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Ruth Chausse
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Hood River History

At the turn of the twentieth century, the people of the Hood River region in the northwest portion of Wasco County expressed a desire for political separation from the parent county. The passage of a statewide initiative established Hood River as the thirty-fourth county of the state. It was made official by a governor’s proclamation on June 23, 1908. Hood River County was named after Hood River and Mt. Hood which are both located within its boundaries. Mt. Hood was named in 1792 after Lord Hood (Samuel) who, among other things, served in the British Navy during the American Revolutionary War.
The county’s boundaries have remained unchanged throughout its existence. It is bordered by Wasco County to the east, by Clackamas and Multnomah Counties to the west, and by the Columbia River to the north. Hood River County is the second smallest county in terms of size in the state, outranking only Multnomah County, with a total area of 533 square miles.
The City of Hood River, first platted in 1881, has been the county seat since the county’s creation. The first county courthouse was an old primary school building. In 1937, after failing to approve a new courthouse, the county was forced to purchase the Butler Bank Building, which housed the county government until 1954 when the present courthouse was constructed.
Initially, county officials included the county judge, two county commissioners, sheriff, clerk, treasurer, assessor, school superintendent, surveyor, and coroner. In 1964, Hood River County adopted the home rule form of government. A five-member elected board of commissioners creates ordinances and resolutions to govern the county. The commission appoints a county administrator to oversee operations of county services. Except for an elected sheriff, all county department heads are selected by and responsible to the commission. Several specialized advisory boards, committees, and commissions give the board advice and recommendations concerning various county services.
The 2000 population of Hood River County was 20,411. This represented a 20.75% increase from 1990.
The first permanent settlers in Hood River County filed a donation land claim in 1854; by 1880 seventeen families lived in the region. By the latter part of the nineteenth century farmers of Japanese, Finnish, German, and French ethnicity had settled in the valley. The Columbia River Highway was completed in 1922 from Portland to The Dalles, making the towns of Hood River County more accessible to people and commerce from throughout the Columbia River Gorge and the state.
The principal industries of Hood River include agriculture, timber, hydroelectric production, and recreation. The fertile Hood River Valley has an ideal climate for the production of apples, cherries, peaches, and pears. It also offers recreational activities such as snow skiing, yachting, and fishing which bring both people and capital to compensate for the decline in logging and hydroelectric production. The Columbia River near Hood River is a premier windsurfing area and attracts windsurfers from throughout the United States and around the world.
Courtesy of Oregon Historical County Records Guide