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Lebanon Express

Lebanon Centennial, Anniversary Edition

Thursday, June 5, 1947


City Once Noted for Resort;  Now in 2nd Period of Growth

By Alma Parrish

The history of Sodaville centers around a spring of pungent mineral water flowing from a rocky hillside.  The town owes its existence to this spring.  Because of it the town began, grew, declined and grew again.


The town started as a group of pioneer cabins clustered around the spring.  It reached its height in the early 1890’s as a resort, so popular that two hotels were filled to capacity every summer.  Camping places were at a premium.  There was a college with an enrollment of over 100.


Then the popularity of the water declined.  Changes in transportation made more distant resorts accessible.  The college closed.  Fire destroyed many buildings.  Sodaville became a ghost town with deserted streets and empty houses.


But the spring was still there, and, because of it, a spark of community loyalty.  The place began to grow again, this time as a self-respecting community of pleasant homes.


Early Scenes

To the pioneer of 100 years ago the country presented an entirely different prospect to the jagged outline of the fir-clad hills so much a part of the present scenery.  The hills around the spring were bare.  There was only an occasional tree.  Underbrush was confined to the borders of the streams.  Grass was plentiful and rank, thanks to the Indians who kept the land burned over to assure grazing for their ponies.

So it looked to the Coyle, Usher and Klum families who took up claims in the Sodaville community in 1847; and to Thomas S. Summers and John Burge and son who came the following year.


Probably the first white man to taste the Sodaville water was Rueben Coyle, head of one of the three families to settle the community in 1847.  It is related that he was hunting his oxen early in 1848 when he came upon a spring whose water left a peculiar brown deposit on the rocks.  When he drank the water his first reaction was consternation and fear that he was poisoned.  However, the evidence that cattle and deer had been drinking there reassured him.


The Coyle donation land claim is located a mile and a half west of the spring.  Five generations of Coyles have spent part of their lives on this claim.  Until very recently some part of the claim was occupied by a Coyle.  Jerry Coyle, of the third generation, now living at Grass Valley, Ore., still owns 190 acres of the original claim.  The pioneer Coyle engaged in cattle raising, driving his stock to California, where he found a ready market.  He served as a member of the Oregon constitutional convention.


Richard Usher, another arrival in 1847, settled his family on a claim also west of the present site of Sodaville.  On the 640 acres of this claim, which extended as far north as Crowfoot, there was only one tree, a stripling fir.  Usher built a rail fence around it to keep the cattle from trampling it.  Years afterward it was standing, easily identified among the young second growth.


Oldest House

The oldest house in the Sodaville community, still standing and occupied by the Harold Darby family, was built by Usher in 1863.  The second floor was left without partitions and used as a dance hall.  Early settlers came for miles around, on foot, by ox team, on horseback, for their social gatherings.


The claims of William Klum and his son George W. Klum were over the hill, east of the spring.  George Klum was an early office holder, serving on the board of the first election held in Lebanon in 1848.  Henry Klum, younger half brother of George, and a veteran of the Indian wars, who died at Lebanon less than 20 years ago, told of the Indians who were numerous in the early days.  There was an Indian burial place on his father’s claim.  He recalled hearing the wailing and mourning of the approaching burial trains when they were still miles away.


Indian Cemetery

The Klums respected this cemetery, never disturbing the articles placed on the graves, -- beads by the bucketful, dishes, arrows and guns.  In later years, Henry and his nephew, Hiram Klum, each tried to find the location of these graves, but could not.  Changes in trails, roads and fences and growth of underbrush and timber had completely obliterated old landmarks.


Not until the arrival, in 1848, of Thomas S. Summers and family and Burges was the land on which the town of Sodaville is located, taken up.  Summers’ claim included the spring.  Burge bordered Summers on the south.  Summers was a gunsmith.  Burge put up a blacksmith shop.  The spring was between them.  Thus the town of Sodaville had its beginnings.


Whitman Mission

Thomas S. Summers, his wife, Eliza, and three children crossed the plains from Ohio in 1846.  They wintered at the Whitman mission, then made their way to Linn county.  Two children were born to them after their arrival in 1848.  One of them, Isoura Summers Parrish, was the mother of A. H. Parrish, whose home has been on part of the south half of his grandfather’s donation land claim since the year 1880.


