Section VIII

Major Polk County History Collections outside of the County

Compiled by Gary Jensen

The following selected institutions and libraries have materials relating to Polk County:

  1. Oregon State Archives
  2. Oregon Historical Society
  3. Oregon State Library
  4. Salem Public Library
  5. Valley Library, Oregon State University
  6. Millar Library, Portland State University
  7. Knight Library University of Oregon
  8. Library of Congress
  9. The National Archives, Pacific Northwest Region
  10. Rootsweb

These are surveyed roughly in descending order of interest to researchers of Polk County history. However, this is not a comprehensive listing of all such repositories nor are all relevant items in each of those institutions listed in this section of the Pathfinder. In some cases, there may be other pertinent materials that are not indexed or cataloged. The researcher is encouraged to visit these collections and to use the unpublished finding guides, card files, and indexes available. Entries are typically listed under the heading “Polk County” as well as under the names of people, topics, and the individual areas, cities, institutions, organizations, businesses, and educational institutions in Polk County. Some items may be found mixed in with items not related to the county. For example, a number of early college diplomas from what is now Western Oregon University are included in the boxes of miscellaneous college materials at the Oregon Historical Society. The only way to discover them is to look through the collections since no detailed inventory exists. Many of the principal sources of Polk County history are incomplete or scattered among several institutions. The principal outside collections of interest are at the Oregon State Archives in Salem and at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland. Another category of “out-of-county” materials can be found at genealogical websites such as Rootsweb.

1. Oregon State Archives
   800 Summer St., N.E.
   Salem, Oregon 97310
   Telephone: 503-373-0701    Fax: 503-373-0953

Web page: or, more specifically

The State Archives has rich collections of materials that document the history and government of Oregon. The Archives also contain important collections of materials and records relating to the counties in Oregon. Consult the Archives web pages at the address above for more detailed information, including dates, for each type of record listed below. In particular, see the online Oregon Historical County Records Guide for Polk County history and links to an inventory of records. Those records are sometimes incomplete, and the missing materials may be in other repositories in or outside of Polk County. The Polk County Historical Society, for example, has a large collection of early county records. Key records held by the State Archives include:

  • assessment and tax rolls
  • assumed business name registers
  • attachment records
  • birth records
  • census rolls
  • circuit court case dockets, files, and journals
  • clerk and recorder recordings and official filings
  • confession judgments
  • coroner and inquest records
  • corner survey records
  • county budget documents
  • county commissioners administrative journals, orders, ordinances, and resolutions
  • county comprehensive plans
  • county court files and judicial journals
  • county fair records
  • county officials reports
  • death records
  • deed and indexes
  • divorce records
  • donation land claim plats
  • dower records
  • election voting abstracts
  • estate records (including indexes)
  • farm name registration records
  • federal land grant records
  • guardian appointment records
  • foreclosure records
  • health and human services records
  • insane commitment records
  • judgment and execution records
  • justice court dockets and case files
  • land subdivision records
  • land title registers
  • maps, plans, and drawings
  • marriage records
  • married women’s property registers
  • military records
  • mining claim records
  • mortgage records
  • naturalization declarations of intention, petitions and orders, and certifications
  • pension and relief records
  • planning commission minutes
  • probate case files, estate records, and registers
  • road and bridge records
  • road maps and survey notes
  • school district record books
  • surveyor field notes and plats
  • tax lot cards
  • water rights records
  • wills
  • zoning records

2. Oregon Historical Society
   1200 S.W. Park Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97205-2483

Telephone: 503-222-1741
Fax: 503-221-2035
OHS Information line: 503-306-5198

In addition to selected monographs and newspapers relating to Polk County history, the Society has many other substantial collections of interest, including manuscripts, scrapbooks, pioneer records, legal records, diaries and reminiscences, account books and other business records, letters, oral histories, certificates, maps, documents, photographs and other graphic materials, records, Historic American Building Survey materials, educational and church records, and microfilm of materials in other collections. There are card indexes to pamphlet files and biographical, photograph, and map collections. Consult the web page above for more detailed information. Highlights of the collections include papers, records, and other items of the:

