Showing you Oregon,one post at a time. Did you know that I post the links of many of my stories and articles on the sidebar? When you have extra time, please scroll down to see more. At the bottom of this page there are links to many other blogs that I enjoy.

Hello, friends, thank you so much for stopping by. I really hope that you will enjoy your visit to Oregon Gifts. Due to spam, I am not accepting comments from anonymous people. Please email me at: if you are unable to leave a comment on here. I write back through email when I can.

My words and photographs are copyrighted, and may not be used without permission, even on Pinterest.

~ Kathy M.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Shaniko, Oregon: A Bit of Ghost Town History

Several years ago, before I had a digital camera (or a blog)  Cary and I visited the ghost town of Shaniko one day.  I have been itching to get back there and take pictures, and on the way home from Washington on Tuesday, we stopped and walked around.  I took nearly 100 photos, and plan on divvying them up into several posts.

Shaniko is located on the high desert off of HWY 97 in Central Oregon.  Though it used to be called Cross Hollows, it is named after an early German settler who had come to the area in the 1870's.  The nearby Warm Springs Indian neighbors couldn't easily pronounce his name, which was August Scherneckau, so they called him Shaniko.  That is the name that stuck for the town.  

By 1900, ranchers and homesteaders flocked to the area after the railroad was completed from Biggs Junction on the Columbia River to Shaniko.  The town was to be the next big thing, but it never really panned out, after a huge fire in 1911 burned down nearly all the buildings.  They rebuilt, but it stayed a small town after that and eventually died out.  There is still a post office, a couple of small stores, a fire department and an ice cream shop and a few people who live there.  Here is the Wikipedia link, if you want to know a little bit more of the history of the town.

Though the whole town is a living museum, there is a small official one nestled among the old buildings.  Many of the buildings are now used as seasonal shops that stay open until the end of September.

Lucky for us, I found this book by Helen Guyton Rees (c. 1983) at a used book sale several years ago.  There is so much inside information about Shaniko contained within its covers.  

On pages 110, 111 and 112, there is a poem written by Mary Ada "Pat" Rose that describes living in Shaniko.  Here is the abridged version (as noted in the book):


Shaniko is a ghost town?  You might say so --
But my mind is aglow
With Recollections borrowed and abridged,
That still cause the heart of the
Town to beat a lively pace.

There are the near-armies:
Groups, crews, gangs,
Scottish, Irish, Swedish, English and Jew.
Cowboys thundering their mounts in street races,
Sheepherders and homesteaders scraping
The bar rails with boots and high-top shoes.
(Where are those bar rails, now?)
Shots rang out often -- smacked flesh seldom.
Curses split the air -- shoulders hit the dust.

Blacksmiths had a busy time of it
Fitting rosy hot shoes to hooves.
Springing the new bands on wheels.
Creating parts for broken plows.
Stables were crowded with tired horseflesh.
Some had labored all the way from John Day.
Others, highly groomed, awaited a weekly foray.

The streets were peopled with drummers and dreamers.
Some found their hopes, others lost all.
If you were thirsty and broke, you could unload a dray.
A foaming mug would be your pay!
The festive time was wool auction day.

Much harder to take was the screech and grind
of the bailer.

The bell rope hangs untouched by the hand
of a school marm for many years;
And the cool dark hall no more contains the tread and dash of children's feet.
Still, I hear them.
Lined up for a drink of water after recess;
Puffing as they pulled on galoshes
To trudge out across the knolls,
Past juniper, sage and gooseberry --
To their country homes, where evening chores awaited.

Jail cell doors have not clanged shut 
On the vagrant, drunk or horse thief for four decades.
The fire bell rings louder in my mind than in reality;
When many saw the "handwriting on the wall,"
Had fires --
Collected their insurance,
And struck off for greener climes.

And the wheels!  Could you count them?
Dray wheels, freight wagon wheels,
Buggy, stagecoach, spring wagon, and surrey wheels;
Churning up the mud or dust --
Carrying in the product of the land;
Wool, Hides, Barley, Oats and Wheat.
Carrying out the needs of the scattered settlers;
Flour, Sugar, Whiskey, Gingham, Coffee and Tea.
I can hear them.  Have you counted them?

Greater still than all of these are the sounds
That no longer carry on the prairie breeze.
Like the whistle at the trestle
North of town.  You'll hear it no more.
Tracks, Trestle, Depot, Round House -- all gone.
Hissing steam no longer escapes as when
The black monsters halted at the station.
Blatting of sheep and bawling of calves is now silenced --
Once carried on a could of dust from the stockyards.
(They're gone, too.)

 Graveyard?  Well, I tell you
There isn't one.
Bed rock is four inches down
And dynamite wasn't that plentiful.
Where were they buried?
Imposed on their neighbors and laid to rest
In Antelope, or Bakeoven, where the ground is more welcoming,
No church or graveyard, but plenty of ghosts.

