Shaniko - Wool
Capitol of the World
Wasco County, photo
Oregon Tourism Commission
area was first settled by a pioneer named August Scherneckau. Arriving
Civil War, Scherneckau bought a farm near the present site
of the town and when Indians pronounced his name as Shaniko,
the locality became known as such.
On the stage route from The Dalles to
the Scherneckau ranch soon became the site of a stage station. The first post office was established on May 23, 1879, with August Scherneckau as its first post master.
Officially called Cross Hollows for the local topography, the post
office lasted only eight years, closing on May 27, 1887.
In 1900, an official community was planned
and built by businessmen in The Dalles for the terminus of the
Columbia Southern Railroad. The station was to be utilized to
collect the enormous quantities of wool being produced in central
– a role, it continued to play into the 1940’s.
post office was established on March 31, 1900, and in the same year
the, Shaniko Hotel was built. First known as the Columbia Southern
Hotel, the structure was built with 18-inch thick walls and handmade
brick and is on the
National Register of Historic Places.
Also built in 1900 was the 10,000 gallon
wooden water tower. The water, pumped from nearby Cross Hollow
Canyon, was piped through a wooden pipe system and stored in two large
Within a year, two financiers from The Dalles,
B.F. Laughlin and W. Lord, constructed a huge wool warehouse in Shaniko, the
at the time. Shaniko quickly became a major trade center for the wool produced in
central and eastern
Shaniko School, photo by Lynn Ewing
The three-room Shaniko
School, built in 1901, housed kindergarten through high school students
until 1946. Over the years, it fell into disrepair but was restored
during the 1990’s and now serves as a community hall. It is one of
the most photographed old school buildings in the state of
It was also in 1901 that Shaniko was
officially incorporated. By that time the town had a bank, two
blacksmith shops, a two-story, city hall that included the fire station
and the jail, three hotels, two newspapers, a post office, five saloons,
two stores and many other structures. Church services were held in the
In 1903 Shaniko was
referred to as the "Wool Capital of the World” after three wool sales
brought in the largest total sale of wool on record to date. The next
year, sheep men sold an estimated five million dollars worth of wool to
buyers in Shaniko.
In the 1910 census, Shaniko
claimed a population of 600 and its future seemed assured. However,
in 1911 the
Trunk Railroad, linking Bend (70 miles to the south) to the Columbia
Gorge, began to draw business away from the more isolated Shaniko. Soon thereafter, a fire destroyed much of the downtown business district
and there were no funds to reconstruct the damaged buildings. Although
homesteaders, ranchers, and sheep men continued to reside in the area, Shaniko
began to fade.
Today, this almost
ghost town supports a population of just 20-25 people, but there is much to see
and many claim it is the best
ghost town in
enormous sheep sheds of that era still stand on the edge of town. Several
of its buildings are maintained in an Old West theme, complete with
authentic boardwalks and false fronts.
Still standing are the
old water tower, the City Hall complete with old jail, the school, and
post office. The Shaniko
Hotel is the town’s biggest attraction. Restored to its former
grandeur around 2000 by Robert Pamplin Jr., the hotel featured an antique shop, history of many of the
families who once lived in Shaniko, and
a café with home cooking that was said to the best in the area.
However, a Legends reader has alerted us to the fact that Pamplin wound up
in a water rights dispute with the town council, and now the Hotel is
closed again (as of 2009). Our reader also says that while the town
remains a historic destination worth seeing, there's no place to stay now
that the hotel is closed again, unless you are an RV'er or camper.
Livery Barn now stands as a museum featuring a number of antique cars in
their original state. Next door is the Shaniko Sage
Museum, also available to visitors. A number of antique and gift stores
have been established in the other historic buildings in the tiny downtown
district. These businesses appear to be open April through
The community of Shaniko is
located on Highway 97 in southern Wasco County, about 20 miles southeast
of Maupin and 70 miles north of Bend.
PO Box 17
of America, updated August 2013.
On the Road -
Oregon's Main Street: U.S. Highway 99
Sumpter - Queen
City Ghost Town
Fort Dalles -
Last Hurdle on the Oregon Trail
National Park - Gem of the Northwest
An Early Sketch
of Oregon (historic text)
Shaniko Hotel, photo by Lynn Ewing
From Legends' Photo Shop
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