Why is Salem the Capital of Oregon?

Why is Salem the Capital of Oregon?
Why is Salem the Capital of Oregon?





Oregon is a state that’s situated in the Pacific Northwest of the Western portion of the United States. Oregon is well known for its astonishing natural wonders, such as Mound Hood, Crater Lake, and Cannon Beach. It’s also home to thousands of llamas, the famous Nike brand, and Portland. 

Oregon’s capital has switched a few times throughout the state’s history; it’s moved from Oregon City to Salem, to Corvallis, then back to Salem, and has remained here since 1855. 

This article will discuss the capital of Oregon. So read on! We have everything you need to know about Salem, the capital of Oregon.

Where is the Capital of Oregon Located?

Where is the Capital of Oregon Located
Where is the Capital of Oregon Located

The capital of Oregon is Salem, a city located in the Northwestern portion of the state, in the Western part of the United States. It lies in the center of the Willamette Valley, on the banks of the Willamette river, which runs through the city’s north portion. 

The slogan of Salem is ‘Salem: historic heart of Oregon.’ This refers to the part played by Salem during the early foundations of Oregon state. Salem is seen as the place where the state came together thanks to the early outposts along the Willamette river. 

Salem is known as the capital garden of Oregon, as it’s filled with luscious private gardens, public gardens, and nurseries which all bring in the seasons beautifully. It was once even called Cherry City due to the historical importance of the cherry industry. 

A brief History of Salem

Salem, Oregon, USA town skyline at dusk.
Salem, Oregon, USA town skyline at dusk.

Salem is one of the oldest cities in Oregon state. Once known by the native Americans as Chemeketa, meaning the “resting or meeting place”, the native American history surrounding Salem goes back thousands of years. 

Native American groups such as the Kalapuyans and their descendants, who are now part of the confederated Ronde Community of Oregon, once lived in the Willamette Valley area of Salem and Calapooya Creek, and Elk Creek.  

Before America’s colonization by the Europeans, the Kalapuya population was believed to have been as high as 15,000 people. The Kapapuyans were a collection of three or more people speaking similar languages. Each of the three influential bands occupied their own territories along the Willamette River close to Salem. They would hunt fish and wild game and forage for berries, nuts, and other wild fruits. 

Unfortunately, due to the introduction of diseases such as smallpox and malaria by the European settlers, records state that this once prosperous collection of tribes had dropped to around 600 people by the 1850s. 

The modern history of Salem began in 1842 when the city was founded on a former Native American village by a missionary group. The group was led by Jason Lee, who brought them to Salem from New England in search of new land to call home. 

They chose the site of Salem as it was close to the Willamette River. Eventually, word got out that new land was available along the Willamette Valley, which brought an influx of people to the area; thus, the city grew rapidly. 

By 1848, the large number of people moving to the city forced a new layout to be drawn up. This allowed settlers to build on the land and helped ensure there would be enough land to go around without succumbing to shortages. 

Throughout the city’s history, Salem has gone through multiple economic influences. The earliest of these was the lumber industry, which continues to this day. Harvesting has also played a considerable role in the city’s economic growth.

When did Salem become the Capital of Oregon?

Salem Capitol
Salem Capitol

Salem as a city was founded in 1842 by the missionaries led by Jason Lee. However, it would be another nine years until it was officially recognized as the capital of the Oregon Territory in 1851. But, due to a legislative act in the same year, the territorial government moved Oregon’s capital from Salem to Oregon City.  

This led to a few turbulent years, as the uncertainty of where the capital of the Oregon Territory should reside caused strife among the people. By 1855, the capital had moved to Corvallis, only to return to Salem in the same year.

During the same year, the capital building of Salem was burned to the ground, whether or not with ill intention, this was not enough to force a move of the capital elsewhere. Thus, Salem has remained the capital of Oregon for over 170 years. 

Why is Salem the Capital of Oregon?

Salem was chosen as the capital of Oregon thanks to the many infrastructures set up in its early years by the Methodist Missionaries. The original settlers saw the importance of being close to the Willamette River. They thus began building community spaces such as schools, a parsonage, and The Stately Lee House, providing some of the largest gathering spaces in Oregon. 

Best Places to visit Salem

Salem has remained a beautiful and vibrant city to this day. If you are planning a weekend away or a trip to a new trip, here are five of the best places to visit in Salem, Oregon. 

  1. Minto Brown Island Park

Salem has no shortage of beautiful parks to enjoy Oregon’s natural beauty. Minto-Brown Island park is one of the largest on the banks of the Willamette River. Enjoy a run, walk, bike, or picnic amongst the spring trees and summer suns, where flowers and trees bloom for most of the hotter months.

  1. Salem’s Riverfront Carousel

If you’re looking for entertainment for the whole family, the riverfront Carousel is an affordable day out. The carousel comprises handcrafted and fully operational rides in the historic downtown area of Salem. There are games, toys, souvenir shops, and treats, offering something for everyone in the family.

  1. Gilbert House Children’s Museum

If you’re looking for an excellent way to show your kids some of the histories of Salem, the Gilbert House Children’s Museum is a great option. Set in an old victorian style home, the museum has many interactive and educational rooms and a huge outdoor play area. 

  1. Enchanted Forest Theme Park

The Enchanted Forest Theme Park is another excellent option for a family day in Salem. It’s nestled among the lush forests with plenty to do and see. Stroll through the English village or western town, where you will encounter the fantasy fountains and a water light show. There are also plenty of rides and an indoor target shooting activity. 

  1. Willamette Valley Wine Tour And Lunch

If you’re looking for something with a bit more class, the Willamette Valley Tour and Wine Lunch will not be missed. You’ll stroll through the Willamette valley as you taste great wines at your own pace. You go through six unique wineries with a local expert and stop for a picnic lunch which can be enjoyed during one of your tastings. 

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!