Polk County Parks:
850 Main Street, Room 1
Dallas, OR 97338
Polk County Web Site
Fertile Valleys and Timbered Foothills
Traveling back roads in Polk County will reveal many attractions: covered bridges and pleasant parks, vineyards, wineries, and bed and breakfast lodgings that spot the surrounding hills. Many roads meander through beautiful, fertile valleys from the Willamette River to the timbered foothills of the Coast Range. One of Polk County's cities, Independence, was the final destination of early wagon trains to Oregon. Other cities located in Polk County are Dallas, Monmouth, Falls City and portions of Salem and Willamina.
Polk County was officially created from Yamhill District of the Oregon Territory on December 22, 1845. On August 13, 1848, President James K. Polk signed a bill approving the boundaries of the Oregon territory, which officially separated the territory from England. The present area of Polk County is 472,960 acres. Hudson's Bay Company hunters and trappers had penetrated the Willamette Valley as far south as Polk County as early as 1830.
The present courthouse was built in 1898. In an effort to develop a local building stone industry, they decided to use Polk County sandstone from a local quarry. In the early part of the century, the clock tower was used to launch fireworks until one backfired and caused spectacular results and $900 damage.
Courageous and public-minded men such as Cornelius Gilliam, David Goff, Levi Scott, and the indefatigable mountain man "Black Harris" made some tentative but unsuccessful probes into the Cascades in search of a new, safer route into the Willamette Valley. On June 20, 1846, some of these men were joined by Jesse and Lindsey Applegate. This new company came to be known as the South Road Expedition, and mapped the historic Applegate Trail.
During the decade between 1850 and 1860 the population of Polk County tripled. A census for 1850 recorded 1,046, and in 1860 it had expanded to 4,126, largely due to overland immigration. Polk County had seven sawmills, five flour mills, a tannery, fanning mill factory, and several machine shops. Various small industries sprang up in Polk County during the period of pioneer settlement. Among them were grist and woolen miles.
What was reputedly the first pottery works in the northwest was established at Buena Vista in 1865. Early products were housewares, but among later products were sewer pipes, a considerable amount of which was shipped to Portland.
After the establishment of the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation in 1856, the remnants of the Willamette Valley Indian tribes, as well as Indians from other parts of Oregon, were settled there. More than 1,000 Indians were on the reservation at one time during the 1860s.
During its pioneer period, river navigation was Polk County's principal means of transport for goods produced in the county and for incoming supplies. River navigation was displaced after 1890 by railroads as the most important means of transporting goods to and from the county although riverboats were still in operation as late as 1894. It was during the period of steam navigation that the port of Lincoln attained prominence as a wheat exporting port on the Willamette. For a time, Lincoln was second only to Portland among Willamette River ports in the tonnage of wheat it handled.