Continuity and Change in the Willamette Valley
From the 1830s until the turn of the twentieth century, the Willamette Valley in Oregon was populated by people who migrated there from throughout the United States and the world. One group that came in large numbers was the yeoman farm families of the Midwest, who migrated to the Willamette Valley during the 1830s and 1840s seeking new land and continuity in their way of life. Another group that came in large numbers were Chinese migrant workers who came to the Willamette Valley after the Civil War, who came seeking work and continuity in their way of life. As the two groups pursued their own goals, interacted with each other, and tried to preserve their ways of life, both groups
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The children and grandchildren of farmers who had migrated to the lower Midwest from the Old South during the 1830s, these settlers came West with the traditions of a way of life that centered on the household and the self-sufficiency of the family (May 47-48). Upon reaching the broad, fertile plains and pine and timber forests of the Willamette Valley, many migrant families settled on the rolling farmland bordering the Willamette River, a river which flows north from the Cascade Mountains. After making their land claim, there was much work to be done, as missionary Reverend George H. Atkinson described in 1847: An immigrant will come in during the autumn, put himself up a log house with mud & stick chimney, split boards & shingles, break eight or ten or twenty acres of prairie and sow it with wheat. You call upon him the next year & he will have a fine field ripe for the sickle. His large field will be well fenced with newly split fir rails. There will be a patch of corn, another of potatoes, & another of garden vegetables. Outside a large piece will be broken for the present year's sowing. His cattle & horse & dogs will be on the prairie, thriving and increasing without care.
The log cabins were replaced as soon as possible by stately, yet modest, homes that reflected the dignity of the family in yeoman society (May 178).