Devin and I had so much fun on our brother and sister road trip last year, we decided to do it again! Our trip started out on Friday the 13th, when we drove to The Dalles to stay the night, so we could get an early start the next day. I had a rather ambitious list of ghost towns I wanted to see in Oregon, some I had been to and wanted to show Devin, and some that neither of us had ever been.
Saturday we got up early to venture south down HWY 97, which is lined with forgotten towns. I have been on this road a few times, and wanted to show Devin some of these places.
Our first stop was Grass Valley, Oregon where an abandoned Methodist church sits in a beautiful grove of trees. It seems the only visitors the hallowed doors now receive are the occasional photographer or a herd of deer. Just up the dirt road there is an abandoned school we also checked out.
We stopped at a couple of shops along the main drag, one an antique shop with rooms brimming with all sorts of curiosities. The other was a rock shop where a Native American man was selling absolutely stunning jewelry and artwork.
Grass Valley, Oregon
Just a little further down the road is the almost ghost town of Kent. I’ve always loved these old gas pumps in front of this now lonely roadside stop.
After Kent, we ventured a little further south until we got to NE Pony Butte Rd where we started heading east toward Ashwood. Somewhere along the way we saw the base of what looks like was once an old grain silo.
The ghost town of Ashwood was named for its proximity to Ash Butte, as well as for Whitfield T. Wood who settled the area in the 1870’s. Ashwood’s post office was established in 1898.
The Native Americans tribes of Sahaptin and Norther Paiute who first inhabited this area were forced to move to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation int he 1850’s. Settlers moved into the area in the 1870’s to raise cattle and sheep. Sheep ranching became an important local industry by 1900 because of the availability of the railroad in nearby Shaniko that facilitated the shipping of wool. By 1910, Ashwood became a gold and silver mining boom-town. As the precious ores began to dry up, the local residents returned to ranching and agriculture as their economic mainstay.
If you area rock-hound, Ashwood is known to have an abundance of petrified wood, jasper and thunder-eggs.
Donnybrook was kind of a happy accident. We didn’t realize it was located just 10 miles east of Ashwood. Donnybrook has gone by a couple of different names including Axehandle and Kilts. This school house is about the only thing left in Donnybrook, which is located right next to a home that looks like someone still lives in.
According to ghostowns.com, Horse Heaven began its life in 1933, when cinnabar was discovered by two prospectors. Mercury production began there in 1934, and continued until 1944, when fire destroyed the ore-processing furnace, power plant, and other structures. The mine closed in 1945 but re-opened in 1955 with a new furnace. Much of the mine collapsed between then and 1958, when the mine closed again. By the time the mine was closed, tunnels of up to 1400 feet long on 10 levels had been dug.
Horse Heaven, Oregon
We hunkered down for the night at The Oregon Hotel in Mitchell, Oregon. It is a cute boarding house style place with cute country decor. Devin and I got a good giggle at how squeaky the beds were. They were REALLY squeaky.
The Oregon Hotel – Mitchell, Oregon