Planting the Seed for Ghost Towns

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I’ve been thinking for a while about the ghost towns of Wallowa County. What made or broke a frontier town back in the day? What remains, now, other than historic cemeteries where once merchants, families, and one-room schoolhouses made a name for places like Flora, Cornucopia, Paradise, and Maxville.
According to a website for the historically minded, Oregon has more ghost towns than any other state in the nation. I’m as drawn to the idea of Oregon’s ghost towns as I was to North Carolina’s historic swinging footbridges. Both capture a way of life that no longer exists. Both encourage a lovely blending of folklore and fact based on what was left behind. And of course, both relics are laced with metaphor. In the case of “ghost towns,” the physical and cultural layers of one particular patch of land is very interesting to me.
Call it the feng shui. Call it looking for stories. Call it what you will, the fact remains that when you build a highway on top of a former school site on top of a former gravesite on top of a former teepee site, the energy gets all mixed up and some pretty interesting details tend to linger in the hearts and minds of folks who’ve been around this county long enough to remember. Or when one devastating bar fight, one devastating winter storm, one devastating cattle stampeded forever alters the existence of a “place” as humans have known it in the 20th Century and beyond, there are bound to be stories still waiting to be unearthed.
Perhaps I’ll go looking this weekend…

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