The Hudson's Bay Company established Fort Vancouver on the
Columbia River north of where the Willamette empties into the larger
river. They came to trap for beaver and otter furs, which were
eagerly sought in Europe. This was a British company operating out
of Canada. It employed many French Canadian trappers. As these
trappers retired, they settled with their Native American wives on
the prairie near Champoeg to become farmers. American trappers also
came to the area and some settled here.
At about the same time, missionaries came to the Willamette Valley to
work with the native people. Most of the missionaries soon decided to begin
farming and to establish schools and communities.
In 1842, Allen Jones Davie and Reuben Lewis were listed as members of an
immigrant party of Americans. This was the first group containing families
with small children to come the Oregon Country. They were unable to bring
their wagons all the way to Willamette Valley and were forced to cut them
down to two wheeled carts, or to abandon them altogether. Arriving at the
Willamette Falls in October, Davie and Lewis remained there and helped build
Oregon City, which grew from one building to thirty buildings in one year.
Allen Davie and Reuben Lewis were present at the famous conference at
Champoeg and voted, May 2, 1843, in favor of founding a provisional
government under the auspices of the United States. In 1841, Davie married
Cynthia Brown at Champoeg. In due time, upon recommendation of his friend,
Reuben, the newly married couple traveled south and established a claim east
of Aumsville, (between Aumsville and the Santiam Golf Club). On this claim,
Davie built a sawmill. He also farmed, hunted and fished and they raised a
family of eleven children.
John McHaley brought his family to the Oregon Country in 1843 and took up
the first area claim on land that now includes the eastern part of
Aumsville. His stepdaughter, Polly Frazier, became the wife of Reuben Lewis
and they claimed land here in 1844. Other early families who settled here
included names such as Smith, McKinney, Reed, Barney, Whitney, Darby, Condit,
Hobson, Read, Coffey, Taylor, Neal, Tucker, Jones, and Walker. These names,
as well as others, can be found on old tombstones in local cemeteries.
In April 1848, a wagon train left Illinois bound for Oregon. In that
train were Stephen and William Porter and their families. Their trip is
documented because of the diary kept by William Porter. There is a letter
written by William to his father, mother, brothers and sisters in Illinois
while he was en route to Oregon. His letter is on file with the Aumsville
William Porters' family stayed the winter of 1848 in the Salem area with
the Pringle family. After wintering with the Pringles, the family moved to a
claim southeast of what is now the town of Aumsville. William’s wife, Sarah,
died soon after arriving in the Willamette Valley and she was the first
person buried in what is now the Aumsville Cemetery. William married his
first wife's sister, Martha, in 1849. He built a one-room log cabin and
established a small herd of cattle. The fields provided excellent pasture as
the Indians who had earlier occupied the area had burned over the lands for
many years. William also worked at building roads leading into the "Stayton"
country. William's activities made him widely known in the sparsely
inhabited area and he served as chief clerk at the first Territorial
Legislative Assembly at Oregon City in 1849. He later served as a senator.
The early settlers operated under the Provisional government when they
claimed lands. After Oregon became a United States Territory, land claims
had to be recognized by the federal government to be legal. Congress passed
the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, which applied only to the Oregon
Territory. The act granted to settlers residing in the Territory by December
I, 1850, a donation (free) of320 acres to a single man and 640 acres to a
married couple. One half was deeded to the husband and the other half to the
wife in her own name. Settlers, who came by December 1, 1855, received half
of the above amounts. Consequences of the DLC Act were the marriages of many
very young brides and women's rights to property. After 1855, pioneers
secured their Iand under the Homestead Act. The land was no longer free for
the taking -it required a purchase price of $1.25 per acre.
In about 1855, about half a mile east, and half a mile south of the
present town, William Porter built a frame building, sixteen by twenty feet,
which became the first school in the area. He also was the first teacher.
This building was used as a church on Sundays; it became known as the Mill
Creek Church of Christ. The building was abandoned and the church moved into
Aumsville in 1868 as the town was a more central place.
Henry Smith and Reuben Lewis built another early school in the area. The
Smith claim included land that is now the northwestern part of Aumsville.
That particular school building was situated north of Aumsville near what is
now Aumsville Highway.
