History of Castle Rock & Boardman, Oregon

Written and Researched by Jerry Peck

Castle Rock was probably first seen by white men when Lewis & Clark made their expedition in 1805. Captain Clark had shot a grouse and some ducks somewhere in the area, but no mention of the rock itself had been made. It was the best river crossing for several miles either way and had been a Native American encampment area for many years as the Yakima people brought their horses across the river to graze in that area.

It was reported that a wagon train with l3 families camped at Castle Rock in 1847 and Indians stampeded the teams and stock. Several shots were fired, but no one was hit or injured. The following year the First Oregon Rifles, a volunteer regiment that was a predecessor to the Oregon National Guard, under the command of Col. Cornelius Gilliam was in a running battle with the Cayuse Indians chasing them across Morrow County to a major engagement at Sand Hollow.

Thomas Ayers from Heppner, in partnership with Theron Fell of Castle Rock, built a warehouse for the shipment of wool and wheat. A sheep ranch was established there in 1882. There was a general merchandise store established by 1883 by W. H. Herren, also from Heppner, advertising wool sacks and twine and staple groceries. Mr. Herren was an agent for C. H. Dodd & Co. Farming Implements and the Albina Lumbering Company.

Castle Rock had been a landing for steam boats. It also was a stage coach stop; the stage coach, after stopping at Castle Rock went through Coyote and Wells Springs, with a change of horses at Ella, then into Heppner. About this time there was a ferry that hauled hay to sheep raisers on the Washington shore.

In 1883 the magazine, West Shore, reported there was an express office, Post Office, dwellings and a school. By the end of 1883 a plat of the town had been filed in conjunction with the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company's construction of the railroad across north Morrow County.

In 1888 the first telephone lines were installed, following the railroad along with lines through Ella and Blackhorse Canyon to Heppner. That same year the railroad was built up Willow Creek through Cecil, Ione and Lexington to Heppner. This took most of the business away from Castle Rock and the following year the warehouse was moved to Ione.

The next couple of decades Castle Rock's business district dwindled until only the general store and Post Office remained. It mainly served sheep ranches in the area and railroad passengers. The only store in the area was at Cecil.

In October of 1915 the store and Post Office owned by John Marshall burned to the ground. It was apparently rebuilt or moved to another building as the Post Office operated until 1926.

Sam Boardman came to town on the train and heard of some government land to the east where irrigation water was being promised. He decided to homestead but waited thirteen years before the first water arrived from the West Extension Irrigation District. During this time he took engineering jobs away from home and his wife, Anna, taught school as early as 1904 at Castle Rock before her children arrived.

Mrs. Boardman was hired to transport the children who lived in the east end to the school. Even though the Boardman family lived six miles east in what was later to become the Boardman town site, newspaper articles made reference to them being residents of Castle Rock. They were holding school at Boardman as well as at Castle Rock and they had been paying rent for the use of the Community Church. In the fall of 1916 when there were more people in the east end, Sam moved the school building from Castle Rock to his field in Boardman. The first students were Lois and Burton Barnes, Nona and Buster Rands, Alton and Noel Klitz, Eldon and Gladys Payne, Frances Blayden, Dorothy Boardman and Homer Mitchell. At this time Boardman had been booming for a couple of years with the arrival of the canal workers, many of whom stayed to homestead and become farmers with the arrival of the canal water.

The people of Boardman had decided to build a new and bigger school as they had been renting the Community Church for $300 per year. The railroad had offered to build a school in Boardman for $6,000 without putting it on the tax rolls. School District 25, which covered Castle Rock and Boardman, declined the railroad's offer and planned a building estimated to cost $15,000. The railroad and John Marshall who owned the last business in Castle Rock, took the school district to court to halt construction and force them to take the offer for a smaller school. The school district prevailed in court on September 4, l9l7. The next meeting of School District 25 the board meeting was held in Boardman and Chairman John Marshall resigned. The district built the new building in Boardman that cost $8,522 for the just the center section and over $36,000 before completion. They put it on the tax rolls and the railroad, which owned 95% of the property at that time, paid for most of the building anyway.

Some believe that Castle Rock had a very large population during the mid l880's, but this writer has not found evidence of it. Never have there been more and a few people listed in the census, on the jury list or the school records. I believe this misconception may be from a newspaper article originating from Arlington stating "Judging from appearances, there must be about 40 hotels in Castle Rock now". The following year there was another article about the possibility of a hotel being built there, so the first article appears to have been written in jest.

The voter registration records showed 32 registered voters in 1914 when only 12 voted on the issue of prohibition - 3 yes and 9 no. Morrow County as a whole voted 1126 yes and 616 no.

In 1926 John Marshall murdered his wife and committed suicide. The Post Office was closed and that was the end of Castle Rock.

Several of the residents of Castle Rock had moved east to Boardman with the arrival of the irrigation district. I have always considered Castle Rock as the first Boardman starting the tradition of moving the town. The business district moved south in 1952 when the highway was rebuilt and the entire town moved again in 1964 to escape the backwaters of the John Day Dam.

1927 Boardman, Oregon photo provided by Jerry Peck.


Ernie Peck in front of his service station/store/cafe/cabins talking to Hi Hoffman, a long time Boardman resident.

Thanks again to Jerry Peck for sharing his research!

Copyright 2003 by Jerry Peck