City History by Location: Springfield
Elias Briggs founded Springfield in 1847.
Most of the original land claims in Springfield were filed between 1851 and 1853. The average size of a claim was 320 acres. Building sites were located on the high ground because of frequent flooding of 1851-1852. Elias Briggs began building a town. In 1852, using shovel and plow, he built the Millrace.
After the Millrace was completed, he and Mr. Driggs of Linn County formed the Briggs and Driggs Company to build the flour and sawmills in 1853 and 1854. They were not the usual slap-dash mills built in pioneer communities for temporary and local consumption only, but instead, were constructed under the supervision of an experienced millwright hired from the east. They used the latest and best machinery and spending $10,000 on the two mills. 
In the early 1850s, the settlement of Springfield consisted only of a ferry service across the Willamette, the Briggs' house, two mills, a trading post and a school. In 1852, James Huddleston started the trading post, near Mill and Main Street.
The subsistence level of early farming was due to several conditions including poor transportation and a lack of readily accessible markets (Highsmith 1950:55-58). In addition, equipment was primitive and the labor force insufficient for large scale farming purposes. The California Gold Rush of 1849 provided the first major market for animal products and grain produced in the region. The cultivation of cereal grains, primarily wheat and oats, began to compete with stock raising for use of the land. Most farmers raised grain crops as well as stock for commercial purposes. In approximately 1853, about 1000 acres were under cultivation in the Springfield area (Walling 1884:452).
The first schoolhouse was probably located in a crude little building near 7th Street and South B Streets. Two other schools also served the residents of the Thurston area. This area was named after George H Thurston, a pioneer settler of the region. The Davis School was a one-room of schoolhouse built in the 1850's at the east end of Thurston. Thurston Elementary was located on the northeast corner of 66th Street and Thurston Road and it operated until the 1930's.
The town was platted in 1856, two blocks between South A and Main and Mill and 3rd Streets. The lots measured 66 x 120 feet, with streets 66 feet in width. The original town was designed in a grid system that aligned to the four cardinal directions.
For a time Springfield was head of navigation on the Willamette River. Steamboats used to come up the river, but the flood of 1861-1862 changed the course of the river and ended that mode of transportation. 
 Dr. Silvy Kraus. Lane County Historian. "The Saga of Springfield." Lane County Historical Society. Vol. XV, No. 2, Summer 1970, printed in Eugene, Oregon. p. 23.
Residents of the Springfield precinct totaled 649, with a majority of the citizens still listed as farmers in 1870. During the decade of the 1870s, Springfield had a hotel, two blacksmiths, a general store, meat market, harness and saddlery shop, physician, druggist, four carpenters and a painter.
Industry in Springfield continued to be centered around the mills although small manufactories are listed in the business directories, including wagon maker, tannery, chair manufacturer and sash and door factory (Pacific Coast Business Directory 1871:338; Murphy 1873:254-255; Gill 1881:651; McKenny 1883:1090-1091). The 1870 census lists two workers in a cheese factory (U.S. Census Office 1870).
By 1880, the Lane County population had grown to 9,411 and Springfield residents numbered 771 and a diversification of occupations began to be evident (U.S. Census Office 1870, 1880). A shoemaker, hardware store, boarding house and wagon and carriage store were added in the early 1880s (Pacific Coast Business Directory 1871:338; Murphy 1873:254-255; Gill 1881:651; McKenny 1883:1090-1091).
A disastrous flood occurred in 1881-1882
Springfield was incorporated as a city February 25, 1885.
In 1891, Springfield had a general merchandise store, two grocery stores, two cigar stores, a drug store, two dress shops, two blacksmiths, a variety store, a meat market, a saloon, a barber shop, a shoe store, three hotels, two schools, and three churches. Also, in 1891, Springfield received its first railroad line. The city received its charter March 17, 1893.
The town and precinct of Springfield lies directly east of Eugene, and is the most important and wealthy in the county, comprising the country lying along the McKenzie river for 18 miles above its mouth, and bounded on the west and south by the Willamette River and Middle Fork. It contains a large area of the finest grain and fruit producing land in the county, and is the best improved of any portion. Lands are valued at from $15 to $40 per acre, and some could not be purchased at even somewhat higher figures. But one thing is certain, they will never be less valuable than now. The town of Springfield, three miles east of Eugene, is a flourishing village containing schools, churches, stores, shops, and dwellings, and is the site of the famous Springfield flouring and saw mills, where every year are produced large quantities of the best family flour, and many thousand feet of choice lumber, thoroughly prepared for the builder's use. There are no finer water power in the county than is utilized for this work.
