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More About Lonerock
Lonerock is a city in Gilliam County, Oregon, United States. The population was 21 at the 2010 census.
Lonerock was founded in 1881 as a service center for the surrounding ranches. It was named for an unusual, 35-foot (11 m)-high lone rock which still stands in the town near the old Methodist church. The city’s population grew from 68 in 1900 to 70 in 1910, 73 in 1920 and then to a high of 82 in 1930. By the 1940 census, Lonerock’s population dwindled to 46, and continued to drop to 38 in 1950, 31 in 1960, and then bottomed out to 12 residents in 1970. The city grew to 26 citizens in 1980, before falling to 11 in the 1990 census.
Lonerock is a small town in Gilliam County, Oregon, about 19 miles from Condon. Lonerock got its name from the giant rock that can be found on the outer edge of the small town. The first settlers came to Lonerock in 1871, looking for a place to homestead (Thouvenel, Palmer, 2: 10).
After a few years, a handful of homesteaders had begun to plant roots in the small valley community. Lonerock had become a popular landing spot for these journeymen because of the small stream and abundance of bunch grass growing in the area. This area was also popular with the big game and provided the homesteaders an opportunity to hunt for their families’ food.
Many of these first settlers planted crops and raised various types of livestock to survive. However, in 1874, a homesteader by the name of Edward Wineland built a sawmill, powered by a water wheel in the stream. This gave Lonerock a great opportunity to grow and prosper as a community (2: 12) — which is exactly what the community did, signified by the post office that was built in November of the very next year (2: 13).
However, in the year 1878, Lonerock began to have struggles with the Indians in the area, causing many of settlers to flee to The Dalles, while the remaining members of the community gathered together in the most fortified settlement, for protection (2: 10). With the help of some of the friendly tribe members and the U.S. Army, the hostile Indians were pushed back into Idaho territory (2: 10).
Even this conflict could not prevent the determined Lonerock community from officially establishing itself as a town. By the year 1882, their hard work and patience had paid off as they became one of the first towns of Gilliam County, Oregon (Thouvenel, Palmer, 1: 6). With this new-found township still inspiring the community, they elected the first and current postmaster and banker, R.G. Robinson to the position of Mayor (1: 6).
By the year 1888, the Lonerock community had grown to the point that building a school had become a logical improvement that they wanted to make (1: 6). The school was merely a humble two-story building, but community proudly educated all twelve grades (1: 6). The school’s final graduation was in 1932, and by the end of the next thirty years the school had closed down completely (1:6).
Ten years later, Reverend Deuse joined the community and built a Methodist church that held weekly services for many years. This church still stands and occasionally holds services to this day (1: 6). The small white church has become as iconic to the Lonerock community, as the rock itself.
In July 1896, the town was almost wiped out by fire. The entire business portion burned and left only a few dwellings on the outskirts of town. It was reported that a small boy with a pocket full of matches started the blaze
With the turn of the century, Lonerock’s population had grown greatly, with new citizens arriving and with multiple businesses operating within the city limits (1: 6). Many of the surrounding homesteads had become successful ranches and farms that occupied thousands of acres on the surrounding hillsides.
Over the years, the members of the Lonerock community began to develop a culture that enjoyed various community activities. Some of these activities included hunting, (which had taken on the form of a sport in contrast to being a main source of food,) fishing, and sledding in the winter seasons. The citizens of Lonerock even organized their own rodeo, which they hosted every year right down the middle of Main Street. This became a popular event, attracting participants and spectators from the surrounding area. By the 1920s, rodeos in the surrounding areas grew larger and Lonerock’s annual rodeo was no longer the popular event that is once was, so in 1934, the final Main Street rodeo was held (Hardie, 2014).
Sadly, the success and growth of Lonerock was not everlasting; as the sawmill and many jobs moved to the larger nearby towns we see the citizens follow.