In one of the most picturesque settings on the western slope of the Cascade Mountains is the little town of Sodaville where on the hillside overlooking the town and valley is located the famous Sodaville Mineral Springs. Incorporated in 1880, it officially became the City of Sodaville, Linn County, Oregon. The original intent was to incorporate earlier on and compete with the cities of Salem, Portland, Corvallis and Oregon City for State Capital, there was a land dispute (that was later settled by the Supreme Court) and Congress in Washington D.C. named Salem the capital.
The soda springs were discovered in 1848 by Reuben Coyle. The history of Sodaville centers around the spring of pungent mineral water flowing from a rocky hillside. For many years, the water from the spring was highly regarded for its medicinal purposes. People came from as far as Canada to collect or bathe in the soda water. It reached its height in the 1800’s boasting 5 hotels, livery stables, Perry Drug Store, a skating rink, a jail, bath houses, a general store, post office, meat market, barber, cobbler, blacksmith, daily stagecoach, weekly paper, doctor, telegraph office, 3 churches, furniture factory, sawmill, the Sodaville Railroad Company, and the Mineral Springs (Seminary) College that was founded in 1892. Tragically there was a large fire in 1894 that started in the Hardman hotel and it burned many of the buildings to the ground although quite a few homes, the general store and a church remain today.
A donation of land was transferred to the state in 1890 by Thomas Summers. Sodaville Springs (Mineral Spring Park) became Oregon’s first official state park. The Oregon’s Parks and Recreation website itself actually gives that honor to Sarah Helmick State Park, deeded in 1922. Either way, the land did have official state park status as of 1947, but has been back in Sodaville’s control as a city park since 1972.
Today the population is about 345 and there has been an increased interest in living in the small town atmosphere. Close to amenities available in the cities of Lebanon and Sweet Home, the large lots, wildlife, and surrounding forest, means the City of Sodaville’s population is increasing.
Senate Journal 1891 pages 204-205 Donation of land from Thomas Summers (Mineral Springs Park and Soda Water) Block 8
Mineral Springs Academy in Sodaville, Linn County, Oregon, 1949
Pictured is the Crowfoot Grange Hall in Linn County. The picture was taken on June 9, 1963. The Grange Hall is located between the City of Lebanon and the City of Sodaville. It is a section of Mineral Springs Academy, the old Dormitory of the college hall that was located in Sodaville . It was moved by rolling it to this location on large tree trunks when the college was abandoned. It is a two story wooden structure with a false front that has the words Crowfoot Grange No. 314 near the top.
Mineral Springs Academy
Line of boys walking down Main Street (courtesy of Oregon History Museum)
Original Country Store (now owned by the City of Sodaville) is a project waiting to be refurbished. The City of Sodaville City Council and the Citizen Planning Committee are currently working on ideas for the store including rehabilitating it for a new City Hall/Community Center. A Grant of $225,000 has been received from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to develop the land surrounding it. The new Soda Springs Community Center Park now has a restroom, Children's Play area, barbeque patio, horseshoe pits and parking.
SPRING HOUSE BEING REPAIRED BY PWA UNDER DIRECTION OF STATE AT SODAVILLE, SITE OF COLD MINERAL SPRING
Sodaville Cash Grocery
Given to the City by Tracy Towry
HO Railroad piece depicting original Country Store.
HO Railroad piece depicting original Country Store.
Sodaville, the sleepy Linn County town south of Lebanon, had a more effervescent personality in the late 1800s. A white settler discovered a soda spring at the site in 1847 but locals fought over ownership until it was deeded to the public in 1871. Residents soon parlayed the vicinity around the spring into a summer resort. An 1878 atlas described the "salubrious" setting:
"During the summer months, the place presents quite an animated appearance, the neighboring hill being dotted with numerous tents of visitors, who come from all sides to enjoy the soda and the social intercourse. There is a good hotel, where board can be obtained at reasonable rate also a livery stable. Quite a number of elegant cottages have been added lately, which give it quite a fashionable appearance. The waters have a pungent but not unpleasant flavor, resembling seltzer. They are known to be beneficial in diseases of the liver, dyspepsia, and some skin diseases." (Sources: 1878 Atlas Map of Marion and Linn Counties | linncountyroots.com)
Reuben Stringer Coyle was born in Bullitt County, Kentucky, in 1821. Family lore describes him as a "Man of Enterprise" with "movin' on" in his blood. The Coyles moved to Peoria County, Illinois, when Reuben was a young man, and there he met and courted Hannah Carroll. They were married May 16, 1843, and had two children -- two year old Thomas Jefferson Coyle and four month old John Henry Coyle -- when they emigrated to the Oregon Country in 1847. Accompanying the family were Hannah's brother and father and one of Reuben's brothers.
Among the belongings which Reuben and Hannah packed away for the journey was a newly minted $10 gold coin. The coin was Reuben's measure of last resort, to be used only in the event of the family being reduced to utter poverty and desperation. It survived the journey to Oregon and was passed down through four generations of the Coyle family spanning 130 years, always with the understanding that it was not to be spent unless all else failed. Its last family recipient, Oda Coyle Hudson, was a widow with no children, and thus the coin was entrusted to the Oregon Historical Society in 1977.
After arriving in Oregon, the Coyles claimed 640 acres of land in Linn County southeast of Albany and began farming. Reuben later platted and developed the town of Sodaville, named for nearby mineral springs, after Claim 4847 was perfected under the Donation Land Act of 1850. Modern residents believe that a handful of ancient fruit trees located within the bounds of the original family claim were saplings planted by Reuben himself in the 1840s.
While the Carrolls headed south to cash in on the California gold rush in early 1849, Reuben apparently remained in Oregon with Hannah and the children. The Carrolls didn't strike it rich, but they didn't go bust, either, before returning to the Willamette Valley when the '49ers began pouring into California that fall.
Reuben went into politics in the 1850s, serving as a Linn County commissioner in 1854, '55, '56, and 1858. With statehood imminent, he spent 1857 at Oregon's constitutional convention. The convention delivered the proposed state constitution on September 18, 1857, for approval by referendum. It passed, though with some further amendments added by popular vote, and Oregon was granted statehood on February 14, 1859.
Along with one of his sons, Reuben finally headed south to California following rumors of gold strikes in the 1860s. He is known to have returned home at least once following some modest success in the gold fields, but the family eventually lost track of him.
He is believed to have died in January, 1888, but it is not known where he was buried. Hannah died on March 30, 1870, at the age of 45. Until the 1980s, six generations later, there were still descendants of Reuben and Hannah Coyle to be found living on part of the old family claim.