The Resources of the State of Oregon. By Oregon State Board of Agriculture (Salem, Oregon: W.H. Leeds, State Printer, 1898), p. 142.
In 1910, Springfield welcomed the Portland, Eugene and Electric Railroad streetcar. It was this year that the red geranium was made the city flower.
October, 1911 was a time for the people of Springfield to celebrate. The first paved roads were completed. Everyone danced in the streets and wore badges that read "Springfield paves the way!"
Springfield went "wet" on November 7, 1911 after voting for local prohibition in 1908.
In 1913, November 3, Springfield passes prohibition law removing the sell of alcohol within the city.
Eugene was dry (no alcohol) while Springfield was a wet town around 1919. Eugeneans would come over on the street cars like herds to go to bars. In 1919, at least eight bars existed along Main Street. Beer wagons drove up and down the streets, exchanging full kegs for empty ones, while men sat, argued, and gambled until the 11:30 p.m. streetcar arrived. The last street car was always packed with the last of the people returning to their homes in Eugene.
Springfield remained a small town until World War II, and its population made only modest increases: 1,855 in 1920; 2,364 in 1930 and 3,805 in 1940. By comparison, its sister city of Eugene had a population of 10,593 in 1920; 18,901 in 1930; and 20,838 in 1940 (Spicer n.d). Springfield's boundaries changed little between the years of 1915 and 1940; only a small neighborhood north of Willamane Park was added between 1931 and 1945. In 1940, the city covered an area of 1.5 square miles, with its commercial district still located on Main Street, close to the Willamette River. The residential neighborhoods expanded primarily north and east of the city center, while the industrial section remained in the Booth-Kelly area south of the Southern Pacific railroad tracks. Bordering the town on the west was the growing city of Eugene. Abutting all of the urbanized area was prime agricultural land that was still farmed. The communities of Thurston and Natron remained rural in nature.
Clear evidence of the increased use of the automobile in Springfield by the 1920s was the replacement of the streetcar bridge across the Willamette River by a span of concrete and steel for vehicle use in 1929 (Graham 1978:7).
Between 1907 and 1921, the number of businesses in Springfield grew from 34 to 96, and the latter figure remained fairly stable until 1940. All of the modern amenities of an urban center were available in the city center. There were several banks and hotels, a publishing house, and a variety of shops and services, including specialty stores such as a watchmaker, tailor, and floral shop (Polk 1921:241-253; 1935:347-358; 1929:439-461; 1934:463-484; 1936:469-493). The 1921 city directory for Springfield states that large lumber manufacturing mills, sash, door and planing mill, a flour mill, barrel stave factory, shingle mill and lesser industrial manufactories provide a large payroll (Polk 1921:241).
That same year, a factory for making portable houses and garages was opened in an old planing mill building (Special Collections n.d.:Box 66/19, Folder 11B). In 1925, 1928 and 1936, the same manufactories listed above were still in operation, as well as a wood-preserving plant (Polk 1925:347;1928:439; 1936:469). A meat packing plant for hog products was opened in 1920 by Swartz and Washburner, and in 1926, a tannery and second meat packing plant were operating (Special Collections n.d.:Box 66/19, Folder 11B).
Timber remained the primary industry in the area. The region's sawmill industry continued to grow between 1925 and 1949 despite periodic "downturns" in production (Mbogho 1965:34).
By 1936, a state-owned Fibre Flax Plant was located at Springfield, as well as candy and pencil factories (Polk 1936:469).
In 1940, the city's area was only 1.5 square miles and the population only 3,805. Springfield maintained its small town ways until after World War II. The retail center was still Main Street, industries were northwest of the railroad tracks and residences were to the north.
In 1940, Springfield was still a small town with one variety store, one dry goods store, two hardware stores, a second-hand store, one jeweler, two butcher shops, three barbers, two beauty shops, half a dozen small grocery stores, one hotel, a handful of restaurants and beer parlors, two druggists, three physicians, two blacksmiths, a Ford auto dealer, and a small number of service stations (Polk 1940).
Commercial expansion was somewhat slow during the war, but included the addition of three hardware stores, an auto supply store, a new auto sales and service business, and a home supply store to the downtown area.
Booth-Kelly was still the principal lumber company in Springfield. The company enlarged and modernized its mill in 1948; ten years later the operation was sold to Georgia Pacific (Kraus 1970:30). Rosboro Lumber Company was established at the end of 1940 and was publicized as "one of the largest and most modern sawmills in the state" (Special Collections n.d.:Box 66/20, Folder 6A). A third sawmill was listed for the Springfield area in 1940. Called the Elliott Mill Company, it was located outside the city limits at that time (Polk 1940:698-735).
