Lake Oswego will be celebrating its blue collar roots next month marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Oregon iron industry with a jubilee shindig in George Rogers Park on Saturday, September 9 from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
●Pioneer baseball game
●Bluegrass music and clogging
●Horse drawn wagon rides between the original furnace at George Rogers Park to the Preservation Society’s museum at 40 Wilbur Street
●Fireworks display to wrap things up
What’s the big deal?
The discovery of iron near Oswego in 1860 was a very big deal. It meant that folks on the West Coast didn’t have to wait four to five months for their iron to make its way over the 17,000 mile journey around the tip of South America from the East Coast—a trip that added exorbitant duties to the final cost. The first pig iron was cast in Oswego on August 24, 1867 and once the furnace (still in its original location at George Rogers Park) was up and running, shipments were headed to places like San Francisco.
Oswego’s charcoal iron industry did well despite having to ride the hurdles of changes in ownership, power struggles and lawsuits but ultimately it was the competition of cheaper imported pig iron made from coal, the decline of the railroad expansion and the Panic of 1893 that brought the era to an end.
Despite its demise, the Oregon Iron and Steel Company still played a role in Lake Oswego’s second re-invention. Armed with more land than cash, O. I. & S. set out to transform Oswego from a depressed mining town to a lakeside retreat, starting with a name change from Sucker Lake to Oswego Lake and fueled by the advertising slogan, “Live where you play.”
One hundred fifty years later, we are doing just that.
To learn more about Lake Oswego’s iron industry roots, be sure to visit the Lake Oswego Preservation Society Museum open Tuesdays, Thursdays and the first Saturdays of the month from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. or by appointment.
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