General History of the Buena Vista Community
This information is based on various historical documents, historian research, news articles, photographs, etc. It is for informational purposes only.
The community of Buena Vista was established around 1847 by Reason B. Hall who settled there in 1847 through a donation land claim. A few of Reason B. Hall’s relatives were in the Battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican-American War, hence the reason for choosing this name which is Spanish for beautiful or good view. The area was also known, for a time, as Hall’s Landing. Reason B. Hall started the Buena Vista Ferry around the same time.
The first school in Buena Vista was started in a one-room log house in 1859, which served as a church on Sundays. Always an important hops-growing area, during the late 1800’s the community had a fairly large population due in large part to a local pottery factory that shipped items throughout the territory using the Willamette River. Much of the pottery used by the pioneers came from the Buena Vista factory. Freeman Smith, his wife, six sons and four daughters came to Oregon at the end of the Civil War. Smith, who had worked at a pottery factory in the east, had heard about the clay banks of the river with supposed good firing qualities. He bought land near the ferry and the family built the kilns and started Smith and Company. Smith sold his company to a son in 1870 and the brothers expanded the business to include flower pots and sewer pipe. In fact, a 15” sewer pipe that runs down Portland’s SE Stark Street was made and burned in the Buena Vista kilns. At the height of their business, the factory employed four potters and ten Chinese immigrants for mixing clay.
During this time the town included two doctors, drug store, saloons, hotel, school, churches, and stores. In fact, it was considered as a potential site for the new state capitol. At its height the town had a two-story school, the pottery factory employed several hundred locals, and the town had a busy sawmill. Hops took over as the main industry for the next 50+ years. However, years later the railroad was put in but bypassed Buena Vista. This was the beginning of the town’s demise. Hops declined in value and the pottery factory moved to Portland. Salem became the state capital and also drew away some of the population. By the early 1960’s most of the buildings and houses were gone leaving only a small market in the general area, and the cemetery.