Home » Oregon » McMinnville

James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.



Basic Information

Type of Place
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Don’t Know
Unions, Organized Labor?
Don’t Know

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Yes, Strong Oral Tradition
Don’t Know
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
Probably Not, Although Still Very Few Black People

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1930 2917
1970 10125 28
1990 17894 41 5
2000 26499 22892 179 331 368 1924

Method of Exclusion

  • Zoning

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Asian


An Oregon resident writes:
“After WWII one of the best Chinese restaurants in the state started up outside the city limits of McMinnville because they wouldn’t let the owner hold property inside the city. When the city annexed the land around the restaurant he sold out and moved to Corvallis rather than be a citizen of that town.
It was illegal for Orientals to own property in many cities until after the Korean War, though there was no state wide law forbidding it. That’s why there are so few minorities in Oregon they weren’t welcome, and the law made it almost impossible to live here.
There is a wealth of material for you here in Oregon. The entire state was a “sundown” state. Exclusion laws didn’t really break down until the beginning of WWII. When Oregon became a state in 1859, blacks had 2 weeks to make it from one border to the other, quite a trick at the time. Up until the 1930’s, eugenics laws were in force. Mental patients and some criminals were sterilized so their genes would not contaminate the population. After the Civil War, thousands of southerners who were carpet bagged out of their land in the south moved west to start over. For decades, one of the strongest forces in Oregon politics was the KKK.
One of the most shameful episodes in state history was the expulsion of the Chinese after the railroads were built. Thousands of Chinese were rounded up and shipped back to China, including natural born American citizens. In 1870, every town near a railroad had Chinese laundries, Chinese servants and other laborers. By 1890 they were all gone. I have heard that the ships didn’t actually take them back to China, they just sailed out into the Pacific, threw the Chinese overboard, and sailed back for another load. That is just a rumor. I have not been able to verify its truth, but I would not be surprised.
The eugenics laws faded out in the 1930’s. To the credit of the medical profession, the state was unable to find any doctors willing to perform the sterilization procedures. The shipyards at Swan Island brought the first viable black population to Oregon. At the time, there was very little protest. When I was growing up in the 1950’s, race was not really on my social horizon. I was a freshman in college before I ever spoke with a black person, though I did compete against a couple in high school athletics.
Because of the war with Japan, the prejudice against Orientals lasted longer than the prejudice against blacks. Towns like McMinnville continued to exclude Orientals while allowing black people to live inside the city limits. The particular oriental you are asking about owned the Oriental Garden restaurant, which I believe is still in operation. The guy’s name was Roger, and I think his last name was Chen or Chong. He was a native born American citizen. I had an aunt and uncle who were good friends with him, which is how I heard the story. The Oriental Garden was known for its excellent food, and was quite a commercial success.”