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Herbert Hoover:
Three Important Years In Marion County
 
Herbert Hoover, the thirty-first president of the United States, made two of the most important decisions of his life while growing up in Marion County. Residents of Marion County also played important roles in Hoover’s later political life.

Born in Iowa in 1874, Herbert Hoover became an orphan at age ten and joined an aunt and uncle, Henry J. and Laura Minthorn, in Newberg, Oregon, in November 1885.

Hoover moved to Salem in the summer of 1888 where Mr. Minthorn had become president of the Oregon Land Company. "Bert," as he was known then, began working as the company’s office boy for $15.00 a week. His duties included driving potential real estate buyers to land for sale in the Salem area; taking care of the horses used by the company; substituting as a streetcar conductor; and general office work. Through his job, Hoover learned typing and bookkeeping.

Hoover lived with his aunt and uncle in a new house that was part of Salem’s Highland addition developed by the Oregon Land Company. The house still stands, although it has been significantly altered.

Two individuals gave him special encouragement during his Salem years, Hoover later recalled. Sunday school teacher Jennifer Gray encouraged him to read more broadly and think about the larger world. Engineer Robert Brown told him that engineering was a great profession, but that he needed to attend college to become a professional engineer.

This encouragement led him to make his two big decisions: to become a mining engineer (a career in which he made millions of dollars) and to be part of the "pioneer class" at Stanford University when it opened in September 1891. As Hoover later said, "My boyhood ambition was to be able to earn my own living, without the help of anybody, anywhere."

While growing up in Salem, Hoover became acquainted with another orphan his age, Charles McNary. Both men were leading Republican politicians in the 1920s and 1930s. McNary, who served in the United States Senate for more than twenty-five years, was the GOP vice presidential candidate in 1940. Hoover served as United States President from 1929 to 1933. Although unsuccessful, Hoover's 1932 presidential campaign involved a ten-year-old Marion County boy named Mark Hatfield, who later became a Hoover scholar and United States senator.

During Hoover’s term as president, the federal government, including an additional 37,000 miles of highway and the creation of Federal Land Banks to halt farm closures. Under his tenure the United States adopted the "Star Spangled Banner" as its national anthem. Hoover gave his salary to charity and made unsuccessful attempts to prevent the stock market collapse of October 1929 and the Great Depression.

Hoover visited Marion County at least twice after his years as president. His final visit was in August 1955, when at age 80, he spent a night in Salem’s Senator Hotel. Hoover died in 1964.

Bibliography:
Kyle Jansson, "Herbert Hoover: His Salem Years," Historic Marion, Vol. 38, no. 1 (Spring 2000), pp. 1-3.

Kyle Jansson, "Marion County's Uneasy Relationship with Herbert Hoover," Historic Marion, Vol. 38, no. 2 (Summer 2000), pp. 5-7.

 

 
Visit to Salem by Herbert Hoover in front of Old City Hall, 1955
Visit to Salem by Herbert Hoover in front of Old City Hall, 1955.
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Where Hoover lived while in Salem.
Where Hoover lived while in Salem
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