From: Yesteryears of Morrow County, published in 1959
Irrigon is one of the earliest twentieth century towns of Morrow county on the Columbia River. In 1902 the Oregon Land and Water Company put on an extensive advertising campaign for the purpose of selling land at $100 per acre with a water right. However, at this time neither the canal or the dam had been constructed. This proposed canal was to supply water for land from the Umatilla River, west to the district around a railroad siding on the O.R. & N. Railroad. This junction was known as Stokes Siding. The town built here was known as Stokes until about 1905, when the name of Irrigon was originated by taking the first four letters of irrigation and the last three of Oregon.
Settlers began coming in by 1903. A general mercantile store was established and a two story building built for the purpose by Egbert and Corey.
There was, in 1904, a very small company ditch owned by the Oregon Land and Water Company with water rights covering 100 acres. One of the first settlers on this project was George M. Rand, who came from Kansas to settle on 10 acres, which he planted to fruit.
When there was need of school, accommodations were made in the living room of a local family. Addison Bennett was hired as postmaster, and he soon started a weekly newspaper in one end of the post office building. This paper was known as the Irrigon Irrigator, and was not in existence for too long a time. The O.R. & N. Railroad built a depot and established telegraph service.
The advertising boom was paying off! Land was improved into farms. With the coming of many settlers, small businesses sprang up in Irrigon. The dam was built on the Umatilla River, about three miles south of the old land mark - the city of Umatilla. When the canal was being constructed, settlers could get employment on the job for $2.50 for a 10 hour day. It took a day's time to go to Hermiston with a team - a distance of 16 miles. During this time a ferry was established across the Columbia River at the docks in Irrigon. At one time there was also a boat freight service and passenger service, by stern wheelers, between Portland and Lewiston, Idaho.
There was a company blacksmith shop, a new general merchandise store with a dance hall above, a barber shop, hardware store, a hotel, a furniture store, and a feed store all erected in 1904 and 1905. Sam Carson built a livery stable and operated the city dray. Dr. Beck and his wife, also a doctor, came to Irrigon and built a drugstore. A three room school was built and served the district until 1921 when it burned. Page's Pool Hall and Confectionary were erected in 1907. Other businesses in the community were: Semen's Complete Food Store, Hinkle's Store, Tum-A-Lum Lumber Company, Pierce's Lumber Yard, Leight's Motel, Clyde Grimm's Tavern.
Then came the panic of 1907. The Oregon Land and Water company was in the hands of a receiver - they were bankrupt. The settlers then sold for what they could get or just left the country, until there were only about 50 left in the community. In 1912 the government became interested in the district and Senator Lane was sent to investigate to see if it would be desirable to build a dam and concrete canal. He was favorably impressed by the melons, fruit and grapes grown here that in 1915, the High Ditch, as it was known, was constructed. This took in a lot more acreage than the old company ditch. It was extended on past the railroad siding of Coyote, 12 miles west of Irrigon, and Boardman was established there. In 1926 the West Extention of the Umatilla Reclamation project was organized with the water office in Irrigon. There were three directors, A.C. Houghton was the first manager and held that position until his death, twenty five years later.
Because there were no improved roads, all the produce was shipped by local express. Many a time the local train was stopped for more than an hour loading crated melons, fruit and cream. The Union Pacific Railroad discontinued its service through Irrigon in 1950 and the rails were removed a year or so later. A black-top highway, telephone and electricity eventually came to the community. In 1920 a new concrete school building was constructed. In 1952 the new A.C.Houghon Grade school was built.
The population of the Irrigon District in 1959 was 500. The city is incorporated and has the Baptist church, the Adventist and the Assembly of God churches.
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