Portland Oregon History

Portland Oregon history starts in the 1840s, at least in terms of an actual settlement being founded. In 1843, a man by the name of William Overton, of whom relatively little is known, first came up with the idea of founding a new city in northwest Oregon. Overton had settled in nearby Oregon City, which was founded in 1829, and it didn't take long for him to realize the value of the area that is modern-day Portland. Two rivers, the Willamette and the Columbia, converge at the spot that Overton chose for his new settlement, and off in the near distance looms the beautiful Mt. Hood. The abundance of trees in the region only helped to convince Overton that his new city would be a success.

Following along with the history of Portland, William Overton partnered with a man by the name of Asa Lovejoy to purchase a land claim for his desired city. In short order, Overton moved on and his part of the claim was sold to another man by the name of Francis Pettygrove. Asa Lovejoy hailed from Boston Massachusetts, while Francis Pettygrove was from Portland Maine. Both men wanted their new city to bear the name of their former one, and as such, a series of three coin tosses were arranged to see who got the honor. Pettygrove, as you might have guessed, won the coin toss, thus naming the new settlement Portland. This is one of the more interesting Portland facts, and should you wish to see the actual penny that was used to decide the city's name, it is on display at the fabulous Oregon Historical Society in Downtown Portland.

Portland grew up relatively slowly in the 1840s, and when it was officially incorporated in 1851, only some 800 people lived there. During this early history of Portland, the city was home to little more than a sawmill that operated on steam power, a log cabin hotel, and a newspaper. Locals mostly made their livings producing lumber, farming, and fishing. Since Portland sits on two major rivers that lead to the Pacific Ocean, it eventually grew into a major transportation hub and port. This is where the stories of the Portland Underground come in. In this subterranean world beneath the streets of the old city, a series of rooms and tunnels can be found. Legend has it that unsuspecting sailors and other men who frequented the pubs were kidnapped and hauled off to waiting ships to provide slave labor. There are no Portland facts to substantiate this history, but it does make good stories and just might be true to some extent.

Portland Oregon history really starts to pick up after the Civil War. This period saw significant growth, largely due to the lumber shipping business, and by the end of the nineteenth century, almost 100,000 people called the city home. Nearby Seattle eventually became the major port in the northwest, which had a lot to do with the arrival of railroads in the region, but that wasn't until the turn of the century. As Seattle started to grow into the region's major port, Portland leaders decided that they would do something to encourage the continual growth of their city. In 1905, the city hosted the Lewis and Clark Exposition, which brought some 3 million people to town. Many of these people stayed, and over the next five years, the city's population doubled. In other words, the exposition was a success.

After the turn of the century, the history of Portland saw the city developing more and more into the city that it is today. The Oaks Amusement Park opened in 1905, for example, and just two years later the first official Rose Festival was celebrated. Department stores sprung up for residents to take advantage of, as did restaurants, and hotels such as the historic Benson Hotel (1913) were eventually built to welcome visitors. Both the Oaks Amusement Park and the Benson Hotel still exist to this day, and they offer wonderful glimpses into the storied Portland Oregon history, as do other historical attractions, such as the Pittock Mansion.

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