Oregon Historical County Records Guide
Hood River County History
Business Administration Building
Accessible from eastbound Interstate 84 in western Hood River County, tiny Starvation Creek State Park is an oasis from the blur of the freeway. Its 180 foot high waterfall and the numerous adjacent trails highlight the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. But the park's name tells of a desperate experience for many travelers during a terrible blizzard.
The Pacific Express train carrying 148 passengers and crew rolled out of The Dalles heading west on schedule to arrive in Portland later that day, December 18, 1884. Along the way a blizzard trapped the train between two avalanches with 25 foot high snow drifts.
A relief party finally reached them on Christmas Day by foot. Among those helping the hungry passengers was "one hog who had the misfortune of being in Hood River at the time." A week later the train was able to retreat to The Dalles. It finally reached Portland three weeks late on January 7, 1885. (Sources: Starvation Creek State Park | Oregon Online Highways)
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 the 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. Most county administrative offices are now housed in the county's nearby Business Administration Building.
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 population of Hood River County in 2013 was 23,295. This represented a 4.2 percent increase from 2010.
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, recreation, timber, and hydroelectric production. 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 and kiteboarders from throughout the United States and around the world.