Lake County was established on October 24, 1874. It was created from the southern part of Wasco County and the eastern part of Jackson County. It was named because of the numerous large lakes that are entirely or partly within its borders.
Lake County is situated in south central Oregon. The western boundary was changed with the creation of Klamath County in 1882. It regained some area when the southwestern part of Grant County was annexed in 1885. It currently has 8,275 square miles. Lake County is bounded on the north by Deschutes County, on the east by Harney County, on the south by the State of California, and on the west by Klamath County.
When the Legislative Assembly created Lake County, it temporarily located the county seat at Linkville until the voters selected a permanent site. The voters chose to move the county seat to Lakeview. Lakeview overlooks Goose Lake; hence the rationale for the name that John A. Moon proposed and which was adopted at a meeting in 1876.
The land for the first courthouse was donated by one of the areas first settlers, M.W. Bullard. The first courthouse was completed in 1904. In 1954 a new courthouse was built on the site of the former courthouse at a cost of $366,427.
The government of Lake County consisted originally of a county judge, a county commissioner, clerk, treasurer, and sheriff. Another commissioner, assessor, school superintendent, and surveyor were later added. The county court was abolished and replaced with a board of county commissioners by 1971.
The 1875 Lake County census showed a population of 944, which jumped to 2,804 by 1880. Since then there has been some fluctuation in population, but with a fairly steady growth to a population of 7,422 in 2000. This represented a 3.28% increase over the 1990 population.
Because of poor transportation connections with the rest of Oregon, the early economic orientation of Lake County was toward California. During the 1840s and 1850s the county was part of the military courier route between The Dalles on the Columbia River and the Presidio in San Francisco. The county did not acquire a railroad connection until the 1890s.
The traditional county economy rests on lumber, agriculture, and government. In spite of the low rainfall and a short growing season a combination of homesteading and irrigation has permitted agriculture based upon the raising of livestock and the growing of hay and grain to thrive. Lumber and wood products are taken from the Fremont National Forest. Government employees from the national forest and the regional BLM headquarters create a more stable economic base for the county that otherwise would have to rely only on seasonal agricultural and lumber jobs. Tourism is a growing industry because of the county's many interesting sites, including Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge, Hunter's Hot Springs, Goose Lake, and areas for rock hunting and hang gliding.
Did You Know?
University of Oregon archaeologist Luther Cressman found the world's oldest shoes in northern Lake County in 1938. Before he discovered the well-preserved 9,000 year old sagebrush bark sandals near Fort Rock, scientists believed that humans inhabited the far west only since about 4,000 years ago.
Several subsequent discoveries of even older sandals in the northern Great Basin confirmed the importance of Cressman's work. For this find, and for other research that broke down standing theories about the nature of the prehistoric Northwest, Cressman became known as the father of Oregon archaeology.