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Revised 27 December 2010


Oregon has been the home to over 126 different tribes of Native Americans.  Among some of the more prominent tribes were the Chinook, Paiute, Modoc and Nez Perce.  They used the wood of the forests for shelter and fished the plentiful streams for salmon and trout and ate of the plentiful grains and wild plants.  

In 1792, Robert Gray, an American trader, became the first white explorer to sail into the river, which was named Ouragan. Gray renamed the river after his ship the Columbia Rediviva (The Columbia River) .  Captain Cooke charted a portion of the coastline during his search for the great river of the west.  

Oregon was claimed by Spain, Russia, Great Britain and the United States.  In 1850, he Territorial Legislature of Oregon guaranteed settlers ownership of large tracts of land if they would live on and cultivate them as farm lands for a period of four years.  This was a portion of the territory explored by Lewis and Clark.  They sent back glowing reports of an enormous beaver population.  Based upon these reports, John Jacob Astor founded a fur-trading post at Astoria in 1811. By 1819, Britain and the United States had agreed to occupy the Oregon area jointly.  

The Oregon Trail, which began in the early 1830s and gradually built through the 1840s, was finally opened and the real push to settle Oregon began.  The Oregon Trail stretched from Independence, Missouri and had its terminus in Oregon City.  This trail was followed by pioneers in oxen-pulled wagons, who were bound for what was touted as "The Garden of Eden."  The trail was through rugged and difficult terrain and 17 people are known to have died along the way.  By 1843, over 900 people had migrated west over this trail.

People came from all over the world to settle.  Residential ethnicity was a mixture of German, Swedish, English, Norwegian, Russian, Finish, Italian, Danish, Irish, Austrian, Greek and Czechoslovakian as well as those who crossed our own nation to settle.  Oregon became a territory in 1848 and its territory also included all of present Washington and Idaho. In 1853, Washington Territory was separated from Oregon Territory.  Finally, on 14 February1859, Oregon became the thirty-third state in the Union and had shrunk in size to its present boundaries.

Name Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Baker 1862 Unorganized Territory, Wasco Baker
Benton 1847 Polk Corvallis
Champoeg 1843 Original County.  Name changed to Marion.  
Clackamas 1843 Original County Oregon City
Clark created prior to 1850 Ceded to the state of Washington  
Clatsop 1844 Twality Astoria
Columbia 1854 Washington St. Helena
Coos 1853 Umpqua, Jackson Coquille
Crook 1882 Wasco Prineville
Curry 1855 Coos Gold Beach
Deschutes 1916 Crook Bend
Douglas 1852 Umpqua 1852 and 1862 Roseburg
Gilliam 1885 Wasco, Morrow Condon
Grant 1864 Wasco, Umatilla Canyon City
Harney 1889 Grant Burns
hood River 1908 Wasco hood River
Jackson 1852 Umpqua Medford
Jefferson 1914 Crook Madras
Josephine 1856 Jackson Grants Pass
Klamath 1882 West part of Lake County Klamath Falls
Lake 1874 Jackson, Wasco Lakeview
Lane 1851 Linn, Umpqua Eugene
Lewis formed prior to 1850 Ceded to the state of Washington  
Lincoln 1893 Benton, Polk Newport
Linn 1847 Champoeg Albany
Malheur 1887 Baker Vale
Marion 1843 Original County.  Name changed from Champoeg Salem
Morrow 1865 Umatilla, Wasco Heppner
Multnomah 1854 Washington, Clackamas Portland
Polk 1845 Yamhill Dallas
Sherman 1889 Wasco Moro
Tillamook 1853 Clatsop, Polk, Yamhill Tillamock
Twality 1843 One of the original Counties.  Name later changed to Washington in 1849  
Umatilla 1862 Wasco Pendleton
Umpqua 1851 Created in 1851 from parts of Benton and Linn Counties,  parts were annexed to Douglas county in 1852 an again in 1862/63.  
Union 1864 Baker La Grande
Wallowa 1887 Union Enterprise
Wasco 1854 Clackamas, Linn, Marion, Lane The Dales
Washington 1843 Original County, formerly known as Twality Hillsboro
Wheeler 1899 Crook, Gilliam, Grant Fossil
Yamhill 1843 Original County McMinnville