As the timber industry boomed across the High Desert a century ago, a small company town sprung up against the Wallowa Mountains called Maxville.
Operated by the Bowman-Hucks Lumber Company from 1923-1933, the town was home to Black and white loggers who worked side by side despite official segregation laws. As a result, their families often intermingled and interracial friendships were formed. For a few decades, Maxville thrived.
The story of this town and its people is now shared at the High Desert Museum through Timber Culture, a traveling photography exhibition curated by the Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center in Joseph, Oregon. The Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center highlights the cultural history of the area by collecting, interpreting and preserving the history of Maxville and similar logging communities across the West.
“The role of African American loggers in Oregon’s timber industry is a history that’s often untold,” says Donald M. Kerr Curator of Natural History Hayley Brazier, Ph.D. “This exhibit provides the opportunity to explore that story.”
Although Timber Culture is a traveling exhibition, the Museum’s exhibitions team added their own special touches. The exhibit features historic objects from the Museum’s collection illustrating everyday life in the era as well as a few hands-on interactives for kids like a wash basin with wash boards and a cross section of a massive old growth ponderosa pine tree.
“We’re excited to share more stories of people in the High Desert through the opening of Timber Culture,” says Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “The black-and-white images bring to life the timber industry and the lives of the people during that time.”
Most residents left the community during the Great Depression and the town was completely abandoned by the early 1940s. Today, little remains to mark the townsite except one collapsed building. Still, Maxville’s unique history and legacy remains. Timber Culture will remain open at the Museum through April 28, 2024.
Timber Culture is made possible by the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation and the Visit Central Oregon Future Fund with support from CHUBB. Learn more about Timber Culture at highdesertmuseum.org/timber-culture.
ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM: The High Desert Museum opened in Bend, Oregon in 1982. It brings together wildlife, cultures, art, history and the natural world to convey the wonder of North America’s High Desert. The Museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is a Smithsonian Affiliate, was the 2019 recipient of the Western Museums Association’s Charles Redd Award for Exhibition Excellence and was a 2021 recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. To learn more, visit highdesertmuseum.org.