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, Brown’s 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 Currey charged 50 cents a letter to carry the mail on horseback to and from the nearest post office, in Walla Walla, Washington. La Grande was incorporated as a city in 1865, and platted in 1868.