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Clark Moor Will papers

Identifier: Coll 062

Scope and Contents

The collection contains an array of documents and drawings devoted, on the whole, to the two main focuses in Will's life, namely the Colony at Aurora and his thirty years with the Salem Water Department. The correspondence forms a separate series and is arranged chronologically from 1877 to 1981. It consists largely of letters from Frederick Skiff, an Americana specialist who shared an interest in Aurora.

The bulk of the collection consists of material relating to the settlement at Aurora, including articles, manuscript and printed, written by Will; voluminous, though at times repetitive, notes on the history of Aurora; a scrapbook of obituaries and newspaper clippings about the Aurora colonists and their descendants; papers about Aurora by other writers; Clark Will's portraits, drawings, and maps of Aurora's settlers, their homes and their life on the Oregon Trail; and music scores, both handwritten and printed, used by the Aurora band from its inception in Bethel, Missouri, to its demise in 1920.

Will's articles in their final, or near-final, form have been grouped together while the assorted notes have been arranged in a rough chronological order that takes the Aurora settlers from Germany to Oregon by way of Bethel, Missouri and the Oregon Trail. While there are some primary resources in the collection, Mr. Will mostly collated the work of others in his study of Aurora. As a result, a wealth of secondary information is provided on the history of Aurora, pioneer life in the Pacific Northwest, and the joys and tensions of communal living. Of special interest to historians of the Oregon Trail is the information on the Aurora Colonists' trek across the United States. With the preserved body (literally pickled in alcohol) of Dr. Keil's son, Willie, at the van of their wagon train, hymns constantly on their lips and a habit of sharing their meals with Indians they encountered, the settlers of Aurora crossed the American continent unscathed at a time when a goodly percentage of their fellow migrants were being attacked by the native tribes. It appears that the Indians, who were in awe of the corpse, intrigued by the singing, and won over by the food, made a point of distinguishing between Germans (and French Canadians) whom they tolerated and Americans whom they cordially detested.

A second interest of Will's is reflected in the manuscripts and research materials relating to the history of Salem's water supply, including several maps and drawings of Salem's aquatic arteries and the machinery that services them.

One box of negatives, prints, and slides, mostly concerned with the architecture of Aurora, though some slides of Salem's waterworks are also included. Of note are a glass plate photograph of Dr. Keil and a picture of the Aurora Colony band.

A World War II United Way broadside has been removed to the Broadside Collection.


  • 1871-1981


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time. Glass plate negatives and lantern slides are restricted due to the fragility of the format. All decisions regarding use will be at the discretion of the curator for visual materials.

Conditions Governing Use

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

Clark ("Willie") Moor Wier Will's life-long hobby, and labor of love, was to probe the history of Dr. William Keil's Aurora Colony, a communal and non-denominational Christian settlement that flourished in Marion County, Oregon, form 1856 to 1883. Mr. Will's father, John William Will, was a member of the Aurora Colony.

Clark Will was born on May 9, 1893, in Corvallis, Oregon. He was orphaned before he was a year old and was raised by his father's sister and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. George Wolfer, of nearby Hubbard, Oregon. A veteran of World War I, Will served in Scotland and France as a member of a highly acclaimed military band that was attached to the Headquarters of the 326th Field Artillery 84th Lincoln Division.

Clark Will supported himself and his family with various jobs as a printer-pressman, plumber-electrician, and, finally, maintenance-installation foreman for the Salem Water Department; yet the enduring avocation of this self-taught artist and historian was to depict the architecture and past of the Aurora Colony.

Mr. Will was an ardent musician and possessed a gregarious personality. He played with several local bands and the Salem Symphony Orchestra, in addition to being a member of the Marion County Historical Society, the Aurora Colony Historical Society, and numerous other organizations such as the Knights of Pythias, the Masonic Lodge, and the Salem Men's Garden Club.

Always keen to propagate information about his beloved Aurora, Mr. Will gave frequent lectures about the Colony's history, and provided numerous articles and illustrations for several Northwest historical publications.

Clark Moore Will died in Salem, Oregon on June 30, 1982. He was 89 years old.


3.8 linear feet (13 containers)

Language of Materials



The Clark Moor Will papers contain materials concerning the Aurora Colony of Marion County, Oregon and the Salem Water Department. The Aurora Materials cover all aspects of the colony, including the band, music, women, daily life, site maps, correspondence and architecture. The collection also includes manuscripts and articles written by other authors concerning the Aurora Colony. The Salem Water Department materials cover the history of the department and Salem's water supply, as well as speech transcripts. The collection includes two solander cases of oversize materials.


Collection is organized into the following series: Series 1. Correspondence; Series 2. Aurora Colony Materials; Series 3. Salem Water Department Materials; Series 4. Oversized Materials; Series 5. Photographs.

Separated Materials

A World War II broadside is stored separately in the Broadside Collection.

General Physical Description note

10 containers, 1 oversize flat box (shared with other collections), 2 solander cases,

Guide to the Clark Moor Will papers
Revise Description
Finding aid prepared by John Minott
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA