Huntington’s location in the geographic pass of entry into Oregon has been the key to its importance, since land formation and the Snake River virtually forced all early explorers, wagon trains and modern transportation through the pass up Burnt River and to the Powder River Valley. Quiet little Huntington has been an active and historic crossroads of the west. The Farewell Bend area was a gathering ground of tribes including the Shoshone, Bannock, Snake, Paiute, Nez Perce, and Umatilla. A historic marker records that the expedition of Wilson Price Hunt, Captain B.E.L. Bonneville, Nathanial Wyeth, and Captain John C. Freemont stopped here as did virtually all the Oregon Trail Wagons, including Whitman and Spaulding. Evidence of the hardships and tragedies of the pioneer movement still exists: a small iron cross, visible from Route 30, marks the location where Snake River Shoshone Indians killed a number of emigrants in 1860 known as the Van Orman Massacre. Only 15 of 44 survived.
The land was claimed by Henry Miller, a German emigrant. Miller settled in 1862 and built Miller Station, a stage station which was reputed to be large enough to accommodate 20 people at the Adobe Hotel. Miller became a land baron by establishing shadowy claims to great tracts of land. He also established Old Ferry to enable wagons to cross the Snake River.
In 1882 Miller sold the land which later became the Huntington town site to a Mr. Harlan, who in turn sold it to the Huntington brothers for $2700. The Huntington's maintained a small trading post. In 1884, the rails of the Oregon Short Line and the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company line were joined in Huntington. Since that time, Huntington has been an important railway division point. With the advent of the railroad came J.T. Fifer, who had been selling general merchandise to the construction crews moving his goods from town to town as the work progressed. The Oregon Construction Company followed, and by 1885, Huntington had two general stores, a blacksmith shop, a hotel, several boarding houses, restaurants, and several saloons to serve train crews, mail handlers and residents. A roundhouse brought employment.
In 1898, the Northwest Railroad Company began extending a short line down Snake River. It reached Homestead about 1910. This increased transportation at Huntington and provided an outlet for Eagle and Pine Valley fruits, cattle, lumber and ore. That line was flooded by the water from the power dam at Brownlee Reservoir. An old railroad tunnel is still visible when the water is low. At the turn of the century, Huntington developed a reputation as "Sin City", a rugged frontier town having its share of saloons, Chinese opium dens, and gunslingers. Governor Oswald West was motivated to clean up the city, along with the community of Copperfield, in 1912–14. Rev. Robert C. Lee started a campaign against the activities. As a result, the Methodist Church and The Rev. Lee’s house were riddled by gun fire. Rev. Lee waged a heroic battle until finally Governor West ordered gambling stopped, brothels closed, slot machines removed, and saloons closed on Sundays.
Huntington suffered loss of jobs when the railroad closed the roundhouse after it burned, but is now enjoying an economic resurgence with the addition of the cannabis industry, local catfishing, and outdoor recreation.
Visit the Historical Society Museum 395 1st St. Sat and Sun 1-4