Oregon, one of the Pacific states of the United States. It is bordered on the north by Washington, on the east by Idaho, on the south by Nevada and California, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. Oregon contains some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States as well as some of the nation’s most fertile soils and richest timberlands. However, it was the beaver that first gave rise to the development of Oregon.
Oregon’s nickname, the Beaver State, harks back to the early years of the 19th century. Fur hats were fashionable at that time, in northeastern cities, and Oregon’s streams were an important source of beaver. With competition fierce among the fur companies for control of the western lands, adventurous trappers, called mountain men, became the first white people to know the region well. Later, when the rage for beaver hats had passed and Oregon’s beaver supply was all but exhausted, the mountain men showed the early pioneers a route they had picked out in their trapping years. Known as the Oregon Trail, it took thousands during the 1840s to the fertile Willamette Valley, where wheat, fruits, and vegetables thrived. Settlers were also drawn to other parts of the state, where a profitable timber industry later developed around Oregon’s bountiful supply of Douglas fir trees.
In the 1990s the timber industry, while still critical to Oregon’s economy, waned as access to old growth stands of trees diminished. Meanwhile, manufacturing grew, fueled by technology industries in the Willamette Valley.
The origin of the state name is uncertain. It may, however, be derived from the French ouragan, meaning storm or hurricane. The Columbia River may have been called the River of Storms by the early French Canadian trappers. Oregon entered the Union on February 14, 1859, as the 33rd state. Salem is Oregon’s capital. Portland is its largest city.
Oregon ranks tenth in size among the states, covering an area of 254,806 sq km (98,381 sq mi), including 2,719 sq km (1,050 sq mi) of inland water and 207 sq km (80 sq mi) of coastal water over which it has jurisdiction. The state has a roughly rectangular shape with a width from east to west of 669 km (416 mi) and a length from north to south of 476 km (296 mi). The mean elevation is 1,000 m (3,300 ft).
Oregon includes parts of four major physiographic provinces (natural land regions) of the United States. The Pacific Border province occupies the western part of the state and encompasses the Oregon Coast Range, the Klamath Mountains, and the Willamette Valley. The Sierra-Cascade province is dominated by the Cascade Range, which parallels the Pacific Border province. The Columbia Plateau lies in the northeastern and north central part of the state. It is subdivided into the Blue Mountains, the Deschutes-Umatilla Plateau, the Harney Desert, and the Payette Section. In the south is Oregon’s fourth physiographic region, a subdivision of the Basin and Range province called the Great Basin.
The Oregon section of the Coast Ranges is typical of such systems, with ridges running parallel to the coast and narrow valleys between the ridges. The crests of the ridges reach an average height of 550 m (1,800 ft) in the north. In the south they are higher, reaching an average height of nearly 1,080 m (3,600 ft). The high peaks and rugged headlands along the coast are formed of igneous rock intruded into sedimentary formations. The highest of the mountains is Marys Peak (1,249 m/4,097 ft).
Abutting the Oregon Coast Range are the higher and more rugged Klamath Mountains, which extend southward into California. Their highest peaks exceed 2,100 m (7,000 ft). The ridges and peaks are made up of a complex mass of relatively old marble and limestone as well as serpentine, shale, and hard sandstone. This mountain structure has yielded considerable quantities of gold, chromite, and nickel. There are a few alluvial basins in the Klamath Mountains, notably the Rogue River Valley around the cities of Medford and Ashland, a smaller alluvial lowland near Grants Pass, and another in the vicinity of Cave Junction. These lowlands provide favorable locations for farms and cities and are densely populated.
The Willamette Valley is the only large alluvial lowland in Oregon. The heart of the state, it contains the largest cities and a majority of Oregon’s population. The Willamette River meanders back and forth across this valley, which is more than 240 km (150 mi) long and up to 50 km (30 mi) wide. Some hilly areas emerge from the lowland, such as the Salem and Eola hills in the middle of the valley. Elsewhere the lowland is level, and in places artificial drainage is required to make it habitable.
The Cascade Range, containing some of Oregon’s most magnificent scenery, extends the entire length of the state. The general level of the high plateau of the Cascades is 1,500 m (5,000 ft), but numerous sharp volcanic peaks lie above the plateau level of this mountain range. Among them is Mount Hood (3,426 m/11,239 ft), the highest peak in Oregon. Other peaks are Mount Jefferson and a series of three peaks called the Three Sisters, all of which are more than 3,000 m (10,000 ft) high. Passes traversed by east-west highways provide fairly easy travel through these mountains, except in winter, when they are sometimes blocked by snow.
The Columbia Plateau, which extends into Washington and Idaho, is primarily the result of great extrusions of lava from fissures and vents that once covered a wide area. One of the major divisions of the Columbia Plateau is formed by the Blue Mountains, which might be more accurately described as a large plateau with some steep and rugged areas. The Wallowa Mountains, which lie in the extreme northeastern part of the state, are sometimes considered a part of the Blue Mountains. In the Wallowas, erosion has exposed the granite underlying the lavas, and the highest part of this region, which is severely glaciated, contains many spectacular peaks and glacial lakes.
Good farmland is found in small alluvial basins in the northeast, around La Grande, Baker City, and Enterprise. These basins are well drained by rivers and receive water for irrigation from the adjacent mountain areas. One of the most dramatic features of this northeastern area is Hells Canyon of the Snake River, the deepest gorge in North America, running along the Oregon-Idaho border. The Snake River has cut a narrow gorge into the lava flows of the nearby mountains, forming a canyon, which in places lies 1,800 m (6,000 ft) or more below the adjacent uplands.
The Deschutes-Umatilla Plateau extends eastward from the northern Cascades to the vicinity of Pendleton. The Deschutes-Umatilla is a lava plateau dissected by the canyons of the Deschutes, John Day, Umatilla, and other rivers. The Harney Desert, or High Lava Plains, extends from the central Cascades eastward to the vicinity of Malheur Lake. It consists of relatively young lava flows, covered in places by ash and pumice. Only the irrigated part near the Cascades is very productive. The Payette Section, or Owyhee Upland, consists of old lava plateaus that have been cut up, or dissected, by the action of streams. The lower canyon of the Owyhee has been dammed to produce a long reservoir lying between rugged multicolored cliffs that irrigates a large area near the Snake River.
Oregon’s fourth physiographic region, the Great Basin, is found in south central Oregon, east of the Cascades. Here north-south ranges alternate with broad basins. Some of the basins contain intermittent lakes. An extensive irrigated area near Klamath Falls is supplied with water from the Cascade Range.
|B||Rivers and Lakes|
The Columbia River forms most of the Oregon-Washington boundary, and with its tributaries this great river drains a large portion of Oregon. From the point where the Columbia first touches the state, at Wallula Gap, the river runs in a shallow gorge, deepening as it approaches the Cascades. This part of the river once had many rapids and falls, but is now navigable by large vessels because of dams and locks that have been built along much of its length. An important tributary of the Columbia is the Snake River, which forms part of the Oregon-Idaho boundary. The Snake rises in Yellowstone National Park and flows through Wyoming and Idaho before reaching Oregon. It supplies water for irrigation and power. The Willamette River, the most important within the state, has its headwaters in the high Cascades, north of Crater Lake. It supplies water for cities and industries in the valley and has become an important amenity. The Deschutes River collects water from the eastern flanks of the Cascade Mountains before joining the Columbia near The Dalles. The rivers of the northern Oregon coast are short, generally draining only the western side of the Oregon Coast Range, although the Siuslaw and Umpqua rivers traverse the entire range farther south. The Rogue River drains a large area in the southwest of the state.
The lakes of Oregon include coastal dune-blocked lakes as well as the lakes of the high Cascades and several shallow basin lakes in the more arid areas. Oregon’s largest lake is Upper Klamath Lake, which lies on the eastern fringes of the Cascades. In the high Cascades, most of the lakes were formed either by glacial action or by lava flows that dammed up stream valleys. Water from these lakes is used in lower regions for irrigation and general water supply. Near the crest of the Cascades are two large lakes, Odell and Waldo. Also in the Cascades is spectacular Crater Lake, which is the deepest lake in the United States.
