Jane Kirkpatrick to work on plans for the 2015 Women Writing the West Conference taking place this October in Redmond. Jane and I are co-chairing the event and despite the wonders of modern technology, sometimes you just need a good old-fashioned face-to-face meeting.
On the way to Redmond, Captain Cavedweller and I stopped in Shaniko to stretch our legs and look around.
Considered a ghost town, about thirty residents inhabit Shaniko. In fact, Oregon has more than 80 registered ghost towns, making it the ghost town leader in the country.
Looking Down Fourth Street from the East in the Early 1900's
Travelers who leave Interstate 84 and head south on Highway 97 toward the heart of Oregon, will travel through numerous small towns, all spaced about nine miles apart. (The common distance traveled in a day back when the towns were first settled.)
Wasco, Moro, Grass Valley, Kent, Shaniko are all historic towns along the highway.
Although we've stopped in Grass Valley before, since it's the setting for my Grass Valley Cowboys series, we generally drive right by Shaniko. It's located on a 90-degree curve and unless you choose to go straight and enter what is left of the town, you pass by it in the blink of an eye. This time, we decided to stop. There are a few museums in town, an ice cream shop, and a small store.
Shaniko's history is tied to the development of the five transcontinental railroad systems that opened the United States to remarkable economic growth from the 1860s through the 1890s. A spur line called "The Columbia Southern Railway" would open the eastern interior of Oregon to successful enterprises.
In 1862, gold was discovered in Canyon City, Oregon, drawing people to the area. A route to Canyon City started at the early settlement of The Dalles (located right on I-84 along the Columbia River). Camps were made wherever water could be found. Two nearby camps, Bakeover and Cross Hollow, drew settlers to what would become Shaniko.
In 1867, after complaints of hostilities with Indians and fear of robbery during gold transportation, the US government built a military wagon road from The Dalles to Fort Boise, Idaho. Following this road, homesteaders began claiming land in Central Oregon that had before been inaccessible.
One of the settlers was August Scherneckau, a man of German descent who came to the area after the Civil War. Although the locals pronounced his name "Shaniko," he served as postmaster in the town originally known as Cross Hollows.
The stage in front of the Shaniko Hotel
At the time, the city was known as the "Wool Capital of the World," and boasted the largest wool warehouse in the state. It was the center of 20,000 square miles of wool, wheat, cattle and sheep production, with no other such center east of the Cascade Range in Oregon. The region served by the city even stretched into Idaho, south to nearly the California border, and Washington.
Unfortunately, a competing line from the Columbia River along the Deschutes River to Bend that opened in 1911 put an end to the trek many farmers and ranchers made to Shaniko to ship their cattle and grain. On top of the decline in shipping, a fire in 1911 claimed most of the buildings in the business district.
Passenger service to Shaniko ended in the 1930s with the railroad ended all service by the mid-1940s.
If you ever have the opportunity to take a detour south of the freeway and drive through Shaniko, go for it.
It's a scenic drive with big open skies and rolling hills of wheat.
Shanna creates character-driven romances with realistic heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America.
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