Wheeler County was established on February 17, 1899. Formed from parts of Grant, Gilliam, and Crook Counties, there have been no boundary changes since its creation. The county shares boundaries with Gilliam and Morrow Counties to the north, Wasco and Jefferson to the west, Crook to the south, and Grant to the east. The county was named for Henry Wheeler, who operated the first stage line through the county. The area of the county is 1,713 square miles.
The county seat is located in the city of Fossil. The town's name was derived from the first postmaster's discovery of fossil remains on his land in 1876. Fossil was designated the temporary county seat when the county was created. In 1900 there was an election to determine the permanent county seat. Spray, Twickenham and Fossil were the aspirants with Fossil winning the election. The current courthouse was built in 1902.
Wheeler County's government consists of a county court made up of a county judge and two commissioners. The county judge retains judicial authority for probate and juvenile proceedings. Other county officers include assessor, district attorney, justices of the peace, clerk, sheriff-emergency services director, treasurer, and surveyor.
Wheeler County's 2011 population was 1,435. This represented a decrease of 0.4% from 2010. The county population has declined considerably since a peak of 3,313 occurring in 1950.
The terrain of the county varies widely from sagebrush, juniper, and rim rock to thick stands of pine and fir. Portions of two national forests lie within its boundaries with forest lands covering nearly one third of the county. The area is known as an outstanding depository of prehistoric fossils. The Painted Hills and Clarno units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument are located in the county. Principal industries are agriculture, livestock, and recreation.
Image 1) Fossel Jail, 2) Bridge Creek, 3) Wheeler Ranch - Images from Oregon Historical County Records Guide. Photographer citation: Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives
DISCLAIMER: No claim is made to the copyrights of the individual submitters. The contents of this website may be used for personal use only by individuals researching their own ancestry. Commercial use of this information for profit is strictly prohibited without prior permission of the owners. Other genealogical websites may link to this website; however, permission is not granted to duplicate any of the contents. Anyone contributing material for posting does so in recognition of its free, non-commercial distribution, as well as the responsibility to assure that no copyright is violated by the submission. This website and its coordinator are not responsible for donations of copyrighted material where explicit written permission has not been granted for use. If in doubt about the copyright rules, please refer to Understanding Copyright
Links to web sites that are not part of the USGenWeb Project are provided for your convenience and do not imply any endorsement of the web sites or their contents by The USGenWeb Project