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The images below are scanned in from 4"x5" glass plate negatives that were donated to the schoolhouse in 1980 accompanied with hand written notes by Myra Lauridsen (transcribed here as written). The images seem to be from around the early 1900s.

Click on a thumbnail below for a larger view and descriptions

Soap Creek Valley History

Recent Study of Soap Creek Valley

In 1999, Bob Zybach did his thesis; Using Oral Histories to Document Changing Forest Cover Patterns: Soap Creek Valley, Oregon, 1500-1999. We thank the author for making this facinating study available for downloading.

(The document is in PDF format and is 12MB in size)

Soap Creek is an old community, closely associated with Tampico in early days. Located north of Corvallis, the narrow protected valley, hemmed in by low hills, was homesteaded in the 1840’s. At one time the Tampico-Soap Creek area was considered to be a “rough place,” but by the 1930’s, people thought it essentially a close-knit community with a real feeling of neighborliness.

There are at least two references to the Soap Creek School being the earliest one in the county, but this is hard to substantiate, as the “Soap Creek Precinct” was only vaguely defined, and seemed to include all of northern Benton County, including present Lewisburg and North Albany, where the early Fuller and Gingle schools were located. However, Fagan stated “In the fall of 1947 the first schoolhouse in the (Soap Creek) Precinct was erected.” He further goes on to specifically name Gingles and Halter schoohouses as being “east of Wells Station,” so was not referring to them, although he could have meant the Fuller school. John E. Smith, historian, was more specific, “In the fall of 1877, the first log schoolhouse in the Soap Creek community and probably the first in Benton County, was built. Doubtless school was conducted there as early as 1849 (possibly earlier, as it was in Kings Valley).” This most likely was actually the Tampico school.

Charles Olson, who attended the school starting in 1904, says the first one he knows of was a small building on the present site, which might have been built about 1885. When the school he attended was built in 1900, the old one was moved to the back of the grounds and used as a wood and storage shed. The new school was much like the existing one but somewhat larger. Sitting on one acre of ground donated by J.H. and Elizabeth Moore. “It is understood that said part of the second part, as part of the consideration hereof is to erect upon said premises a schoolhouse and that the same is to be used for school purposes only.” A board fence enclosed the grounds and water was piped from a spring.

The existing building, according to Grace Govier Reger, was finished in time for the 1932-33 school year, when she was in the third grade. A man named Johannson was the carpenter. For some reason, for several years before this, school was held in a “big old house” on a corner of the Goveir place. Mrs Reger attended her first two years there.

The new school, also white and also with a belfry, was somewhat smaller than the old one, had windows on only one side, and had a back door, as well as a front one.

Charlie Olson said the old one was cut in two, put on skids, and hauled by cat through the fields to the Tampico area.

The students, with names like Westbrook, Baker, Moore, Olson, Knox, Dorgan, Pardee, DuMoulin, Govier, Reuiter, Baldwind, Smith, Miller, Carlson, Barzee, Schmidt, Cochrane, Mills, Marks, Sumpf, Beck, Wolcott, Burge, Maurer, Logan, Christenson, Ecker, Liggett, Brown, Hoset, Thompson, Carothers, Davis, Peacock, and Carter, sometimes walked long distances. In winter Soap Creek would flood, making the children walk an even longer distance to get around.

The Olsons walked four miles through rough timbered country, which could be pretty scary because of darkness, wild animals, and other things. Olson said when he was 12 or 13 he packed a pistol, which he hid in the woodshed during the day, so the teacher wouldn’t know. One day he stopped to talk with his uncle, who was farming near the road, while his sister walked on. He never did catch up with her, but when he reached home she told him an odd story about a large coyote that had challenged her on the road. She had stood her ground until finally it leaped in the underbrush, whereupon she hurried home. Not long after this, a large timber wolf was killed nearby, and they have always believed this is what she faced down that day.

In this school, as in most others, there were occasional incidents which had to be dealt with. At the June 18, 1905 school board meeting, a member of the board was appointed to “buy a new door and hang the same” and to “buy two new seats.” They must have pretty well known who committed the act of vandalism, because he was also instructed to “ascertain who destroyed said door and collect for same” and to “ascertain who broke the (seats) and collect same from the one who broke them.” Olson says the stove suffered also and a new one had to be purchased about that time.

Olson recalled one family of youngsters who “didn’t get along with anyone.” One of them was standing by the stove drying his clothes one day when the teacher asked him to move so she could put more wood in the stove, which had a lid that swung out horizontally on a hinge. He rudely ignored her, so perhaps in exasperation, she swung the lid around anyway. It caught him right behind the knees causing him to sit on the hot stove lid with a definite “sizzle.” Not much sympathy was extended.

The teachers at Soap Creek were almost all women, with only one man E.P. Wing, listed in the extant records, which cover the years 1900-1923. Many boarded or lived in the community,but Wing walked across the hills from Corvallis each day. In later years, of course, they drove to school. Most of them were remembered as good, conscientious, professionals, who had to deal with children of different ages, grade levels, personalities, abilities, and backgrounds. Some were more successful than others, undoubtedly. As a child, Olson spoke only Scandinavian. English was a second language for him. In the primer one day, he read a word as “become.” The teacher became angry and told him to look at the word. Finally she spanked him and told him to go to his seat and memorize the word, but still didn’t tell the bewildered boy what he had done wrong. The older students were upset over the incident and as soon as she could, a girl whispered and told him the word was “became,” which he had never heard before. His English soon improved.

One Labor Day, Wing dismissed the school soon after they arrived, telling them it was a holiday and they should go straight home. Instead they decided to have a picnic up the skid road which Wing walked each day. When they got to the top of the hill, he was sitting waiting for them and gave them a good “bawling out” for not minding him.

During the depths of the Depression, the farm families contributed material for big pots of soup, prepared by the teacher, which simmered on the stove all morning, to be shared by everyone at noon. Some of the families, especially the logging and mill camp families, just didn’t have much in those hard times and the hot soup was a real help for those children.

In early years, the school was taught two terms a year–from September or October to November or December, and from March or April to June. The school records list the teachers from 1900-1923 (some taught two or more different times or for several years) as May Oglesby, Maud Hargrove, Catherine Jones, Julia DuMoulin, Nellie Glassford, Lottie Blake, Autie Elva McClud, Dollie Brown, Winnifred Gates, E.P. Wing, Maude Smith, Willa Fields, Myrtly Langley, Violet F. Harris, Minnie Allen, Edith Beck, and Ruth Leyton. The record book goes from June 1916 on one page to September 1920 on the next. Since there is no indication of missing pages, this seems to indicate the school, for some reason, was closed duriing that time. The Teachers Register does not have teachers listed for those years either. The available record books end with 1923, but other teachers included Mrs. Ed Blake, Ruth Arout, Mrs. Arndt, Mrs. Peterson, and Mrs Kabler.

At Christmas the teachers helped their students put on a program for the community and made sure everyone had a part. Olson had made himself a violin and taught himself to play it when he was ten, and was often called on to play at the programs and elsewhere.

The end of school in later years meant a picnic at Sulphur Springs where the Civilian Conservation Corps had made a park.