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Vanished Towns of Benton County, Oregon

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1902 map of Benton County, Oregon
1902 map of Benton County, Oregon

The map above, one of many in the historical society’s collection, dates from 1902.  Some parts look familiar, such as the rivers and highway 20.  What is unusual are the names Bruce, Dusty, Fern– places which no longer exist under those names.

This envelope in the collection proves the existence of at least one of these places.  According to Lewis McArthur’s Oregon Geographic Names, the Bruce post office was opened in 1900 on the land claim of Major James Bruce along Highway 99W. 

Major Bruce was born in Indiana, lived in Illinois and Texas before a 1850 wagon train for Oregon diverted to the California gold fields.  After coming to Oregon in 1852, he enlisted in the army and fought in the Rogue wars.  In 1857, he married Benton County resident Margaret Kinney. Using the money he had earned supplying beef to the gold miners and dealing in other livestock, he purchased his farm in Benton County in 1864.  He later served in the state legislature.

Dusty is another town that would not appear on any more modern map.  McArthur explains that in 1895 a post office had been established in a store five miles north of Monroe owned by Frank Elgin.  He proposed Elgin as the name of the post office, but this was denied as there was already one by that name in the state.  There was much disagreement, but the name Dusty was eventually chosen because the store was at a dusty crossroads.  By mid 1902, local residents successfully argued for a change of name to Bellfountain so this would have been one of the last maps showing the name “Dusty.”

Fern was the name chosen for a post office established in 1899 on the Edward Davis farm.

The name references the nearby fern-covered hill. The post office closed in 1903.

More vanished towns will be featured in the next Story.

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