Woodburn, Oregon - History


Originally, the area around Woodburn was inhabited by Native Americans of the Kalapuya tribes. After the Provisional Government of Oregon set-up land claims in the Oregon Country, the United States annexed much of the Pacific Northwest and established the Oregon Territory in 1848. Congress then passed the Donation Land Claim Act in 1850, and many earlier land claims became donation land claims.

Eli Cooley, Bradford S. Bonney, George Leisure, and Jean B. Ducharme all established donation land claims on the eastern part of the French Prairie where Woodburn would later be founded. Cooley immigrated to Oregon in 1845, and Bonney established his land claim in 1849. Ducharme's land was sold off in 1862 in a foreclosure sale, with Mt. Angel farmer George Settlemier purchase the 214 acres (87 ha) on the cheap.

Settlemier had traveled west over the Oregon Trail in 1849 and first settled in California before moving north to Oregon in 1850. He settled in the Mt. Angel area where he was a successful nurseryman. Settlemier then moved to his new property in 1863 and established the Woodburn Nursery Company. Despite improvements to the land, including construction of his home, title in the land remained in doubt due to the purchase via a foreclosure sale.

During the litigation over title in the land, Settlemier borrowed money from capitalist William Reed with the land as collateral. When Reed began to build a railroad through the area, he decided to run the line through what became Woodburn in anticipation of acquiring the land himself as he expected Settlemier to default on the mortgage. However, Settlemier did not default and eventually his case made it to the United States Supreme Court in Settlemier v. Sullivan, 97 U.S. 444 (1878), and he retained the land. Meanwhile, transportation baron Ben Holladay also ran his Oregon and California Railroad through what became Woodburn in 1871, at which time Settlemier platted the first four blocks of the town.

Originally, the town and station were called Halsey, but the name was changed to Woodburn due to the existence of Halsey, Oregon, further down the valley. The name Woodburn came about after a slash burn that got out of control and burned down a nearby woodlot in the 1880s, after the railroad line had been laid through the area. A railroad official witnessed the fire and renamed the community. The city was incorporated by the Oregon Legislative Assembly on February 20, 1889.

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