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Salem Mayors Oral History Project

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Salem Mayors

Sue Harris Miller Addressing Crowd at City hall c. 1983. Al Jones Collection, WHC 2007.001.0270

Sue Harris Miller Addressing Crowd at City hall c. 1983. Al Jones Collection, WHC 2007.001.0270

The history of Salem's mayorial office dates back to 1857.  Since that time 58 individuals have held the office.

Project History

Salem has been blessed with many exceptional mayors.  During their terms our city has grown and changed and adjusted to trends and national and international events.  Realizing how important their stories are to our history, we are very grateful to have the opportunity to talk to our former mayors and to record their stories and memories.

-Hazel Patton, March 2017

This oral history project was started in March 2017, spearheaded by Hazel Patton with technical support provided by the Willamette Heritage Center.  The hope is to interview and photograph as many mayors as possible.  The full interview recordings will be entered into the Willamette Heritage Center's collections and made available for researchers through the Center's research library and archives.  We will post snippets of the interviews below as we go.

Interviews

Dr. Robert Lindsey

Photograph by Caren Ann Jackson.

WHC 2017.009.0001

Dr. Roger L. Gertenrich

Photograph by Caren Ann Jackson.

WHC 2017.009.0002

Chronological List of Salem Mayors

Birth: Death: 14 March 1900, Crawfordsville, Indiana Spouse: Sarah Harrison/Mary Chistman Occupation: Photographer, bookseller *The tenure of Kenyon's time as mayor was contested.  There is a popular claim that the territorial legislature granted a charter for the city of Salem 1857, but that it was determined "illegal."  It appears that two petitions for the incorporation of Salem were presented to the legislature in December 1857 (see Oregon Statesman 22 December 1857 "In the House") one signed by 118 citizens and another presented by "Wilie Kenyon and several others for the same." A much later account in the Oregon Statesman (28 Mar 1926 "Problems of Walks and Streets.") claiming sources from hand written notes of Chester N. Terry city recorder and secretary indicates that the petition was presented earlier with the first regular council meeting being held February 17, 1857, with Wiley Kenyon presiding as mayor. Ben Maxwell, writing even lager (see Capital Journal 4 June 1956) writes "Salem's first mayor was Wiley Kenyon and what a time he had.  The magnanimous charter granted the village that was Salem by the territorial legislature of 1857 turned out to be frost.  Learned counsel declared it to be illegal.  Paid officials resigned when they learned that their pay was not only uncertain but unlikely.  Aldermen, too failed to show up, there was seldom a quorum and Salem's municipal government com summer in 1857 had gone to pot." A 1912 letter to the editor signed by "Pioneer" (see Oregon Statesman 4 Jan 1912), claims that Kenyon was elected mayor at first city election in December 1857, followed by John Henry Moores (1858); Lucian Heath (1860); E.N. Cooke (1861); H. M. THatcher (1862); and John Henry Moores (1864).

John Henry Moores. Willamette Heritage Center Collections 2007.001.0623

Birth: 26 June 1821, Lawrence County, Alabama Death: 16 December 1880, Oregon (?) Spouse: Virginia Lafayette Lamon Occupation: Businessman Read Biography on Salem Pioneer Cemetery Website. *J.H. Moores appears to have been elected to the mayorial office several times in his life, although the validity of his office was questioned, at least in the press. Oregon Statesman Feburary 16, 1858 - claims that "city officers" were elected and that J.H. Moores was considered "Mayor" although claimed "the 'charter' is quite generally thought to be void, and not half of the voters went to the 'polls'." A letter to the editor published in the Oregon Statesman on Jan 4, 1912, claimed that the mayorial history of Salem had been improperly reported in saying that John Q. Wilson was Salem's first mayor.  The letter, signed "Pioneer" lists the chronology as follows: 1857 - Wiley Kenyon 1858- J.H. Moores 1860 - Lucian Heath 1861 - E.N. Cooke 1862 - H.M. Thather 1864 - J.H. Moores 1865 - John Q. Wilson
Lucien Heath. Willamette Heritage Center, Al Jones collection, 2007.001.0556.

Lucien Heath. Willamette Heritage Center, Al Jones collection, 2007.001.0556.

Birth: 10 May 1819, Buffalo, Eire, New York Death: 19 Dec 1888, Santa Cruz, California Spouse: Julia Jane Edwards Occupation:  Merchant (Brown & Heath, North Dallas, Oregon); Druggist See also:  Polk County Observer Article "Old Book Tells of early Days. 12 Nov 1915.
Born:  26 Feb 1810 Adams, Jefferson County, New York Death:  6 May 1879 Salem, Marion, Oregon Spouse: Eliza Vandercook Cooke See biography and photographs on Salem Pioneer Cemetery website.

