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flag  History of Portland, Oregon, USA

Journey back in time to Portland, Oregon, USA

Visit Portland, Oregon, USA. Discover its history. Learn about the people who lived there through stories, old newspaper articles, pictures, postcards and ancestry.

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Portland, Oregon, USA - Morrison Street, Portland, Oregon

High above the city of Portland the International Rose Test Garden features more than 500 varieties of roses cultivated continuously since 1917.

In 1905 the largest long cabin in the world was built in Portland to honor the Lewis and Clark expedition.

There is MUCH more to discover about Portland, Oregon, USA. Read on!

Portland Nostalgia: Vintage Photos, Ads, and Postcards

Morrison Street, Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon, USA

Morrison Street, Portland, Oregon
The Chutes at
Portland, Oregon, USA

The Chutes at "The Oaks", Portland, Oregon.
Hotel Portland, Portland, Ore.
Portland, Oregon, USA

Hotel Portland, Portland, Ore.
The Union Station, Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon, USA

The Union Station, Portland, Oregon

Discover Portland: History, News, Travel, and Stories

Add informationAdd History/News/Story
1851 - January 23 – The flip of a coin determines whether a new city in the Oregon Territory is named after Boston, Massachusetts, or Portland, Maine, with Portland winning.
"By 1843, two New Englanders—Asa Lovejoy of Boston, Massachusetts, and Francis Pettygrove of Portland, Maine—had established a land claim approximately fourteen miles upriver from the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, the farthest site upriver on the Willamette where ocean-going vessels could easily anchor. The new townsite, a small stretch of blocks and streets paralleling the Willamette, was called The Clearing or The Village by early residents and passersby canoeing on the river between Fort Vancouver and Oregon City.

As Oregon Trail emigrants began to arrive in the valley, Lovejoy and Pettygrove saw opportunities as their clearing began to fill in with houses, a store, a dock or two, perhaps a warehouse, and likely a tavern. The two ambitious developers determined that their growing village needed a name. Over dinner one evening in 1845, in the parlor of Francis Ermatinger’s home on Sixth Street in Oregon City, Lovejoy and Pettygrove agreed to flip a coin to... Read MORE...

1854 - Portland
Portland, a post-town of Oregon Territory, on the Willamette river, at the head of ship navigation, 15 miles from its mouth. It is the largest and most commercial town in Oregon. It contains the territorial penitentiary, and 1 or 2 newspaper offices. Population in 1853, estimated at 6000.
A New and Complete Gazetteer of the United States: Giving a Full and Comprehensive Review of the Present Condition, Industry, and Resources of the American Confederacy ... Thomas Baldwin (of Philadelphia.) Joseph Thomas January 1, 1854 Philadelphia : Lippincott, Grambo & Company 1854.
1873 - Great fire in Portland destroyed most of town webimage/ countrys/ namerica/ usstates/ ortimeln.htm
1884 - December 17 - A three week blockade of snow began at Portland, OR. A record December total of 34 inches was received.
December 17, 1884
January 9, 1888 - Severe cold gripped much of the western U.S. At Portland OR the Columbia River was frozen for two weeks, and in southern California temperatures dipped below freezing in some of the citrus growing areas.
January 9, 1888
1889 - June 3 – The first long distance electric power transmission line in the United States is completed, running 14 miles (23 km) between a generator at Willamette Falls and downtown Portland, Oregon.
June 3, 1889
Portland, Ore., Feb. 16. - A frightful accident occurred on the City & Suburban Electric Railway Wednesday afternoon in which three persons were instantly killed and a dozen severely injured. A car was going down hill, when its motorman lost control of it and it plunged down two blocks at terrific speed. When the car reached a curve at the bottom of the hill it left the track and was overturned. The momentum was so great that the car, leaving the track, was dashed to pieces.
There were forty-five passengers aboard, among them being twenty young people who constituted the graduating class of Williams Avenue Grammar School.

The dead were:
J. O. DENNIS, aged 70 years.
BERTRAM DENNIS, his son, aged 8 years.
JAMES MENEFEE was probably fatally injured.

Nearly every one on the car was cut or bruised. The motorman and conductor were arrested, but subsequently released. A police officer who was on the car said the motorman was not to blame; that the brakes would not... Read MORE...

1894 - June 6 - One of the greatest floods in U.S. history occurred as the Williamette River overflowed to inundate half of the business district of Portland OR.
June 6, 1894
1895 - Portland
Portland, the most populous city of Oregon, a port of entry, and the capital of Multnomah co., is situated on the left (W.) bank of the Willamette River, 12 miles from its Junction with the Columbia, and about 100 miles from the ocean. It is 772 miles by rail from San Francisco, 2056 miles from Minneapolis, and 145 miles S. of Tacoma. Lat. 45°30' N., Lon. 122°27'30" W. Steamboats ply regularly between this port and San Francisco, Olympia, and other places on Puget Sound and the Columbia River. Portland contains a court-house, about 20 churches, a custom-house, a public school system embracing a high school and grammar schools, a seminary for girls, called St. Helen's Hall, a national bank with a capital of $250,000, 2 other banks, an asylum for the insane, gas-works, 3 iron-foundries, several machine-shops, flour-mills, breweries, and manufactories of engines, boilers, clothing, leather, carriages, brooms, brushes, furniture, &c. There were in 1890 over 500 manufacturing... Read MORE...

