A Brief History of Harney County Oregon

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Harney Valley, Harvey Lake, Harvey City successor to Harney Camp, Harney County, and lastly Harney land district were named in honor of General Harney, who, so traditions of the Harney country tell us, “had a brush with the Indians while guiding emigrants through the valley.” The general in 1890 acknowledged this comment to his early army days, in an autograph letter to the to “council of Harney City.

In area the county which was organized in 1889, is larger than any one of the six New England states, with the single exception of Maine; the valuation of its taxable property ranks sixth in the fourteen Eastern Oregon counties, and second in the five great grazing counties of the state, and the development of the wealth of natural resources on a large scale is only a matter of a few years.

The leading industry since 1872, when the first bunches of cattle were driven in to thrive through all seasons of the year on nutritious grasses, is first cattle; second. sheep; third, horses and mules, and it is estimated that cattle alone brought into the county not less than $900.000 for 1897. The expense on the capital invested, merely nominal. Thousands of tons of succulent hay is stacked every year. Many thousands of bushels of grain and potatoes are raised yearly. Thousands to millions of feet of lumber turned out by the three sawmills, annually. Many ounces of gold dust rewards the labors of the miners, and today’s records show stockmen, farmers and miners prospering financially.

The support of three local newspapers shows the county interests are in the hands of leading men and women. The altitude 4200 feet, gives a dry, healthy climate, but a home in Harney County is desirable for other than its climatic advantages; 27 days of sunshine out of 30 days in the south; cool breezes through the warm seasons and frequent visits front the gentle Chinook in the winter mouths; the loomings, caves, restless waves of Harney lake, an inland sea; clear, star-spangled skies and nearness of the brilliant rainbow-each in itself and taken as a whole are soirees of pleasure. While bear, elk, deer and antelope hunting, duck shooting, mountain trout fishing, camping out near the lakes, warm or hot springs or in the mountains; boating on Malheur lake, have delights all their own.

There are hundreds of homes in the vicinity of the several postal towns of Burns, Harney, Drewsey, Van, Venator, Crane Silvies, Andrews, Denio, Diamond, Narrows, Lawen, Mule, Smith and Riley, and room for thousands more off equally good lands suited to farming and stock raising purposes. A grist mill near Bruns and roller process flouring mill at Drewsey are ready to manufacture all the wheat raked into flour. Eight large and well supplied public schoolhouses of which the $8000 school building at Burns is the most elegant, and a comfortable house in each of the other districts speaks eloquently of the maintenance of a good public school system in this county and the two church buildings and a resident pastor tells of stork being done to inculcate good morals. Dairy products of cheese and butter are shipped annually, but the business is in its infancy. Orchards of apples and plums and all small fruits, are doing well but as yet only indicative of the possibilities of the future. Frosts, except in favored localities, prevent corn crops; root crops for stock or table use to, exceedingly large and fine. The soil being accumulative is very rich to any depth and when the natural water, supplies by the lakes, rivers and 3 streams scattered over the broad territory, shall be reinforced by reservoirs for snow water storage, and by artesian wells. (Capital only lacking) tree planting will follow and the resultant climate and soil will place Harney County products in the niche now occupied by its beef, horses and wool. Its population fast nearing the 4,000 notch, can ask no more, it only needs such line of advertising opportunities as Baker City’s “Morning Democrat” offers in its souvenir illustrated edition, to call attention of capital and home seekers to its varied natural resources to fulfill the expectation of its present pioneer citizenship.

Water, soft, clear and cold is readily obtained but a depth of 10 to 15 feet on the level: and an annual spring overflow of melting snow’s in the mountains creates a vast acreages of meadow hands. The native woods are pine, fir, juniper, ash, gilled or asp, cottonwood and willow in abundance for lumber and fuel. The natural grasses are bunch, rye, blue joint, sugar and red top. Timothy, red top, alfalfa and red clover have been thoroughly tested on cultivated and new lands, and have given from fair to best results.

Sugar beets could he grown to perfection and with the greatest ease, because there is but little labor in cultivating the soil. Hops grown here for ornament are healthy free from ally kind of disease or pests, wheat, rye, oats and barley average in June and July 40 to 60 inches in height; have good to best grain and wheat yields, according to season and conditions 35 to 70 bushels to the acre.

Rose Valley Borax Company in 1890 put in a plant and is now doubling the capacity for manufacture by additions to the works.

Gold mining on Trout Creek, Idol City and Gold Gulch Camps, and at Pueblo mining district where there are two quartz mills in operation near the Nevada line, is being rapidly developed, but as much of the latter’s output is reported in Nevada, anything like a fair estimate cannot be obtained.

Burns, the county seat of Barney County, was so named in memory of the Scottish poet in 1883 and is the lively trade-center of the county, situated on the old road leading front Canyon City to Lakeview and fronting on the Silvies’ River, and is fully equal to the demands of such a town. The confidence of the business men of Burns in an early development of the resources of the county, may be seen in the stability that characterizes their business houses and residences, the former mostly of brick and stone, with all attention to elegance in frontage rarely seen in railroad towns of like size and the architectural designs and finish of the residences on the Heights and at other points are admirable and costly. The county’s public buildings, the public school house, P. L. S. Co.’s office. N. Brown & Sons, store, the Stenger and the Young residences, and the two hotel buildings are the most notable, while the premises of a dozen or more are beautifully planted and kept. The office of Harney land district is located in Burns, and a very great convenience to settlers where so much of the public domain is open to entry.

The town of Harney has added a church building this year, and Drewsey is preparing to erect one this summer. Both of these towns are centers of sections of the county, rich in agricultural and mineral resources, which the advent of a railroad will aid them in developing.

A fast freight line will be established between Burns and the nearest railroad point, O. R. & N., 140 miles, its soon as travel opens, and by June the telephone lines between Burns and Canyon City, thence to Baker City, will he completed. A daily mail and express via Ontario; tir-weekly via Canyon City: semi-weekly via Prineville: a weekly via Diamond and a weekly, via Crane, brings in all the news from the outside and every division of the county into direct communication with each other. There Is a fair future before tho people of the Harney country.



MLA Source Citation:

AccessGenealogy.com. Harney County Oregon Genealogy. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 11 December 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/oregon/a-brief-history-of-harney-county-oregon.htm - Last updated on Jan 17th, 2013


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