[Roseburg, Late 1800’s. Picture Courtesy of]

Demographics, Politics & Society

By Shelby Chapman

During the 1840’s a wide variety of individuals explored the Umpqua Valley. One of them was a man named Aaron Rose, who claimed land at the modern site of Roseburg Oregon (1). Rose and his family owned a tavern, which quickly became a destination for other settlers to call home. Originally, the town was named “Deer Creek” for its close proximity to Deer Creek, but quickly became Roseburg with the addition of a post office, and schools (1). Political structure was quickly built, with courthouses and government buildings erected in 1855, 1870, 1891(2).

The Douglas County Commission’s first meeting was held on April 4, 1853, at Winchester, attended by three elected commissioners and a sheriff (2). By 1855 Deer Creek was renamed Roseburg and maintained a county court form of government (2). 1872 heralded the first train to travel on the Oregon-California railroad, bringing with it the transfer of ideas, goods, and culture from across the west coast (1).

By the late 1890’s and early 1900’s Roseburg was a lively town with many flourishing businesses, social groups, and clubs. The town grew slowly, from 3,500 people in 1909 to 5,300 people in 1910 (3). Despite its expansion, the vast majority of the town was of white race. Between 1900 and 1930 the percent of the black population in Oregon fluctuated between .3 and .2 percent of the population (3). in 1850, 9 black individuals resided in Douglas County, but by 1930 that demographic had dropped to 4 individuals(4).

Families in Roseburg appear to be of consistently middle and working class during this period. Roseburg’s fertile valley farmlands were perfect for raising crops, and the town soon became majorly successful in the realm of prune and strawberry production and packing (3). Additionally, small western towns like Roseburg had plenty of room for new businesses, with theatres, real estate agencies, laundry services, grocery stores and more popping up, disappearing, and being replaced quickly (2).

Research shows that there was strong investment in religion by Roseburg society, Catholic and Christian faiths dominated. Churches stood as a cultural center, and annual festivals and parades unified the city. As of 1919, Roseburg had maintained a seven day Chautauqua for several years-similar to Vaudeville in style and tone, but differing in its sense of morality and educational intent (2)

[Roseburg, Late 1800’s, Photo Courtesy of]

Similarly, despite the investment in work, religion, and cultural events, many Roseburg citizens founded social clubs. From 1880-1930, it seems that women had consistent opportunities to work as well as organize. In 1895 Mrs. George Child founded the Roseburg Women’s Club, originally named ’95 Mental Culture Club (1). The group became a major force in the community, leading to the success of many efforts and services including the Douglas County Library (1). Various other clubs and groups around this time include The Woodmen of the World, First Knights of Pythias Drum and Bugle Corps, the Gay Blades, as well as the Boy Scouts of America (1).

While many of these organizations provided an outlet for leisure and relaxation, other’s represent a more sinister history. The Ku Klux Klan was fairly active in Roseburg throughout this time period. Advertisements for lectures and gatherings of the Ku Klux Klan appeared frequently in The Roseburg Review as well as other newspapers (5). This may have been influenced by various media, notably the frequency of The Birth of a Nation (1915) being shown in the town’s theaters (6). This is prominently seen in the Antlers Theatre of Roseburg. This likely impacted the population of the county’s people of color, as referenced earlier in this piece (3).

Works Cited,

in order of reference.

1.Stewart, Ron. A Pictorial History of Roseburg. Edited by Brad Fenison, Pediment Publishing, The News-Review, 1997.

2. “Douglas County History.” Oregon Secretary of State: Office of Small Business Assistance,,

3. News Office Press. Roseburg Douglas County and Umpqua Valley Oregon. Roseburg Chamber of Commerce, 1919.

4. Hill, Daniel G. “The Negro in Oregon.” The University of Oregon, University of Oregon Libraries, 1932, pp. 42–47.

5. Umpqua Klan Number 5. “Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Wish You a Happy and Prosperous New Year.” Roseburg News-Review [Roseburg], 1 Jan. 1924, p. 34.

6. Antlers Theatre. “D.W. Griffith’s World’s Mightiest Spectacle The Birth of a Nation.” The News-Review [Roseburg], 22 July 1916, pp. 3–3

Economics & Infrastructure

By Megan Snyder

In the early 1870s trains were established through Oregon down to California. The locomotives ran on the burning of wood. A trail leading directly to Portland from Roseburg brought a large economic growth to the city. Their success slightly decreased when an extension was added between Roseburg and Ashland. Roseburg was on the only through railroad route between Oregon and California the town set up shops and roundhouses (City of Roseburg). This increased jobs and the economy of the city.

Gold mines and mining of other minerals increased income for citizens and business. Cinnabar mines allowed for mining of mercury, silver and copper in 1890s. An effort was made to acquire nickel from the mine in southern Roseburg. They were successful with mining the nickel so the Hanna Company was established. This company was the only mining company that solely produced nickel in the United States (City of Roseburg). Roseburg was the most successful city to make wool. Their primary wool mill was destroyed due to a flood but they still lead the state in production of sheep. A few other industries such as brickyard, breweries, canning plants, woodworking, furniture making and electronics have had increases and decreases in profit over time.

