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Local History in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center

Historical Sketch

The lands comprising Benton County, Oregon are the home of the Kalapuya people. Comprised of over a dozen independent groups speaking “mutually intelligible dialects,” the Kalapuya occupied the Willamette Valley in present-day Oregon; the Chepenefa band of the Kalapuya people lived along the Marys River watershed.

It’s estimated that, at their height, the Kalapuya bands comprised more than 15,000 individuals. As Europeans moved west and began to settle in indigenous lands in ever-increasing numbers, however, the introduction of European diseases such as small pox and malaria decimated the population; by 1849, there were fewer than 600 Kalapuya people living in the central Willamette Valley. In September 1850, the passage of the Donation Land Claim Act – a precursor to the Homestead Act of 1862 – granted 320 acres of land, “free of charge, to every unmarried white male citizen eighteen or older, and 640 acres to every married couple arriving in the Oregon Territory before December 1, 1850.” The act brought thousands of white settlers to Oregon; nearly 7,500 land claims were filed before the law expired in 1855. The Treaty with the Kalapuya, signed between the United States government, and the people of the Kalapuya, Molala, Clackamas, and Tumwater in Dayton, Oregon in January 1855, ceded all lands in the Willamette Valley to the U.S. Between late 1855 and 1856, those Kalapuyan peoples remaining in the Willamette Valley were forcibly removed to a number of reservations, with the majority being forced onto lands which would eventually become the Grand Ronde Reservation. Descendants of the Kalapuya people are part of the federally-recognized Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon and Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians of Oregon.

Named for Democratic Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, Benton County was formed December 23, 1847 by an act of the Provisional Legislature of Oregon. At its founding, Benton County stretched from the southern border of Polk County to the [northern] California border and from the Willamette River west to the Pacific Ocean, a total of 18,660 square miles. Benton County was later subdivided to form – either wholly or in part – the short-lived Umpqua County (1851), Lane County (1851), Douglas County (1852; from Umpqua), Jackson County (1852; from Umpqua), Coos County (1853; from Umpqua and Jackson), Curry County (1855; from Coos), Josephine County (1856; from Jackson); and Lincoln County (1893; from Benton and Polk).

In 1851, Marysville – which may have been named due to its proximity to Mary’s Peak – was named county seat of Benton County; two years later, on December 20, 1853, Marysville became Corvallis by virtue of legislation passed by the 5th Oregon Territorial Legislature. Three years later, in 1854, the first county courthouse was erected. Though extensively renovated in 1976, Corvallis’s current courthouse, built in 1889, is the oldest in Oregon still in use as a courthouse.

Manuscripts

Oregon State University Memorabilia Collection, circa 1860-present
The Memorabilia Collection is an artificial collection containing items of interest about Oregon State University and to a lesser extent, the city of Corvallis, Benton County, and the state of Oregon. A number of  Benton County and Benton County-adjacent subjects are documented in the collection, including Benton County (Box-folder 20.1, 172.11), the Benton County Courthouse (Box-folder 20.2), Benton County Growers Association (Box-folder 20.4), Benton County Historical Museum (Box-folder 20.5), and the Benton County Teachers' Institute (Box-folder 20.7).

Benton County Bicentennial Commission Records, 1973-1977
The Benton County Bicentennial Commission Records document the development of programs and activities on the Oregon State University campus, in Corvallis, in Benton County, and in Oregon to commemorate the bicentennial of the American Revolution. The records include correspondence, grant proposals and funding requests, meeting minutes and reports, publications, and ephemera, and document activities of the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Oregon, the OSU Campus Bicentennial Committee, and the Corvallis American Revolution Bicentennial Task Force. Of particular note is the January 1976 issue of the Bicentennial Ethnic Racial Report, which describes ethnic racial bicentennial activities throughout the United States.

Benton County Courthouse Scrapbook, 1968
The Benton County Courthouse Scrapbook was assembled by the Benton County Court to document the courthouse building and its history and construction as part of nominating the building for designation as a state historic site. In addition to photographs of various exterior and interior architectural features of the building, the scrapbook contains reproductions of early contracts overseeing the construction of the building and entries from early county court records about the structure. The Benton County Courthouse was built in 1888 in Corvallis, Oregon, and is the oldest courthouse in Oregon still in use for that purpose.

