*Also Check out the SILVERTON, OREGON HISTORIC CONTEXT STATEMENT by Gail E.H. Evens
History of Silverton
Unlike most small communities in Western Oregon in the nineteenth century, Silverton was laid out pretty much around its local environment. Instead of the rigid North-South grid of the township and range system, in 1854, Silverton’s “Founding Mother,” Polly Coon Price, decided to plan the town around a large old Oregon White Oak tree, locating the town square of the new town around it. She named the town “Silverton” after Silver Creek, which flowed by the Old Oak several hundred yards to the West. The tree had been a meeting spot along the Santiam trail for the local Native Americans of the area. Indeed, they continued to use it as such, even after the town grew up around it.
The first settlers came to the banks of the Silver Creek, following timber and water power, in the 1800s. In 1846, James Smith and John Barger established a sawmill on the creek and a small settlement, Milford, began to grow. In 1854, Milford was abandoned and the businesses that had started there moved downstream to the current site of the city of Silverton.
Silverton was incorporated in 1885. By 1894, the population was nearly 900. The young town was a trading and banking center of prominence and ranked among the most progressive towns of western Oregon.
By 1921, Silverton industries were producing exports for other areas and even
some foreign countries. The Fischer Flour Mills on South Water Street was among the exporters. Power for the mill was obtained by damming Silver Creek at a point near the present pool, diverting water into a millrace that ran along the creek to the mill and then dumped back into the creek.
A short way downstream from the Fischer mill, the creek was dammed again to furnish power for a sash and door plant. Timber drove local industry, and the Silver Falls Timber Company was once the largest sawmill of its kind in the world. Metal piping was also part of the economy. To this day, metal covers on Silverton streets and sidewalks bear the legend “Eastman Brothers Metal Works.” One of the Eastman brothers, L.C., was mayor in the 1920s.
The opening of the Oregon Garden signifies the success of a partnership between the Garden, a private enterprise attracting tourists to botanical displays, and the City of Silverton. The Oregon Garden’s expansive wetlands area benefits from the city’s excess reclaimed water, while the community benefits from trade the Garden draws to the area.