Preserving Baker Counties Past for Future Generations
The Baker County
Historical Society was founded August 28, 1946 and held its first meeting at the
Baker Hotel. The nominating committee was Lott D. Brown, Mrs. J. Roscoe Lee, and
W. H. Strayer.
Officers elected were: Miss Belle Reed, President; Joe O'Conner, Vice-President; Miss Georgia Smith, Secretary; O.H.P. McCord, Treasurer; and George Hyde, Historian.
Their meetings had a dual purpose: that of fellowship, including the sharing of the distant past, and of preparing for a museum. Dues were $1.00 a year.
Under the leadership of 1951 President Joe O'Connor, the Society rented the Community Center and presented an Antique Fair. The building was filled with family heirlooms. Adults paid $.50 admission; Baker merchants donated toward free tickets for children. This was the first of many successful fund-raising projects.
The Society became a co-sponsor of the Pioneer Basket Picnic with the Pioneer Association as many members belonged to both organizations. (See Pioneer Assoc. Story)
The Society became incorporated under the laws of the State of Oregon, January 21, 1954, (Amended: January 6, 1965), and that August, opened their first Museum. (See Museum Story)
On October 19, 1956, the Sportsman's Club was rented to celebrate the Society's 10th Anniversary at which they served the famous Kentucky Derby Burgoo soup-supper. The afternoon was spent in visiting or playing cards. There was a table of bazaar items, and another with light refreshments to tide appetites until the supper which was followed by dancing. This event was held annually for over ten years on the Saturday nearest to October 23 to commemorate the discovery of gold by Henry Griffen, and was often attended by over 200 people.
The commemoration of Statehood Day became another well-attended event. The first baby born on February 14 was given a gift from the Society and a Savings Bond donated by member Henry Levinger. Following the evening's program and the Lighting of the Candles Ceremony, (written by Ethel Love), an elaborate cake was cut and served.
One such evening was held in the lobby of the Baker Hotel. The cake had been made and sculptured to be a replica of the State Capitol building by Edna Dove. Dancing until midnight completed the evening.
The membership of sixty swelled to over 350 in preparation for the 1959 Oregon Centennial Celebration. With the help of George Borgen, among others, Old Town was constructed in May on Court Street, between Main and Resort Streets, and near the Society's Hospitality Lounge, (now the Blue Door Beauty Salon), on Resort St. Members hosted the Old Town on a full daily schedule, kept the Hospitality Lounge open and participated in or sponsored, several events in the Geiser-Pollman Park.
When the Centennial Wagon Train rolled into Baker from Independence, Missouri, on a Saturday afternoon, the members of the seven-wagon Train were hosted to a pancake and sausage supper, and again on Sunday morning. The general public paid $1.00 for the ample meal prepared and served by the members dressed in pioneer clothing. Insurance-man Don Reed was head chef. Sunday morning service was held in the Old Town Chapel before the Wagon Train continued on their journey.
The baby born on February 14, 1959, was Daniel Martin Davis, son of 2nd Lt. and Mrs. (Marjorie Chaves) Davis; and grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Chaves. The Centennial Queen was Mrs. Joseph C. Chaves, great-grandmother of the Centennial Baby.
The Centennial was kept alive throughout the year with the Grande Finale being held in the Community Center Friday, February 14, 1960, closing the Centennial Year.
Years earlier, the Society has assisted in placing the Walter Meacham granite marker on the Oregon Trail, (Virtue Flat). In 1968, the Society placed a Highway Marker and a Graveside Memorial in Medical Springs honoring the late Grace Powers. Mrs. Powers was the daughter of Dunham Wright, Senator in the Oregon Territorial Legislature and founder of the Medical Springs Health Resort. Mrs. Powers was a life member of the Baker County, Union County, and Oregon Societies. Nearly 1000 attended the dedication.
The organization has participated in parades, sponsored the 1961 Gold Ball and other dances, sponsored two Chautauqua, and for some years the Hay Ride Tour during Sumpter Valley Days in addition to the annual events. In 1980 the Newsletter became a Quarterly, and the Society organized the Century Farm Awards Banquet honoring the descendent owners of the Century Farms in Baker County.
Obtaining the lease from the City for the Natatorium Building in 1976, the Society organizes the frequent work-parties needed at the Oregon Trail Regional Museum, schedules the Volunteer hosts, records the acquired artifacts, creates exhibits, and performs general maintenance of the museum.
On July 7, 1985, the Society placed and dedicated a granite marker on the site of the first cabin in Sumpter, and in August honored the 1985 owners of Century Farms.
The present officers of the Society are: Kenneth Crawford, President; Vice-President, Alvin Ward; Secretaries, Silas Allen and Ilah Baker Taylor; Treasurer, Ray Dielman; Board Members: Harry Williams, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Freeman, Lois Ward, James Monroe, Mr. and Mrs. Ron Bowers, Caroline R. Sherrieb, and Sudie Boyce. Advisors are James R. Evans and Byron Brinton. (Present being 1986)
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