One of the more interesting stories of Polk County’s economic development is the 55-year birth, life and end of Black Rock, one of Polk County’s two self-contained logging towns.
The story was told by Patrick A. Hall in an article in the November 1966 issue of Willamette, a publication of the Willamette Valley Lumber Co. That article was edited and reprinted in Vol. XII of Historically Speaking, a publication of the Polk County Historical Society and is, again with editorial changes, reprinted here.
The town of Black Rock, situated five miles above Falls City in the Coast Range, had its start in 1905.
In 1903 Louis Gerlinger, a Chicago furniture dealer, came to Dallas and bought 7,000 acres of timberland, a part of which was in the Black Rock area. Two years later, Gerlinger’s son, George T. Gerlinger, bought an existing mill at Dallas which then had 60 employees and produced 14 million board feet of lumber per year. He also bought up the right of way and began construction of a logging railroad into the Black Rock area.
Gerlinger built a complex network of logging railroad tracks into the area and developed the town of Black Rock. Black Rock was named after a ledge of black shale rock in the vicinity.
Some of the folks who worked the Black Rock area lived there. Others commuted from Falls City or Dallas to work. Soon the Post Office Department established a post office there. Louis Gerlinger was the first postmaster.
The community grew. It boasted two stores and two saloons (they were called “billiard parlors,” but the locals knew their true purpose in life). A one-room school house was built – and the Mountain View school district established. Bunk houses for the single men, cook houses where they ate and family living quarters soon were erected. And the trains started hauling timber to the mill at Dallas.
Mail came to town on the morning train. A special 20-passenger “speeder” went to Dallas or Salem once a week, so the women folks of the community could do their shopping. Another speeder made the round trip to and from Dallas each Saturday night so the men folks could celebrate a night out. Hall’s article made a point of quoting Dick VandenBosch, mayor of Dallas in 1966, as saying the Saturday night visitors from Black Rock were “gentlemen loggers.”
A plat of the town of Black Rock was filed with the County Clerk. It showed a town site of 22 blocks, and lettered and numbered streets. The population was said to be 600. But some said the estimate was high and some folks got counted twice.
The most famous landmark in the community was the desk at the local post office. The post office was built around a fir stump 8 ½ feet in diameter. The slot that originally had held the faller’s springboard was expanded to make a writing surface for the then-postmaster, Fred J. Holman. Holman later served as Polk County’s assessor.
In 1943 Black Rock and 19,000 acres around it was incorporated into a part of the Industrial Forestry Association’s tree farm system. The town was slowly closed down and by 1960 it became only a log dump with one watchman to keep an eye on things.
Information in this article is from the Library of the Polk County Historical Society. The Society’s Library and Museum, located at the Polk County Fairgrounds at Rickreall, is open to the public from 1 to 5 p.m. each day except Tuesdays, Sundays and holidays. Admission: adults, $5.00; seniors (age 62+), $4.00; children ages 6-17, $1.00; children under age 6, centenarians and Society members, free.)