LONEROCK - Nestled in a small valley in southern Gilliam County, Lonerock really isn't a place you stumble upon.

The predominantly gravel roads leading into town vary from excellent condition to so narrow two vehicles might have problems passing each other.

Listed on brochures, maps and some books as a ghost town, visitors to Lonerock might be surprised to find such a well maintained - and populated - ghost town.

"The town is not that way anymore," Mayor Floyd Parrott said.

In the late 1960s and '70s Lonerock was a ghost town, Parrott said. About that time there was a big push on books about ghost towns.

"Lonerock was in about all of them," he said.

Today the town boasts a population of about 20 full-time residents, but more people have weekend homes, Parrott said.

One of the weekend residents is Pendleton Dr. Joe Diehl, who discovered Lonerock about 15 years ago when he saw a sign for the town outside Condon.

"Its just a quiet, peaceful place," he said. "We've gotten to know a lot of people down there. They are the finest people in the world."

Diehl wants to retire in Lonerock.

The town is still a fully incorporated city with three city council members and a mayor. Parrott and his wife, Sheryl, live in what was the parsonage right next to the church. Both buildings were built in 1898.

They moved here eight years ago from the push and shove of the Portland suburbs where they had owned a restaurant business. When the business sold the two decided to refurbish the house Lonerock.

They've stayed ever since and Sheryl sells local art, juniper wood crafts, T-shirts and cards out of their home.

Right next door, the old church, which a group of town women refurbished and maintain, is open now for weddings and funerals. In its heyday it was a Methodist-Episcopal church. Still inside are the original pews, an old pump organ and Bible that was used to deliver sermons.

The only time the church has planned services is Memorial Day weekend, when about 200 people come to visit, Parrott said.

"It's the only time its like that," he said.

Like its rustic surroundings. The old church isn't wired for year-round electricity. An old woodstove furnishes the heat, but instead, Parrott strings an extension cord from his house to the church and connects it to the wires that power the lights and electric organ.

Out back, behind the church, is the town's name sake, a giant rock nearly the size of the church itself: Lonerock.

It looks out of place, settled randomly on the valley floor. Climbing the rock was a rite of passage for the town's youth, Sheryl said.

Many of the buildings in town have found new life, although not all are their put to their original uses.

The old school is a private lodge. The original Grange hall is gone, but a small annex has become the Community Center.

Visitors can visit the old jail, built in 1891.

It was 1901 when Lonerock was the first incorporated city in Gilliam County.

The town was settled in 1871 and one of its founders was George Boone, a cousin of the famous Daniel Boon, Parrott said.

Sheep ranching and a small sawmill seven miles away drew the first settlers to the area. The town is surrounded now by cattle ranches.

One of those ranches is owned by Jim Campbell, a life long Lonerock resident, who lives a few miles out of town. The town's wind-swept cemetery is on his property. Headstones date from modern day back to the late 1800s.

The most direct route is to take Highway 206 from Condon and turn off on Lonerock Road. All but about the last four miles of the route are paved.

Coming from the east take Highway 206, turn south on Redding Road, which dead ends on Hail Ridge Road, and turn right. Go south on Buttermilk Canyon Road, the turn is marked by a hand lettered wooden sign. Locals call this the scenic route, which winds through canyons and hidden valleys.

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