Silver Lake is gateway to Oregon desert
Silver Lake is a community located on the High Desert in south Central Oregon. The community was first a focal point for early ranching activities and later became a supply point for the great homestead rush to the region after the turn of the 20th century. A post office was established at Silver Lake on Dec. 9, 1875. It was named for the ancient Silver Lake located nearby. The site of the present community was the homestead site of H. F. West.
A store was established by J.P. Roberts in a log building in 1885. A hotel soon followed in 1886 along with a feed barn for visitors traveling by horseback or wagon. A second store was constructed in the fall of 1886. The population began to grow, and it was determined that there was a need for a school and subscriptions were raised to build a school. The first classes to be held at the school had 15 students.
A frontier saloon soon followed in the development scheme of the community. Freight wagons from The Dalles to Prineville and then on to Lakeview stopped at Silver Lake. It became a busy freight stop on the main wagon road known as the Prineville/Silver Lake/Lakeview route.
The town of Silver Lake was platted on Oct. 19, 1888, by H. F. West and his wife Emogene. The surveyed site consisted of 15 blocks. A blacksmith shop was established that same year. The town had grown to about 50 people by 1894. It was a lively community when a tragic fire started in the upper floor of the Chrisman Store on Christmas 1894. A dance and social gathering took place on the upper floor and nearly 170 people had gathered from several miles around for a celebration. The fire trapped many people and 43 perished in the blaze. The catastrophe devastated the community. After the fire population did not grow very rapidly but it continued to serve as a trading center for the vast surrounding country. Through the years the importance of the community has declined but it still remains a viable center for many activities.
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