Latitude / Longitude:
45°5′22″N 119°53′3″W / 45.08944°N 119.88417°W / 45.08944
2,800 ft (853.4 m)
Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)
Lonerock is a city in Gilliam County, Oregon, United States. The population was 21 at the 2010 census. Lonerock was founded in 1881 as a service center for the surrounding ranches. It was named for an unusual, 35-foot (11 m)-high lone rock which still stands in the town near the old Methodist church. The city’s population grew from 68 in 1900 to 70 in 1910, 73 in 1920 and then to a high of 82 in 1930. By the 1940 census, Lonerock’s population dwindled to 46, and continued to drop to 38 in 1950, 31 in 1960, and then bottomed out to 12 residents in 1970. The city grew to 26 citizens in 1980, before falling to 11 in the 1990 census.
Lonerock is a small town in Gilliam County, Oregon, about 19 miles from Condon. Lonerock got its name from the giant rock that can be found on the outer edge of the small town. The first settlers came to Lonerock in 1871, looking for a place to homestead. After a few years, a handful of homesteaders had begun to plant roots in the small valley community. Lonerock had become a popular landing spot for these journeymen because of the small stream and abundance of bunch grass growing in the area. This area was also popular with the big game and provided the homesteaders an opportunity to hunt for their families’ food. Many of these first settlers planted crops and raised various types of livestock to survive. However, in 1874, a homesteader by the name of Edward Wineland built a sawmill, powered by a water wheel in the stream. This gave Lonerock a great opportunity to grow and prosper as a community — which is exactly what the community did, signified by the post office that was built in November of the very next year. However, in the year 1878, Lonerock began to have struggles with the Indians in the area, causing many of settlers to flee to The Dalles, while the remaining members of the community gathered together in the most fortified settlement, for protection.
From 1930 to 1940, the population was nearly cut in half. This decrease was very hard on the town and reduced its economy dramatically. Within a short time- the only in town employers were agricultural farms and ranches, while the rest of the citizens were comfortably retired. This economic and cultural balance has continued to the present day.
The vast amounts of bunch grass in the hills around Lonerock have become a major asset in raising the cattle that have replaced the sheep production. This cattle production accounts for nearly all of the citizens’ income and a majority of the land is utilized as range land. Without the income and production of cattle, sheep, and the bunchgrass on which they grazed, Lonerock as a town, would most likely not have survived. The other half of the agricultural economy in Lonerock is hay production. Originally, Lonerock’s climate was not capable of producing a yield worthy of planting up keeping each year. However, with the introduction of multiple irrigation methods in the Lonerock valley, the yield of the alfalfa increased greatly, providing ranchers in the area with hay to feed their cattle through the winter, without needing to rely on outside producers.