PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — If for some reason you weren’t alive in the 19th century, or just didn’t get your history education in Oregon, you may not know the story of how Portland got its name.
From the 1830s to the early 1840s, traders and settlers officially knew Portland as “The Clearing” due to the abundance of trees in the area. At this same time, Travel Portland says that people would refer to the land as “Stumptown” because of the many trees that had been cut down to mere stumps to make room for the ever-growing population.
According to the city of Portland archives, it wasn’t until 1843 that the land was officially claimed by business partners Asa Lovejoy and William Overton. But by June 1844, a flood on the Willamette River turned Overton away from the area and he decided to sell his claim to entrepreneur Francis Pettygrove.
In 1845, Pettygrove and Lovejoy agreed to turn the site into a city. What they couldn’t agree on, however, was what it would be named. Boston-bred Lovejoy wanted it to be named after Boston, while former Portland, Maine resident Pettygrove wanted it to be named after his own hometown.
Ultimately, the duo determined that a good, ol’ fashioned coin-toss would settle their differences. One night over dinner, Pettygrove and Lovejoy flipped a coin three times to choose the new territory’s name.
On the strength of luck, and what is now known as the Portland Penny, founder Pettygrove won after the coin landed on ‘heads’ twice.
Now, we have the Portland Trail Blazers instead of the Boston Trail Blazers, the Portland Winterhawks instead of the Boston Winterhawks and a sign that says “Keep Portland Weird” instead of “Keep Boston Weird.”