    • Robert W. Denney Family
    • Butler-Smith Family
    • George L. Matthews Family
    • W.C. Richardson Family
    • Starr-Riggs Family
    • Ira Benjamin Whitcomb
    • Mildred Francis Cummings
    • Mary Alice Rulifson
    • LaCreole Academic Institute, Dallas
    • Hezekiah Burford
    • Oregon Normal School
    • Christian University
    • Pedee store
    • Pioneer athletic teams

3. Oregon State Library
   250 Winter St., N.E.
Salem, Oregon 97301-3950

Telephone: 503-378-4277 x240
Fax: 503-588-7119

This collection is especially strong in published local and regional history, Oregon and Federal government documents, census information, vital statistics, biographies, and genealogical information, due in large measure to the Library’s focus on genealogy and the volunteers who have copied records from other collections. There is at least one manuscript collection of Polk County interest, a ledger kept at a feed mill in Dallas.

4. Salem Public Library
   585 Liberty St., S.E.
Salem, Oregon 97309-5010

Telephone: 503-588-6071
Fax: 503-588-6055

The Library’s historic photographs include over 400 of Polk County scenes and subjects. In addition, the Library has a fairly extensive collection of monographs, newspapers, and periodicals relating to the history of Polk County.

5. Valley Library
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon 97331-4501

Telephone: 541-737-3311
Fax: 541-737-3453
Web page:

This collection of monographs and periodicals includes many titles relating to Polk County history, especially materials relating to the University’s Extension Service and its role in the promotion of agriculture, forestry, wildlife management, and fisheries management in Oregon counties. There are papers, records, and photographs of extension agents that document agricultural and other activities in Polk County. In addition, the Library has theses and dissertations written on the history of Polk County.

6. Millar Library
   P.O. Box 1151
Portland State University
Portland, Oregon 97207-1151

Telephone: 503-725-4521
Fax: 503-725-4524

This collection contains selected monographs, newspapers, and periodicals relating to Polk County history.

7. Knight Library
   University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299

Telephone: 541-346-3056
Fax: 541-346-3094
Web page:

The Library’s general collections contain published materials about the history of Polk County as well as theses and dissertations relating to Polk County topics. For example, the Library has a copy of a doctoral dissertation documenting the history of musical bands in the mid-Willamette Valley, including Polk County bands. The Special Collections and Archives unit contains manuscript materials relating to the history of Polk County, including the papers of the pioneer J.B.V. Butler family of Monmouth and the constitution, membership list, and minutes of the Priscilla Club of Monmouth (1914-1918), both found within the Papers of the John A. Powell Family (1851-1918).

8. Library of Congress
    101 Independence Ave., S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20540

Telephone: 202-707-5000

Because of the copyright requirements for deposit of materials, the collections of the Library of Congress contain many materials relating to Polk County, especially early publications, government documents, and city directories. In some cases, those publications may be difficult to find in Oregon. Many of the Library’s collections are accessed through specialized indexes and card files and are not available through online indexes.

9. The National Archives—Pacific Northwest Region    6125 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, Washington 97115-7999

Telephone: 206-526-6501
Fax: 206-526-6575

This federal government repository houses records, documents, photographs, maps, drawings, and other materials from Federal agencies and courts in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Included are extensive microfilm holdings such as census information, military service records, pension and bounty land warrant applications, selected passenger arrival records, selected naturalization records, and Indian records. Of particular interest are the records relating to the establishment, operation, and closure of Camp Adair.

10. Rootsweb

This site has links to Polk County surnames, searchable databases listing divorces, probate information, women’s property, census and mortality schedules, death certificates, pension records, deeds, Bible records, wills, cemetery records, biographical information, newspapers, letters, photographs, and town histories.

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