Benton County Foundation Records, 1947-2004
The Benton County Foundation Records contain materials pertaining to the history and establishment of the Foundation, Board of Directors meetings, correspondence, and financial records. The majority of the collection was produced between 1953, the founding of the Foundation, and 1975. Included in these materials is an informational booklet and three bound volumes that describe the history of the Benton County Foundation, as well as manuscript drafts of the Benton County booklet; Notices of Appointment of members of the Board of Directors; minutes, announcements, and agendas for Board of Directors meetings; correspondence received and sent by the Foundation; and financial documents.

Kenneth C. Minnick Papers, 1945-2000
The Kenneth C. Minnick Papers document Minnick's career as the Benton County 4-H Extension Agent from 1947 to 1974 and, most notably, his establishment of the roadside clean-up program in Benton County in the late 1960s during a time of increasing environmental awareness and development of programs to address pollution and litter control. The collection includes certificates and awards, correspondence, Oregon State employment records, newspaper clippings, publications, and a photograph. Of special note are letters from U.S. Senator Bob Packwood and Governor Tom McCall thanking Minnick for his work in the cleanup program (Box 01).

Rodney Tripp Collection, circa 1870-2001
The Rodney Tripp Collection documents Tripp's association with Oregon State University as a student, and includes includes buttons, a coin, a key chain, a membership card, newspaper clippings, a paddle, a patch, publications, a photograph, and a small Benny the Beaver statue. Among the publications included in the collection is an 1875 edition of the Benton County Almanac (Box 01) which includes a brief introduction with information about Benton County, Corvallis, and other communities and advertisements for local and regional businesses. A life-long resident of Albany, Oregon, Tripp earned a BS in Secretarial Science from Oregon State College in 1940.

T. J. Starker Papers, circa 1890-1996
The T.J. Starker Papers consist of materials generated and collected by alumnus, forestry professor, and timber businessman Thurman James (T.J.) Starker. This collection documents Starker's forestry instruction and research at Oregon State College, management of a diverse range of property holdings, involvement in community and professional organizations, family life, student experience, work with the United States Forest Service, and writings on various subjects. Materials documenting Starker's work as a member of the Benton County Foundation (Box-folder 1.3) and Benton County Park Board (Box-folder 6.10 - 6.12, 8.16, 21.3); with the Benton-Linn Timber and Lumber Company (Box-Folder 8.35); and on a Logging History in Benton County (Box-Folder 5.19) are included in the collection. The collection also includes a number of subject files relating to parcels of land in Benton County (Series 8).

Annabelle E. Jaramillo Papers, 1967-2012
The Annabelle E. Jaramillo Papers document Jaramillo's undergraduate and graduate education at Portland State University; her work as a research botanist with the US Forest Service; her membership on the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs and presidency of the National Image, Inc., an Hispanic advocacy organization; and her membership on the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC). An addition to the Jaramillo Papers, Accession 2009:082, is made up of materials generated and collected by Jaramillo in the course of her work as Benton County Commissioner and involvement on various governmental boards and community organizations (Boxes 01 - 04).

Kenneth C. Minnick Papers, 1945-2000
The Kenneth C. Minnick Papers document Minnick's career as the Benton County 4-H Extension Agent from 1947 to 1974 and, most notably, his establishment of the roadside clean-up program in Benton County in the late 1960s during a time of increasing environmental awareness and development of programs to address pollution and litter control (Box 01). The collection includes certificates and awards, correspondence, Oregon State employment records, newspaper clippings, publications, and a photograph. Of special note are letters from U.S. Senator Bob Packwood and Governor Tom McCall thanking Minnick for his work in the cleanup program.

Tony Van Vliet Papers, 1946-2004
The Van Vliet Papers document the ten terms (1975-1995) that Tony Van Vliet served in the Oregon Legislative Assembly representing House District 35 in Benton County (Sub-group 2, Boxes 01 - 06) as well as his forestry research and other administrative activities at Oregon State University. 

