Major Polk County History Collections
outside of the County
Compiled by Gary Jensen
The following selected institutions and libraries have materials relating to Polk County:
1. Oregon State Archives
2. Oregon Historical Society
3. Oregon State Library
4. Salem Public Library
5. Valley Library, Oregon State University
6. Millar Library, Portland State University
7. Knight Library University of Oregon
8. Library of Congress
9. The National Archives, Pacific Northwest Region
These are surveyed roughly in descending order of interest to researchers of Polk County history. However, this is not a comprehensive listing of all such repositories nor are all relevant items in each of those institutions listed in this section of the Pathfinder. In some cases, there may be other pertinent materials that are not indexed or cataloged. The researcher is encouraged to visit these collections and to use the unpublished finding guides, card files, and indexes available. Entries are typically listed under the heading "Polk County" as well as under the names of people, topics, and the individual areas, cities, institutions, organizations, businesses, and educational institutions in Polk County. Some items may be found mixed in with items not related to the county. For example, a number of early college diplomas from what is now Western Oregon University are included in the boxes of miscellaneous college materials at the Oregon Historical Society. The only way to discover them is to look through the collections since no detailed inventory exists. Many of the principal sources of Polk County history are incomplete or scattered among several institutions. The principal outside collections of interest are at the Oregon State Archives in Salem and at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland. Another category of "out-of-county" materials can be found at genealogical websites such as Rootsweb.
The State Archives has rich collections of materials that document the history and government of Oregon. The Archives also contain important collections of materials and records relating to the counties in Oregon. Consult the Archives web pages at the address above for more detailed information, including dates, for each type of record listed below. In particular, see the online Oregon Historical County Records Guide for Polk County history and links to an inventory of records. Those records are sometimes incomplete, and the missing materials may be in other repositories in or outside of Polk County. The Polk County Historical Society, for example, has a large collection of early county records. Key records held by the State Archives include:
In addition to selected monographs and newspapers relating to Polk County history, the Society has many other substantial collections of interest, including manuscripts, scrapbooks, pioneer records, legal records, diaries and reminiscences, account books and other business records, letters, oral histories, certificates, maps, documents, photographs and other graphic materials, records, Historic American Building Survey materials, educational and church records, and microfilm of materials in other collections. There are card indexes to pamphlet files and biographical, photograph, and map collections. Consult the web page above for more detailed information. Highlights of the collections include papers, records, and other items of the:
This collection is especially strong in published local and regional history, Oregon and Federal government documents, census information, vital statistics, biographies, and genealogical information, due in large measure to the Library’s focus on genealogy and the volunteers who have copied records from other collections. There is at least one manuscript collection of Polk County interest, a ledger kept at a feed mill in Dallas.
The Library’s historic photographs include over 400 of Polk County scenes and subjects. In addition, the Library has a fairly extensive collection of monographs, newspapers, and periodicals relating to the history of Polk County.
This collection of monographs and periodicals includes many titles relating to Polk County history, especially materials relating to the University’s Extension Service and its role in the promotion of agriculture, forestry, wildlife management, and fisheries management in Oregon counties. There are papers, records, and photographs of extension agents that document agricultural and other activities in Polk County. In addition, the Library has theses and dissertations written on the history of Polk County.
This collection contains selected monographs, newspapers, and periodicals relating to Polk County history.7. Knight Library
The Library’s general collections contain published materials about the history of Polk County as well as theses and dissertations relating to Polk County topics. For example, the Library has a copy of a doctoral dissertation documenting the history of musical bands in the mid-Willamette Valley, including Polk County bands. The Special Collections and Archives unit contains manuscript materials relating to the history of Polk County, including the papers of the pioneer J.B.V. Butler family of Monmouth and the constitution, membership list, and minutes of the Priscilla Club of Monmouth (1914-1918), both found within the Papers of the John A. Powell Family (1851-1918).
Because of the copyright requirements for deposit of materials, the collections of the Library of Congress contain many materials relating to Polk County, especially early publications, government documents, and city directories. In some cases, those publications may be difficult to find in Oregon. Many of the Library’s collections are accessed through specialized indexes and card files and are not available through online indexes.
This federal government repository houses records, documents, photographs, maps, drawings, and other materials from Federal agencies and courts in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Included are extensive microfilm holdings such as census information, military service records, pension and bounty land warrant applications, selected passenger arrival records, selected naturalization records, and Indian records. Of particular interest are the records relating to the establishment, operation, and closure of Camp Adair.
This site has links to Polk County surnames, searchable databases listing divorces, probate information, women’s property, census and mortality schedules, death certificates, pension records, deeds, Bible records, wills, cemetery records, biographical information, newspapers, letters, photographs, and town histories.