Grass, grain, cows, and “Hoover’s Happy Hustling Helpers”… Curious? Well this week we’re heading to the tippy top of the state, right along the border with Washington, to explore the history of the counties in the Columbia Gorge with our new Flickr Commons set celebrating the centennial of OSU’s Extension Services. Extension is important up north, particularly since this region is known for both field crops *and* orchards that produce delish produce!
Located in the heart of the Columbia Basin Wheatlands, Gilliam County might be known for a rural agriculture life style and is bordered on the north by the Columbia River and on the west by the John Day River, but it isn’t too terribly far from the urban centers of the I-5 corridor of the Willamette Valley. “Gilliam County is in the heart of the Columbia Basin wheat area. Its economy is based primarily on agriculture centering on wheat, barley, and beef cattle. Apples and other irrigated crops are becoming an increasingly important part of the economy of the north end of the county. After agriculture and livestock, other principal industries of Gilliam County include tourism, hunting, and fishing” (History – Gilliam County). The County is was established in 1885 and is named for Cornelius Gilliam, who commanded the forces of the provisional government of Oregon after the Whitman Massacre. Fun fact? The county has two Nobel Prize Winners to boast about — both two-time winner Dr. Linus Pauling (Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954 for research into the nature of the chemical bond, Nobel Peace Prize in 1962) and Dr. William Parry Murphy (the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for 1934 for work on pernicious anaemia and the treatment of it by means of a diet of uncooked liver). For more on these two, see Nobelprize.org.
Hood River County was established in 1908 and is named for the Hood River, a tributary of the Columbia River. According to Wikipedia,
“The first permanent settlers in present-day Hood River County filed a donation land claim in 1854. The first school was built in 1863 and a road from The Dalles was completed in 1867. By 1880 there were 17 families living in the valley. By the latter part of the nineteenth century farmers of Japanese, Finnish, German, and French ethnicity had settled in the valley” (Hood River County, Oregon).
Speaking of the history of Hood River, namely who had what land,
“At the turn of the twentieth century, the people of the Hood River region in the northwest portion of Wasco County expressed a desire for political separation from the parent county. The passage of a statewide initiative established Hood River as the thirty-fourth county of the state. It was made official by a governor’s proclamation on June 23, 1908. The Columbia River Highway was completed in 1922 from Portland to The Dalles, improving access between both those cities as well as to Hood River” (Hood River County, Oregon).
Where does Extension fit in? Agriculture, timber, lumber and recreation are the major sources of revenue and industry — trust me, go there for cherries, apples, and a pear! The Hood River Extension site reports that they have been serving the residents of Hood River County and the Mid-Columbia area for over 80 years. The also share a little history, of the agricultural sort:
“Nathanial Coe brought to the Hood River Valley the first fruit trees in 1854 when he arrived to establish Oregon’s first post offices and mail routes. In 1876, E.L. Smith planted the first commercial orchard, 30 acres of apples (Newtown Pippins and Spitzenburg) and peaches. In time, apples became the dominant crop. In 1919 the Hood River Valley had a disastrous freeze that killed many apple trees. With that, growers began planting pear trees to replace the apples. Today pears are the major commerical crop grown in the valley. In recent years more sweet cherry trees and vineyards have increased in acreage” (Hood River County Extension).
Knowing the history of Hood River is more than just knowing about its original settlers and agricultural production, to learn more about how Executive Order 9066 impacted the lives of Japanese Americans in the region, read the Oregon Encyclopedia article Japanese Americans in Oregon, Immigrants from the West.
Sherman County, named for William Tecumseh Sherman, a Union general in the American Civil War. Borders shift, don’t they? Sherman County was created in 1889 from the northeast corner of Wasco County… However, “the county’s borders have been changed only once, in 1891, when the Legislative Assembly moved the county line 18 miles (29 km) farther south into Wasco County” Sherman County, Oregon. The Sherman County Extension Office gives us a great description of the county:
“Sherman County is frequently referred to as the ‘Land Between the Rivers.’ Located in north central Oregon, the Columbia river forms the northern border, while the east and west boundaries are marked by the steep, deep canyons of the John Day River on the east and the Deschutes River on the west. The rugged canyons of Buck Hollow, a tributary of the Deschutes, mark the southwest border.”
Sherman County is also known as “the Land of Wheat” — and, interestingly, it is also home to the Biglow Canyon Wind Farm, the largest project of its kind in Oregon.
Wasco County, once home to parts of both Sherman and Hood River Counties, is named for a local tribe of Native Americans, the Wasco, a Chinook tribe who lived on the south side of the Columbia River. Lots goes on in Wasco County, with an economy
“based upon agriculture (orchards, wheat farming, livestock ranching), lumber, manufacturing, electric power, transportation, and tourism. Aluminum production was previously a major support of the local economy, but electrical price fluctuations and a slump in global aluminum prices has forced the closing of a number of local aluminum foundries” (Wasco County, Oregon).
Celilo Falls on the Columbia River served as a gathering place and major trading center for the local Native Americans, including the Wasco, Paiute, and Warm Springs tribes, for thousands of years — the falls were submerged by the construction of The Dalles Dam in 1957. You can see wonderful images and read about Celilo Fallsin the description of this Flickr set.
Want to see other pictures from counties in Oregon? Check out the OSU Extension Service Centennial collection in the Commons.