Sherman County Historical Society and Museum
Open Daily 10 until 5 May through October
|The Columbia Southern Railroad, running from
Biggs to Wasco, was built in 1897,
with much celebration because it ended long days of hauling wheat by wagon
to the Columbia. By 1901 the rail line reached Shaniko, stretching 70 miles.
By 1910 the county's population swelled to 4,242 during the James J. Hill
and E.H. Harriman fight to build rail lines up the Deschutes River.
Today I-84 parallels the Columbia River, intersecting at Biggs with Highway 97 which traverses the full length of the county, and linking it to Washington state via Sam Hill Memorial Bridge. Highway 206 follows Fulton Canyon from the Columbia River through Wasco to Cottonwood Canyon Grade and the John Day River and beyond to Condon. Highway 216 runs from Grass Valley to the juncture of Buck Hollow and the Deschutes River at Sherar’s Bridge, roughly paralleling the Cut-off to the Barlow Road.
The Land between the Rivers
Sherman County lies between the deep canyons of
the John Day River on the east, the Deschutes River on the west and the
Columbia River on the north in north central Oregon. Much of the boundary
on the south is defined by the steep, rugged canyons of Buck Hollow, a
tributary of the Deschutes. The county's 831 square miles are approximately
20 miles wide and 42 miles long.
A Golden Land
High and dry on the Columbia Plateau, Sherman County's most important crop is soft white winter wheat. Moisture laden spring winds from the Pacific Ocean and a summer fallow farming system permit dryland wheat and barley production. A crop is raised only once in two years; every other year the land lies fallow, gathering moisture for the next crop. Grain is trucked from the July and August harvest fields to cooperative elevators and barge and rail shipping facilities at Biggs for transport to Portland. Supplementary income comes from beef cattle which graze the 223,000 acres of native grass range in early summer and on wheat stubble in the fall. Some families have small numbers of horses, hogs, llamas and sheep.
Town and Country Amenities
Down-to-earth, friendly and hard-working people
live in the six small
Businesses in Biggs, Rufus, Wasco, Moro, Grass Valley and Kent offer food services, variety goods, antiques, gifts, rock shops, hunting and fishing guide services, farm implements and supplies, fuel and mechanical repairs.
|"Biggs, the Desolate...There
is more sand to the square rod at Biggs than anywhere in the world, and
it is restless, roving hobo sand...Its vagaries have caused the Oregon
Railway and Navigation officials more troubles and worry than all the floods
and fires...[The sand] crawled onto the tracks and stayed there...more
powerful than the great moguls, and stopped all traffic."
--John Cradelbaugh, The Oregonian, September 23, 1909