Portland Oregon – Increase in Population and Wealth

During 1863 a long step toward improvement was the organization of the Portland and Milwaukie macadamized road, with A, B. Richardson as president, Henry Failing secretary, and W. S. Ladd treasurer of the Board of Directors. The shipping lists of the steamers show large exports of treasure, one hundred thousand dollars. two hundred and forty thousand dollars, and even seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars being reported for single steamers. Six thousand to seven thousand boxes of apples were also reported at a single shipment. The old side wheel river steamer John H. Couch for many years so familiar a figure on the lower Columbia, was launched this year. The principal building was that of the Presbyterian church, at the corner of Third and Washington streets. The laying of the corner stone Avas observed with due ceremony, Rev. P.S. Caffrey officiating, assisted by Reverends Pearne and Cornelius. A new school-house of the congregation of Beth Israel, was opened this year. The arrival of thirty-six thousand pounds of wire for the Oregon and California telegraph line showed the interest in telegraphic communication with the outside world. The assessed valuation of property was three million two hundred and twenty-six thousand two hundred and sixty dollars. The day of independence was observed with great ceremony this year, the United States Military Department, under Brigadier General Alvord, from Vancouver, and the Fire Department and other societies of Portland uniting their efforts to make an imposing parade, while the evening was made resplendent with fireworks. To the country people who thronged the city this was new and imposing, and the imagination of none had yet extended to so lofty a flight as the illumination of the snow-capped mountains, as in recent years, to close the display. A spirited address by Hon. Amory Holbrook, in a time when the scream of the eagle meant something more than lifeless platitudes, added to the inspiration of the hour. The capitulation of Vicksburg was also celebrated a short time afterwards by a torchlight procession. There was no lack of patriotism in those days.

In 1864 much expansion was noticed. Grading and draining of the streets was largely undertaken. The Presbyterian church was finished at a cost of twenty thousand dollars and was called the finest structure in the State. The Catholic church was improved to an extent of two thousand dollars. J.. L. Parrish erected a three-story brick building, fifty by one hundred feet, on the corner of Front and Washington streets. A house was built by the city for the Columbia Engine Company No. 3, on Washington street, at a cost of six thousand dollars. The lot cost two thousand dollars. Two new hotels, the What Cheer House and the new Columbian, were built, and older ones such as Arrigoni’s, the Western, the Howard House, the Pioneer and Temperance House were improved. A considerable number of stores and dwelling houses were also put up. The greatest improvement, however, was the O. S. N. Company’s dock on the water front between Pine and Ash streets. It was necessitated by the increasing traffic with Idaho and the upper Columbia. There was not hitherto a dock to accomodate vessels at all stages of the water. This new wharf was accordingly built with two stories, the upper being fifteen feet above the other. The lower wharf was two hundred and fifty feet long by one hundred and sixty wide; the upper, two hundred by one hundred and twenty, thus occupying the entire front of one block. For this work there were used sixty thousand feet of piles and timber, five hundred thousand feet of sawed plank, fifty tons of iron, two hundred and twenty-five thousand shingles, two thousand eight hundred perch of rock, and six hundred barrels of cement. The work was completed from plans of J. W. Brazee and supervised by John D’ Orsay. The cost was fifty thousand dollars. The wharf and buildings of Couch and Flanders, in the northern part of the city were improved, bringing their value up to forty thousand dollars. The river front was not then as now a continuous series of docks, and these structures made an even more striking appearance than later ones far more pretentious and valuable. In order to prevent delay and vexation in the arrival of ocean vessels, a call was made for money to deepen the channel of the lower Willamette, and was met by double the sum named. The improvements were soon undertaken with great vigor. Five thousand dollars were spent in grading and improving the public square between Third and Fourth streets on Main. With the general leveling of the irregularities of the surface of the city and the removal of stumps more effort was made to adorn the streets and door yards with trees and shrubbery, and to make handsome lawns. The surroundings of the city were, however, still wild, and the shattered forests seemed excessively rude, having no more the grace and stateliness of nature, and having not yet given away altogether to the reign of art.

The population was now five thousand eight hundred and nineteen; there were one thousand and seventy-eight frame buildings, fifteen one-story, thirty-seven two-story and seven three-story brick buildings-one thousand one hundred and thirty-seven of all kinds.

