The extraordinary logging town of Maxville was created in 1923 by the Bowman-Hicks Lumber Company out of Missouri. Originally known as Logging Camp #5 near Wallowa, it gained new titles as the camp grew. Called Mac’s Town after the first camp boss, it grew to a small town and renamed itself Maxville. Rather than draw workers from the Pacific Northwest, this southern company recruited loggers from the South. Unusual for the times, many of these timber workers were African Americans, even though state law excluded many people of color from living in Oregon.
Maxville was the most populous town in Wallowa County in 1923. It had a whopping 400 people - some 40 to 60 of whom were African Americans. The town was racially mixed but certainly not racially integrated. Maxville was a heavily segregated town in the southern Jim Crow style. Residents were mandated to live in separate parts of town, divided by race and marital status.
Logging jobs were also split up by worker ethnicity. African Americans felled trees with crosscut saws, worked as log loaders, log cutters, railroad builders, tong hookers and black section foremen. A population of Greek immigrants built railroads for the town, while native born Anglo-Americans served as white section foremen, tree toppers, saw filers, truck drivers, and bridge builders.
In keeping with Jim Crow standards, Maxville educated its children separately. The town had two schoolhouses at either end. One was for white students, and the other for black students. Maxville also boasted two racially segregated baseball teams. These two normally played against each other but combined for tournaments with other towns.
Maxville’s sudden creation proved a boon for farmers and other northeast country-dwelling Oregonians. The needs of the town, especially for food, brought a number of extra jobs for locals and fresh goods for Maxville. Unfortunately, the jobs did not last. When the Great Depression hit and lumber sales fell, the Bowman-Hicks Lumber Company cut its losses and closed the town in 1933. After the town shut down, its African American families dispersed. Some sought other manual labor jobs in Oregon, others went south to take logging jobs in California. Today, virtually nothing survives from this once thriving community.
More Maxville Photos
Maxville loggers pose for a company photo in 1926. (Courtesy of Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center)
Black and white residents of Maxville pose for a photo entitled "Friendships say no to Jim Crow." (Courtesy of Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center)