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Marion County Historical Society History

In the late 1940s, when proposals were made to demolish both the building that housed Oregon's capitol at statehood and Marion County's 80-year-old courthouse, many people became upset at the loss of Salem's heritage.  Eventually, in 1950, they formed the Marion County Historical Society.

Led by its first president, David Duniway, the society promoted historic preservation in Marion County as well as held educational programs and published booklets of Marion County history.

It led preservation efforts for historic buildings such as the Jason Lee House, the Thomas B. Kay Woolen Mill and Historic Deepwood Estate. It also briefly operated a museum in Gervis in the early 1970s.

About 1980, the society began a museum in a small room of Mission Mill Museum. This effort expanded in 1984 when the society purchased the mill's old retail store and converted it into a museum, in which the society's headquarters were still located in 2002.

The society has expanded its services and activities over the years.  It is the only full-service historical organization in the county providing a museum and research library, educational programs, publications, and heritage tree program.  In 1999, it received a certificate of commendation (one of less than 100 awarded) from the American Association for State and Local History, and the NonProfit Member of the Year Award from the Salem Convention and Visitors Association.

The mission of the society is to advocate and promote an appreciation of regional history by preserving and interpreting the county's cultural and natural history.

The society's museum is located on the northwest corner of Mission Mill Museum at 260 12th St. SE. Its hours are noon-4 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.
For more information, phone (503) 364-2128
Visit the society's web site at

Compiled by Kyle Jansson
Executive Director
Marion County Historical Society


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