The History of Lamonta, Oregon

This former community was located about twelve miles southeast of Madras. A post office was established at Lamonta on September 7, 1898 with Kate Helfrich the first postmaster. Miss Helfrich named the post office with no association other than that the name appealed to her and the word was of her making. John C. Rush platted the Lamonta townsite on April 3, 1905. Mr. Rush developed a brochure advertising the great merits of the new community in 1905 and stated:

Lamonta is a new townsite which has just been platted by John C. Rush. It is located in the center of the main grain raising belt of Crook County, and upon the surveys of the Columbia Southern R.R. extension from Shaniko, and of the automobile road, and upon the main county road from Shaniko via Madras to Forest, Laidlaw, Redmond, Sisters and Bend. 
Mr. Rush is showing his faith in the new town by erecting therein one of the finest buildings to be found in Crook County. 
The building is 24 x 70 ft., and two stories high, the upper story of which is intended for a public hall, the appointments of the same not being excelled by any similar place in the county, and the lower story of which will be used as a store, which is already filled by a well selected and complete stock of general merchandise.
A drug store is also under construction, 18 x 50 feet, which will be ready for occupancy in the fall. A substantial school building stands on the edge of the town. 
Lots in the new town have been on the market scarcely a month, yet in that time, Mr. Rush has sold thirty-five, besides giving options on a number of others. A goodly number of those who have made purchases, have announced their intention to build in the fall. The lots have a frontage of 40 feet and a depth of 112 feet, and prices of the same have been placed for a limited time at very low figures— $20 to $40— depending upon the location. 
All kinds of garden truck, fruit, etc., seem to thrive well in the immediate vicinity of the town, and lands close by can be purchased for from $10 to $20 an acre, according to improvements. 
Persons desiring to get in on the purchase of lots in a young city, one that by virtue of its geographical situation will some day become the largest in the county, should buy lots NOW, while they are so cheap. It stands to reason that as soon as the railroad shall have been built, and that time is not far off, these same lots will greatly increase in value. 

During the homestead era at the turn of the century Lamonta became a busy community. There was a post office, hotel, a couple of general stores, livery barn, drug store, blacksmith shop, two dance halls, and a saloon. Some other businesses were located at Lamonta also. A description of the John Rush Store is given by Martha Thomas, a former clerk in the store:

John Rush's store and dance hall was a large building for that day. He sold shoes, yardage, notions, shirts, ties, underwear, dishes, kettles, and all kinds of smaller hardware, nails, wrenches, hammers, lots of pocket knives, all kinds of groceries, guns, fishing tackle and the loveliest candy of which he was very fond. Many hundreds of dozen of eggs I've counted and packed in rolled barley or sawdust after settlers brought them in to trade for needed supplies. In turn, the eggs were loaded in a light wagon to which were hitched two horses, and Mrs. Rush traded them in at Madras for more supplies. But most other supplies were brought from Shaniko by freight wagon. 

Main Street in Lamonta in 1907

Main Street in Lamonta in 1908

 

Lamonta School

The first school district was approved in the area of what would later be Lamonta on January 25, 1898. The first school was held in the old Smith cabin and then in the home of Walter Lithgow about 1901. Lilly Read was one of the first teachers at the school and there were 68 students on roll ranging in age from 6 to 21. A regular schoolhouse was built in 1903 and it was located about one half mile south of the new town site of Lamonta. An early teacher at the new school was Andrew Larson, who had been hired to discipline some of the big boys who were causing trouble at the school. Some girls were held out of school until the boys were "put in line." Mr. Larson was a trained boxer and was successful in "retraining" the boys. 

The Annual Catalog of Crook County Schools in 1905 listed the board of education for the school as Joseph Weigand, Chairman; Oscar Cox; W. Thomas and J.S. McMeen, clerk. It listed Lamonta school as the largest one room district in the county in that it had more school children than any other district that employed but one teacher. The board was contemplating hiring another teacher. The school ceased operations shortly after the post office was closed in 1918 and students attended Grizzly School. 

Students at Lamonta School in 1912

Students at Lamonta School in 1912

Many of the homesteaders could not make a living on their land and left the area. The post office closed on April 15, 1918. Most of the remaining farmers in the area sold their land to the U.S. Government during the Great Depression. There is little evidence left of the once thriving community. 

Excerpt taken from: Central Oregon Place Names, Volume II Jefferson County, Steve Lent, Pages 141-143
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