Local History Resource Libraries and
Museums of Polk County
The following section gives an overview of the six participating institutions of the Polk Cooperative History Project. Each entry includes basic service information, a brief history of the institution, and a synopsis of collections. The institutions are:
- DALLAS PUBLIC LIBRARY
- HAMERSLY LIBRARY, WESTERN OREGON UNIVERSITY
- THE HERITAGE MUSEUM
- INDEPENDENCE PUBLIC LIBRARY
- MONMOUTH PUBLIC LIBRARY
- POLK COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
For repositories of Polk County materials located outside of the County, see Section VIII of this Pathfinder.
Dallas Public Library, Local History Collection
950 Main St.
Dallas, OR 97338
Phone: (503) 623-2633
Fax: (503) 623-7357
TDD: (503) 623-7356
Photocopier and PC printers available at 10 cents per copy. Microfilm printer available at 25 cents per copy.
The Dallas Library traces its roots back to 1905, when civic-minded citizens, under the energetic leadership of Mrs. Irene Gerlinger, established a library in the “Firemen’s Room” of City Hall. A few years later, library supporters applied for and received funding for a new Carnegie Library, which was constructed at the southeast corner of Church and Court streets. The Carnegie Library was completed in late 1912 and formally dedicated in February, 1913. The Carnegie Building remained in continual use as a library until July, 1990, when the move was made to the current facility on Main Street after voters approved funding for a new library.
Local history materials housed at the Dallas Library concentrate on Dallas and Polk County history. The microfilm collection includes federal census rolls for Polk County dating back to 1860 and local newspapers such as the Itemizer, Observer, Itemizer-Observer, Polk County Signal, Polk County Times, Liberal Republican, Camp Adair Sentry, Falls City News and several other limited run newspapers. An ongoing volunteer project has made indexing available for significant portions of the Itemizer and Observer
newspapers. In addition, the library has microfilm copies of the Oregon Spectator, Oregon’s first territorial newspaper, and has a two-volume index for this newspaper. A pamphlet file of local history materials is available, with most materials dating from the 1980s forward. A large local history book collection includes Dallas High School yearbooks dating back to 1914, city directories dating back to the late 1950s, and various subscription histories dating from the late 1800s.
Hamersly Library, Archives and Special Collections
Western Oregon University
345 N. Monmouth Ave.
Monmouth, OR 97361
Phone: (503) 838-8418
Fax: (503) 838-8399
Photocopiers and PC printers available at 5 to 10 cents per copy.
Western Oregon University is a member of the public Oregon University System. It is primarily an undergraduate institution with selected Master’s programs, and was founded as a private religious institution in 1856 (Monmouth University, then Christian College). When it was purchased by the State of Oregon in 1871 and renamed Oregon State Normal School, it specialized in the preparation of teachers. Its other names in sequence have been: Oregon Normal School, Oregon College of Education, Western Oregon State College, and Western Oregon University. Much of the University Archive was assembled by long-time college administrator Ellis Stebbins, who authored The OCE Story in 1973. With the opening of the new Hamersly Library in September 2000, the University has adequate space and environmental controls to acquire and properly house a larger collection of materials relating to the history of the institution and the local area.
The local history collections focus on the history of the University and, to a lesser extent, on the history, families, and businesses of the City of Monmouth, Polk County, and the immediate local area. The general, circulating collections include local histories and biographical compilations, publications of faculty members, and campus histories and publications, as well as microfilm of local newspapers. The Archives collections contain: manuscripts; artifacts; scrapbooks; memorabilia; clippings; ephemera; campus documents and publications including catalogs and yearbooks; programs and brochures; posters; diplomas; agendas and minutes; photographs and slides; films; videotape and audiotapes, student theses; and realia. Some finding aids exist for these collections, but a number are not indexed in any way. Special emphasis is given to materials that relate to early pioneers and founders of the University, buildings on campus, and campus records and publications. Materials in the archives date from the 1850s up to the current day. A new focus area is the career of former Oregon Governor Robert W. Straub, a Polk County resident, after whom the Archives and Special Collections area is named. The library will develop collections focusing on his tenure as State Treasurer and Governor and the development of the Oregon Investment Council.
The Heritage Museum
112 South 3rd St.
P.O. Box 7
Independence, OR 97351
Photocopier available at 10 cents per copy.
The Heritage Museum is housed in Independence’s original First Baptist Church building, constructed in 1888. In 1975, the congregation sold the building and property to the City of Independence. The city appointed a commission to establish the museum. The Heritage Museum was dedicated and opened to the public on July 4, 1976. It is owned and operated by the City of Independence. Its mission statement is: to preserve and display the history and culture of the river town of Independence and Polk County, Oregon, through collections of artifacts, documents, and photographs; to make this available to the public by means of tours, programming, and access to files; and to work with other historical groups and community organizations.
The artifacts and holdings of the museum reflect the characteristics of life in Independence, Monmouth, and Polk County from the late 1800s to the 1950s. The museum holds many photographs of: old Independence and its downtown, river commerce, local agriculture, and the community in general. High school class photographs begin in 1913 and photographs of rural schools are also held. Local history pamphlet files have recently been created and the museum has an extensive collection of original, local newspapers including the Monmouth Herald (1908-1969), and Independence (Westside) Enterprise (1893-1968). A large collection of tools is shown representing those used during the construction of many homes in the Independence/
Monmouth area and furniture, clothing, and appliances are displayed from the Victorian era through the Depression years. Photographs and uniforms of local veterans of World War II are present and military articles are on display including release papers from the Civil War. Photographs and information on the hops industry are presented and instruments of early Independence doctors are displayed. Archival collections chronicle local business enterprises, agricultural pursuits, and civic affairs.
