Book Review: Ghost Towns Of The Pacific Northwest

Ghost Towns Of The Pacific Northwest:  Your Guide To The Hidden History Of Washington, Oregon, and British Colombia

While I must admit that I have never taken a trip solely or even mainly to see a ghost town that I can remember, there is something deeply satisfying about seeing a town frozen in time that deserved a better fate to be abandoned.  I found that a town named after my family was a ghost town in Pennsylvania accidentally and it was a melancholy experience, but by and large I have found travels to such towns inspirational in the way of thinking about how life was like when the town was alive and what hopes and dreams and expectations that things would last forever the people of such towns had.  And it is even more interesting in this case is the fact that I have actually been to some of these particular ghost towns, even though I drive through them and stopped in them (in at least one case) without realizing that they were indeed ghost towns [1].  Perhaps this demonstrates that I am not the most observant of travelers but it does speak highly to the sort of sights that the author has seen and the way that he writes about them to make them more compelling destinations on their own.

This book is a relatively ordinary sized one at a bit more than 200 pages, liberally endowed with photos and maps to help the would-be traveler to visit these towns.  The book begins with a note to the reader and some comments about the great migration that led to the settlement of the Pacific Northwest of both the US and Canada starting in the 1840’s.  After that the book is divided into seven chapters.  The book begins with some ghost towns in the Seattle area, namely Port Gamble, Forts Flagler, Worden, and Casey, as well as Wilkeson, Roslyn, Ronald, and Holden (1).  After that the author discusses some ghost towns in Eastern Washington like Molson, Bodie, Curlew, and Northport (2).  After this there is a discussion of some ghosts of the boundary country of Southern Canada, such as Greenwood, Sandon, Retallack, Ainsworth Hot Springs, and Fort Steele (3).  This leads into a discussion of ghost towns of the lower Colombia River valley, such as Skamokawa, Greys River and Rosburg, Cottardi Station, Altoona, and Pillar Rock, Knappton Cove, Fort Clatsop, Fort Stevens, McGowan, Fort Columbia, and Oysterville (4).  After that there are some ghost towns in the Oregon plains (5), Northeastern Oregon (6), and Southwestern Oregon (7), after which the book closes with acknowledgments, a glossary, a bibliography, an index, and some notes about the author and photographer.

This book made me think of potential travels, and that is nearly always a good thing.  This book not only does a great job through text and pictures of making a place look worth visiting, especially once one knows its history and the ambitions of the founders of the forgotten towns and what led them to become ghost towns in the first place, but it also manages the important task of providing logistics so that one knows how such towns can be visited in an organized fashion.  The attention to logistics is detailed enough that one not only knows what sort of museums and access and photography are allowed in certain towns and the history of the ruins that remains but one even knows what towns to stay at in order to visit particular groups of ghost towns and also what sort of travel logistics are required to see some of the more remote ghost towns involved, and I thought that this planning would be very helpful for those who wanted to see these various places and experience the frozen-in-time feeling one gets, especially when one has some knowledge of the past of the towns one is visiting.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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