In the Wallowa Mountains are several lakes of glacial origin, the largest of which is Wallowa Lake. In south central Oregon, some of the lakes occupy large basins in areas of interior drainage and therefore have a sharply fluctuating water level, depending on the amount of rainfall. On occasion they even dry up. Included in this group are Summer, Abert, Harney, and Malheur lakes.
The coastline of Oregon is regular, with few indentations or promontories. Beaches fringed with low dunes line many parts of the coast. Rugged cliffs and headlands make up the rest of the shoreline. The most important bays are Tillamook Bay, Yaquina Bay, and Coos Bay, the leading ocean harbor for freighters on the Oregon coast.
The chief influences on Oregon’s climate are the relative distances from the ocean of given areas and the mountain ranges paralleling the coast.
The region from the coast to the Cascades has a temperate marine climate. Because of the moderating effect that nearby ocean water has on seasonal temperatures, summers are cool and winters are mild. The average temperature of the coldest month is well above freezing, and temperatures in the warmest month are generally below 21° C (70° F).
The Cascade Range and the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon have a highland type of climate, with cool summers and severe winters. The average January temperature is below freezing, and there is usually a snow cover for many months of the year. Snow is most abundant on the western slopes of the northern Cascade Range, where as much as 15 m (50 ft) accumulates during the winter. Precipitation in the coastal areas, the Cascades, and the Blue Mountains is the highest in the state. It reaches its maximum on the western slopes of the northern Oregon Coast Range, where it may exceed 3,800 mm (150 in) annually. All of the western slopes of the Oregon Coast Range, Klamath Mountains, and Cascade Range capture moisture from the winds off the Pacific and have at least 1,300 mm (50 in) of precipitation yearly. The Willamette Valley and parts of the Blue Mountains have 750 to 1,300 mm (30 to 50 in) of precipitation.
The eastern two-thirds of Oregon, including the Basin and Range province and most of the Columbia Plateau region except the Blue Mountains, has a semiarid mid-latitude climate. Summers are warm and winters are cold. Precipitation is 250 to 500 mm (10 to 20 in) annually. There are within this large region a few deserts, or arid areas, with less than 250 mm (10 in) of precipitation yearly. One such area is found along the Columbia River, near Umatilla; another, in central Oregon just east of the Cascades; and a third, in the vicinity of Vale, near the state’s eastern border.
In western Oregon, where the conditions for soil formation include fairly heavy rainfall and moderate year-round temperatures, the soil cover is thick but has been quite highly leached of its soluble minerals. These soils require the addition of fertilizers for optimum crop production. In the Willamette Valley, the principal agricultural region of western Oregon, the soils are derived in part from alluvium in the lower parts of the valley and in part from basaltic and sedimentary rocks in the hillier portions. Although both rainfall and leaching are moderate here, the addition of fertilizer is desirable. Eastern Oregon is relatively dry, and its soils are fairly high in soluble mineral content and do not need much fertilizing. They include chestnut, or dark-brown, soils and the gray desert soils characteristic of the Basin and Range province.
Forests cover 48 percent of Oregon’s land area. The humid western part of the state, including all of the Pacific Border province, is mostly forested, as are parts of the Blue Mountains. Near the coast the forests are of spruce and hemlock, trees that tolerate salt spray well. Most of the Oregon Coast Range and the slopes of the Cascade Range as far up as 1,200 m (4,000 ft) are covered by Douglas fir and western hemlock. The Douglas fir produces most of Oregon’s lumber. Above the Douglas fir forest in the Cascades are a variety of coniferous trees, which include white fir, grand fir, mountain hemlock, and pine. On the eastern slopes of the Cascades and in parts of the Blue Mountains the forests are dominated by the ponderosa pine and lodgepole pine. The large ponderosa pines grow widely apart. The undergrowth of low shrub and grass that develops between the pines provides nutrients for the development of new trees and is suitable for grazing by wildlife and livestock.
In river valleys and lowlands, some species of deciduous trees, including alder, ash, maple, and white oak, are fairly common. Deciduous trees found in eastern Oregon include cottonwood, aspen, and birch. Juniper, a conifer, is found throughout eastern Oregon. In the high desert of southeastern Oregon, sagebrush and bunchgrass prevail.
Wild animals in Oregon include deer, elk, and antelope, a great variety of small mammals, upland game birds, and migratory fowl. Black-tailed deer are common in western Oregon, from the crest of the Cascades to the sea. Mule deer live mainly in the ponderosa pine forests and in the sagebrush areas of eastern Oregon, and white-tailed deer occur in scattered areas throughout the state. The Roosevelt elk is found in the western third of the state, and the Rocky Mountain elk is found east of the Cascades, particularly in the Blue Mountains and in the Wallowas. In the southeast are pronghorns, which feed mainly in the sagebrush areas in winter and migrate to the higher areas of the Great Basin in the summer season. Bears, cougars, and coyotes are common in many areas. Smaller mammals include quantities of cottontails and jackrabbits. Beaver are now on the increase. Muskrat, marten, fishers, raccoons, and wildcats are fairly common. Upland game birds include pheasants, bobwhites, valley quail, and mountain quail. Ducks, geese, and other migratory birds, following their flyways, stop in the area of Upper Klamath Lake and around the coastal lakes and other waterways. Oregon has 11 national wildlife refuge areas that protect mammals and migratory fowl.
Oregon residents have long been leaders in environmental protection. They were the first to adopt legislation banning the sale of nonreturnable beverage bottles and cans, and later voters banned the sale of aerosol cans containing fluorocarbons, suspected of damaging the earth’s ozone layer. In 2006 the state had 11 hazardous waste sites placed on a national priority list for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people.
Over the last several decades major conflicts within the state have arisen as the goals of environmental organizations clash with those of forest-products and agriculture interests. Those with occupations based on traditional natural resources utilization, such as logging, irrigation, and grazing, feel threatened by environmental rules and regulations restricting long-established approaches to resource use. Environmental organizations and their members are concentrated in the state’s few metropolitan areas, for the most part in the Willamette Valley, whereas Oregonians skeptical of environmental goals make up the majority in rural areas and small towns throughout most of the rest of the state.
Spotted owls and salmon have become symbols of the controversy. The rare spotted owl, believed to need old growth timber as a habitat, has been considered a threatened species since 1990. The resulting restrictions on logging in areas of spotted owl habitats, coupled with the results of years of overharvest, has hurt the timber industry. Salmon need unsilted and obstruction-free rivers to flourish, but the attempts to halt declining salmon runs have caused reduced output from hydroelectric facilities, and stimulated efforts to further modify logging and agricultural practices to improve degraded salmon habitats. These efforts intensified in 1999 after the federal government classified nine wild salmon species as either threatened or endangered. This decision expanded the need for salmon protection and restoration in Oregon waterways, including the Willamette River in the Portland metropolitan area.
From its earliest settlement, Oregon had an economy dominated by the exploitation of natural resources, particularly forest and agricultural resources. Beginning in the second half of the 20th century, however, the state’s economy diversified with the growth of manufacturing and service industries.
Oregon had a work force of 1,899,000 in 2006. Of those, 35 percent worked in the service industries, doing such jobs as working in restaurants or computer programming. Another 20 percent worked in wholesale or retail grade; 12 percent in manufacturing; 17 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 17 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 6 percent in construction; 4 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing; and 20 percent in transportation or public utilities. Employment in mining was a small fraction of one percent.
In 2005, 15 percent of Oregon’s workers were unionized.
One of the outstanding features of Oregon’s agriculture is its diversity. Sales of crops account for 72 percent of all agricultural income. Among the many crops are feed crops, such as hay and barley; wheat; vegetables, including potatoes, onions, snap beans, sweet corn, and green peas; fruits, including pears, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, and apples; greenhouse and nursery products; fescue seed, ryegrass seed, and other seed crops; mint; sugar beets; and hops. Beef cattle and dairy products are by far the most important livestock commodities. The significance of nursery and greenhouse products has grown over recent decades, surpassing wheat during the mid-1990s in the value of agricultural commodity groups.
