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Salem Mayors Oral History Project

/, Collections Guide, Oral History/Salem Mayors Oral History Project

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

Birth: 5 Aug 1820, Tioga County, Pennsylvania

Death: 23 Jul 1900, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouse: Prudence Minerva Berry (1831-1903)

Occupation: Banker, Legislator, Dry Goods Store, Linseed Oil Mill

Birth: 27 July 1834, Boston, Massachusetts

Death: 8 September 1908, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouse: Mary Ellen Gibson

Occupation: Hardware and Farm Machinery dealer (Wait & Brown),

Birth: 6 Jan 1835, Muskingum County, Ohio

Death: 16 May 1916, Corvallis, Benton, Oregon

Spouse: Margaret Rachel Stephenson (1841-1917)

Occupations: Lawyer, Captain U.S. Army (Civil War), Druggist,  Plumbing and Stove store owner.

More information and photograph available on Find-a-Grave here.

Birth: 25 March 1831, County Longford, Ireland

Death: 23 March, 1886, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouse: Lydia A. Hally (1848-1923)

Occupations: Blacksmith

Birth: 3 Sept. 1844, Ohio

Death: 17 Apr. 1909, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouse: Eugenie

Occupation: Southern Pacific Agent

Issues In Office:

  • Bridge Building Across the Willamette River (Oregon Statesman, 29 Jun 1886)
  • Public Holiday to mark the death of General U.S. Grant (See: Oregon Statesman, 2 Aug 1885)

William Marion Ramsey. WHC Collections 2011.030.0214

Birth: 25 Dec. 1846, Monroe County, Iowa

Death: 15 Sept. 1937, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon

Spouses: Mahala Alzada Harris and Julia L. Johnson Snyder

Occupation: Lawyer, Judge, 1st Dean of Willamette University Law School.

Notes: Ramsey did not serve a full term as Salem mayor, resigning his position March 1, 1888.  He also served two terms as mayor of McMinnville.

Birth: 22 Jun 1832, Ireland

Death: 19 Jun 1907, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Occupation: Carpenter, Lawyer, Marion County Sheriff, Legislator, U.S. Postal Inspector, Clerk at the Oregon State Supreme Court

Notes: He died in rather dramatic fashion on the street of a heart attack.  Read a transcription of the news report here.

Peter Henry D’Arcy, Jr. WHC Collections 2007.001.2055

Birth: 4 Mar 1854, Brooklyn, New York

Death: 6 Oct 1933, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Occupation: Lawyer, Judge

Birth: 29 June 1859, Washington

Death: 19 May 1939, Alameda, California

Spouse: Helen Mills Plummer

Occupation: Banker

Issues in Office:

  • Cow Ordinance.  All cows “running at large, except those tied by a rope or led would be liable to be impounded.”  Oregon Statesman, 10 May 1893, page 4.
  • Construction of City Hall. Begins, but doesn’t progress very swiftly.

Dr. James Asher Richardson from Oregon Statesman Illustrated Annual, 1902. WHC 2013.013.0003.

Birth: 15 November 1840, Illinois

Death: 4 June 1911, Portland, Multnomah, Oregon

Spouse: Frances “Fannie” Rebecca Boyd

Occupation: Physician, Bank Director.  Worked at the State Reform School and Insane Asylum.

Charles Pleasant Bishop. Willamette Heritage Center Collections, M3 1990-007-0001

Charles Pleasant Bishop. Willamette Heritage Center Collections, M3 1990-007-0001

Frank William Waters from Marion County Officials photo collage, 1895. WHC 2014.082.0053

Birth: 22 Aug 1865, Nebraska City, Nebraska

Death: 6 Dec 1944, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouse(s): Jessica Sargent Northrup and Hulda Z. Rimpler

Occupation: Type Setter and Printer, Real Estate Abstracts, Deputy County Clerk, County Recorder, Savings and Loan Association

The man who runs for mayor against Frank Waters will be up against the real thing.  Mr. Waters is sound in limb and wind and a runner without blemish.

-Editorial, Oregon Statesman, Friday, November 27, 1903, page 2.

George F. Rodgers. Elks Portrait. WHC 1992.005.0090.

Birth: 10 Oct. 1871

Death: 28 Sept. 1924 (Plane Crash)

Spouse: Blanche Albert

Occupation: Bookbinder, Wholesale Paper Dealer

Issues:

  • Paving of City Streets
  • Sewer System
  • Extending City Limits
  • First modern Apartment House built (Court Street Apartments)
Hat owned by Louis Lachmund. WHC 0094.076.0003a

Hat owned by Louis Lachmund. WHC 0094.076.0003a

Birth: 26 Dec 1872, New York

Death: 15 Oct 1943, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouse(s): Ella Pixley, Margaret Folsom

Occupation(s): Bookkeeper for hops company, Hops and Fruit Grower and Buyer, President of Salem Brewery Association and Capital Ice & Storage Co.

John Christopher (J.C.) Siegmund. WHC 1992.005.0213.

Birth: 25 Dec 1861, Sheyboygan County, Wisconsin

Death: 31 Jan 1948, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouses: Inez Hale

Occupation: School Teacher, Abstracts Company

Note:  Served as acting Mayor in 1913 in the stead of B.L. Steeves.

