Kinzua – A Logging Company Owned Community

Logging and lumber mill operations in Wheeler county of North Central Oregon began to expand in 1927 when E.D. Wetmore founded the town of Kinzua. The new community was located at the head of Thirty Mile Creek. The Kinzua Pines Mill Company established the town as a base of operations for processing its timber holdings in the vicinity.

The name Kinzua is reported to be of Seneca Indian origin and means a “place of many fishes.” The newly formed town was named for the lumber company. A post office named Kinzua was established in 1928. The company named the town for Kinzua County, Pennsylvania, a community on the Allegheny River.

The company constructed the town to house mill workers and all of the buildings in the community were owned by the lumber mill. The corporate-owned town provided for all the basic needs for its employees including housing and necessary businesses. The company even provided for recreational pursuits and established a six hole golf course that continues to operate today.

At its peak the mill and company owned town employed up to 330 workers. A rail line was constructed to carry harvested timber to the mill and manufactured lumber from the mill to Condon where it connected with the Union Pacific line. The Condon, Kinzua and Southern railroad was established in 1928 to consolidate logging rail lines in the area. The rail line was 24 miles from Condon to Kinzua.

The mill and community prospered during the heyday of lumber operations but as timber supply began to decline and operating costs increased the company decided to shut down operations at Kinzua and moved the mill to Heppner in 1978. The rail line ceased operations in 1976 and the railroad was abandoned in 1978. Later all of the buildings were removed and the area returned to a natural state by the Kinzua Corporation.

No community structures remain at the site. The only reminder of the once thriving mill community is the six hole golf course with a small club house that is still utilized as a popular recreational site and operates on the honor system for tee fees.