Mary Cook Skinner Packard
Mary Skinner (1816–1881), considered the “First Lady of Eugene”, was the wife of Eugene Skinner (1809–1864). He and Mary traveled by wagon train, arriving at Sutter’s Fort, California in 1845, wintered there and then traveled to Dallas, Oregon, where daughter Mary was born. He traveled to what is now Lane County in 1846, staked his claim and built a cabin near what is now called Skinner’s Butte. He returned for his family in 1847.
The first days in the cabin were forbidding. The local Indians were offended at the white family settling in their midst. The Skinners knew enough jargon to recognize the impending danger. Eugene shouldered his musket and patrolled the cabin that night, while Mary molded bullets over the fire. By sundown on the following day, Chief Tom and Eugene Skinner smoked the pipe of peace.
Mary was the first white woman in Lane County. Their second daughter, Lenora, was the first white child born in Lane County. Both girls died in their early teens. Three other children survived, however. Mary was a courageous woman, with no one living nearby, often spending days alone with her young children while Eugene was hunting or buying supplies.
After other pioneers arrived, Mary was awarded the honor of giving a name to the embryo town—she named it Eugene City (later changed to Eugene in 1889). It’s been written that Mary was a woman with many virtues, “kind and charitable, ever ready to assist the needy and alleviate the sufferings of the unfortunate. Unaffected in her manners, and caring little for distinction, all who came in contact with her were treated with a gentle courtesy that marks the true woman and lady.”
After Eugene died in 1864, she married Captain N. L. Packard in 1867. She is buried in the Skinner plot.