Henry Martyn Thatcher. WHC Collections 2011.037.0378

Birth: October 1825, Pennsylvania Death: 1 February 1900, Haley, Idaho Spouse: Sarah Little Occupation: Druggist, Postmaster

John Henry Moores. Willamette Heritage Center Collections 2007.001.0623

Birth: 26 June 1821, Lawrence County, Alabama Death: 16 December 1880, Oregon (?) Spouse: Virginia Lafayette Lamon Occupation: Businessman Read Biography on Salem Pioneer Cemetery Website. *J.H. Moores appears to have been elected to the mayorial office several times in his life, although the validity of his office was questioned, at least in the press. Oregon Statesman Feburary 16, 1858 - claims that "city officers" were elected and that J.H. Moores was considered "Mayor" although claimed "the 'charter' is quite generally thought to be void, and not half of the voters went to the 'polls'." A letter to the editor published in the Oregon Statesman on Jan 4, 1912, claimed that the mayorial history of Salem had been improperly reported in saying that John Q. Wilson was Salem's first mayor.  The letter, signed "Pioneer" lists the chronology as follows: 1857 - Wiley Kenyon 1858- J.H. Moores 1860 - Lucian Heath 1861 - E.N. Cooke 1862 - H.M. Thather 1864 - J.H. Moores 1865 - John Q. Wilson
Birth: 18 May 1828, Ohio Death: 2 Jan 1912 Salem, Marion, Oregon Spouse: Sarah Smith Occupations: Mercantilist, Farmer, President of Salem Street Railway Co., Legislator, Judge

John Henry Moores. Willamette Heritage Center Collections 2007.001.0623

Birth: 26 June 1821, Lawrence County, Alabama Death: 16 December 1880, Oregon (?) Spouse: Virginia Lafayette Lamon Occupation: Businessman Read Biography on Salem Pioneer Cemetery Website. *J.H. Moores appears to have been elected to the mayorial office several times in his life, although the validity of his office was questioned, at least in the press. Oregon Statesman Feburary 16, 1858 - claims that "city officers" were elected and that J.H. Moores was considered "Mayor" although claimed "the 'charter' is quite generally thought to be void, and not half of the voters went to the 'polls'." A letter to the editor published in the Oregon Statesman on Jan 4, 1912, claimed that the mayorial history of Salem had been improperly reported in saying that John Q. Wilson was Salem's first mayor.  The letter, signed "Pioneer" lists the chronology as follows: 1857 - Wiley Kenyon 1858- J.H. Moores 1860 - Lucian Heath 1861 - E.N. Cooke 1862 - H.M. Thather 1864 - J.H. Moores 1865 - John Q. Wilson

Lyman Samuel Scott. Willamette Heritage Center Collections 2007.001.1750

Birth: 1 Oct 1830, Litchfield, Connecticut Death: 21 Nov 1892, Salem, Marion, Oregon Spouse: Eliza J. Erwin Occupation:  Placer Miner, Army Officer, Mercantilist, Marion Count Sheriff, Postmaster Read his obituary on the Salem Pioneer Cemetery website.
Birth: 17 May 1827, Jefferson Co., New York Death: 6 December 1873, Salem, Marion, Oregon Spouse: Jeanett Occupation: Mercantilist, owner Ferry Company, Druggist, Fire Department member

Dr. Daniel Payton photographed in upper right corner. WHC collections photo, 2004.010.0714

Birth: 9 July 1827 Death: 7 April 1893 Stockton, California (buried Pioneer Cemetery, Salem, Oregon) Spouse: Elizabeth Hatton Occupations: Doctor, Dean of medical department of Willamette University.
Birth: 1832 Death: 9 May 1876 Spouse: Sophia Staiger Occupations: Monument maker, senior proprietor for the marble works in Salem

Advertisement. Oregon Statesman published 16 Jan 1874.

Birth: 4 May 1837, near Clinton, Illinois Death: 20 May 1923 in Salem, Marion, Oregon Spouse: Caroline M. Cross Occupations: Veteran - Indian Wars; Hotelier (Chemeketa/Marion Hotel); Grocer; School Board member; Legislator, Steward Oregon State Hospital for the Insane. Notes: Came to Oregon via the Oregon Trail arriving 1852.

Thomas Milton Gatch. Photo Source: Oregon: Her History, Her Great Men, Her Literature. By John B. Horner, copyright 1919.

Birth: 28 January 1833 Death: 23 April 1913 Spouse: Orytha Bennett Occupation: Educator; Professor and President of Willamette University and University of Oregon;  President Oregon Agricultural College and University of Washington. Learn More: Wikipedia Article.
George Washington Gray, Willamette Heritage Center 2011.060.0186

George Washington Gray, Willamette Heritage Center 2011.060.0186

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Russell F. Bonesteele (left) and unidentified Boy Scout reading the 1959-1960 City of Salem Budget. Al Jones Collection, WHC 2006.064.0601.006.

Russell F. Bonesteele (left) and unidentified Boy Scout reading the 1959-1960 City of Salem Budget. Al Jones Collection, WHC 2006.064.0601.006.

Born: 1 Feb 1900, Montana Death: 1 Feb 1981 Spouse: Valerie Briggs Occupation: Automobile Dealership, Oregon State Representative (1963 session), Trustee Salem Memorial Hospital Board See also the Bonesteele Park (Marion County) website with information about the Bonesteele Family who donated the land for the park.  See also the Bonesteele House on 18th Street featured on the Salem SHINE website.
License plate holder. Al Black Collection, 2014.082.0182.

License plate holder. Al Black Collection, 2014.082.0182.

Willard C. Marshall, WHC 2000.011.0018

Willard C. Marshall, WHC 2000.011.0018

Dr. Robert E. Lindsey. Portrait by Caren Ann Jackson.

Dr. Robert E. Lindsey. Portrait by Caren Ann Jackson.

Other Collections at the WHC

  • Most of the chronological list of mayors came from WHC 0082.004.026.0003.  A document that came out of the Salem City Recorder's office sometime after 1973.
2017-09-19T11:09:48+00:00 March 13th, 2017|Categories: Archives Spotlight, Collections Guide, Oral History|Tags: , , |0 Comments

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