Oral Histories of the Benton County (Or.) Courthouse, 1987-1991

Overview of the Collection

Horner Museum.
Oral Histories of the Benton County (Or.) Courthouse
1987-1991 (inclusive)
0.6 cubic feet, including 37 audiocassettes, (3 boxes)
Collection Number
OH 23
The Oral Histories of the Benton County (Or.) Courthouse document the history of the building as expressed by descendants of those who built it as well as those who worked in it and fought to have it preserved, including Judge Richard Mengler and six other interviewees. Completed in 1889 and located in downtown Corvallis, the Benton County Courthouse is Oregon's oldest courthouse building still being used for its original purpose.
Oregon State University Libraries, Special Collections and Archives Research Center
Special Collections and Archives Research Center
121 The Valley Library
Oregon State University
Corvallis OR
Telephone: 5417372075
Fax: 5417378674
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

The Benton County Courthouse is located at 120 NW 4th Street in downtown Corvallis on land originally donated to the city by its founders, Joseph Avery and William Dixon. Designed by Portland architect Delos D. Neer, the courthouse project was dedicated on July 4, 1888 and completed in Fall 1889, thus replacing the county's first courthouse building, which had been erected in 1854. The new building was constructed using local stone and brick, and was meant, in Neer's words, to evoke "an Italian villa with a military influence." Total costs for the construction, including furnishings, ran to about $70,000, which reputedly made Benton County's courthouse project the second most expensive in Oregon's history to that point.

From 1977-1979, the facility was the focus of a major restoration and renovation project, overseen by local architect Cy Stadsvold. For his efforts, Stadsvold received the American Institute of Architect's "Significant Building Award" in 1979. Stadsvold's work also contributed to the building's nomination, in 1977, to the National Register of Historic Places. An icon of the mid-Willamette Valley, Benton County's courthouse remains the oldest in operation anywhere in the state of Oregon.

Richard Mengler (1911-2001) served as City Attorney of Corvallis from 1952-1954, District Court Judge from 1954-1959 and Circuit Court Judge from 1965 to his retirement in 1981. Mengler also served three temporary terms on the Oregon Supreme Court. Born in Nebraska to impoverished itinerant farmers, Mengler earned a bachelor's degree in English from Kearney State College in 1933 and, in 1939, a master's in Education from the University of Oregon. Following a two-year stint as vice-principal at Corvallis High School and another two years of service in the Pacific theatre during World War II, Mengler worked toward a law degree, which he received from the University of Oregon in 1952. For the better part of the next thirty years, Mengler pursued a career in law throughout the Pacific Northwest, though Corvallis always remained his home. Mengler's close association with the Benton County Courthouse stemmed both from decades working in the building as well as his many years' service as chair of its Preservation Committee.

Twin brothers Edmund Gravelle (1913-2005) and Elroy Gravelle (1913-1991) were grandchildren of Odina Gravel, a carpenter who helped to build the Benton County Courthouse.

Gladys (Mack) Hunt (1909-2004) was the daughter of Herschel Mack, Benton County Clerk from 1926-1932. As a teenager, Gladys spent a summer working for her father in the Benton County Courthouse.

Dorothy Moore (b. 1901) and Louise (Moore) Forland (b. 1913) were daughters of A.J. (Albert Jordan) Moore, Benton County Clerk from 1932-1948.

Magdalen (Mann) Schultze (1912-2005) was the daughter of Thomas Mann, a contractor who helped to build the Benton County Courthouse.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The centenary of the Benton County Courthouse building was celebrated in July 1988. In planning for this commemoration, the Benton County Commissioners' office approached the Horner Museum with the proposal that an oral history of the building be captured. This project was carried out over a period of three years with Horner Museum oral historian Jennifer Lee serving as interviewer and project manager. County officials selected six individuals to be interviewed for the project - Judge Richard Mengler, Gladys (Mack) Hunt, Elroy and Edmund Gravelle, Dorothy Moore and Magdalen (Mann) Schultze - and Lee identified a seventh, Dorothy Moore's sister Louise (Moore) Forland.

The resulting collection consists of two sets of audiocassettes of each interview, annotated draft transcripts, correspondence, photographic slides of interviewees, signed permissions forms, and a two-volume spiral-bound monograph titled An Oral History of the Benton County Courthouse, which contains finalized transcripts of each interview.

Volume 1 of the monograph is devoted to an in-depth life history of Judge Mengler and includes a table of contents, project overview and introduction to Mengler's biography. The text of Mengler's transcript is divided into chapters titled: "Early Life in Rural Nebraska"; "Education and Work"; "Moving West and Teaching in Corvallis, Oregon"; "Military Career"; "Law School, Marriage and City Attorney"; "District Court Judge"; "Courthouse Preservation Efforts"; "Teaching at Oregon State University and Serving as Circuit Court Judge"; "Supreme Court Appointment"; "Circuit Court Judge and Looking Back"; and "Retirement."

Volume 2 of the monograph includes capsule biographies of Hunt, Schultze, Moore, Forland and the Gravelle brothers, as well as the full texts of their interviews.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

Preferred Citation

Courtesy of the Oral Histories of the Benton County (Or.) Courthouse (OH 23), Special Collections & Archives Research Center, Oregon State University Libraries

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


The collection is arranged into two series: I. Audiocassettes; II. Transcripts and Project Files. Each series is arranged chronologically or by material type, as appropriate. An alphabetical view of the oral history interviewees whose recordings and transcripts are held in this collection is as follows:

  • Forland, Louise (April 27, 1988)
  • Gravelle, Edmund (March 27, 1988)
  • Gravelle, Elroy (March 27, 1988)
  • Hunt, Gladys (March 16, 1988)
  • Mengler, Richard
    • Recording of a presentation, December 8, 1987; and four interviews: December 7, 1988; August 4, 1989; March 2, 1990; June 25, 1990
  • Moore, Dorothy (April 22, 1988)
  • Schultze, Magdalen (March 29, 1989)

Acquisition Information

Acquisition Information

The collection was originally created by the staff of the Horner Museum with support from the Benton County Commissioners' office. The materials were transferred to the University Archives upon the closure of the Horner Museum in 1996 and later described as part of the Horner Museum Oral History Collection (OH 10). In 2013 the materials were separated out and described as their own collection.

