Shaniko – declared the wool capital of the world in 1900, Shaniko is now nearly a ghost town
Most travellers aim for the beautiful Oregon coast. After all, what could you see in inland Oregon?
We thought the same way until on one of our trips we decided to take Route 97 instead of the more efficient but utterly boring Highway 5. Driving from the south we encountered the small but fascinating town of Shaniko.
The story of the place starts with the discovery of gold in Canyon City in 1869 when many small settlements were built in the area. German immigrant August Scherneckau arrived in 1874. Unlike other settlers, Mr. Scherneeckau was friendly not only to white people but he also had a good relationship with the Indians. The Indians had a hard time pronouncing the difficult German name and called him “Mr. Shaniko.” In 1879 the initial settlement was moved a bit further north and the first post office under the name “Shaniko” was established in 1900.
The greatest milestone in the history of this town, however, comes with the arrival of the first train in 1900. This event triggered a massive boom in wool trading. At its peak, wool auctions were held in which buyers from all over the world came to bid and ship this valuable commodity via the Columbia Southern Railroad.
As usual, with success and money came crime. Fights and shoot outs occurred on a regular basis. Even the mayor of Shaniko, J. C. Fowlie, didn’t escape the violence. He was shot because he asked one irritated individual to go to bed. Apparently back then it was good enough reason to shoot a person. In its early days, Shaniko “didn’t have a cemetery because nobody died of natural causes. Those killed in gun battles were left for the coyotes.”
The final nail in the coffin was a new railroad route that didn’t include Shaniko in its plans. Stripped of this important element, Shaniko’s population quickly declined. From a town of 500 in 1910, it now has 36 residents.
Photographing the place was a real treat for us. As you drive toward Shaniko from the north there are many remains of old structures: farms, an abandoned church, historic gas station, etc. It is worth spending a whole day in the area to see the less popular but equally interesting ghost town of Antelope. While visiting we encountered two boys playing on the playground of the closed school. Out of boredom they showed us the area around the school and were eager to have a chat.
We couldn’t hope for better lighting conditions. The passing storm provided us with a beautiful warm diffused light. Dark clouds provided a dramatic background.
All images were shot with the Fuji X-Pro1 pared with a super-sharp XF 14mm F2.8 lens and the Fuji X100s; processed in Irridient Developer 2.2 and Lightroom 5.
Next time we will share some images of the Hippies’ neighbourhood in San Francisco, the “Mission District.” Here are just a few examples.
© Olaf & Kasia Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.