Of Once-Booming Hamlet of Goble
The Oregonian, Monday, January 3, 1966
By: Mrs. Ervin Abraham
Staff Correspondent, The Oregonian
GOBLE (Special) -- About 35 miles from Portland, a motorist
driving west along State Highway 30 will not even slow as he
passes a tavern and a combined gas station-garage-store. The
somnolent wide spot is Goble, a hamlet which has been fading
slowly from Oregon's memory for almost a half century, but
which still hopes to recapture it brawling vitality of yore.
Once upon a time, Goble was indeed
brawling. It was way back around the turn of the century, beyond
the memories of most persons. But one person remembers. She is
Mrs. Bella Metcalf, 78, the daughter of Oregon pioneer Simon
The Neer came to Columbia County in 1852, when Oregon was
still a frontier territory. Simon Neer took out a Donation Land
claim and plotted Neer City in August, 1883. Later in 1896 Goble
was plotted by pioneer George Foster and was named after Daniel
Goble, the Ohio trapper who staked first claim to the city. The
same year, a creek separating the two frontier towns was named
Goble Creek. And later in 1896, one Reuben Foster, perhaps a
relative of George Foster, founded Reuben. Thus, the hamlets were
Today, Reuben does not exist and Neer City is an unnoticed
speck on the map. But that is in 1965.
In 1890's, Goble, Neer City, and Reuben were boisterous
and booming. The railroad, which poked eastward, through Goble
and Kalama, Washl, across the Columbia River helped. It drew jobs
and people and eliminated, Mrs Metcalf recalls, the need to bring
the mail from Kalama by rowboat. Later, the three communities got
their own post office, first located on a scow and later in a
store owned by Neer City resident Dick Link. As time passed, Neer
City's population swelled to 100. In Goble, as many as six
trains daily stopped on their run to Seattle. The biggest spurs
to growth; however, were* timber and steam.
Steam boats plying the Columbia River required fuel, and the
huge stands of native timber surrounding the three communities
made them a natural fueling station. Lumber Supported
Two camps populated by several hundred loggers sprung up
amidst the virgin timber stands. During the week, the lumberjacks
labored mightily, just as legend says. And on Saturday night,
bathed and shaved, they headed for town to round up an illegal
jug and weekend action. The favorite hangout was the Red Men
Lodge Hall, when the loggers spent the night dancing to trots,
and two-steps and only occasionally brawling. Everything was
first-class at Red Men Lodge, even the bands, which were often
"imported" from Portland. Other bands were brought in
from Clatskanie and elsewhere. Dr. J. L. Cook of Rainier can
remember the Red Men dances, for he was a drummer in the
Clatskanie group while working this way through dental
Legend notwithstanding, the dances generally went smoothly.
The usual action occurred sometime during the evening when some
besotten logger took a header down the long flight of stairs
leading to the lodge. Old timers to Goble still remember the
infrequent brawls which helped loggers build their hardy
Reaching back into the past, Mrs. Metcalf recalled the night
when two belligerent lumberjacks were hauled caulked boots and
all, in to the hoosegow by the lodge bouncer. Placed in the pokey
for safe-keeping, the loggers escaped during the night by clawing
through the jail's wooden floor with their "cork"
Gradually, however, the boom diminished. River boats, trains
and loggers began to move on, abandoning Goble's hotel, two
mills, boarding house, barber shops, hardware store, two general
stores, church, school, and lamentably, the Red Men Lodge Hall.
Even the town's cold storage plant, where frozen fisher were
packed for export, closed.
The post office in Neer City was transferred to Goble. And in
1923, the post office shut up shop permanently. The hardwood
floor from the lodge hall was torn up and relaid in the
80-year-old home of Mrs. Metcalf's daughter, Mrs. Dave
Easter. Fire and wreckers claimed other homes. The present
swallowed the past and the three communities which belonged to
it. But the memories remain - vividly for Mrs. Metcalf.
The brightest one is of the terrible storm of 1894. She was a
girl then, just seven years old. She remembers the storm had
struck and the Columbia River was running widly at flood stage.
With her mother, Mrs. Metcalf went to a bluff a short distance
from their Neer City home to catch a glimpse of the Iraida, a
Rainier stern wheeler making a daily trip between Portland and
Rainier. While walking to the bluff, the cyclone struck, ripping
and clawing the earth. Rain fell in sheets, thunder shook the sky
and lightning stabbed through the black clouds. Cottenwood trees
toppled over in swaths as if uprooted by a bulldozer. Deep-rooted
firs were toppled by the force of the wind. At the bluff, mother
and daughter saw a huge swell rolling up the Columbia toward the
Iraida. It picked up the stern wheeler, lifted it out of the
river and dropped it on the railroad track running along the
bank. A second later a second giant swell plucked the river boat
of the tracks, returning it to the river. Back at home, buckets
were used to bail the rain water out of their home.
For Goble, though, the day of the great storm, hard drinking
loggers and river boat prosperity are gone. Nonetheless, the
hamlet continues to mull its past even as it eyes the future.
Columbia County is growing, and Goble hopes some of it will rub
off. Obviously, with such a nostalgic history, the town does not
want to be just another Oregon memory.