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Preserving West Linn's heritage

New historical society will keep record of citys stories and characters


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Many West Linn folks have been into the history of their town for a long time. Here are the cast and crew of the Willamette Living History Tour of 2013.West Linn has a lot of history. Now it has a historical society to preserve it.

On March 1 a group of history-loving West Linners filed founding documents with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office to formally establish the West Linn Historical Society. This action followed a year of preparation that included discussions, meetings and work sessions. The genesis of the organization has taken even longer.

“Danny Schreiber and I had talked about this for the past couple of years,” said Beth Smolens, who will serve as president of the historical society. “Having worked on the Willamette Living History Tour for the past six years, seeing its growing popularity, we knew that there was a need to develop an organization dedicated to West Linn history that could benefit the entire community more often than one night per year.”

“I became involved in 2008 when I joined the Willamette Centennial Committee,” Schreiber said. “I found there was no single resource on the history of West Linn. There was a lot of individual effort, but nothing collective, and there was a lot of duplicate effort. I thought it would be nice to support each other.”

West Linn is rated the safest city in Oregon (by the research site Neighborhood Scout), not to mention being popular place to live because of its trees, rivers and schools. Yet West Linn is not just about the enjoyable present. Smolens, Schreiber and their associates want to preserve the story of how West Linn came to be. by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Officers for the new West Linn Historical Society are, from left, James Manning, John Klatt, Beth Smolens, Mike Selvaggio and Roger Shepard. Not pictured are Danny Schreiber and Mike Gates.

“There are stories from the past that need a place to be preserved and retold,” Smolens said. “Every year during the tour our guests remark that they never knew West Linn developed as a logging town, had an electric trolley or that one of the world’s largest meteorites was found near the banks of the Tualatin River off of Johnson Road.”

As for how much West Linn history the society wants to preserve, Schreiber said, “All of it, from the last five or 10 years back to the native tribes. We have so many artifacts. There is history all around us. Some of it is preserved, some is not.”

Smolens added, “After over a year of meeting and talking with other residents, we learned there were many of us in the city that felt passionate about an organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating West Linn’s history.”

In the coming years, society members plan to make history preservation fun with an interactive website, historical re-enactments, school visits, storytelling and more.

Society members have been busy studying the work of other area historical societies in Tualatin, Sherwood, Beaverton, Tigard and Cannon Beach. But the best way to keep West Linn history living is to make community members aware that the West Linn Historical Society exists and that they can make a contribution to its mission.

“We think that history is enjoyed best when the community or individual can participate in ways that are meaningful for them,” Smolens said. “We have many ideas that will engage people to participate and celebrate West Linn’s heritage.”

Schreiber is especially eager for the society to reach out to West Linn schools.

“There are so many kids without a clue of our history,” he said.

Board members of the WLHS are Smolens as president; Schreiber, vice president; Nicole Schreiber, author of historical plays about West Linn; treasurer Mike Selvaggio, a new West Linn resident; secretary Roger Shepard, collector of historic photos; John Klatt, owner of Old Oregon Photos; Mike Gates, authority on West Linn history; and James Manning, longtime history preservationist.

The society now has a website under construction with the address of westlinnhistory.org. The society welcomes volunteers, supporters and organizations interested in creating historical and/or educational programs, events and projects. To do this, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .