17 Abandoned and Forgotten Ghost Towns in Oregon

Written by Keyana Beamon
Updated: November 3, 2023
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Key Points:

  • The ghost town Golden became a filming set for the television show Bonanza and other old-time movies.
  • Maryville was once a thriving town, offering services to stage coaches and freight haulers. After the town’s hotel burned down, it lost its appeal and eventually became a ghost town.
  • Horse Heaven received its name because a herd of horses thrived amongst the local lands of the town.

Each state within the United States has some kind of dark, weird, or twisted history. Some of that history has caused parts of each state to become abandoned, haunted, or a forgotten ghost town. Oregon is a perfect example of how history can change things forever! This state has had many bustling small towns that attracted people to want to invest and grow! Many of these small towns started with nothing, grew into a profitable community, and then back to nothing again. It is understandable why many residents decided to skip town! As you read the brief history of each deserted place, try to imagine how everything went down!

1. Shaniko

Shaniko was once a bustling town known as “The Wool Capital of the World.” This town was the fifth largest city of Wasco County because of the ability to ship over 2,000 tons of wool! In the early 1900’s, Shaniko also served as a transit spot for the Colombia Southern Railway. The Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company opened a new line from Portland to the Deschutes River Canyon in 1911. This new railway caused traffic to redirect, thus resulting in the decline of Shaniko. In the year 2000, Robert B. Pamplin Jr. tried to restore the town by repairing the hotel and opening a few businesses. Unfortunately the Shaniko City Council denied Roberts easement on one of his water wells that supplied most of his businesses.

Old shop facade in Shaniko, Oregon, USA

Today you can find an old wooden water tower, city hall, school, old post office, and a jail.

©Katrin Meyersiek/Shutterstock.com

2. Sumpter

In the late 1900’s, Sumpter became a successful town for gold mining. After the construction of the Valley Railroad, the city expand its gold mines to combine 12 miles of tunnel. The town then had over 2,000 people investing into this rising town. Churches, saloons, breweries, opera houses, and even electricity turned this fast rising community into a modern living for the residents. Nine million dollars worth of gold had been drawn out of Sumpters mines. A devastating fire occurred in 1917 causing one hundred buildings to burn down. Because of this tragedy, some residents decided to leave while others stayed to rebuild. The town continued to decline and now serves as a tourism spot with a few old buildings still standing. The Sumpter Valley Railroad still runs between Sumpter and McEwen.

The Historic Sumpter Valley Railroad in Central Oregon in the Fall.

If you ever decide to visit Oregon, take a tour on Sumpters oldest mining boat.

©Wasim Muklashy/Shutterstock.com

3. Golden

Golden’s establishment occurred in the 1840s after the discovery of mines near Coyote Creek in Josephine County. A group of Americans discovered the mines and then abandoned them to discover other mines in Idaho. Chinese miners then found the mines, worked them, and were driven out by the Americans who originally found the site. Once the mines started running dry, residents abandoned the town for a placer mine on Grave Creek. The town became a filming set for the television show Bonanza and other old-time movies.

4. Greenhorn

Greenhorn was another town that was a hotspot for mining. In the 1900’s, Greenhorn started to develop several stores, two hotels, post office, brothel, and a wooden jail because of the amount of money made from mining. The town started to decline in the early 1940’s leaving residents with nothing. Greenhorn is the highest town in Oregon at 6,000 feet. The only thing that remains in this ghost town is rotting wooden structures.

5. Hardman

Hardman was the center for the goods and services of farms. The town developed schools, stores, hotels, a small newspaper company, and a telephone office. In the 1920’s, the town started to declined because of the construction of a railroad 20 miles northeast. This railroad caused many residents to move where transportation was more reliable. Today, there are a few old structures still standing.

6. Buncom

In the 1850’s, Chinese miners settled in Buncom and then were ran out by Americans. Buncom became a functioning town for a while until the gold depleted, thus resulting in residents leaving. Later, the remaining buildings of this small town were destroyed by a fire. A century later, members of the Buncom Historical Society decided to preserve what’s left of the town by organizing a yearly “Buncom Day” festival. The festivals funding keeps the remaining structures of the town standing.

Old western swinging Saloon doors

Buncom residents built a general store, post office, and a saloon.

©Fer Gregory/Shutterstock.com

7. Mayville

Mayville is a ghost town once called Clyde, located on Highway 19. The town grew by offering its services to stage coaches and freight haulers. The residents of this town built churches and other buildings; however, a fire destroyed their hotel. Because of this tragedy, people passing through Mayville had no reason to stop, thus causing this place to be a ghost town.

8. Bridal Veil

Bridal Veil was established in the 1800s by the Bridal Veil Lumber Company.  This bustling town worked alongside a nearby town, Palmer, to haul timber on a 1 ½ mile long log flume. When the town Palmer started to shut down, Bridal Veil was sure to be next; however, it was saved by the Kraft Food Company. After timber resources were depleted, 50 years later Bridal Veil began to fail. Today a non-profit group tries to keep the town open as a historic site for visitors. Couples that are set to wed, can send their invitations through the town’s post office to bear the unique Bridal Veil postmark!

