Tales from the Past

The Sumpter Valley Dredge has transitioned from a key mining machine to a tourist attraction today.

Sumpter is a small community located along the North Powder River in Baker County, Oregon. It was intended to be named for Fort Sumter, South Carolina at which the American Civil War began. It is reported that an early resident of the area discovered a round and smooth rock that resembled a cannon ball and since Fort Sumter was in the news at the time, he recommended the name.

A post office was established first in 1874 and named Sumter but was discontinued in 1878. A new post office was established on Dec. 13, 1883. Post office officials would not allow the name Sumter to be used, so the new postmaster, Joseph Young, used a derivative of the name and proposed Sumpter. This honored the original proposal and also the Sumpter mule, which was a popular pack mule.

Steve Lent is a Crook County historian. He can be reached at 541-447-3715.