History provides a sense of place and holds meaning for every town. It tells the story of the people, places and events that shaped a city and will form its future.

To help preserve this special history, the Phoenix Historical Society was formed in 1998 by a group of locals.

Showcasing local history

The museum opened in 1999 at its original location on 2nd Street. An extension was built in 2002 and it’s now located near the cemetery.

“We have many historical items from around Phoenix,” said Dorothy Cotton, a docent at the museum.

She explained the museum is in the same spot where the First Presbyterian church used to be in the 1800s, and has an organ from the church.

“A family member brought it from the church and gave it to us,” she said.

According to Dorothy, some of the items in the museum date back to mining times.

“We have an arrowhead collection and other Native American artifacts that were found in the Rogue Valley,” she said. “There’s also several pictures of some of the first settlers in Phoenix and we have a desk from the mercantile that was here until the 1950s.”

Additionally, the museum has many photos of Phoenix, its buildings and the people who lived there. Following in that tradition, the museum is collecting photos and stories from people who were affected by the Almeda Fire so they can continue to preserve Phoenix’s history.

“I have a display of the Almeda Fire victims so people in the future will know what was lost or burned,” she said.

Decades of stories

Phoenix has also been home to different historical figures, including Oregon’s first woman legislator.

“Her family lived here and owned the mercantile store, and she was elected to office in 1914,” said Dorothy.

All of the museum’s displays are from the Phoenix area, and include a variety of items. There are several things from the different schools, including pictures and yearbooks.

In addition to housing different historical artifacts, the museum is also a great source of information for people new to Phoenix.

“We have people who purchased homes here and will come in to ask questions about their house or the property. Often, we know or could find what used to be there,” she said.

For Dorothy, sharing Phoenix’s history is a true passion, and she’s volunteered at the museum since 2000.

“I’ve lived in Phoenix my whole life and love history,” she said.

She enjoys volunteering for many reasons, but she especially likes seeing people connect things from the past to the present.

“When you visit the museum, you’re likely to see a lot of names you recognize,” she said.

One such famous person is Bolz — who Bolz Road is named after. He had a farm store near where Garrisons used to be.

“He owned that whole area up to the high school. And his granddaughter is a docent here,” said Dorothy.

The museum also has a lot of information on the Fern family, for whom Fern Valley Road is named after. Additionally, many of these famous locals are buried in Phoenix’s cemetery.

Preserving Phoenix’s History

The museum is open from 1-4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and run by volunteers.

“When people come in they discover so many interesting things about Phoenix,” said Dorothy.

Phoenix has a fascinating history, and thanks to volunteers like Dorothy, the Phoenix Historical Society Museum will ensure the town’s history is remembered and documented for generations to come.


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