Today, it would take only 31 hours to drive from Monmouth, Ill. to Monmouth, Ore. But in 1853, when the town of Monmouth was founded by pioneers from Illinois, it took the wagon party 10 months to make the journey.
This is one of the incredible facts that many do not know about Western Oregon University and the town of Monmouth. The first public building in Monmouth was a 20 by 30 foot school at the corner of Main St. and Monmouth Ave. The university was established on January 18, 1856, and the first building was erected in 1858 where Campbell Hall currently sits.
The University Archives Department at WOU regularly receives questions about the founding families of Monmouth and the establishment of the university. Erin Passehl-Stoddart, university archivist and digital collections librarian, thought it would be worthwhile to develop a project to answer those frequent questions. Such a project should and would work for multiple constituencies, including student orientation and alumni events. “No matter where I’ve worked, I always find it interesting that most students have no idea of the history of their school,” she said.
She applied for a grant from the Polk County Cultural Coalition to develop a video about the history of the university and town from 1853 to 1911. University Archives teamed up with Digital Production Services to complete the project after being awarded the grant. Deborah Rezell, digital media producer, said, “When I found out University Archives had a wealth of information about the history of Monmouth and the start of Western Oregon University, I knew we had to produce a video to share this story with our students and the local community.”
The video features local Monmouth historian Scott McArthur and Monmouth Mayor John Oberst. A boxed DVD can be purchased at the WOU Bookstore for $6. The video is also available online for free viewing through WouTV or through the library’s institutional repository, Digital Commons@WOU. A previous collaboration between University Archives and Digital Production Services for the centennial celebration of Todd Hall can be found at online as well.