Category Archives: archive_events

Our very own Trysting Tree named State Heritage Tree!

Trysting Tree, circa 1938

Trysting Tree, circa 1938

Last week the Trysting Tree was named a State Heritage Tree and Special Collections & Archives Research Center director Larry Landis spoke at the dedication ceremony. For those of you who weren’t able to make it, here’s what you missed! Pretend like the wind is blowing and you can see the tree out of the corner of your eye…

During its 144 years as Oregon’s land grant institution, Oregon State University has had many strong traditions and iconic symbols.  One of her most well-known symbols and traditions has been the Trysting Tree.

This tree, a Gray Poplar — not considered to be a highly valuable tree by most arborists — was a popular gathering spot for couples from the late 19th century (soon after Oregon Agricultural College moved to its present location in 1889) through the first half of the 20th century.  The tree has been idolized in poetry and song.  OSU’s golf course is named for the tree.  A conference room in the CH2M Hill Alumni Center, a meeting room in Weatherford Hall, and a lounge in the Memorial Union all carry the Trysting Tree name.  And the tree is the source of many family stories, anecdotes, and yes, legends.

But what is the backstory of the tree?  Who planted it and when?

Trysting tree, circa 1910.

Trysting tree, circa 1910.

Some accounts state that George Coote, an early horticulture faculty member and superintendent of the college grounds, planted the tree in the early 1880s.  I have doubts about this story, as Coote was not appointed to the college faculty until 1888, although he had lived in the Corvallis area since 1877.  My guess is that it may have been planted by a previous landowner prior to the college’s acquisition of this parcel as the original college farm in 1871 – a February 1960 Oregon Stater article indicates that many “old-timers” believed the tree was one of several gray poplars planted on the original donation land claim.  It is also possible that someone else associated with the college planted it.   Another account states that originally two gray poplars that had been planted, but that one was cut down due to damaged limbs.

Regardless, by the late 1890s the tree had become a romantic gathering spot for students.  Despite admonitions from College President Thomas Gatch about this type of activity, as well as the installation of arc lights on Benton Hall’s cupola, the tree remained a popular destination.  President Gatch is credited with giving the tree its “Trysting Tree” moniker, and the Class of 1901 formally named it as such.

For the next 60 years or so many students experienced their first kiss, were pinned, or became engaged under the tree’s expansive branches.  It was also focal point for the many picnics, reunions and other events that were held in the area.

As the tree and its popularity grew, its presence in the culture of the college also grew.  The 1908 Orange, the predecessor to today’s Beaver yearbook (and actually published in 1907), included a poem in tribute to the tree.  Homer Maris, a graduate student at OAC in the late 1910s, continued this literary tradition with the writing, in 1917, of the poem that would become alma mater, Carry Me Back, in 1919.

By 1960, the Trysting Tree was suffering from disease, rotting from the inside out.  By 1980 this was becoming visibly apparent.  In a sad, but celebratory, ceremony on September 27, 1986 (not 1987 as the nomination states), the Trysting Tree was cut down after it had been eulogized and given a toast with sparkling apple cider.   Fortunately OSU had the foresight to anticipate the removal the Trysting Tree – cuttings had been taken from the tree and propagated under the guidance of horticulture professor Jack Stang, so that a genetically identical descendant would carry on the Trysting Tree tradition.  Propagating the tree in this manner had been proposed in 1960.  Trysting Tree II was planted on October 15, 1982 by the OSU Mothers’ Club.

In 1988, the tree was honored yet again, when OSU’s golf course, just across the Willamette River north of Highway 34, was named the Trysting Tree Golf Course.

Ribbon cutting ceremony, 1988

Ribbon cutting ceremony, 1988

It is appropriate – some would say long overdue – that today we recognize and honor the legacy of the original Trysting Tree and the current Trysting Tree II as an Oregon Heritage Tree.

I’d like to close with this last stanza of the poem that appeared in the 1908 Orange:

Long may’st thou live, thou worthy friend,

Thou dear old Trysting Tree;

Long may thy branches proudly wave

Majestic’ly and free,

To mind us of those happy days

Spent at old O.A.C.


Anniversaries and New Beginnings!

Celebrate with friends, celebrate with cake!

Celebrate with friends, celebrate with cake!

Just in time to commemorate the Special Collections 25th and OSU Archives 50th anniversaries, we merged departments to form the new Special Collections & Archives Research Center.

Though we are now beginning anew as one department, we connected with our past and each other during Homecoming Weekend 2011 in fourth floor rotunda of the Valley Library, welcoming former student workers and staff members, special guests, and a big cake!

Check out the new Flickr set — it will be just like being there, you know except for the cake…

Taste those ‘chives this Thursday!

Putting meringue on lemon pies, 1940

Putting meringue on lemon pies, 1940

Did you make your shopping list? Did you check it twice?

