Available, fertile land was the reason the pioneers chose
to settle in the Willamette Valley. Lumber and farming became
the first commercial enterprises as the farmers established
saw and grist mills on Mill Creek. Pioneer missionary Jason
Lee built his mill near the fork of today's Broadway and High
streets in what they considered North Salem. A historical
marker marks the site now across from Boon's Tavern. These
mills served not only the builder but also neighbors who relied
on them to grind the wheat and saw the trees which they had
cleared from their lots. The 1890 edition of the Sanborn insurance
map shows the existence of sawmills and grist mills.
The map also shows the location on the north bank of a mill
race which had been taken off Mill Creek and entered the Willamette
River on the southern edge of Salem. This is at the present
site of Riverfront Park. Another mill was on the Willamette
River near Mill Creek. Wheat was once considered a primary
industry in Salem. Farmers from all over Polk County brought
their wheat to Lincoln, north of Salem, where steamers made
regular stops to pick it up and transport it.
Naturally cool but not freezing temperatures, abundant rainfall
and the fertile valleys favored certain crops such as timber.
Canneries and mills sprang up to process the harvests and
resources produced in the valley. Rich soils provided abundant
feed for the raising of cattle and sheep. Meat packing and
wool, flax, wheat, and lumber mills were developed to process
the bounty. Agriculture remains a vital part of the commerce
of the Salem community in the 22nd century.
From its early beginnings, manufacturing and industry transformed
the natural resources of the Willamette Valley into goods
that served the Nation. It continues to do so today.
Researched by Joan Marie "Toni" Meyering
Written by Joan Marie "Toni" Meyering and Monica