The location of Roseburg allowed them to flourish off the forests and the ability to harvest timber. Pioneers cut lumber for construction and distributed first by boat out of the Umpqua then by train. The lumber mills started with a total of thirty-seven in the county during late 1930s then increased to two hundred and seventy-eight ten years later. Roseburg was known for their sawmills, which gave the town the nickname of “Timber Capitol of the Nation”(City of Roseburg). Today, there is an Economic Development Commission that meets every month to engage with the public about upgrading neighborhoods/attractions and retention of businesses.

Railroad Station, Train at Roseburg

Work Cited

“City of Roseburg :: Visitor.” City of Roseburg :: History,


Arts & Culture

By Hayden Garratt

Eddy, Ralph. Roseburg and the Umpqua River. Roseburg, 1932.

Roseburg is a very prospering city that helped move Oregon forward in its early years. Many settlers came to Roseburg for the chance for a full and rich life, and they were not wrong in doing so. Even though many came specifically for the gold craze in the late 1800s, what really made settlers in Roseburg rich was the abundant amount of lumber around the city. Roseburg earned the title “Timber Capitol of the Nation” in the early 1900s for its richness in “green gold” (“City of Roseburg”).

There was a significant amount of Chinese population with a peak of 183 people in 1890 but the population went down to 26 Chinese in 1900 (Steinmetz). In 1924 the population came down to only 6 remaining Chinese after the passing of the AntiOriental Immigration Act (Steinmetz). The black population also diminished due to the high status of Ku Klux Klan members in the Roseburg area during the early 1900s. It was a hard time to be any person of color in Roseburg during this time. On April 1, 1922, The Face at Your Window, a very racially controversial KKK propaganda film, made its way into Roseburg (Steinmetz). An article about this event states that, “After the screening, a white mob formed outside the theater circulating the rumor that a local black man, Sam Jackson, had insulted white women while drunk. The mob marched through Roseburg looking for Jackson but could not locate him” (Steinmetz). The film was then used in recruitment drives for Klan organizers all around the area (Steinmetz).

Patton Postcards. Depots, Trains, Railroads, Streetcars. Roseburg, 1912.

In Roseburg, the main threat the people faced was the possibility of a fire. Fires happened much more frequently in the early 1900s due to the use of industrial machinery that were not fully perfected (“City of Roseburg”). It was a risk that Roseburg settlers had to deal with because most of the cities revenue came from lumber and logging mills made around the area.

Works Cited

“City of Roseburg :: History.” City of Roseburg :: Economic Development,



    Oregon, 2016,

Key Events

by Megan Deck

Between 1905 and 1930, Roseburg expanded and many new buildings were established. The city of Roseburg was settled by Aaron Rose in 1851 (1). In 1904, Roseburg High School, the first high school in the city, was built between Hamilton and Jackson Streets and was named after Rose (1). Roseburg’s first hospital, Mercy Hospital, was built in 1905 (1). The facility was several stories tall and included the most modern equipment available. The Sisters of Mercy (a religious institute of Catholic women) operated the hospital, which contained thirty beds. Later, in 1911, a fire damaged the upper floor of the building; some improvements were added during the remodel.

Notably, a couple of buildings downtown were privately owned, but leased to commercial businesses. The new Masonic Hall was erected in 1909 to replace the former one that burned down in 1901 (1). Apparently, the lodge only used the top three floors and rented out the first floor to other businesses. Located on the northeast corner of Jackson and Cass Streets, the building would have been valuable real estate for a theater. Similarly, in 1911, the Palace Theater was established in the first floor of the “Sol Marks” building, which was located on the corner of Jackson and Washington Streets and was nicknamed after the owner (1). In the remodel, 500 seats and a “classic front” with a stage, balcony, and organ were built for the theater. In 1916, the Antlers Theatre paid for a full page in the Roseburg Review to advertise The Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith’s controversial, pro-white supremacy Civil War-era drama. A tagline of the advertisement reads, “Never before has this city been privileged to witness a photoplay of this magnitude,” which emphasizes the film’s popularity (2).

Roseburg Review, July 22, 1916: 3

One of Roseburg’s main early exports was produce, especially prunes. In 1921, Clarence E. Moyer, a nationally recognized nurseryman, moved to town (1). He eventually developed the Moyer prune, which became the best selling variety in America. Bert Kruse and his family were prominent farmers in Roseburg, but it wasn’t until 1923 that Kruse purchased fifteen acres of land to expand his business (1). He “cleared [the land] by hand,” and Kruse Farms has been Roseburg’s main supplier of fresh produce ever since (1). Finally, after losing the first two courthouses to a fire and a buyout, the Douglas County Courthouse, built in 1929, has remained standing in the downtown area. It housed the school superintendent, the county court, the district attorney’s justice court, and much more (1).

Diane L. Goeres-Gardner, Roseburg (Arcadia Pub., 2010).

Works Cited

  1. Diane L. Goeres-Gardner, Roseburg (Arcadia Pub., 2010).
  2. Roseburg Review, July 22, 1916.