As you might guess, the timber industry was big around Philomath 100 years ago. (Photo by Dave Alan/Getty Images via Canva)

Many newspapers of yesteryear published features annually about the communities that they served — a sort of almanac, if you will. Have you ever wondered what Philomath was like a hundred years ago?

Let’s take a look at the Jan. 4, 1923 edition of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and the story headlined, “Benton County town by town and resources.”

According to the piece, Benton County’s major industries in 1923 were timber, brick and tile manufacturing and livestock and farming. Farm products included fruits, grains, vegetables, flax, wool and dairy products. There was a co-op creamery in town.

In Benton County as a whole, there was reportedly 5 billion feet of standing merchantable timber, mostly yellow fir with some cedar, hemlock, white fir and maple. There were many other woods “but hardly regarded as merchantable” — the chief of those being oak and beech.

“All the timber in the county is privately owned, except a few million feet where a national forest laps over the county boundary.”

A large saw mill was located at Philomath. The city was also home to an ax-handle factory.

Philomath’s altitude is listed at 295 feet with a population of 650. The city was located on the Corvallis & Eastern Railroad as well as the Marys River.

“Surrounded by a large area of fertile agricultural land and extensive timbered area in the immediate vicinity. Lumbering, farming, dairying, fruit growing and poultry raising.”

Philomath College, a nonsectarian Christian school controlled by the United Brethren Church, was one of the oldest educational institutions in the state at the time. Two churches were in Philomath and the city had a high school and graded public schools. There was a weekly newspaper and an IOOF lodge. The community was served by the Capital and Surplus Bank.

Blodgett had a population of 33 and lumbering, dairying and farming were the main industries. Hoskins, with a population of 150, had a lot of farming, dairying, lumbering, fruit growing, stock raising and hops.

Kings Valley’s population was 120 with farming, dairying, lumbering, fruit growing, stock raising and hop growing serving as its main industries. Summit had a population of 55 and had dairying, stock raising and fruit growing. Wren had a population of 25. Lumbering, dairying and  farming were the main industries.

Other communities listed included Alpine (population 300), Alsea (population 150), Bellfountain, Bruce, Calloway, Glenbrook, Granger (formerly Weldon), Harris, Lewisburg, Monroe (population 400), Mountain View, Peak, Wellsdale (population 20).

125 years ago

Local literature: There was a literary entertainment given at the Philomath college last Thursday night by local talent, and if we may be allowed to brag a little, we may say that talent in this line is by no means scarce at this place. Afterwards there was a basket supper at which the baskets were sold at auction to the highest bidder. There was considerable rivalry for the possession of some of the baskets so that some paid high for their suppers. (Published Jan. 5, 1898, in the Corvallis Times)

Woodmen gathering: On Friday night there was a gathering of Woodmen and their friends at Odd Fellows Hall, where, although for the time being they put aside the regular tools of their craft, yet they did full justice to a splendid supper and afterwards enjoyed games, etc., in a manner long to be remembered by those present. In fact the whole part was as good as could be imagined, one continual round of fun, with only one incident to mar the pleasures, which was at the supper table when one person took sick but the timely arrival of a large plate of soup worked wonders and in a short time “Richard was himself again.”  (Published Jan. 5, 1898, in the Corvallis Times)

100 years ago

College basketball: The Albany college pirates got under sail last night at Philomath and took the fast Philomath college five into camp to the score of 28 to 7. The Albany forwards scored at will and the guards broke up every attempt of the Brethren to score. Only one field basket was allowed and that came early in the first half and was a fluke, back-hand shot. … Frank Braumbaugh of the high school refereed. About as many Albany boosters were present as there were Philomath rooters, despite the inclement weather and bad roads. A youngster about ten years old proved to be the greatest Albany rooter, having recently moved to Philomath from here. He kept up a rapid fire talk, which had the entire Philomath contingent down on him before the game was half over. (Published Jan. 6, 1923, in the Albany Democrat).

Area flooding: West of Corvallis, the waters of Oak Creek flooded quite a little territory and the waters were running across the Philomath road within the city limits yesterday evening. Further out in the country toward Philomath and the Alsea country, the country has been and is covered with water and many small bridges are out. (Published Jan. 8, 1923, in the Corvallis Gazette-Times)

75 years ago

Stolen money: Theft of $200 from Philomath high school, apparently last Saturday night, was reported today by Sheriff C.N. Lilly. An investigation is being conducted by Philomath police. The report showed that entrance was obtained through jimmying the rear basement door with some type of bar, an instrument also used to break into several desks and offices in the other sections of the building. The loss was all in cash, and while several rooms, various desks and drawers were ransacked, apparently nothing else was taken. (Published Jan. 6, 1948, in the Corvallis Gazette-Times).

Pile-up in fog: Eleven automobiles piled up in a spectacular series of crashes shortly before 8 o’clock this morning near the highway department weighing scales mid-way between Corvallis and Philomath on Highway 20. Six of the vehicles required the services of a wrecker, the sheriff’s office reported, but only two very minor injuries occurred. Deputy Sheriff Don Christenson, who investigated, said fog and icy pavements were blamed for the crash, which blocked the highway for some time until the wrecked cars could be removed. (Published Jan. 9, 1948, in the Corvallis Gazette-Times).

50 years ago

Historic building: “A major hurdle has been accomplished” announced Dean L. Tatom, chairman of Philomath College Building Restoration Committee. He referred to the announcement that the Philomath College building has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. … Years of work have gone into the project of preserving Philomath College. Tatom has been one of the prime instigators. He said he didn’t expect the building to be placed on the National Register quite so soon and he credited the actions of several persons for quick reality. Among supporters were State Sen. Dick Hoyt and U.S. Sen. Mark O. Hatfield. (Published Jan. 5, 1973, in Greater Oregon).

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

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.