Baker Boyer Bank opens in Walla Walla on November 10, 1869.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 10/17/2007
  • Essay 8333

On November 10, 1869, Baker Boyer Bank opens for business in Walla Walla.  Founded by brothers-in-law Dr. Dorsey Syng Baker (1823-1888) and John F. Boyer (1824-1897) with profits from their years as merchants servicing gold miners, Baker Boyer Bank is the first banking institution in what will become the state of Washington.

Dr. Dorsey Syng Baker was a trained physician but spent the most of his lifetime as an entrepreneur.  He made several trips to the California gold fields during the 1850s, eventually settling in Oregon's Umpqua Valley where he raised cattle and operated a mill and mercantile. 

John F. Boyer, a former gold miner and storekeeper, was married to Baker's sister Sarah. Baker opened a store in Walla Walla in October 1859, hiring William Stevens as manager. In 1860 Baker took over management of the store and in mid-1862 Boyer joined him in the mercantile business under the name D. S. Baker & Co. Walla Walla was a major supply point for hopeful gold miners en route to Idaho and Montana.  Baker & Co. sold supplies to these miners, and also to early settlers and ranchers. 

Baker and Boyer also provided miners with an informal banking service by allowing them to exchange their gold dust and nuggets for cash. The mercantile firm had a large safe in which Baker and Boyer routinely allowed miners to store their buckskin pouches of gold, and the pair developed a reputation for reliably producing the gold upon the owners' return. Predicting that banking would in the long term prove more lucrative than storekeeping, Baker and Boyer sold the mercantile business to Paine Brothers & Moore and became bankers.  The mercantile building had two stories, and   Baker and Boyer operated their banking business on the second floor.

In 1889 Baker Boyer Bank received its national charter.  Boyer was elected the bank's president, a position he held until his death.  In 1890 Boyer erected a new building on the same site where the mercantile building had been.  In May 1911 a third building was completed on the same site (7 West Main Street).  The seven-story structure towered over neighboring buildings, providing local photographers with a handy perch for snapping territorial images.

Baker and Boyer were also part of a group of Walla Wallans who financed the 32-mile Walla Walla & Columbia Railroad from Wallula to Walla Walla, later part of the Northern Pacific Railroad.  This enterprise occupied Baker's focus, while Boyer managed day-to-day operations at the bank.

In November of 1956 Baker Boyer provided Walla Walla customers with the city's first drive-through banking facility.  As of 2007 Baker Boyer Bank is still family owned and operated.

Sources: "Our History," Baker Boyer Bank website accessed October 9, 2007 (; HistoryLink.Org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Walla Walla and Columbia Railroad Is Completed From Wallula to Walla Walla on October 23, 1875," (by Elizabeth Gibson) (accessed October 9, 2007); Robert A. Bennett, Walla Walla: Portrait Of A Western Town 1804-1899 (Walla Walla: Pioneer Press Books, 1980), 73; Robert A. Bennett, Walla Walla: A Town Built To Be A City (Walla Walla: Pioneer Press Books, 1982), 123.

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