There were seven wharves in the city; Abernethy’s, at the foot of Yamhill street; Carter’s, at the foot of Alder; Knott’s, on Water, between Taylor and Salmon; Pioneer at the foot of Washington, owned by Coffin & Abrams; Vaughn’s, at the foot of Morrison; the O. S. N. wharf, between Ash and Pine streets, and the Portland wharf of Couch & Flanders, in North Portland, at the foot of C and D.

There were thirty-eight dealers in dry goods and general merchandise, thirteen grocers, ten meat markets, four dealers in produce and provisions, three drug stores, fifteen physicians, four dentists, twenty-eight attorneys, three book-sellers, thirteen hotels.

The hotels were for the most part on Front street, showing the as yet comparative cheapness of land along this thoroughfare. There were the Mansion House, ‘at 143 Front street; the Farmer’s House, 169 Front street; What Cheer House, 126, 128 and 130 Front street; The Union Hotel, 131 Front street; The Shakspeare House, 25 Front street; The Franklin House on Front near Vine; The Howard House, No. 5 North Front; The New York Hotel, No. 17 North Front; the Pioneer and Temperance House on the corner of Front and Washington; The Western Hotel, at 13 and 15 Morrison street: the Miner’s Home, at the corner of First and Taylor.

As dealers in hardware may be named J. R. Foster & Co., E. J. Northrup and G. W. Vaughn, doing business between Taylor and Salmon, on Front street, and H. W. Corbett and Henry Failing at the present site of the business of Corbett, Failing & Co., on Front, at the corner of Oak. There were also three houses engaged in the furniture business-Lowenstein & Co., at 138 First street; Hurgren & Shindler, at 97 First street, and W. F. Wilcox, at 207 Front street. The real estate agents, now omnipresent and legion, were represented by the single firm of Parrish & Holman. Plumbers were represented by a single name, C. H. Myers, 110 First street. Hatters had but one name, A. J. Butler at 72 Front street, while saddlers had four, J. B. Congle, 88 Front street; H. Kingsley &Reese, 100 First street; Wm. Kern, 228 Front street, and S. Sherlock & Co. 52 Front street. There were as many as eight livery stables-those of Bennett & White, at 116 Second street; M. Patton, on Salmon near Front; R. E. Wiley, corner First and Taylor; Sherry Ross, 165 First street; N. Gray, on Front near Clay; W. R. Hill, on the corner of Front and Market; R. J. Ladd, at 31 Washington, and L. P. W. Quimby, at 63 Second street. There seems to have been a demand for transfer business and numbers of draymen or companies had a license for express work. Many of them, however, were simply delivery wagons. There were forty-six places for the sale of liquor. The photographers were W. W. Davis, at 99 First street; Hack & Dobson, at 107 1/2 Front street; B. H. Hendee, at the corner of Washington and Front, and A. B. Woodard & Co., at No. 5 Morrison street. The printers had three firms, R. D. Austin, at 27 Washington street; William D. Carter, at 73 Front street, and A. G. Walling, at No. 5 Washington street. S. J. McCormick published the Oregon Almanac, 105 Front street; H. L. Pittock, The Oregonian, at No. 5 Washington. The Pacific Christian Advocate was published at No. 5. Washington by the Methodist Church, and the Evening Tribune at 27 Washington street by VanCleave & Ward.

There were salt depots on Front street, a soap factory operated by W. L. Higgins, on Front street near Clay, and a turpentine manufactory by T. A. Wood & Co., near the same site. Carson & Porter, at 208 Front street, and J. P. Walker, at 230 Front Street, foot of Jefferson operated sash and door factories.

The total exports of 1864 reached eight millions seventy-nine thousand six hundred and thirty-one dollars. It is to be remembered, however, that the most of this was gold dust from Idaho, and the price of produce was far in excess of that at present.

During 1865 a steady forward movement was felt. Some of the streets were macadamized, and some were laid with Nicholson pavement. A factory for furnishing staves, heads and hoops ready to be set up into barrels, for the Sandwich Island trade, was established in North Portland. The court house on Fourth and Salmon streets, a handsome building of somewhat massive proportions, two stories in height with dome, and built of brick and stone, was erected at a cost of seventy-five thousand dollars. A public school-house was erected on Harrison street, at a cost of seven thousand dollars. The old Central public school on Sixth street, between Morrison and Yamhill, was until this time the only building to accommodate the thousand or more ‘ children of school age. There were, however, other educational institutions in the city; as St. Mary’s Academy, on Fourth street, between Mill and Market, with an attendance of one hundred and fifty pupils; St. Joseph’s day school, at the corner of Third and Oak streets, with one hundred pupils; Portland Academy and Female Seminary, on Seventh street, between Jefferson and Columbia, having one hundred and fifty pupils; the Beth Israel school, at the corner of Sixth and Oak with sixty-five pupils; a private school by Miss M. A. Hodgson, a lady of culture from Massachusetts and now long known as an educator in our State, and a Commercial Academy in the Parrish building on Front street. For a further and fully connected account of schools from the first the reader is referred to the special chapter on schools.

