Pacific Coast Business Directory

Oregon ~ Early Settlement

Oregon was organized as a Territory in 1818, and admitted into the Union with the present prescribed limits on the twelfth of February, 1859. Bounded north by Washington, east by Idaho, south by Nevada and California, and west by the Pacific Ocean. The broad and romantic Columbia runs along the northern border, and Snake River, Lewis Fork of the Columbia, runs for nearly two hundred miles along its eastern border. The astronomical position of the State is between the degrees of -42 and 46.20 latitude, and 116.30 and 121.30 longitude, giving it an area of 95,274 square miles; or, in round numbers, 61,000,000 acres of land. Of this, the general estimates have been that 10,000,000 acres wore arable, but explorations and experiments have demonstrated the fact that much of the land formerly regarded as desert, or only fit for grazing purposes, was well adapted for tillage, and it is now estimated that 25,000,000 acres may be classed as fit for cultivation, the remainder being forest and grazing lands, lakes, or mountain peaks above the region of vegetation.

Historically, Oregon is the most important division of the Pacific Coast. The early French, Spanish, and English navigators, prior to the independence of America, had sailed along the coast, but it fortunately remained for Captain Robert Gray, an American, in the ship Columbia, from the Boston, who on the 11th of May, 1792, crossed the bar and entered what proved to be a large river, making a chart of the channel and surroundings, and naming it after his ship, the Columbia. Although the English explorers, Vancouver and Broughton, shortly afterwards entered the river and made extensive surveys, and claimed the country for the British, who for many years hold possession, the discovery by Captain Gray secured the region for the Americans. The etymology of the name of Oregon is shrouded in mystery. By some writers it is attributed as coming from origanum, the scientific name of the wild marjoram which grows profusely on the coast and might have been observed by the early explorers, By others the name is supposed to have come from the Spanish Origin, the name they might have given to the Indians who distended their ears by artificial means, as the French voyagers named one tribe the Pend 'Oreilles. The most probable solution is that it is an Indian word, first recorded by Mr. Jonathan Carver, an adventurous traveler of the Mississippi Valley, in 1766, who had heard the word applied to a great river of the west, and thus without knowing its meaning or to what it was applied, it was adopted as the name of the great region west of the Rocky Mountains drained by the Columbia. This on the old maps occupied the territory lying between the forty-second parallel of latitude and that of fifty-four-forty, and between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Both the British and Americans contended for (he sovereignty for many years, often threatening war, but finally, in 1846, by treaty with England, the forty-ninth parallel was adopted as the national boundary, from the Lake of the Woods to the Gulf of Georgia, or Puget Sound. In 1848 Oregon was organized regularly as a Territory of the United States within the present limits, although previously the people had maintained a form of territorial government of their own organizing, and was admitted as a State of the Union in 1859.

Since the discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada, Oregon has greatly prospered. The liberal policy of the United States Government in granting farms to actual settlers secured to the hardy pioneers their lands, with little cost and with perfect titles. With such a foundation the general prosperity was assured, and the State, in proportion to its inhabitants, boasts a wealth second to none in the Union. The population is now estimated at 100,000, and the assessed value of property in 1873 was $40,700,159. The total State indebtedness is $503,256. The amount of taxes levied by the Legislative Assembly in 1873 for the expenses of the State Government was $238,482, showing economy in government and light taxation. Having passed through many trials and hardships, the early pioneers wore taught lessons of industry and frugality, and these principles became fixed before the extravagant period that followed the discovery of gold in California. As a consequence salaries, interest and wages are low and financial panics are unknown. Schools, churches, and newspapers are established, all of a high order, the best evidences of the character and enlightenment of the people.

