September 27, 2013

The (Nearly) Forgotten History of Maxville, Ore.

  • By: David Weible

In the Fall issue Preservation magazine we interview Gwendolyn Trice, whose search for her own history led her to quit her day job in Seattle and relocate to eastern Oregon to preserve the memory of the now-defunct logging town that originally brought her family to the Pacific Northwest.

The town -- known as Maxville -- popped up in the 1920s in Wallowa County, and drew both white and black workers from all of the American South and Midwest. Though the town was segregated, the hard work and brutal weather brought the community together.

You can find the full story in the print edition of Preservation. (Forum Journal also has a great article available for members, titled "Breathing Life into a Ghost Town: The Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center.")

In the meantime, here are some cool photo extras that show the history of Maxville and its community.

Gwendoyn Trice in Maxville. Credit: Colby Kuschatka

Gwendolyn Trice stands in front of a set of former National Forest Service Buildings she hopes her group can rehab and turn into the Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center. The buildings were returned to the city of Wallowa, Ore., thanks to a bill introduced in Congress by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in 2009.

Gwen Trice in front of the logging operations office. Credit: Colby Kuschatka

Trice stands in front of what was once the main office for logging operations in the now defunct town of Maxville, Ore. Though the sun was shining on this day, harsh conditions throughout the year (especially during the winters) helped to create a sense of community in Maxville, despite the town’s racial segregation.

Maxville loggers. Credit: Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center

A historical photo of many of the loggers who lived and worked in Maxville. Though they lived on separate sides of town, and even played on separate baseball teams, white and black loggers forged a bond by working side-by-side in the harsh mountain terrain of eastern Oregon.

Women in Naxville. Credit:  Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center

It wasn’t just the men who formed a bond across the racial divide in Maxville. Families also worked together to make ends meet and enjoy life in the isolated town, even when social norms in other areas of the state were much different.

Railcar homes in Maxville. Credit:  Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center

A hard day’s work earned the men of Maxville little respite, but when they did get a chance to relax, they enjoyed swapping stories, smoking pipes, and especially, playing baseball. When there wasn’t work to be done, teams from Maxville were known to compete against other logging towns from the region. Here, logging men congregate outside one of many railcars that were converted into homes for the workers.

David Weible was the content specialist at the National Trust, previously with Preservation and Outside magazines. His interest in historic preservation was inspired by the ‘20s-era architecture, streetcar neighborhoods, and bars of his hometown of Cleveland.

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