Monday, July 7, 2008

Flora, Oregon--ghost town

Stella and I were recently in Enterprise, Oregon visiting Stella's mom and some of her family. One of the things we wanted to do was visit Flora, a "town" about 40 miles North of Enterprise and about ten miles from the Washington border. My brother, Roger, joined with us for that little expedition to explore the area where my Grandma Jessie Shumate (Botts) grew up with her parents and seven siblings. The last time we were there was when my family went there in 1964 to visit my Uncle George, who was still living in the old family home. The town wasn't much then, and is even less now. In fact, after the post office shut down in 1966, the town became un-incorporated. It is officially a ghost town now. Anyway, the purpose of our expedition was to see what was left of the town, see if we could find where the Botts homestead was, and check out the cemetery for grave sites of ancestors.


On the way to Flora, there was a beautiful viewpoint of Joseph Canyon. I would guess the canyon is 2000 feet deep and was the winter home of Chief Joseph. He would go down into the canyon every winter, where it was warmer. He couldn't figure out why the homesteaders would stay up on the plateau in the winter, where it was so cold. The homesteaders, in turn, couldn't figure out where the Indians went every winter. This photo in no way shows the grandeur of the canyon. I dislike the word "awesome," so I will say that it was awe-inspiring.


The first thing that Roger, Stella, & I did was to visit the cemetery. The Flora Cemetery is overgrown with all sorts of vegetation, and is very small, about the size of a football field. It was established in 1891 when a frontiersman donated a corner of his homestead for the cemetery.




















These are the headstones of my great-grandfather and great- grandmother. It was quite a reverent feeling to be at the graves of so many of my ancestors. To think of what they went through was very humbling. It was a good feeling to know that their temple work has been done and that I will one day have the opportunity to personally thank them for their lives.


After the cemetery, we went on the hunt for Uncle George's place. We went down some little dirt roads that seemed to go nowhere. Actually, we were in the middle of nowhere, which explains roads going nowhere. The old homestead was not where we thought it was, but I'm guessing it collapsed some time ago. However, we did find the Lost Prairie School (pictured above). It was built in 1910 and opened with a total of six students! The building off to the left is the wood shed. We found many similar one-room school buildings out in the middle of obscure fields. Most, like this one, had metal roofs on them and are now being used as storage buildings by the owners of their property.

We then went back to Flora to "take in the sights." Here are a few of them.

The Flora (Methodist) Church. It was built in 1896

A couple of old houses located on what used to be Main Street



1908 Blacksmith shop of Durwood Conley (the husband of my grandmother's sister)

It was quite a unique experience to go to a place which remains pretty much the same as when my ancestors lived there. It helped me to appreciate their lives just a little bit more and the legacy they left. I hated to leave there, but at least I have the knowledge that if I travel there again, the town will pretty much be the same.

14 comments:

Helena said...

That would be a cool place to take pictures! The old weathered buildings are fascinating.

lebowski said...

My great grandmother's family homesteaded in Paradise and her mother taught school at both the Troy and Flora schools. Several years ago I visited the Flora Cemetery, two of my grandma's siblings died at a young age and are buried there. Your pictures of the area are fantastic, it is truly a beautiful area. When I visited I was struck by how much the pioneers that settled in this area endured. Thank you for sharing these photos. I have a great book on the pioneers of this area, would have to dig it out of the attic to see the title and author, but was available in the Joseph area. Feel free to drop me an email. Scott

Sam Day said...

My great, great grandfather Theodore B. Day homesteaded there in 1882. Not in town, but a little north, looking over the valley. Any Days in your family?

Sam Day said...

My great, great grandfather Theodore B. Day homesteaded there in 1882. Not in town, but a little north, looking over the valley. Any Days in your family?

Jackie Fordice said...

Beautiful photos!! I remember visiting that area 20 years ago, and have a photo very similar to the one you have of the old school. My husbands father Harold Stanton Fordice went to that very school. I have a photo of him and his brothers and some members of the Doke family who went there in the 20's. Most the Fordice family are buried at the old cemetery in Lost Prairie. I have been working on the Fordice tree, I will have
to see if you are related, everyones names sound so familiar,I have probably seen them many times many times on census while researching the family tree.

miss priss said...

My husbands mother went to school in Flora. She was born in 1918 in Promise or Flora. Still having a discussion on that. My husband's birth certificate says Enterprise, but I remember "Grandma" saying she was born in either Flora or Promise. Did you find anything concerning Promise in your travels?

miss priss said...

My husband's grandmother was a school teacher as well, but I believe she taught at Asotin, WA.

Keith Mathews said...

THe history of the "Northend" is one of a hard pioneer's life. The grass was 5' tall when my ancestors showed up in the later 1800's. If you are a history buff, Bear Creek Press (www.bearcreekpress.com) has some fascinating very small books on life in Flora, Troy, and so on--a couple tell about my ancestors the Berners and Austins.

Anonymous said...

My grandparents, the Casteels and Eddlemons, homesteaded in the Flora area on Day Ridge. We have been back several times to locate the homestead area and visit their graves at the Flora cemetery. An interesting event each summer is the Flora School Days in July, I think...lots going on that take you back to the olden days. Beautiful country but from looking at some of my grandparents photos, the winters were pretty severe.

Anonymous said...

Going to a funeral in just a couple of hours to bury my father-in-law, AL Buzzard. Were going through some albums and wondered where Flora was and found out his grandpa was the first postmaster there. Also found a picture of the house he was born in in Flora. Think we might take a trip there to explore.

Anonymous said...

Love the comments here. We are the owners of the Lost Prairie School - in our family since we bought other acreage in 1978. We are slowly preserving/restoring the old school, and progress has been good.

We would GREATLY appreciate any insight and stories on those who taught at the Lost Prairie School, went to school there, or who might have copies of old images of the place. It means a lot to us, and to those on the North End...

I am a writer for The Sacramento Bee in Sacramento, and may do a story on our adventures in the North End for the Wallowa County Chieftain (where I got my start in journalism in high school in 1983)...

Joe Davidson
jdavidson@sacbee.com

Anonymous said...

My Great grandparents homesteaded just North of Flora and are buried in the cemetery there in Flora. There name's where Rudolph and Bertha Bork. My Dad was born there in 1917, His name is Ivan R. Bork. When grandpa [ Ira H. Bork] grew up he bought a place on Day Ridge and that is where my dad and all his siblings grew up.
Jan. 15, 2014
Ivan H. Bork

Anonymous said...

My Great Great Grandparents (Matt Devin)came into the Flora Country by the first wagons also along with the Eddlemon family. The two families took a chartered train car from Missouri to LaGrand. They bought wagons and supplies and headed up through what is now Elgen in the fall of 1890. The Devin Homestead was just Northeast of the Eddlemon Homestaed. Matt Devin made most of the roof shingles for the town of Flora. Read the book Floa Country written by Ira Devin 1971

Vanessa Thew Thompson said...

Glad you enjoyed School Days. Usually it is in June, but we are currently trying tovdecide when to have it...changing the date for various reasons. Please keep posted by visiting our website at www.floraschool.org.