There were 40,000 farms in Oregon in 2005. Of these, 35 percent had annual sales of more than $10,000; many of the rest were sidelines for operators who held other jobs. Farmland occupied 6.9 million hectares (17.1 million acres), of which 32 percent was cropland. Of the cropland area, 29 percent was irrigated. The majority of land used for agricultural purposes was devoted to range for the grazing of livestock.
|A1||Patterns of Farming|
The distribution of farm products depends primarily on climate and markets. Dairy farming is concentrated in the northwestern part of the state, especially in the Willamette Valley and on the coast. Here the mild rainy winters and cool summers favor the production of hay and pasture. Whole milk, butter, and cheese are produced in large quantities, some for out-of-state markets. Tillamook cheese, one of Oregon’s best-known brands, is produced in the coastal area, and large quantities of cheese are produced in the Willamette Valley. Fruits and vegetables are grown and marketed fresh or processed in canneries and freezing plants in the Willamette Valley, also the center of the state’s hazelnut production. Medford, in Jackson County, produces large quantities of pears and other fruits, as does the Hood River Valley near the Columbia River. Fruits and vegetables are also important in several places in eastern Oregon, especially in the irrigated areas around Vale and Ontario. A number of farms in the state have begun growing grapes for use by local wineries.
Wheat farming, formerly more widespread in the state, is now concentrated in the north central section, in the Deschutes-Umatilla Plateau. Here the moderate rainfall, fertile soils, and relatively cheap land are favorable for the production of spring and winter wheat and other small grains by dry farming. Much of the wheat is grown for export, particularly to Asian countries. One of the best wheat-growing regions is near Pendleton, an area that also produces peas.
Cattle ranching is widely distributed in Oregon, especially in the eastern part of the state. Here the semiarid grasslands and forest grazing lands, much of it owned by the federal government, are used for cattle and sheep. The irrigated areas serve to supply hay and other forage crops as winter feed for the ranching areas. Some cash crops, such as sugar beets and potatoes, are produced as well.
Commercial fishing is one of the oldest industries in Oregon, but it has never employed a large proportion of the population. The commercial catch of fish and shellfish in the mid-1990s was valued at $76 million. Salmon is the principal commercial fish of Oregon. Other valuable species caught are tuna, crabs, shrimp, and flounder.
Since 1938, Oregon has been the largest producer of lumber in the United States. About one-sixth of the softwood lumber produced in the United States comes from Oregon. Forestry and related industries like the production of lumber, pulp, paper, plywood, and furniture provided almost one-fourth the personal income from industry in 1996.
Oregon’s forest area covers 10.8 million hectares (26.6 million acres). Most of the commercial timber comes from the western part of the state, where Douglas fir accounts for most of the annual harvest. In the northeastern section of the state, ponderosa pine is the principal timber tree.
Although mining has never played a large role in Oregon’s economy, two areas have at one time or another produced considerable quantities of minerals. One is in the southwestern part of the state, in the Klamath Mountains, and the other is in the northeastern part of the state, on the margin of the Blue Mountains, especially in the John Day Valley and in the vicinity of Baker.
A number of metallic minerals, including nickel, mercury, gold, silver, and copper, have been worked in some quantities. Small gold rushes in the 1850s created a number of boomtowns. Most of the mines have been worked out, have reduced production, or have been closed because of market conditions.
Among the most valuable minerals in Oregon’s economy are sand and gravel, crushed stone, cement, diatomite, lime, and pumice. Basaltic lavas, which are widespread, afford an excellent source for crushed rock. Pumice, in the production of which Oregon ranks first in the nation, is abundant in the central part of the state. Oregon ranks second in the nation in the production of diatomite, a chalky stone formed from the fossilized skeletons of diatoms and often used as an abrasive or as a material for filtering water. The state also produces semiprecious gemstones, including agates, opals, jasper, and petrified wood.
One out of five wage earners in Oregon is engaged in one of the various wood-processing industries. This figure jumps to one of every four wage earners if the manufacture of paper products and wood furniture is also included. The leading employers in the wood-products industries are firms engaged in making lumber, plywood, and wood pulp as well as finished goods such as mobile homes, wood cabinets, and corrugated boxes. The manufacture of electronic and electrical equipment expanded rapidly during the 1990s and now contributes the most value to the state’s economy of any industry. A number of high technology firms located in the Portland metropolitan region during the 1990s, chiefly making semiconductors, computers, or computer-related products. The food processing industry remains an integral part of Oregon’s economy. Leading employers include companies preparing frozen or canned fruits and vegetables and those processing seafood.
Most of the industries of Oregon are in or near the Willamette Valley. The bordering Cascades and Coast Ranges furnish a large proportion of the logs and pulpwood for processing, and the farms of the Willamette Valley produce most the raw materials for the food plants. Many of the processing plants in other parts of the state are devoted to woodworking industries, but there are also other types, such as aluminum-processing plants on the Columbia River. Other Oregon industries include manufacturers of industrial machinery such as woodworking, construction, and mining equipment; producers of instruments, most notably equipment to measure electricity as well as dental and electromedical equipment and supplies; and primary metal industries, including blast furnaces and steel mills, steel foundries, and aluminum plants. Printing and publishing are also important industries.
In addition to the rapid rise of high technology production, manufacturing has tended toward more highly specialized processing of raw materials. For example, the production of plywood has increased much more rapidly than the production of lumber. Also, in food processing, more attention is given to canning and freezing than to the marketing of fresh produce.
Hydroelectric power plants generate 63 percent of the electricity produced in Oregon. In the late 1990s Oregon ranked second in the country in the generation of hydroelectric energy, behind only Washington. The Columbia River basin, which Oregon shares with several other states, contains one-third of the hydroelectric energy potential of the United States. The Columbia River furnishes much of Oregon’s hydroelectric energy. Along the river on Oregon’s northern boundary are the Bonneville Dam, east of Portland, the Dalles Dam, the John Day Dam, and the McNary Dam, which is near Umatilla. Dams in the Columbia system outside of the state also feed power into Oregon. The remaining small share of electricity generated in the state comes from facilities burning fossil fuels, principally coal and natural gas. The state’s sole nuclear power plant, near Rainier on the lower Columbia, has been closed.
By sea, Oregon is well served by freighters that enter the port of Coos Bay and the various ports on the Columbia River from Astoria to Portland. Above Portland, barge transportation is important on the Columbia River. Barges also use the smaller coastal harbors of Tillamook, Newport, Florence, Reedsport, Gold Beach, and Brookings.
Oregon had 103,873 km (64,544 mi) of highways in 2005, of which 1,172 km (728 mi) were part of the federal interstate highway system. The principal route north-to-south is Interstate 5, and the main road east-to-west is Interstate 84. The two roads meet in Portland.
Some 3,993 km (2,481 mi) of railroads served Oregon in 2004. Wood products accounted for 50 percent of the tonnage of freight originating in the state, and paper products made up another 13 percent.
In 2007 the state had 11 airports, many of which were small private airfields. The principal airport is in Portland, although air routes form an important transportation link for other cities in Oregon.
|IV||THE PEOPLE OF OREGON|
According to the 2000 census the population of Oregon was 3,747,455, an increase of 20.4 percent over 1990. When the entire state is considered, the population is rather sparse, with an average of 15 persons per sq km (39 per sq mi) in 2006. But the majority of Oregonians live in a small part of the state, mostly in the Willamette Valley. The greater Portland metropolitan area is home to more than one-half of the state’s inhabitants. Of the state’s total population 79 percent is classified as urban. The population of Oregon has been growing steadily since 1850, when it was only about 12,000. The growth has been based on a substantial natural increase and a large migration from other states and from foreign countries.
Whites make up 86.6 percent of the population while Asians are 3 percent percent. Blacks, most of whom live in Portland, account for 1.6 percent of the state’s population. Native Americans, many of whom live in or near the Warm Springs, Umatilla, Siletz, and former Klamath reservations, constitute 1.3 percent of the population; Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are 0.2 percent; and those of mixed heritage or not reporting race are 7.3 percent. Hispanics, who may be of any race, are 8 percent of the people.
