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The endless rolling steppe of Eastern Oregon is dotted with high mountain ranges, and in one of these mountain ranges, around the triple divide that separates the John Day, the Snake River, and the Grand Ronde, at an elevation of 6300 feet, lies the city of Greenhorn.

It is a truism that America and Great Britain are "separated by a common language", and one of the words that separates them is "city". In Great Britain, a "city" is a very large town. In the United States, "city" has a legal definition, of an incorporated area, and the exact population, whether 2,000 or 2,000,000 is irrelevant from a legal standpoint. Greenhorn might be taking this a step too far, because it currently has a population of 2. This is exactly something of a boom for Greenhorn, since from 1970 to 2000, it had a population of zero.

Some of this is easy to understand. Like many areas across the American West, Greenhorn was settled around the turn of the 20th century as a mining community. Once the articles of incorporation were drawn up, its later sharp decline in population did not automatically undo that status.

Although I am a little perplexed at certain facts about the town's situation. Foremost of which is the existence of a mayor, who apparently neither lives in the city full time, residing around three hundred miles away, and who was first elected mayor when the town supposedly had no residents. These facts are attested to by an official publication of the State of Oregon, The Oregon Bluebook.

While I could, perhaps, investigate the matter further and explain the incongruence of a city with no population having a mayor, I will instead leave this conundrum of rural government and demographics as an exercise for the reader.

http://bluebook.state.or.us/local/cities/ek/greenhorn.htm
http://blog.oregonlive.com/breakingnews/2008/06/oregons_smallest_city_a_mile_h.html

Greenhorn was also a hell of a hoax that turned out to be bare truth. When a couple of would-be prospectors wandered into a nearby mining camp looking for a place to dig a mine, they were sent right up the hill to one of the most inhospitable places in the mountains to set up shop. Never the less, the land, being rotten with gold, quickly yielded a fair amount of the ore, with some of the first nuggets being pulled from nearby Olive Creek.

Despite the rotten weather in the Greenhorn Mountains, the population bloomed to 3,200 souls. The influx of miners meant the usual large amount of saloons, hotels, and even a local newspaper.

However, declining production and inclement weather meant the near doom of this town. Somehow, while the population fell briefly to zero during World War II the blow failed to land.

As Glowing Fish notes above, the town still reports a population of two citizens and a mayor who lives three hundred miles away. The town is even stranger for being right on the border of Grant and Baker counties and being the town with the highest elevation above sea level in all of Oregon. Snow falls frequently: one of the top news articles to be found reports that roads, being entirely gravel and remote, are often some of the last to be cleared.

Pictures of the area show dilapidated, fading wooden buildings, often with accompanying drifts of snow. Only a few pictures show what appear to be intact homes in this remote remnant of the gold rush era.



References:
ghosttowns.com - GREENHORN
Oregon Gold - Greenhorn - Oregon Gold Locations
The Oregonian - Oregon's smallest city a mile high gold rush town

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