Roseburg History Cont.

Roseburg was first known as Deer Creek because it was at the confluence of Deer Creek and the South Umpqua River. In 1854, voters chose Roseburg as the county seat over rival town Winchester, which through the development of both cities, has in the present day become regarded as a part of Roseburg. Rose donated three acres of land and $1,000 for the building of the courthouse, and the important buildings of Winchester were moved to Roseburg before 1860.

Deer Creek post office was established in 1852, and the name changed to “Roseburgh” in 1857. The spelling was changed to “Roseburg” in 1894.On 7 August 1959, at approximately 1:00 am, the Gerretsen Building Supply Company caught fire. Firefighters soon arrived at the building, located near Oak and Pine street, to extinguish the fire. Earlier in the evening, a truck driver for the Pacific Powder Company, George Rutherford, had parked his explosives truck in front of the building, a fact which went unnoticed until shortly before the truck exploded, destroying buildings in an eight-block radius and severely damaging 30 more blocks.

The truck was loaded with two tons of dynamite and 4½ tons of the blasting agent nitro carbo nitrate. Rutherford had parked the truck after arranging his delivery for the following morning, despite warnings given to the Pacific Powder Company two days earlier not to leave such trucks unattended or park them in “congested areas.” Fourteen people died in the blast and fire and 125 were injured. Damage was estimated at ten to twelve million dollars; the Powder company was eventually made to pay $1.2 million dollars in civil damages, but was acquitted of criminal wrongdoing.

Roseburg’s downtown was rebuilt, primarily by businesses using money collected from insurance claims. The city built a new bridge over the South Umpqua River on parcels affected by the disaster. Since the incident, it is commonly referred to as the “Roseburg Blast” or simply “The Blast.” In 2005, SOPTV produced a documentary examining the Blast and the experiences of those who were involved or witnessed it, entitled The Roseburg Blast: A Catastrophe and Its Heroes.