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Oregon Central Military Road Oregon/Washington BLM



Oregon Central Military Road

Archaeological site

Private business entered road exploration and construction work on a large scale in 1864, when the Oregon Central Military Road Company was organized to build a wagon road from Eugene to the Snake River Valley. In 1866, legislation was passed which granted the State of Oregon land that could be sold to aid construction of a military road from Albany, Oregon to Idaho. The Willamette Valley and Cascade Mountain Wagon Road Company received the land grant to build this road.

These types of road building ventures were undertaken at a time when the military needed transportation and communication routes. Military funds and manpower were tied up in the Civil War, and the State of Oregon did not have the economic base to support road construction. Therefore, the solution was to grant private industry certain lands along the roads in lieu of payment for construction. The result was that the roads were constructed on paper as rapidly as possible over the beast lands available.

Land grants were issued for the construction of the roads, and contractors were eager for the work. As many roads followed previously established Indian trails, survey work was usually not arduous.

The Oregon Central Military Road entered Malheur County near the Whitehorse Ranch. From there it proceeded northeast to Crooked Creek, down Crooked Creek to near what is now Rome, Oregon. From there it ran up Jordan Creek to Silver City, Idaho. Parts of the road received little use, but some of it has become part of the current road network (GLO 1881).

Besides facilitating military movement of troops and freight, the road carried immigrant traffic to the west side of the state, particularly to the Willamette Valley. It was also used by ranchers and freight transport (Pioneer Roads in Central Oregon Nielsen, Lawrence E and Deanne M. Nielsen).

The Klamath Tribes' land was significantly diminished after construction of the Oregon Central Military Road was authorized through the middle of the Reservation. To pay for the road, the construction company was granted title to land along the right of way. Land grants that went with construction contracts of military roads had a large impact on development of some counties along the route.