Most of the principal cities in the state have shown a continuous population growth. Portland, however, decreased in population during the 1970s but has resurged since. The city had 537,081 people in 2006. The city is the heart of a metropolitan region that includes seven counties in Oregon and one in Washington and has a population of 2.3 million people. In the metropolitan area are residential communities such as Gresham, Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Lake Oswego.
Eugene, in Lane County, is the second largest city, with a population of 146,356 within the city limits in 2006. Contiguous with Eugene is Springfield, with a population of 55,848. Salem is the capital of Oregon and had a population of 152,239. Other cities include Medford, with a population of 71,168; Corvallis, with 49,807; Albany, with 46,213; Bend, with 71,892; McMinnville, with 30,410; Klamath Falls, with 19,785; Grants Pass, with 29,693; Roseburg, with 20,991; Ashland, with 20,881; Pendleton, with 16,589; and Coos Bay, with 15,999.
Portland is the regional trade center for Oregon, and its outlying suburbs extend into Washington. Eugene has a large suburban area, particularly to the south. There is no other city of similar size between it and Sacramento, California.
The Roman Catholic church is Oregon’s largest religious group, with about one-sixth of the state’s church members. In terms of numbers in their congregations, leading Protestant churches are the Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Mormons.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS|
Since the mid-1940s Oregon has usually ranked high in literacy and above average in educational attainment in comparison to the rest of the country. Oregon’s public school system dates back to the provisions made by the territorial legislature in 1849. Until then, mission schools, the first at French Prairie in 1834, and subscription schools, supported by tuition fees, were conducted in a number of locations. In 1850 there were only three public schools, with a total of 80 pupils in the territory, which then embraced all of the present states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho as well as parts of Montana and Wyoming. The following year, Portland organized its first school district, and in 1858 a schoolhouse was built with tax funds. The state’s first public high school was established in Portland in 1869. Free secondary schools in other cities did not develop until after 1890. Compulsory attendance laws were enacted in 1889, and they apply to all children between the ages of 7 and 18. The state’s private schools enroll 8 percent of the children.
In the 2002–2003 school year Oregon spent $8,921 on each student’s education, compared to a national average of $9,299. There were 20.6 students for every teacher (the national average was 15.9 students per teacher). Of those older than 25 years of age in the state in 2006, 87.6 percent had a high school diploma, while the country as a whole averaged 84.1 percent.
Almost all the institutions of higher learning in the early pioneer days were established by religious organizations. The first in the Far West was Oregon Institute, founded in 1842 in Salem and later renamed Willamette University. Lewis and Clark College, in Portland, is the largest of the independent institutions, and the University of Portland is the largest of the denominational institutions.
A church-supported college at Corvallis was adopted as the state agricultural college in 1868 and later developed into Oregon State University. The University of Oregon, founded in 1872, was opened in 1876 in Eugene; its schools of dentistry, medicine, and nursing in Portland were reorganized in 1974 as the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center, which was later renamed the Oregon Health Sciences University. The two older universities and Portland State University are the largest units of the Oregon University System, which also includes colleges at La Grande, Monmouth, and Ashland and the Oregon Institute of Technology at Klamath Falls. Among the state’s 26 public and 33 private institutions of higher learning are Reed College and Pacific Northwest College of Art, both in Portland; Linfield College, in McMinnville; and Pacific University, in Forest Grove.
The development of libraries in Oregon began in 1842 with a circulating library in Oregon City. The number of private libraries in the territory grew from 3 in 1850 to about 30 by 1860. The Library Association of Portland, which was privately maintained when it was founded in 1864, became a public library in 1902. Over the course of the intervening years, the Association grew into the Multnomah County Library system, which is now the state’s largest public library system. The Oregon State Library in Salem, organized in 1905, provides information to state government agencies, serves as the Oregon regional library for the blind and print-disabled, and works with local communities to improve their library services. In the 1950s, federal funds were made available under the Library Services Act for the extension of library services to rural areas. The state now has 124 libraries serving its residents. Each year the libraries circulate an average of 13.4 books for each resident, one of the highest rates in the country.
The library of the University of Oregon and those of other colleges and universities maintain important academic holdings. Among the special collections in Oregon’s libraries are the Shakespeare collection at the Southern Oregon University library, the Finnish books in Astoria Public Library, and the reference library of the Oregon Historical Society in Portland.
In addition to the library, the Oregon Historical Society houses exhibits relating to the history of the Far West. In 1892, the Portland Art Association, a group of the city's civic leaders, founded the Portland Art Museum, and then later established a school of fine arts. The University of Oregon in Eugene has a museum of art. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is a privately funded science center in Portland. Several museums, such as Fort Dalles Museum and the Heritage Museum in Independence, have displays of local history. The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center/Wasco County Historical Museum, opened in 1997 and located in The Dalles, houses exhibits on regional as well as natural history. The Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, which opened in 1998 on the Umatilla Reservation, documents the tribal history and contemporary life of the Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Cayuse. The institute is one of five museums and interpretive centers located along the route of the historic Oregon Trail through the state of Oregon.
Journalism in the Pacific Northwest began with the publication of the Oregon Spectator in 1846 at Oregon City, the first newspaper published west of the Rocky Mountains. Portland’s Oregonian followed in 1850, and the Oregon Statesman appeared the next year in Oregon City and later moved with the capital to Salem. In 2002 Oregon had 19 daily newspapers. Prominent among them were the Oregonian, in Portland; the Register-Guard, in Eugene; and the Statesman Journal, in Salem. In 2002 Oregon had 71 AM and 84 FM radio stations and 21 television stations. The state’s first radio station, KGW in Portland, was licensed in 1922. KPTV in Portland, Oregon’s first commercial television station, went on the air in 1953.
|E||Music and Theater|
The Oregon Symphony Orchestra gave its first performance in 1896. A junior symphony orchestra, among the first in the nation, was formed in Portland in 1925. In the same year a civic theater was organized. Drama productions by local groups and visiting players have been popular in the state since the 1860s. Particularly outstanding are those of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.
|VI||RECREATION AND PLACES OF INTEREST|
Oregon offers the vacationer a panorama of sandy beaches broken by rocky cliffs, lofty snow-clad peaks towering over broad river valleys, narrow canyons, rushing streams, peaceful lakes, and dense forests. It also provides ideal opportunities for outdoor activities. Dominated by Mount Hood, the most popular recreation area, the spectacular mountain terrain challenges skiers in winter and hikers and climbers in summer. An abundance of wildlife in the vast forests include deer, elk, small animals, and birds. Trout, salmon, bass, perch, and other game fish are plentiful in Oregon’s lakes and streams. Along the coast are sheltered coves for swimming and clam digging, vast stretches of sand dunes, and forbidding cliffs with huge caves formed by the crashing breakers.
|A||National Parks and Forests|
Oregon’s only national park, Crater Lake National Park, surrounds an extinct volcano, Mount Mazama, on the crest of the Cascade Range. The deep crater, rimmed with high jagged cliffs, encloses one of the world’s most beautiful and deepest lakes. Crater Lake, which is 10 km (6 mi) across and 589 m (1,932 ft) deep, is renowned for its unique setting and its brilliant blue color. On Mount Elijah in the Siskiyou Mountains is Oregon Caves National Monument, where pillars and stalactites of calcite line passageways and hang from vaulted domes. The world-renowned John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in central Oregon is home to a well-preserved fossil record of plants and animals that spans more than 40 million of the 65 million years of the Cenozoic Era, or Age of Mammals.
The rich history of the region can be witnessed at the Nez Perce National Historical Park, devoted to the Nez Perce people, while Fort Clatsop National Memorial re-creates a winter camp of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804 to 1806. The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center at Flagstaff Hill documents the history of the Western pioneer experience and the impact of the Oregon Trail.
The federal government also acts to preserve the Columbia River Gorge, a spectacular river canyon that cuts through the Cascade Mountains and is especially popular with windsurfers. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is on the coast between the Siuslaw River and Coos Bay in the Siuslaw National Forest, one of only two national forests that border the Pacific Ocean.
