Valentine’s Day might be meant for love, but it’s also time to celebrate a birthday.
This year, Oregon turns 164 years old, boasting a unique and varied history since 1859.
Before then, it was part of a U.S. territory (known as Oregon territory), which included what is now the state of Washington and Idaho.
“It took over a month for official word to arrive in Oregon from Washington, D.C., that we were a state, now part of the union,” said Vanessa Ivey, Museum Manager at the Deschutes Historical Society.
Oregon started out with 19 counties, most of them west of the Cascades.
“Today, we have 39 counties, and Deschutes County is actually the youngest of all of those and it was formed in 1916,” Ivey said.
It wasn’t smooth sailing for everyone who wanted to live in Oregon. In fact, it was the only state in the union to have exclusion laws, barring African Americans from living or owning property here.
Those laws were only removed from Oregon’s constitution in 1926.
Despite a crack in its foundation, meaningful change has emerged from the state since then.
“In 1912, Oregon became one of the early states to allow women the right to vote. And that year, in 1912, Bend was the first city to vote,” Ivey said.
Key legislation includes the Oregon Beach Bill in 1967, which kept beaches public. The Bottle Bill of 1971 allowed the recycling of bottles for money.
In 1951, Oregon barred self-serve gas. In 1987, the Oregon Family Leave Act passed and 1994 saw the passage of the Death with Dignity Act.
This year, the state also commemorates the 25th anniversary of statewide mail-in voting.
“None of these could have happened except for having the petition initiative from 1902, which basically empowered the average Oregonian then to be able to put forth recommendations for new legislation and changes to the state constitution on the general election ballot,” Ivey said.
Innovations from our state tend to be on the yummy side.
“Oregon is where the tater tot originated from. Big League chewing gum was Oregon original,” Ivey said. “You have the Marionberry that was created in Oregon, and can only be grown apparently in the Pacific Northwest because of the delicacy of it.”
With nature, the state has a little something for everyone.
“I’m really glad that I live in Oregon,” Ivey said. “I can get in my car and I can drive to the coast. I can drive to the mountains, I can drive to the desert. I’ve got all these different kind of escapes, all within a day’s travel. And when you think about it, we have hundreds of trails and waterways and lakes and it’s just a really beautiful, beautiful state.”