Lonerock is the Lonesomest place in Oregon
The isolated village of Lonerock is located in Gilliam County about 21 miles southeast of Condon and about 20 miles northeast of Fossil. It is in a relatively isolated region off the main beaten path of travel.
The site was the first town in Gilliam County. It was named for a large rock named Len Rock at the east end of the small community. A post office was established at the site in 1875 and was named Lone Rock. Later, postal officials decided to combine the name into one word, Lonerock.
An actual townsite was platted in October 1882 by R.G. Robinson and Albert Henshaw. It became incorporated in February 1901. It was first primarily a sheep-ranching community.
A two-story school building was built in about 1888. All 12 grades were taught there at one time. The school operated until 1960 when declining numbers of pupils led to its closure and students were bused to Condon. The school had a large bell in the belfry, and it could be heard all over the valley. A Methodist church was built near Lonerock in 1898. It also had a bell.
The town population near the turn of the 20th century was about 100. A few businesses were established, including a general merchandise store, a blacksmith shop, a hotel, a boarding house, a livery stable, one lawyer's office and two saloons. It even had two churches at one time. The community had wooden boardwalks, and there were two wooden bridges. The bridges were later washed out by a flood and were replaced with concrete structures.
Entertainment included summer swimming, literary programs, debating challenges, a ladies sewing circle, school functions, and Saturday night dances at the Grange. The Fourth of July was celebrated with a community picnic in the nearby wooded forest. During the winter, the community became very isolated as it was difficult to travel when snow arrived.
Through the years, the population began to decline, and presently, only a few residents live in the community. The post office was discontinued in June 1963. Some of the early buildings are still standing, including the church and a log cabin jail.
University of Oregon professor and author Ken Metzler noted that Lonerock was the "Lonesomest Spot in Oregon" and brought some attention to the community. Those trying to find Lonerock may be in for an adventure, but it can be a rewarding experience.
Steve Lent is a local historian and assistant director of the Bowman Museum. He can be reached at: 541-447-3715.