Oregon’s 13 national forests cover more than 6 million hectares (15 million acres) and offer camping and many recreational facilities. There are 36 wilderness areas. The largest national forest is Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in the northeastern part of the state. The largest unbroken area of national forests runs in a continuous chain throughout most of the Cascade Range. The Wallowa-Whitman shares with Idaho one of the deepest gorges in the world, Hells Canyon. Crooked River National Grassland is in north central Oregon.
The Siuslaw National Forest extends from Tillamook to Coos County in three separate units and contains some of the most productive tree-growing land in the United States. The Deschutes National Forest, located on the eastern flank of the Cascade Mountains in central Oregon, is one of the most popular forests in the Pacific Northwest because of its wide variety of recreational opportunities, besides providing commodities ranging from timber to mushrooms. The Rogue River National Forest consists of two separate units of land. The western unit of the forest includes the headwaters of the Applegate River in the Siskiyou Mountains. To the east, the forest includes the upper reaches of the Rogue River, in the Cascade Mountains. Other national forests in Oregon include the Fremont, Malheur, Mount Hood, Ochoco, Siskiyou, Umatilla, Umpqua, Willamette, and Winema.
Oregon’s state park system has about 240 sites, with recreational, scenic, or historic interest.
Southward from Ecola State Park, which skirts the ocean for 10 km (6 mi), many state parks line the unspoiled seashore. Among the most popular are Sunset Bay, Battle Rock, and Umpqua Lighthouse state parks. A number of parks have lake or reservoir frontage, and a number are located along the picturesque Columbia River. Smith Rock lies in a colorful canyon cut by the Crooked River, which also flows through The Cove Palisades State Park on the great lava plateau. Spectacular waterfalls are features of several parks, including Silver Falls, east of Salem, which has 14 cataracts. Among the historic sites in the state is the house in Oregon City of John McLoughlin, who was the chief agent for the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1824 to 1846 and who virtually ruled the territory. A monument in Champoeg State Park marks the formation of Oregon’s provisional government in 1843.
|C||Other Places to Visit|
Interesting sights near Portland include the fish ladders, which help salmon swim over the Bonneville Dam, and Multnomah Falls, which plunge 189 m (620 ft) into the Columbia River. A gallery of trees and displays relating to forestry industries are exhibited in the World Forestry Center in Portland, a huge log structure built in 1905 for the Lewis and Clark Exposition. The courthouse in Jacksonville, a gold rush city, is now a historical museum. The three largest telescopes in the Northwest are at the Pine Mountain Observatory near Bend.
One of Oregon’s most popular events is the Pendleton Round-Up in September. Thousands of visitors and many participants are attracted each year to this rodeo, with its revival of Native American and Old West pageantry. Equally popular is the Shakespeare Festival at Ashland, where from July through Labor Day, Shakespeare’s plays are presented in an Elizabethan theater, a replica of the original Globe Theatre in London. Summer sports events include regattas, water shows, and a salmon derby at Astoria. Each June, Portland stages a rose festival with a parade and rose-bedecked floats. The state fair is held early in September in Salem, and rodeos are staged in various towns throughout the summer and fall. In winter the deep powder snow in the mountains provides ideal conditions for numerous winter carnivals and ski competitions. Some of the Native American feasts at the Warm Springs reservation are open to the public.
The original constitution of Oregon has been in effect since 1857, two years before statehood. It was not amended until 1902. Amendments may be proposed by initiative or by a majority of both houses of the legislature. Amendments must be approved by a majority of the voters. The constitution may also be amended by a constitutional convention, which can only be called if both the legislature and voters give approval.
The governor is elected for a term of four years and is limited to a maximum of two terms in any 12-year period. The governor serves on several state boards and commissions and, as chairman of the land board, shares with the secretary of state and the treasurer the responsibility of supervising the administration of state-owned lands. Other elected officials are the state attorney general, state labor commissioner, and a superintendent of public instruction. There is no lieutenant governor. When the governorship falls vacant, the unfinished term of the governor is served by the secretary of state, succeeded in turn by the state treasurer, president of the Senate, and Speaker of the House.
The legislative assembly consists of a Senate of 30 members, who are elected for four years, and a House of Representatives of 60 members, who are elected for two years. The legislature convenes in January of odd-numbered years. A two-thirds vote is necessary to override the governor’s veto.
Oregon’s court system is headed by a supreme court of seven justices elected on a nonpartisan ballot for six-year terms. It also includes an appeals court and circuit, district, county, and municipal courts.
In most of Oregon’s 36 counties the administrative body is a county commission of three to five members, most of whom are elected to four-year terms. Eight counties have adopted home rule, authorized in 1958 by an amendment to the constitution, which allows them to choose their own form of government. The same home rule allowance extends to cities. Most large cities are governed by a council and manager, although Portland has a mayor and four commissioners. Most smaller cities have a mayor-council form of government, but several have city managers.
Oregon elects two senators and five representatives to the Congress of the United States. The state has seven electoral votes in presidential elections.
|A||Oregon’s First Inhabitants|
Human beings lived east of the Cascade Range in Oregon more than 11,000 years ago. Village sites on the middle Columbia River show signs of continuous occupation dating back for at least this amount of time. Native Americans of Oregon belong to three regional groups: the coastal peoples, the Columbia Plateau peoples, and the Native Americans of the interior. Chinook, Chehalis, Tillamook, Yaquina, and other Native American groups lived in the Columbia River valley west of the Cascades or along the Pacific coast. Because the coastal climate provided abundant resources, they had a sedentary lifestyle and lived in permanent villages. Their houses were constructed over shallow pits, used as a sort of insulation, with walls made out of large planks of cedar. Some Native American groups had gabled roofs made out of cedar.
The coastal people collected shellfish at low tide and caught salmon, sturgeon, and trout. They dammed the rivers using wooden poles and forced migrating fish into their nets. The Native Americans of the coast also hunted waterfowl using bows and arrows. With sharp stones, shells, and hot coals they shaped and carved logs into lightweight but sturdy canoes. Cedar bark was used for a variety of purposes including woven baskets, mats, and clothing.
East of the Cascade Range in the southern part of the state live the Klamath-Modoc people. They led a seminomadic lifestyle, spending the winters in earthen lodges and the summers in portable dwellings. Although the Klamath-Modoc ate waterfowl, game, and fish, the most important staple to their diet was seeds. They ate pond lily seeds, a variety of roots, and berries. The Klamath-Modoc had a structured society based on wealth; the poorest of these peoples were considered slaves. The Klamath-Modoc had informal political councils that discussed issues regarding warfare.
On the Columbia Plateau lived the Shoshone, Nez Perce, Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Yakama Native Americans. The Native Americans of the Columbia Plateau lived in skin tipis or in wickiups, portable structures made of woven mats and sagebrush. Their diet consisted of buffalo, deer, roots, plant bulbs, and berries as well as migratory salmon and small mammals.
The Nez Perce was the largest Native American group in the region and the first to use horses. The Nez Perce traveled extensively with their horses in search of game. They also led military campaigns against neighboring tribal groups including the Paiutes and the Shoshone. The Nez Perce occasionally traveled as far as the Great Plains to the east of the Rocky Mountains to hunt buffalo. On these forays they traded or fought with the Native peoples of the Great Plains, especially the Blackfoot.
During the 16th century, European explorers began to investigate the west coast of the Americas, in search of riches, colonial power, and new trade routes. Spanish navigator Bartolomé Ferrelo may have ventured up the Oregon coast in 1542, but his crew did not explore the Oregon shores. In 1579 the English explorer Sir Francis Drake may have reached the Oregon coast, but he turned back when he ran into the “most vile, thicke and stinking fogges.”
During the 17th and 18th centuries Europeans searched for the elusive Northwest Passage, an inland water route linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. European competition in the Pacific Northwest intensified as the Russians began to explore present-day Alaska. In 1775 Spanish explorers Bruno Heceta and Juan Francisco Bodega y Quadra sighted a large bay, which Heceta believed was “the mouth of a great river or of some passage to another sea.” This waterway turned out to be the entrance to the Columbia River, but the Spanish expedition did not explore it. The crew continued their journey north and landed at Point Grenville in Washington.
