Oregon State Capital: Salem

Salem, the capital of the U.S. state of Oregon, is the second-largest city in Oregon after Portland. Eugene follows closely after Salem in population. None of these cities are very big by East Coast standards. Oregon is still a largely rural and unsettled state. Salem is only 174,365 as of 2019.

Founded in 1842, Salem became Oregon's capital in 1851 when it was still a U.S. Territory. Oregon wasn't incorporated as a state until 1857. Before Europeans colonized the Central Willamette Valley region that would become Salem, Native Americans had already lived there for over 10,000 years. Kalapuya specifically inhabited the locale at the time of first European contact, arriving as animal trappers in the 1810s. The city's first name was actually Chemeketa, after the Central Kalapuyan (or Santiam language) term Chim-i-ki-ti, meaning "meeting place" or "resting place." Just south of the current downtown Salem area, Kalapuya would make winter camps; fishing, hunting, and harvesting camas, as well as encouraging camas growth by using controlled wildfires. By the 1850s, the Kalapuyans were removed by force by the U.S. Government to make way for more European settlers. The Kalapuyans were resettled mostly in the Grande Ronde Reservation west of Salem, with others removed to the farther off Siletz Reservation, or additional reservations in Oregon and Washington.

When it was called Chemeketa, the town was better known as "the Mill," being located on Mill Creek. Another commonly used name for the community was 'the Institute,' after the Oregon Institute was formed there. It was a three-story building, the first European college-level school west of Missouri and was the precursor to Willamette University. The Institute was also used in early governmental matters while Oregon was still a territory. There are a few different theories for how Salem's current name came about. One is it's an Anglicized version of the Biblical Hebrew word "Shalom," meaning hello and/or goodbye; or, it may be the last five letters of the name Jerusalem.

Many State employees are located in Salem; the capital is the state's largest employer of State workers. Like much of Oregon, agriculture is an important industry in Salem and its greater municipal area through Marion and Polk counties. Cherries were historically an important cash crop in Salem, and are still one that grows well there; in the first half of the 20th century, the Cherry Festival was an annual event. Salem was chosen as the site for the annual Oregon State Fair in 1861, and has been so ever since.

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Oregon State Capital: Salem