There’s a story behind the name of every locale in Douglas County and we will explain them two at a time in each issue of UV.
Story by Jim Hays, Photography courtesy of Douglas County Museum
Fourteen miles north of Roseburg, and home to an estimated 8,000 people, Douglas County’s second-most populous city takes its name from Fendel Sutherlin (right), a pioneer farmer, orchardist and rancher of a 13,000-acre spread east of what are now the city limits.
Sutherlin was born in 1824 and graduated from DePauw College in his hometown of Greencastle, Ind. He arrived in Oregon in 1847 and worked in a Portland hoteal before joining the California gold rush in 1849.
According to a memoir of her father by Anne Sutherlin Waite, published in the December 1930 issue of Oregon Historical Quarterly, Sutherlin passed through an area known locally as Camas Swale on his trips to and from the gold fields and settled there on his return from California as an unsuccessful prospector. The oldest of 10 children, Sutherlin invited his parents, still in Indiana, to move the entire family to Oregon — which they did, arriving in 1851. Sutherlin’s father, John F. Sutherlin, built a sawmill on Pollock Creek near Oakland, possibly Oregon’s first such mill south of Oregon City.
By the time of his death in 1901 at age 77 — and his burial in a family plot in Valley View Cemetery — Fendel Sutherlin was one of Douglas County’s most prominent citizens and had spent more than a half-century developing the valley that became his legacy and the town that grew in its center. A post office was established at Sutherlin in 1909, the town was incorporated two years later and by 1920 boasted a population of 515.
POPULATION: 8,000 (2017 estimate)
ELEVATION: 520 feet
AREA: 6.35 square miles
MAYOR: Todd McKnight
Located in the southeastern corner of Douglas County, just north of Crater Lake National Park, Diamond Lake is one of Oregon’s most popular lakes for year-round fishing and outdoor recreation.
It is billed as the “Gem of the Cascades.” That it may be, but the lake’s name has little to do with gemology. Nor is it derived from anything poetic or scenic, such as the look of the water on the 3,040-acre lake or its oblong shape. The origin lies in another of those happenstance episodes of Oregon history.
This story starts in what is now Eugene. In 1852, when the locality was still known by the more-colorful moniker “Skinner’s Mudhole,” seven local men set out to seek a suitable route for a wagon road through the Central Cascades. The idea was to improve access to the area by creating a direct route through the mountains from the high desert of Eastern Oregon.
John Diamond, a 37-year-old recent immigrant from Ireland whose Lane County property would become the donated site of the city of Coburg, was part of the expedition. The party went up the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. Near what is now Willamette Pass, Diamond and fellow road planner William Macy scaled an 8,477-foot dormant volcano for a better look at possible routes. From the top and above the timberline, Diamond and Macy saw the pass they were looking for near what is now Summit Lake, just south of the peak. It became known as Emigrant Pass.
Diamond also spotted a large body of water about 30 miles south, tucked between two other tall peaks (today’s Mounts Thielsen and Bailey). Diamond named both the mountain and the lake after himself. Macy and the others apparently had no objection, for the names stuck.
A post office was established at Diamond Lake in 1925. The post office switched to summer-only operation in 1956.
Diamond’s name has been attached to other prominent local geographical features. According to Oregon Geographic Names, the Coburg town site was originally called Diamond, and Diamond Hill in Linn County is also his namesake. Well-known as “Uncle Johnny” in both Lane and Linn counties, Diamond died in 1902 at age 86 and was buried in Coburg, where an impressive monument marks his grave.
As for the wagon road, it was called the Free Emigrant Road when it was finished in September 1853, just days before the near-tragic “Lost Wagon Train.” Some 250 wagons and more than 1,000 people tried to cross the Cascades on the new road. When the train became stuck near the Middle Fork Willamette with its food and supplies used up, a group of men rode ahead to raise a rescue party. According to the Oregon Encyclopedia, many wagons had to be abandoned, but most of the party was brought out on foot, and Lane County’s population doubled virtually overnight.