Eugene Skinner

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Eugene Skinner
black-and-white photo of Eugene Skinner, a bearded man
Born Eugene Franklin Skinner
(1809-09-13)September 13, 1809
Essex, New York
Died December 15, 1864(1864-12-15) (aged 55)
Eugene, Oregon
Resting place
Masonic Cemetery in Eugene
Occupation sheriff, ferry operator, farmer, lawyer
Known for founder of the city of Eugene, Oregon (1851)
Spouse(s) Mary Cook (m. 1839)
Children 4 daughters: Mary, Leonora, Phoebe, and Amelia;
1 son: St John

Eugene Franklin Skinner (September 13, 1809 – December 15, 1864) was an early American settler in Oregon and founder of the city of Eugene, Oregon, which is named for him.

Skinner was born in Essex, New York.[1] His father was Major John Joseph Skinner and his brother was St John Skinner, assistant postmaster under President Andrew Johnson.[1] His mother died while Skinner was young. At age 14, Skinner moved with his family to Green County, Wisconsin. As an adult, Skinner lived in Plattsburg, New York briefly before settling in Hennepin, Illinois as county sheriff. He married Mary Cook on 28 November 1839.[1]

In May 1845, he and his wife Mary Cook Skinner traveled overland to California, wintering at Sutter's Fort.[1] In 1846, the Skinners headed north to the Oregon Country, joining the party of Elijah Bristow in exploring the Willamette Valley south of present-day Polk County, Oregon.[2] Skinner took a claim downriver of Bristow's claim, and was advised by the local Kalapuya Indian tribe to build high up due to floods. Following this advice, he built his first cabin on the hill known as Skinner Butte.[3]

The Skinners farmed and raised a family of five children: four daughters (Mary, Leonora, Phoebe, and Amelia) and one son, St John.[1] Skinner operated a ferry service across the Willamette River.[4] Historian Robert Clark suggests that Skinner deliberately chose the land he claimed because it was the best location for a local ferry monopoly.[5] After Oregon was organized as a US territory in 1849, Skinner became the local postmaster.[6]

Bronze sculpture of Eugene Skinner outside Eugene Public Library

In 1851, Skinner and local judge David Matteson Risdon laid out the city of Eugene. Skinner donated a portion of his property for county buildings, and took up practicing law, serving as a county clerk and trustee for Eugene.[7]

Skinner took ill after trying to save his cattle during a flood in 1861, and suffered ill health for the last few years of his life before dying in Eugene on December 15, 1864. He is buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Eugene.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Walling, AG (1884). Illustrated History of Lane County, Oregon. Portland, OR: House of AG Walling. p. 487. 
  2. ^ Velasco, Dorothy (1985). Lane County: An Illustrated History of the Emerald Empire. Northridge, CA: Windsor Publications. p. 24. 
  3. ^ Velasco, Dorothy (1985). Lane County: An Illustrated History of the Emerald Empire. Northridge, CA: Windsor Publications. p. 25. 
  4. ^ Walling, AG (1884). Illustrated History of Lane County, Oregon. Portland, OR: House of AG Walling. p. 391. 
  5. ^ Clark, Robert D. (1927). History of the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Chicago: SJ Clarke Publishing Company. 
  6. ^ Velasco, Dorothy (1985). Lane County: An Illustrated History of the Emerald Empire. Northridge, CA: Windsor Publications. p. 27. 
  7. ^ Velasco, Dorothy (1985). Lane County: An Illustrated History of the Emerald Empire. Northridge, CA: Windsor Publications. p. 30. 
  8. ^ Muller, Jan, et al. (1977). A Guide to the Historic Sites and Structures, Eugene, Oregon. Eugene, OR: Historic Review Board. p. 4. 

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