Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Unmagical History Tour

Ever since we moved to Myrtle Creek, I had been looking online for any history of the town or library.  It hadn't occurred to me that the library would have its own scrapbook - one that I'd love to copy and share.  Let me just start with the introductions on the display case - excluding the pictures that I don't have.

Humble Beginnings

The first library in Myrtle Creek was established in 1912 in a two room, unheated cabin by a group of local citizens that staged a parade and fair to collect enough books.  The monthly rent for the location was $5.00.  Patrons war charged $1.00 a year to use the library.  It was run solely by volunteers, which were hard to get because the place was unheated, and operated by donations.  Sadly, it was eventually closed because all the members of the group responsible for the library moved out of town.

New Beginnings

In 1950, the Girl Scout library in the basement of a local church became open to the public.  It was a very populate venture and due to the need for more space, the library was moved that same year to the second floor of [what was then] City Hall.  However, this location was not up to code and the Fire Marshall had to shut it down for safety reasons.  The library was moved to a much smaller location that did not fit its needs.  Our community still wanted their library system and the City stepped in to provide it.

The Library and the City

In 1952, the City of Myrtle Creek contracted a new police station that included space for the library our community needed.  While the library eventually outgrew that space, that cooperation has since been continued and the City is still dedicated to providing a safe and accommodating space for the library.

When the old city hall was demolished in 1958, the new plans [were made.  The library was located where public city council meetings are now conducted] The library remained in that space for eighteen years.  

Joining the Douglas County Library System

In 1955, the Douglas County Library System was founded with the Roseburg Library as the headquarters.  Cities were contacted about a cooperative effort to create a county wide library system.  Myrtle Creek already had an established library with an active library board and they were concerned about new leadership hindering the wonderful thing the library was doing.  The state librarian at the time, Eleanor Stephens, wrote to the library board stressing the importance of cooperation to maintain a strong library system. [Though Myrtle Creek had done well on their own, it] was pointed out how much more efficiently things could be accomplished with the support of a county library.

Sixty years ago, in 1956, the Myrtle Creek Public Library became the Myrtle Creek Branch of Douglas County Library Systems

Your Library's Current Home

Forty years ago, in the summer of 1976, the city of Myrtle Creek completed the construction of our current building. [Our librarian at that time was Wilma Gore who] retired in 1977.  The City of Myrtle Creek has continued to assist, recently helping the library replace the carpeting and will soon install a new outdoor book drop.

I'd gone to the library last week to meet with one of the board members to go through my binder and hopefully get a bit more insight to my new position.  Because of my management class and recent post, I had asked about our vision statement, which she didn't know.  She didn't think we even had a mission statement; that I had found in the binder and thus she wanted to look at it.  Meanwhile I googled the subject and found this from two years ago:

Mission: Douglas County Libraries is a passionate advocate for literacy and lifelong learning.

Vision: Through engagement, education and entertainment, Douglas County Libraries transforms lives and builds community.

I edited my discussion post to include the vision and mission statements and added this:
Our goals right now are to save the library.

She reminisced a bit about growing up in Myrtle Creek, what it was like then and how so much has been lost over the years.  She remembered seeing more traffic.  Before Mill site park, there was actually a grist mill.  The park includes a brief history, though I don't recall a fire being mentioned.  I think she said whatever remained of the building burned down in the late '70s.    This is what I learned about Myrtle Creek during my research:

oldest known photo of Myrtle Creek

Settlers first came to the valley in 1837 and by the 1850s' farmlands and homesteads were esablished in the area. The Myrtle Creek area was originally settled in 1851 and the town was established in 1865. The town's name is derived from groves of Myrtle trees found in the vicinity along the banks of North Myrtle, South Myrtle and Myrtle creeks. Oregon Myrtlewood is a broadleaf evergreen native to Southwestern Oregon and Northwestern California and rarely found anywhere else.

