Oldest Towns in Oregon

8 Oldest Towns in Oregon

Oregon, the ninth largest state in the US, was admitted to the union on February 14, 1859. However, the history of human settlement in this region goes back 15,000 years. During all these years, many towns have emerged, and many disappeared. Unfortunately, the stories of those towns are lost in the mists of time.

Currently, Oregon has 241 incorporated cities. However, unfortunately, no official data has ever been released by the US census bureau on the dates of incorporation of the US cities.

It makes it extremely challenging to pinpoint when a town was founded. Thus, we depended on secondary data while making this list of 8 of the oldest towns in Oregon.

In some cases, two dates are available, the date of foundation and the date of incorporation. In such instances, we have considered the former to decide the town’s age.

The foundation date usually denotes when the first building was erected within the current city limits, and the date of incorporation indicates when the legislative assembly officially recognized the city.

8. Roseburg

Founded/ incorporated: 1851
County: Douglas
Area: 10.91 sq mi

Roseburgphoto source: www.travellens.co

Settler Aaron Rose constructed the first building within the current city limits of Roseburg. He established a roadside inn made of poles and clapboards, which was opened on September 23, 1851. The front room was a grocery store, and guests could bring their beds to spread on its floor. The log house also had a kitchen and a dining room.

The town was previously known as Deer Creek, named after the Deer Creek River. In 1854 the name was changed to Roseburg, a name selected by popular vote.

The city is located in the Umpqua River Valley. Once, it was known as the timber capital of the nation. Roseburg was officially incorporated on October 3, 1872.

Did you know?

On August 7, 1959, Roseburg witnessed a devastating blast and fire that killed 14 people and injured 125. The downtown was destroyed. Pacific Powder company was found responsible for the blast as its truck packed with explosives initiated the fire. The incident is known as the Roseburg Blast or simply The Blast.

7. Lake Oswego

Founded/ incorporated: 1847
County: Clackamas
Area: 11.48 sq mi

Lake Oswegophoto source: wikipedia.org

Lake Oswego is an upscale and affluent city in Oregon with a history of 176 years. In 1847, the town was founded by Albert Alonzo Durham, who named it after Oswego, New York. The region was originally home to the Clackamas Indians before the settlers arrived.

The first industry in the town was a sawmill built by Durham. He also developed a river transportation system to carry the lumber. The remnants of those river landings and covered bridges are visible in and around Lake Oswego. 

The city is located about 8 miles south of Portland, along the shore of Oswego Lake. It is a city primarily in Clackamas county, but some areas extend to Multnomah and Washington counties. The town was formally incorporated in 1910. It is now home to many high-performing schools and high-tech companies. 

Did you know?

Lake Oswego hit the headline in 2020 when the Black Lives Matter protests rocked the country. A resident received a request from their neighbors to take down the Black Lives Matter sign as they believed it would drive down the property value. Later, Mayor Studebaker issued a statement condemning this racist incident. 

6. Lafayette

Founded/ incorporated: 1846
County: Yamhill
Area: 0.93 sq mi

Lafayettephoto source: wikipedia.org

Lafayette is a small town in Oregon located on the Yamhill River in the Willamette Valley. The city was founded in 1846 by Joel Perkins, an entrepreneur.

Before moving to this area, Perkins lived in Lafayette, Indiana, a city named after General Marquis de La Fayette, a leading figure in the American Revolutionary War. Perkins used the same name for the new town.

Lafayette is known for its rich history and scenic beauty. The city has many historic buildings and landmarks, such as the Lafayette Public Library, the Evangelical Church of Lafayette, and the Lafayette Heritage Trail.

Lafayette was officially incorporated as a city on October 17, 1878. 

Did you know?

Marquis de La Fayette is considered a national hero in both US and France. After leading the American Revolutionary War, he returned to his homeland France and took a leadership position in French Revolution and July Revolution. 

