More than a few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised with a visit from Richard Walsh. He has a good grasp of local history and it is always great to talk with him since Johnson County history is one of the subjects that I love to write about. He loaned me a book entitled, History of Wheeler County Oregon.
The book is a coffee table size book not quite as thick as either of the two Johnson County History books published by the Johnson County Historical Society (one in 1986 and the other in 2000). It is also a little less in length and width than the History of Johnson County books.
The History of Wheeler County Oregon has an interesting description of the county, its borders and the lay of the land. It is interesting to note that Wheeler County was made up of portions of Gilliam, Crook, and Grant counties. It was created on February 17, 1899. The book is very nice and one that Wheeler County citizens can be justly proud.
In the book there are family histories as well as information on churches, businesses, and organizations. The family histories are of interest due to the fact that a number of Johnson County folks pulled up stakes so to speak and headed west before and after the 1900s. Some went west I believe in the early to mid 1900s. And several of them ended up in Wheeler County.
Some of the last names of folks who settled in Wheeler County according to the book are: Barry, Asher, Blevins, Butler, Cole, Barnett, Donnelly, Fritts, Grindstaff, Howard, Jenkins Jordan, Keyes, Osborn, Shoun, Payne, Potter, Thomas, Wills, Wilson, and Younce. These are names that for the most part even now are well-known names in and around Johnson County.
Those who traveled the long distance from Johnson County to Oregon, through hard work and perseverance carved out their lives in what was then rugged country. Why did they make the arduous journey? Perhaps it was their adventurous spirit or maybe it was for them a way to become more prosperous and have a better life.
Newspaper publisher Horace Greeley is often credited with the phrase, Go west young man, go west. Although the phrase didnt originate with him, it is said that he was instrumental in popularizing the phrase. Anyway, some of the people of Johnson County did just that. They went west.