Bridal Veil is home to the towns first paper mill.

©ablokhin/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

9. Bourne

Bourne was established as a town in 1895 and was known for mining. The town was originally called “Cracker City” and was changed once U.S senator Jonathan Bourne moved in and purchased the gold mines there in 1899. The town then became an investment site for people looking to find gold and silver in the mines. F. Wallace White is one man that invested into the mines and produced false information in his newsletters to convince other people to invest. The mines started to run dry, yet F. Wallace convinced them otherwise. Eventually his fraud caught up to him and the other investors sought mines elsewhere. Today only a few old buildings remain, but most of the town has been recovered by Mother Nature.

10. Millican

Milican began to develop when George Milican carved out a ranch 25 miles east of Bend. The population reached to one hundred people but declined when U.S Highway 20 developed nearby. Billy Rahn, the last resident of Milican, bought the towns gas station, only general store, and post office. He kept Milican running for 40 years; however, he was murdered by his only employee in 1988. Over time several families and businessmen tried to invest and rebuild, but was unsuccessful. If you wanting to start a business in a ghost town, this may be the place for you!

11. Kent

Kent was another developing town affected by the expansion of railroads. The attraction of the Columbia Southern Railroad caused residents to move closer to the line. The whole town even uprooted and moved the post office near the railroad. In 1905, the population decreased to 250 people and by 2018 to 67. It is now 2023, so I can only imagine what the population of this ghost town stands at.

12. Ashwood

The known history of Ashwood may be what some consider an over-exaggerated. The town served as a mining site and became established in 1898 after building a post office. Ashwood then experienced a slight “boom” of business between 1901 and 1902. The King Mine was shut down from 1901 to 1903 due to litigation over the title of the mine. Once the mine shut down, this once “bustling” place became a ghost town!

13. Andrews

Andrews is located at the eastern base of Steens Mountain. This small town was a bustling community between 1898 and 1918. Andrews attracted ranchers and sheep keepers. The towns hotel burned down in 1924, thus causing the decline. Today, only a few commercial buildings are standing.

14. Whitney

Whitney was a logging town near the Burnt River established in the 1900’s. The Oregon Lumber Company built the first sawmill in the town, but it was destroyed by a fire in 1918. By the time the sawmill was fully functioning, the lumber industry was in decline. The residents of Whitney abandoned the nearby Sumpter Valley Railway.

15. Lime

Lime is a ghost town located along the Oregon Trail. The town obtained its name because of the production of limestone, lime products, and plaster. In 1921 a cement company helped the acceleration of these products, but like mining any other product, limestone resources started to deplete. The production of cement moved to Durkee.

Limestone isolated on white background. Limestone is a sedimentary rock  composed of skeletal fragments of marine organisms.

The limestone plant closed in the 1980’s.

©Aleksandr Pobedimskiy/Shutterstock.com

16. Horse Heaven

Horse Heaven received its name because a herd of horses thrived amongst the local lands of the town. Horse Heaven is located in Jefferson County and is now considered private property. In the 1930’s The Sun Oil Company took over the mines located in the town. A fire destroyed the ore-processing furnace, power plant, and other buildings, causing it to shut down and collapse. Many residents abandoned Horse Heaven in search for a better home.

17. Kinzua

Kinzua is located in Wheeler County of Oregon and is now partially occupied with planted trees and a six-hole golf course. The town was discovered by lumberman, Edward D. Wetmore, and used to operate the town’s sawmill. The Kinzua Pine Mills Company built a railroad to ship materials out and established a rail bus line, “The Goose.” The line closed in 1976 and the sawmill closed two years after.

vintage sawmill blade at farm in the fall

Once the sawmill closed, residents left shortly after.

©Kenneth D. Love/Shutterstock.com

Summary of 17 Abandoned and Forgotten Ghost Towns in Oregon

Ghost TownReason for Establishment
1ShanikoFormerly “The Wool Capital of the World”
2SumpterGold mining
5HardmanGoods and services for farms
6BuncomGold mining
7Mayville (Clyde)Services for stage coaches and freight haulers
8Bridal VeilTimber hauling
9Bourne (Cracker City)Gold and silver mining
10MillicanRanch town
11KentRailroad town
13AndrewsRanching and sheep herding
14WhitneySawmill for lumber industry
15LimeAlong Oregon Trail–limestone
16Horse HeavenHerd of horses inhabited area
17KinzuaSawmill for lumber industry

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Janis Maleckis/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Keyana is a licensed veterinary technician who has been working with animals for more than 10 years. She has done a mixture of emergency, preventative, and shelter. She loves to mentor others and has recently started a podcast about the ins and outs of veterinary medicine. In her free time, she love to watch/read anything crime related, tend to her garden, try new foods, work on puzzles, and hangout with friends.

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