population growth in eastern Oregon during the
early 1860s prompted the Legislative Assembly
to split Umatilla and Baker Counties from Wasco
County on September 22, 1862. Further development
of the Grande Ronde Valley led to calls for the
legislature to split Union County from Baker County.
This finally occurred on October 14, 1864. Union
County's name reflects the support of the people
in this area toward maintaining the United States
during the Civil War.
1875 and 1913, adjustments were made to Union
County's borders with Baker, Umatilla, and Wallowa
Counties. Union County, lying between the Blue
and Wallowa Mountains, is bordered by Wallowa
County on the east and north, Umatilla County
on the west, and Grant and Baker Counties on the
establishment of a county seat resulted in competition,
based on geography and on economic and population
growth, between La Grande and the city of Union.
The county seat moved between Union and La Grande
until it was permanently transferred to La Grande
each transfer of the county seat, there was a
similar removal of the county courthouse. The
first courthouses were rented structures in Union
and La Grande. When the city of Union was designated
as the county seat in 1874, the county's records
were quickly moved to a new brick courthouse in
the area where Union High School now stands. La
Grande regained the county seat in 1905 and moved
into the courthouse that had been built the previous
year as the city hall. The courthouse recently
was razed and offices for the county clerk, assessor,
treasurer, and planning department were relocated
to the nearby Chaplin Building.
government of Union County consisted originally
of a county judge, two county commissioners, clerk,
sheriff, treasurer, assessor, school superintendent,
and coroner. It changed from a county court to
a board of commissioners in 1991.
county historically has been a slow growth area.
The first census of the county in 1870 showed
only 2,552 inhabitants. It has grown steadily
and by 2000 the population was 24,530, representing
an increase of 3.95% since 1990.
initial economic interest in the area was mining,
but most of the mines were in the area annexed
by Baker County in 1901. Over the years farming
(wheat, fruit, vegetables, and grass seeds), cattle,
sheep raising, and timber replaced mining as the
primary economic forces in the county. Nearby
mountains and streams provide hunting, fishing,
skiing, and camping opportunities.
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