Tillamook, Oregon History and Community Features

Unlike many towns on the Oregon Coast, the city of Tillamook is located near a bay rather than the ocean. This bay has led to a wealth of natural beauty and prosperity in the area. It’s the endpoint for four major rivers, bringing abundant steelhead and salmon runs every year. Its calm waters are also ideal for recreation and wildlife, drawing visitors both now and a century ago.
The first pioneer to settle in the area was Joseph Champion in 1851. Champion was a resourceful English immigrant who eventually became the town’s first county clerk and schoolteacher. He made his first home inside a hollow spruce tree, which he named his “castle.”
Soon, other pioneers arrived and began to build homes and farms. Many became dairy farmers, as fresh water and lush grass were both plentiful. Timber and fishing were reliable industries, too, with so many rivers, streams, and forests in the vicinity.
However, the town had a problem: how could they get their fresh dairy products and seafood to other markets to sell? Transporting goods over the mountains using wagon trails took too long, and ships had a difficult time getting past the sandbar at the entrance to Tillamook Bay. All the boats that had carried the town’s goods had wrecked.
To solve this problem, the community decided to build a ship together called the “Morning Star.” This vessel was sturdy enough to withstand strong breakers. It was built using local wood, along with ironwork salvaged from a shipwreck and brought over the mountains on horseback. The sails were also remnants from a shipwreck found by Native Americans and sold to the town.
The Morning Star took its first voyage in 1855 and was a success. It brought tons of goods to Astoria and Portland, an economic boost that helped the pioneers survive and further develop their community.
By 1861, Tillamook had its first store. The first post office followed five years later, officially putting the town on the map.
All this time, the dairy industry in Tillamook was slowly growing. With such nutritious grass, the cows in Tillamook County always produced more than enough milk. Local dairy farmers mainly focused on making butter with this milk, as cheese was more complicated to produce in large batches for sale.
However, cheese was potentially more valuable than butter, since it was easier to pack and ship. For this reason, some local farmers continued to tinker with producing cheese. Seeking guidance, they contacted Peter McIntosh, a man renowned on the west coast for his cheese making skills.
McIntosh came to Tillamook in 1894 and taught the local dairy farmers everything he knew. After that, the cheese industry took off. Within six years, three dozen cheese factories began operating in Tillamook County. Even now, more than a hundred years later, Tillamook Cheese still uses McIntosh’s award-winning cheddar cheese recipe.
The dairy industry in Tillamook has also helped to boost the local tourism industry. Every year, around a million visitors come to the city to tour the Tillamook Cheese factory alone. With such a thriving tourism industry, the city has been able to invest in local institutions like the library, community college, and fairgrounds. The downtown area is being revitalized, too.
Tillamook has also maintained its beautiful city parks and natural scenery. The Tillamook Forest Center is an especially great place to visit to learn about the local ecosystem. Located in the Tillamook State Forest, the Center offers a range of activities for all ages, from guided forest walks to presentations about forest animals such as bats and beavers. You can climb a 40-foot forest fire lookout tower, cross a 250-foot-long suspension bridge, or taste tea made from local leaves, roots, and flowers.
The future looks bright for Tillamook. After overcoming its initial struggles, the city has only grown larger and more successful. Buy or build a home here, and you can enjoy living in one of the most beautiful areas on the coast.
Contact us today if you’re interested in finding a home for sale in this beautiful Oregon Coast area.