The English navigator Captain James Cook also missed an opportunity to explore the mouth of the Columbia River while seeking the Northwest Passage in 1778. However, Cook, who traded sea otter pelts with the Native Americans of Nootka Sound in Canada, did inform fur traders about the Pacific Northwest in his journals, published in 1784. In 1785 the first British fur trader appeared in the region.
An American fur trader was the first white person to set foot on Oregon’s shores. In 1788 Captain Robert Gray sailed into Tillamook Bay to trade with Native Americans. Four years later, after returning to Boston and completing a voyage to China to sell pelts, Gray returned to the Pacific Coast. During this trip Gray crossed the mouth of the great Columbia River, which he named for his ship, the Columbia.
Upon hearing about Gray’s discovery, English explorer George Vancouver sent a subordinate, Lieutenant William R. Broughton, to explore the river. Broughton spent three weeks mapping the Columbia River. Near the present town of Washougal, Washington, he took possession of the territory for Britain. Later, both the United States and Britain laid claim to the region known as the Oregon country, which included present-day Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, as well as parts of present-day Montana and Wyoming.
|C||The Lewis and Clark Expedition|
When Thomas Jefferson became president of the United States in 1801, the new nation was already expanding to the west. In 1803, in a transaction called the Louisiana Purchase, the United States acquired territory from France that was roughly bounded by the 49th parallel to the north, the Rocky Mountains to the west, the Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. To explore the land and to discover whether the Missouri and Columbia rivers together formed a continental waterway, Jefferson sent out the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark launched their expedition from near St. Louis in 1804. In the beginning of 1805, the team followed the Missouri and Jefferson rivers into the Rockies, crossed the Continental Divide with the help of the Shoshone woman Sacagawea. On October 16, 1805, they reached the Columbia River. In November they arrived at the Pacific Ocean, and the next spring, after wintering at Fort Clatsop, Oregon, they returned up the Columbia River and explored the Willamette River.
The expedition’s successful return to St. Louis in the fall of 1806 touched off a great interest in the Northwest. Although Lewis and Clark found no easy route linking the Missouri to the Columbia, they had successfully opened the way to lands beyond the Rockies.
|D||The Fur Trade in Astoria|
The beaver fur trade was only in its initial phase in 1810 when John Jacob Astor of New York City launched his own fur trading business, the Pacific Fur Company. Astor planned to build a chain of trading posts from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean with a depot at the mouth of the Columbia River. From this fort, Astor’s ships could carry furs to China and trading goods to the Russians on the coast of Alaska. Astoria was established in 1811 at the mouth of the Columbia River.
However, misfortune soon began to plague the Astorians. During a trading expedition to the north their ship, the Tonquin, was destroyed and 27 crewmen were killed by Native Americans on Vancouver Island. Nevertheless, the Astorians established several interior posts in present-day Washington. In the summer of 1811, David Thompson, a Canadian explorer and representative of the North West Company, arrived in Astoria. His intention was to provide an outpost on the Columbia River for his company’s interior trade. The War of 1812 (1812-1815) between the United States and Britain put an end to Astor’s ambitions. In January 1813 the Astorians learned from the North West Company that a British vessel was coming to capture Astoria. Short of supplies and without hope of receiving any, the Astorians sold their interests in Astoria to the North West Company.
|E||The Convention of 1818|
The terms of the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812, required that each signatory power restore all places taken during the hostilities to their former owners. The United States held that Astoria was such a place and, furthermore, that it had claims to the Oregon country because Robert Gray had discovered its principal river, Lewis and Clark had explored it, and Astor had settled it. The British returned Astoria to American possession. In 1818 both nations signed a treaty of joint occupation, agreeing that for a period of ten years, their subjects and citizens could freely occupy the territory for purposes of trade. This joint occupation agreement was renewed in 1827 for an indefinite length of time and remained in effect until 1846. At that time the term “Oregon country” referred to a vast area extending from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean and from the present border between California and Oregon to Russian Alaska.
|F||The Hudson’s Bay Company|
In spite of its restoration to the United States, Astoria, renamed Fort George, remained in the hands of the North West Company. In 1821 this company was consolidated with its rival, the Hudson’s Bay Company. Three years later, John McLoughlin, the company’s chief factor, or chief regional administrator, took charge of the Oregon country and governed the company’s Columbia District. Because the British assumed that the Americans had a stronger claim for the lands south of the Columbia River, Fort George was abandoned and a new depot, Fort Vancouver, was built on the northern bank of the river about 160 km (100 mi) inland. This depot served as an administrative capital for a tremendous trapping and trading enterprise.
Hudson’s Bay trappers explored southern Oregon as well as northern California, Nevada, and Utah in search of furs. Each summer they returned to the fort, where the pelts were packed for shipment to Britain on the annual supply ship. The fort was the central European trading post in the great wilderness. Fort Vancouver also supported a substantial agricultural business, sending food staples to Russians in Alaska. Herds of cattle and sheep grazed in neighboring meadows, and vegetables, wheat, and fruits were grown in its gardens and orchards.
McLoughlin ruled over Fort Vancouver and the region. The Hudson’s Bay Company policies actively deterred competitors from establishing themselves in the region and did not encourage American settlement. Nonetheless, settlers and traders alike stopped at the fort to buy provisions and to seek advice. McLoughlin maintained civil relations with Native Americans in the area, and his fort provided evidence of the agricultural opportunities in the region. These issues actually aided settlement, despite the company’s policies.
The first American to enter the Oregon country, coming overland from California, after the demise of Astor’s company was the fur trapper Jedediah Smith, whose party of trappers was ambushed by Native Americans in 1828. McLoughlin came to Smith’s aid and saw that his furs were recovered, but in return, Smith agreed to leave Oregon.
In 1829 Boston propagandist Hall Kelley established the American Society for Encouraging the Settlement of the Oregon Territory and lobbied the Congress of the United States for funds to launch his venture. Kelley’s publicity efforts influenced Nathaniel Wyeth, a Boston merchant who traveled to Oregon in 1832 and again in 1834. However, Wyeth’s attempt to establish a fishery and trading post at the mouth of the Willamette River was hindered by the Hudson’s Bay Company’s ability to undercut Wyeth’s production and prices.
Two Methodist missionaries, Jason and Daniel Lee, responding to a letter circulating throughout the East which claimed that Native Americans in Oregon desired instruction in Christianity, joined Wyeth’s caravan in 1834. McLoughlin persuaded Jason Lee to abandon his objective of working exclusively with Native Americans and to establish a mission in the Willamette Valley among both the native peoples and American settlers. Later, other missionaries arrived in the Oregon country and established missions among Native Americans in the areas that are now Washington and Idaho. Initially, the Christian gospel appealed to many Native American peoples; however, some soon became disillusioned. Missionaries did not understand the Native Americans’ cultural beliefs or lifestyles, and the Native Americans did not gain the material wealth or physical health promised by the missionaries.
If the missionaries converted few Native Americans, they did succeed in inspiring a large-scale migration to Oregon. Wyeth and Kelley continued to propagandize about Oregon after returning to the East. Marcus Whitman, a missionary in present-day Washington, and Jason Lee encouraged settlement in the Oregon territory in their writings and speeches on trips east. Their task was made easier by the restlessness, especially in the river valleys of the Midwest, brought on by the panic of 1837, an economic depression that made agricultural prices slide and lowered the price of land. In 1842 more than 100 pioneers crossed the Oregon Trail to Oregon. The next year the Oregon fever really took hold, and the number of immigrants was close to 900. More immigrants arrived yearly.
In 1841, when Ewing Young, a successful settler, died without leaving any known heirs, it became apparent that the Oregon country needed a court system to handle legal issues. A council convened, made up of Methodist missionaries and French-Canadian trappers, to deal with Young’s estate. However, it was not until 1843 that a provisional constitution, known as the Organic Law, was drawn up. The laws called for separation of powers into the judicial, legislative, and executive branches and regulated land settlement. Taxes were collected on a voluntary basis. The large migration of 1843 led to revisions in the next two years, and new provisions were added to the constitution regarding taxation and law enforcement.
