Lane County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 census, the population was 351,715, making it the fourth-most populous county in Oregon. The county seat is Eugene. It is named in honor of Joseph Lane, Oregon's first territorial governor.
Lane County comprises the Eugene, OR Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is the third largest MSA in Oregon, and the 144th largest in the country.
Lane County was established on January 29, 1851. It was created from the southern part of Linn County and the portion of Benton County east of Umpqua County. It was named after the territory's first governor, Joseph Lane. Originally it covered all of southern Oregon east to the Rocky Mountains and south to the California border. When the Territorial Legislature created Lane County, it did not designate a county seat. In the 1853 election four sites competed for the designation, of which the "Mulligan donation" received a majority vote; however, since it was contiguous to the "Skinner claim" both became part of the new county seat known as Eugene.
In 1846 Elijah Bristow and his wife, the former Susannah Gabbart, had become the first white settlers to build a claim cabin within the present-day boundaries of Lane County, near Pleasant Hill. They had crossed the plains to California in the previous year, and came north with Eugene F. Skinner, Captain Felix Scott, and William Dodson. As their party entered the valley between the Coast and Middle Forks of the Willamette River, Bristow gazed around and exclaimed, "What a pleasant hill! Here is my home!"
In 1852 John Diamond and William Macy led an exploration party to survey a shortcut for the Oregon Trail across the Cascade Range. The shortcut over the Willamette Pass became known as the Free Emigrant Road. Around 250 wagons with 1,027 people left the usual Oregon Trail route at Vale, Oregon and followed Elijah Elliott through the central Oregon desert. This became known as the Elliott Cutoff. When they reached what is now Bend, Oregon they sent scouts to the south to look for the road. Once settlers in the Willamette Valley discovered the emigrants were coming, a huge rescue effort was launched as the emigrants were out of supplies and in dire condition. The emigrants of this wagon train doubled the population of Lane County in 1853.
The county has been vastly reduced from its original size by several boundary changes. One of the first changes gave it access to the Pacific Ocean when it acquired the northern part of Umpqua County in 1853. With the creation of Wasco County in 1854, it lost all of its territory east of the Cascade Mountains. Minor boundary changes occurred with Douglas County in 1852, 1885, 1903, 1915, and 1917; with Linn County in 1907; and with Benton County in 1923.