5. Eugene

Founded/ incorporated: 1846
County: Lane
Area: 44.29 sq mi

Eugenephoto source: www.worldatlas.com

Eugene is located in Willamette Valley, where McKenzie River meets Willamette River. It is the second largest city in the state of Oregon and is home to the University of Oregon and Bunshell University.

The city was founded by Eugene Franklin Skinner, an American settler who reached the region in 1846. It is known that at the time of his arrival, he was accompanied by 1,200 other settlers. He built a cabin on the valley’s slope and used it as a trading post. In 1850, the cabin was registered as a post office.

The city was formally incorporated in 1862,

Did you know?

The settlement was formerly known as Skinner’s Mudhole. In 1853, it was relocated and named Eugene City.

4. Corvallis

Founded/ incorporated: 1845
County: Benton
Area: 14.59 sq mi

Corvallisphoto source: livability.com

The city of Corvallis is located 90 miles south of Portland. This old city has a population of about 60,000 and is home to Oregon State University. It is consistently ranked as one of the best college towns in the US.

Joseph C. Avery established the town. He reached the area in October 1845 and built a log cabin near the mouth of Marys River. Avery was soon joined by many others who settled in the area.

The development of the township was temporarily stalled during the California Gold Rush. However, those who left returned to the town and made it a thriving community called Marysville. Finally, on January 29, 1857, Corvallis was incorporated as a city.   

Did you know?

The name Corvallis was adopted in 1853. Three names were proposed, Thurston, Vallena, and Corvallis. On the other hand, some wanted to change the name of Salem to Corvallis, meaning the heart of the valley. Finally, the name was granted to the former Marysville. 

3. Salem

Founded/ incorporated: 1842
County: Marion and Polk
Area: 49.45 sq mi

Salemphoto source: wikipedia.org

Salem, nicknamed Cherry City, is the capital of the state of Oregon. The city is located in the Willamette Valley on the bank of the Willamette River. Based on its population size, Salem is the third-largest city after Portland and Eugene.

The city was 

Historically, the area was called Chim-i-ki-ti (meaning resting place) by the native Americans. The name Salem was given when William H. Willson and David Leslie founded the city. Some believe the town was named after the City of Salem, Massachusetts.

However, another theory says Willson chose the anglicized version of Biblical Hebrew Shalom (meaning peace, hello, and goodbye) to name the city.

Did you know?

Salem was once known for its thriving cherry-growing industry. It also used to celebrate the cherry festival once a year until the first World War. 

2. Oregon City

Founded/ incorporated: 1829
County: Clackamas
Area: 10.29 sq m

photo source: www.orcity.org

Dr. Joh McLoughlin established Oregon City in 1829. At that time, McLoughlin was the Chief Factor and Superintendent of the Hudson’s Bay Company. He was in charge of the Columbia Department, the present-day Oregon Country.

McLoughlin wanted to exploit the power of Willamette Falls to run their lumber mill. Thus, he chose the area near the confluence of the Clackamas River and Willamette to set up a settlement.

In the early days, the city played a pivotal role in developing trade and industry in this region.

Did you know?

Oregon City was incorporated in 1844, and from 1848-51 it served as the capital of the Oregon Territory.

1. Astoria

Founded/ incorporated: 1811
County: Clatsop
Area: 9.95 sq mi

Astoriaphoto source: wikipedia.org

Astoria is the oldest town in Oregon, founded in 1811. It is also the oldest permanent American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. The city is located in the northwest corner of the state at the mouth of the Columbia River. The town of Astoria was incorporated in 1856 by the legislative assembly.

It is a small city with a population of about 10,000 but has a vibrant arts and culture scene. It houses many historic sites, museums, and art galleries and hosts several festivals. 

The city is home to the historical Liberty Theatre, which hosts live performances, theatre, films, and other events. The Astoria column is the highest point in the city and offers a panoramic view of Astoria.

Did you know?

The city of Astoria was named after John Jacob Astor, founder of the American Fur Company. In 1811, he founded Fort Astoria at this site to run his fur business.


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