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As It Was: Oregon town sought title of Turkey Capital of America

A building that residents call Turkey Hall still stands in Oakland, Oregon, a reminder of the town’s early years as an industry leader. Historic Oakland, located north of Roseburg, once was a contender for the title of Turkey Capital of America.

The broad-breasted bronze turkey was developed in Oakland in the early 1900s when the city served as a major shipping center for turkeys to the Western United States. For a decade starting in 1929, Oakland hosted the Northwestern Turkey Show, the largest of its kind in the country.

The familiar holiday bird is a cross between the eastern U.S. wild turkey and the European domestic turkey. The broad-breasted white turkey became more popular in the 1960s, but a few turkey enthusiasts still raise the bronze turkey with its iridescent bronze feathers.

In 1958, Oakland became the first city listed on the State Register of Historic Places. In 1979, Oakland’s Historic District became the first from Oregon listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

The Oakland Museum traces the town’s transitions from plums in the late 1800s to turkeys in the early 1900s, and, early this century, to specialty wines.

Sources: J.V. Chenowith, J.V. The Making of Oakland, 1970; Small Town Gems. Viewed at www.smalltowngems.com; American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Viewed at www.albe-usa.org; Historic Oakland, Oregon. Viewed at www.historicoaklandoregon.com.

— As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.