The Harney County Historical Society began in 1955 and applied for and received IRS 501(c)3 tax exempt status in July 1959. We own and operate the Harney County Museum through the efforts of many member volunteers. Persons visiting the museum can see many exhibits and explore historical information about the county. We welcome donations to the museum if they have a known identified connection to Harney County history or it's residents. In 2019 we absorbed the Harney County Pioneer Association and now host the annual Pioneer Day event each year honoring those who have contributed for many years to Harney County's past.
Who we are
Our organization is run by a board of directors supported through contributions of our membership who donate time, talent and financial support to our continued prosperity. To become a member you can print out a membership form from our "Newsletters" tab and submit it to our P. O. Box. We welcome others who want to help us achieve our mission.
President and Chairman of the Board: Jim Withee was born in Burns Oregon in 1960, the youngest of 5 children of Dolores and Ray Withee. He attended Slater Elementary, Lincoln Jr. High, Burns Union High School, Taft Community College, and Treasure Valley Community College. He worked at Edward Hines Lumber Co in the 70's and in the woods and for Otley Trucking. He has worked at the Courthouse the past 20 years. He married Shana Weisgram in 1988 who is the 4-H agent in Harney County. They have four Children. Jim enjoys, fishing, hunting, hiking, exploring Harney County, and visiting museums. He is actively involved in the Archeology Road Show and the Cultural Crawl.
Vice President and Vice Chairman: Mildred Fine was born and raised in Harney County. She lived on the property where the museum is now located. She also attended Burns Grade School and Burns Union High School where she was in the band and was a cheerleader. She has been a faithful volunteer for many years at the musuem and has enjoyed sharing the exhibits with local residents and travelers from all over.
Secretary: Sarah Ayling grew up on a Harney County Ranch, the second of 4 girls. The girls were the hay crew every summer but she was also a buckaroo. She graduated from Burns High School and attended Ricks College and Brigham Young University graduating with a degree in elementary education with a minor in math. After working as a substitute teacher in Idaho Falls she was called to serve a mission in Houston, TX. She taught one year at Hines Elementary and then started a family and taught her children at home until they reached the age to attend High School. She enjoys quilting, traveling and history.
Treasurer: Deborah Arntz moved with her family to Harney County from Kansas in 1976. She worked 20 years for USDA, 9 years for Oster Professional Group and 2 years for the Burns Paiute Tribe. When her kids went to college so did she completing her BS at EOU in accounting and her MBA in finance and accounting from Regis University. She is an enrolled agent. After being away for 11 years she has returned to the Farm Service Agency. Her husband is a 4th generation Harney County resident and 3 members of his family have presided over Pioneer Days. She loves traveling, helping non-profit organizations, and history.
Director: Jake Arnzen was born in Walla Walla, WA, but grew up in Summerville, OR in Union County. He has a BS in archeology from Oregon State University. He currently works for the Forest Service as an archeology technician. He enjoys trap shooting, flint knapping, camping and history.
Director: Steve Grasty was born in Nyssa, Oregon in 1951 to Eugene and Phyllis Grasty. His great great great aunt is listed in the Malheur County historical records as the "first white child born on the lower Malheur" (1870). Steve came to Harney County in 1971 to work at Burns Automotive Parts where he worked until 1983. He is married to Cynthia (Cindy) Ward, Cindy's parents started the first radio station in Harney County in the late 50's.They have 2 adult children, 4 grandchildren and 2 great grandkids. Steve and Cindy purchased the Big A Auto Parts Store in 1983 and operated it until the end of 1995 when they sold the business and he was appointed to fill a vacant Commissioner position on the County Cout.. Steve was elected to the position of Harney County Judge and served in that role from 1999 thru 2016. Steve is committed to preserving the history of Harney County.