Oregon's Favorite Main Street
On an early spring day in 1844, a solitary man astride a horse traversed a well worn Indian trail in search of an ideal spot to settle in the new Oregon country. After he had crossed a clear stream which was later to bear his name, and had traveled some distance through a dense stand of timber, 26 year old John Gordon Baker emerged into a clearing of rolling meadows where lush, waist-high grass waved gently in the Oregon breeze.
He reined to a halt, and surveyed the scene with a practiced eye. Here was everything for which he had been searching. Water, wood, and pasture were readily available. The rich soil and rolling contour of the land assured excellent crops. Little did he realize that these meadows were soon to form the foundation for the thriving community of McMinnville.
Closely following Baker’s footsteps was William T. Newby. Newby had been a traveling companion of Baker in the Great Migration of 1843, and he took up a claim immediately to the south of Baker’s. It was on this claim that the city proceeded to grow.
Samuel Cozine, another of the immigrants in the 1843 wagon train, settled to the south of Newby. After his marriage to Mahala Arthur, whom he had courted on the trip across the plains, Cozine opened a blacksmith shop near the original site of Linfield College. Soon other members of the 1843 Great Migration and subsequent wagon trains came rolling to a stop around their friends and acquaintances. (Dorothy Gunness, 1976)
In 1853, Newby erected a gristmill at the west end of the path that was to become Third Street and beyond the site of the present city library. Construction of the mill, which became the hub of activity for the area, was the biggest factor in the establishment of a town at this location. In 1856, with the assistance of Sebastian Adams, a surveyor and teacher, the original town site was platted on a portion of Newby’s land. McMinnville was incorporated as a town in 1876 and enjoyed steady growth. By 1892 the city boasted two public schools, two banks, two flour mills, two newspapers, five churches, a county courthouse, and a college. By 1900, the town had extended its boundaries to encompass more than thirty times its original platted site, and the population had grown to over 1,400.
Between the years 1885 and 1912, most of the historic Third Street business structures were built. They were constructed primarily of brick and were the successors of the town’s earlier wooden business structures. Building activity peaked in 1928, with McMinnville’s commercial center extending from City Park on the west to the railroad tracks on the east.
Throughout the years, McMinnville has continued to expand while remaining sensitive to its history and the buildings associated with its past. Many of the buildings from that era are still intact today for you to enjoy as you stroll through historic downtown McMinnville.
The McMinnville Downtown Association works to promote and enhance our historic downtown as the economic, social and cultural heart of the community.