in March, and the officers were compelled to cart their records back again. Meanwhile work was rapidly progressing on the court house, and as soon as it was at all habitable, the officers piled their records into a wagon one quiet Sabbath morning and departed for Pendleton, thus avoiding an injunction. Again suit was brought by citizens of Umatilla, who endeavored to have the removal declared illegal on the ground that the Act was void because of indefiniteness. They argued that "Somewhere between the mouths of Wild Horse and Birch Creek" was so indefinite a description that citizens were unable to tell what locality they were voting for. The court held that the description was sufficient to show the general locality desired by voters, and that the Act had amply provided for its definite location by the three commissioners. The result was a complete triumph to Pendleton, and a sad blow to the waning fortunes of Umatilla Landing.

     The court house at Pendleton which had been so hastily built by the citizens was paid for by the county, and in the summer of 1870 a new jail was erected in the court yard. A fire proof vault was added to the court house in 1876. The county steadily increased in population, and advanced in prosperity, as is amply shown by a table of property valuations given on another page. Pendleton became quite a city, and the new town of Weston began to spring up in the northern end of the county. The elections of 1870 and 1872 gave the following result: County Officers 1870 and 1872

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