Albany a Primer

By Cathy Ingalls, Albany Regional Museum board member


You live in Albany or you reside elsewhere and commute here for work but how much attention have you paid to the city’s history, geography, demographics and its economy?

Below is a short primer about the city, which is the state’s 11th largest and is located in Linn and Benton counties at the confluence of the Willamette and Calapooia rivers.

First a little history:

The early people who inhabited the area were one of the Kalapuya tribes. They named the place Takenah, meaning deep pool, which described the coming together of the two rivers.

It is estimated that between 4,000 and 20,000 Native Americans lived in the Willamette Valley before the arrival of the whites, who brought with them infectious diseases.

The tribes were decimated by a smallpox epidemic that raged through the Pacific Northwest in 1782-83. Then in the early 1830s, a malaria outbreak killed an estimated 90 percent of the Kalapuya.

Abner Hackleman, a farmer from Iowa, was the first white settler to arrive in the area in 1845. He received a land claim and then he asked Hiram N. Smead to hold another claim for him until Hackleman’s son could make it from Iowa.

But Hackleman died going back to Iowa to get his family, and in 1847 brothers Walter and Thomas Monteith of New York arrived after driving an ox team across the Oregon Trail. The men bought a 320-acre land claim from Smead for $400.

The pair named their new home Albany after their hometown. About the same time, Abner’s son, Abram, showed up on his father’s land claim and built a log house.

The growing Hackleman and Monteith families were different in a lot of respects: The Monteiths were basically Republican merchants and professionals who were Union sympathizers during the Civil War. The Hacklemans, living to the east of the Monteiths, were working-class Democrats and sided with the Confederacy.

The two sides planted a hedge near Baker Street, setting a division between the two camps.

Physician R.C. Hill established the town’s first school in 1851,with Eleanor Hackleman, Abram’s wife, serving as the first schoolteacher.

The first steamboat, the Multnomah, drew up in 1852, the post office was established in 1850, the courthouse was built in 1852, and in 1871 the first trains came to Albany.

By 1910, 28 passenger trains left daily from Albany, going in five directions. Stagecoaches also served as transport vehicles. With the number of transportation options available Albany became known as Hub City.

Now some geography:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city contains about 17.55 square miles of land and 0.21 square miles of water. The city is known for being one of the lowest points in the Willamette Valley, with elevations ranging from 180 to 430 feet above sea level.

The demographics:

The census in 1870 showed that Albany contained 1,292 people; in 1910 there were 4,275 individuals; and in 2010 the population had reached 50,158. The estimated population in 2016 was 53,211.

The median age in 2010 was 35.6 years; and 25 percent were under age 18; 9.6 percent were between 18 and 24; 27.4 percent were between 25 and 44; 24.7 percent were between 45 and 64; and 13.1 percent were 65 or older.

Males made up 48.8 percent of the residents, and 51.2 percent were female.

The economy:

Albany is known in some circles as the rare metal capital of the world, creating zirconium, hafnium and titanium. A major producer is ATI Specialty Alloys and Components, formerly ATI Wah Chang.

With the decline of the timber industry, other commodities are becoming big exports. They include grass seed, hazelnuts, corn, beans and strawberries.

More detailed information about Albany can be found in two publications available at the Albany Regional Museum: “Gem of the Willamette Valley, A History of Albany” by Edward Loy and the 1878 Albany City Directory.

The museum is located at 136 Lyon St. S and is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.  

The phone number is 541-967-7122, and the website address is