The World Rushed In: Northeastern Oregon

Northeastern Oregon—Grant, Baker, Union, Wallowa, Umatilla, Morrow, Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler counties, together with the Ontario/Vale/Nyssa area of Malheur County—is an often breath-taking place of mountains, valleys, and broad plateaus. With hot, dry summers and bone-chilling winters, it has never been an easy place to make a living.

The area’s rugged landscape has inspired loyalty from its residents, and its minerals, timber, and soils have drawn thousands of people since the 1860s. But its primary industries—mining, timber, and (often irrigated) farming have been volatile. In 2010, northeastern Oregon was home to less than 5 percent of Oregon’s population, and six of the area’s ten counties had fewer people than in 1920. Those determined to stay here have had to make their peace with a stark, beautiful place whose unstable economy has often been controlled by people and factors originating outside its borders.

Northeastern Oregon is an often breath-taking place of mountains, valleys, and broad plateaus. With hot, dry summers and bone-chilling winters, it has never been an easy place to make a living. Those determined to stay here have had to make their peace with a stark, beautiful place whose unstable economy has often been controlled by people and factors originating outside its borders. David Peterson del Mar teaches history classes for Portland State University, Oregon State University, and the University of Oregon and consults for several grants on teaching history in middle and high schools. He is the author of several books, including Oregon's Promise: An Interpretive History.

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