“All the people we have loved and lost are still among us, in the house we call history.” –Graham Masterton
Are you interested in local history? Do you have stories that need to be preserved and shared? The Tillamook County Historical Society (TCHS) wants you! The TCHS is a local group of volunteers dedicated to preserving the stories and photographs of Tillamook County’s unique people and places through public events, the placement of historical plaques and interpretive signage, and the publication of books and a twice-yearly newsletter. The organization was first formed in 1977 and went on to become a registered non-profit in 1984. Since then, the TCHS has built a legacy of projects and publications that form a cornerstone of our local historical record. Sometimes confused with the Tillamook County Pioneer Association–made up of “pioneers” whose families have lived in Tillamook County for at least 40 years–the TCHS is open to everyone, and works in partnership with the Pioneer Association on important projects and initiatives. It’s most recent collaboration has been the renovation of downtown Cloverdale, led by past TCHS president Sally Rissel.
“Most of us have been in hibernation since the pandemic forced us to put our meetings and events on hold,” says out-going TCHS president Rob Russell. “Thankfully, a few of our more active members have kept the fire burning, and we’re planning a return to regular meetings with some excellent guest speakers in 2022. We’re also looking forward to publishing another book, this one diving into the history of Tierra del Mar.”
Publishing has been a pillar of the TCHS since South County educator and historian Sally Rissel joined the group in 2001. Rissel had long been an avid collector of stories and photographs from the early days in Nestucca and Neskowin valleys, and regularly contributed newspaper articles to the Pacific City Sun.
“I was considering starting a new group in Pacific City to help pull together other interested people,” says Rissel. “Then I found out there was already this group in Tillamook that was meeting in a little room at the Air Museum. There were some amazing people involved, and I felt like I had found a home base for the work I wanted to do.”
Jim Reeher, a founding member of the TCHS, was one of those people who caught Sally’s attention. Jim’s grandparents had homesteaded along the North Fork of the Wilson River, and he charmed everyone he met with his accounts of early life in the Tillamook Forest. Another person who caught Rissel’s attention was Diane Colcord.
“Diane got involved a few years later, as I recall. She immediately started contributing her graphic design and cartographic skills,” Rissel remembers. “She made our beautiful walking map of Tillamook, and she designed our logo and newsletter—she does incredible work.”
Soon Rissel and Colcord were collaborating on book projects. Rissel was responsible for the printing of History of the Little Nestucca Country, the meoirs of Alexandria Rock. She and Colcord collaborated on Life at a Pioneer Homestead on the Pacific Ocean, which chronicled the settling of Sand Lake and the early days of Camp Meriwether. Meanwhile, one of the founders of TCHS, the late Bill Minshall, put together the spiral-bound Historical Markers of Tillamook County, still the only guide book of its kind for the area. Another important contribution was the recent reprinting of The Adventures of Dr. Huckleberry, of which the bulk of the copies were donated to the Garibaldi Maritime Museum. The most recent book project was released in November of 2019, a distillation of Jim Reeher’s memoirs and stories titled Keeping Memories Alive: A Life Lived in a Tillamook Forest, Forest Grove and Beyond. Jim paid the printing costs and proceeds from book sales help fund TCHS operations.
TCHS leadership is very upbeat about the coming year. Russell points to the addition of some energetic new members, a full schedule of monthly meetings with guest speakers, and the anticipated opening of a new office and meeting space on the main floor of the Hoquarton Historical Interpretive Center in downtown Tillamook, set to open in 2022.
“A lot of the new energy is thanks to the Tillamook County History Alliance,” says Russell. “Julie Hurliman has energized all of our local history groups, and she’s got a lot of exciting stuff coming this year, as well.”
The Tillamook County History Alliance (TCHA) was created in 2014, and uses transient-lodging-tax dollars to provide vital support and increased capacity for all the county’s historical institutions.
“We’re also really excited about progress on the Hoquarton HIC. Charlie Wooldridge, Clair Thomas, and our amazing crew of students and volunteers made huge strides last year. For the first time ever the TCHS will have a brick-and-mortar home base, and a new institution where we can apply volunteer hours.”
The TCHS generally meets on the second Tuesday of each month starting at noon. Most meetings are held at the main branch of the Tillamook Library. The 2022 includes some other meeting places, as well as a couple of weekend events to allow for broader public participation.
Schedule of Events for the First Quarter of 2022 (Noon):
January 11 – Monthly Meeting at the Tillamook Library
February 8 – Speaker Jacob Wood at Tillamook Library
March 8 – Quilt Bed Turning at the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center
April 9 (Saturday) – Speaker/author Jim Reeher at the Tillamook Forest Center
Available books from the Tillamook County Historical Society:
Keeping Memories Alive by Jim Reeher
Looking Back at Tillamook County History by Sally Rissel and Diane Colcord
History of Little Nestucca Country by Alexandria Rock
The Adventures of Dr. Huckleberry by E.R. Huckleberry, M.D. (for sale at the Garibaldi Maritime Museum)
Life at a Pioneer Homestead on the Pacific Ocean by O.R. Chamberlain
Guide to Historical Markers of Tillamook County by Bill Minshall
The mission of the Tillamook Coast History Alliance is to promote and support our history-based museums, societies and organizations in Tillamook County in order to better inform and educate the general public visiting or residing in the County. https://www.tchistoryalliance.org/