Malheur County

Malheur County

Malheur County 1887 *Named Riviere au Malheur ("Unfortunate River") by French trappers *9,926 square miles *County seat: Vale

by Susan Badger Doyle

Adrian, Malheur County, is a small, incorporated town on the eastern edge of Oregon, near the confluence of the Snake and Owyhee rivers. Adrian had its start on the eastern side of the Snake River as a remote village with a post office called Riverview. When the Oregon Short Line Railroad announced plans to built a branch into Malheur County along the western bank of the Snake River, Reuben McCreary platted a town site on 73 acres which he also dubbed Riverview.

by Richard Etulain


The first Basques to Oregon arrived in the late 1880s. These Euskaldunak, or newcomers, usually migrated north and east from Nevada and California, often as sheepherders, and settled in the southeast corner of the state. The number of Basques continued to expand in eastern Oregon into the 1920s and 1930s, especially in the Jordan Valley, Steens Mountain, and Ontario areas, but after 1940 the influx of immigrant Basques rapidly declined.

Chromite mining
by Rene Casteran

Chromite is a mineral that contains chromium. It is considered a strategic mineral, which generally means that it is necessary for military and industrial use during periods of national emergency. The strategic mineral concept was created during World War I and became law just prior to World War II with the passage of the Strategic Minerals Act of 1939. Chromite is used as an alloy of steel for hardening cutting tools, ordnance, and armor plate.

Ada Hastings Hedges (1884-1980)
by Ulrich H. Hardt

Hedges"Ada Hastings Hedges is an exquisite artist . . . one of the most finished poets in America,” declared poetry editor Borghild Lee in the Oregon Journal, March 14, 1926.

Ada May Hastings was born in Illinois in 1884 and was educated at a teacher’s college there. She and her husband, William E. Hedges, M.D., came to Portland in 1912 but soon moved to Juntura, between Burns and Vale on the Malheur River, where he was a railroad physician and she taught high school. They returned to Portland in 1919; he practiced there until his death in 1936.


Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978)
by John Ewbank

Phyllis McGinley, born in Ontario, Oregon, in 1905, was an award-winning poet and writer. A Pulitzer Prize winner, she was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in June 1965 and was one of only two poets (with Mark Van Doren) that year invited to the White House Festival of the Arts. She was the recipient of over a dozen honorary degrees and the Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame, and her anthologies of poetry and essays sold tens of thousands of copies.

Owyhee River
by Susan Badger Doyle

Owyhee River

The Owyhee River, in the southeastern corner of Oregon, is a 280-mile-long tributary of the Snake River. It flows northward from its Nevada headwaters through Idaho, cuts through the arid uplands of southeastern Oregon, and flows into the Snake River on the Oregon-Idaho state line near Adrian. Much of the river flows through a remote and almost unpopulated area.

Amelia City
by Susan Badger Doyle

The gold mining town of Amelia City, in northern Malheur County, was located about thirty miles southeast of Baker City and a few miles south of Mormon Basin, where miners rushed in after gold was discovered in 1867. It was one of the first mining settlements that sprang up when miners expanded into the area south of the basin in the 1870s.

Eva Castellanoz (1939- )
by Joanne Mulcahy

castellanozEva Castellanoz—traditional artist, curandera (healer), activist, and teacher—is a leading spokesperson for Oregon's Latino community. She received a National Heritage Award in 1989, has been the subject of Oregon and National Public Radio programs, and served on the Oregon Arts Commission from 1997 to 2001. Castellanoz has presented Mexican traditional arts at the Smithsonian Institution and now demonstrates them in libraries and community centers throughout the Northwest. 

Eldorado Ditch
by Jodi Varon

The El Dorado Ditch, also known as the Eldorado and the Big Ditch, was a system of irrigation ditches constructed to supply water to the Shasta Mining District in the Willow Creek Basin area of Malheur County. Begun in 1863 for developer W.H. Packwood of Baker City, the ditch provided water to gold mines near Amelia and Malheur City, and for two boomtowns—Eldorado, twenty-six miles south of Baker City, abandoned in 1887, and Malheur City, 1.5 miles east of Eldorado. 

Japanese Americans in Oregon
by George Katagiri

Japanese Americans

Resting in the shade of the Gresham Pioneer Cemetery, there is a grave marker with the name Miyo Iwakoshi. The name is not widely known in Oregon, but it is historically significant since Iwakoshi was the matriarch of the first Japanese family to settle in the state. Her arrival in 1880 spawned the immigration of thousands of people from Japan who would contribute to the state's economic development as they struggled against discrimination and tested America's civil rights.

National Reclamation Act (1902)
by William G. Robbins

When Congress passed the National Reclamation Act in 1902, the measure set in motion the dramatic transformation of arid sections of the American West in order to "reclaim" land for productive agricultural use. President Theodore Roosevelt, who signed the bill into law, believed that reclaiming arid lands would promote the agrarian ideals of Thomas Jefferson.

Benjamin Tanaka (1887-1975)
by Morgen Alix Young

Tanaka's office door

Benjamin Tanaka was a prominent physician in Portland’sJapantown in the early twentieth century before he was imprisoned in a federal detention center during World War II. Following the war, he established a successful practice in Ontario, Oregon.

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