Booth-Kelly Company Ghost Town – Wendling Oregon

Name: Wendling Oregon

Class: B3

GPS:Latitude: 44.1904044, Longitude: -122.7984142

Directions: From Portland, drive south on I-5. Take Highway Exit 216 to OR-228, turn left towards Brownsville. At eleven miles, just past Crawfordsville (you’ll see the Crawfordsville Covered Bridge on right,) take a right on Brush Creek Road. After six miles the road becomes Marcola Rd and goes through the Mohawk Valley. Six miles further take a left on to Paschekle Road. Go through the Earnest Covered Bridge then stay right on Paschelke Road. The road will come to a “T” take the left on to Wendling Road. Just under two miles the road circles the old Wendling Mill Site. The Wendling Covered Bridge is on the left. To the right and then left is the old mill pond site where most of these pictures were taken.

Description:

Wendling Oregon was a company Mill Town built by the Booth-Kelly Lumber Company in the Mohawk Valley about 20 miles Northeast of Eugene Oregon. At it’s height it had a population of about 1000 people, half of which worked at Booth-Kelly’s Wendling Mill. The hills around the area were populated by hundreds more men living in logging camps that fed the Wendling Mill and Springfield Mill.

Booth-Kelly Company Ghost Town - Wendling Oregon

The first mill in the area was owned by a man named Holcomb who built it at the junction of Mill and Wolf Creeks. In 1885 Whitbeck and Sterns purchased the mill, operated it for a short time before selling to Johnson and George Wendling. They operating it for a few years before selling to George Kelly, Tom Kelly, and Robert Booth in 1898. These men had formed the Booth-Kelly Lumber Company and immediately set about “modernizing” the mill.

Booth-Kelly Company Ghost Town - Wendling Oregon

The town grew so fast that an Post Office was established in 1899. In October of 1900, the Springfield-Wendling branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad was built to Wendling. This allowed timber and lumber to be shipped by train instead of wagon and allowed output to be increased even further. It is reported that the line was extended another 25 miles up the valley where trains brought timber to the mill from remote logging camps.

Booth-Kelly Company Ghost Town - Wendling Oregon

In 1903 the Southern Pacific Railroad announced that they would no longer sell land grants to individuals after realizing how much potential profit timber profit there was in the lands they owned. This was in conflict of the Pacific Railroad Acts enacted by Congress in 1862 and 1863. The Federal Government filed suit against the Southern Pacific Railroad, causing operations to cease. Because of this Booth-Kelly was shut down in 1904 as they could no longer transport logs or lumber. The mill was able to open again two years later after the lawsuit was resolved and by 1908 had grown yet again.

Booth-Kelly Company Ghost Town - Wendling Oregon

In August 1910 most of the town was destroyed by fire. The mill itself was saved, but most everything else had to be rebuild. Less then a year later the town featured larger houses with indoor plumbing. Before that the town consisted of a bunk-house with 46 rooms and electricity, a company store, cottages for married men and their families, an church, a school, a resident doctor, locomotive barn, machine shop, blacksmith shop, train depot, bowling alley, barber shop, and an skating rink.

Booth-Kelly Company Ghost Town - Wendling Oregon

Ghost Town of Wendling, Oregon

Booth-Kelly Company Ghost Town - Wendling Oregon

Ghost Town of Wendling, Oregon

The roads in Wendling were interesting, they were covered with left over sawdust from the mill. Later they were replaced with discarded and left over planks from the mill, along with wood-slat sidewalks.

The mill saw another fire in 1922, but was able to stay in business until 1946. The closing was prompted by a labor dispute, before a third and final fire that destroyed the building. This signed the death warrant for Wendling as any remaining timber was too far away to be financially viable. The Post Office closed in 1952, and the land sold to the Georgia Pacific Corporation in 1959.

Booth-Kelly Company Ghost Town - Wendling Oregon

One of Wendling’s most engaging residents was Opal Whiteley, who as a child had kept a diary of her adventures in a fantasyland composed of the trees, beasts, and wild flowers populated by fairies. Opal claimed to be an illegitimate child of French aristocracy who was either purchased or adopted as a replacement by her mother who had “lost” the original Opal.

The book of her life, complied by Opal herself, and launched as a serial in the Atlantic Monthly Press in 1920 ended up selling three editions and 15,000 copies in less then a year. By 1921, the Story of Opal was pulled from shelves due to the controversy surrounding Opal’s life.