Buildings really went wild in the mid-1940s. Totals for building plans ran up to $253,000 dollars in April, 1946. Clear Fir Products used $150,000 for a new plant. Permits were issued for twenty-two new apartments, a duplex, and a seven unit court.
After a lengthy debate in 1983, the City Council adopted green, white, and blue as the city's colors and a new city flower to replace the red geranium. The new city flower was the daisy. Soon afterward the Rainbow Water District painted its water tank atop Kelly Butte and dotted the "i's" in Springfield with giant daisies.
By 1998, apartments covered the spring. The city expanded to more than 13 square miles and the population grew to 51,700.
Signaling the development that was to come along Main Street eastward toward Thurston, the Paramount Market opened its new “supermarket” at the corner of Main and 21st Street in March 1945 launching what would become the Paramount commercial district (Springfield News 1943, 1945)
Springfield sought a new post office in 1947, but was not approved for a new facility until 1949, when a new concrete building was constructed on Main at 6th for the new office.
A new Dairy Queen opened on Main between 8th and 9th Streets in 1951.
Throughout its history, the Mill Pond served as a popular place to gather for picnics, canoing, fishing, and swimming. For a time, a diving board and changing room were erected at the corner of Mill and 28th.
The school district replaced the pioneer school building in the 1880s. The Mill Street School, as it was called, was only a one-story, two-room building, which the student population quickly outgrew. The school was the first of a series of schoolhouses to occupy the Mill and D Street site that now holds the present school administration building, which was built in 1921 as a high school (Graham 1978a).
There is evidence that a cheese factory was in operation on Mill Street until 1889, when the factory building was converted into a school (Graham 1978a).
Mill Street School was forced to move its students in 1889 to a former cheese factory, which served as a school until circa 1910. A new schoolhouse was constructed at the old Mill Street School site in 1890 (Kraus 1970:25). Between 1907 and 1912, this building was enlarged and converted to a high school. Three schools outside the city limits were built during this period – Mt. Vernon on South 42nd Street (1880s and c.1905), Maple School at 26th and Main (c.1900), and Hayden Bridge School (c.1910). The Hayden Bridge and Mt. Vernon schools are extant.
The Mastersons built a small cabin in 1852. Over the years the property passed from hand to hand, until George and Marietta Thurston sold the remaining 258 acres for $4,000 to George and Lulu Dorris in 1892.
On the property they built their house, the Dorris House, the barn, and the Tomseth House. The Dorris House was built in 1897 and has perfect views of the orchards.
The Tomseth House was built in 1910 and it overlooks the property. The barn was built in 1892, and it was first used as a cannery.
They planted fifty trees in 1903. George originally planted a couple different kinds of crops, peaches, cherries, grapes, walnuts, asparagus, and hops. The Dorris' first filbert trees came from Felix Gillet's Barren Hill Nursery in Nevada City, California. Apparently Gillet, who succeeded with walnuts but not with filberts, convinced Dorris that his Barcelona filberts would thrive in Oregon, where the native hazelnut, a relative of the filbert, grew as easily as wild blackberries.
"There are eleven separate orchards covering 75 acres and including about 9,250 filbert trees." For forty years, the Dorris Ranch Nursery proved to be a great producer of fine trees. During the years of operation the Dorris Nursery produced 70,000 trees annually. The trees were sold all throughout the Northwest. The Dorrises may have thrown themselves completely into the development of the ranch to make up for the tragic loss of their five children, who died one after another in infancy. It was a blessing that George's nephew Benjamin Fultz Dorris joined him as a partner in the ranch in 1925, after recovering from wounds he received in World War I. The nursery, which started in , continued until .
George was a founding member of the Eugene Fruit Growers Association. The Eugene Fruit Growers Association, also known as Agripac, set up a cannery to can fruits and vegetables. The group thrived until about 1990 when they went out of business, according to Susan Morasci.
Even today, more than 100 years later, Dorris Ranch still is a "fully-productive commercial filbert orchard." The ranch still produces 50 tons of filberts each year as a nonprofit organization.
As of the article written in 2000, Dorris Ranch is used for several different activities. One is Kids Club Summer Camp. This is a place where elementary aged school kids go during the summer and take part in activities such as field trips, sports, and swimming. Another way that Dorris Ranch is used is by people who choose the ranch at wish to get married. The couple is able to rent out the barn, Pump House with picnic area, or Tomseth House. In fact anyone can rent out any of the facilities, whether it be for business or a family get together. In addition to renting out the ranch, a person can take a hike on the tour trail, which winds you around the orchards, river, barn and Dorris House.
