Cottage Grove Historical Society turns 50, recounts earliest meetings

Early Meeting, 1973

The Cottage Grove Historical Society was called to order on Jan 27, 1973, at the Cottage Grove Museum at a few minutes after 2’o’clock – Dove Trask Presiding. Dove gave a brief history of the museum and the former Pioneer Historical Society. Lena McFarland, who had done a lot to preserve the local history, asked Dove to make sure the museum survived when she moved away. She had worked hard to do so, sparking the interest of many people in the local area.

Ray Nelson, Anabelle Meacham, and Dove Trask were the interim committee between the old Pioneer Historical Society and the newly formed Cottage Grove Historical Society. They had papers prepared which would enable any donations to be tax-deductible.

The group went through the constitution and by-lays of the Cottage Grove Historical Society, noting the changes that had been made from the former Pioneer Historical Society. The changes were: Article I: Change the name from Pioneer Historical Society to Cottage Grove Historical Society. A motion was made and seconded, Ayes carried.

After several more motions regarding the by-laws, the meeting minutes ended with the following:

The interim committee acted as appointing committee and the officers of the Cottage Grove Historical Society were appointed: Mary Workman, President, Frank White, Vice President, Peggy Reaksecker, Secretary, and Janetta Overholser, Treasurer.

Mrs. Workman said she intended to have some very interesting meetings. Donna Allen took a group picture of the officers and after coffee and cookies, everyone then departed reported Janetta Overholser as Acting Secretary.

So began the story of the Cottage Grove Historical Society. The official Articles of Incorporation were approved and filed on Feb 12, 1973. Registering the organization as a 501c3 Non-profit. Early work of the organization focused on fundraising for the Cottage Grove Museum, collecting historic photographs, and identifying important historic homes and buildings.

Early Committee Work

The Landmarks Committee identified, researched, and proposed homes and buildings to recognize as historic landmarks. They created wood plaques and worked with the city to approve and designate these historically significant locations. This committee is also credited with developing the Historical Society logo.

Designed by LeRoy Carr, the logo was originally created as part of the historic markers the committee used to identify locations. The design was then adopted as the logo for the organization and continues to be used today. The image celebrates the community’s connection to agriculture, logging, and mining. A tree at the center represents the forests that encompass our town.

The Landmarks Committee was the predecessor to the city’s Historic Preservation Committee.

A Photograph Committee was established to collect photos and build an archive. Volunteers worked to collect, identify, and organize historic photographs. Many of these files remain in the Cottage Grove Museum, but this would also become the seed that grew into the Historical Society’s research library.

Save the Depot was an independent local committee that was eventually absorbed by the CGHS. The committee was successful in obtaining and moving the depot for purposes of restoration. Unfortunately, this group dissolved after the Depot was burned down in an act of arson.

Other Early Activities

The organization hosted a Nostalgia Ball as a fundraiser for the Museum. Volunteers worked to support and participate in Bohemia Mining Days and Western Oregon Exposition celebrations. 

A brochure was created to highlighting the historic significance of the George Lea House.

Tours were organized including tours of local kitchens, gardens, neighborhoods, and homes. Tours also served to educate as well as fundraise. 

With much enthusiasm, a tape recorder was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Woolcott for the purposes of adding oral histories to the archives. There were several recordings made that are still available in the Historical Society’s archives.

Early members and volunteers established a solid foundation and set a high standard that those of us carrying on the tradition strive to maintain today.