Not much is left of Modern Wendling. A few older houses, the covered bridge, and the memories of residents lay among the ghosts of the mill. Concrete remains mark the final location of the mill, the general store, and the third spillway dam. There are rumors of the remains of a playground, and the children’s cemetery on the hill. But the road up is closed to traffic other then logging trucks. Other then these remains, the forest is slowly taking over the town again.

More Information:

http://thewendlingproject.wordpress.com/

http://wendling.weebly.com/31.html

http:[email protected]/with/3609413885/

http://wendling.weebly.com/index.html

Suggested Reading about Wendling:

A history of the Mohawk Valley and early lumbering” by Louis E Polley

Lane County (Oregon): An Illustrated History of the Emerald Empire by Dorothy Velasco

To get to Wendling, drive east along 126 from Eugene. Take 42nd Street Exit and turn left. Turn right on Marcola road. In the town of Marcola, take Wendling road on the right. You’ll come to a “Y” in the road. On the left will be the Wendling Covered Bridge. Straight ahead is the old mill site. The road circles around the entire mill site and comes back to the “Y.” Please pay attention to the “No Trespassing signs.” As far as I can tell the mill site itself is open, but some of the logging roads are marked as it private property around it.

Leave a Reply

  1. These are great photos. I think I have at least one or two of the same, from when I visited just after graduating college a few years ago (I’m from Eugene). Thanks for all the extra history of the area… reading this blog makes me feel more connected to home.

  2. Could someone give me the location for the playground and the children’s cemetery? I’ve gone back several times trying to locate either or hopefully both without any luck. I live about 70+ miles from Wending and would really like to find them so I can take pictures. Any help would be GREATLY appreciated. Thank you in advance. Lance

    • Hi Lance, thank you for stopping by. Both are up on the hill, behind the locked gates. You’ll need to get permission from the lumber company to go up there.

      • They’re open on weekends right now. Probably for hunting season. So I thought if I get another chance soon I’d head back down. I also talked to one of the logging crew and he gave me the name of the site manager. So any directional help or specific GPS coordinates would be great. I think I was in the right area for the playground this last week-end. I found what I think is the backstop for a baseball diamond and also an old wood slab bench. Very humbling as you walk through the woods knowing that a thriving community once stood here. Kind of like Valsetz. Although there’s even less of Valsetz left.

        • We went hiking up there on mothers day if you walk up the logging road when it splits stay to the left walk up the hill it will split again stay to the left again walk half maybe 100ft and head into the woods to the left its in there I took pics and a video I ask admit to add on this page awesome area too bad the growth is fastly taking over there is suncken areas in the chain area like where holes were dug for bureal could not find head stones tho.

  3. My Great Grandfather and Grandfather both worked for Booth Kelly, both engineers on Number 2. My grandfather starting in the mill. Each living in Wendling with their families. My grandfather worked there until it closed. They and family members buried in the cemetary there.

  4. I was born at Wendling in 1933, No. 7 of 9 children. My Dad, and three older brothers worked for Booth-Kelly Lumber Co. But the mill closed in 1945, and the company-owned town was gone within 5 years. Otherwise I probably would have retired at the mill. Maybe not. Lyle Love and I were the only two 8th grade graduates in 1947, and we went on to Mohawk High in Marcola. Folks who grew up in Wendling keep in touch, but we are getting fewer each year. Wayne

  5. I was born in 1930. Also grew up there. Dad and uncle worked at the mill. Please email with folks of my same age. Would love to reconnect.

    • Audrey,
      Dad (Loyal) and mom still live here alongside me (they are in the parsonage and I am in the old Matteson house/last postoffice). Would love to connect and hear your stories of Wendling.

  6. I have a picture book I am trying to find a good home for. It was published by the Booth-Kelly Lumber Company in 1956 (I believe). Do you know of anyone who might be interested?

    • Hello Jamie, I am very interested in it and sharing it with members of my family and any others. My mom was Mary Elizabeth Prescott Booth, The mill was my grandfathers and his partner Kelly. my phone number is 707-953-1526. Please call me if you will. Thank you, Bill Isaak

      • Hello Bill! Thank you for stopping by! Do you have any stories, or pictures of the mill you’d be interested in sharing?

        • Hi Rick, Let me check into the archives and get acquainted with all of this. I bet I have lots of info, stories etcetra I can dig up between my cousins and such. I would love to hear from you also!
          I will be in touch. Please do not hesitate to email me as I am a contractor at the busiest time of the busiest year ever. I am hard to pin down right now.

          But Rick, nice to meet you!

