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West Salem History
West Salem is located in Polk County on the west bank of the Willamette River just opposite the original town site of Salem. The first pioneer settlement in the West Salem area occurred in 1849 on the west shore of the Willamette below the mouth of LeCreole Creek, now called Rickreall Creek, with the platting of a town called Cincinnati.

T. H. Hutchinson officially surveyed the community in 1855, establishing the legal boundaries and calling the settlement Eola. In 1853 the teacher at Eola's one-room schoolhouse was Abigail Jane Scott, later Abigail Scott Duniway. Eola was a thriving community for several years, however, silting of Rickreall Creek was a deterrent to shipping. Most of the town's buildings were destroyed by the flood of 1890. At about the same time the less hilly farm land north of Eola was subdivided into West Salem Addition. Orchards and hop fields covered the undeveloped land.

West Salem's first passenger train arrived in 1909. Regular passenger service started a few weeks later with a kerosene powered engine called a McKeen car, nicknamed "The Skunk" because of its exhaust fumes. The train depot was built in 1909. In 1913 a railroad bridge across the Willamette was completed by the Salem Falls City and Western Railroad Companies.

In 1912, Walter Gerth opened a grocery store at Gerth and Edgewater Streets; Charles Spitzer also operated a grocery story in the area. An early cannery was owned by Bruce Cunningham; it later became the Blue Lake Cannery.

West Salem citizens voted to approve a city charter in 1913; at the same time they voted for prohibition and issued a warning against future bawdy houses. The West Salem City Hall, and the sewer system, were Public Works projects during the 1930s Depression. In 1949, the city voted to become a part of the City of Salem. (Corning 1947:137-142)

Excerpted from "Historical Context Statement for Salem," August 1992. Pages 59 to 66.The "Historical Context Statement" was prepared for Salem, Oregon by Marianne Kadas of Marianne Kadas Consulting.


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Downtown Salem and the Center Street Bridge towards West Salem, 1952.
View of downtown Salem and the Center Street Bridge crossing the Willamette River, and includes the entrance to West Salem, after 1952.
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