History Lesson

George Williams is just getting used to his new cane.

One plus is immediately obvious, though: The sturdy, sculpted post is great for pointing.

George was my docent Wednesday as I took the monthly tour of Old College Hall on the Forest Grove Campus. The opportunity is monthly, that is; tourists don’t always show up.

A retired, third-generation dentist, George has a special tie to Pacific’s history: His great-grandfather was Alanson Hinman, who served on the board of trustees (of Tualatin Academy and later Pacific University) for 53 years.

George spent much of his career in the Main Street dentistry practice he took over from his uncle. When he retired, though, he became interested in his family history and started looking into the past.

“I came over and started studying the history, and one thing led to another,” he said.

Walking from exhibit to exhibit on the second floor of the oldest educational building west of the Mississippi, George pauses to point to various artifacts (often with his handy new cane) and to share stories he’s read or heard first-hand.

He’s awed by the foresight and bravery of the early settlers who founded the school, including Tabitha Brown, the 66-year-old inspiration for the orphan home that became Tualatin Academy and Pacific University.

“She looks mean, but she was well-liked,” he said.

He laughs over a tale of a mascot badger gone awry on the football field and is perplexed by the twist of fate that burned down Old College Hall’s twin building, rather than the original that was being used as a chemistry lab.

He adores the old pump organ that he heard played by a visiting alumnus a few years ago.

“It just filled the building.”

He may not be an alumnus, but he loves when they visit and add their stories to the collection of history in the hall.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012