"How could you live in such a Godforsaken place?"
(a phrase that often fell on my ears)
Though their concern is a welcome thing,
I pitied them that they could never see
Through the veil that Time concealed,
The quick hot flash -- like a prairie fire --
That was Shaniko.

Don't miss these other Oregon Gifts Articles about Shaniko:

I am going to go ahead and submit this to Sepia Saturday, because I know that some of my friends from there will also enjoy this post.  Though this week's prompt is of some young men about to play football (or soccer?) and not about ghost towns, I am squeezing in the theme of a couple of pictures of my Dad playing football in high school. 

They didn't live in Shaniko, but they did live in Junction City, Oregon.  These were taken in the mid-1950's.  My Dad, Ralph, is #80, the first one on the left in the bottom row.

In the photo below, #38 (back row, middle) sure does look like my Uncle Kenny, and #33 (back row, end) sure does look like Dad:

I hope that you enjoyed this little journey into the past.  There are many more Shankio pieces about to come your way, so please keep checking back in.

Thanks so much for your visit!

~ Kathy M.

So, there you are, my friends.  If you enjoyed this story, please visit my Sepia Saturday friends by "CLICKING HERE" to find other neat photos and stories.  To read more about my family and other stories featuring old photos, memories and more, please look for this picture of me and my dad on the left-hand sidebar and read whatever else catches your fancy.  Thanks so much for visiting!

At Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy, if you miss a day, you miss a lot!  All material on this post is copyrighted and not for use without my permission ...Please click here to go to my home page and see what is happening in Mayberry today.
 Protected by Copyscape Duplicate Content Check


Kathy A. Johnson said...

Thanks for sharing your visit to Shaniko. Some interesting history there. I love old towns and little bitty museums. This one reminded me of the one in Andersonville, GA near the Civil War prison camp.

Linda Reeder said...

I have never heard of this town. There's always more to explore, even near home.

Wendy said...

I like the line in the poem comparing Shaniko to a hot flash and a prairie fire. Seems like the perfect way to describe a town with so much promise but fizzled out.

Deb Gould said...

What a fabulous shot of the piano! I can almost HEAR the notes...
A long time ago my family bought some land here in Maine that used to be a girls' camp. The old piano was outside, and when the wind blew, you could hear music -- a little bit creepy!

Peter said...

Sometimes I wish we had ghost towns here but Holland is too densely populated... I would never have guessed that the name Shaniko has a German origin. It sounded so Japanese to me! I have enjoyed your pictures!

Postcardy said...

The football team photo reminds me of the photos in my high school yearbook.

Little Nell said...

Just like Wendy, that line stood out for me too. Peter is right it sounds more oriental than German. I love museums like this and I look forward to more of your pictures.

Queen Bee said...

I'm curious about the gray & white machine. Was it similar to a typewriter or a printer? I've never seen anything like it. Love that piano - cool picture!

Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

Loved the old photos of Shaniko, the one of the old piano was especially amazing. The football pictures remind me of ones in my parents old yearbooks I used to look at when I was kid.

Karen S. said...

Oh you are a girl after my heart of all fave things to visit! I am such a Ghost Town fan, I only wish there were more around here. I have a gigantic Ghost Town Book and last time I was in Nevada I looked up a couple that were listed in it! Funny thing, a few of them outside of Las Vegas had a bit of odd life brought back into them! Your closing tale about Shaniko sounded as good as a song to me, and one that could be read with so many eager eyes and ears around a campfire! Wonderful ghostly tale you've weaved so well for us!

Karen S. said...

Oh yes, in case you're wondering I will check and see if Shaniko is in my big book of ghost towns! :)

Kathy said...

I got so excited to see the picture of the Junction City football team and started looking for my stepdad and then realized they were in Oregon, not Kansas. lol.

Bob Scotney said...

I am so glad you went back to Shaniko. Great pictures of a ghost town which I didn't know existed (and not just Shaniko) - guess we don't have room for them in the UK. Loved the poem.

Jana Last said...

Somehow it's hard to connect the term "high desert" with Oregon. I didn't even know there was a desert in Oregon, and I've got relatives who live there! Well, you learn something new every day.

What a fascinating post! Can't you just imagine people from yesteryear into those photos of the ghost town?

Mike Brubaker said...

A super story. It's so neat to get your special travelogues to places off the trail. I especially liked the old piano and the check writer machine.


Nice way to drag us in that ghost town, putting the football pics only at the end. The town looks lovely, by daylight...

Anonymous said...

An interesting post, Kathy - we don't have ghost towns as such in Scotland. You got some great photos of Shaniko :-) Jo

No Copying!


Links to My Oregon Blog Posts (Except for Central Oregon):

"Oregon Bloggers"

"Sepia Saturday, Postcard and Stamp Blogs"

"Writing and Poetry Blogs":