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Part One

An Oregon Story:
Cottage Grove & the Willamette River

From Rivers to Reservoirs:
Cottage Grove & Dorena Dams

Part Two

The Last of the Lumbermills:
Changing Cultures & Economies

Cottage Grove:
Then & Now


Documents Archive

Photo Archive

Oral History Archive


Table of Contents

The Challenges of a New Place:
"June 21. Rained hard."

On any homestead the procedure in getting established was pretty much the same. A log cabin, or a small log house was usually built first, then land must be cleared for garden and pasture, and fences put around it. Horses and cows were a necessity. A barn had to be built, and the first house was usually replaced by a frame house as soon as possible.
-- Nellie Harris, Writers Discussion Group, 1970

The Sutherland family in front of their store, probably in London, south of Cottage Grove, 1898.
Courtesy of Lane County Museum

The city of Cottage Grove incorporated in February, 1887, more than thirty years after the first settlers arrived to what is now Dorena Reservoir. The small town developed as the center of a struggling agricultural community, a place where people often settled because better lands in the northern valley had been taken. Most newcomers hailed from the Midwest. While they found winters in the valley mild, settlers had to acclimate to months of rainy weather and annual floods.

Settlers supplemented subsistence agriculture with livestock and dairies but more importantly with logging and mining. Some of the earliest logging activity in Lane County occurred on the Upper Coast Fork (now the location of Cottage Grove Dam) where settler William Payne built the area's first mill in 1867. By the 1890s, loggers used this Willamette River tributary to transport logs to the new mills that lined the shores.

Further north, along the Row River, mining became a significant economic activity after gold was discovered in the Cascade Mountains in the mid-nineteenth century. By 1902, 2,000 mining claims existed in the Cascades near Cottage Grove. The Row River Valley provided the easiest access to the Bohemia mining area and eventually became the site for the area's first railroad, built in 1899. The railroad ended Cottage Grove's isolation and incorporated the city into western Oregon's transportation corridor. It also launched a logging boom that would not subside until the 1980s.

1913 Diary of Flora Hills

Letters from the Bohemia Mines