President Hoover honored at childhood home on 148th birthday
President Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States, would have turned 148 years old on Aug. 10, so the staff at the Hoover-Minthorn House Museum in Newberg threw him a birthday bash a few days later.
Although Hoover himself was a no-show, a small group of people gathered to tour the museum -- which served as his home from ages 11 to 14 -- and delight in food, trivia and a little history about the only president to have ever lived in Oregon.
"Herbert Hoover never forgot this small Quaker town, and for that, we will never forget Herbert Hoover," Geary Linhart, secretary of the Newberg Area Historical Society, said during his speech at the event.
Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa, to blacksmith Jesse Clark Hoover and Hulda Randall Minthorn, a sister of Dr. Henry John Minthorn, former owner of the home and a pivotal figure in Newberg's history.
At just 10 years old, Hoover was left orphaned and, after living briefly with an uncle nearby, the Minthorns offered him the chance to stay at their Newberg home and attend Friends Pacific Academy, now George Fox University. He arrived in 1885.
Just three years later, Hoover and the Minthorns moved to Salem, where he worked as a page boy for Henry John Minthorn's new firm. While he never attended high school, he joined the inaugural class of Stanford University, closing his six-year chapter in Oregon.
He graduated from Stanford as a mining engineer and served in various humanitarian and government roles until his eventual ascent to the Oval Office.
"For a person (to go) from an orphan to the President of the United States shows the possibilities of living in America," Sharon Lance, an attendee, said.
Lance, who lives in Milwaukie, attended the event with her husband and grandchildren. One of them, her granddaughter Addie, shares Hoover's birthday and just turned 9. Additionally, Sharon Lance was reading a biography on the president called 'Hoover.'
"To think I'm in the place he was, I just love that," she said.
Local historian and former GFU professor Ron Parrish, who manned the trivia table and wore a tall black cap he dubbed a 'Hoover Hat,' offered more intimate details about Hoover.
"He was self-propelled," Parrish said. "Herbert's uncle (Henry John Minthorn) was very strict and Herbert didn't like that."
"It felt very loveless, their relationship did," Nina Dahl, the museum's executive director, chimed in, describing Hoover's uncle as "brusque" and serious.
"(Hoover) was very quiet and knowledgeable," she said, adding that due to his parents' pre-mature deaths, he had become strongly independent and therefore resentful of his uncle's stringency.
As an adult, Hoover's reputation as a strong, competent leader was marred by the era in which he served as president (the start of the Great Depression) and his response to these hardships.
"He was president during a tumultuous time in American history," Sean Reyes, a museum intern, said. "He went very quickly from a popular president to an unpopular one."
People even nicknamed the Great Depression the 'Hoover Depression' and homeless encampments 'Hoovervilles' in his dishonor.
But Reyes pointed out that Hoover wasn't solely responsible for the Depression.
"It's difficult to say what events led to the stock market crash, but it started many years prior to his presidency," Reyes said. "Placing the blame on him completely is unfair."
However, Reyes said, it's arguable that he could have done more to alleviate the effects of the Depression. Hoover instead chose to take a hands-off approach, expecting private citizens to use their own money to fix the crisis, as he himself had done during previous financial hardships.
"Anything good that came out of his presidency was essentially attributed to FDR," Reyes added.
One of Reyes' favorite examples of Hoover's politics was when he, as head of the American Relief Administration and a Supreme Economic Council member, helped send food to starving people in 1921's Bolshevik Russia. In the process, Hoover figured out how to feed each person for $1.50 per month.
Critics lambasted him for getting involved with a communist nation. According to Reyes, Hoover replied along the lines of, "I don't care about politics; people need to be fed, and I'm going to make sure they are fed."
Hoover never again lived in Oregon, but he did return occasionally to fish. He also made a few trips back to Newberg, most notably to deliver the museum's dedication address on his 81st birthday in 1955.
"Newberg is so grateful to be tied to this great leader's story, and Newberg wants to help this museum tell that story and thrive for many years in the future," Linhart said.
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