By Steve Lent, Crook County Historian
Bates was and unincorporated mill company town in Grant County about one mile north of Austin Junction. The Oregon Lumber Company established a small mill at Austin in 1906. It was at the terminus of the Sumpter Valley Railway. That mill closed in 1917 and they built a larger mill a mile west. Paul Chapman Bates, a partner in the Oregon Lumber Company, arranged for the purchase of large tracts of timberland for the company.
A new company town was established at the site. It was originally known as Batesville. A post office was established in the new community on March 24, 1919 and named Bates for Mr. Bates. The first post master was Norman Stoddard. The company built a town to support the mill. About 400 people lived in the company town and included mill workers and logging operators. The town included a hotel, an office, a powderhouse, a truck shop, a store, a school, a church and a community hall.
The mill at Bates produced lumber at a high rate for several years. Lumber was shipped out from Bates on the Sumpter Valley Railway to Baker, where the Oregon Lumber Company had its largest mill. The Sumpter Valley Railway ceased operations in 1947 and lumber shipments were then done by truck.
The Oregon Lumber Company sold the Bates mill and townsite to the Edward Hines Lumber company in 1960. The Hines Company operated the mill until 1975. At its peak operations the mill could cut up to 180,000 board feet of lumber per day. It is estimated that the total production of lumber at the mill over time was two billion board feet.
The mill and townsite were closed and dismantled in 1975. Company houses were sold to their occupants and buildings were torn down or moved to other sites. The townsite was then cleared and the land was sold to Henry Ricco who owned a ranch adjacent to the property. The post office was discontinued on Jan. 3, 1976. The mill site was later sold to Grant County. Oregon State Parks and Recreation in 2008 purchased 131 acre of the Bates mill site from Grant County and established Bates State Park. The state park opened in 2011.