Photographs

Aerial Photographs of Benton, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, and Polk Counties, 1936-1979
This collection is comprised of aerial photographs taken by or under contract with the United States Department of Agriculture from 1936 to 1979 and includes images of 5 counties in western Oregon: Benton, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, and Polk. The collection contains photo mosaics and partial sets of photographic tiles for each county. Mosaics for Benton County are housed in Box-folder 1.1; Series 2 is comprised of aerial photo tiles of Benton County taken in 1936, 1948, 1955-1956, 1963, 1970, and 1978 (Boxes 03-25). While the majority of the Benton County photos are printed on oversize sheets, the series does include approximately 200 9-inch by 9-inch sheets.

United States Dept. of Agriculture Aerial Photographs of Linn, Benton, and Lincoln Counties, Oregon, 1972-1994
The United States Dept. of Agriculture Aerial Photographs of Linn, Benton, and Lincoln Counties, Oregon consist of aerial photographs assembled and used by the USDA field office in Tangent, Oregon for soil conservation and other purposes. The bulk of the photographs are 24x24 inch photographs taken in 1994 with accompanying index maps. Aerial photographs of Benton County are found in Box-folders 4.1, 5.1, 6.1, 7.1, 8.1, and 9.1; aerial proofs are found in Box-folders 16.1, 16.3, and 17.3.

Extension Service Photographs, 1900-2007
The Extension Service Photographs document Extension programs, activities, and staff throughout Oregon as well as Oregon agriculture. The bulk of the collection pertains to the three traditional Extension programmatic areas -- agriculture, home economics, and 4-H. The photographs depict Extension Service programs and staff from all regions of Oregon; however, Benton, Clatsop, Klamath, and Lane Counties are strongly represented. Of particular note are images in Series VII, which document the programs and activities of home economics study groups sponsored by the Benton County Extension Service. The photographs depict classes, workshops and tours; study group meetings; and an anniversary celebration and Christmas parties (Box-folder 9.2 - 9.4). Images from this collection have been digitized and are available in Oregon Digital.

Agricultural and Resource Economics Department Photographs, 1925-1979
The Agricultural and Resource Economics Department Photographs consist of images taken by Oregon State College County Agents, Farm Management Department faculty and staff, and Agricultural Economics Department faculty. Benton County images document farm produce and crops (Box-folder 1.1, 3.1), livestock (Box-folder 1.3, 3.2), agricultural machinery (Box-folder 1.4), and active and abandoned farmsteads (Box-folder 1.5, 3.3). Additional agricultural images include two prints documenting stream bank erosion along the Willamette River caused by the 1945/1946 flood, and strip borders for irrigation (both in Box-folder 1.5).

Gerald W. Williams Regional Albums, 1875-2000
The Gerald W. Williams Regional Albums consist of images and ephemera assembled by geographical regions. They were acquired and compiled Williams in the course of his work as a Forest Service sociologist and historian and due to his avocational interest in the history of forestry and the history of the United States, especially that of the Pacific Northwest region. Gerald Williams worked for the U.S. Forest Service from 1979 to 2005 as a sociologist (1979-1998) and historian (1998-2005). Series 8, Willamette Valley Region - Oregon, Inclusive, includes images of the Benton County Courthouse, the Philomath College Building (now the Benton County Historical Society), Philomath Public School, and the Benton County Lumber Company Planing Mill (Box 08). Images from this collection have been digitized and are available in Oregon Digital.

Robert W. Henderson Photographic Slides Collection, 1936-1998
The Robert W. Henderson Photographic Slides provide visual documentation of Oregon State University and the state of Oregon from, in bulk, the mid-1950s to the late 1990s. Consisting of nearly 16,000 unique 35-mm color slides, the collection depicts a wide range of university activities, particularly as concerns agricultural research and the development of agricultural practices at OSU's county Extension offices and regional Experiment Stations. Oregon's rural communities as viewed from the ground and the air are a particular strength of the collection. Robert Henderson (1914-2006) was an OSU alum and photography enthusiast who worked as a faculty member in Farm Crops and the Agricultural Experiment Station for thirty years. The Henderson Slides are being digitized for online access in Oregon Digital.