In 1852, Henry L. and Judith Turner brought their family by covered wagon
to Oregon. Mr. Turner purchased land from John McHaley. In 1863, Henry, his
sons, and son-in-law built a flourmill on their family farm, in what would
become the town of Aumsville. The community at that time was often called
Hoggum as so many pigs were raised and roamed in the area. Before the mill
was completed, Turner's son-in-law, Amos Davis, died. Turner was very fond
of Amos, who was German and generally called "Aumus." After his death,
Turner named the community Aumusville, which came to be called Aumsville.
Henry Turner also built flourmills in Turner (which was named after him),
The first post office in the area was established in 1862, at Condit,
about two miles south of Aumsville, north of the present West Stayton
School. In 1868, it was moved to Aumsville. In 1864, Henry Turner and Henry
Smith platted (mapped out) the town.
The first store opened in Aumsville in 1866. Stores of this time were
"general" stores. Most of life's necessities could be purchased in them
-grain for the farm animals, nails, rope, lanterns and lantern oil, material
and thread for making clothing, salt, flour, and other food. There was not a
lot of cash or "hard money" to be used, so people bartered and exchanged
goods they had produced for items they wished to purchase. Pioneer women did
not plan meals around fresh meat, dairy or produce from the market as these
things were generally not available. Meat was grown on the farm or hunted as
game (and of course, slaughtered and butchered). Milk was used fresh from
the settlers’ cows or made into butter or cheese. Fresh produce was only
available when it was in season. There were no refrigerators or freezers,
and much work went into securing. drying, curing, pickling, and later,
The first school in the town itself was held in a blacksmith shop that
was at the southeast corner of Main Street and West Stay ton Road. In 1893,
a school was built between Main and Church Streets on 9th Street.
It faced east and was called the "Old Wooden School." While it was still in
use, long boards were used to prop up the two-story structure to keep it
from blowing down. In 1922, the Amos Davis School was opened. It was built
at the same location as the previous school and was used until 1972,
although the high school closed at this location and became part of Cascade
High School in 1950. Cornelia Turner Davis, daughter of Henry and Judith
Turner, and widow of Amos Davis, donated money to build the school. It
contained elementary grades through high school. (She also donated money to
build Turner School, The Christian Church Tabernacle, and what became the
Turner Memorial Home.) Mrs. Turner stipulated that there would be no dancing
in the school and portraits of herself and her husband would be displayed in
the school. The present school, on Eleventh Street, was built as an
elementary school and is now part of the Cascade School District.
The Oregonian Railway Company began operating in 1880. The narrow gauge
track ran from Ray's Landing on the Willamette through St. Paul, Woodburn,
Silverton, Pratum, Macleay, Shaw, Aumsville, West Stayton, and on to Scio,
Brownsville, and Coburg. There were many other stops or "stations" such as
Shaff Station where the tracks cross Shaff Road south of Aumsville. The
train hauled freight and passengers. The passenger train made two trips a
day, going north in the morning and south in the evening. Teenagers rode the
train from Scio and attended high school in Aumsville. The passenger train
discontinued service about 1925.
The main road from Salem, through Aumsville toward the east, eventually
to Bend, was called the "Road of a Thousand Wonders." Picture post cards
from around the turn of the century proudly mention the fact that the town
is on this road.
Population figures for Aumsville have increased, decreased, and again
increased over the past 120 years. 1878 - 40; 1893 -150; 1917- 400; 1920-
171; 1938- 230; 1942- 175; 1960 - 300; 1970 -590; 1998 -2,820;
2003 - 3050. Aumsville was
seen as a trading center for many years. It was centrally located for many
farmers in the area and the addition of the railroad made it even more
important in that way. In the last century and well into the first part of
this century, roads to Salem were either non-existent or very poor, and
considering that everything had to be pulled by horse or oxen, the distance
In 1963, Maude Porter Boone donated 5 acres that had been part of her
grandfather's donation land claim to the city of Aumsville. This is now
Porter-Boone Park. Every year, the community holds the Aumsville Corn
Festival in this park which is situated on Mill Creek.
Seeing the name of the park on the sign should remind us of the early
pioneers who struggled to get here and then worked very hard to build their
homes in this land.