Looking Down Fourth Street from the East in the Early 1900's
As the five transcontinental railroad systems opened the United States to enormous economic growth from 1862 - 1893, the spur called “The Columbia Southern Railway” would open the eastern interior of Oregon for easier more profitable business. Papers were filed by the railroad company in 1897 to run track from the Columbia River at Biggs to a high grassland spot above the old stage stop of Cross Hollows. This was only to be a temporary terminus location and was decidedly named Shaniko.
Cross Hollows was operated by second owner, August Scherneckau from 1874-1887. He was well liked by the Indians, who could not pronounce his German name correctly. They called him 'Shaniko', thus the name chosen for the new and promising city. The Townsite Company bought the land from the third owner for $3,500 in 1899 as the railroad continued to lay track down through Sherman County. The Townsite Co. platted the town into thirty blocks. On May 13, 1900, the first train arrived to a few buildings and the tents that were pitched all over for the 170 or so people living in the infant town. The first wooden building built, a saloon, was operational.
Unfortunately, the railroad tracks could not to go any further than Shaniko due to terrain issues and the great railroad race of Harriman and Hill built tracks from the Columbia River along the Deschutes River, headed to Bend from 1908 to 1911. This put an end to the trek many grain farmers and livestock ranchers from the south previously made to Shaniko. The city, however, continued to meet many needs while approaching the slow decline. Most of the business district perished in a major fire in 1911; some never to be rebuilt. The people moved away, a few taking their homes with them. Though the railroad stopped service to Shaniko in 1942, people continued to live in the town.
Shaniko, Oregon is still classified as a Ghost Town even though people still live there. Once a place of legitimate community and commerce, it now survives as a shadow of its former existence. Ghost towns are categorized into three types: one still inhabited, one deserted, and one known only by the ground it once occupied.
With new interest in historic places in the 1960's, economic life began a slow revival. Today, the West lives on in Shaniko, as the community sees restorative changes and hosts events put on by the the City of Shaniko, Shaniko Chamber of Commerce and the Shaniko Preservation Guild. It’s a nice place to stay or just stretch your legs. The sunsets are beautiful and the sky can take you back a hundred years.