Hello, Eugene: From Skinner's Mudhole to Oregon's 2nd largest city

EUGENE, Ore. - How did Skinner's Mudhole become Oregon's second largest city?

Let's start at the beginning with a fellow named Eugene and how he made his way to Oregon.

Eugene Skinner was born in New York state and later worked as a sheriff in Illinois. He went west to California before arriving in the Willamette Valley in 1846.

"He was looking with an eye towards an area that could develop commercially," said Bob Hart with the Lane County Historical Museum.

Skinner staked claim to 640 acres on and around what's known as Skinner Butte Park. His wife Mary arrived the next year. Like pioneers elsewhere, they did a little bit of everything, like running a trading post out their log cabin.

"He also operated a ferry, so he's a bit of an entrepreneur," Hart said.

Today, a replica of the cabin sits in the park that carries Skinner's name.

The actual cabin did not rest on that exact spot, however.

The native tribes told Skinner "ya-po-ah," which means build on higher ground. A marker across from the climbing columns on the side of the butte notes the site where the cabin was located.

There's some dispute over Eugene's incorporation as a city. The Eugene@150 celebration marks October 1862, the widely held date that Eugene became a city. Some historians argue the town was born in 1864 when a public vote was held.

But when it comes to myths and stories, Eugene history buffs like to dish dirt about mud.

"The mud was deep enough at one point that some pigs ran down the street and disappeared and people watched them disappear," Hart said.

Downtown Eugene shows no signs of pigs or mud today as old buildings get new lives and new buildings join the skyline.

How does Hart think Skinner the entrepreneur would view his town in 2012?

"Well, I think Eugene would be very pleased," Hart said. "I think he would certainly pat himself on the back."