Century Farms and Ranches Web Exhibit

sign reads "Century Farm, William H Vaughan, established 1844, 150 years
The Oregon farms and ranches shown in this exhibit have been in the same families for at least 150 years.
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Exhibit Overview

Beginning in the 1840s, large numbers of settlers traveled west seeking the Eden at the end of the Oregon Trail. The agrarian ideal that fueled Oregon Fever encouraged farmers and ranchers to build prosperous lives on the land. Thousands heeded the call but over the decades most drifted away to other livelihoods.
Des​cendants of 232 early families who stayed on their farms or ranches for at least 100 years were honored by the Oregon Century Farm & Ranch Program in 1958. Since the program's inception, more than 1,075 families have been awarded the Century Farm or Century Ranch status. A Sesquicentennial Award in 2008 honored 14 Oregon families who have sustained their farms or ranches for at least 150 years. The following pages show life over the decades on some of the remaining 150-year-old gems of Oregon history.

About the Sesquicentennial Award

Family farms and ranches under continuous ownership and operation of 150 years or more are eligible to apply for the Sesquicentennial Award. Fourteen families qualified for honors at a ceremony on the Capitol Mall in Salem on February 14, 2008. This exhibit illustrates only this inaugural group. Of the recognized Century Farms and Ranches in Oregon, more than 400 were established prior to December 31, 1859, the year of Oregon's statehood. However, some of those may have been sold out of family ownership during the last 50 years since the Century Farm & Ranch Program began in 1958.

prints of barn at sunrise (above) and rancher with horse (below)
The Century Farm & Ranch Program has been honoring Oregon agriculture for over 50 years. (Oregon Agricultural Education Foundation images)
Many of those that remain have deep roots in Oregon agriculture as a result of the Oregon Donation Land Law of 1850. That federal legislation recognized legal title to land already claimed by white settlers in Oregon Territory and encouraged additional immigration to Oregon by offering vast amounts of free land. Historian William Robbins writes in Landscapes of Promise: The Oregon Story 1800-1940 that an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 immigrants, mostly of Euro-American descent, entered the territory before the act expired in 1855.
Century Farm & Ranch Program images

logo for Oregon Agricultural Education Foundation with blue apple in center

Most early donation land claims (DLC) were staked out in the fertile Willamette, Umpqua, and Rogue valleys. By the late 1850s, most of the prime river valley lands were claimed, leading settlers to seek out unclaimed land in the coastal lowland valleys, higher-elevation interior valleys, and finally eastern Oregon.

About the Century Farm & Ranch Program

The Century Farm & Ranch Program was created to honor farm and ranch families with century-long connections to the land, and to recognize Oregon's rich agricultural heritage. The program is administered through the Oregon Agricultural Education Foundation (OAEF) in Salem and is supported in part by a partnership of the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon State Parks & Recreation Department, Oregon Department of Agriculture, and the Oregon Historical Society. The Wheat Growers Association, Hazelnut Marketing Board, Roth's Family Markets, various Oregon county farm bureaus, and many individuals provide additional funding for the program.

All applications for Century Farm or Century Ranch status are added to the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) Library where they provide information about settlement patterns, livestock and crop choices, building design, and family history. Successful applicants receive a personalized certificate of acknowledgement from the governor and the director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Learn More

Information in the "about the farm" and "about the ranch" pages is abstracted from applications to the Oregon Century Farm & Ranch Program that are available at the OHS Library. This exhibit was created in January 2009 and documents only the group of farms and ranches that qualified for the inaugural Sesquicentennial Award.


The Oregon Blue Book thanks Glenn and Judith Mason of the Oregon Century Farm & Ranch Program​ for their help in gathering photographs and information for this exhibit.