"Dorris Ranch: A Piece of Living History," Willamalane
Register Guard September 16, 1980
Here lies the spring from which a city sprang. Plaque marks birthplace of city on site where apartments stand.
Tentants of a nearby apartment building looked down from a balcony and trucks roared past on Second Street while a crowd of some 30 city officials and onlookers dedicated a bronze plaque Monday marking the site of the spring that gave Springfield its name.
The plaque, to be erected at an entrance to the Spring Site Apartments on Second Street between A and B Streets, marks the land claim settled by Elias and Mary Briggs in 1849 and the "spring in a field" which served as the city's source of water until 1913.
"If you had walked down this street as recently as 10 years ago an walked past this block you would have seen the grey-blue house on the corner (the Stewart House at 214 N. Second St., now an official city landmark) and another similar house next to it," Springfield Historical Commission Chairman William Coons said in his speech. "If you had peered in between the two houses, you might have noticed a small spring."
Although the spring had not been used as a source of water after 1913, the spring continued to flow - under a wire mesh covering - until it was covered over permanently in 1977.
"In 1974, one of the houses burnt to the ground, leaving Springfielders with only the grey-blue house on the corner," Coons said. "Soon on the lot where the house had burnt down, yellow and green apartments sprung up and new families played and lived on the fields where he spring once stood. Children who took water from faucets and refrigerators had no remembrance of carrying water buckets to a spring each day."
Coons said the plaque will serve as "a reminder of the roots of our city's history."
The historical commission's program of landmark designations and historic plaques celebrates important city places, draws attention to them and helps Springfield become "a living museum," he said.
"This spring provided the growing community with water and symbolizes the beginnings of the city of Springfield," Mayor Vern Meyer said in his dedication speech. He said the plaque will serve as an inspiration in the future.
However, residents who want to view the plaque won't be able to do so until it's installed. Officials went ahead with the dedication Monday night with the dedication Monday night with the plaque lying in the dirt of a shrub bed. Workmen are to install a basalt base for the plaque later this week, according to David Hess of the architectrual firm of R.A. Danielson and Associates.
Hess said Ken Rankin, the developer of the 12-unit Spring Site apartment building, purchased and is installing the plaque as a requirement for obtaining a city building permit.
The representation of the McKenzie River Boat to be used in the official City Symbol was selected by the Common Council of the City of Springfield from entries submitted by the public to the Springfield McKenzie Drift Boat Project, Inc. Six finalists were chosen from the entries. David Rodriguez of the Springfield McKenzie Drift Boat Committee submitted the representation selected.
Most of the evolution of the McKenzie River Drift Boat occurred on the river after which it was named. That beautiful McKenzie River borders the city of Springfield. Originally a product of our City and State, the drift boat is now used throughout the world.
A model of the McKenzie River drift boat is located just outside the Springfield City Library door inside a glass case.
In August 1901, the Booth-Kelly Corporation purchased the Springfield sawmill and several thousand acres of timberland in the region. The sawmill was dismantled in 1902 and a larger, more efficient mill with a capacity for greater production was constructed on the same site (Clarke 1983:46).
The sawmill was not directly powered by the millrace. A steam plant was built adjacent to the millrace to power the mill with the sawdust and refuse lumber. Since this fuel was in excess of the demands for operating the plant, and destroying it would be an expense to the company, a proposition was made to the Eugene Electric Light Company to erect a light plant in Springfield with the fuel furnished by Booth-Kelly (Clarke 1983:46-48). In addition to the steam plant, Booth-Kelly created a large mill pond to store logs on the western half of the millrace.
In 1911, a brick steam plant replaced the original wooden building. In July of that year, the Booth-Kelly sawmill was destroyed by fire. The company replaced the burned remains of the old mill with a modern electric-powered mill with several buildings in 1912 (Clarke 1982:48-55).
The grist mill thrived until it burned down in 1930.
According to Mr. Leonard Clearwater, "We used to fish the Mill Race every once in a while... go clear down as far as where 28th Street crosses the Mill Race..." When asked what type of fish he was catching, Mr. Clearwater replied, "Well, a lot of cutthroat. It was fairly shaded and cutthroat like to live back under banks and [in the] shade."
