Harney County

Harney County

Harney County 1889 *Named for Major General William S. Harney *10,228 square miles *County seat: Burns

Sagebrush Symphony
by Kathy Tucker

Sagebrush Symphony

The Sagebrush Symphony Orchestra of Harney County was a bright spot of musical education for rural children in southeastern Oregon in the years before World War I.

Hines and the Edward Hines Lumber Company
by Marjorie Thelen

In the mid-1920s, large sawmill owners in the United States found a new source of timber in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest. With an estimated 800 million board feet of timber, it was the largest stand of ponderosa pine in the Northwest. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advertised the Malheur timber for sale, and Fred Herrick won the contract with a bid of $2.80 per thousand board feet. As part of the contract, he had to construct a sawmill and a thirty-mile railroad extension from Crane to Burns. 

Harney County Fair, Rodeo, and Race Meet
by Katherine Marsh

harney county fair

The first “fair” in Harney County was a media event. On July 4, 1888, a local newspaper announced, “As no fair is held in this valley for the public exhibition of the growth and excellence of its productions, the Herald proposes to open a column to all producers, farmers, and stockmen, in which to give a written description of all that is worthy of mention.” 

Basque Boardinghouses in Oregon
by Jeronima Echeverria

Oregon’s earliest Basque settlers arrived in the late 1880s from northern California, Nevada, and southwestern Idaho. Many Basques who moved from California did so after the imposition of California's "fence laws" in the late 1870s. Those from northern Nevada and southern Idaho sought the relatively unsettled plains of southeastern Oregon. Almost all had entered the United States with plans to work the ranges as itinerant sheepherders until they could gain a foothold in America or return to their Basque homeland (Euskal herria) with the rewards of their toil.

by Frank A. Lang

In Oregon and much of the western United States, tule is the common name for two species of emergent plants that grow in shallow water of marshes, muddy shores, and lakes. These sedges (family Cyperaceae) are named hard-stemmed (Schoenoplectus acutus var. occidentalis) and soft-stemmed (S. tabernaemontani) bulrushes. Tule, a Spanish name, is based on tollin, of Nahurtl Native American lingustic stock, meaning a rush. Older botanical literature places these bulrushes in Scirpus, a closely related genus with various species names attached.


Oregon Sunstone
by Patricia Saab

Hold a nugget of Oregon sunstone in your palm, and you will understand why the 1987 Oregon legislature designated it as the official state gemstone. A feldspar member of the labradorite family, it is sometimes called red labradorite. Only in Oregon are sunstones found in fine gem quality. This gemstone is never heated, irradiated, or colored as other gems are, but left entirely natural.

Anthony Yturri (1914-1999)
by George Bell

Anthony "Tony" Yturri, the son of Basque immigrants, served sixteen years in the Oregon Senate representing District 21, which comprised Grant, Harney, and Malheur Counties. When he died at the age of eighty-four, his Senate colleagues passed a memorial resolution that called him a "great orator" and spoke of his "towering intellect," his "powers of persuasion," and his "gentle humor."

Alvord Desert
by Ellen Bishop

The Alvord Desert, east of the Pueblo Mountains and Steens Mountain and north of the towns of Andrews and Fields, is among the largest playa lakes in Oregon. Playa lakes are formed when rainwater fills shallow, round depressions in the landscape, leaving behind precipitated salt minerals on the earth’s crust upon evaporation. This fault-bounded flat basin is a graben—that is, a basin down-dropped by faulting—about 8 miles wide and 70 miles long. It marks the easternmost part of Oregon’s Basin and Range. Steens Mountain, at 9,773 feet, rises more than a mile above the Alvord Desert, where the average elevation is about 4,060 feet.

William Hanley (1861-1935)
by Marjorie Thelen

HanleyWilliam Hanley, who was known as the Sage of Harney Valley, was born on February 8, 1861, in Jacksonville, Oregon, then called the Rogue River country. At the age of seventeen, he left his Rogue River home with his brother Ed and a small herd of cattle and headed for the Harney Valley in southeastern Oregon. He settled south of Burns and went on to become one of the most influential men in the region, spurring economic development and  establishing important transportation networks.

Catlow Valley
by Jeff LaLande

Catlow Valley, named for nineteenth-century cattle rancher John Catlow, is a 1,300-square-mile, seemingly level-floored basin in the high-desert country of southern Harney County. A classic graben (a depression formed between uplifted fault blocks), Catlow Valley is bounded by the Hart Mountain fault block (or "horst") to the west, the Steens Mountain fault block to the east, and the volcanic upland of Beatty's Butte on the south.

Wild Horses in Oregon
by Barbara Ditman

wild horses

The ancestors of today's horses evolved in North America around 3.5 million years ago; but after spreading to Asia, Africa, and Europe across the Bering Land Bridge, horses became extinct in the Americas between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago. The reasons for their extinction are unknown, but changing climate and the impact of newly arrived human hunters are probable factors. Thousands of years later, Spanish explorers and missionaries re-introduced horses into the American West. Within a century, wild horses covered the plains and dominated the landscape in many areas, changing the ways of life of countless Native Americans.


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