The Kalapuyan people were the first people to settle the area that is now the city of Eugene. However, inhabitants were believed to have occupied that area as far back as 10,000 years ago.
The Europeans did not arrive in Eugene until the early 19th century when French fur traders settled in the Willamette Valley. The traders negotiated with the Kalapuyan natives for land. Though they initially only lived in the area seasonally, by the end of the 1920s, people were staying year-round. Many of the French settlers also began taking Native wives, increasing the population of mixed race people.
In the early 1930s, disaster struck with the arrival of a disease known as intermittent fever – or what is thought today to be malaria. Approximately 92% of Kalapuyans perished from the disease during the 1830s and 1840s.
After this, more white settlers moved to the area. From 1840 through 1860, 11,000 colonists moved to the area. The remaining Kalapuyan people were moved to Indian reservations. Mixed race settlers were given the difficult choice of staying or living on the reservation.
In 1846, Eugene Skinner brought over 1,000 colonists to settle the area. He built the first cabin that was used as a trading post. Eugene’s first post office was established in 1850. The area was originally called Skinner’s Mudhole but was renamed and incorporated as Eugene City in 1862 before changing its name once more to Eugene in 1889.
Eugene’s first college was Columbia College, which burned down twice in four years. It was not rebuilt after it burned for the second time. The University of Oregon was established in 1876. The city quickly grew a reputation for its beautiful natural environment, making it the ideal location for outdoor recreation such as running, bicycling and kayaking. One of the most notable things about this city through its history is that it was where Nike was created.
Through the 20th century, the city saw rapid population growth. However, in the 1980s, the population was negatively affected by the decline of the timber industry. Unemployment rates rose and people moved from the city. However, by the mid-1980s, the city bounced back and put more of a focus on the tech industry. Today, the city’s economy revolved primarily around the manufacturing of recreational vehicles and wood products.