1901 - Portland - The Metropolis of the Pacific North-West by Thomas L. Cole
One autumn evening in 1843, A. M. Overton and A. L. Lovejoy, two residents of Oregon City, on their way home from Vancouver, landed from their canoe and pitched their tent for the night under the pine trees upon the west bank of the Willamette River. Before they resumed their journey, the next day, they had projected a town upon the site of their encampment. Within a few months, a clearing was made and a log cabin built. From this beginning grew the present city of Portland.

But our story must go back of this beginning, for the historical significance of Portland lies not so much in the fact that it is today the great metropolis of that vast territory, once all called Oregon, and now divided into the States of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and parts of Wyoming and Montana, not to mention British Columbia; but its significance is rather to be sought in the consideration that in Portland culminated and found final form the metropolitan life of Oregon Territory, which, in its earlier and ... Read MORE...

1903 - Laid Low By Fire. Mills on Water Front Destroyed. Total Loss Is $260,000. Flames Spread From Their Origin in a Dry Kiln. Firemen Hurt-No Lives Lost
Easter & Western Lumber Co., J.A. Martin & Co. and Portland Union Stockyards Are the Heaviest Losers.

Loss - Insurance
Easter & Western Lumber Company - $100,000 $40,000
J.A. Martin Co - $25,000 $10,000
J.A. Martin - $30,000 $4,000
J.A. Martin and E. Martin - $25,000 $5,000
Portland Union Stock Yards - $10,000 $3,000
Oregon Sash & Door Company - $3,000 $3,000
Fire Department - $1,000
City (roadways) - $5,000
Six scow dwellings - $1,000
Totals - $260,000 $65,000

Fire swooped down on Portland’s defenseless water front yesterday and licked up $200,000 worth of property. “It burned up everything it touched,” said a gloomy insurance man, as he watched the dollars go heavenward. “The only thing that didn't burn was the water, and I’m not so sure about that.

The planing mill of J.A. Martin Company, near the foot of Seventeenth Street, first went up in smoke. The smaller sawmill of the Eastern and Western Lumber Company was next sacrificed to the flames. Twp wharves then... Read MORE...

1905 - June 1 - Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition opens in Portland, Oregon
June 1, 1905
Portland, the most populous city of Oregon, a port of entry, and the capital of Multnomah co., is situated on the Willamette River (here crossed by several bridges), 12 miles from its junction with the Columbia, and about 100 miles from the ocean. It is 52 miles N. by E. of Salem, on the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Co.'s R., the Southern Pacific and other railroads. Lat. 45° 30' N. Steamers ply regularly between this port and San Francisco, Olympia and other places on Puget Sound, the Columbia River, Alaska, China, and Japan. Portland is an important commercial centre and shipping point and one of the wealthiest cities of its size in the country. Its manufactures comprise iron and woollen goods, flour, fur-garments, furniture, beer, cordage, paints, oils, soap, carriages, etc. ; and it exports large quantities of wheat, fruit, flour, wool, lumber, salmon, and oats. The city is also extensively engaged in packing and slaughtering and in ship- and boat-building. A large dry-dock was... Read MORE...

1916 - Funeral Is Halted While 14 Months Old Boy Is Carried Home.
Nick Falotico, the 14 months old son of Mr. and Mrs. Rocco Falotico, 615 Fourth Street, was possibly fatally injured by being struck by Finley & Sons' Hearse during a funeral yesterday afternoon. The funeral party stopped while the child was taken home and a physician summoned, and then went on to Riverview Cemetery.

The child was sitting in front of his home near Fourth and Sheridan Streets when the funeral party approached. He jumped up and ran out into the road, evidently intending to cross the street. he fell and the front wheel of the hearse struck the child's chest, crushing several ribs. The child was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital. The hearse was driven by D.D. Parks and stopped within six feet. Dr. H.F. Leonard was summoned by W.W. Johns, a member of Finley & Sons, and the baby was hurried to the hospital.
Morning Oregonian
Portland, Oregon
February 25, 1916
1922 - March 21 - KGW-AM in Portland OR begins radio transmissions
Portland, Oregon, Dec. 1. - Four men lost their lives in a fire today in the Ben Hur Hotel formerly known as the Oak Hotel in the business district here. None of the dead had been identified several hours after the fire. All the other guests were reported to have escaped, most of them in their night clothing. The building was destroyed.

The number of injured had not been determined at daybreak.

The fire broke out in the hotel furnace room. Taxicab drivers and police worked heroically to arouse the guests, until an explosion on the third floor forced the rescuers from the building.

