Since its beginnings in the 1850s, Eugene has attracted independent thinkers. Its early leaders sited the town in a picturesque location along the Willamette River
and were confident that agriculture and timber businesses would guide its growth. As Eugene transformed from a settlement to a city, its citizens took an active voice in the creation of its identity, like advocating for a main railroad line to run through town and determining how the commercial district would branch out from the central downtown core. They got the Southern Pacific Railroad
. Today, the population continues to express strong and diverse feelings about politics, personal rights, and the environment as it shares the common experience of living and working in a place of great natural beauty.
Eugene is the second or third largest city in Oregon, a title that it shares uneasily with Salem, the state capital. The University of Oregon is the largest institution in the city and to a large degree sets the tone for it.
The Southern Pacific Railroad was the transcontinental railroad following the southern route. Salem, Oregon, was established by missionaries in the Willamette Valley.