"Grass so tall that it stood over a man's head, even when he was on a horse!" - Early Grass Valley Settlers
Grass Valley, Oregon. Established 1878
Probably the first settlers to see Sherman County were members of the Lewis and Clark party. Neither Lewis and Clark nor any of the others who saw Sherman County in the next fifty years paid much attention. Deer were hard to see in the tall grass and could easily spot hunters, who preferred more wooded areas to stalk their targets. Of the thousands of Oregon Trail travelers who came west in the 1840s and 1850s, not one stopped for more than a few days rest. The vision of the Willamette with it's tall firs and meadows was in their eyes, and they pressed on.
When Samuel Barlow marked the Barlow trail across the Cascade Mountains in 1845, it was not long before a shortcut was made to meet this trail at Tygh Valley. It turned off the Oregon Trail at the top of the hill west of the John Day River, went southwest and entered Grass Valley canyon. It stayed in this canyon past the head of the valley where the tall rye grass grew and where the town of Grass Valley was established.
The settlement of Grass Valley happened slowly, first with the establishment of a few stock ranches. In a few years' time, settlers arrived to Sherman County and plowed the cattle-sustaining grass to make way for their wheat fields. Grass Valley was established in 1878 when Dr. Charles R. Rollins, a physician from New Hampshire settled with a small party of settlers. Dr. Rollins had an easy time choosing a name for his new location, as the rye grass grew rank in the alkaline soil. Rollins built a large two-story hotel, which included a clinic from which he prescribed and sold medicine.
Dr. Rollins' hotel is long gone, but many local farming families can trace their roots back to the resilient homesteaders who staked their claims on this land so long ago. Proof of these settlers' hard work can be witnessed each summer in the rolling acres of golden wheat that surround this historical town.
Inside of the J.J. Wiley Saloon, where the present service station stands today.
The original Grass Valley Grade School.
The growing town of Grass Valley, Oregon circa 1880.
Sherman County wheat harvest via draft horses and mules. Date unknown.