Guests at two of the principal hotels the Benson and Oregon, which adjoined the Ben Hur, were awakened by the management and warned to prepare to leave if the fire spread.

The fire was controlled before it reached other buildings.

The cause of it has not been determined.
The Newark Advocate
Newark, Ohio
December 1, 1922
1925 - June 25 - The mercury hit 101 degrees at Portland, OR, their earliest 100 degree reading of record.
June 25, 1925
1942 - June 30 - The temperature at Portland, OR, hit 102 degrees, an all-time record for that location.

The Weather Channel
June 30, 1942
1948 - Mill Ends Park in Portland, the world's smallest official park, measures two feet across. It was created in 1948 for the leprechauns, and a place to hold snail races on St. Patrick's Day. resources/ state-facts/ oregon.html
1948 - FLOOD CRASHES DENVER, UNION AVE. DIKES - Water Spills Into Kelso, Woodland - Vanport Homes Swept Eastward in Low Area, Man Plunged to Death
Cracking under the weight of water covering flooded Vanport, the Denver avenue and Union avenue roadway dikes washed out Monday night and spewed a ghostly cavalcade of Vanport homes in a deluge acress the lowlands to the east.

All along the Columbia river hundreds of weary flood fighters appeared to be losing their battle as Portland and Vancouver braced for the crest of the flood Tuesday night.

The Denver avenue breach was believed to have claimed the life of one man in a car which slid from the road into the raging torrent and over a 15-foot waterfall.

Sheriff's deputies later identified the car as an emergency vehicle of the Portland Electric Power company. They identified the man as Mike Skaggs, 420 S. E. Grant avenue.

Identification of Skaggs as the probable victim was made by his partner, A. Amorin, 32, Vancouver, who luckily did not go on the last ride.

Amorin said he and Skaggs had been installing floodlights on Bridgeton road and that Skaggs had gone for spare... Read MORE...

1952 - October 1 - 1st ultra high frequency (UHF) television station, Portland Oregon
October 1, 1952
1955 - Portland - "Operation Greenlight"
In 1955, their city government completed "Operation Greenlight"—a drill to evacuate the city center. Hospital patients were packed into semi-trucks, pedestrians were picked up by passing motorists, and the city's construction equipment and emergency vehicles were rushed out to "dispersal points." The entire city center was evacuated in 19 minutes.
2023 - Here's a list of things to do and places to visit in and around Portland:
Powell's City of Books: Get lost in the world's largest independent bookstore, Powell's City of Books. It's a paradise for book lovers, with multiple floors and rooms dedicated to different genres.

Washington Park: Spend a day in Washington Park, home to the International Rose Test Garden, the Oregon Zoo, and the Portland Japanese Garden. It's a beautiful and expansive urban park with a variety of attractions.

Pioneer Courthouse Square: Known as "Portland's living room," this square hosts various events and festivals throughout the year. It's a great spot to relax and people-watch.

Portland Art Museum: Explore the diverse collection of art at the Portland Art Museum, featuring both contemporary and classical works.

Voodoo Doughnut: Indulge in some quirky and delicious doughnuts at Voodoo Doughnut. Their unique flavors and shapes have made them a Portland icon.

Portland Saturday Market: If you're in town over the weekend, check out the Portland Saturday Market for... Read MORE...

Discover Your Roots: Portland Ancestry

Ancestors Who Were Born or Died in Portland, Oregon, USA

We currently have information about ancestors who were born or died in Portland.

View Them Now (sorted by year of birth)

male ancestorJohn Augustus NEWELL (31 March 1842, Essex County, New York, USA - 30 August 1910, Portland, Oregon, USA)
female ancestorPhebe Jennie ANDREWS (18 July 1845, Locke, Cayuga, New York, USA - 27 September 1905, Portland, Oregon, USA)
female ancestorRose ROSENCRANTZ (April 1850, , Russia (Soviet Union) (U.S.S.R.) - 1925, Portland, Oregon, USA)
male ancestorHerbert Presby TRASK (14 February 1854, Errol, Coos, New Hampshire, USA - 9 October 1920, Portland, Oregon, USA)
photo of Malvina DUPUISMalvina DUPUIS (23 August 1856, Kankakee, Kankakee, Illinois, USA - 21 November 1958, Portland, Oregon, USA)
male ancestorWilliam DOUGLAS (22 February 1857, , Nova Scotia, Canada - 12 August 1904, Portland, Oregon, USA)
photo of Eliza BOLLESEliza BOLLES (16 April 1857, Anthony, Minnesota, USA - 26 April 1947, Portland, Oregon, USA)
photo of Nellie Jane EARPNellie Jane EARP (7 January 1862, Pella, Marion County, Iowa, USA - 17 June 1930, Portland, Oregon, USA)
male ancestorFrancis Xavier "Frank" DUPUIS (13 August 1863, Vancouver, Washington, USA - 14 June 1929, Portland, Oregon, USA)

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Updated: 10/16/2023 8:36:08 AM