Independence Public Library
311 S. Monmouth St.
Independence, OR 97351
Phone: (503) 838-1811
Fax: (503) 838-4486
Photocopier and PC printers available. Microfilm reader only
The Independence Public Library was organized in 1908 and legally established in 1912. It has been operated by the City of Independence since that time. The library will move to larger quarters in Fall 2002, but is currently housed in the facility that was built for it in 1929 by the City and the Women’s Club.
The focus of the local history collection is on materials relating to the history of Independence and the surrounding rural area. Some Monmouth and Polk County materials are included. The library has an almost complete run of the Oregon Historical Society quarterly up until the 1980s; indexes are available. Local newspapers are available on microfilm both for Independence and for Monmouth. Microfilm of the U.S. Census for Polk County through 1920 is available. Sanborn fire insurance maps for Independence are available on microfiche for 1884 through 1925 and photocopies of the originals are also available for study. Pamphlet files focus on Independence history. A collection of photographs is available and has been cataloged.
Monmouth Public Library, Local History Collection
168 S. Ecols St.
Monmouth, OR 97361
Phone: (503) 838-1932
Fax: (503) 838-3899
Photocopier and PC printer available at 10 cents per copy. Microfilm reader/printer available.
Monmouth Public Library was founded by the Monmouth Civic Club in 1934. It became a municipal library in 1940. Important local history materials were first collected during the administration of Library Director Virginia Gillis (1961-1990). Since the opening of its new 15,000-square-foot facility in mid-1995, the library has had space to organize its collections and has begun systematic collecting. A local history pamphlet file and a separate local history book collection were both started in 1997. Important archival collections have also been acquired and/or processed since the mid-1990s.
The local history collections focus on the City of Monmouth itself, on the Monmouth/
Independence urban area, and on greater Polk County. The book collection includes a number of regional subscription (“mug book”) histories, a large run of student yearbooks from the Western Oregon University campus, and a nearly complete run of the Oregon Historical Quarterly with all of its printed indices. The library holds microfilm of local newspapers, including the Monmouth Herald, from 1910 to 1976, but has no indexing for these. The pamphlet file is extensive, but most materials are from the 1990s. Most of the photograph collection is from the estate of Eric and Richard Irving Swenson, who, together with their father, published and edited the Monmouth Herald for over fifty years. The photographs are not yet cataloged. Sanborn fire insurance maps are available on microfiche for Monmouth from 1888 to 1928. Significant archival and manuscript collections include the Monmouth Civic Club Archive, the Monmouth American Legion Auxiliary Archive, and the Herbert B. Powell manuscript collection. Powell, a four-star general and ambassador, is Monmouth’s most famous native son. Most archival and manuscript collections have finding aids.
Polk County Historical Society
P. O. Box 67
Monmouth, OR 97361
Phone: (503) 623-6251
Polk County Museum
560 S. Pacific Hwy.
Rickreall, OR 97371
Photocopiers and PC printers available at 10 cents per copy.
The Polk County Historical Society is an all-volunteer organization founded in 1959 by a group of Polk County residents who were interested in preserving the rich heritage of Oregon pioneers who had settled in Polk County. It began its life with 95 members, a number that now has grown to more than 400.
In 1975 the Society acquired a portion of the Harrison Brunk Century Farm, located on the Salem-Dallas Highway. The house and outbuildings have been restored and are being maintained for historical purposes. The farm represents a typical area farmstead of the mid-1800s.
In 1995 the Society merged with the Polk County Museum Association. They joined in the single effort of establishing a new, permanent home for the Polk County Museum. In 1998 the Society took possession of the Polk County Genealogical Society collections.
The Polk County Museum had its beginnings with the establishment of the Polk County Museum Commission in 1973. This group was appointed by the County Commissioners to develop plans for a County Museum. Budget problems later forced the County government to withdraw its support, but members of the disbanded Commission and other County residents refused to let the museum concept die and they continued efforts as a non-profit corporation named the Polk County Museum Association. In July, 1990, the Association leased the former Dallas Library building for a County Museum and opened it to the public on November 13, 1990.
In 1999 the Society moved from the small library building in Dallas into its newly constructed 15,080-square-foot museum building in Rickreall. Built mainly with donations and by volunteers, the new Polk County Museum opened to the public on February 12, 2000.
The Society maintains an active schedule of public programs. It also publishes a quarterly newsletter, The Polk Polker and, since 1963, an irregular journal, Historically Speaking, which has both issue and cumulative indexing.
The Society’s mission statement is as follows: To encourage the study, knowledge and understanding of the history of Polk County, Oregon; to collect, preserve, exhibit, interpret and publish information relating to the history of Polk County; to operate and maintain a historical Museum in Polk County; to provide educational, archival, library and genealogical resources for students, researchers and the public.
The Polk County Museum houses the largest and most important local history research collection in the county. Its library includes Oregon reference titles and county-related histories and genealogies, but is uncataloged and unclassified. Its subject pamphlet files provide both broad and deep coverage on hundreds of organizations, events, buildings, sites, and people in all of the county’s communities, although there is an emphasis on the City of Dallas. The archival, manuscript, and scrapbook collections include the Polk County Archives in original format, and much material on education, agriculture and farmers organizations, women’s clubs, and mercantile operations throughout the county. The large Stafrin and Swenson photographic collections and many smaller collections as well are being catalogued, copied, and printed for display and research use. Artifact collections support a wide array of interpretive displays, including those on each community within the County and those on local agriculture and the timber industry.