Portland History – Oregon

Portland history




Portland History. Indian Tribes

Most records of Portland history overlook the accounts of the native Indians that inhabited the area long before the arrival of the white settlers. Indigenous people from Asia came to the Pacific Northwest 12,000 years ago. Because of a mild climate and abundance of food sources, the Portland Basin of the lower Columbia and Willamette valleys were highly populated. Human remnants dated to 10,000 – 11,000 BC have been found at an ancient campsite not far away from Portland. Originally occupied by two tribes of Upper Chinook Indians, the area was a great Native American hunting, fishing, and harvesting spot.

The Chinook villages were located in every part of Portland Basin and on the sides of the Columbia River. Chinookan people were migratory, they moved seasonally to different places for hunting, fishing, and gathering berries, nuts, and roots.

Their houses were largely longhouses made of red cedar planks thirty yards long and twelve yards wide. The size of the home depended on the wealth of the owner. Large houses could accommodate up to one hundred people. Each family had their own entrance and separate cubicle separated by woven mats. They had their own fire with a shared communal central fire in the household for the families.

Archeologists documented that the villages of the Multnomah and Clackamas tribes were home to about 3400 people all year round. The number grew to around 8000 during fishing and wappato-harvesting seasons (wappato is a wild edible plant, also called Indian potato or duck-potato).

The Chinook tribe maintained themselves by fishing for salmon, sturgeon, and eels; hunting for elk, deer, and water birds; and gathering plants. They were highly skilled artisans making unique styles of clothes and blankets, weaving baskets, making tools, and creating fetishes and sculptures for their religious ceremonies.

Between 1800 and 1830, the population of Chinookan people decreased by almost 90% with the surge of contacts and trades with Euro-Americans. They died of smallpox, malaria and other highly contagious diseases brought by Europeans.




Portland History. Early White Settlement

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explored the mouth of the Willamette River on their return journey in 1806 as far as present day’s Cathedral Park and the St. Johns Bridge. They called the river the “Multnomah River”. Clark recorded in his journal “It is, in fact, the only desirable situation for a settlement on the western side of the Rocky mountains, are being naturally fertile, would, if properly cultivated, afford subsistence for 40,000 or 50,000 souls”.

American, Canadian and British traders, trappers, explorers, and settlers of 1830 to 1840 knew the site of the future city of Portland as “The Clearing”. 

Pioneers and adventurers flocked to the city. In 1843, William Overton and Asa Lovejoy were exploring the Willamette River using a canoe when they discovered the allure of the place now known as Portland. Overton did not have 0.25 cents to file a land claim with the Oregon's government and sold his part to Lovejoy. Later, the town received the nickname Stumptown because of tree stumps that dotted the area. Because of the beauty and fertility of the area, hundreds of white settlers stepped off the Oregon Trail and settled in Portland. 

Officially, the city was born in 1845 when a European community, that occupied the land around the Willamette River, gave Asa Lovejoy from Boston, Massachusetts and Francis Pettygrove from Portland, Maine the task of naming the territory. The two of them flipped a coin in order to decide on whether to call it Boston or Portland. Pettygrove won the toss, and within six years the region became a thriving city.

The pioneer farmers traveling to Oregon brought agriculture to the Willamette Valley. The California gold rush in 1849 triggered economic development including agriculture, fishing, and canning, shipping, mining, and timber industry. The perfect city location on the Columbia and Willamette rivers made Portland the busiest port for shipping and trading.

By the 1860s, steamboats appeared, and Portland became the major mercantile and shipping center and the second largest city in the Pacific Northwest. The Northern Pacific Railroad that linked Portland to the national railroad network in 1883 made the Northwest more accessible and spurred further population and economic expansion.

The United States entry into World War I and World War II triggered economic growth, mostly in natural resources exploitation, lumber industry, and shipbuilding.

The population of Portland grew from 821 in 1850 to 90,000 settlers by 1900. Most of the new immigrants were from England, Italy, China, and Japan. In 1920, the population increased to 258,220. During World War II, a large number of new residents came to work in shipbuilding that gave population's increase to 373,626 in 1950. In 2015, the population was 632, 309; it is expected to grow at the constant rate that equals about 1.7 percent per year, according to U.S. Census Bureau.

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PortlandPortland is the largest city in Oregon, the seat of Multnomah County, located at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers...




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