Experience the Burns, Hines, & Harney County Community
Harney County, Oregon, is over 10,000 square miles in size with a population of just over 7,000 inhabitants. The commerce communities of Burns and Hines hold the bulk of the population of approximately 4,000 individuals. The rest of the residents of Harney County live in its wide open spaces, and commute long distances for food, supplies and work. Agriculture is a way of life in this community with the predominant commodity being cow/calf production and sales. Alfalfa and native meadow hay crop production and export are important to the economy as well.
Harney County has been populated since ancient times dating back nearly 12,000 years. Pioneers collided with descendents of the ancient people, the Northern Paiutes, in the eighteen hundreds. With encouragement from the federal government, homesteaders were laying claims to these lands from the 1860's through the 1930's.
Burns was named for the Scottish poet, Robert Burns. The City of Burns was officially formed January 22, 1884. By this time the town was booming with doctors, stores, a post office, hotels, saloons, and more. George McGowan became the postmaster. A cemetery was created due to the burial of Matt Egan who had brewed a gun fight with Jack Miller. This is the same cemetery still in use today.
The inconvenient trip from Burns to the county seat in Canyon City, two days horseback, prompted the splitting of Grant County and created the County of Harney in 1889. Harney County was named for Major General William S. Harney, who commanded the Department of Oregon of the U.S. Army from 1858-1859. He was instrumental in opening areas of eastern Oregon for settlement. After a fierce political battle, with armed night riders who spirited county records from Harney City, Burns claimed the county seat by a narrow margin of only six votes. The first session of the permanent county seat was held July 7, 1890. George W. Young was awarded the contract for building the first courthouse. The frame building cost $6,000 and was completed in 1895. In September 1893 the organization of Troop A, Oregon National Guard was perfected in Oregon's newest and largest country. A.W. McGowan was the captain.
The community of Burns began to grow; dances were held, the first church was built in 1887, and ball games were played. Homesteaders settled the area. A library was started with 50 books. Burns' first newspaper was established in 1884. The first set of twins were born December 1889, a twelve pound girl and an eight pound boy. Burns has grown from a population of 250 in 1889 to approximately 3,800 in 2009.
In 1910, Harry Smith established the first garage in Burns, the Ford Car Dealership selling four Model T's that year. It was the beginning of the oldest Ford dealership in Oregon. The dealership remains in Burns today, at the same location on North Broadway.
Rodeos began in the early 1920's and continue today, drawing many professional cowboys. The fair exhibits were started as Harney County Residents began competing with their sewing, handiwork, cooking and gardening. The youth keep busy with their 4H projects. Many enter their projects at the State Fair held in Salem. The Harney County Fair also sports one of the oldest established horse race meets. Burns has historically been a cattle and timber town. Agriculture remains a primary aspect of the economic base. The economy of Burns and Harney County continues to diversify and grow.
The City of Hines was carefully laid out around an oval park area from which most streets extend. Hines was incorporated in 1930 and was named after Edward Hines, a Chicago lumberman who founded a large ponderosa pine mill in Harney County. Hines is primarily residential and includes a beautiful city park, playground and city government offices. The population of Hines is approximately 1,600.
Today, the communities are flourishing with the advent of manufacturing and telecommunications, in addition to the firmly established ranching community.
Other Harney County Rural Communities
Andrews was named for Peter Andrews, who settled in the Wildhorse Valley about 1880. The post office was established October 6, 1890, on Andrews' property, later it was at the Kueny Ranch, with Andrews as the first postmaster. In 1900, the office was moved a short distance north to the locality called Wildhorse or Wild Horse on property owned by George A. Smyth, Jr., and Smyth became postmaster. Smyth changed the name of the post office to Andrews in honor of his friend.
Crane was named because of its location near Crane Creek and Crane Creek Gap, prominent geographic features in the Harney Valley. Crane post office was first established on June 10, 1895, with Henry C. Turner as the first postmaster. The office was discontinued in 1902 but re-established in 1916 when the railroad was completed from Ontario. From then until 1924, when the railroad was completed to Burns, Crane was an important shipping point for livestock.
Dolly Kiger first applied the name Diamond to the post office established in 1887. The name refers to the nearby Diamond Ranch of early pioneer Mace McCoy who used a diamond-shaped brand. The community served as a supply point for area stockmen during the peak of the cattle and sheep industry in Harney County. The Diamond Hotel, established in 1898 is a local landmark.
Abner Robbins started a store at this place in the summer of 1883. In 1884, Robbins applied for a post office submitting the name Drusy in compliment of Drusy Miller a rancher's daughter. Postal authorities changed the spelling of the name to Drewsey.
Charles Fields took up a homestead along Fields Creek where Fields post office is now situated. He established a "station and kept the travel and freight haulers". He sold out to John Smyth in 1911 and when the post office was established in 1913, Smyth had it named for Fields.
Frenchglen was named for Dr. Hugh Glenn and Peter French, partners in what was to later become the French-Glenn Cattle Company. The nearby P Ranch was headquarters of the company's holdings. The post office was established with a name change from Sommerange on December 1, 1926, with Robert Bradeen as postmaster.
Harney City, located near the site of old Camp Harney, was designated the first county seat upon the creation of Harney County in 1889. By 1900, Harney City had grown to support three saloons, a post office, dancehall, two mercantile stores, a church, jail and two hotels. After a hotly contested election, Burns gained the county seat in 1892 and the community of Harney slowly deteriorated.
Named for Amos Riley of the cattle firm Riley and Hardin, this community was established in the Silver Creek area to serve local stockmen and homesteaders. The original post office was operated under the name Evergreen in 1882. John Oakerman later opened a post office named Rilery on his ranch. Following several changes in location and names throughout the years, in 1949 the post office settled in its present location across from the Riley Store.
Commonly referred to as the Narrows, the name of this community is descriptive of the narrow channel connecting Harney and Malheur Lakes. Lewis B. Springer and Albert Hembree started a community and post office at this point in 1889. Charles Haines took over operation of the post office in 1892, changing the name to Narrows. A social and commercial center during the 1910's, the community began to decline in the 1920's and 1930's due to lack of success with dryland farming and better transportation, among other reasons.
Formerly known as Egli for area rancher Antone Egli, the name was changed to Wagontire in 1919 at the suggestion of Loretta Addington. An abandoned wagon wheel is said to have been the inspiration for the name of the nearby landmark Wagontire Mountain. The post office officially closed in 1943. Wagontire currently boasts a population of two and consists of a cafe, motel, gas station, airstrip and RV park.