The population of Winlock dwindled after a new state highway bypassed the community

 - A photo of the cemetery in the small Wheeler County community of Winlock.

Winlock is located about 25 miles east of Fossil in Wheeler County.

The area attracted early stock growers and sheep operators, who utilized the plentiful grasses for grazing. A post office was established March 14, 1888, and it was named for Winlock Steiwer, a pioneer settler. Later, the post office location was moved, and it rotated to the home or business of whoever served as postmaster.

In 1906, N.S. Nelson established a sawmill south of the community, and the area had an insurgence of people as jobs became available and lumber was provided for homestead cabins. The mill moved two miles north in 1913, and it remained there until 1927. Unfortunately, the mill was moved in 1927 to a different location and resulted in hard times for Winlock.

A grist mill was built on the small creek in the vicinity, and it was used to grind wheat into flour. The mill later burned and was not rebuilt.

The community boasted a blacksmith shop, merchandise store and a church. A one-room school house was built, and in 1911, it was replaced by a two-room structure. At that time, there were about 70 pupils attending the school, and two teachers were hired. Two acres of land was also donated for use as a cemetery in 1914.

Despite the loss of the sawmill, the community managed to survive as a social center for the immediate area. The owner of the merchandise store became ill. While he was in a hospital in Portland in 1931, some thieves broke into his store and burned the store down.

A new state highway was later constructed, and the road by-passed Winlock. After the highway was completed, the population of Winlock began to dwindle. The school consolidated with other schools, and the minister for the church left. The remaining businesses began to fail. The post office was discontinued on Oct. 16, 1937. After that, the village became mostly a ghost town, and ranching became the main operation in the immediate vicinity.

Today, there is little that remains of the once thriving mill community.

Steve Lent is a local historian and assistant director of the Bowman Museum. He can be reached at: 541-447-3715.

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