During the headlining concert at Oregon’s First City Celebration on Saturday, July 26, a group of Oregon City leaders plan to re-enact the coin toss that named Portland nearly 170 years ago.

Portland could have been named New Boston if Francis Pettygrove of Portland, Maine, hadn’t gotten his way in naming what we now know as Portland. In 1845, according to legend, history was originally made in the library of Oregon City’s Ermatinger House, which is currently being restored. Pettygrove won two of the three coin tosses with Asa Lovejoy from Boston, Mass., so that the smaller town to the north of Oregon City would be called Portland.

Although the exact location of the name-deciding toss in Oregon City is debated by historians, the public is invited to participate in the re-enactment by texting “heads” or “tails” to 51555. Whichever has the highest count between now and the time of the coin toss will be the side of the coin for Portland.

Oregon City Mayor Doug Neeley, a statistician by trade, will officiate the coin toss.

“It will be a fair coin toss, and I will make a proclamation at the next Oregon City commission meeting, Aug. 9, affirming what the community formerly known as ‘Stumptown’ should be, Portland or Boston,” Neeley said.

State Rep. Brent Barton (D-Oregon City) will be at the event to deliver a proclamation from Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Executive Director Kerry Tymchuk of the Oregon Historical Society said, “The Oregon Historical Society is proud to display the ‘Portland Penny’ every day in our Oregon History Museum, and we are delighted to provide a replica of that coin for this historic re-enactment.”

The Coin Toss is part of a campaign by downtown revitalization organization, Main Street Oregon City Inc., to enliven the many events that occur in downtown Oregon City and build the district as a destination for creative businesses, restaurants and retail.

In its fifth year, Oregon’s First City Celebration is a street and heritage fair in downtown Oregon City. This year’s event has nearly 100 vendors, including 60 juried artists from around the Portland Metro region and 14 Cascade Foothill wineries.

“There will be fun for the whole family, food trucks, local vendors and live music,” said Jonathan Stone, executive director of Main Street Oregon City Inc. “Headlining band Will West and the Friendly Strangers will make the 8 p.m. coin toss an event to remember. In fact, anyone who votes by text message will receive a link for a free download from the band’s latest album.”

Oregon City’s downtown has been in the spotlight recently with the Willamette Falls Legacy Project, a major component of the ongoing efforts of the first incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains. For more information about the coin toss, visit Oregon’s First City Celebration is from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on July 26 in downtown Oregon City.

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