Labor of Love

Donna Gramse recently completed a 15-year photo project with the Woodburn Historical Museum, uploading some 5,000 photo records and in the process helping to identify much of Woodburn's history.

Gramse, who has been volunteering since she first moved to Woodburn in 1999, joked she "got sucked into" the project.

"I am a photographer and I have always been interested in photos, so when I first moved to Woodburn in 1999 I was retired and didn't have much to do," she said. "RSVP had an ad looking for someone to input their glass negatives onto the computer, so I did that at the state library."

After working on that for a while and inputting about 3,000 glass negatives she learned Woodburn had glass negatives and started working through them. That process was a bit laborious, taking the negatives to Salem and putting them into the computer.

"I organized those glass negatives and put identifiers on them and made a written list, with descriptions," she said. "(Assistant City Administrator) Jim Row told me he wanted all the pictures from the museum put on the computer, so we decided to buy a program that allowed me to put them on the computer and then to the Internet."

She said that over the course of completing the project she learned a lot.

"I learned a great deal of history about the City of Woodburn," Gramse said. "It's been a lot of fun doing this, learning about the history of the town. I am fascinated by how much is going on and has gone on in the past. This town has probably changed more than any town in Oregon over the years."

One tidbit she learned: Woodburn is a town because Jesse Settlemier wanted a rail station near his farm, and he bribed the railroad people to come here.

"He had money and it was expensive to ship his products, so he had the idea of getting a rail stop here any way he could. The City just grew from a one room school house to a three room to an eight room within several years," she said. "Woodburn seemed to grow in neighborhoods over the years. You eventually saw Senior Estates built, then the growth of the Hispanic community, then Tukwila was built and so on."

This project, though, she says has been a labor of love.

"I started out loving the pictures, then I got to love the history, then I fell in love with the museum (for which she has volunteered the past 11 years)," Gramse said.

She started the project in 2002 and now that it is finished, Gramse will be moving on as well. She is moving to Washington to be closer to her daughter and family.

"I have really loved the museum and the history is has here and I am sad to be leaving," she said. "I won't have the same interest in Lake Stevens."

Row said Gramse's contributions will have a lasting impact on Woodburn.

"Donna has not only done a lot of work for the museum, but she has invested so much into the museum and this project," he said. "We will miss her contributions, volunteerism and enthusiasm for the museum."

To view the historical photos that have been uploaded, click here.

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