Brownsville, one of Oregon’s early settlements, had its beginnings November of 1846 when a group of families including  the Kirks, Captain James Blakely, founder of Brownsville and Hugh Leeper Brown for whom the town was named after, came west on the Oregon Trail and continued south to claim land in the lush valley of the Calapooia River.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Before settling Kirk stumbled upon land that extended across the Calapooia north and south. He envisioned the best ferry site in the region. Kirk purchased squatter rights for the land from Isaac Courtney who was originally living on the property. (Isaac Courtney was the man for whom Courtney Creek near Brownsville was named.) Alexander paid Courtney a yoke of oxen and a log chain for his rights to the land where he built his log cabin home.

The log cabin home, Kirks Ferry Trading Post, was run as an inn or tavern for many years. Anyone who wished to stop over in Brownsville could stay with Alexander Kirk. Some boarded there for weeks at a time.

Alexander’s operation began the winter of 1847. The ferry-boat was merely a small flat boat, just large enough to carry one team and wagon. The ferry operated during the winter only when the Calapooia River was deep. During the summer the river is too narrow and shallow to need ferry service. In the winter however, it was deep, swift and dangerous and travelers were glad to pay for ferry service. The ferry operated by means of a rope stretched across the stream that pulled the ferry across by hand.

The first bridge across the Calapooia was built in 1853 or 1854.  When the bridge was built it of course stopped the use of the ferry. The bridge was built by J. Conser and was the first bridge ever built with county funds in Linn County.