As time slips by, so do our knowledge and connections to the past. The job of the historian is to preserve enough of it all to make sense for future generations.
Eeda Lumley wasn’t necessarily a historian when she saw the old blacksmith shop on Main Street being torn down one day back in 1987. But that sight – along with some helpful motherly advice – spurred her into action.
Florice Paulson, on the other hand, was a historian, for years writing a column for the Observer called “Walk Back in Time,” which she later turned into a book. When a fledgling history group was in need of both space and materials, she graciously provided both.
As the Oregon Area Historical Society celebrates its 30th anniversary Sunday with the unveiling of a history book and cemetery tour, Lumley and Paulson’s contributions to preserving the area’s history should be celebrated as well.
The society was founded in 1987 by the guidance, inspiration and willpower of Lumley, who was walking downtown one day and saw workers tearing down the old blacksmith shop on Main Street (site of the Pizza Pit restaurant). OAHS member JoAnn Swenson said Lumley was distraught over the building’s demolition and wanted to do something to help save other historical buildings in Oregon before it was too late. She went home to tell her mother about her idea.
“And (her mother) said, ‘Well, do something about it,’” Swenson told the Observer.
She did just that, starting with enlisting some help. First, she headed to the Oregon Observer office, where she enlisted the help of publisher Butler Delany. Gathering some friends for assistance, she founded the society later that year.
But a historical society needs a place for people to see artifacts and records. After a few years of storing collections in people’s houses, the fledgling society received a great boost when Paulson used an inheritance to buy the building at 159 W. Lincoln St. — the former Oregon Lumber Company — to house the group’s history museum.
The building itself is historic, having been erected in 1908 as a farm co-op on the site of a hotel that had burned down two years before. By the 1930s, it was turned into a lumber mill and office, and it remained that way until it was purchased in 1989. The society moved in two years later.
The group’s collections were greatly enhanced in 2013, when Paulson died and left numerous artifacts and writings in her will.
“Preserving Oregon’s history was her passion,” Swenson said.
OAHS member Melanie Woodworth said it’s “very important to thank those people before us,” like Lumley and Paulson.
“We are building on what those folks did before, and thank goodness they did preserve as much as they did,” she said.
To celebrate the society’s 30th year, members are holding a anniversary event at the Oregon Senior Center at 1 p.m. Sunday. There, they will unveil and also have for sale a recently published book on Oregon’s history that OAHS members helped put together, called “Images of America: Oregon.”
That will be followed by a cemetery tour, to be led by OAHS member Dixie Brown.