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Baker County, Oregon facts for kids

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Baker County
Baker County Courthouse in Baker City
Baker County Courthouse in Baker City
Official seal of Baker County
Seal
Map of Oregon highlighting Baker County
Location within the U.S. state of Oregon
Map of the United States highlighting Oregon
Oregon's location within the U.S.
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Country  United States
State  Oregon
Founded September 22, 1862
Seat Baker City
Largest city Baker City
Area
 • Total 3,088 sq mi (8,000 km2)
 • Land 3,068 sq mi (7,950 km2)
 • Water 20 sq mi (50 km2)  0.6%
Population
 (2010)
 • Total 16,134
 • Estimate 
(2019)
16,124
 • Density 5.22/sq mi (2.02/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
Congressional district 2nd

Baker County is one of the 36 counties in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 16,134. The county seat and largest city is Baker City. The county was organized on September 22, 1862 when a portion of Wasco County was partitioned off. The new county's area was reduced in 1864 when Union County was partitioned off, and again in 1887 when Malheur County was partitioned off. The county's lines were last adjusted in 1901 when a parcel was added to the county.

Baker County was named for Edward Dickinson Baker, a senator from Oregon who was killed at Ball's Bluff, a battle of the Civil War in Virginia in 1861. The county is part of the county definition of Eastern Oregon.

History

The first groups from the eastern U.S. following the Oregon Trail passed through the area on their way to the Willamette Valley, unaware of the potential wealth they passed over. At Flagstaff Hill, near Baker City, 15 miles (24 km) of wagon ruts left by immigrants can still be seen.

In 1861 gold was discovered and Baker County became one of the Northwest's largest gold producers.

On September 22 of the following year, the state assembly created Baker County from the eastern part of Wasco County. Later, Union County and Malheur County were created from this county. The boundaries were adjusted for the last time in 1901, when the area between the Powder River and the Wallowa Mountains was returned to Baker County.

The original county seat was at Auburn. While at first a booming mining town with 5,000 inhabitants, once the gold was mined out Auburn's population dwindled, and county citizens eventually voted in 1868 to make Baker City, incorporated in 1874, the new county seat.

The population of Baker County nearly quadrupled between the years 1880 and 1910. This growth was largely a product of the emergence and expansion of the Sumpter Valley Railroad and several of its spur lines, which helped lumber and mining operations to develop and grow.

In 1914 Fern Hobbs, on behalf of her employer Governor Oswald West, declared martial law in the Baker County city of Copperfield. This was the first declaration of martial law in the state since the American Civil War.

Geography

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 3,088 square miles (8,000 km2), of which 3,068 square miles (7,950 km2) is land and 20 square miles (52 km2) (0.6%) is water.

About 30% of the county is forest.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 2,804
1880 4,616 64.6%
1890 6,764 46.5%
1900 15,597 130.6%
1910 18,076 15.9%
1920 17,929 −0.8%
1930 16,754 −6.6%
1940 18,297 9.2%
1950 16,175 −11.6%
1960 17,295 6.9%
1970 14,919 −13.7%
1980 16,134 8.1%
1990 15,317 −5.1%
2000 16,741 9.3%
2010 16,134 −3.6%
2019 (est.) 16,124 −0.1%
US Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2019

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 16,134 people, 7,040 households, and 4,430 families residing in the county. The population density was 5.3 inhabitants per square mile (2.0/km2). There were 8,826 housing units at an average density of 2.9 per square mile (1.1/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 94.6% white, 1.1% American Indian, 0.5% Asian, 0.4% black or African American, 0.1% Pacific islander, 1.0% from other races, and 2.4% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 3.3% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 24.5% were German, 14.8% were Irish, 14.6% were English, and 8.1% were American.

Of the 7,040 households, 24.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.7% were married couples living together, 8.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 37.1% were non-families, and 31.2% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.78. The median age was 47.9 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $39,704 and the median income for a family was $50,507. Males had a median income of $43,849 versus $30,167 for females. The per capita income for the county was $21,683. About 12.7% of families and 19.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.2% of those under age 18 and 10.6% of those age 65 or over.

Communities

Incorporated cities

Unincorporated communities

Ghost towns

Economy

Gold mining was the original impetus for settlement in the area, and at one time the county was the largest gold producer in the Northwest. Gold dredging was conducted with the Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge. With the exhaustion of the gold fields, agriculture, stock raising, logging became the primary economic pursuits. In the last decades of the 20th century, tourism also contributed to the local economy, helped by attractions such as Eagle Cap Wilderness Area, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, and Anthony Lakes Ski Area. The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center opened in 1993.

Portions of Season 11 of Discovery's TV show Gold Rush was filmed in Baker County.

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