In 1861 is about the time that Settlers began to build their cabins and to become residents of the Valley. Benjamin Brown is credited to become the first permanent Settler. During this period there were about 5 cabins built before winter came in that year. These became the heart of what was fist named Brown´s Fort, since a stockade was built around the small colony. The name of the settlement was changed to Brown´s Town or Brownsville. Since Linn County on the west side of Oregon already had a Brownsville, a new name was needed. A Frenchman named Charles Dause, used the French phrase "La Grande" to describe the view seen from the heights where the settlement was located. The name "La Grande" was chosen at a town hall meeting and a new town was born.
The first commercial business for La Grande was a butcher shop, a liberty stable, and a general merchandise store was opened the first year. By 1863 the first saw mill was built and the flowing year later a flour mill was built that produced twenty-five barrels of flour per day.
La Grande´s present population is nearing 13,000 people. Those that visited La Grande have described this area as a beautiful community that rests on the edge of Valley near the foothills of the Mountains. La Grande is home to the County seat of Union County and is the largest city in the County. Eastern Oregon University is the only University East of the Cascades Mountains. The University adds culture and diversity to a community historically connected to the railroad, agriculture and the timber industry.
La Grande´s downtown is home to wide variety of retail shopping opportunities that include antique stores, gift shops, bakeries, outdoor supplies, photography studios, bookstores, department stores and auto dealers. The downtown restaurants serve traditional style of food, ethnic food and gourmet delicacies. Espressos can be purchased in almost any part of town.
Lodging is plentiful with over 500 rooms and if you desire a bed-in-breakfast style, La Grande has that too. La Grande can house up to 500 people for a convention late is located at the new Blue Mountain Conference Center at the National Guard Army Center.
If you are looking for a permanent home, you will find affordable housing and a lifestyle free from traffic congestion and low crime rates. La Grande also is benefiting from enhanced high speed internet that has allowed the small business owner or a large business such as the Oregon Dental Service to locate in La Grande. La Grande and Union County are also in the development stages for a High Technology Park located on the edge of town. A new Library located at the East side of downtown is a welcome for those that enjoy researching and reading books.