Early Sherman County History

Searcy Wheat Harvest

Searcy wheat harvest, Sherman County Oregon, 1917

Sherman County is located in north central Oregon.  Established in 1889, it was formed from the northeast corner of Wasco County.  It is bordered on three sides by rivers:  the Columbia on the north, the Deschutes on the west and the John Day on the east.  Beginning in the 1840s, early settlers passed through this area along the Oregon Trail on their way to the Willamette Valley.  By the 1880s, homesteaders began arriving by steamboat up the Columbia.  The landscape changed rapidly from predominantly livestock grazing to farming.  By 1910, Sherman County's population was over four thousand.


Beginning in the 1860s, there were a series of freight, mail and stage routes crossing Sherman county.  These routes connected Boise with The Dalles and Walla Walla to Canyon City.  Cutting diagonally through the county to join the Deschutes River to Shaniko in Wasco County, The Dalles Military Road was built in 1868.  It was the railroad, however, that allowed the farmers and ranchers of the Columbia Basin to effeciently transport their products throughout the region.


Several sections of railroad started coming in to the region beginning in the 1860s.  The independent railroads would eventually combine to become the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company, operating over a thousand miles of track from Portland through the Columbia Gorge and eastern Oregon into eastern Washington and northern Idaho.  The rail was a critial component of the economy of the area that would become Sherman County since it allowed for convenient transport of wool, wheat and other agricultural products.  This railroad connected with the transcontinental line in 1883, bringing many more settlers to the area. 



Early Sherman County History