Ralph VanCleave Photographic Collection, circa 1860-1949
The Ralph VanCleave Photographic Collection contains images of the Horning Carding Mill and F.A. Horning residence, and includes written histories of both subjects. Also held within the collection are images, taken in the 1940s, of public schools from all around the Willamette Valley, including those in Alsea, Summit, Greenberry, Monroe, Alder, Alpine, Blodgett, Kings Valley, and Wren. Images from this collection have been digitized and are available in Oregon Digital.

Maps

Corvallis and Benton County, Oregon, Maps, 1859-1991
The Corvallis and Benton County, Oregon, Maps include a variety of maps depicting Corvallis and Benton County, including road and street maps, land use and comprehensive planning maps, and plans for city parks. The maps depict roads, parks, schools, public buildings, and natural features, and were prepared by numerous organizations and individuals. The Benton County maps include road and zoning maps for the county which provide information on highways, city locations, land features, and the locations of many prominent structures (Folder 1, 2, and 3, and Folder-item 11.1; Box-folder 10.1). A set of 1913 land ownership maps provide detailed information on surveys and land ownership for the full county (Folder 1).

Metsker's Atlases of Oregon Counties, 1929-1988
The Metsker's Atlases of Oregon Counties consist of 66 atlases and include one or more atlases for all 36 Oregon counties that depict property owners and donation land claims. The bulk of the atlases were published in the 1930s-1950s. Each atlas includes an index map. The number of maps per atlas varies from 20 to 300; however, most of the atlases have fewer than 100 maps. The maps are at a scale of 2 inches = 1 mile. In addition to property boundaries, the maps show roads; railroads; streams, rivers, and water bodies; and schools. The collection includes Metsker atlases for Benton County for 1929, 1938, 1962, and 1979 (Box-folder 2.1-2.4).

Oregon Timber Tax Maps, 1950-1996
The Oregon Timber Tax Maps consist of 4033 maps and related documents pertaining to land and timber valuation data collected for forestland taxation purposes. The maps range from 1950 through 1978 and offer a detailed look at private ownership and forest stand data. The bulk of the collection is composed of information for specific counties. For the majority of Oregon counties there are township forest cover maps, which depict often detailed information on ownership and stand boundaries, estimated volume for stands, harvest and planting dates, in addition to information on roads, streams, landmarks, sections, and other key features. County Forest Cover Maps for Benton County can be found in Box-folder 2.1 through 2.37 and 7.1 (oversize maps); volume per acre listings for Benton County in 1977 are housed in Box-folder 65.1. County Township-Range Quadrant Maps - many of which are composed of a base sheet with information similar to that on the forest cover maps plus a transparent overlay sheet that contains annotations and stand boundaries - for Benton County are housed in Box-folder 54.1-54.2.

Donald B. Zobel Collection of Historic Forestry and Vegetation Maps, 1914-1989
The Donald B. Zobel Collection of Historic Forestry and Vegetations Maps consist of maps assembled and created by Zobel for his research in forest ecology and for teaching; the bulk of the maps depict forests in Oregon and northern California. Zobel was a faculty member in the Oregon State University Department of Botany and Plant Pathology from 1968 until 2003. The collection includes an Oregon State Forestry Department map of Polk, Benton, Lincoln counties State Forest Land Ownership from 1967 (Folder-item 2.3), and a Forest Cover Map Benton County T14S R6W prepared by the Oregon State Tax Commission in 1968 (Folder-item 3.2).

Record Groups

Benton County (Or.) Extension Service Records, 1938-2010
The Benton County (Or.) Extension Service Records consist of materials generated and assembled by the Extension Service Office in Benton County. The Records primarily document a variety of activities and programs, primarily pertaining to forestry operations and Christmas tree farms during the tenure of Extension Forester Richard A. (Rick) Fletcher. The collection includes brochures, bylaws, CDs, correspondence, meeting minutes, newsletters, newspaper clippings, photographs, research data, reports, and survey records.

