The Forgotten Community of Gilliam County


By Steve Lent, Crook County Historian

Mayville was once a thriving community located between Fossil and Condon. In 1884 William and Phoebe McConnell platted a town they named Clyde. Months later the citizens of the community met to propose a post office and the name Mayville was suggested by the wife of Samuel Thornton as that was the name of her hometown in New York. The name was accepted by the post office department and it became Mayville post office in October 1884.

The first house in Mayville was built by E.A. Evans and it was made of logs. Mayville boasted a general merchandise store, blacksmith shop, livery stable, flour mill, hotel and a millinery shop by 1900. Max Putnam of Mitchell had built a gristmill in Mayville and was one of the community’s main features. Prior to construction of the mill wheat had to be hauled to Walla Walla to be ground to flour. The mill became widely known for the fine quality of the flour ground from local wheat. Unfortunately the mill later burned down.

The first school in Mayville was a box structure located about one mile west of the community and was built in 1883. Other school houses were later built and at one time over 70 pupils attended the school. A new building was built in 1915 and an addition was late added for a high school. The school burned in 1929 and a new brick building was constructed in 1930 and was used until the school was closed and pupils were transported to Condon.

The community became a hub of local activity. The first Gilliam county fair was held in Mayville in 1906. The town even boasted a baseball team and had a baseball diamond with bleachers. It also laid claim to establishing the first Grange in Eastern Oregon about 1891. The town also had an Oddfellow’s Hall and Rebecca’s Lodge, which was a ladies order of the Odd Fellows. The hotel served as the social center for the community. Every Saturday night the hotel was crowded as social events took place in the community. Like most early towns there was a barber shop, saloon and even a bowling alley.

As the region shifted from livestock oriented ranching to wheat farming the population began to decline. Many homesteaders left and the once thriving community rapidly diminished in size to only a small population. Business operations ceased and although there is still mail to Mayville it is post marked from Fossil. Locals now claim that “If you don’t want to miss Mayville don’t blink your eyes when passing through.”