Ghost town of Hardman Oregon

Ghost town of Hardman Oregon

The story of Hardman, Oregon in Morrow County really starts in the 1860’s. The huge grasslands were ignored by white men who were more interested in the Willamette Valley area, hunting beaver for their pelts, or the gold mines in the mountains. The Umatilla and Cayuse Indians most likely inhabited the area, or at least traveled through it. They also kept herds of thousands of horses all through this area. After the creation of Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Yakama Indian Reservation and the Nez Perce Reservations during The Treaty of June 9, 1855 the eastern Oregon plains were left wide open to settlers.

Eventually, the lush rye grass that supported huge herds of horses made the area attractive to herders of all type. The absence of Indians to cause problems over the loss of their lands made it a dream spot to raise cattle, horses and sheep. Perry Oller, George and Dick Stewart and Charles Miller were the first whites to raise start raising horses here. James Sperry, O.E. Farnsworth, and Frank Warrens raised sheep.

John F. Royse and his brother were one of, if not the first permanent farmers in the area. Soon afterwards Benjamin H. Parker, Peter Gleason, John H. Adams and Mrs. Nancy Johnson all settled in the area and the town of Dairyville was created. With the loss of range lands, citizens turned to other pursuits such as wheat and potato farming. Freight wagons and stage coaches started stopping here soon afterwards. For unknown reasons the town was nicknamed “Rawdog”

About a mile away the town of “Yaller Dog” or “Yellow Dog” as it’s been modernized too, sprung up. The two towns had a friendly rivalry going on, but eventually a formalized stage stop in Rawdog forced the two communities to join together into a new location named “Dogtown”.

John F. Royce was the first teacher at the new school in 1879. Dairyville reached it’s peak population during the 1880’s. With a population of 900 the town included a skating rink, two racetracks, a jailhouse, a dance hall, four stores, four hotels, four churches, a school and a newspaper. The jail was thought to be impregnable until it was knocked over one Halloween and burned down the next.

In 1881, David N. Hardman moved from his homestead into town. He was the postmaster and had the post office named after himself. The move of the post office into town forced officials to rename the town from Dogtown to Hardman.

1960's picture of Hardman Post Office and general store

By 1882 the center of town was formed by George Loutrelle’s Blacksmith shop and few houses, and the Kahler Brother’s general store. This later building is still standing and has become the town hall and home to the Hardman Historical Society.

Morrow County was created on February 15, 1884 from parts of Wasco County and the western part of Umatilla County after Jackson Morrow joined the Oregon Congress and made the proposal. The new county was of course named after him.

Hardman’s doom came in 1888. Long rumored to be the favorite, a change to the location of the train station to the county seat of Heppner. This no doubt devastated the residents, and it meant that the town would not continue to grow. The Heppner-Canyon City Stageline would continue to serve the town for twenty-five cents a ride, according to an 1900’s ad in E.M. Shutt’s newspaper publishing “The Hardman Homestead.”

27 February 1901 John F. Royce married Augusta Madden and was reported as having a general store named J.F. Royse & Sons in 1902. During this era the town saw another growth spurt as farmers came to farm the rich soil.

But by the 1920’s Hardman was on it’s decline. Between a lack of promised irrigation in the area, the Great Depression, and then World War II, the town never had a chance to recover and the last store was closed in 1968.

Hardman still has about thirty full time residents and another 20 part time residents. Since 2007 it’s seen some revival as a tourist Ghost Town.

Colonel William Parsons thoughts about Hardman in 1902

Pictures of “Modern” Hardman

Ghost Town Gallery

3 Responses to “Ghost town of Hardman Oregon

  • I actually own property there, purchased by father, Tom Hardman, on a whim. We are not related to David N. Hardman, the founder.

  • Hi, Ann,
    I am the Secretary of the Hardman Community Center. We are doing some preseservation work on the Hall currently and are looking for pictures of the original front of the building-would you happen to have any?
    CJ Smythe
    [email protected]

    • Hi CJ,

      I am working on a grant funded project highlighting off-the-beat-path, mysterious, and obscure Eastern Oregon histories. We are looking for Morrow County local lore and unique stories to include on a self-guided itinerary. The final product will drive local cultural tourism.

      Couple questions-

      – Do any Morrow County / Hardman stories come to mind given our focus? Or can you point me to a person(s) to talk to about this?



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