Finding Independence

I missed my turn the other day on my way from a doctor’s appointment in Corvallis to Fred’s place in Albany, but it turned out well. Shortly after I decided I was about to end up in Portland if I kept going, I turned east and discovered Independence, Oregon. What a great place. It’s farm country, with signs advertising blueberries, peaches, and raspberries, with furrowed fields of squash, corn, hay and perhaps hops. Googling the town’s history, I find this town of 7,905 souls was once the hops capital of the world. It’s beautiful, and they’ve got beer; what a place.

Located 10 miles southwest of Salem on the west bank of the Willamette River, it was first settled by Oregon Trail travelers in June 1845. They named it Independence after the Missouri town where many of them had started their journey. Over the years, it’s had its ups and downs. A flood in 1861 devastated the town, but the people rebuilt on higher ground, and many of the wonderful old buildings there now date back to the 1880s. New highways took traffic away from Independence, but that allowed it to keep its quiet, old-time feeling.

Independence has preserved its . . . well, its independence. It’s got all the amenities of a great small town, libraries, parks, an outdoor amphitheater, stores, banks and all that. It’s close to Salem, only an hour from Portland. Yet it looks like a small country town, much like my native Santa Clara Valley looked before the electronics industry turned it from the Valley of Heart’s Delight to Silicon Valley.

Driving down the old Corvallis Road, I passed vast fields being watered by giant sprinklers on wheels, horses, cows, the Hilltop Cemetery and even a housing subdivision named “Green Acres.” I wonder what houses cost there. I plan to go back with my camera, but this time I won’t be lost.