Salem Online History This site is provided by Salem Public Library (Salem, Oregon).
space space
Brief History
Natural History
Timeline Search
Chemawa Station and Heading To Salem

The next station on our route is Chemawa, although the little Oregon Electric station house is a half-mile west of Chemawa itself.

We associate Chemawa with the Indian school which bears that name. The school was moved to Salem from Forest Grove in the 1880s. The campus was built on both sides of the Oregon & California Railroad track, later to become the Southern Pacific. It didn't take people long to realize that was a stupid idea. Not only did it mean that everyone who lived there had to listen to trains roaring by all night long, it was hazardous to move across campus because of having to watch for trains.

When the new Chemawa campus was built in 1980s, the buildings were located on one side of the track and a little distance from it.

At the schools beginning, it trained Indians from nearby regions. But as time went on, it collected Native Americans from as far away as Alaska and the Navajo Reservation of New Mexico and Arizona.

The name Chemawa means "gravelly soil" and was attached to the band of Indians who lived there before the coming of the whites. The Chemeketans of Salem and the Indians at Chemawa were all part of the Santiam Tribe of the Kalapuya. (There are 30 ways of spelling the tribe's name, by the way.)

Going through this part of our route in the last decade of the century, we would be cutting across the corner of what is now the city of Keizer. But at the time we are making our run, the name is associated with Keizer Bottom, along the Willamette, far to the west. Its name came from Thomas D. Keizer, who took up the first homestead in the area and who served as a member of the provisional government in 1843.

As we leave Chemawa, we come within range of stations we now associate with the City of Salem, such as the Deaf School and Highland. The Oregon State Fairgrounds also became a popular destination around Labor Day, with special excursions from Portland helping to fill the fairgrounds. All these were at the outskirts of Salem, and we have another mile or two before we come to the heart of the city.

Written by Wes Sullivan

See Origins of the Oregon Electric Railway


Close up of the Willamette Valley route
Close-up of Willamette Valley route through Salem area
[ View Image ]
Home | About | History Resources | SiteMap | Historic Photographs | Salem Public Library
Brief History Commerce © 2005-2006 Salem Public Library (Salem, OR) Culture Education Maps Natural History People Places Timeline Search Transportation