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City of Molalla

Molalla is a rural community of 8,100 residents situated in the Willamette Valley of western Oregon, 30 miles southeast of Portland. The area was first inhabited by the Molalla Indians, whose territory extended from the Clackamas River south to Crater Lake and beyond.

Molalla was named after the Molalla River, which in turn was named for the Molala, a Native American tribe that inhabited the area. William H. Vaughan took up a donation land claim in the area in 1844. Molalla post office was established in 1850, near the site of Liberal, and was discontinued in 1851. The post office was reestablished in 1868 and it ran until 1874, then was reestablished in 1876, which is when it was probably placed at the present location of Molalla.

White settlers began to arrive in the mid-1800s, before Oregon became a state. Legend has it that the settlement of Molalla grew up around the crossing of two Indian trails--one running east-west, the other north-south, which is today the intersection of Molalla Avenue and Main Street.

Descendents of the Molalla tribe are members of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, a federally recognized nation with headquarters on the Grande Ronde Reservation in western Oregon.

In 1850 a post office was established in Molalla, near the present site of Liberal. The post office was reestablished in 1875 in town.  By 1856, the first schools were operating and the town had become a thriving agricultural and trade center.  The year 1857 brought the first general store.

On Aug. 23, 1913, the Clackamas County Court (today's Board of Commissioners) adopted a proclamation acknowledging that a proposal to incorporate Molalla was approved in a special election by a vote of 77 to 20 on Aug. 15, 1913, and declaring the settlement of Molalla to be officially incorporated as a city.

That same year marked the arrival of the first steam train, connecting the city to Portland. The first Molalla Buckeroo Rodeo was staged in celebration of the event. The town’s first bank opened for business and its first newspaper, The Pioneer, began publication. It has remained in continuous publication since that day.

Over the years, lumber production became the community’s biggest commodity. Timber remained the mainstay of the community’s economy until the 1980s.  Two large mills still operate today, as do several small family owned mills. Dozens of nurseries in the area produce a wide variety of seedlings, shrubs and plants for worldwide distribution; vineyards and wineries contribute to the local economy, and Christmas trees are a major export product.

In recent years, the city has been successful in diversifying its economic base with new manufacturing and commercial investments. Tourism is playing an increasing role in the city’s economy as well. Molalla is the gateway to the Molalla River Recreation Corridor, attracting thousands of visitors year-round for sightseeing, fishing, hunting, kayaking, rafting, swimming, picnicking, camping, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Molalla’s Buckeroo professional rodeo event draws top-ranked cowboys and thousands of visitors annually.

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