|A 1901 home reflecting Gates' heritage|
The location of the community, along both sides of the North Santiam River caused at least two problems. The covered bridge used by school children was built too close to the water and washed out in 1887. Everyone returned to using the "ferry": a bucket arrangement on a high cable. The next permanent covered bridge was lifted by a high wind in 1901 and set down on the river bottom. Today's modern bridge, dividing the city between Marion and Linn counties faces no such hazards.
The name of the local post office was a subject of controversy. The one established in 1882 on the south side of the Santiam River was named Henness, to honor the first postmaster Jane Henness. The name was changed to Rock Creek in 1883. About 1892, W. R. Robertson, then postmaster, moved the post office to the north side of the river to "Gatesville" and the name was changed to Gates, to honor Mary Gates. According to Mrs. J. P. McCurdy, postmaster in 1925, "There was much opposition to the adoption of the new name of Gates by the older settlers who wished to retain the name Rock Creek, A petition was signed to keep the old name. The party circulating the petition got drunk and lost it, therefore the name Gates remained."
Gates continued being a boom town into the early 1900s, supplying the mines and there are still lost mines in the area. As typical of the rough justice of early western towns, Gates had a "High Noon shoot-out on May 7, 1909, said to have been caused by too much drink. Two men died and the woman in the case left town." A medical emergency hit the community that fall: an outbreak of typhoid effected many residents of Gates. However, that emergency passed and a civic spirit arose with several fraternal orders established in area: the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, Ancient Order of United Workers, the Masonic Lodge, Eastern Star, Maccabees and the Women's Benefit Association.
Fires were always a special hazard in pioneer communities with wooden buildings: a major blaze on February 1939 destroyed the city's business district. By the next year, they were rebuilt and electricity reached Gates for the first time. The city was incorporated in 1950.
Gates was featured 37 years later in a Statesman Journal article of July 26, 1987 titled "Museum Auction Draws Hundreds". It describes the auction of collectibles by Velma Haley and her late husband Paul. She decided to put the museum and it contents up for sale after her husband died that May. The proceeds were to finance her retirement. The museum had been closed the last eight years because of vandalism and increased insurance costs. Marion County Deputy Bernie Papenfus said a deputy was stationed in Gates to assist with traffic snarls caused by the swell of people. Residents said they were glad to see the auction take place because it gave them an opportunity to view the artifacts. Such a local museum would be a treasure today.
|Welcome to Gates|
Gates is on Highway 22, 35 miles east of downtown Salem and there is a beautiful welcome sign to your right at the main entrance to town. Several businesses on the highway: a restaurant, market, wood carving business and ~ best of all ~ a motel, the only one between Stayton and Detroit as you drive east. Gates plans a Christmas celebration around the new city park gazebo. Today, with a size of .6 square miles and a population of 471, the city supports over 200 households where we found out the community spirit is neighborly, despite the separation by the North Santiam River. Gates is definitely a place to stay ~ whether for an hour's visit, overnight, or as a country residence.
Two additional sources of information about Gates are the North Santiam Chamber of Commerce visitors guide (which can be picked up at the Gates post office) and the Canyon Weekly, available by subscription through the online edition.
An added attraction: One mile east of Gates (37 miles from Salem) on Highway 22 is the 71 acre Minto Park with a one mile forest trail along the North Santiam. There are picnic tables with an overhead view of the river and 2 shoreline places to fish for steelhead or trout. Open 8 a.m. to sunset, but closed in the winter months.
Each Tuesday, after a city was featured in that Sunday's Statesman Journal, KMUZ broadcasted "Marion County 20". To learn more about Gates, listen to the podcast as listed on the KMUZ archives.