Soon after the arrival of Summers he became involved in a dispute over his title to the spring.  Philester Lee sued in the local courts, hoping to gain possession.  Though Lee lost every decision he stubbornly appealed and carried it to a higher court, and, just as stubbornly, Summers defended his claim.  The dispute continued for 19 years, dividing the community into factions and stirring up feuds between neighbors.  Summers was given the final decision by the Supreme Court in 1867 and received his patent from the government.  Though the long-drawn-out litigation had cost him everything he owned, Summers remained true to the principle that had kept him fighting all those years.  Believing that Nature’s special gifts are not intended for private exploitation he deeded block eight in the town of Sodaville, with the spring in the center, to the public, May 4, 1871.


Spring Preservation

The movement to preserve the spring came first from the pioneers themselves.  They built a rail pen around it.  This kept the cattle out but not the deer.  Then the rails were replaced by a board fence.  Later a local man built an open shed over the spring, octagonal in shape, with seats around the inside.  The floor was brick and the water was dipped from bricked-up shallow wells.  Milton A. Miller secured the first help from the state, an appropriation by the legislature for improvements in 1891, and the present building was put up, though not completed until ten years later.


More money for repairs and improvements was secured in 1901 and 1920, and a small annual appropriation has taken care of the upkeep since then.  The legislature now is session (1947) turned the property over to the state highway commission and it is now in the hands of the department of state parks.


Oak Creek

Oak creek featured in Sodaville history as a source of power.  Old timers tell of a furniture shop located on what is now the J. J. Simms place, and run by a man by the name of Bailey.  Chairs, tables and stools made by him are still in use.  Power was burnished by an overshot water wheel fed by a mill race about one quarter mile long.  The ditch of the race may still be traced from its head to the site of the mill.  Later a man by the name of Edwards used this same wheel to run his wagon and furniture shop.  In the late 1860’s George and John McKinney put in a wheel 10 or 12 feet in diameter to run and “up and down” saw mill.  The saw was mounted in a vertical position.  It was said of it that “it went up one day and down the next.”  A gristmill, brickyard and tannery also served the pioneer needs.


First School

Richmond Cheadle taught the first school in Sodaville in a small log cabin whose cracks were chinked with clay.  Backless benches were hewn logs with peg legs.  A stone fireplace and a wooden bucket of soda water complete the picture.  Patrons paid six dollars per pupil for a three months term.  This cabin, which was also used as a “meetinghouse” served the community for miles around until 1871 when Thomas S. Summers deeded Block 12 in the town of Sodaville to district number 13 for school purposes.  On this block, directly east of the spring block, a one-room box-style building was erected.  In 1886 this was replaced by a frame building.  The abandoned college building was purchased by the district in 1909 and has been used for the district school ever since.  George Sutherland of Scio tells of teaching 60 pupils in one room at Sodaville in 1887.



History of Linn County, compiled by the writers program of the WPA, is the authority for the statement that the “first Baptist congregation in Linn county was organized at Sodaville in 1848, with six member by Rev. H. Johnson.”  A revival by Rev. Ezra Fisher in 1850 added 50 members, but due to removals and divisions the church went out of existence in 1857.  During Sodaville’s height three churches flourished, the Cumberland Presbyterian, the Evangelical and the Free Methodist.  The Evangelical organization remains at the present time.  The building was erected in 1890, dedicated as Presbyterian and then lost by that denomination.  The Evangelical later bought the building and it has been in use by them ever since.  Rev. C. N. Powman was the first Evangelical to preach in Sodaville.


The College

Mineral Springs College, which played such an important part in the history of Sodaville, started as a seminary founded by Louis Barzee and his brother Charlie.  The former first came to Sodaville as a teacher in the public school, and decided that the place was ideal for a seminary because of its reputation as a resort, the beauty of the surroundings and the fact that land could be secured by donation.  The brothers raised the money to build in 1892.  The seminary ran for a year, but was not a financial success.  The Cumberland Presbyterian Church took over the property and secured Joseph A. Giddes as principal.  Because of his reputation as a teacher and his inspiring personality Mineral Springs College became popular and its enrollment mounted to 100 and more.  Commercial and normal course were offered.  Mr. Geddes left in 1898.  A few years later financial difficulties beset the school and it closed its doors in 1908.


Concert Band

The Sodaville Concert Band, organized in 1891, maintained a membership of 10 to 12, and was well known through out the county, having playing engagements at Albany, Lebanon, Brownsville, Corvallis, Scio and Newport.  It was a success financially as well as musically.  Incorporated in 1895 it built a hall in which to hold concerts with accommodations for a general store on the ground floor.  The band made its last public appearance at the graduation exercise of the college June 1898, but remained an active organization until the property was sold in 1910.


