South Oswego, The Second Neighborhood
Matthew Patton returned from the California gold rush with $10,000. He purchased part of the Collard Donation Land Claim in South Oswego and began exploring for iron. Patton played a pivotal role in the development of Oswego’s iron industry. He promoted his discovery and wealthy investors took note. By 1865 the Oregon Iron Company was incorporated with Patton as one of the stockholders. Records indicate that Patton’s strip mine supplied ore until 1881.
Patton and his wife Catherine filed the South Oswego plat in 1883. It consisted of only a few streets and those running east and west were named First through Fourth Streets. These lots were laid out in a grid system not particularly well suited to the hilly terrain of the area. Development was concentrated around the only improved road in the area, Third Street (Oak Street). The iron industry’s banner year of 1890 spurred growth and one year later Patton’s son and his partners launched the “South Oswego Addition” which changed the original numbered streets to names of tree species. Nellie Kyle recalled that her sister, Agnes Nelson, lived on Ash Street and “They had purchased, in 1904, a whole half block for four hundred dollars.”
Arthur Jones remembered, “Over to South Town you had to go quite a little way down across this old covered bridge and there was Bickner’s Feed and Grocery store. There were just a few houses over there.” Henry Gans Dry Goods & Groceries store was one of the first and one of the few commercial buildings in this area. Joseph Bickner purchased the store from Gans and ran it with the help of his five sons. The Bickner boys formed the first orchestra in Oswego and were members of Oswego’s Real Band. The Bickner family later relocated their home and business to First Addition.
In 1915 African-Americans were hired to finish construction of the Oregon Portland Cement Company just north of Old Town. Single workers lived in a South Town boarding house. These workers left Oswego after their jobs were given to local men and the boarding house was subsequently demolished.
Street names such as Patton, Gans, Bickner, and Worthington honor some of the early settlers. Today the greatest number of homes built as a result of the growth of the iron industry is in South Town. The Mathieson-Worthington House, circa 1884, is the only structure in this neighborhood that is listed on National Register of Historic Places.