Artificial intelligence has been the rage in recent months, especially after OpenAI released a free web-based text chatbot tool called ChatGPT. A few weeks ago, a mobile version launched and with a curiosity about how it works or how accurate (or inaccurate) it might be, I downloaded the app and started asking questions.

The chatbot relies on large language model technology, which mimics how people write by processing a large database of digitized books and online writings and analyzing how words are sequenced together.

You can use ChatGPT to do a wide variety of tasks from making a shopping list to note-taking to writing a formula to work in a spreadsheet. And, you can simply have a little fun and ask questions.

After experimenting with the chatbot, the conclusion I’ve reached is it can do fairly well with things like human-like conversational responses but often makes factual mistakes. I decided to ask it a series of Philomath-related questions.

Here’s what happened:

Question: When was Philomath, Oregon, founded?

ChatGPT: Philomath, Oregon, was founded in 1867. The city was established as a farming community in Benton County, located in the Willamette Valley of western Oregon. It was originally named “Philomath City” after the Greek words “philos” meaning “lover” and “mathos” meaning “learning” or “knowledge.” The name reflects the community’s emphasis on education and intellectual pursuits. Over the years, Philomath has grown and evolved into a vibrant city while still maintaining its commitment to education and community values.”

Conclusion: The chatbot’s 1867 reference relates to the founding of Philomath College and the community that grew up around it. I would say this is accurate (although the city was not incorporated until 1882). I’m not sure if I’ve seen any references to the town being originally called “Philomath City.” Agriculture is mentioned, logging is not and the focus of its answer revolves primarily around education. In my opinion, I think any answer involving Philomath’s founding must include a reference to the church and college. That’s where it all started.

Question: Where did Kevin Boss go to high school?

ChatGPT: Kevin Boss, the former NFL player, went to Nooksack Valley High School in Everson, Washington.

Conclusion: Wow, the chatbot really messed up this answer. I was curious about where in the heck it would produce this response and frankly, it’s a mystery — followup searching on Google couldn’t find any connection. I probably don’t need to tell you this but Boss is a Philomath High graduate who went on to reach the highest level of professional football.

Question: What peak is located near Philomath, Oregon?

ChatGPT: Near Philomath, Oregon, you can find Marys Peak, which is the highest peak in the Coast Range of Oregon. Marys Peak stands at an elevation of 4,097 feet (1,249 meters) and is located about 12 miles (19 kilometers) northwest of Philomath. It is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and offers hiking trails, breathtaking views, and diverse wildlife.

Conclusion: All of this info sounds fine. I was pleased to see the accurate official spelling of “Marys” (without an apostrophe).

Question: Who is the mayor of Philomath, Oregon?

ChatGPT: I’m sorry, but as an AI language model, I don’t have real-time information or the ability to browse the internet. Therefore, I don’t have access to the current mayor of Philomath, Oregon. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, I recommend contacting the Philomath City Hall or visiting the official website of the city. They should be able to provide you with the current mayor’s information.

Conclusion: I suppose a simple “I don’t know” would suffice but the chatbox seems to have some manners about what it does and does not know. It even provides you with alternative ways to find that information. Of course, the answer is Chas Jones.

Question: What is the population of Philomath, Oregon?

ChatGPT: As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the estimated population of Philomath, Oregon, was around 4,700 people. However, please note that population figures can change over time, so for the most current and accurate information, I recommend referring to the official website or recent census data of Philomath, Oregon.

Conclusion: OK, fair enough but I think the 4,700 figure is noticeably low. The 2020 census showed Philomath with a population of 5,350. The most recent population estimate from the Population Research Center at Portland State University shows the number of people in town at 5,653. 

Question: In what building is the Benton County Historical Museum in Philomath housed?

ChatGPT: The Benton County Museum in Philomath, Oregon is housed in the Philomath Community Center building. The museum is located at 1101 Main Street in Philomath and offers exhibits and displays that showcase the history and heritage of Benton County and the surrounding region. It’s a great place to explore local history and learn about the community’s past.

Conclusion: The answer I was looking for here was the old Philomath College building. I don’t know where our chatbot friend came up with Philomath Community Center. Besides that reference, the info is accurate.

Question: Where did the quarterback princess go to high school?

ChatGPT: The movie “Quarterback Princess” is based on the real-life story of Tami Maida, the quarterback princess, who attended school at Taft High School in Lincoln City, Oregon. The movie depicts her journey as she breaks barriers by becoming the first female quarterback on her high school football team.

Conclusion: Incorrect. Tami Maida attended her freshman year of high school in 1981 at Philomath and made headlines for playing quarterback on the junior varsity and freshman football teams (a Sports Illustrated “Faces in the Crowd” item reported that Maida ran for a touchdown and threw for a two-point conversion while quarterbacking the Philomath High freshmen to a 46-6 win over Taft and the JV to a 26-0 defeat of Elmira). After her year in Philomath (the family moved here temporarily while her dad completed a doctorate degree at Oregon State), the Maida family returned to Prince George, British Columbia.

Question: What news source serves Philomath, Oregon?

ChatGPT: In Philomath, Oregon, one of the local news sources that serves the community is the “Philomath Express.” It is a weekly newspaper that provides coverage of local news, events, and community information specific to Philomath and the surrounding areas. It can be a valuable resource for staying informed about happenings in and around the town.

Conclusion: The information is outdated, obviously, with the Philomath Express stopping publication in September 2020 and the Philomath News launching in November 2020. I’m flattered about the reference to “valuable resource” considering how hard I worked on that publication.

Final conclusion: Have some fun with ChatGPT — it can be interesting to see what answers it comes up with for your questions. But only use it for fun and kids, definitely don’t use it to help you with a homework assignment. The accuracy is hit and miss.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.