In June 1846 the United States and Britain signed a treaty recognizing American claims to the Oregon country south of the 49th parallel. In August 1848 President James Knox Polk signed a bill creating the Oregon Territory, and in the following March, Governor Joseph Lane arrived in Oregon City, which was then the capital, to proclaim the territory organized. Salem became the capital of Oregon Territory in 1851. Oregon Territory then included the present states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho as well as western Montana and part of western Wyoming.
The biggest issue Lane faced as governor was land ownership. When Congress created the Oregon Territory, it upheld the laws of the provisional government with the exception of land settlement laws. Pioneers in the region were relieved when the United States Congress passed the Oregon Donation Land Act of 1850. This law granted 129 hectares (320 acres) of land to any man who had cultivated land in Oregon Territory for four consecutive years. If the man was married, his wife was given an additional 129 hectares of land. Men who came from 1850 to 1855 were given 65 hectares (160 acres) of land and an additional 65 hectares if married. While this act helped Oregon increase its population, it caused problems with the Native Americans who already had claims to the land.
In 1850 the majority of Oregon Territory’s new immigrant population of about 13,000 was concentrated largely in the Willamette Valley. As the territory grew, there were debates on the question of statehood. Supporters of statehood claimed that the change in status would provide Oregon with more money and military protection from Native Americans. Opponents believed that funding a state government would require a steep tax. In 1857 a constitutional convention was called to draft a constitution and ask Congress for statehood. The Oregon constitution rejected slavery but barred free blacks from settling in the state. This exclusion act was not repealed until 1926. On February 14, 1859, Oregon, with its present boundaries, was admitted to the Union as the 33rd state. Salem remained the capital of the new state.
|I||Conflict with Native Americans|
At first the Native Americans accepted the presence of Europeans in the region. However, an exception was a massacre at the Whitman mission near Walla Walla in 1847 by a band of Cayuse people. The Cayuse did not trust the Whitmans because a large number of Cayuse died in an outbreak of the measles while the white people survived. The measles epidemic added to the pressure the Cayuse felt from the increasing white population. The massacre created a great deal of distrust and fear among settlers. In 1851 a group of three United States Indian Oregon Treaty commissioners negotiated six treaties with the Native Americans in the Willamette Valley, but Congress never ratified them. Later Anson Dart, Oregon’s first Superintendent of Indian Affairs, negotiated a number of treaties with Native Americans, granting them special fishing and grazing rights, but these treaties were also never ratified by Congress. Joel Palmer, appointed as Oregon Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1853, managed to obtain treaties from a large number of Native American peoples by 1855. These treaties were designed to reduce white contact with Native Americans and to place Native Americans on reservations. In exchange for ceded land, Native Americans were granted money and annuities.
These treaties, however, did not reduce the tension between American settlers and Native Americans. In the 1850s, after whites in the Rogue River valley massacred some of his people and destroyed their villages, Chief John of the Rogue River people waged war. He surrendered in 1856 and was imprisoned; his people were moved to a reservation. The Modoc War of 1872 and 1873 broke out when a band of Modoc, led by Captain Jack, refused to stay on the Klamath Reservation. Hiding in the lava beds of northern California, about 50 Native Americans fought off more than 1,000 U.S. troops until they were forced to surrender.
In 1877 Oregon settlers tried to move the Nez Perce from their land in the Wallowa Valley to a reservation allocated to them in a treaty. Led by Chief Joseph, Looking Glass, and others, the Nez Perce retreated through Idaho and Montana, inflicting a number of defeats on pursuing U.S. troops before surrendering a short distance away from Canadian territory.
By 1830 the fur trade was waning and Oregon’s settlers had begun to shift from trapping to farming. When gold was discovered in California in 1848 and in Idaho, Montana, and eastern Oregon in 1860, prospectors brought in much needed capital, allowing Oregonians to expand into other industries. Portland business leaders developed the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, which linked Portland with gold mines of the Inland Northwest. The city found a ready market for Oregon produce in the mining camps and cities of Idaho. Portland soon became the largest commercial city in the Northwest. The Civil War (1861-1865) created a need for manufactured woolen goods, which helped the textile industry in Salem to grow. When the gold rush subsided, the export of wheat enabled Oregon to maintain its growing economy. In 1880 the wheat fleet, based in Portland, carried millions of bushels of wheat to England, Australia, and China.
For a long time, Oregon suffered from a lack of railroad connections with the Eastern states. Some of its cities and agricultural areas were interconnected by local railroads. In 1883 Portland was connected with Saint Paul, Minnesota, by the Northern Pacific Railroad. In 1884 the Oregon Short Line linked the state with the central transcontinental railroad in Granger, Wyoming. Construction of a line linking Portland with California was completed in 1887, giving Oregon products outlets in California, and eastward to Omaha, Nebraska, and Chicago, Illinois. Although the railroad greatly facilitated immigration, Oregon’s population did not grow as fast as that of California and Washington.
When timber was depleted in the Midwest at the turn of the 19th century, the logging industry moved to the Northwest. In the Cascade and Coast ranges, high-line rigging, powered by steam donkeys, swung huge logs across slopes broken up by gullies that would otherwise have been inaccessible for logging. Oxen or horse teams dragged the logs to the nearest railroad or river. In many cities, sawmills were built for wood processing. The timber cut in Oregon increased 4,000 fold from 1889 to 1909. Douglas fir was cut west of the Cascades, and ponderosa pine was the major timber crop east of the Cascades.
Before Oregon became a state, the Democratic Party, which represented the political views of the majority of Oregonians, was controlled by the people from Salem. The Republican Party, which came into power during the Civil War years, was soon dominated by Portland attorneys who were closely affiliated with railroad magnates.
The women’s movement became an important issue in Oregon politics in the 1870s. Feminist Abigail Scott Duniway campaigned for women’s rights to own property and to vote. In 1884 an amendment granting women the right to vote was defeated. Women in Oregon were eventually given the right to vote in 1912.
At the end of the 19th century, farmers became politically active. The Farmers Clubs, originally established in Illinois to fight against high shipping costs, opened a branch in Oregon in 1873. Agrarians formed an independent party, which was remarkably successful in the 1874 legislative elections. The Populist Party, led by Sylvester Pennoyer, also benefited from farmers’ activism. In 1886 Pennoyer was elected governor, running on the Democratic ticket. In 1890 he was reelected as a Populist, demanding that Congress allocate funds to improve the transportation network in Oregon in order to reduce transportation fees for farmers. The Populist platform also advocated reforms in education and labor laws.
In the late 19th century, charges of corruption among government officials and of election fraud led to a demand for reform. A well-organized campaign planned by William S. U’Ren passed an amendment to the state constitution establishing the initiative and referendum. This amendment, adopted in 1902, began Oregon’s experiment in progressive democracy. The initiative allows voters to propose legislation; the referendum allows them to vote on proposed legislation. These measures resulted in a number of reforms, including direct primaries in 1904, recall of public officials in 1908, and presidential preference primaries in 1910. The Oregon System, as these direct legislative measures were called, placed great responsibility on the voters. Between 1904 and 1918 Oregon voters adopted 13 constitutional amendments and passed 35 statutory laws. These laws provided for employer’s liability, worker’s compensation, abolition of the death penalty (which was restored in 1920, abolished again in 1964, and reenacted in 1984), and the eight-hour day for workers on state projects and for gainfully employed women. Oregon became one of the pioneer states in the Progressive movement of the early 1900s.