          • Hi Bill, My grandfather, a brother, sister’s and their mother all lived and worked there. I know they were there in 1920 due to the census. I am working on genealogy and was wondering if there is any chance you have information in your archives on past employees. A second cousin and I have been trying to piece some info together for the family and believe the records may give us a missing piece.

            ****Ernest Batty (my grandfather)- Age 22 worked as a Choke setter in lumber camp. He got his start as a logger there. After leaving Wendling he continued logging in Coos County, Oregon until retirement.

            ****Clyde Batty (great uncle) – Age 24 worked as laborer in logging mill. He also continued in Coos County, Oregon.

            ****Mary Elmina (Mina) Batty or Jackson (Great Grandma) My mother says her grandma worked as a cook in one of the logging camps with the girls (daughter and step daughter) helping. In the 1920 census she shows her last name as Jackson and none for occupation. We are not sure she was legally married to Jackson before he passed. However as the Jackson children’s parents along with all other family members passed we believe she might have just used his last name in order to keep the kids with her so the state wouldn’t take them. We can not find a divorce from her previous husband Batty who was still alive. I am hoping something in the file might answer this question.

            ***Pearl Batty(great aunt)- Age 15. Census states none as occupation. My mother says she worked in logging camp helping her mother who was the cook.

            ****Geo Jackson (Great uncle?) – Age 19. Donkey Engineer in Logging camp. Great grandma was raising him and his sister along with my grandfather and his siblings.

            ****Mable Jackson (Great Aunt?) Age 15. Occupation listed as none. Mom says she helped in the camp.

            Any information is appreciated. I love learning all of this stuff.

            Lorita Willard-Cushman

  7. My Grandfather, Francis Millsie (F.M.) Snyder, worked for Booth-Kelly back in 1928. My father, Millsie Everett Snyder was born in the camp on May 19th, 1928…..

    .I would be interested to know what kind of job my Grandpa held during those years he was there.

    Recently, my sisters and I took a road trip to Wendling. (we live just west of Eugene)

    We drove the circle. Tried to get up the hill, but the gate was closed.

    Could someone tell me who I could contact for permission to see more of the sights of this place.

    We were so connected to this little piece of heaven as our Dad passed away in 1978 at the age of 50. my e/mail address is [email protected] (Please note that freeebird has 3 e’s in it ) Thanks so much !!!

    Also, does anyone know of an old married couple named (George????) McCaulley or McCullah that lived up that way either in the Wendling area or more north of the Wendling Rd. back in the late 1950’s/early 60’s ????

    My Dad logged up that way and visited the old couple a couple of times. I would love to revisit the area and maybe have a picnic with my sisters.

    I recall going across a wooden bridge to the right of the road we were on and the road eventually veered through pastures on both sides and the old homestead straight ahead then the road went left a ways and then started a bit up a small hill and wound around. It was summer time and the road had no gravel on it.

    I recall we spent a whole summer up in there, camping in a camp trailer.

    Snyder Bros. Logging Co. was my Dad’s and Uncle’s co.

    I also recall a bit of a pond less than 200 yds. from where we had our trailer,( parked under a huge old maple tree)….. that we used to “fish” in. Seemed to be mostly salamanders and turtles. It was all fenced off. I think for cattle??? Would sure be grateful and very appreciative to know and to find where this place is.

    Sorry this is so long, but we have spend a whole day trying to find this place.

    • I never even heard of Wendling, Oregon. I just happened to see something on the internet that made me do a search. I am Mark Wendling from Michigan and now I want to visit this old lumber town. I am from a pretty large family as my dad was one of 12 and am going to check with some of my relatives to see if they have any knowledge or traced any relatives from that part of the country. Thanks for sharing with me

      • The town was named for George X. Wendling, the multi-millionaire investor from San Francisco, California. He invested about half a million in the Booth-Kelly Lumber company, so they named the town after him (the original main street was named Buck Street,after F. H. Buck from Vacaville, Cal who invested 250,000). There is a town in Northern California also named Wendling for the same reason. To the best of our documents George X. Wendling only visited the town twice for a total of five days to tour his investment.

