Heritage preservation: Mount Angel historical society proposed

March 2010 Posted in Arts, Culture & History

By Steve RitchieMain Street in Mount Angel at the turn of the 20th century. The building at the far right is City Hall.

Mount Angel has a strong sense of its past. Many descendants of the original white settlers still live and work here. The town’s German Catholic heritage is commemorated each year as residents put on one of the state’s premier community festivals, Oktoberfest. Historic buildings like St. Mary’s Church and Queen of Angels Monastery have been carefully preserved and archives at the monastery and Mount Angel Abbey are treasure troves of historical documents and photographs.

Yet, with all this rich history, Mount Angel has no historical society or museum. That may be about to change.

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March 2, 7 p.m. Agatha Hall
Sisters’ Hospitality Center,
840 S. Main St. 503-845-2464

Gary Edwards moved to Mount Angel from West Salem six years ago. Fascinated by his new hometown, he began to wonder why Mount Angel, with such a unique past, had no historical club, organization or society. Eventually, Edwards started asking around to find out who the local experts and historians were. He came up with three people: Sr. Alberta Dieker, OSB; Bill Predeek; and Br. Cyril Drnjevic, OSB.

He contacted them and the small group recently began to meet on a monthly basis.

“This is long overdue,” Dieker said. “There’s a lot of rich history here and the people who have experienced much of the town’s early history are disappearing.”

Dieker brings a lot of expertise to the group. She taught history at the college level for several decades, has written A Tree Rooted in Faith, which is considered the definitive history of the Benedictine Sisters’ community, and she is a past president of the Oregon Catholic Historical Society.

Bill Predeek’s interest in the history of Mount Angel began as a hobby, but has certainly developed into much more than a casual pursuit. One room of his house is filled with an enormous collection of historical artifacts and photographs, which he has catalogued.

Predeek said he hopes the group grows and evolves into an active historical society with dues-paying members. “The purpose of a historical society would be to collect, preserve and display the historical artifacts of the town. A historical society would add legitimacy to what I’m doing and people would be more willing to donate items.”

Predeek has no doubt the public would be interested in donating. Last summer he put together a display at the Mount Angel library for the celebration of Marion County’s 150th anniversary. Before the event, he invited people to submit items of historical value and “was overwhelmed with the response.”

Both Predeek and Dieker mention the possibility of having a place to store and display all the artifacts and photographs. That would require financial resources the group doesn’t have at this point, but they say that more public involvement is the key to start the ball rolling.

“We need people,” Predeek said simply. He noted that 42 people attended the first meeting of the Silverton Historical Society. He said he hopes that the present Mount Angel group of five or six interested people will double in size in the near future. He invites anyone interested to attend the next meeting. Dieker said that focusing on Mount Angel’s past could add to its present.

“People can really begin to appreciate what has happened here in Mount Angel and the struggles that have occurred to make the town what it is today.”

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