In the early 1800s, small bands of fur traders trapped along the Snake River, including through the area now known as Nyssa. These early trappers noted the presence of the Indians in the region, hunted wild game, fished and gathered available plant foods.
Many of the 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 combination of open range and ready markets sparked a boom in livestock raising in Eastern Oregon.
The excellent native forage and plentiful natural resources along the Snake River lured early settlers. This, coupled with the Oregon Short Line Railroad crossing the Snake River into Oregon by the fall of 1883, fast made farming and ranching the way of life by the late 1800s and early 1900s. The railroad moved through Nyssa and constructed three section houses for its workers with a pump and water tank built in 1883.
It is said that Nyssa was named by a train engineer's daughter. An engineer who was assigned to name the railroad stops used his daughter's suggestion of Nyssa. Supposedly, she was studying ancient history at the time and chose Nyssa, from St. Gregory of Nyssa.
The New York Sheep Shippers Association" is another possible source for the name "NYSSA", since early residents were the Basque men who herded sheep. Both the meat and wool were destined for eastern markets.
A third story is that the name came from the Snake Indian word for "sagebrush", which sounded like "nisa".
As the rails moved westward, Lennox B. Boyle supplied the railroad crews with food and equipment, settled in the area and opened the first business in Nyssa. From these beginnings, Nyssa continued to grow and prosper with the development tied to the rich agricultural resources of the area.