In 1845 an early French Canadian settler, Jean B. Ducharm claimed land that is today east Woodburn. He was soon joined by others, and much of Woodburn today sits on land claimed by those early settlers. Ducharme lost his 2 acre claim in a sheriff’s foreclosure sale, and it was snatched up by an ambitious young man named Jesse Holland Settlemier. In 1863, Settlemier moved to his land with wife Eleanor E. Cochran, built a comfortable home and established the Woodburn Nursery Company.
At that time, the city site was unfenced country covered with wild brush and forest. But that was soon to change. Settlemier slashed and burned timber and sowed timothy in its place. Railroad construction ended in 1871 and soon after Settlemier platted the first four blocks of his town just West of the mainline. He gave the railroad free land to build a station and gave away most of his lots to attract builders. Woodburn rapidly became French Prairie’s social and economic center, being the junction of the Springfield-Natron branch of the Oregon and California Railroad and the mainline. It became the shipping point for grain, lumber and farm supplies. It was centrally located on the road to Portland. As Woodburn began to take shape. By 1878 there were 145 people, and the town had its own church, a blacksmith shop, a grain storage, and several stores.