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James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

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

Oregon City


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?
Don't Know
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
1890 3025 4
1920 5686
1930 5761 0
1940 6124 0
1960 7996 3
1970 9176 2
1980 14673 0
1990 14698 49
2000 25574 23807 150 288 277 533

Method of Exclusion

  • Violent Expulsion
  • Threat of Violence
  • Reputation

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


Quoted in Elizabeth McLagan, _A Peculiar Paradise: Blacks in Oregon_ (Portland: Georgian, 1980)
In 1923 the KKK drove the one black in Oregon City out of town. (p. 139)
“A mysterious telephone call to a local newspaper office this afternoon led to a discovery that a lynching was threatened last night about 30 miles from Oregon City. Perry Ellis, Oregon City’s only colored citizen, being the near victim. Ellis tonight related his experience and said he is preparing to leave tomorrow for Tacoma.”
The Portland Advocate, 1926

In Oregon City the following year, Perry Ellis, the only black resident of the town and the owner of a car wash was nearly lynched by men thought to be members of the Klan. He had been accused of sleeping with a white woman, although charges against him were dropped when the woman failed to testify. He was called out of town, allegedly to pick up a team of horses stranded on a country road with a broken down wagon. Ellis arrived at the scene with a white friend, Ira W. Thrall, to find two parked cars across the road. A spotlight was turned on Ellis, and six men appeared wearing masks. They ordered Thrall to return to Oregon City and drove Ellis about thirty miles out in the country, where he was interrogated and the men threatened to lynch him. He denied the charges concerning the white woman and they drove him to a lake where more threats followed. They finally let him go, ordering him to leave town or he would be killed.
Although both Ellis and Thrall were able to identify at least two of the men by their voices, no charges were brought, and Ellis left Oregon City for Tacoma, Washington?

“Men thought to be Klan members nearly lynched the only black man living in Oregon City, Perry Ellis. Ellis, owner of a carwash, was accused of sleeping with a white woman but the charges against him were dropped when the woman refused to testify. Ellis was called out of town on a pretext. Six masked men confronted him about the white woman and threatened to lynch him. They finally let him go, ordering him to leave town or be killed. He moved to Tacoma, WA.” (Howard Goodman, “Bigotry: OR’s sad history,” OR Territory, 5G.) The Portland Branch of the NAACP sent a telegram to the governor of Oregon in 1921, protesting the appearance of the Ku Klux Klan in Oregon.