The Dayville Mercantile is both a landmark and the source of a wide variety of merchandise. In addition to catering to the locals, the mercantile also is a popular stop for tourists passing through town.
Dayville School is home to 52 students and an important part of the social life in the community. Although the facility is one of the oldest in Oregon, staff have worked hard be sure it reflects community pride.
The Dayville City Hall was built to serve the community as a jail. Now it houses city offices and is the site of council meetings.
City Recorder Ruth Moore is one of two city employees.
Photos by George Murdock
In less than a month, Dayville will be celebrating the Fourth of July.
?We?re a little town with big ideas,? says city recorder Ruth Moore, ?and our Independence Day celebration is a good example.?
Public works director Linda Sagaser agrees. ?The highlight,? she says, ?is the five-mile horse race. It?s really exciting and it?s open to anyone. In fact,? she adds, ?we could use a few more entries.? The race isn?t run on a groomed track. The course runs through the countryside around this scenic village about 35 miles west of John Day.
Angie Jones, who owns the Dayville Mercantile, has something special to add to the celebration this year. She?s been working on a long line of western storefronts which sit between the store and Highway 26. ?We?ve been getting lots of interest in them,? says Jones, ?and I plan to have them completed by the Fourth. We?ll use this new feature to stage a shootout, a western drama, and as a backdrop for pictures, among other things,? she says.
There?s also going to be parade, fireworks, a dance, and plenty of other events to entertain visitors. Despite a small population of about 160, Dayville offers the Fish House Inn with rooms and camping spots as well as RV hookups. There?s also the C Bar C Guest Ranch and the Country Inn Last Resort.
Surprisingly, there?s also a six-hole golf course, which is soon to be nine. Owner Pete Johnson purchased the South Fork Golf Course about three years ago, moving to Dayville from Wyoming. ?I got tired of the 4-5 foot snowdrifts,? says Johnson. ?The climate in Dayville is much milder.?
Johnson says South Fork is a par-three golf course but pretty challenging. ?I have three tee sets so you actually play 18 holes. No one?s ever parred it,? he adds. ?We aren?t exactly crowded,? says Johnson. ?You sure don?t need a tee time.? He says people pretty much relax when they play the course. His customers are a combination of tourists who spot the new signs he put out by the highway and local ranchers who use it as a social thing. ?It?s mostly walkers,? says Johnson, ?but when I get the other three holes done, we?ll probably need to keep a few carts around.?
The City of Dayville has two employees. Sagaser has spent the past seven years taking care of the water, sewer, parks, streets, buildings, and whatever complaints come her way. The park across from city hall particularly reflects the pride she takes in keeping up city property. As Moore, the recorder and second city employee, points out, ?how many public restrooms offer fresh flowers in the summer??
The pint-sized city hall, where Moore has held forth since 1995, was built as the city jail in 1920 and the bars are still in place. Somehow, the city council also uses the office for its meetings. ?We are definitely a close-knit bunch on council nights,? says Moore. ?It?s a good thing we get along so well.?
Moore migrated to Dayville from Mount Vernon, which is just up the road toward John Day. Her husband manages the Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Area in Dayville.
She says the school is the largest employer in town. Some people commute to jobs in John Day and a lot of others are involved with ranching. And, as Moore notes, ?There?s also lots of retirees living here.?
John Brazil, a driver for Federal Express, has lived in Dayville for 48 years. ?My run is out of John Day,? says the affable deliveryman, ?and I cover about 300 miles a day. I know this country pretty well and the people living in it,? he adds. ?I take care of a veterinarian who gets lots of supplies and it?s an hour each way just to make the run to his place.?
Debbie Gillespie, superintendent of schools in Dayville, and Lori Smith, the school secretary, both worry about a drop in enrollment. ?We?re down to about 52 students,? they said, ?and things don?t look good for the future.? Gillespie pointed out there are no students in the first and second grades and one kindergartener. With 19 employees, and serving as something of a social center, the school is important to Dayville for many reasons.
Jones, who owns the store, says the Dayville Mercantile is for sale. ?I bought the store with my parents,? she says, ?and their health has failed. We?ve built up a nice business,? she adds, ?but it?s too much for one person.?
She says she?s happy there?s another small store in town that also pumps gasoline, and she is hopeful the restaurant will keep operating. ?The more businesses that are open,? says Jones, ?the better it is for all of us. When people see life in the town, they?re more likely to stop.?
Jones sees Dayville as something of an oasis and she is grateful for the tourists and hunters who stop in. ?The locals are really supportive of the store,? says Jones, ?and when you add in all the people who are passing through town, it makes a difference.?
Some rural Oregon towns definitely are showing the signs of declining population and economic woes with boarded up storefronts and few, if any, businesses still operating.
Dayville is clearly an exception to that trend.