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50 years – Silverton Country Historical Society celebrates anniversary

By Melissa Wagoner

The Silverton Country Historical Society is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2024 with banners, exhibits, promotional materials and events throughout the year including a Homer Davenport Community Festival parade float and a celebration in the fall.

“We especially want to honor and thank our members, donors, supporters, and volunteers who have helped along the way,” Director Jeff Marcoe wrote in the most recent edition of the Historical Society’s newsletter.

Included in the organization’s commendations is teacher and Silverton Senior Woman’s Club president Hannah Olsen, who, on May 30, 1974, wrote a letter to The Silverton Appeal asking the community to “start thinking and talking about a ‘museum for Silverton.’”

“In a few months we’ll celebrate the 120th birthday of our town,” she wrote. “Many changes have taken place during these years. Early settlers who blazed the way for others to follow are gone, leaving many traditions and artifacts for us. Many of the items left by these early settlers have been lost to the community because there was no suitable place where they could be preserved and appreciated… Our town needs a museum.”

Her words struck a chord and by August of that same year the Silverton Historical Committee had come together, “drafted a possible constitution,” and set about forming the official Silverton Country Historical Society.

“By January 1975 there were 160 charter members,” current board secretary Chris Schwab wrote in a timeline of events. In “March 1975 a suitable building was found.”

Built in 1908 by Elvin Ames as a wedding gift to his wife, the Ames-Warnock house – as it is known today – caught the interest of the Historical Society largely because it was one of two houses slated to be torn down.

Approved for use by the city, the house was moved on May 16, 1975, from its original site on East Main to city-owned property on Water Street, where it stands today.

Officially dedicated in August 1975, the museum received in its first of 271 items donated that year, a foot pedal organ dating back to 1888.

“Then in 1982 the 1906 Silverton Southern Pacific train depot became available,” Schwab wrote. And so, the Historical Society arranged to have the building moved to the museum’s grounds, along with the stump of the Old Oak Tree in 1983 and a WWII Observation Post in 2008.

“As the years progressed, activities at the museum focused on increasing the collection of Silverton related artifacts, preserving the items on hand and improving the museum displays,” Schwab wrote, “as well as continuing to be a presence in the community and increasing membership.”

It’s a mission the Historical Society plans to highlight throughout 2024 as it celebrates the museum’s first 50 years.

“This is not only a museum, but what’s also impressive is there’s an extensive archive people can come and research,” board member Carrie Caster pointed out. 

“It’s well organized and our volunteers are really good about assisting people. There’s a lot more here than what people see when they just walk in.”

Historical Society members encourage the public to visit, ask questions and conduct their own research during the museum’s regular hours – weekends, 1 to 4 p.m.

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