Philomath College Campus


At the time Governor Hatfield used the pen described in the previous story, Oregon State University was the only institution in Benton County that awarded bachelors degrees.  That was not always the case.

In 1865, a group of United Brethren church members in the Marys River Settlement decided that they needed an institution that would provide education beyond that of the public schools and which was in accord with their religious principles. They raised money to purchase 320 acres from David Henderson.  The church kept eight acres for the college, divided the rest into town lots, and sold the lots for more than the purchase price of the land. The college and the town were both named Philomath.

Volunteers made bricks from clay found on the site.  A 40-foot by 60-foot three story building was constructed using these bricks plus timbers from the nearby Henkle mill. The building contained two classrooms on the main floor and a chapel on the second.

Philomath College Building, 1867-1870

The college opened in October 1867.  As the local public schools only offered education through the “sixth reader,” there were few students ready for college work.  For the college’s first few years, it offered elementary and secondary classes, gradually adding college classes when possible until it had a full classical college curriculum. Philomath College also expanded its campus. A dormitory large enough to house 20 boys and a supervising family was built 1885. 

Philomath College Dormitory, 1902

A small building to the east was originally built for the elementary department.  After that program was discontinued, the building was used for the music department and then as a social hall.

During the 1902-1903 school year, Philomath College added a gymnasium, built using the labor of students who were paid in cash and tuition.

Philomath College Gymnasium

The school also had tennis courts.

Students also built the foundation for a west wing addition to the main building (completed in 1905) and the east wing addition, completed in 1907. At last, the building had reached its final form.

East wing under construction
Main building, 1908-1909

By the 1909-1910 school year, 175 students were enrolled and pursuing a classical curriculum, a scientific curriculum, or a normal course (to train public school teachers).

Philomath College campus buildings

As a result of financial difficulties, Philomath College closed at the end of the 1929 school year.  Most of the buildings seen in this campus photograph have disappeared.  All but the main building were sold and moved or dismantled for the lumber. What remains is the brick main building which today houses the historical society’s Philomath Museum.

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