That fateful remark was made sixty years ago by the founder of Eugene, Ore. From the top of the hill [Skinner's Butte] just north of the town which now bears his name, the stalwart pioneer looked down upon a scene of marvelous beauty. He saw the wide valley, green and fair, and almost voicing its promise of reward to the settler; he saw the panorama of the surrounding hills, and the mountains, forest-clad and dreamy with the romance and mystery of the untrodden wilderness; he noted here at the head of the Valley of the Willamette that many streams united to form the river glittering in the sun; he saw these things and perhaps in a dim way realized their potentialities.
Eugene Skinner had the vast, virgin domain of the West to choose from, and he selected this spot.
While it is no longer possible to locate a 640-acre homestead against Skinner's old boundary line, it is interesting to note the great advantages that time and progress have added to those of 60 years ago.
Past the door where Mary Skinner called her husband to supper from his rough toil now thunders the Southern Pacific locomotive through a city that realizes the most exacting home-seeker's ideal, while its advantages for business investment are attracting wide attention.
Eugene is the county seat of Lane County, located near its geographical center, close to the junction of five streams that unite to form the Willamette River.
Its population is over sixty-five hundred; it has all the conveniences of a modern city, or will have as soon as the Willamette Valley Company can construct an electric street car system, the franchise for which was granted a few days ago.
The town is 123 miles south of Portland with an elevation above sea level of 453 feet.
Its climate makes this region one of the most delightful places of residence in the world. It is fortunately situated on the line between "too hot" and "too dry", and has the happy medium of thirty-five inches average annual rainfall. Natural conditions are ideal; it enjoys the warm southern winds of the winter season, and the cool ocean breezes in sultry summer; the air is fragrant in spring with sweetbrier and apple blooms, and throughout the year with the freshness and spice of the evergreen forest.
There is probably no place on the habitable globe where more healthful, reliable and altogether favorable weather conditions prevail the year round than right here in the heart of the most beautiful region in the Union. The proximity of the Japan current in the Pacific Ocean to these shores is supposed to temper the atmosphere, preventing severe cold in winter, and in summer the trade winds modify the heat. Ninety-eight degrees is the maximum for summer, while the mercury seldom falls below freezing.
Eugene is the commercial center of the county. "Drop a dollar anywhere in Lane County and it will roll into Eugene as naturally as water runs down hill."
Eugene is the educational center of the state. In addition to the State University which is located here, there is a first-class high school. This institution with 300 pupils prepares for any State University. There are three fine public schools with a total of 1550 pupils and 35 teachers. Mention must not be omitted of the Divinity School, the Catholic Boarding and Day School and the Business College.
Photograph below: top left: Geary Public School; top right: Patterson Public School; lower photo: Eugene High School.
There are three banks with deposits aggregating $1,500,00. Ten churches represent as many denominations, and Eugene is known as an ideal city of homes. It has attracted the best class of citizens, and the social atmosphere is of the highest order. There are no saloons.
Congress has just appropriated $50,000 for a new Postoffice here. All business blocks are of brick. A fine theater building seats 950.
The actual property valuation on Willamette Street, which is the principal street of the city, is $300 per front foot. Town lots and building materials are to be had at a reasonable price, and rents are uniformly low in consequence. There are three sawmills, one of which is the largest and best equipped in the state. There are woolen mills, flour mills, a match factory, an excelsior plant, shops for the manufacture of furniture, sash and doors, and knife works. The largest vinegar factory in the state is located here. There are also foundries and a fruit canning plant and a score of minor industries.
Eugene is bound to become an important railway point in the near future, and the topography of the county is such that no additional railroads can be built into it without coming to Eugene. Five valleys, from three to eight miles wide, radiate from it; one of which valleys, the Mackenzie, is the most direct route to Eastern Oregon. A railroad by this route has already been surveyed. From all this it will be seen that the commercial prestige of Eugene is secure.
Turning from the town to its tributary vicinity, we encounter a number of surprising facts. Lane County has thirty-four thousand million feet of standing timber on its hills: 200,000 surveyed horse-power in its streams, for the use of manufacturers and miners; and its vast area of magnificent farming land produces in abundance practically all crops characteristic of the temperate zone.
In the matter of timber it eclipses any other county in the Union.
From a pamphlet issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior, under date of 1902, entitled "Forests of Oregon," page 25, we quote the following:
By the same authority this grand total is twelve thousand eight hundred million grow to perfection. Fruit and vegetables are unexcelled either in quantity or quality. The yield of potatoes in the acre on river bottom is simply enormous.
Stock-raising affords a profitable investment for capital. Cattle, sheep, horses, Angora goats and hogs bring quick and satisfactory returns. The mildness of the climate and the generous rainfall insure green pasturage the year round. This coupled with the moisture in the atmosphere produces the finest staple of wool and mohair. It may not be generally known, but it is nevertheless a fact, that mohair can be produced in Lane County that will bring anywhere from three to five dollars per pound. Recent sales of Western Oregon mohair in New York confirm the truth of this statement. The present price of Western Oregon wool is seven cents per pound higher than that grown in severer climates where green pasture is less plentiful. Also farmers find they can increase their yield of winter wheat several bushels to the acre by pasturing it with sheep during the winter and early spring, and of course the sheep bring in an additional profit.
Hop-raising in the vicinity of Eugene is a fair road to wealth. The yield per acre is one thousand to three thousand pounds, averaging 1500. For the past twenty-eight years the average market price has been 18 cents per pound, with fluctuations ranging from 5 cents to 60 cents per pound. The total cost of production is about 6 1/2 cents per pound. There are thousands of acres of unused land suitable for hops that can be bought for $15 to $50 per acre.
Every variety of grain, fruits and vegetables, second to none in the state in yield or quality, is grown here.
Mining has grown to be another large industry. Four important camps have been developed, namely Bohemia, Blue River, Black Butte and Fall Creek. These camps give employment to several hundred men with a constantly increasing demand for more. Several large quartz mills are in operation in both Bohemia and Blue River and more are in process of construction. Magnificent water power adjacent to the mines is utilized for generating electricity which is used in operating the mills.
Owing to the abundance of water power, the mild climate, convenient and inexhaustible supply of timber and the great elevation of the mineral grounds, mining is carried on at a minimum expense.
It has been predicted by experts that the mineral values of Lane County will prove to be greater than all other property values combined.
This prediction is undoubtedly correct, for coal croppings and coal oil shale have been found in addition to gold and silver, quicksilver and copper. The abundance of timber has made the mining of coal of little concern, and no prospecting for either coal or oil has been done that is worth mentioning.
The total assessed value of property in Lane County is $9,298,649. The real value is at least twice this amount, or eighteen millions. Let it be noted that one million, six hundred and six thousand and eighty-one acres [more than one-half of the entire county], are unpatented, and unassessed. This includes the mineral and forest reserve lands, which embrace much of the finest timber in the world, estimated to be worth for this timber alone, [at one dollar per thousand feet] thirty-four million dollars. Add to this two hundred thousand dollars for the water power in the county and we have a grand total of fifty-two million two hundred thousand dollars of wealth in raw material, or two thousand four hundred and twenty-three dollars for each man, woman and child in the county. And this is not reckoning the value of the mineral lands.