Cottage Grove: History and Heritage are Serious Here
By Lloyd Williams
Beginning life in the 1850s as a wayside on the Applegate Trail, along the banks the Coast Fork of the Willamette River, Cottage Grove put down its early roots in agriculture. When gold was subsequently discovered east of town, early Cottage Grove was open for business selling anything and everything a miner would need to make his fortune. With the coming of the railroad, Cottage Grove flourished as Main Street relocated to take advantage of rail service. That turn-of-the-century Main Street is largely intact today. But, probably above all else, Oregon is timber country. Sitting in the middle of the richest timberland in the entire country are Lane and Douglas counties – and Cottage Grove was right in the middle of the two counties!
So for decades, the mines produced gold, silver, and other precious metals and the forests produced billions of board feet of timber, running dozens and dozens of sawmills in the Cottage Grove area. It is the mining, timbering, and sawmilling that makes up the heart of Cottage Grove’s rich history. And as I say, “Cottage Grove takes its history and heritage very seriously.”
Local interest in our collective history is so high, that Cottage Grove is home to two historical societies and two museums – one of each is inadequate to tell the whole story. And we have a very active genealogical society and the Friends of Mount David who advocate for the historic “Northwest Neighborhood” and its many Victorian era homes. The Friends of the Library work with all the “history partners” to present displays reflecting Cottage Grove’s history in our public library. And the City of Cottage Grove is a Certified Local Government — a strong partner — preserving the character of Cottage Grove through its programs such as the Main Street program and Historic Landmarks Commission.
When the Oregon Heritage All-Star Community Program was announced, it was obvious to many of us that Cottage Grove more than met the minimum 16 criteria out of 20. Because of the outstanding collaboration between all our history partners, we were able to share our community efforts and are absolutely thrilled to be selected a Heritage All-Star Community. And we are striving to improve in our weaker areas, such as outreach to teachers and school students.
This award does not represent an end of a process, but rather it is a marker as to how we are doing as a community that clearly values collaboration in best telling our collective history and celebrating our unique heritage – and, again, that’s something the citizens of Cottage Grove take very seriously!
Thank you so very much!
Lloyd Williams is the current Chair of the Cottage Grove Historic Landmarks Commission.