You don’t have to look hard to find signs of the long legacy of logging in Oregon. It’s evident in everything from the names of local sports teams and businesses to the clear cutting spread across nearby hills.
But in Maxville, nestled in Wallowa County in eastern Oregon, there’s a story that often goes untold. Like many Oregon towns, Maxville was a timber town, but unique to Maxville is the community of Black loggers that lived and worked there after the Great Migration of the 1920s.
Lonni Ivey is a logger’s daughter. In her family logging goes back several generations on both sides. After graduating from OSU with a BA in Philosophy & Religious Studies, she fell in love with history and religious history, specifically that of the American West. While in her MA program in History, she learned about the community of Black loggers in Maxville and immediately knew she had to learn more.
Lonni devoted her research to discovering more about Maxville and giving this story the attention it deserves, leading to her capstone project “More Than a Footnote: Erasure, Exclusion, and the Remarkable Presence of the Black Logging Community of Maxville, Oregon, 1923-33.” Lonni was inspired by Gwendolyn Trice, the founder and executive director of the Maxville Heritage Ideology Center and herself the descendant of one of the Maxville Loggers.
At a time when Oregon’s constitution included laws excluding Black people from the state, the mere presence of a community like Maxville was remarkable, let alone their perseverance and persistence to thrive in such a racially hostile environment. Recruited by the Bowman-Hicks Lumber Company, these experienced loggers traveled in boxcars to Wallowa County all the way from states like Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas. Eventually, their families began to join them, and this influx of people proved to be a major economic boom for Wallowa County. Maxville had a Black baseball team, a post office, hotel, and the first segregated school in Oregon’s history.
As a white historian researching a community of color, and one that has been erased and excluded for generations, it was important to Lonni to acknowledge that this research requires relationship building and that communities of color have the right to deny access to historical records to external researchers. In Lonni’s work she seeks to platform Black contributions to Oregon history and address racial inequalities and racism. Lonni’s own family’s history is one of racism and white supremacy, and she views her work not as redeeming her family (whom she no longer has contact with) but instead as reparative action to address the harm that racism has enacted in this state.
As a non-traditional and disabled student, advocacy and allyship is central to Lonni’s work. She graduated in June 2023, presenting her project at the 100th anniversary commemoration of Maxville. She hopes to work as an advocate for minorized communities and to get grant funding for further research and digitization of the archive at the Wallowa County Museum.
Tune in Sunday, August 20th at 7pm on KBVR 88.7 to hear more!
Maxville today. Photo taken by L. Ivey June 2, 2023