Historical Markers in
Harney County, Oregon

The city of Portland, Oregon was named after Portland, Maine. The city's founder, Asa Lovejoy, had lived in Portland, Maine and wanted to name the new settlement after his former hometown.
Harney County, Oregon, located in the southeastern part of the state, has a rich and varied history. The area was originally inhabited by several Native American tribes, including the Northern Paiute, who lived off the land for thousands of years. In the mid-19th century, European settlers began to arrive, attracted by the region's natural resources and the potential for farming and ranching.

In the late 1800s, Harney County experienced a period of rapid growth and development. The arrival of the railroad in the late 1880s connected the county to the rest of the state and stimulated economic activity. Ranching became a major industry, with cattle and sheep ranches dotting the vast landscapes. The county also saw an influx of homesteaders, who sought to establish their own farms.

The early 20th century brought about significant changes in Harney County. The establishment of a military base, now known as the Burns Air Force Base, during World War II played a key role in the development of the county. The base brought an influx of military personnel and created jobs in the area, contributing to the local economy. However, the base closed in the early 1950s, leading to a decline in population and economic activity.

More recently, Harney County has faced challenges related to its natural resources management. The presence of federal lands, including the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, has sparked debates about land use and resource extraction. The 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by armed militants brought national attention to these issues and highlighted the ongoing struggles in the county.

Today, Harney County continues to thrive as a rural community, with a mix of ranching, agriculture, and outdoor recreation serving as the backbone of its economy. The area's stunning natural beauty, including the iconic Steens Mountain, attracts visitors from near and far. While the county has faced its share of challenges over the years, it remains a resilient and vibrant part of Oregon's history.

This timeline provides a glimpse into the major events and milestones that have shaped the history of Harney County, Oregon.

  • 1805-1806: Lewis and Clark Expedition passes through the region.
  • 1862: Establishment of Harney County.
  • 1878: Harney City becomes the county seat.
  • 1880s: Homesteaders start settling in Harney County.
  • 1895: Burns becomes the new county seat.
  • 1908: Southern Pacific Railroad reaches Burns.
  • 1935: Completion of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
  • 1988: High Desert Partnership is formed to promote sustainable natural resource management.
  • 2016: Armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by protesters ends.