Of brick buildings made in 1865, Cahn & Co’s, at 37 Front street, extending to First; Wilberg’s two-story building on Front street; Moffett’s on Front, and that of Wakefield, Glenn and others on Front, were the most prominent and represented a considerable outlay of money. Cree’s building at the corner of Stark and Front, built in 1862, may be mentioned, A broom factory, a match factory, the Willamette Iron Works, and the First National Bank were established this year. To these may be added Vaughn’s flour mill on Front and Main streets, an expensive and imposing building, costing about fifty thousand dollars. About thirty-five thousand dollars was spent on street improvements.

The total value of exports was seven millions six hundred and six thousand five hundred and twenty-four dollars, the most of it being gold dust. To form commercial communication with San Francisco, there were two lines of ocean steamers, one running the Sierra Nevada and the Oregon, and the other the Orizaba and the Pacific. Of these the Orizaba was the largest, registering fourteen hundred tons. To Victoria the Active was run under the command of Captain Thorn. There were sailing vessels also to San Francisco, some of which were later run to the Sandwich Islands. These were the bark Jane A. Falkenberg, of six hundred tons; the bark H. W. Almy of six hundred tons; the bark Almatia, of seven hundred tons; the bark W. B. Scranton, of seven hundred tons; the bark, Samuel Merrit, of five hundred and fifty tons; the bark Live Yankee, of seven hundred tons. To the Sandwich Islands, also, there were then running the barks A. A. Aldridge, of four hundred tons, and the Comet, seven hundred tons.

Of the steamboat lines on the river there were now in operation the following three: The Oregon Steam Navigation Company, running to Astoria the J. H. Couch, with fare at $6.00 and the freight at $6.00 per ton; to Monticello, the Cowlitz or the Rescue, fare $3.00 and freight $4.00; to the Dalles, the New World, Wilson G. Hunt, the Cascade, Julia, Oneonta, Idaho and Iris, with fare at $6.00 and freight at $15; above the Dalles, the steamers Owyhee, Spray, Okanagon, Webfoot, Yakima, Tenino and Nez Perces Chief, with fare to Lewiston at $22.00 and freight at $60.00 per ton. These were the palmy days of river travel, the steamers being crowded and a small fortune being made at every trip. The People’s Transportation Company confined itself to the Willamette and ran the Senator and Rival below Oregon City and the Fanny Patton and others above the falls. The independent steamer Fanny Troup ran to Vancouver, and on the Willamette above Canemah there were the Union and the Echo. The Willamette Steam Navigation Company, still another line, ran the Alert and the Active on the Willamette. These Willamette crafts, having no competition from railroads, also did a fair business. The population of Portland in 1865 was six thousand and sixty-eight. The occupations represented are illustrated by the following list: Of apothecaries, four; architects and civil engineers, four; assayers, three; auctioneers, three; bankers, four; billiard rooms, six; bakers, two; contractors and builders, seven; brokers, eight; butchers, seventeen; dentists, three; restaurants, five; hotels, sixteen; insurance agents, three; lawyers, twenty-three; livery stables, seven; manufactures, sixty-three; photographers, five; physicians and surgeons, fifteen; plumbers, two; real estate agents, three; retail dealers in merchandise, one hundred and thirty-three; retail liquor dealers, one hundred and five; theatre, one; wholesale merchants, thirty-nine; wholesale liquor dealers, twelve. There was assayed gold dust valued at two million nine hundred. and thirty-four thousand one hundred and sixty-seven dollars. These are the figures of a busy little city. The number of voters was one thousand seven hundred and twenty-three.

During 1866 numerous brick buildings were erected, the most prominent among them being the block of the O. S. N. Co., adjacent to their wharf at the foot of Pine and Ash streets, and the structure of Charles M. Carter on First and Alder streets. By the Oregon Herald the latter was called one of the finest buildings in the State and equal to the elegant buildings of San Francisco.


Harvey Whitefield Scott. History of Portland, Oregon: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers. Portland, Oregon. D. Mason & Company, 1890.

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