A bit of Nyssa History:

photos - Terry Thompson Photo Collection c.2003

In the early 1800s, small bands of fur traders trapped along the Snake River including the area that is now known as Nyssa. The early trappers saw how the local Indians used the abundant food resources, hunted wild game, fished, and gathered plants.

Many early emigrant wagon trains forded the Snake River at Fort Boise, a few miles south of present day Nyssa, and headed northwest through Keeney Pass and the hot springs on the Malheur River.

By the 1870s, the open range and accessible markets sparked a boom in livestock raising in eastern Oregon. The excellent forage and plentiful natural resources along the Snake River lured early settlers. And in 1883, the Oregon Short Line Railroad crossed the Snake River into Oregon. Lennox B. Boyle supplied construction crews as the railrod was built west. He started a homestead which later was part of the town of Nyssa. By December 1883, the rails came through town and a section house was built. The first post office, established on June 15, 1889, was located in the section house. Arrival of the railroad made farming and ranching the way of life into the early 1900s. Almost 60,000 sheep were raised in Malheur County and were shipped to market from Nyssa.


The town of Nyssa was incorporated in 1903. Records conflict about the origin of the name of Nyssa. Some believe it is an acronym for New York Sheep Shearing Association, or N.Y.S.S.A., since large flocks of sheep were raised here. Mrs. Sarazin Tensen, daughter of Dr. J.J. Sarazin, says the railroad named the town. The engineer who named this town had his daughter with him on the train and he asked her to pick out a name. She was studying ancient history at the time; her book was open to St. Gregory of Nyssa. She picked Nyssa as the town's name.

By 1905, the town had a hotel, water tank, post office, general store, a few homes, and a blacksmith shop. The Hotel Western was built in 1906 by John F. Reece of Ada County, Idaho, who had bought the land as part of a 40 acre tract from the heirs of Lennox Boyle. Dr. Sarazin moved his office into the second story of the Western Hotel about 1908. Then when irrigation was developed, agriculture prospered. It started when a few settlers built a small diversion dam of rocks and sagebrush on the lower Owyhee River, which later became the Owyhee Dam.