Let’s turn to history for lessons on pulling together, staying strong in Malheur County

An early office of the Malheur Enterprise in Vale, which has been publishing locally since 1909. The newspaper absorbed other publications over the years. (Photo courtesy of Gary McClellan)

Malheur County was built by tough people working together.

Since Peter Skene Ogden came trekking through the area nearly 200 years ago in the hunt for beaver, the area has seen success and folly, dreams and disasters.

That history seems more relevant than ever.

At the moment, our community faces one tough fight after another.

The pandemic is testing government and medical authorities.

Politics is sowing deep dissension.

And the fate of our rural economy is, at best, uncertain.

We have been here before.

The county has been convulsed over the decades by boom and bust. We have endured wars, floods, fires and more.

Next month, the Malheur Enterprise will take a pause from the pandemic coverage to remind us all of that rich history. We’ll publish a special section looking back at some of the key history that made Malheur County.

Sometimes, it’s easy to overlook that history in the focus on getting through a modern day. But lessons from history, we hope, might inspire the community to again remember that working together is what leads to monumental accomplishments.

 Consider, for instance, the wagon trains that muscled their way across the county on the Oregon Trail. Day after day, foot in front of foot, those pioneers would allow almost nothing to stop their progress. When they saw amazing vistas, they celebrated. When disaster struck, which was often, they gathered and pushed on.

And over time, the opportunities right here in Malheur County were enough to get people to park here and dig in. We now have a potent agriculture industry, possible not from people fighting each other but people willing to share the work of turning range into pasture, building irrigation systems that bring life to the Treasure Valley.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t local “stars” – the people who by force of nature and determination provided the leadership to bull through obstacles. Our history is replete with men and women who led remarkable lives, often in service to their community while building their own fortunes and families.

That’s why I’m so looking forward to serving up our keepsake special publication on Malheur County history. This will be a fresh reminder of what’s possible, even in these disconsolate times. As a people, we are growing weary of the coronavirus and its ability to sap optimism.

I invite you to help by sharing your own personal archives. Tell us of how your family came to be in Malheur County, of what businesses were built, what schools were started, what projects were undertaken. Share with us those fading photos in the albums tucked away in the family room or in a storage locker.

The trail of many families reaches back generations here in Malheur County. I have no doubt there are amazing untold stories and photos as well – of people, of scenes, of the times. You can share those by scanning them in and sending us a digital copy or drop by the office in Vale and we’ll scan them for you.

You can send any of this material for consideration to me directly by email. That’s [email protected] and the deadline is Monday, Aug. 24.

If your company is interested in sharing its place in Malheur County history, consider supporting publication of this history section by advertising. (Contact [email protected] for possibilities.) We’d love to see long-established firms share some of the original marketing used when they started.

History won’t resolve today’s strains, but it can and it should give us all hope that we will, indeed, make it through. We will do so by pulling together for the common well-being of us all, not by sniping and fighting.

As those Oregon Trail pioneers did, let’s respect and tolerate our differences but let’s also unite in common purpose to quash this virus and get life back to hopeful.

Les Zaitz is editor and publisher of the Enterprise.

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