Timber was as important to the area during the last century as it remains today.  By the 1870s there were two mills in the Myrtle Creek area.  The planning mill that was attached to the grist mill and a sawmill, up North Myrtle Creek, which could produce about 5,000 board feet per day. 

Milling has been a major part of the City of Myrtle Creek’s economy.  Lazarus Wright constructed a grist mill at the edge of town (adjacent to the creek) that had a capacity of 45 barrels of flour a day.  A planning mill was attached to the grist mill.  An electrical generator was incorporated into this facility prior to 1912.  It was renamed the Myrtle Creek Water, Lighting and Milling Company.  

The grist mill depicted in this mural was built along Myrtle Creek in the early 1850s. It was originally run by a man named Lazarus Wright and was a landmark as it was the only grist mill in the south county area. It was later converted to hydro-electric plant. The grist mill changed ownership a number of times, including John Hall, founder of Myrtle Creek. He bought from Wright (c.1863) and later had town surveyed & platted (ca.1868). Other owners of the mill included Hans Weaver, Henry Adams, F. M. Gabbert and Willis Kramer.

The grist mill was torn down prior to 1930 by the Oregon State Highway Commission to make way for a new bridge across Myrtle Creek as part of the Pacific Hwy improvement project.
The mural was painted in 1997 by local artist Susan Comerford, who still has an art studio in Roseburg, Oregon. The mural is located in Myrtle Creek’s Millsite Park, and is painted on the old sawmill bunker building (aka power house) for the Fir Manufacturing and March Logging Company. The sawmill was built in 1944 to help feed the demands of a nation at war, and supplied the lumber to build the decks of aircraft carriers. Another of the mill’s claims to fame is that it supplied the lumber for building the handrails for Madison Square Gardens in New York.

Eventually the sawmill closed and was abandoned. Then a fire destroyed the wooden mill buildings, almost taking the downtown area of Myrtle Creek with it. After the fire, the city acquired ownership of the land to build a city park under the condition that the land never be used for a profit making business. The bunker building was a very plain building and was almost torn down until the City was approached to have a mural painted on it. The building is now used by the Myrtle Creek Parks Department.

– Mural and historical information provided by Carolyn Shields, Myrtle Creek City Recorder and Maureen Butler, Myrtle Creek Historical Society
Photo by Gary Halvorson, Senior Archivist, Oregon State Archives

I've taken and posted several pictures of Mill Site park in Myrtle Creek. Ed Cadman had taken several pictures that were posted to this site:   

 This giant saw blade, from the old sawmill here, is preserved as part of the park.

Ed Cadman

This is the grindstone and plaque

Karen Rivera      November 2015

Ed Cadman

This plaque tells the story of how the Horse Creek covered bridge arrived in Myrtle Creek.

John Trax / Alamy Stock Photo

  Horse Creek Covered Bridge, spanning Myrtle Creek adjacent to Millsite Park, was built in 1930 and is currently used as a pedestrian bridge. This bridge originally spanned Horse Creek in Lane County but was removed in 1987. The bridge's wooden timbers were given to the City of Cottage Grove for salvage. Cottage Grove used some of the timbers and the remaining lumber was donated to the City of Myrtle Creek in the spring of 1990. 


Ed Cadman

Karen Rivera        November 2015


Myrtle Creek is well known for its old bridges.  The Neal Lane covered bridge across the South Myrtle Creek in one of the six in Douglas County.  In addition to Horse Creek Covered Bridge is the Neal Lane Bridge, which I have also photographed and posted.

From the 1950's: Myrtle Creek itself flooded every year. Ed Cadman had sent a picture depicting the flood  just south of the Dairy Queen where the main highway went into town. You can find more of his pictures here.  This is the only picture I could retrieve from the internet.


I pulled my sources from the following websites:


Historical Sites Downtown Myrtle Creek

Myrtle Creek - Tri City Area Chamber of Commerce

The City of Myrtle Creek

Myrtle Creek Historical Society

1 comment:

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