You can’t think about the state of Oregon without thinking about one of its major industries: logging. Throughout Oregon’s history, the rich soils and climate have provided, and still provide, the perfect conditions for Douglas fir and ponderosa pine, both very commercially successful species.
When the fledgling logging industry was just getting started in the 19th century, company towns sprang up all over Oregon. Most of these revolved around logging. In other places, the term company town is often used in a negative context. A company town is an industrial community that has sprung up around one employer. The employer then builds housing and amenities for its workers, such as schools, churches, and stores.
However, in Oregon, many of these towns were built in extremely rural areas, and were therefore necessary, as there were no other places nearby to commute from. A lot of these towns were designed not simply to exploit workers but to increase the well-being of these workers. Some of these towns even exist to this day. Here are seven Oregon logging towns you can visit today.
Now known for its mountain biking trails managed jointly by the Black Rock Mountain Bike Association and the Oregon Department of Forestry, this town was founded in 1905. The logging operations brought as many as 600 to 1,500 residents, who arrived between 1905 and 1913.
At its height, there were four major companies operating out of Black Rock: the original company being the Dallas Lumber company, later joined by the Great Western Lumber Company, Falls City Lumber Company, and the Charles K. Spaulding Lumber Company. All of these companies shipped lumber—primarily Douglas fir—out of the area via the railroad, of which Black Rock was the western terminus. After the area’s resources were depleted, the town quickly shrank until 1960, when there was “only a log dump and a security guard left.”
Established in the 1880s, this company town got its name from a passenger who was riding a sternwheeler transport on the Columbia River. They saw the falls and said that it looked like a “delicate, misty bride’s veil,” and the name stuck. While the logging operations shut down after 1936 when a fire destroyed the mill, the post office still remains. It’s extremely popular with new brides who want the postmark on their wedding invitations. Throughout the summer (traditional wedding season), thousands of wedding invitations flood this little post office.
This former company town on the Oregon coast has a fascinating history. During World War II, it became the first site in the mainline United States to suffer aerial bombing. The Japanese pilot, Nobuo Fujita, launched his plane from a submarine and meant to throw incendiary bombs on the Oregon coast to start a large-scale fire on the dense forests. However, the attack only caused minor damage. In 1962, the citizens of Brookings invited Fujita to visit the city and made him an honorary citizen in 1997. He also gifted the city his family’s 400-year-old samurai sword in friendship.
While this is now a ghost town, you can still visit the Antlers Guard Station a couple of miles away, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. This guard station used to house Forest Service employees in the 1920s and ’30s. The roads were not well-developed in those days, and travel took considerably longer when making rounds to different stations.
This guard station was one of many peppered throughout the region that would shelter traveling fire patrols and project crews. Today, in order to fund these preservation efforts, some of these stations, including Antlers, are rented out to folks who would like to enjoy the views and the ponderosa pines.
Located between Hillsboro and Aloha in Washington County, this community was established in 1905 as the Oregon Nursery Company. Orenco is a composite of the initials of the company. Structures from the original town are still standing, including a church, a gas station, a general store, and several original dwellings.
Of course, this town is a mix of the old and the new: Intel’s Ronler Acres and Hawthorn Farm facilities were built nearby, as well as Hillsboro Stadium. The Oregon Nursery Company is responsible for introducing the Orenco apple, known as a dessert apple.
This logging town is different from the others mentioned here because it was established much later than the others. The Gilchrist Timber Company founded it in 1938. Of note was the Gilchrist Mall, which was built in 1939, and is still standing today. Including a grocery store, post office, drugstore, barbershop, beauty parlor, liquor store, bowling alley, and a library, it was the first mall opened east of the Cascade Range. You can still enjoy the beautiful old building today
This little logging town has quite a legacy. Former residents of the town still gather in an annual reunion in nearby Falls City, which has a memorial for the defunct town. Also known for its record rainfalls and the Valsetz Star (started in the 1930s by a nine-year-old), it is near the Valley of the Giants, a protected old-growth forest. The forest is a combination of Douglas fir and western hemlock and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
At one time, the famous tree “Big Guy”—the second-tallest Douglas fir known to be standing in Oregon—was approximately 230 feet tall and had an estimated 36.5-foot girth. He may have been over 600 years old! Unfortunately, it blew down in a wind storm in 1981, but you can still visit the trailhead and enjoy some time among its descendants and contemporaries.
The Oregon Heritage Tree Program dedicated the Valley of the Giants as an Outstanding Natural Area as a Heritage Tree Grove. You may visit it, but be sure to contact the Bureau’s Salem District Office at 503-375-5646 for directions and road information.
The logging tradition continues in Oregon with companies like Mr. Tree. Our commercial logging services include a variety of forest management services, all performed by our trained and experienced arborists. Contact us today if you’d like to learn more.