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Salem: Oregon's Capital City
The City of Salem dates its founding from the establishment in 1840 of Jason Lee's second attempt at a Methodist Mission in the Oregon Country.

Due to flooding in the original location, Lee moved the headquarters of the Oregon Mission south to the confluence of Mill Creek and the Willamette River (an area just north of what is today downtown Salem.)

Discouraged in their endeavors to educate and convert the few natives, the missionaries turned their efforts toward laying out a town site and selling lots to finance the Oregon Institute, later to become Willamette University, the first university in the West.

The platting of the new town, originally called Chemeketa and later Salem, both meaning "place of peace," was completed in 1847. Although designated the territorial capital in 1851, Salem would not become the official capital of Oregon until 1855, after some squabbles with Marysville (now Corvallis.)

Salem grew slowly during the nineteenth century and the community was best described as small town. A stone capitol building was constructed in 1876, with other state and county buildings following. The city became the hub of state government, mid-valley commerce, and a center of education.

The twentieth century brought more growth. Today, Salem is designated as one of the most populated cities in Oregon.

Researched and written by Paul Porter and Susan Gibby.


Historic postcard of Salem.
Historic postcard of Salem, featuring the second Capitol.
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