The City of Vernonia is located in the beautiful North West coast mountain range of Oregon. It is centrally located between the Oregon Coast and Portland Oregon and approximately 35 miles south of the Columbia River.
The Town of Willamina is located in Yamhill County - 25 miles WNW of Salem with part of the Siuslaw National Forest and Van Duzer Forest Corridor Wayside State Park to the West.
Growing up as a logging community in the scenic Nehalem River Valley, the town has retained much of its turn of the century charm and has become an inviting place to live. Logging is still an important part of the region and there are many managed forests and mountain streams to explore. There are many logging trails and scenic viewpoints that reveal the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
A short drive provides one the opportunity to walk the sands of the rugged Oregon Coast or tour the lighthouses and fishing communities. Camping, hiking, fishing, hunting and other out-of-doors activities are readily available.
In the last decade Vernonia has under gone quite a face-lift through the leadership of the City and the help of many volunteers. The revitalized downtown, the extensive park system (including a public summer swimming hole and a full-service RV park), the new City Hall and Library buildings, the Banks-Vernonia Linear Park trail, Vernonia Lake (a very popular fishing spot), the beautiful Scout Cabin, and the Vernonia Pioneer Museum have all instilled Vernonia with b sense of community pride. The upcoming additions of a middle school facility, Learning Center, new Senior Center and the burgeoning Art Community will further contribute to an even better quality of life for all.
The first settler in the Upper Nehalem Valley area was Clark Parker who chopped his way into the area and homesteaded in 1874. His Homestead was on the East side of the Nehalem River (Riverview). He came in from the Washington County side. He was followed in 1875 by the Van Blaricom's who homesteaded along Rock Creek in what is now the main part of town.
The first road out of the upper valley to the North was opened with volunteer labor apparently in 1879. It reached the Nehalem Valley at Pittsburg which is located at the confluence of the Nehalem with the 'East Fork'. It was a dirt wagon road and is known today as the 'St. Helens-Pittsburg'. Hardship did not go away with the opening of the road however. In January of 1880 a violent windstorm closed all roads into the valley by toppling trees. The wind was followed by extraordinary snow and the area was reportedly isolated for months.
Weekly mail service between St. Helens and Vernonia began shortly after the road was opened and by 1891 was said to have grown to 3 times a week.
While it was June of 1894 that provided the 'record' flood on the Columbia River, it was the next year that was the challenge for Vernonia. Bunker Hill saw 5 feet of snow and in January of 1895 the first great flood swamped Vernonia to a level not surpassed until the great flood of February 8, 1996 over a century later.
Vernonia's heyday began in the 1920's when it was the site of the Oregon-American Sawmill, billed at the time as the largest in the world, which was fed by logging railroads in all directions, but by the early 1950's the virgin timber was gone and so was the mill. The timber has grown back, but there is no mill in Vernonia now. The company came in from the South and brought a lot of Southern folks with them. This explains why the plat of the Oregon-American Subdivision features streets named after States in the old Confederacy.
It is reported that some southern traditions also came to town which included the establishment of a 'black section' of town which was down by the river behind what is now the Vernonia High School. The mill is said to have kept this part of the mill town 'segregated' by not allowing any of the buildings in that area to be painted or whitewashed. This area is all long gone now.
Vernonia was ultimately named for the daughter of one of the original settlers, Ozias Cherrington who moved there in 1876. Her name was Vernona. She was born March 30, 1868 in Ohio and later moved to Virginia. She never came to Oregon. The political voting precinct was called Auburn for many years, but finally renamed to Vernonia to avoid confusion. The Vernonia post office was established Jan 11, 1878 with David F. Baker as its first postmaster.
Vernonia Lake: Once a mill pond, it is now a home to Bass, Crappie, Perch and Bluegill and is stocked each year with Rainbow Trout.
Scout Cabin: This cabin hosts dozens of youth groups, history classes, community gatherings, celebrations, wedding, business meetings, family and class reunions and many other events.
Cedar Ridge: Ideal for retreats, conferences, corporate picnics, camps and weddings. It is nestled in the Coastal Foothills with 28 acres surrounded by Oregon beauty. Combine the quiet stream, surrounding woods and athletic facilities and it becomes the perfect setting for all ages.
Shay Park: The final resting place of Shay Locomotive #102 which was once owned and operated by the Oregon-American Lumber Company. There is a trail leading down to a viewing platform next to the creek for an up close view of the salmon in the river.
Vernonia Airport Park: A primitive campground tucked in old growth fir, maples, and alder trees along the Nehalem River, is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy nature.
Anderson Park: The trailhead for the Banks-Vernonia trail. This park is bordered by the Rock Creek and the Nehalem River.
Banks-Vernonia Trail: Walk, bicycle, ride your horse or push a baby buggy along this nice, quiet trail along an old abandoned 21 mile railroad path. 21 miles of forest beauty and many varieties of animals await you.
Hawkins Park: In early summer a small dam across Rock Creek creates "Dewey Pool swimming area. There is also a concrete kiddy pool. There is a lifeguard on duty Monday-Saturday noon to 6pm.
Ora Bolmeier Park: Nestled among large fir trees this park overlooks downtown Vernonia.
Spencer Park: Includes fields for softball, baseball, soccer, or foot ball. It's a great place for team sports.