Eugene Skinner was said to have taken advice from the natives to live above the valley floor because of flooding, endemic to the area (until the flood control projects)*
. He chose what was then known as Ya-Po-Ah
,and is now Skinner’s or Skinner Butte, the latter being the favored pronunciation du jour
. Using firs cut from near the river’s edge, Skinner built a one room cabin on the west southwest side of the Butte, now about where Skinners Butte Loop and Lincoln Street cross, and marked with a brass-plaque. Times were not always serene and on at least one occasion, Skinner patrolled outside his cabin, musket at the ready, while wife Mary molded bullets from molten lead, heated with their fire.
Things eventually settled down, and Skinner went on to run a ferry service across the Willamette River, and in about 1851 laid out Eugene City, the name being chosen by his wife, and now simply called Eugene. The Skinner’s Butte area remained privately owned for nearly 70 years, until 1914, when the City dedicated it for a public park. *
This shows the first recorded survey of the Skinner’s Butte area, done in 1853. Skinner’s Butte wasn’t named then, but is shown. By 1853, the Skinners had changed their residence to south of the Butte, in what is today downtown Eugene. The location of his ferry is also shown, and is now where the Ferry Street Bridge stands.*
Land claims in this time frame were often 640 acres, or 1 section, which is a mile by a mile in size. For you surveying buffs*
, the Skinner Claim, number 64, was located in Township 17S, Range 3w, Section 31, which extends down to around modern-day 8th Avenue. By 1860,the Skinner claim showed approximately 539 acres, with an additional 102 acres to the west. Skinner’s 1856 plat of Eugene City is shown here, and extends from the Butte to 8th & High Streets and 8th & Olive. Mr. Skinner was our city’s first land developer and subdivider. Ultimately, Mr. Skinner was laid to rest in 1864 at the Masonic Cemetery, at present-day 25th & University Streets, only a few of miles from his original homestead. *