After World War I (1914-1918), the Oregon economy declined slightly, and some farmers were forced to reduce their production. Like the rest of the nation, Oregonians were concerned about the rise of socialism and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. In 1923 a measure was passed that abolished parochial and private schools. This act was driven in part by anti-Catholic sentiment. In 1925 the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the law as unconstitutional. In addition, legislation was passed preventing Asian nationals from owning property in Oregon.
|L||The Great Depression|
After the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929 and the United States entered a period of economic decline called the Great Depression, Oregon’s economy experienced an important transition. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, elected in 1932, proposed an economic plan called the New Deal to counteract the effects of the Depression. Numerous conservation projects of long-range value were begun by such New Deal agencies as the Work Projects Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). In cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and other permanent government agencies, projects were undertaken for reforestation, soil conservation, irrigation, and flood and forest fire control. Highways and recreational areas were also built or developed during this period. The most important New Deal project for Oregon was the Bonneville Dam, completed in 1938, which harnessed the power of the Columbia River for electricity, navigation, and flood control.
|M||World War II|
The electric power provided by the Bonneville Dam was one factor responsible for greatly increasing Oregon’s industrial output during World War II (1939-1945). During the war, Portland became a shipbuilding center and the home of numerous wartime industries. Vanport City was built just north of Portland to house Oregon’s new industrial workers, and it temporarily became Oregon’s second largest city. After the war, however, Vanport City’s population dropped to less than half its wartime level, and the city was destroyed by a flood on the Columbia River in 1948.
During the war a Japanese submarine shelled Fort Stevens, at the mouth of the Columbia River, but no damage was done. However, in 1945 a Japanese balloon bomb killed an Oregon family on a picnic. After Japanese fighter planes dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in 1941, President Roosevelt ordered all Japanese living west of the Cascades to move east of the mountains because they were considered a security risk. Japanese nationals and Americans of Japanese descent were forced to move to makeshift housing in Arkansas, California, Idaho, and Wyoming. When relocation centers closed, many Japanese returned to their homes to find possessions gone, their savings and bank accounts impounded, and their fields overgrown. They also often faced racial prejudice. In 1988 Congress allotted $20,000 in compensation to each living Japanese American who had been sent to an internment camp during World War II.
Starting in the 1960s, Oregon’s legislature and citizens began to take significant steps to preserve the state’s environment. In 1967 the legislature required businesses to obtain permits when discharging polluting substances into the Willamette River. In the same year the legislature purchased land for new state parks along the river’s banks, and in 1973 it adopted the Willamette River Greenway Act to preserve the river banks from haphazard development. In similar developments, in 1970 the state declared portions of six rivers as scenic rivers to be protected from dams or other impoundments. In 1971 the Oregon Forest Practices Act became the first in the country to require resource protection during logging operations.
In 1969 Oregon became the first state to adopt statewide land-use zoning. The law established ten land-use goals that local governments had to meet. In 1973 the enforcement of this law was given to the Land Conservation and Development Commission. A 1971 “bottle bill” banned no-deposit beverage bottles and cans with pull-top openers. In 1975 Oregon became the first state to prohibit the sale of aerosol cans containing fluorocarbons, chemicals suspected of posing a threat to the earth’s ozone layer.
Oregon citizens also confronted other political issues. Civil rights was the most important of these concerns. The state passed laws barring discrimination in employment (1949), public accommodations (1953), and housing (1957). The state established commissions for Native Americans (1975), blacks (1980), Hispanics and women (both in 1983).
Women also moved into public office in greater numbers. Betty Roberts was the first woman appointed to the Court of Appeals in 1977 and to the state Supreme Court in 1982. Norma Paulus was elected the first woman secretary of state in 1976, the first woman to hold statewide public office. Barbara Roberts, elected in 1990, was Oregon’s first woman governor.
Oregon became the first state in the nation to enact a law allowing physician-assisted suicides. The Oregon Death with Dignity Act was initially passed by voters in 1994, but referendums and legal action held up the implementation of the law. The state legislature put the measure back on the ballot in 1997, seeking its repeal, but voters rejected the measure by a substantial margin.
Increasingly the state has been affected by federal legislation and policies. Federal courts have protected the rights of Native Americans to their off-reservation fisheries, rights guaranteed by treaties in the 1850s. In 1980 Congress passed the Northwest Power Act, which authorized the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana to develop a 20-year electric power plan to provide a low-cost source of power while protecting the fish and other natural resources of the region. In 1986 Congress created the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area to protect the cultural, economic, and natural resources of this region. The following year Oregon and Washington created a Columbia River Gorge Commission to work with the United States Forest Service to implement a regional management plan.
Several Oregonians have gained positions of importance in the national government. Wayne Morse served in the United States Senate from 1945 to 1969, first as a Republican, then an independent, and finally as a Democrat. Morse won a national reputation as a supporter of labor, civil rights, and higher education, and as an opponent of the Vietnam War (1959-1975). Another influential Democratic Senator was Richard Neuberger, who, during the late 1950s, pressed for conservation and public power measures. Other prominent senators were Republicans Mark Hatfield, an independent who has been a voice for peace in the U.S. Senate, and Robert Packwood, who was forced to resign in 1995 amid charges of sexual misconduct.
As throughout its history, Oregon’s economy today still has strong ties to its natural environment. The three leading sources of income are agriculture, forest products, and tourism. In farming, technological and scientific changes have made the industry more productive but have also raised the costs of operations so that fewer farmers are working on larger farms. Irrigation has been an important factor also in making farmland more productive. The leading farm commodities are cattle, greenhouse and nursery products, farm forest products, milk, and hay.
The forest products industry changed significantly after World War II ended in 1945. Demand for housing and building materials grew rapidly, and new processes for making paper and particle board appeared. New varieties of fast-growing trees were developed and other species, once considered valueless, began to be used. Improved conservation techniques were introduced. In the 1970s, federal legislation designed to protect the habitat of endangered or threatened species began to affect the industry. In 1990 the northern spotted owl, which lives in parts of the Pacific Northwest’s forests, was listed as a threatened species by federal agencies. Efforts to protect the owl and other species led to restrictions on logging in Oregon and Washington and set off years of economic and political controversy between environmentalists and timber-related industries. More than half of Oregon’s forested land is in public hands.
Tourism has continued to grow. Visitors have always come to take advantage of the state’s natural beauty and recreational opportunities in the outdoors. Today many tourists are also visitors to urban areas, enjoying the state’s museums, historic sites, and other cultural opportunities.
Salmon fishing has become less important to Oregon’s economy. The last cannery on the Columbia River closed in 1979. The supply of fish has dropped dramatically due to overfishing, dams, pollution, and the destruction of river banks. In August 1998 the National Marine Fisheries Service listed the Coho salmon, a native fish of the Pacific, as a threatened species under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. In 1999 nine additional classes of wild salmon and steelhead found in Oregon and Washington were given threatened or endangered status. For the first time, the federal government extended protection to fish populations found in the waterways of the Northwest’s heavily-populated urban areas, including Portland.
The state’s newest manufacturing enterprises are in the high technology fields, such as electronics and biotechnology. During and after World War II, a number of pioneers in the high technology industry established themselves in Oregon. These companies were later joined by numerous local and foreign companies, drawn to Oregon because of its inexpensive land and power, educated workforce, and pro-business political climate.
International trade has become increasingly important in the economic life of Oregon. Today Australia, Canada, and Mexico are the top three countries exporting to Oregon while Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are the principal destinations for Oregon’s exports.
The structure of state government has also changed in the end of the 20th century. In the early 1960s there was an unsuccessful attempt to write a new constitution. In 1961 then Governor Mark Hatfield wanted to reorganize the government into a series of larger departments. In Hatfield’s plan, the department heads would then serve as members of the governor’s cabinet. The measure failed, but Governor Tom McCall submitted a similar proposal in the late 1960s and persuaded the legislature to adopt a number of his suggestions, including the creation of a state ombudsman to intervene on behalf of private citizens with government officials; a department of transportation; a department of human resources; and a department of fish and wildlife. The last three departments were consolidations of several formerly independent agencies. In 1981 the legislature reorganized the court system.
Taxation has been an enduring issue. The state’s revenues depend principally upon an income tax, while local governments derive most of their support from property taxes. In 1984 voters adopted a state lottery as an additional revenue-producing measure. Attempts to add a state sales tax were defeated in 1985. More successful was the effort to limit property taxes. Although defeated in 1968, 1978, and 1982, a law limiting property taxes was passed in 1990. As Oregon’s population grows, there is an increased need for public services, such as law enforcement, schools, and transportation services. Meeting public service needs has become difficult since the passage of the property tax limitation measure in 1990.
The history section of this article was contributed by Gordon B. Dodds. The remainder of the article was contributed by Keith W. Muckleston.