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Bully Creek in Malheur County Survives Name Change

Despite legislative attempts to change its name to Alder Creek, Bully Creek in Southeastern Malheur County still goes by Bully Creek.

The authoritative book titled “Oregon Geographic Names” tells how the creek got its name and how efforts to change it failed.

The name originated when a surveyor fell into its waters as his friends shouted, “Bully! Bully!”  During debate to change the name in the Oregon Legislature in 1889, Rep. David P. Thompson confirmed he fell while surveying townships for the government.  The Legislature approved the name change anyway.

Later, other versions of how Bully Creek got its name arose.  One asserted the man fell into the Bull Run River, not Bully Creek, and another version said it happened to some soldiers in the 1950’s.

The “Oregon Geographic Names” questions what soldiers would be doing there in 1950 and accepts that Thompson fell into Bully creek, not Bull Run. It notes that a Bully Post Office opened near the stream in 1882.

The authoritative book concludes, “Despite the act of the Legislature, the name of the stream has remained Bully Creek, and it is universally so known.”

The post office is long gone, but Bully Creek flows on.


Source:  McArthur, Lewis A. Oregon Geographic Names. 4th ed. Portland, Ore.: Oregon Historical Society, 1974. 93-94. Print.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.