Richmond was once a strong little community
Richmond is a small ghost town nestled between the breaks of the John Day River and Baldy Mountain. It is located between Mitchell and Service Creek.
It was once a prosperous and thriving community. A post office named Waldron had first been established near the site of Richmond in 1879, but it was later discontinued in 1902. A post office was established at Richmond in December 1899, and mail from Waldron was moved to Richmond in 1902.
The Shoofly country was settled in the 1880s, and several settlers were located in the vicinity. Some of the first settlers in the area were the Gilliam, Donnelly, Keyes and Walters families.
It was decided by local residents that they should have a town to meet the needs of the growing population. Construction of a school was one of the first priorities, but where to place it became a heated issue between William Walters and R.N. Donnelly.
Donnelly called Walters "Jeff Davis" because of his rebellious attitude, and he suggested that the name of the new town be Richmond, linking Walters' temperament and nickname with the capital of the Confederacy.
Donnelly had served as a senator in the State Legislature from Grant County and led the effort to create Wheeler County in 1899.
The new community soon began to grow and boasted of a store, livery stable, a hotel, a church, a school and several residences. It served as the business center for the Shoofly country and was a major sheep growing center.
It became one of the key communities in newly created Wheeler County and even hosted an annual meeting of the Wheeler County Pioneer Association in 1901. It was a gala affair that lasted a week and was attended by 450 people.
The need for a town had arisen from the long distances from freighting points that took a long time to get goods to the locality. But as time passed and motorized vehicles moved freight in a timely manner, the town began to fade. The declining sheep industry also led to a decline of residents, and as people left abandoned buildings remained. The post office was finally discontinued on June 30, 1952.
The once prosperous little community had become a ghost town. Many of the original buildings still remain standing, and it is one of the few once thriving towns in Eastern Oregon to still have memorials to the splendors of the past.
Steve Lent is a local historian and assistant director of the Bowman Museum. He can be reached at: 541-447-3715.