Trice honored by University of Oregon
By Ellen Morris Bishop
Wallowa County Chieftain
Gwen Trice, daughter of a Maxville logger and founder of the Maxville Heritage Center, has received the 2020 Oregon Stewardship Award from the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History. The award recognizes Trice and the Maxville Heritage Center’s work in educating and informing the public about the African-American and white logging community that flourished 20 miles northwest of Wallowa in the 1920’s to 1930’s.
“We are in awe of the creative and meaningful work happening with your group…” the award letter notes. In particular the award recognizes Trice and the Maxville Heritage Center’s development and deployment of a traveling exhibit about the history of Maxville’s segregated African-American, white, and Greek communities, and the work of bringing awareness of this unique community to more than 30,000 Oregonians across the state. The Maxville traveling exhibit, which consists of large photographs and historic information, has spent time across the state, including at the Oregon State Capital, University of Oregon Museum, and spent 6 months at the World Forestry Center. It under discussion to be featured at the Josephy Center in the future.
The Oregon Encyclopedia notes that Maxville was home to African American loggers, brought to the county by the Bowman Hicks logging company, at a time when Oregon’s constitution included a provision excluding blacks from the state. Maxville had a population of about 400 residents, 40 to 60 of them African American. It was the largest town in Wallowa County in 1923. In 1933, the company ceased operations and closed the town as the Great Depression deepened. The town segregated residents by marital status and ethnicity, as well as segregating the schools with a white school on one end of town and a black school at the other. However, loggers, railroad men, and others worked together on integrated teams.
Today, the site of the town remains on private land, and all the buildings have been removed. However, Maxville’s history is alive and well at the Maxville Heritage Center in Joseph, which is run by Trice, the Maxville Heritage Center's executive board, and other volunteers, and in an OPB Oregon Experiences video “The Logger’s Daughter” which features Trice’s family and other Maxville descendants. (Online link: https://video.idahoptv.org/video/oregon-experience-the-loggers-daughter/) The Maxville traveling exhibit will be on display in Wallowa County in 2021.