Official census reports show that Sodaville almost tripled its population in the ten years of its greatest prosperity, going from 66 in 1890 to 178 in 1900. But the picture of that period is not complete without mention of the students who filled the dormitory and every available house and room during the school year, and the summer visitors who crowded the hotel rooms and dotted the hillside with their tents.  Sodaville at its height boasted two hotels, meat market, grocery store, general store, post office, photographer, blacksmith shop, livery stable, bath house, barber shop, drug store, doctor’s office, telegraph office, jail, a 12-piece band, two room school, three churches and a college.


Spring Water

Water, in the form of a mineral spring, was the making of the town.  Lack of water, in adequate supply, was its undoing.  Fire has taken an awful toll in these 100 years.  Though the Sodaville hillside has many fresh water springs most of them, as well as the old dug wells, succumb to the summer’s drought.  It is proverbial of the place that “once a house gets afire it’s a goner.”  On the block on which now is located the Sodaville store, which might be designated as the town’s main business block, there have burned three hotels, two halls with stores on the first floor, a small store and five or six houses.  Throughout the village houses have burned by the dozens.


Hotel Fire

One night in May 1893, fire stated in the Hardman hotel on the northwest corner of the bock mentioned above.  It spread to a 64 by 64 hall in the center of the block and then to the 23-year-old Carmichael hotel on the south corner.  J.P. Chesshire built another hotel on the southwest corner and the band built its hall in 1896 on the site of the old hall.  When the hotel burned in 1907 the band hall was saved only by most strenuous efforts.  Fire took the hall, however, in 1929.


The popularity of the Sodaville water declined with the passing of the Horse-and-buggy days.  Old-timers believed firmly in the curative value of the water.  They cite cases, and tell of the young man who was brought on a stretcher and went away, hale and hearty.  The general attitude now regards the water only as a refreshing beverage.


In the nineties, with its simple life and leisurely pleasure, the road to Sodaville might be long but not too exhausting.  Modern roads and automobiles have made the place a five-minute detour on a 1000-mile trip to more exciting places.


In the 1920’s, under the leadership of the late L. A. Simons and others, a community club was formed which sponsored worthwhile projects for the good of the community.  In 1926 the club held a Sodaville history writing contest for the school pupils.  That summer a memorial was put up on the spring grounds and dedicated to the memory of Thomas S. Summers, donor of the property to the public.  An historical pageant as a part of the dedication ceremonies.


The Sodaville of 1947 is an industrial suburb.  The population fluctuates; residents tend to be impermanent.  There is a church, a three-room school and a store.  Though the place is neither a thriving town nor a summer resort, the spring is still the center.  A certain spirit of pride in and responsibility for the spring holds the community together.  The old-timers still remember the Sodaville of the past.  Newcomers have found it a pleasant place to make homes and rear families.


Sodaville arose due to Rueben Coyle who took up a land claim in the area in 1847. He discovered a mineral spring one day while searching for stray oxen. With Coyle in 1847 had arrived William Klum and Richard Usher. Other early settlers in the area were John Coyle, Caleb Burge, Hiram Klum, W. B. Gibson, Medders Vanderpool and Thomas S. Summers. The spring was on land owned by Thomas Summers, but Philester Lee also claimed it. Litigation lasted 18 years, but on May 4, 1871, full title was given to Mr. Summers. He immediately deeded a lot of 99 feet square to the public so the spring could be enjoyed by all. He also laid out the town of Sodaville, which was incorporated Nov. 8, 1880.The original town plat contained twelve blocks; later Summers Addition added an additional twelve blocks.


Asa Peterson built both a saw and a grist mill in Sodaville in 1852, using the waters of Oak Creek.


The first spring house was an octagonal open shed. In 1892, money was appropriated by the legislature to erect a new building. Again in 1901 the legislature approved $1,000 to be spent for improvements to the building and grounds, and yet again in 1921.


A description of Sodaville made in 1876 described the town as quite animated during the summer months, with tents dotting the countryside surrounding the mineral spring. There was a hotel, livery stable and quite a few cottages. By 1890, the town of Sodaville contained Hardman's Hotel, Klum's Hotel, H. M. Peery and Wm. Smith's meat market, James Pound's blacksmith and wood works, R. Roberts' drug store, Thomas McCulloch's grocery, Frank Davis' general store, and Peery & Terhune's livery stable. Frank Davis was also the postmaster. There was also a barber's shop, doctor's office, telegraph office and three churches in the area. The newspaper "Sodaville Review" was published for a few months early in 1893.


Population in 1880 was 56; in 1890 it was 66; in 1900 it was 178, by 1930 it was 77, and in 1940 it was 99.


