Eugene and Mary Skinner emigrated in 1845 to California, and then moved north to settle temporarily in Polk County. The Skinners selected a Donation Land Claim here at the head of the Willamette Valley in 1846 and Eugene, together with hired hands, built a small, one-room cabin. The Skinners moved into their "new home in the far off west" in May 1847, and "for 4 months less 3 days," Eugene recalled, "Mary never saw the face of a White woman, or child excep[t] our own...."
Like many pioneers, the Skinner were industrious. They hired men to till the prairie and plant wheat, established an orchard, and in April 1851, Eugene Skinner began platting a town. From modest beginnings at Skinner's Butte, the city of Eugene emerged as the largest town in the upper Willamette Valley.