Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Salem, Oregon

State Capitol building in Salem

Salem is the capital of the state of Oregon in the United States of America, and county seat of Marion County. As of the 2000 census, it has a population of 136,924. It lies in the center of the fertile Willamette Valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world.

"Salem" is derived from the Hebrew word "Shalom", which means peace.

Table of contents
1 Economy
2 History
3 Geography
4 Demographics
5 Points of Interest


The city's focus is primarily governmental, but it serves as a hub for the farming communities and is one of the largest centers of food processing in the nation. It lies along the I-5 corridor and is within an hour's drive of Portland.

In a bid to diversify its economic base, Salem attracted a number of computer-related manufacturing plants in the 1990s. In November, 2003, the Sumitomo Mitsubishi Silicon Group, one of these arrivals, announced that they will close their two silicon wafer plants at the end of 2004, eliminating 620 jobs, and moving the production to other plants.


The Native American name for the area was Chemeketa, which means "meeting or resting place." The first white settlement in the area was the Jason Lee Mission in 1840. The missionaries established the Oregon Institute in 1842 in the area that was to become the first townsite of Salem. In 1844 the mission was dissolved and the townsite established. It is uncertain who chose the name for the town, but it is believed to be one of two people: Trustee David Leslie from Salem, Massachusetts, or W. H. Willson who in 1850-1851 filed the plans for the main part of the city.

The name "Chemeketa" is preserved as the name of the local community college, Chemeketa Community College.

Oregon's original capital was Oregon City. The capital was moved to Salem in 1851, then to Corvallis in 1855, and then finally back to Salem later in 1855.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 120.1 km² (46.4 mi²). 118.4 km² (45.7 mi²) of it is land and 1.6 km² (0.6 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 1.36% water.


As of the census of 2000, there are 136,924 people, 50,676 households, and 32,331 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,156.1/km² (2,994.0/mi²). There are 53,817 housing units at an average density of 454.4/km² (1,176.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 83.07% White, 1.28% African American, 1.51% Native American, 2.41% Asian, 0.47% Pacific Islander, 7.90% from other races, and 3.36% from two or more races. 14.59% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 50,676 households out of which 32.4% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.7% are married couples living together, 11.6% have a female householder with no husband present, and 36.2% are non-families. 28.3% of all households are made up of individuals and 10.5% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.53 and the average family size is 3.10.

In the city the population is spread out with 25.4% under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 30.1% from 25 to 44, 20.6% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 100.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 99.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $38,881, and the median income for a family is $46,409. Males have a median income of $34,746 versus $26,789 for females. The per capita income for the city is $19,141. 15.0% of the population and 10.5% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 20.2% are under the age of 18 and 7.1% are 65 or older.

Points of Interest

Salem is the home of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes minor league baseball team and Willamette University. The BIA operates Chemawa High School, a Native American boarding school near Salem.

Although the Willamette River flows along the western side of Salem, the Santiam River is the major source of water for this city.