According to Mr. Robert Edmiston, "You see, this, unbeknownst to most people, this Mill Race in Springfield has one of the best salmon runs in the country. People came from up to 100 miles to go fishing and in this Mill Race, we have native cutthroat trout, we have native rainbow, and then for some reason, which is beyond anybody's understanding, the salmon came up river. And instead of staying in the Willamette River, they make a left turn and go up the Mill Race. Go over a fish ladder that's between the old Booth-Kelly Lumber, there's a fish ladder there. I did security on both ends of that place, off and on for seven years and one of my jobs was once an hour to police the salmon ladder to keep the poachers out."
Mr. Edmiston also mentions that "pond monkeys' would use their "pikes" as spears to catch salmon in the Mill Pond, "The salmon runs used to be so prolific that as they were working the Mill Pond and they saw a salmon, they would spear it with their pike. They'd take that salmon back to the lunchroom and cut it up and come evening they would stack it in their lunch pails and go home. ...Those guys used to pull salmon by the hundreds."
According to Steve Moe, "A lot of people went fishing down there."
According to Jane Brown and Jo Anderson:
Jo: "But we always referred to it as the Mill Race. I don't know if Mr. Gorrie tacked his name on that or not. I have no idea. Okay you're looking here... and this was the swimming hole right here. If you went right back behind those trees... you were there. I used to go back there all by myself... just a little kid walking around and enjoying it. But this is... that was THE diving board... and you could dive in here and dog paddle or whatever you did right down here and there was a place to get out where it was real shallow."
Jane: "Well you know, somebody built that diving board- I have no idea who. Somebody built a little dressing room."
According to Mr. Leonard Clearwater, "...kids used to go out and swim in the Mill Race back there at 28th street- there's a bridge (Gorrie Bridge) across the Mill Race there- and that used to be a great swimming hold and there was kind of a picnic area there too." He goes to say, "A lot of the guys from the [Springfield] Plywood Plant, lunch hour or whatever- cigarette break and take a quick dip in the Mill Race."
According to Mr. Lewis, "I remember from swimming there (the Mill Race) that the water was kind of swift. You may have had to sometimes dodge pieces of bark."
According to Mr. Node Palanuk, "It had a good strong current. In fact, you had to swim pretty hard to get upstream."
According to Mr. Everett Chetwood, "it looked like a pretty stream running out through the farming land. We called it a City Park at one place, but there was nothing there but a picnic table and a springboard for diving. It was a nice, fresh, clean swimming pool. It was beautiful."
According to Mr. Ed Harms, "We used to come over to Springfield at night and go swimming down there. I haven't been back there for 60 years."
Canoe and Boating
According to Mr. Everett Chetwood, "We use to go up the Race. We would steal the canoes and boats that the others kids had. Leonard Clearwater, I stole his canoe one time and its been 65 years or so. We were talking about it the other day. It was a homemade canoe some people made out of airplane silk and ribs. I found it, so another kid and I stole it and brought it down the Mill race. He and I were talking. He was telling me about you and I said, well, tell him about when I stole it... That's the way kids in those days got their entertainment. I had it hid in the upper pond in the tulips, turned it upside down, hit it, went back wtih stuff to fix it in a week or two and it was gone."
According to Mr. Ed Harms, "...and on at least one memorable occasion, we came down the Springfield Mill Race as far as the log pond where the people working on the log pond were going to chase us off."
1884. Walling, Albert. Illustrated History of Lane County, Oregon. Portland, A.G. Walling Publishing House.
1906-1907. E.J. Frasier vs. The Booth-Kelly Lumber Company, Case No. 5846, In the Circuit Court of the State of Oregon for Lane County. Document available at the Public Works Department, City of Springfield.
1976. Baldwin, Ewart M. Geology of Oregon, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co.
1983. Clarke, David W. The Springfield Millrace and Early Mills, Portland, The Oregon Committee for the Humanities.
1985. Velasco, Dorothy. Lane County: An Illustrated History of the Emerald Empire, United States, Windsor Publications.
1986. Hyde, Greg. Making Connections: Place to Place, Time to Time, Report prepared by the University of Oregon's Landscape Architecture Department.
1990. Water Resource Assessment for the Springfield Millrace, Slotta Engineering. Document available at the Public Works Department, City of Springfield.
Parsons. Survey of Property Lines. Document available at the Public Works Department, City of Springfield.
Army Corps of Engineers. 1991. Section 205 Reconnaissance Report for Flood Control. Document available at the Public Works Department, City of Springfield.
1992. The Mill Race Concept Report, compiled by the City of Springfield/ Willamalane Park District, National Park Service, document available at the Public Works Department, City of Springfield.