Oregon has some great cities and some great city names. The names often describe exactly what you will see upon entering that town or city: Portland, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Hood River. And, then, of course, there are the Native American names: Scappoose, Nehalem, Tillamook, Milwaukie, etc.
But, what about some of the strange and unusual names? How did they come about… and what do they mean? Let’s look at a few now.
Beaverton: Beaverton may not seem like a strange name. As a major city in Oregon, it has become part of our nomenclature and the strangeness of the name seems to escape us. But, Oregon is the Beaver State because when the pioneers and fur traders arrived here two centuries ago, beavers covered the landscape of our creeks and rivers. This name is a homage to our rodent friends, though you would be hard pressed to find many beavers here today.
Zigzag: Located in Clackamas (another Indian name!) County, this unincorporated community is located near the Zigzag River which, while not any more crooked than any other river, was nonetheless used by early travelers as a guide along Barlow Road.
Drain: Yes, Oregon is often wet and soggy and is certainly in need of a drain. They have one in Douglas County, in the South Western part of the state. But, the name is not as literal as we would like it to be. The town is named after Charles J. Drain, who donated sixty acres of his own land to the Oregon and California Railroad.
Bend: Nestled in the heart of the central Oregon Mountains, Bend is a winter sportsman’s paradise. It also has a bit of a funny name. Bend, the name, came about from “Farewell Bend”, the description used by the first white settlers in the area to denote to the setting along the Deschutes River where the town was ultimately built.
Boring: if you ask me, there’s nothing boring about Oregon. I have described and discussed the innumerable activities available in the area. Yet, there is an unincorporated area of Clackamas County called Boring, Oregon. It has a sister city: Dull, Scotland and is designated by the village as “The Most Exciting Place to Live”
Echo: This tiny town of 715 people located in Umatilla County is also home to an unusual name. The town is named after the daughter of town founder, JH Koontz, whom, apparently, decided to give his daughters strange moniker a lasting legacy.
Wonder: This tiny little town, located 13 miles east of Grants Pass in the south western part of the state got its name when John T Roberson opened a general store two miles outside of the nearest town and residents wondered if he would get enough business to keep the doors open. Apparently, he did and the Wonder Post Office was established in 1903.
West Linn: West Linn seems like a normal enough name; until a map is consulted. West Linn is easily found, but what about East Linn, or even just Linn for that matter? Well, you won’t find it. West Linn, which lies between three rivers was originally the town of Linn. The town of Linn was destroyed by a flood, so, the residents rebuilt a new town West of Linn.