Contract Administration Records, 1889-1976
The Contract Administration Records consist of expired contracts, leases, and agreements records; real property records including deeds and titles for land purchases, leases, and easement agreements; and construction and architectural service contracts for construction of buildings on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis and other sites in Oregon. By virtue of relating to Corvallis and Oregon State University, many of the files in this collection, specifically the Abstracts of Title, relate directly to land in Benton County. Additional files documenting the history of Benton County include the Benton-Lincoln County Electric Coop (Box-folder 2.88, 3.10, 3.36), the Benton County Farm Forestry Committee (Box-folder 3.35), and a conveying title to road right-of-way across McDonald Forest (Box-folder 2.87).

Affirmative Action Office Records, 1971-2010
The Affirmative Action Office Records document the development and implementation of affirmative action and equal employment opportunity programs at Oregon State University, especially with regard to women, ethnic minorities, individuals with disabilities, and veterans. The records include subject files, affirmative action plans, policies and procedures, reports, and publications. The collection includes records documenting projects relating to affirmative action and/or diversity, including the Benton County Affirmative Action Plan (Box-Folder 1.28), and the Benton County Ethnic Diversity task force (Box-Folder 7.21).

Office of Multicultural Affairs Records, 1986-2009
The Office of Multicultural Affairs Records document the establishment of the office in 1991 and its administration and programs under the first director, Phyllis Lee. The Records represent the many issues pertaining to ethnicity, gender, and multiculturism at Oregon State University in the 1990s and early 2000s as well as the extensive activities, both on- and off-campus, of Phyllis Lee. As part of her work, Lee created subject files for the Benton Community Health Center (Box-Folder 10.28), the Benton County Commission on Children and Families (Box-Folder 10.29), the Corvallis-Benton County Economic Development Partnership Inc. (Box-Folder 10.51), the Benton County Health Department Safety Net Committee (Box-Folder 11.7), the Benton County Needs Assessment Committee (Box-Folder 11.8), and the HIV Prevention Outreach for Women in Benton County Community Advisory Panel (Box-Folder 12.5).

TRiO Student Support Services Records, 1976-2015
The TRiO Student Support Services (SSS) Records include grant proposals, reports, committee records, and other materials that document the establishment and ongoing development of TRiO and related programs. The records include administrative records, grants and related reports, digital files, committee files, and miscellaneous supporting documents which show the breadth of the program. A subject file on the Benton County Cultural Coalition is included in the collection (Box-Folder 2.31).

College of Liberal Arts Records, 1945-2009
The College of Liberal Arts Records consist of records of the Dean's Office and of several departments in the college, including the Anthropology, Art, Economics, English, History, and Sociology Departments. The materials primarily document the liberal arts curriculum at Oregon State University, publications by faculty, and lectures and conferences sponsored by the College. Records documenting the history of the Economics Department include report on The Economic Impact of Hewlett-Packard as determined by an Econometric Model of Benton Co., Oregon, written by Charles T. Howard and Murray Wolfson (Box-folder 2.5, Item 2).

Oral Histories

Oregon Pioneers Oral History Collection, 1975-1978
The Oregon Pioneers Oral History Collection consists of 33 interviews conducted primarily in the summer of 1975 by Oregon State University students to document various aspects of local history from 1880 to 1929 in preparation for the United States bicentennial in 1976. The interviews describe Corvallis, Philomath, Kings Valley, Benton County, and the surrounding area (including Newport and Yaquina Bay) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Topics include railroads and ferries, Corvallis businesses, the Fischer flour mill, logging and lumber mills, agriculture, Chautauqua events, pioneer families, and the Siletz Native Americans. Nearly all of the audiocassettes held in this collection have been digitized and are available upon patron request.

OSU Queer Archives Oral History Collection, 2015-2020
The OSU Queer Archives Oral History Collection is a growing repository of interviews and event recordings that document the experiences and perspectives of members of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies who have spent at least portions of their lives at Oregon State University and/or in Benton County, Oregon. The majority of the interview videos and event recordings are available through the online portal LGBTQ Voices. Jo Ann Casselberry and Marlene Massey discuss their involvement with Benton County LGBT organization After 8; Merry Demarest explains her involvement with the Benton County Democrats; and Brian Parks discusses attending culinary school at Linn Benton Community College.