The physical features of Oregon are its bold, unbroken coast, forest-clothed and snow-capped mountains, deep and fertile valleys, noble rivers and rolling plains. The coast has a bold, northward trend, inclining slightly to the east, with an extent of about 300 miles, having but few harbors or roadsteads. The Chetco River enters the ocean near the southern border, but offers no good harbor or anchorage. A possible landing is effected at the mouth of Rogue River, in latitude 42° 25', but the channel over the bar is so intricate and dangerous that very few vessels have ever attempted it. Port Orford, in latitude 42° 44' north, and longitude 124° 29' west, is regarded as the best summer roadstead on the coast between San Francisco Bay and the Straits of Fuca. The available landing and the fine timber in the neighborhood give the place some importance, which would be greatly enhanced did not the precipitous mountains cut off communication with the interior. A few miles northwest is Cape Orford, or Blanco, one of the principal capes of the coast Coquille River enters the Pacific in latitude 43° 07', and although a large stream, of some forty yards in breadth, is so obstructed at the mouth as to destroy its use as a harbor. Coos Bay, in latitude 43° 21', is one of the most important harbors on the coast of Oregon. The entrance is quite difficult, as the sea usually breaks on the bar, but regular lines of steamers and calling vessels are engaged in the trade between the several towns on the bay and San Francisco. Extensive coal mines are found in the vicinity, and the surrounding mountains are covered with valuable forests, and these form the basis of an important commerce. The bay is irregular in shape, having the form of a horse shoe, one light arm extending south wardly, the other and principal arm having a total length of about twelve miles, with an average width of three-quarters of a mile. Other arms join it which increase its navigable area.

The Umpqua enters the ocean in latitude 43° 42', and although a large river of some 200 miles in length, and navigable for sixty miles, it is so obstructed at the mouth as to prevent its acceptance as a harbor. The bar has a depth of about thirteen foot, but is changeable. The Yaquina River and bay form a small harbor, nine miles north of Cape Perpetua, having a depth of but nine and a half feet at low water, with a narrow channel and swift current, rendering navigation difficult. Elk River also enters the bay, and is navigable for light draft steamers to Elk City, a distance of 26 miles. The Nehalem, is the next considerable stream south of the Columbia, entering the ocean. The bar at the mouth has a depth of about 18 feet, and when inside the river widens out into a deep lagoon of four miles in width by eight in length.

The Columbia is the great river of Oregon, and in fact the largest of the Pacific Coast, excepting the Yukon, of Alaska, but the bar at the mouth and the heavy breakers upon it detract from its value as a convenient and safe harbor. The river, at its mouth, is about five miles broad, and flows with such a strong current in time of freshets that water for ship's use can be taken up on the bar. Once inside, the river shores afford many fine harbors. Astoria, near the mouth, has a good harbor, and is a place of historical interest, but the great shipping point of Oregon is at Portland, on the Willamette River, 110 miles from the ocean, and 13 miles from the Columbia. This is at the head of ship navigation of vessels drawing 18 feet of water. Ocean steamers and large sailing vessels navigate the Columbia to the Cascades, a distance of 160 miles from its mouth, and above those, after a portage of six miles, the river is again navigable for small steamers for a distance of 400 miles, to Lewiston, in Idaho, with the interruption at the Dalles, or Rapids, at the eastern base of the Cascade Range, fifty miles east of the first falls. The main Columbia, or north branch, is navigable, with several interruptions, for nearly 1,000 miles, far into British Columbia. Large steamers ascend the Willamette to Portland; and with the exception of the fall of forty feet at Oregon City, the river is navigable for small steamers a distance of 200 miles, to Eugene City.

The Cascade Range of mountains, running north and south, between the 121st and 122nd degrees of longitude, divides the State into two divisions, called Eastern and Western Oregon. This is a grand range, having many of the outward features of the Sierra Nevada, with the lofty peaks of Jefferson and Hood standing as sentinels along its high walls, while eastward is the elevated plateau characteristic of the basin of Nevada, and westward arc the valleys of Rogue River, the Umpqua, and Willamette, with the forest-covered ranges of mountains, and the mild climate peculiar to the Pacific coast. The western division, containing about one-third the area of the State, is the most populous and wealthy, and is itself divided into valleys and mountainous sections of different characteristics.

