A post office of many names
Clarno is located on the John Day River at the bridge between Antelope and Fossil. It was never a townsite but was the location for several post offices of different names.
A post office was first established at this location on Feb. 28, 1876, and named Huntley. The site was then located in Wasco County. The post office was discontinued in June 1876 and moved to Pine Creek.
Later, another post office was established at this site on Dec. 10, 1877, and was named Crown Rock. It was named for the layer of rock capping the canyon tops in the vicinity. Crown Rock post office was discontinued Nov. 28, 1892. It was in Gilliam County at this time.
The site of a post office was commonly moved to the home of whoever served as post master. The post office of Clarno was established at the site on Sept. 15, 1894, and named for early rancher Andrew Clarno. The postmaster was Nannie Chichester. Wheeler County had not yet been created, so it was still in Gilliam County. Wheeler County was created in 1899, and the post office was in the new county.
Andrew Clarno had settled on the John Day River at this location in 1866. He was among the earliest settlers in the region. Andrew D. Clarno was born on Oct. 11, 1820, in Iowa. He married Eleanor Jones. She was born on May 5, 1827. They had four children.
When they came to the John Day River, very few people lived in the area. It has been related that when a neighbor homesteaded about 20 miles away, Andrew began to feel crowded.
Some of his cattle were stolen by Paiute leader Paulina and his band in 1867. The theft was witnessed by stage driver James Clark, who went to Antelope and talked station operator Howard Maupin into following the band of Indians. They ambushed the band while they were butchering some of the cattle, and Paulina was shot and killed near Trout Creek.
A bridge was built across the John Day River at this site in 1897. Although it was never a community, it was a stopping place along the long grades into and out of the John Day River canyon.
Andrew passed away in 1897, and Eleanor died in 1899, and both are buried on the family cemetery at Clarno.
The Clarno vicinity experienced a period of high hopes in the late 1920s when an oil well was drilled, but it was not productive. The Clarno post office was discontinued on Oct. 31, 1949.
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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