This Thursday (10/27) from 12:00-1:00 you can sample tastes of the past in our annual Taste of the ‘Chives recipe event! Bring yourself — and a dish if you wish to share — to the Willamette Rooms.

This year, you’ll find “international” recipes dating from 1928 to 2008. The publications are all available online at the OSU ScholarsArchive site and downloadable here as PDF files:

Remember, volunteers to help prepare the recipes are always appreciated! Contact for more details or to sign up.

History, plus a movie for lunch? Sure!

OPB's Oregon Experience, "Linus Pauling"

OPB's Oregon Experience, "Linus Pauling"

Join us to watch the fabulous Oregon Public Broadcasting “Oregon Experience” documentary on Linus Pauling, an amazing man and native Oregonian. You’ll learn fascinating facts about OSU alumnus and Nobel Prize winning chemist and peace activist Linus Pauling in this new film about his life, including a look at Pauling’s childhood in Portland and a great story about rowing carboys of chemicals across the Willamette River to conduct chemistry experiments at home!

You might just spot someone you know — OSU luminaries such as Cliff Mead, Chris Petersen, and Mina Carson are featured.

When & Where? Wednesday Oct 19th, noon-1:00pm (Willamette East Room — 3rd Floor of Valley Library)

Have some history for lunch!

From Flickr, "filmstrip," by bmitchellw

From Flickr, "filmstrip," by bmitchellw

Celebrate Oregon Archives Month and join us for a lunchtime viewing about campus history and famous alums from the 1960s and 1970s.

  • When & Where? Thursday 13th, noon-1:00pm (Willamette East Room-3rd Floor of Valley Library)

These three films, produced at OSU from 1968 to 1974, offer a glimpse into campus and student life during an intense period of cultural change in American life; this change is reflected in the variation in the tone of each film.

Two of the films, “Nuthin’ Comes Easy” and “Gotta Start Somewhere,” were created to attract minority students to study pharmacy and media services at OSU. The third, “The Possible Dream,” celebrates OSU in its centennial year in 1968. Highlights include a funky re-creation of an average student party in the early 1970s.

Come judge for yourself — and bring your lunch!

McDonald Rare Book Collection Tour!

Wilson Room Collection

Wilson Room Collection

Get a peek at OSU’s oldest and rarest volumes in this tour of the Library’s fascinating McDonald Rare Book Collection. Trevor Sandgathe of Special Collections will show off this unique collection that includes cuneiform tablets, incunabula, and fine bindings.

When and where?

  • Wednesday, October 26  from 2:00-3:00 in Special Collections

Time for Taste of the ‘Chives!

Ava Milam and Camilla Mills making wedding cakes for Mrs. Stanley Wilson at the Yenching Womens College in Peking, China, circa 1945

Ava Milam and Camilla Mills making wedding cakes for Mrs. Stanley Wilson at the Yenching Womens College in Peking, China, circa 1945

Sample the tastes of the past in this annual celebration of the recipes found in historic publications written by OSU students and staff. This year, we’ll showcase recipes celebrated as “international” in flavor and we highlight four different sources dating from 1928 to 2008. These publications are all available online at the OSU ScholarsArchive site and downloadable here as PDF files:

When and Where?

  • Thursday October 27 (12:00-1:00 Willamette Rooms)

Volunteers to help prepare the recipes are always appreciated! Please contact for more details.

Want to watch your history?

You know how picky archives can be about eating and historical collections? Two film events offer you a great chance to watch some historical and eat some lunch. Best of both worlds, I tell you.

Thursday, October 13 (12:00-1:00, Willamette Room East-Library)
Rewind in time to campus ca. late 1960s and early 1970s through a showing of 3 films that document OSU’s efforts to attract minority students and observe the university’s centennial in 1968.

Wednesday, October 19 (12:00-1:00, Willamette Room East)
Learn more about the life and times of native Oregonian and alumnus Linus Pauling in a showing of a recent production by Oregon Public Broadcasting on the brilliant Nobel Prize-winning chemist and peace activist.

Oregon Archives Month: Celebrating archival anniversaries at OSU with tours, film, and food!

Honoring 50 years of the University Archives and 25 years of the Special Collections at OSU, we’re celebrating our merger this year with a palette of events highlighting Beaver history!

Lace up your sneakers and join us Saturday, October 1 from 2:30-4:00 for a fabulous outdoor historical walking tour of campus buildings! Some lost, some forgotten, some just moved to another spot… OSU Archivists Larry Landis and Tiah Edmunson-Morton will walk you through history to discover the “forgotten landscapes” of campus.

Using historic maps and photographs, Tiah and Larry will reveal what’s here, what’s gone, and what is somewhere else. We’ll bring places like the campus gazebo, brooder house and octagonal barn back to life! Please let Tiah know if you want to join us!

Meet in the Valley Library on the 3rd floor in Archives reference room.