Birth: 7 Jul 1868, New Brunswick, Canada

Death: 23 Oct 1933, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouses: Sarah Fiducia Hunt

Occupation: Doctor – Eye, Ear, Nose, Throat Specialist, 9th Lieutenant Governor of Idaho, President Oregon State Medical Association.

Of Note:  Steeves was appointed to replace Louis Lachmund in 1913, but left on an extended trip to the East Coast.  Councilman W.T. Rigdon served as acting mayor, but the council voted to replace him with John C. Siegmund.  Steeves returned in September and was reelected in 1914.

Harlan “Harley” Overton White. WHC 2000.011.0036.

Birth: 7 Nov 1877, El Paso, Illinois

Death: 26 Sep 1958, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouse: Nellie Viola Cox

Occupation:  Wholesale seed dealer with D.A.White & Sons, Vice President of the Marion county Poultry Association, Salem School Board.

Birth: 16 Jan 1881, Mitchell, Wheeler, Oregon

Death: 23 Jun 1960, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouse: Ida Lau Hise

Occupation: Lawyer

Clarence E. Albin, 1919. Photography by Jenks. Published in the Capitol Journal 5 March 1919. Page 5.

Birth: 20 June 1882

Death: 19 Oct 1969, Corvallis, Benton County, Oregon

Spouses: Clara Mae Burnap, Faith (Keezel) Pugsley

Occupation: Telegraph operator, claims adjuster Industrial Accident Commission, Farmer

Issues during Tenure: Establishment of Industry (influential in bringing paper mill to Salem and the Valley Packing Company), Flu Epidemic

Otto J. Wilson. WHC 0080.005.0051.020.25.

Birth: 29 Sept 1868 Salem, Marion, Oregon

Death: 9 Nov 1942, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouse: Marguerite Ruth Ketchem

Occupation: Automobile Salesman

Birth: 5 Sept 1884, Sweden

Death: 13 Mar 1923, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouse: Sarah Ellen

Occupation:  Automobile Salesman

A very young John B. Giesy. Contemporary photos to his time as mayor show him without any facial hair. Photo Source: WHC 2004.010.0668

Birth: 8 Aug 1871, Aurora, Marion, Oregon

Death: 6 March 1929, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Occupation: Reporter, City Editor for the Oregon Statesman

Issues in Office:
Building up the police force, fire department and streets.

T.A. Livesley. Photo Source: WHC 1999.019.0001 – Detail.

Birth: 8 Dec 1864, Ironton, Sauk Co., Wiconsin

Death: 22 July 1947, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouses: Edna Irene DeBeck

Occupation: Hops farmer and dealer, State Legislator, financier

Issues during Tenure: Salem Municipal Airport, Streets and roads, fire protection, council-city manager form of government

Birth: 13 Aug 1884 , Topeka, Kansas

Death: 25 Feb 1946, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouses: Fannie Gray Barlow

Occupation: Commercial Cider Works; owner – Hollywood district
Buttercup Ice Cream Company; proprietor
Weatherly Ice Cream Company; owned & operated
Head of Sea Scouts
Director of the Social Department
School board member
Director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce

Douglas McKay, 1932. WHC 2000.011.0011.

Birth: 24 Jul 1893, Portland, Multnomah, Oregon

Death: 22 Jul 1959, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouse Mabel Christine Hill

Occupation: Car dealer.

Varnum Earl Kuhn, 1964. Photo by Jesten-Miller Studios. Statesman Journal Mugshot File. WHC 2017.032.

Birth: 13 Feb 1884 Dayton, Columbia, Washington

Death: 26 Apr 1967 Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouse: Bertha Esther Kemp

Occupation: Shoe Repair Shop

Issues in Office: Water supply

William Wells Chadwick, 1949. WHC 0081.002.0001.005

Birth: 28 June 1888, Bryant Hills, South Dakota

Death: 3 Dec 1968, Salem, Marion, Oregon

Spouses: Lorena Erp

Occupation: Hotel Manager

Issues During Term: Salem Municipal Airport, WWII, First Sewage Treatment Plant, Salem Centennial Celebration

Advertisement for Isom McTeer Doughton’s mayorial campaign. Published in the Capital Journal 15 May 1944, pg 9.

Birth: 26 Jan 1879, Sparta, Allegheny, North Carolina
Death: 31 Oct 1955, Salem, Marion, Oregon
Spouse: Elda Mar Sprenger
Occupation: Hardware Store

Profile in the Oregon Magazine, published February 1946. WHC Collections 2008.038.0235

Birth: 30 Aug 1904, Salinas, Kansas
Death: 27 June 1988, Marion County, Oregon
Spouse: Hulda G. Roth
Occupation: Contractor, building supplies

Birth: 14 Jul 1908, Walla Walla, Washingotn

Death: 3 Jun 1990, Portland, Oregon

Spouses: Irene Josephine Schreiber

Occupation: Oil Company

Birth: 15 Oct 1916, Salem, Oregon

Death: 26 May 1961, Portland, Oregon

Spouse: Martha Mae Robertson

Occupation: Partner in D.A. White and Sons Seed Company

Issues During Term: Planning, taxes, annexations

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.

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