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Oregon's birthday on the 14th gives us a reason to celebrate our states diverse history

What is the first thing you think of about February? Valentine's Day? True – it also hosts Women's History Month and African American History Month. It's sort of a quicky 28 or 29 day month. Did you know that there are over 57 special days or awareness topics in February? Here's a sampling: American Heart Month, Human Relations Month, Return your Shopping Cart to the Supermarket Day, and a personal favorite – Library Lovers Month! Oh, don't forget Groundhog Day (Gretchen's personal favorite) and, of course, Oregon's birthday.

Oregon gained statehood on February 14, 1859. Learning about and understanding our history, discussing history, and reminiscing allows us to gain insights from all that has come before. The Jefferson County Library is fortunate to have two collections to help you find out more about your past.

The Oregon History Collection

The Oregon Territory was a destination for many pioneers. Your library is fortunate to be home to a robust collection of Oregon materials. Remembering our roots, where we came from, how we got here, who settled here, the people instrumental in forming the State – It is all a part of our history. The written words are important as a testimony to what transpired to make the territory and State. Who better to describe the problems, situations, and agonies of life during that time than those who experienced it?

The diaries, stories, and photos can bring our storied history to life. Imagine life and land before the dams on the Columbia River and those hardy pioneers traversing risky currents in flatboats heading downstream towards the rapids at Cascade Locks, complete with covered wagons aboard. Or traveling over the Oregon Trail, the Barlow Trail, the Applegate Trail in Southern Oregon, or the Lost Wagon Train in the southeast and central Oregon.

Madras came to life because of the railroad. The furious race on either side of the Deschutes River to build the railroads the fastest is part of our local history. Decades of homesteaders "starving out" because of drought, jackrabbits, and other situations led many to sell out to the government in areas that became the Crooked River Grasslands. Reregulating dams on the Deschutes River was instrumental in producing electricity in the steep canyon. The area took root from ideas and plans, and we have much for which to be thankful in Jefferson County.

What better place to showcase our local talents, voices, and history than in the library? Our Oregon collection holds works from many local authors, including Jarold Ramsay, D. Bing Bingham, Rick Steber, Kathy Olson, Stan Pine, George Aguilar, Sr., Melvin Ashwill, the late Lawrence Nielsen, and the late Andrew Ontko.

What else, you ask? Oregon hiking books; Oregon gold panning area books; spooky Oregon tales; Oregon general history books; family history books, biographies, diaries; tales of urban and rural areas. There are histories of the dams and irrigation system, ranching, and farming; the events at Antelope and with the Rajneeshpuram commune; geographic descriptions; maps of the quadrants of Oregon, with the towns, ghost towns, and local areas of interest in each; histories of our Native peoples.

Reading about the whys and the wherefores of names for towns and locations is an excellent place to start. You'll find that in Oregon's Geographic names, by Lewis McArthur. Or open the "Little known tales of Oregon history," four volumes with short vignettes from a now-defunct magazine, Cascades East. Ontko wrote of the local central Oregon Native tribes with his five-volume "Thunder over the Ochoco" series. Ramsay has written extensively of Jefferson County history; Steve Lent has compiled a three-volume place name set with a vast amount of information on the tri-county area, with the township, range, and section for each geographic name, mountain, or region.

It is difficult to choose just one book – the Oregon geographic names might be a good place to start. It presents history and location and how areas and towns came to be named. For those with a good sense of humor, "Weird Oregon" is an interesting read.

For so many reasons, people came to Oregon Territory. We have had logging, mining, farming, lumber mills, ranching, fishing, tourism, skiing, and beautiful mountain ranges. I grew up with Mt. Hood in my backyard, and every time I see Wy'East, I am thrilled to watch the changes on the mountain.

What comes before is our heritage, for good or bad; all that comes after will be our history.

The Genealogy Collection

The Oregon and genealogy collections complement each other, and we are currently working on incorporating the two together at the library. When we investigate our personal history, it can come to life with newspaper articles, narratives, biographies, and family histories. We begin to understand the everyday lives of the relatives and friends who came before us.

Online databases supplement our collections., Library Edition (licensing rules make it available to you only at the library), Fold3 for U.S. Military Records, and HeritageQuest (both available at the library or from your home). You also have access to digital magazines covering genealogy, including Family Tree. We have the Madras Pioneer of Microfilm. For all resources available, check out our genealogy research guide - One of our future projects will be to digitize this collection to make it more widely available.

Our genealogy librarian, Alex, came across "Who Are the Schwenkfelders?" The Schwenkfelders are a Christian denomination (you can learn interesting things at the library). Another book in the Oregon Collection is "Days of Yore & Then & Then Some More: A Celebration of Fossil," which was donated by Alex after visiting the Fossil Museum to find out more about her family's history.

February – Oregon statehood month, Women's History Month, African American History month – lots going. Come and explore your family, region, and state history during a visit to the library. Just remember to return your shopping cart first if you're headed here from the store.

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