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Maxville project honors Oregon's African-American loggers
Bowman-Hicks Lodge - the remaining structure in Maxville - July 2010 ODF photo
 
February 8, 2011
Contact:   Kevin Weeks
(503) 945-7427
 
Only one structure still proves that the Wallowa County community of Maxville existed in the early 20th century. The town’s history – especially its role in the early history of Oregon’s African-American community – is being preserved through a dedicated group of volunteers.
 
The town of Maxville – population 400 - was built in 1923 by the Bowman-Hicks Lumber Company twelve miles north of Wallowa as housing for logging workers and their families, many of whom were brought from the southern United States to work in Wallowa County’s forests.
 
Forty to sixty people brought to Oregon by the company were African-American.

Maxville children playing together in the snow; photo courtesy Maxville Heritage
Maxville children playing in the snow together
Life in Maxville was far from idyllic; the town’s housing and schools were segregated, and for the majority of the town’s African-American residents housing consisted of rail boxcars without running water. Maxville’s African-American residents lived in housing across the railroad tracks from the white residents, and during the time the town was under Bowman-Hicks leadership, children attended Oregon’s only segregated school.
 
Despite the challenges and adversity, residents of Maxville did also play together, watching the town’s baseball team play in the ball field constructed west of the company headquarters. The normally segregated Maxville baseball team did integrate to take on teams from the towns of Promise, Wallowa and points further in an effort to win games.
 
The Great Depression caught up to Maxville in 1933 and Bowman-Hicks operation of the town closed. Many residents moved away, but some who fell in love with the Wallowa region stayed, in many cases moving homes from Maxville into nearby Wallowa. The last residents of the town stuck it out until the mid-1940s when a massive snowstorm brought down most remaining buildings in the town.
 
The only structure remaining at Maxville today is the large cabin built by Bowman-Hicks to serve as the company’s headquarters.
 

Maxville Heritage - preserving the Maxville story
Picture of Maxville site - July 2010 ODF photo
Maxville site, once home to 400 people in Wallowa County
 
A preservation effort for Maxville is underway, led by Gwen Trice, whose father moved to Maxville in 1924. Following a lengthy career in communications work in Seattle, Trice returned to Wallowa County and established the Maxville Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) cultural heritage organization to help ‘save the story’ of Maxville.
 
Maxville Heritage maintains an office in Wallowa but work is underway with the federal government to transfer the former U.S. Forest Service compound in Wallowa to the group to serve as an interpretive center telling the contribution of Maxville to Oregon’s history. Oregon’s congressional delegation in 2011 introduced legislation directing the Forest Service to transfer the former USFS compound to the city of Wallowa for the purpose of establishing the Maxville Heritage Center.
 
The Maxville site is on private forest land owned and maintained by Forest Capital Partners.
 
The Enterprise, Oregon visitor center about Maxville is located at 106 South River Street / Phone: 541-886-3670.

Links to more information about Maxville
 
Maxville Heritage Foundation 
 
Oregon Public Broadcasting documentary about Maxville – The Logger’s Daughter
 
OHS exhibit - Perseverance: Black Pioneers in Early Oregon