Guthrie Park Community Center Biography
To tell the story of Guthrie it is important to start by giving some historical background. Arlie Holt, Polk County historian, provided the historical information.
David Guthrie was a carpenter, born in Missouri. In May of 1846, at the age of 22, he started for Oregon. David was among many who were persuaded to take the newly explored wagon trail that winded its way through the rugged mountains of southern Oregon, which in time came to be called the Applegate cut-off. David arrived in this valley, on the Big Luckiamute, late in December. It was there that he took his first land claim, but he did not settle there. Being young and single he continued to seek adventure. He was a Private in the Cayuse Indian war and after that he went in search of gold to Sutter’s Fort, California. David was quite successful there and came back to Oregon with $3000. A tidy sum for those times, it enabled David to look around for the land of his choice. This valley was his chosen spot and he bought the rights to a 640-acre claim. There he built a beautiful home on what is now Cooper Hollow road.
David became a leader in agricultural development and was also involved in county development. He raised prized sheep and mohair goats, developed hop yards and had a large peach orchard near Salem. But it was his interest in the young and in their education that he should be best remembered.
His Cooper Hollow home was located 4 miles north of the Waymire log cabin school (currently known as Bridgeport School), and 4 miles south of Cynthian (now Dallas). His first 3 children made the trip to the Dallas school by horseback, braving the storms and muddy roads. David’s first wife Mary Ellen Davidson died in 1860. Eight years later he married Martha Miller and had 7 more children. He did not want these children, or their neighbor friends, to suffer the difficulties that his 3 older children did. So he took matters into his own hands by hiring a teacher to teach private school at his house. After one year he drew up a petition that he circulated to neighbors. He was able to get enough signatures to secure a grant by the school superintendent, thereby forming the Guthrie school district in 1885. David donated one acre of land, built a schoolhouse, dug a well and surrounded the place with a good fence. He furnished nearly all the money to cover the expenses, paying in all an estimated $200.
By 1910 the first Guthrie school became a fire hazard and the cross lighting in the school was considered harmful to the vision of the students. A new school was decided on and completed in the spring of 1912. David out lived the first school and died just under the age of 90, on March 15, 1914.
In 1913 the school’s teacher, Mrs. Audie Stone, thought the children should have a play shed. She organized the talent of the community and had plays, musical evenings and pie socials. Mrs. Stone used the money raised from these events to buy lumber for the play shed. In the spirit of Mrs. Stone’s unselfishness, considerable amounts of lumber were donated and most of the men in community got together to build the shed. In 1940 the play shed gave way to a gymnasium.
The second school was either torn down or burned down (conflicting stories) and the gymnasium became the schoolhouse. The school closed in June of 1960 and the land reverted back to David Guthrie’s heirs.
David’s daughter Lillie Mae Whiteside donated the land to the county. For the next 27 years the county rented the “hall” to the public for private events. That is how Sally Clark (manager of the Guthrie Park Community Center organization) became acquainted with Guthrie. In the spring of 1987 several of Sally’s friends rented the hall as a place to dance and play music. Sally became enchanted with the spirit of Guthrie and envisioned a place for the community to gather and socialize. In the fall of 1987 the county had put Guthrie “Hall”, and an acre of surrounding land, up for public auction. Sally saw an opportunity to make her visions transpire. She pursued the purchase of Guthrie and won the auction.
Guthrie Park Community Center is a 501 (3) (C) non-profit organization. Finances are generated through public donations and an annual Christmas raffle. All proceeds from donations go toward supplies, utilities, maintenance and repairs of Guthrie. There are no paid employees under this organization. Besides the board of directors, several people, who refer to themselves as “friends of Guthrie”, volunteer their time and talents to Guthrie’s needs.
The purpose of the organization is to promote cultural events such as music, art and dancing and to also provide a place for members of the community to gather and socialize.