Brownsmead Oregon (Ghost Town)

Brownsmead Oregon (Ghost Town)

Brownsmead was never a large important city like many other Oregon ghost towns such as Sumpter, Greenhorn or Shaniko.

The area was first settled by Finnish immigrants in the 1870 to 1880 time frame and perhaps even earlier. An exact date is not known, but a town named Brody was created. The Finnish immigrants tended to form tight knit communities along the lower Columbia River that were resistant to outsiders and thus not much is known about the community of Brody and it’s citizens. They contributed heavily to the salmon canning industry that grew several other nearby towns, but a cannery was never built here that we are aware of.

Timber no doubt played a part in the growth of the local economy as trees were cut down and floated down to the Columbia River on every local stream possible. Where it wasn’t possible, the streams were dredged, cleared, damned, and straightened. All this helped contribute heavily to the decrease in salmon population.

With the drastic reduction in Salmon due to over fishing in the 1880’s, a replacement industry was needed. In the 1910 time frame, a series of dikes and tide gates were built in the area by G. F. Brown, an Engineer from Portland. It’s not kown how he became interested in the project, but mostly likely it was on behalf of land speculators. A series of marshlands, wetlands and islands were soon connected together in one contiguous land mass. With river and ocean water now at bay, the rich soil left behind created extremely profitable farmland.

A post office was opened August 29th, 1919 with Fred C. Young as the first postmaster. The new post office name was changed by adding Brown’s name to the Anglo-Saxon word for “meadow.”

Brownsmead Oregon (Ghost Town)

The incorporation of the historic Spokane, Portland, and Seattle Railroad was announced at the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland by James J. Hill, builder of the Great Northern Rail Road in Seattle. His goal was to open up western Oregon and Portland to the Great Northern Rail Road.

By the 1930’s a spur line passing through Brownsmead from Portland to Astoria was well established. It carried mostly timber at this point, but no doubt also carried occasional goods and passengers. 1929 saw the first use of Log Trucks in the Brownsmead area which heralded the shift from shipping timber via rail to road.

In the 1930’s another set of dikes and tide gates were built to create more farmland. Brownsmead continued to slowly grow and became known as a good area for dairy farming. By this time the town was significantly inland and no longer dependent on salmon fishing.

The 1950’s saw the decline of Brownsmead. The automobile signaled the close of the local general store, and farm after farm closed until today only three large dairy farms remain. The post office was closed on October 23rd, 1964, and a rural post office called “Brownsmead RB of Clatskanie,” was in place until October 1st, 1975. “RB of Clatskanie” states that the Brownsmead Post Office was a rural extension of the Clatskanie Post Office.

A short lived passenger train passed through Brownsmead in 2002-2005 to commemorate the Lewis and Clark Expedition. After operations shutdown, a couple of nearby landslides closed the rail road perhaps permanently this time.

Brownsmead Oregon (Ghost Town)

The drive to Brownsmead from Highway 30 is a beautiful one. The nearby Lewis and Clark Wildlife Refuge hosts numerous water fowl and bald eagles. Fish are returning to the streams, dairy cattle dot the landscape. Today the most famous part of Brownsmead is it’s community band, “Brownsmead Flats,” who perform traditional and historic folk songs all across the Pacific Northwest.

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    • I miss the busy bustling of the sawmill towns above Brownsmead, like Bradwood,
      Wauna and Westport to name a few. They were great places to grow up!