Processing Note

Processing Note

Arrangement and description by Chris Petersen

Related Materials

Related Materials

Additional materials concerning the Benton County Courthouse are found in the Benton County Courthouse Scrapbook and the OSU Memorabilia Collection file devoted to the building. The courthouse has been photographed often over time and historic images are housed in numerous SCARC collections including, among others, the Betty Kerr Photographs (P 196), Horticulture Department Photographs (P 090), Ben L. Gifford Photographs (P 218 - SG 5), John B. Alexander Sr. Photograph Collection (P 121) and Sydney Trask Photograph Collection (P 096). Certain of these images have been digitized and are available online.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

I:  Audiocassettes, 1987-1990Return to Top

37 items

Horner Museum accession numbers are included with each set of audiocassettes. All interviews were conducted by Jennifer Lee. All recordings except for Richard Mengler's 1987 Chamber of Commerce presentation were duplicated by the project team and have been arranged into this series.

Container(s) Description Dates
Mengler, Richard
Presentation by Mengler on the history of the Benton County Courthouse delivered at a meeting of the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce. No transcript has been created for this recording. Horner accession number 988-1-9a.
December 8, 1987
Hunt, Gladys (Mack)
Horner accession numbers 988-1-1a-b, including two duplicate cassettes. Hunt discusses her father, Herschel Mack, who served as Benton County Clerk from 1926-1932. Hunt also discusses her recollections of working in the courthouse, the Depression years, and her family's involvement with local public schools.
March 16, 1988
Gravelle, Edmund and Elroy
Horner accession numbers 988-1-2a-b, including two duplicate cassettes. The Gravelle brothers discuss their grandfather Odina Gravel, a carpenter who built the courthouse tower. They also discuss their family history, including information on their French-Canadian ancestry.
March 27, 1988
Moore, Dorothy
Horner accession numbers 988-1-3a-b, including two duplicate cassettes. Moore discusses her father A.J. Moore, Benton County Clerk from 1932-1948. She also notes that the Moore family home was located across the street from the courthouse. She recalls teaching children to dance, performing musical programs and playing piano in the local silent movie theaters.
April 22, 1988
Forland, Louise (Moore)
Horner accession numbers 988-1-4a-b, including two duplicate cassettes. Forland discusses her father A.J. Moore as well as recollections of life as a student at Oregon Agricultural College and working in downtown Corvallis during the Depression.
April 27, 1988
Mengler, Richard
Horner accession numbers 988-1-9b-c, including two duplicate cassettes.
December 7, 1988
Schultze, Magdalen (Mann)
Horner accession numbers 988-1-4a-b, including two duplicate cassettes. Schultze discusses her father, Thomas Mann, the builder of the courthouse. She also recounts her student years at Oregon Agricultural College during the Depression and searching for jobs following her graduation.
March 24, 1989
Mengler, Richard
Horner accession numbers 988-1-9d-e, including two duplicate cassettes.
August 4, 1989
Mengler, Richard
Horner accession numbers 988-1-9f-g, including two duplicate cassettes.
March 2, 1990
Mengler, Richard
Horner accession numbers 988-1-9h-i, including two duplicate cassettes.
June 25, 1990

II:  Transcripts and Project Files, 1988-1991Return to Top

10 folders

Container(s) Description Dates
Draft Transcript: Forland, Louise (Moore)
Draft Transcript: Gravelle, Edmund and Elroy Gravelle
Folder also contains interview notes, correspondence, background materials and two photos of University Falls on Elliot Creek, Tillamook County, Oregon.
Draft Transcript: Hunt, Gladys (Mack)
Folder also contains interview notes.
Draft Transcripts: Mengler, Richard
Folder also contains interview notes and background materials.
Draft Transcript: Moore, Dorothy
Folder also contains interview notes.
Draft Transcript: Schultze, Magdalen (Mann)
An Oral History of the Benton County Courthouse, Volume 1. By Jennifer Lee
Volume contains an introduction to the Benton County Courthouse oral history project and in-depth life history of Judge Richard Mengler (1911-2001).
An Oral History of the Benton County Courthouse, Volume 2. By Jennifer Lee
Volume contains the text of oral history interviews conducted with Gladys (Mack) Hunt, Magdalen (Mann) Schultze, Dorothy Moore, Louise (Moore) Forland, Edmund Gravelle and Elroy Gravelle.
Signed Permissions Forms
Portraits of Interviewees
Folder contains eight 35-mm slides depicting Louise (Moore) Forland, Edmund and Elroy Gravelle, Richard Mengler and Magdalen (Mann) Schultze.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Courthouses--Oregon--Benton County.

Geographical Names

  • Benton County (Or.)--History.
  • Corvallis (Or.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories (document genres)
  • Slides.

Other Creators

  • Personal Names
    • Forland, Louise. (interviewee)
    • Gravelle, Edmund. (interviewee)
    • Gravelle, Elroy. (interviewee)
    • Hunt, Gladys Mack, 1909-2004. (interviewee)
    • Lee, Jennifer A. (creator)
    • Mengler, Richard. (interviewee)
    • Moore, Dorothy, 1901- (interviewee)
    • Schultze, Magdalen. (interviewee)