Oregon (sidewheeler 1852)

Oregon was a side-wheel driven steamboat that operated on the Willamette River in the state of Oregon from 1852 to 1854. The steamer was not economically successful and became a total loss by sinking after a short career.

Advertisement for Oregon, placed March 10, 1854
Name: Oregon
Owner: Ben Simpson and others
Route: Upper Willamette River
In service: 1852
Out of service: 1854
Fate: Sunk after striking snag, total loss
General characteristics
Type: inland steamship
Length: 120 ft (36.6 m) exclusive of fantail
Beam: 22 ft (6.7 m) exclusive of guards
Depth: 5 ft (2 m) depth of hold
Installed power: steam engine
Propulsion: side-wheel


Oregon was built at Fairfield, Oregon in the summer of 1852.[1] Fairfield was located 16 miles (26 km) downstream from Salem, Oregon, and was once one of the most important wheat shipping points on the Willamette River.[2] Ben Simpson, the held of the original ownership syndicate, was also the builder.[1] Construction was supervised in the summer of 1852 by George A. Pease (1830-1918).[1]

Oregon was 120 feet long.[3] The beam (width) of the steamer was 22 feet (6.7 m), probably exclusive of the guards.[3] The depth of hold was 5 feet.[3]

Oregon was described as a small sidewheeler and a poor money earner.[4]


Upon completion, Parker and J.D. Shields served as captains.[1] George A. Pease was the pilot of the Oregon until July 1853.[1] Another report states that Jacob Wortman, later president of the First National Bank of McMinnville, was the captain of Oregon, starting in 1853.[5] Fare from Oregon City to Corvallis, Oregon was then $30 for a trip.[5]

Starting on December 3, 1853, the "fast running steamer" Oregon was advertised as making regular runs from Oregon to Marysville, as Corvallis was then known, and way landings.[6]

On March 4, 1854, the steamer Oregon was reported to have been purchased by the Willamette Falls Mill and Transport Company, sometimes referred to as the Willamette Falls Company.[7]

On March 17, 1854, the Willamette Falls Company placed into service a new steamer, the side-wheeler Gazelle, giving the company, briefly, two steamers operating above Willamette Falls.[3][8]


Shortly after Gazelle was placed in operation, Oregon was sunk and became a total loss. Oregon hit a snag just down river from Salem, and began sinking.[9] Word was passed to Gazelle, which steamed upriver and stood by as Oregon was filling with water.[9]

Cargo from the Oregon was loaded onto Gazelle to lighten Oregon to better allow salvaging.[9] Suddenly Oregon broke free of the snag, drifted downstream, ran up on a sandbar and sank so deeply that only a part of the upper works were visible above the water.[9] Oregon was a total loss.[9]

Gazelle itself was destroyed by a boiler explosion only a short time later, on April 8, 1854, ending the brief steamboat operations of the Willamette Falls Company[8]


  1. Wright, E.W., ed. (1895). "Chapter 2: Development of Local Marine Traffic, Building of Sailing and Steam Vessels". Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Portland, OR: Lewis and Dryden Printing Co. p. 27. LCCN 28001147.
  2. Corning, Howard McKinley (1973). "Wheat Ports of the Middle River … Fairfield Landing". Willamette Landings -- Ghost Towns of the River (2nd ed.). Portland, OR: Oregon Historical Society. pp. 89–94. ISBN 0875950426.
  3. Affleck, Edward L. (2000). "Part One: Chapter Two: Columbia River Waterways — List of Vessels". A Century of Paddlewheelers in the Pacific Northwest, the Yukon, and Alaska. Vancouver, BC: Alexander Nicholls Press. pp. 14 and 22. ISBN 0-920034-08-X.
  4. Wright, E.W., ed. (1895). "Chapter 3: Steam Navigation on Upper Willamette, Rapid Growth of River Business". Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Portland, OR: Lewis and Dryden Printing Co. p. 37. LCCN 28001147.
  5. "Jacob Wortman, president of the First National Bank of McMinnville ..." Oregon City Courier-Herald. 17 (46). Oregon City, OR: A.W. Cheney. April 6, 1900. p.5, col.3.
  6. "For Marysville, &c". Oregon Spectator (advertisement). 7 (4). Oregon City, O.T.: C.L. Goodrich. Mar 10, 1854. p.4, col.1.
  7. "The steamer "Oregon" has been purchased by …". Oregon Spectator. 7 (3). Oregon City, O.T.: C.L. Goodrich. Mar 4, 1854. p.2, col.1.
  8. Corning, Howard McKinley (1973). "Lost Towns of Willamette Falls … Canemah, "the Canoe Place"". Willamette Landings -- Ghost Towns of the River (2nd ed.). Portland, OR: Oregon Historical Society. p. 64. ISBN 0875950426.
  9. Mills, Randall V. (1947). "Chapter 9: As the Sparks Fly Upwards". Sternwheelers up Columbia -- A Century of Steamboating in the Oregon Country. Lincoln NE: University of Nebraska. p. 115. ISBN 0-8032-5874-7. LCCN 77007161.


Printed sources

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