The Willamette Valley constitutes the chief subdivision of the west, having a length of one hundred and forty miles, and an average width of forty miles, or an area of agricultural land of over three million acres, and including the foothills, an aggregate of over five million acres. The Willamette River runs from south to north, through the entire length of the valley, rising in the Cascade Range, in latitude 43° 20', and after a sinuous course of some three hundred miles, joins the Columbia. Several branches of considerable size enter the Willamette, the principal of which are the North and South Santiam, Mill Creek, Pudding and Clackamas, and many tributaries of those on the east side, and the Long Tom, Luckiamute, La Creole, Yamhill, and Tualatin on the west, several being navigable for short distances, and the main stream being navigable through eight months of the year to Eugene City, near the head of the valley.

The Umpqua Valley lies south of the Willamette, from which it is separated by the Calapooia range of mountains. The valley is large and fertile, though composed more of rolling hills than level plains. The Umpqua River rises in the Cascade Mountains, and running westerly, draining the valley which bears its name, then breaks through the Coast Mountains to the ocean. South of the Umpqua is Rogue River Valley, which bears many features of resemblance to the one north of it. These, with the several ranges of mountains near the coast, and the small valleys enclosed, constitute Western Oregon, a region of temperate climate, and unlimited resources in soil, forests and mines.

Eastern Oregon comprises the elevated plateau east of the Cascade Range, embracing an area of 63,000 square miles, of peculiar formation. The principal rivers of the Division are the Snake, or Lewis Fork of the Columbia, Des Chutes, John Day, Umatilla, Walla Walla, Grande Rondo, Powder, and Malheur, and in the southeast is the Owyhee; besides rivers and creeks of lesser note in every section. The southern portion is a basin with but little, if any, watershed to the sea, containing within itself twenty or more lakes, from one to thirty miles in diameter, and from this feature is designated as the "Lake Country.'' This region is generally barren, but about the lakes are extensive marshes, capable of reclamation and cultivation. The lakes and marshes are great resorts for water-fowl, which gather about them in myriads during the spring and summer, and here hatch their young. The principal lakes are the Klamath, 20 miles long by 6 miles wide, connected by Link River with Little Klamath, 9 miles long by 6 wide; Goose Lake, 30 miles long by 12 wide; Lake Albert, 15 miles by 5 in area; Summer Lake, containing about 90 square miles; Silver Lake, 48 square miles; Harney Lake, the largest in Oregon, having an area of 200 square miles; the Christmas Lakes, a chain of 50 miles in extent; and Warner Lake, which is 35 miles in length by 5 in breadth. From its peculiar features and historical events, the Lake Country is of great interest. Being occupied by many tribes of warlike Indians, several wars and massacres have occurred, the campaign of General Crook, and the recent Modoc war being the most notable.

The Blue Mountains, Stein's Mountain, and numerous other ranges and peaks are in this division of the State, and are generally metaliferous. The rivers flowing into the Snake and Columbia are bordered by valleys of considerable size, and containing much agricultural land of great value and mines of gold and silver in river beds and adjacent hills are profitably worked.

The arable lands of Oregon are very fertile, and the climate and seasons are such as to make them exceedingly productive, which, with their vast area, makes it one of the most promising of the agricultural States of the Union. Although the cultivation of the soil has been the chief occupation of the people, this is far from being the only resource, if, indeed, it may be called the predominant one. The forests are extensive, and grand in character, and generally so accessible to navigation that the manufacture of lumber, pitch, tar and turpentine, constitutes an important branch of industry. Minerals of such variety, value and extent exist, that mining may at some time dispute the precedence of importance with agriculture. These comprise every class, including coal, iron, lead, copper, salt, silver and gold, all in large quantities, while minerals of nearly every name are found to a greater or less extent. The gold mines of the southwestern counties have been worked since 1850, and although for some years have been neglected and the product declined, the same steps of improvement that are advancing the mining interest in California are felt in Oregon, and the great gravel beds that are known to exist are threatened with the attacks from the hydraulic "giants" and "monitors." Gold-bearing veins of quartz are known to exist in large numbers, and attempts have been made to work them; but from want of capital, and, perhaps, of skill, no great success has been made. The importance and future value of this branch of mining cannot be doubted. The regions of the Umpqua, Rogue River and the Illinois in the southwest, and of the John Day, Powder and Malheur in the northeast, are gold-bearing, comprising a vast extent of territory, which is also productive in agriculture. Silver, copper, and lead are found in the same sections, and invite the capitalist to the development of this resource.