  8. I have just came across a Wendling,Oregon : Booth -Kelly Memorial Whistle
    Hand made by Roger W, ‘Bud’ Hall
    Train Whistle with air chamber and 4 whistles
    A Baldwin Mallet 2-6-6-2 split tank articulated mogul.
    Sounds great ! a true Train Whistle sound as heard in the Lumber Camp from 1910-1946
    ‘2-Spot’
    I need to know the value, or if interested in pictures please contact me. Thanks.Chuck
    [email protected]

  9. I LOVE THE OLD “POWERHOUSE” I HAVE FORTUNATELY BEEN SCHOOLED ON A LOT OF THE HISTORY OF WENDLING AND I AM STILL LEARNING ABOUT IT. WENDLING IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE “HOOSAW” SPOTS..WHERE I GO FOR PEACE. IVE FOUND THE OLD PLAYGROUND, THE ONLY THING LEFT IS THE CORNER OF THE BASEBALL DIAMOND AND WHERE THE EARTH WAS WORN DOWN BY THE MERRY GO ROUND. SUCH COOL HISTORY…….

  10. Went hiking up wendling for mothers day we found the cemetery can’t figure out how to add pics

  11. I’m not sure if you’re interested in this small fact, but Jimmie Angel, discoverer of the world’s tallest water, Angel Falls, Venezuela, also lived in Wendling from 1910 to 1916. His father, Glenn, was employed as a foreman at the lumber mill and was instrumental in squelching the fire of 1910. I’m writing the Biography of James Crawford Angel at this time and nearing a submission/proposal. I’m going to eb citing your page in the biography, as it has helped me nail down some questionable dates about when the Angel family arrived there. I’m wondering if you may have any information about Weldon Cooke visiting the Eugene fairgrounds in 1914. Apparently Angel visited the fairgrounds during this time and actually flew with Cooke. The pioneer aviator became his mentor-hero, and kept a postcard of Cooke flying over Mt. Tamalpais in his airplane until his death. Might you anything ab out this? I’d prefer email. Could you contact me at [email protected]? Thanks so much. Lee F. Eversole.
    .

    • Good morning Lee! I don’t know much about the Angel family or Weldon Cooke, but perhaps some of the other readers might! When your book gets published, please let us know here so I can link to it!

  12. If anyone is interested in Wendling, or Mohawk Valley History, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]. I still live in Wendling as does my father who was born in Wendling 1929. For general information you can see my Flickr page at http:[email protected]/. I live in the house with the red door pictured above. I am willing to give local tours and walking trips to the cemetery outside of fire season (Weyerhaeuser is closed to hiking during fire season).
    A couple of corrections to the post.
    The Post Office was closed in 1953, Alice Matteson was the last postmistress.
    The Booth-Kelly Mill operation was not shut down between 1904 and 1906 as noted above, other than for maintenance on the mill or pond dam.
    Wendling’s highest population was about 2500.
    Holcomb owned a mill here, but not at the mouth of Wolf Creek. (See survey on my Flickr page). His brother-in-law Jordan operated the mill, while Holcomb farmed. This was in the 1870s. Whitbeck started his mill in 1874 and after an arson fire, built a steam powered mill near the site the defunct Holcomb and Jordan mill in 1876. Whitbeck sold out to his timber suppliers, Stearns and Pattee in 1885. It changed hands multiple times before being purchased and torn down by Booth-Kelly in October, 1899.
    When the original BK mill was built, the saws and machinery came from the John Yost mill on Wolf Creek that they purchased, boilers from an Excelsior mill on Brietenbrush creek and several new boilers were ordered. They did not use any parts of the Harshberger mill (the last owner of the Whitbeck mill) for their mill, which was built upstream of that property.
    Booth-Kelly was an established company in southern Oregon with offices in Mexico City and Denver, Colorado when they came to Wendling in 1899.
    The description of the town and fire is way off, too much to list here. Only fourbuildings survived the fire. The store, the Holcomb house on the end of Buck Street (renamed C row after the fire) and two houses.
    The railroad began construction in late 1899. It was completed and the first train ran to Wendling on September 4, 1900.

    • Hello Jay, thanks for stopping by and adding some very useful information to the record! I do need to push back on one point, the official Postal Records state that the Post office was closed on November 15th, 1952 and moved to Marcola. But I am not familiar with how post offices worked in those days, so I can see Alice Matteson running an unofficial connection for a few months until people got used to the change.

  13. Hello,
    My name is Renee Russell Miller. My father’s family were in Thurston and Eugene back in the day.
    I have a quilt top (unfinished quilt) with the names and birth cities of 30 women on it. I know some of them lived in Wendling, according to the 1930 census. Christina Sauer, born in Norka, Russia and Lula Fisher, born in Cottage Grove, Oregon are two I know have a Wendling connection.
    I am interested in finding out if any more of the women have a connection to the town, and am happy to find your wonderful collection of photos from a time gone by.