Be Local

Benton County Courthouse with pruned trees

Benton County Courthouse with pruned trees

To celebrate Oregon Archives Month 2011 we’re heading home (again) with a new collection called “Be Local: some things to note…” and an innaugural set called “Be Local: some places in Benton County.”

Oregonians are passionate about our state, and Corvallis-ites and residents of Benton County are no different. Starting as the first territorial capital, at the confluence of the Marys and Willamette Rivers, and arriving now at this place in the 21st century, with an ever-expanding community and university, it’s always fun to take a look back over our shoulder to see where we were. And yes, for me, that’s means to read more about our history.

Joseph C. Avery settled a land claim at the mouth of Marys River where it flows into the Willamette River in 1845. In 1849, Avery opened a store at the site, platted the land, and surveyed a town site on his land claim, naming the community Marysville … In 1853, the legislative assembly changed the city’s name to Corvallis, from the Latin phrase cor vallis, meaning “heart of the valley.” Corvallis was incorporated as a city on January 29, 1857 … [and] the town served briefly as the capital of the Oregon Territory in 1855 before Salem was eventually selected as the permanent seat of state government. Corvallis, Wikipedia

Territorial capital at Corvallis, Oregon

Territorial capital at Corvallis, Oregon

Though you can find great contemporary books on Corvallis and Benton County, I encourage you to consider David Fagan’s 1885 A history of Benton County, Oregon including its geology, topography, soil and productions (call no. F882.B4 F2), the 1890 Benton County, Oregon: the heart of the famous Willamette Valley (F882.B4 C6), and the 1912 Corvallis and Benton County, Oregon (F884.C6 S6 and available electronically on ScholarsArchive). Each is available at OSU Libraries’ main library in Corvallis. Fear not, there is plenty more research and reading to be done!

  • The Benton County Historical Society is the ideal place to start! “The Benton County Historical Museum artifact collection comprises approximately 66,000 items that illustrate the diverse themes of our Benton County, Oregon heritage.”
  • Search the Oregon Encyclopedia site for Corvallis and you’ll find a plethora of information about the people, places, and amazing things that have happened here. Want to know about the Women’s Land Army, Corvallis and Eastern Railroad, or Bernard Malamud (1914–1986)? All there – plus much more about both our great state.
  • The City of Corvallis website has a very informative Historical Narrative (1811 to 1945), which includes a historic walking tour of downtown and a historic property inventory.
Campus store

Campus store

  • Because I love Wikipedia, check out the article on Corvallis. The info there isn’t limited to our history, but gives all those delicious up-to-date details. Wikipedia also has a great article on Benton County.
  • Finally, in the spirit of historic renovation, we’re delighted to see the Whiteside Theater coming back to life! It opened to the public on November 9, 1922, but closed in winter of 2002. The Whiteside Theatre Foundation is currently raising funds to rehabilitate and reopen the Whiteside Theatre, and they have shared the history of this gem on their site.


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