Iron ore of great purity is found, and is successfully mined in Clackamas County, west of the Willamette River. Those bods are practically inexhaustible; and situated as they are in the midst of majestic forests, covered by a fertile soil, and on the banks of a navigable river, give proof of the grandeur of the resources of Oregon. Hut the list of minerals of this great State does not end here. Coal, one of the most useful of all, is found in various localities, and is mined with some success. This mineral is found along the coast and on the banks of the Columbia, convenient for shipping. At Coos Bay it is mined extensively, and the mining towns of Newport, Eastport and Empire City, are thriving places. A line of coal-carrying steamers ply regularly between Coos Bay and San Francisco, and many sailing vessels are engaged in the trade. The coal region appears to-bo large, as the developments, encouraged by the success of established enterprise, are extending the fields, and a number of new mines are opening. Besides those upon which great operations are conducted, limestone, marble, salt, fire and potter's clay, and other useful minerals are found, which will ultimately constitute sources of wealth, comfort and domestic economy to the people of the State.

Thus it will be soon how richly is the country stored with all that is required for the comfort, luxury, and happiness of man; with mines of the precious and useful metals, a soil of unsurpassed fertility, forests of the grandest proportions, great navigable rivers; and overall is a genial sky, blessing it with a climate of no extreme of heat or cold. This wealth is for the future. Population and development are required, and those will rapidly obtain when markets are found for surplus products. Here, as elsewhere through-out the Pacific Coast, all is in a condition of unrest, where but few persistently aim at the accomplishment of a single object; but generally, with wild energy and unfixed ideas, are in pursuit of something soon to be abandoned. As a consequence, business in every branch is like a gambling venture; property is valued as the caprice of the multitude governs; fortunes vary with the tide, and full development is slow. The very riches of the country make people unsteady, and only sudden wealth satisfies. Under a different condition of business and ideas, perhaps after a period of stagnation, the resources will be developed systematically, and advancement be rapid and permanent.

The manufacturing capabilities cannot be surpassed by any country in the world, not even England, which, with its small area, has become the wealthiest kingdom on the globe. The many rivers, with abundant water and rapid fall, furnish unlimited power, or its forests and bods of coal supply the fuel necessary for propelling by steam all the machinery that could be required, and from the soil, the timber and the mines, can be taken the material to be worked upon.

Commercially, Oregon is favorably situated. The sea coast harbors have been noticed. The Columbia, with one of its principal branches, the Snake, wash its eastern and northern border, and the Willamette and Umpqua and their branches give several hundred miles of inland navigation, so branching through the farming, lumbering, and mining regions as to give the greatest accommodation to business. Those rivers, moreover, are abundantly stocked with salmon, one of the highest prized fishes of the world, and the capture and preservation of this engages a large capital, and the catch returns an aggregate of about $2,000,000 annually.

Railroads now come to the assistance of commerce, and are rivals of the free watercourses. The Northern Pacific, from Duluth, on Lake Superior, to Columbia River and Puget Sound, is the great projected line of the north, and, when built, will have a great influence on the prosperity of Oregon, although not entering the State. The Puget Sound Division is completed, by which means rapid communication is maintained between Oregon and the cities and towns of Washington and British Columbia. The Oregon and California Railroad, the most important of the State, now extends from east Portland southward to Roseburg in the Umpqua Valley, a distance of 200 miles, whence stages continue to the completed portion of the California and Oregon Railroad at Redding in California. The Oregon Central Railroad runs on the west side of the Willamette River, from Portland southward to St. Joseph, in Yamhill County, a distance of about 50 miles. A great road from some point on the Oregon and California, to join the Central Pacific at or near Winnemucca, in the State of Nevada, is projected, and active steps have been taken toward the commencement of operations. Thus this brief review shows the progress and wealth of the State, and an examination of the resources give a bright promise of the future. The resources, condition and physical features of localities will be more completely noticed in the descriptions of counties and towns.

Pacific Coast Business Directory | Oregon Directory Index

Source: Pacific Coast Business Directory for 1876-78, Compiled by Henry G. Langley, San Francisco, 1875.


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