About This Place
La Grande ( /ləɡrænd/) is a city in Union County, Oregon, United States. Originally named "Brownsville," it was forced to change its name due to that name already being used for a city in Linn County. Its current name comes from an early French settler, Charles Dause, who often used the phrase "La Grande" to describe the area's beauty. The population was 12,327 at the 2000 census. The 2009 estimate is 12,707 residents. It is the county seat of Union County. La Grande lies east of the Blue Mountains and southeast of Pendleton.
The Grande Ronde Valley had long been a waypoint along the Oregon Trail. The first permanent settler in the La Grande area was Benjamin Brown in 1861. Not long after, the Leasey family and about twenty others settled there. The settlement was originally named after Ben Brown as Brown's Fort, and then Browns Town or Brownsville. There was already a Brownsville in Linn County, so when the post office was established in 1863, a more distinctive name was needed. It was decided to use "La Grande", a phrase used by a Frenchman, Charles Dause, to describe the area's scenic splendor. Before the post office was established, William Carter charged 50 cents a letter to carry the mail on horseback from the nearest post office, in Walla Walla, Washington. La Grande was incorporated as a city in 1865, and platted in 1868.
La Grande grew rapidly during the late 1860s and early 1870s, partially because of the many gold mines in the region and the valley's agricultural capabilities. The early business establishments centered on C Avenue between present day Fourth Street and the hillside on the west end.