Oregon Counties
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Oregon Counties

There are thyirty-six counties in the state of Oregon. The Oregon Constitution does not explicitly provide for county seats.

Wheeler County, Oregon

Wheeler County Education, Geography, and HistoryWheeler County, Oregon Courthouse

Wheeler County is a county located in the state of Oregon. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 1,441, making it the least populous county in Oregon. The county seat is Fossil. It is named in honor of Henry H. Wheeler, an early settler who owned a farm near Mitchell. Wheeler County is known for having a large deposit of fossils, the most extensive in the state.

Etymology - Origin of Wheeler County Name

The county was named for Henry Wheeler, who operated the first stage line through the county.


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

Wheeler County History

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 2000 population was 1547. This represented an increase of 10.82% over 1990. Still, it is considerably lower than the peak population 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. Principal industries are agriculture, livestock, and lumber.

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,715 square miles (4,440 km2), of which 1,715 square miles (4,440 km2) is land and 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2) (0.03%) is water.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • Gilliam County - north
  • Morrow County - northeast
  • Grant County - east
  • Crook County - south\
  • Jefferson County - northwest
  • Wasco County - northwest


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