The Sodaville Concert Band was organized in 1891 and it played very successfully in many towns until 1904.



From "History of Linn County, Oregon," compiled by the Work Projects Administration, L. M. Wheeler, 1982:


Early settlers in the Lebanon, Sodaville and Beaver Creek Regions:


Edward Abbott

Andrew J. Alley

John A. Ambler *1870 Census - Waterloo Precinct

Thomas Angel

William Atkins

David W. Ballard

Joab P. Beeler

John Beeler

Peter W. Beeler

F. Bellinger

Frances Bellinger *1870 Census - Waterloo Precinct *1880 Census - Waterloo Precinct

Jesse Berkley

F. Binger [George W. Binnicker?] *1870 Census - Waterloo Precinct

Joshua Brooks

John Burge *1870 Census - Waterloo Precinct

Abner J. Carey

Samuel Carroll

Benjamin Carter

Richard Cheadle

David Claypool

William S. Claypool

James Coombs *1870 Census - Waterloo Precinct

Francis M. Coryell

James M. Cottrell

James Cowan

John W. Cox *1880 Census - Santiam Precinct

Eliza Coyle

James Coyle

Reuben S. Coyle

George Crabtree

Benjamin A. Crouch

Bartlett Curl

Stephen M. Davidson

William B. Donaca

Alexander M. Dyre

S. D. Gager *1880 Census - Waterloo Precinct

M. C. George

N. H. George

Presley George

William M. Gore

Alex B. Griggs

John Grisholm *1880 Census - Santiam Precinct

Benjamin Hardman, Jr.

Joshua Hardman

Joseph H. Hardman

Aaron Hartman

Russell T. Hill

James A. Hurst

Berry James *1880 Census - Santiam Precinct

J. B. James

Miles James *1880 Census - Santiam Precinct

Obediah Jennings *1880 Census - Waterloo Precinct

J. J. Johnson

David Jones

Andrew Kees

Elmore Kees

Isaac Kees

Morgan Kees

Owen Kees

Samuel M. Kees

William B. Kincade

George W. Klum *1880 Census - Waterloo Precinct

William Klum *1850 Census

George W. Lambert

John M. Lee

Philester Lee

A. Leland

James Lindley *1880 Census - Waterloo Precinct

John Little

Edward H. Loftus

Cyrus Lundy

John McDonald

James McDowell

Polly McGohan

William McGohan

H. G. McTimmons

John M. Marks

John M. Metzger

David Miller

Thomas F. Miller

Joseph Moist

Charles D. Montague

Ira Moore

John W. Moore

William T. Moore

Andrew Morris

Zela B. Moss

Jacob Newman

Simon A. Nickerson

Ai Parrish *1870 Census - Waterloo Precinct

Moses Parker

Samuel Pearce

David Peebler *1880 Census - Sodaville Precinct

Stewart M. Pennington

Henry J. Peterson *1870 Census - Waterloo Precinct

E. C. Powell

Elias Powell *1880 Census - Santiam Precinct

Peter Powell *1880 Census - Waterloo Precinct

John Pryor *1880 Census - Santiam Precinct

Jeremiah Ralston

William Ralston

William Ray

James Ridgeway

John H. Ritter

Soloman Ritter

Arthur Saltmarsh *1870 Census - Waterloo Precinct

Joseph B. Saltmarsh

John Settle

James Shields

Daniel Simons *1870 Census - Waterloo Precinct

Daniel C. Simons *1870 Census - Waterloo Precinct

Samuel L. Simpson

Andrew J. Smith

Absalom M. Smith

William N. Smith *1870 Census - Waterloo Precinct

James H. Snodderly

Jacob Snodderly

J. H. South

John D. South *1880 Census - Santiam Precinct

William H. Starr

James A. B. Stinson

John Streithoff

Thomas Summers *1870 Census - Waterloo Precinct

Alexander Sumpter

John B. Tabor

Richard Usher - *1850 Census of Linn County

Joel Vail *1880 Census - Waterloo Precinct

Jonathan Wassom

Robert Watkinson

J. Wheeler

Jason Wheeler *1870 Census - Waterloo Precinct

Jason Williams

Smith Williams

John W. Wilson *1880 Census - Santiam Precinct

Luther T. Woodward

John Yoder

Abraham Zell

Peter Zell




"Sodaville: The History of a Mineral Spring that Created a Town," Maxine Dargis, 1996

"Early 1850 Records," Lois M. Boyce, 1983

"History of Linn County, Oregon," compiled by the Work Projects Administration, L. M. Wheeler, 1982

Contributed: ©1999 - 2000 Jan Phillips

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