Benjamin F. Dorris(1829-1915) ─ City Recorder for 22 years, served twice as the Mayor of Eugene
The Dorris family legacy spans both Eugene and Springfield, which is not surprising given the communities’ shared pioneer history in the 1800s.
Today the Dorris Ranch in Springfield is a national historic site featuring the nation’s oldest commercial filbert (hazelnut) farm in continuous operation. Visitors and students regularly tour the pioneer cabin, Native American plank house and enjoy walks along the trails.
However the Dorris family also made their mark as early pioneers in Eugene. Their civic involvement helped shape what is now the University of Oregon, the Eugene Pioneer Cemetery (EPC), and Oregon itself.
At rest here is Benjamin Franklin Dorris. He was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1829 and traveled to California at the tender age of 10 to work in various gold mines. In Crescent City he met Cecile Pellet and the couple married in 1866. At the invitation of George B. Dorris(Benjamin’s brother) the newlyweds moved to Eugene in 1867. They raised 8 children –2 boys and 6 girls. George Dorris would later start a hazelnut farm on the family’s ranch in Springfield.
A “tinner” by trade, Ben initially opened a hardware business in Eugene. In local advertisements, Benjamin described himself as a dealer for stoves and ranges, as well as preserver of “kettles, cauldrons and wash kettles.” He and his brother George participated in Eugene City Government from its inception.
Always active in political life, Benjamin F. Dorris was elected to the Eugene City Council in 1871. He served as mayor of Eugene twice: in 1875, and again in 1879. For 22 years from 1887 to 1909 Dorris continuously served as the city recorder.
In the early 1870s, the Dorris family helped sponsor the legislative bill that authorized the construction of Deady Hall, the first building that officially established the University of Oregon. Lacking funds for a roof, in 1873 Benjamin personally scavenged tin and materials in order to top the hollow shell that was Deady Hall.
Benjamin was a member of the UO Board of Regents from 1873-1882. He also served as a state senator from 1878-1889.
The family’s legacy is the Dorris Ranch located on 2ndand Dorris Streets in Springfield. Operated by the park district, today the ranch is the site of “Living History” events that portray the fiercely-independent men and women who helped form our region.
On Halloween night, volunteer actors from Dorris Ranch have given cemetery tours of selected graves by the light of old-time candle lanterns. At each stop, a re-enactor dressed in period attire interpreted the historical person who was at rest in that grave. Nurses, judges, Civil War soldiers and even Benjamin Dorris himself came to life! It was as though the individual buried there had returned, on Halloween Night, to personally tell their story.
In actuality, Benjamin Dorris died at age 85 in his office in Eugene. Heart trouble was listed as the cause of death. To honor the Dorris family’s contributions to the EPC, the main east-west gravel road in our cemetery (i.e., the one you come in on) is named “Dorris Avenue.” A fitting tribute for a man and family that paved the way for future residents in our thriving communities.