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Alsea (Alcea)

Alsea is an unincorporated community of about 200 residents in southwestern Benton County's Coast Range. Near the juncture of the North and South forks of the Alsea River, the town is approximately 26 miles west of Corvallis on Oregon Highway 34.

The name of Alsea is derived from an Indian band (Alsi, Alseya) who lived near the estuary on the coast. A reference to the "Alseya Settlement" first appeared on a General Land Office survey map in the mid-1850s, a recognition that a few white farmers had taken out Donation Land claims in the area.

Although a post office was established in 1871, the small farm and ranch community was isolated, distant from main routes of travel and without a railroad. Improved highways and the use of trucks for hauling logs and lumber eventually opened upper-valley forested hillsides to timber harvests.  With the big boom in lumber production following WWII, several small sawmills were operating in valleys tributary to the town of Alsea. With the consolidation in production, virtually all of these mills had closed by the early 1970s.

The town prospered through the 1980s with heavy cutting of the Siuslaw National Forest. Environmental restrictions curbed harvests of federal timber in the 1990s. When the Siuslaw Ranger Station closed in 1996, more than 100 workers were transferred to other Forest Service offices. Alsea is now home to large numbers of people who commute to the Willamette Valley for employment.

Written by:William G. Robbins

Further Reading:

McArthur, Lewis A., and Lewis L. McArthur. Oregon Geographic Names. 7th ed. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 2003.

Oregon Encyclopedia - Oregon History and Culture

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