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History of Dufur, Oregon

The History of Dufur
by Stu of

When settlers began to move into Oregon in 1845-1846, Samual K. Barlow had built a road which crossed the Cascade Mountains from The Dalles to Oregon City. This became known as the Barlow Road which provided a way to cross the mountains for thousands of people over the next 75 years. The road crossed Fifteen Mile Creek which is the present site of Dufur. This was a favorite resting and camping spot for travelers, however no permanent residence was taken there until 1852 when Lewis P. Henderson moved to the site. When Indian hostilities began in Walla Walla, ten families decided to join those already living in the valley along Fifteen Mile Creek. Together they built a fort about 2 miles west of the crossing for protection.

Since the settlement was located along the creek and was 15 miles from The Dalles, the area became known as Fifteen Mile Crossing. In 1863, Fifteen Mile House was erected which became a safe haven for travelers along the Barlow Road. It was basically a farm house but provided accommodations for people and animals.

In 1872, Andrew J. Dufur and his brother Enoch Burnham Dufur settled at Fifteen Mile Crossing and purchased 600 acres of land. Their primary activities were stock raising which were mainly sheep. The brotherís father, A.J. Dufur of Williamstown, Vermont later came to join them. A.J. Dufur had been active in politics while in Vermont and later became well-respected in political circles after coming to Oregon.

In 1878, the first general merchandising business was established on the north side of the creek by Chauncy A. Williams who had originally lived in Michigan. During this time, mail had to be delivered from The Dalles so Mr. Williams petitioned that a post office be added as part of his store. The story that had been passed down in the Dufur family was the scene of Mr. Williams and A.J. Dufur standing in front of what is known today as Kramerís Market arguing about what the name of the post office should be. On February 6, 1893, Dufur was the given name and has remained so until this day.

The Dufur sons platted the town site on December 10, 1880. They proved themselves to be very enterprising and the town was incorporated in February of 1893 by the Oregon Legislature. It is not clear exactly what date in February this happened as some records say it was on the 10th while the city seal is for the 6th. By 1889, Dufurís population was at 500.

In 1907, the Balch Hotel was built by Charles Balch and became the center of many social events. Mrs. Balch was Lois Dufur who was the daughter of Andrew J. Dufur Jr. In 1913, the Ingels family bought the property and continued to operate as a hotel until the mid-40ís. The hotel was eventually sold and became an apartment and rooming house until being purchased in 1988 by Howard and Pat Green. The Balch Hotel was completely restored and is listed on the National Historic Registry. It currently operates as a Bed and Breakfast.

In 1911, a group of business men from Iowa came to Dufur with the idea of planting fruit trees. After several years of negotiations, the Dufur Orchard Co. was formed. By 1919, apples were being harvested on 4,000 acres of the hills north and west of Dufur, employing between 300 to 400 workers at harvest time. It had become known as the largest apple orchard in the world. However, climate conditions around Dufur prevented the fruit from maturing properly due to lack of moisture and eventually all the trees were removed and wheat and hay became the principle crop. There are now apples being harvested once again after productive water wells were drilled.

Dufur became a bustling town by 1920 and businesses lined up both sides of Main Street. Many social activities took place including dances, plays, basketball games, and card parties.

The Dufur Alumni Homecoming was started in 1953 by Rick Cantrell. It was felt in the community that there was a need for it and the first yearís program included a football game, a potluck dinner, a dance, and evening entertainment.

In 1971, Bob DePriest and Everett Metzentine organized the first Dufur Threshing Bee. The Threshing Bee is a two-day annual event and is held the second weekend in August. As a living history event, the wheat is actually cut and threshed as it was done in the early 1900ís. Along with the wheat harvesting, there is a Saturday parade, craft booths, entertainment, an evening steak feed, and many exhibits and demonstrations.