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Vale City

Malheur County, Oregon

Vale City Hall is located at 252 B Street West, Vale, OR 97918.
Phone: 541‑473‑3133.


Beginnings [1]

The crossing of the Malheur River by the Oregon Trail is the site of the present city of Vale. This area of hot springs and cold water in the desert was a resting place of both historic emigrants and prehistoric cultures.

In the fall of 1863, Jonathan Keeney built a small log house at the Malheur Crossing on the south side of the river and this cabin served as a wayside inn for the accommodation of emigrants passing over the Oregon Trail from 1863-1870. In the autumn of 1870, Louis B. Rinehart bought Mr. Keeney's holdings at Vale Hot Springs and the next year started construction of the historic Stone House, which he completed in 1872. On New Year's day, 1873, Mr. and Mrs. Rinehart opened it as a hotel with a grand ball to celebrate the new year. This was the first memorable occasion of the County, and folks from as far as Boise and Mormon Basin came.

During the Seventies a considerable number of travelers passed over the emigrant road and the Stone House became a popular wayside inn. Later in 1878, a stage line was established between Boise and Canyon City and a stage station was set up at the Rinehart Place.

Agricultural and livestock interests soon vied for importance in the region, but it was the Oregon Short Line Railroad which provided the growth stimulus that created Malheur County.

Once the railroad outlet was made at Ontario, commercial activities in the livestock industry rapidly began shifting from Baker, with cattle and sheep being driven to Ontario in increasing thousands. Other businesses followed the swing in traffic until in 1885-1886 movements began to form a separate county, breaking away what was to be Malheur from Baker County. There was little opposition to the forming of the new county and the Creating Act was passed by the State Legislature to take effect April 1, 1887.

This new creation started a fight over the location of the county seat, although the Creating Act named Vale as the temporary seat of government, pending an election to chose a permanent site. No less than six townsites were in that first election in 1887. Vale topped Jordan Valley by only 13 votes, while Ontario was 52 votes behind the leader. Of the 758 votes cast, Vale got 315, Jordan Valley 202, Ontario 163 and Paris, which had excellent promotional backing, ran close to 146. Grove City got 30 ballots and Basterville received 2.

  1. Bill Blankinship, Drexel Hotel, Vale, Malheur County, Oregon, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washingtonk, D.C.