Oswego’s Third Neighborhood
The second iron furnace built one-quarter mile north of the original furnace reshaped the town. The completion of the modern, high-capacity furnace in 1888 created the need for additional housing for workers and “First Addition” was platted. The Oregon Iron and Steel Company marketed lots for as low as $25. The first year it was reported that 95 lots had sold for the sum of $4,778.83, an average of $50 per lot. The residential and business center shifted to this new neighborhood and First Addition became known as “New Town.”
The furnace and other businesses closed suddenly during the economic crisis known as the Panic of 1893, a depression that lasted five years. Oswego’s population dipped as jobs were lost and residents left to find work elsewhere. According to Mary Goodall, “Neighbors shared with each other. Those who had cows and chickens, vegetable gardens and fruit trees were the lucky ones who helped the people who stayed in Oswego to weather the storm.”
In 1909, fueled by the desire of local businesses to spur economic growth, plus issues such as water quality, fire protection, and the sale of alcohol, residents of First Addition voted to incorporate the City of Oswego. The City Charter was adopted in 1910 and this signaled the end of Oswego as a company town. One of the measures on the December 5, 1910 ballot was, “Shall horses be permitted to run at large?” Old Town and South Town residents opposed incorporation and they did not join the City until 1922.
The circa 1910 Clifford R. Johnson Barn remains one of the few vestiges of farms in First Addition. Clifford “Happy” Johnson, an early postal carrier, drove the first mail delivery wagon. The day this innovation was put into service, Happy’s horses kicked it to pieces. Eventually the barn housed both the delivery wagon and the horses. Prior to the mail wagon, Jesse Coon and later Matthew Didzun carried mail by horse and cart. Didzun’s son, Charley, was nicknamed “Peanuts” because his pockets were always filled with his favorite snack. Peanuts became a town marshal, he opened the first Model T agency, the first garage, and he operated the first gasoline pumps in town. The Didzun home on A Avenue is still owned by a descendant.
Mrs. Howard Pettinger recalled that during the late 1800s, “Lots [were] being sold, and going like hotcakes. New houses grew up overnight.” Homes are still going up almost overnight and the vintage cottages to which Mrs. Pettinger referred are rapidly disappearing as outsized houses take their place. Ironically, in 2006, as the words “teardown” and “infill” were bandied about with more frequency, “Cottage Living” magazine voted First Addition one of the ten best cottage communities in the country.