These twin metal tracks buried in the asphalt on University Street are a remnant of Eugene’s once flourishing electric streetcar system. The streetcar lines were built in 1907 and ran from the train depot at 5th and Willamette, to the UO, and south down University Street. They were paved over when the city abandoned streetcars in favor of buses in 1927.
A Eugene City Guard article (now known as the Register Guard), dated June 24, 1893, describes Wiley Griffin, one of Eugene’s first African American’s and employed as the mule-drawn streetcar drivers: “The new uniform of Wiley Griffin, the street car driver, is stunning.”
The line owned by Henry W. Holden, later replaced by Portland, Eugene & Eastern Company electric line. The Lane County Historical museum has only one image of Griffin (shown here).
The Daily Eugene Guard dated September 25, 1900 reports that the Portland Telegram playfully described Eugene’s transit system as “country street cars”: “Eugene’s street-car system consists of one complacent mule that seems never to have had a care in life, and one large cigar box on wheels. The driver is, or recently at any rate, a giant colored man whose ample proportions was one of the first features to attract the attention of visitors.”
Caution: From here, please note that racist terms are in use from the 1893 PT article:
“When the darky saw no traffic in sight down the main street, it was no unusual thing to see him resting under the shade of a tree on the sidewalk, while the mule napped. One day Alex Bernstein, the art and curio gentleman, was in Eugene and made a call in the residence portion of the city. He was so struck by the appearance of the combination that he laughed. The mule was facetitious that day and the driver exerted himself extraordinarily in punishing the animal. Meantime Bernstein laughed heartily. At last, the darkey took offense.
“See hyar, boss,” he complained. “Dis am no whter muliyuo picnic fur me, an’ef youah doan stop laffin dataaway at me I’ll jes’ stop this hyar car and you can walk it!”
The driver being jollied up, proceeded to the point where Bernstein desired to call at a house.
“When will you return?” asked the passenger.
“Oh, I kain’t nowise tell,” was the answer.
When Bernstein was ready to go back down town he found the car had waited for him. The mule was dozing and the colored driver was resting under an adjacent tree.”