Booth-Kelly Company Ghost Town – Wendling Oregon
Name: Wendling Oregon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Suggested Reading about Wendling:
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.