Ghost Town of Airlie Oregon
Airlie was the southern-most station of the narrow gauge railroad owned by the Oregon Railway Company, LTD. It was named for the Earl of Airlie of Scotland, who was president of the company. The railroad reached Airlie in September 1881 but financial difficulties with the company kept it from expanding further.
An post office headed by Joseph A. Dalton was established here on September 5th, 1882. The first iteration of it lasted just under a year and a half. The office was closed on February 11th, 1884. A new location was found for it and it reopened on September 14th, 1885.
The Oregon Railway Company was acquired by Southern Pacific in 1890 and soon after the railroad was converted to standard gauge tracks. Small amounts of wheat and passengers were its main exports.
The 1908 version of Polk’s Oregon & Washington Gazetteer listed the businesses in Airlie. They were two general merchandise stores, a meat market, Hoffman & Jamieson’s Warehouse, and Norton, Wiley & Son, Hop growers. The 1915 version doesn’t even mention those businesses, merely a daily “stage” to Wren for 50 cents. Even the railroad station was slow enough that it was also the Wells, Fargo & Company’s express service and the Postal Telegraph office. The Station Master even ran all three.
By the 1900s even that traffic was so small that the railroad’s business consisted of a single gas powered self propelled rail car. It was a custom built car by the Independence & Monmouth Railroad who held the contract to provide service along the line. It made twice daily trips to Monmouth and Dalles. There is no mention if this is the “daily” stage mentioned in the Gazetteer though.
Mennonite Farmers moved to the area in 1913 and built a church in 1914. Ten years later it was closed. The Mennonites had moved on due to “poor soil conditions.” The railroad line was abandoned in 1927 and almost completely torn out by 1929.
In “In Search of Wester Oregon“, Ralph Friedman writes of “Airlie, in land at ease with nature. Named for the Scottish Earl of Airlie, town was S terminus of narrow gauge line of Oregonian Railway Co., Ltd., of which Earl was president. Later, tracks acquired by SP RR but no rails now. In 1915 Airlie was a right lively burg, with HS and PS, Grange, several lodges, church, businesses, pop.100. All gone.”
For those interested, the Cole Brother’s Circus apparently still exists as the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus
Camp Adair was established in 1941. From what I can tell, it looks like the main road through town was the western edge of the Camp’s land. This spared the nearby cemetery and the general store, but appears to have taken out all the buildings on the east side of the road. (An fate that nearby Tampico did not share) The Post Office was closed on June 15th, 1943 and never reopened. Even after the Camp was disbanded in 1946 and the farm land reclaimed.
The above picture in 1963 is the last evidence of the General Store and Gas Station. I believe it was located on the corner of Airlie Road Maxfield Creek Road, but there isn’t much visually to confirm that. If you know for sure, or know when it was torn down, please comment below.
If you know any more history about Airlie, or have recollections of living there. Please comment below!