Soap Creek Valley History Project Oral Histories, 1978-2009
The Soap Creek Valley History Project Oral Histories consist of oral histories conducted primarily in 1989-1991 by the Oregon State University Research Forests to better understand the history, ecology, and culture of the Soap Creek Valley in Benton County, Oregon. The collection consists of published monographs that include the full transcripts, as well as added contextual and reference information, for 15 sets of interviews. Sound recordings (audiocassettes) for 13 of the interview sets are also part of the collection -- audiocassettes for the Velma Rawie and William Davies sessions do not remain extant. All of the audiocassettes held in this collection have been digitized and are available upon patron request.

Oral Histories of the Benton County (Or.) Courthouse, 1987-1991
The Oral Histories of the Benton County (Or.) Courthouse document the history of the building as expressed by descendants of those who built it as well as those who worked in it and fought to have it preserved, including Judge Richard Mengler and six other interviewees. The resulting collection consists of two sets of audiocassettes of each interview, annotated draft transcripts, correspondence, photographic slides of interviewees, signed permissions forms, and a two-volume spiral-bound monograph titled An Oral History of the Benton County Courthouse, which contains finalized transcripts of each interview.Completed in 1889 and located in downtown Corvallis, the Benton County Courthouse is Oregon's oldest courthouse building still being used for its original purpose. All of the audiocassettes held in this collection have been digitized and these files are available upon patron request.

Rare Books

______. Success in Benton County. Corvallis, Ore. Commercial Club, 1910. F882.B4 S8

Benton County Citizens' League. Benton County, Oregon. Illustrated...Pub. under Direction of the Benton County Citizens' League. Place of Publication Not Identified, 1904. F882.B4 B4

Benton County Growers' Association. Budget for Cannery 1913, with Report for 1912 and List of Supporters. Corvallis, Or. Gazette-Times Printery, 1913. HD3446.A3 B4 1913

Benton County Pioneer Historical Society. Benton County: a Brief History and Tour Guide. Oregon: Benton County Pioneer Historical Society., 1975. F882.B4 O6*

Corvallis Board of Trade. Benton County, Oregon : The Heart of the Famous Willamette Valley. Corvallis, Or. Published by Authority of the Corvallis Board of Trade : Yaquina Board of Trade, 1890. F882.B4 C6*

Corvallis Citizens' Advisory Committee, and Oregon. Corrections Division. Report on the Corvallis and Benton County Jails. 1966. HV9481.B4 C7*

Corvallis Gazette-Times, and Benton County Historical Society Museum. A Pictorial History of Benton County. Corvallis, Or.: Corvallis Gazette-Times, 2000. F882.B4 P51 2000*

Kable, George W., and Benton County Farm Bureau. Farm Bureau Silo Handbook for Benton County. Corvallis, Or.: Benton County Farm Bureau, 1920. SB195 .B4

Knezevich, Clarence A. Soil Conservation Service, and Oregon State University. Agricultural Experiment Station. Soil Survey of Benton County Area, Oregon. Washington: Service, 1975. S599.O72 B4 1975*

Fagan, David D. History of Benton County, Oregon : Including Its Geology, Topography, Soil and Productions, Together with the Early History of the Pacific Coast, Compiled from the Most Authentic Sources : A Full Political History ... Incidents of Pioneer Life and Biographical Sketches of Early and Prominent Citizens : Also Containing the History of the Cities, Towns, Churches, Schools, Secret Societies, Etc. Oregon: D.D. Fagan, 1885. F882.B4 F2*

League of Women Voters of Corvallis. Public Health in Benton County. Corvallis, Or. The League, 1959. RA447.O7 L4

League of Women Voters of Corvallis. This Is Benton County Oregon. Corvallis, Or. [Publisher Not Identified], 1980. F882.B4 L45

Oregon. Willamette River Basin Commission. Benton County. Place of Publication Not Identified, 1950. HC107.O7 A62 1950


Additional rare books documenting Benton County's history can be found by searching the Valley Library's online catalog.

Digital Resources

Looking for online content? Oregon Digital, ScholarsArchive, and Media Space contain a wealth of digitized materials that document the rich history of Oregon's residential communities. Often, digitized materials are gathered together as sets, either by publication or collection. Please note that links listed below are "canned searches" for specific content relating to the city, town, or community in question.

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