Photo by Jolene Guzman
Nate Woods looks through Walter Williams planner that he found in a box in his attic recently. The planner is from 1901.
As of Tuesday, November 6, 2018
DALLAS — In 1901, Walter Williams, a prominent businessman in Dallas, rode a Rambler bicycle, and his pants size was 34 inches. He was 6 feet tall.
All that information and more has been hidden away in Dallas resident Nate Woods’ attic for an unknown number of years. Woods recently found an old Sorbetto Biscuit box with random household items and documents from Williams’ business.
“I was working upstairs in my attic, running some cables, and saw the box,” Woods said. “It was kind of in this dark part of the attic that hasn’t been redone. The rest of the house has been renovated and updated, but this one particular room has been closed off for a really long time. I’m not sure who stashed it.”
Williams is the son of Polk County pioneers James J. and Alice Williams, who arrived in the Oregon in 1845, according to a 1932 article archived at the Polk County Museum. Walter Williams was born in 1873 in a home 2 miles south of Airlie, but his family soon moved to Dallas when his father was elected Polk County sheriff.
Walter Williams married Miss Pauline Frances Gaynor in 1900. Williams formed a confectionery business with C.A. Dunn in 1899. In 1907, he began working for Dallas National Bank, and a year later established Falls City Bank with his brother Ralph. Two years later, he returned to Dallas National Bank and stayed on as cashier until the bank was purchased by the Dallas City Bank in 1934. He retired after the sale.
Woods’ house on Court Street in Dallas was built in 1912, so much of what he found in the biscuit box predates construction, which only adds to the mystery of how it got there. On that point, Woods can only speculate. He’s learned since finding the box that the family owned several properties in the area.
He said the Polk County Historical Society has been more than helpful in finding information about the family.
“I almost think it’s like a kid’s treasures, because some of this stuff is like what a kid would stash away,” Woods said. “Like a ton of skeleton keys and little knick-knacks.”
Williams and Dunn were Oregonian newspaper dealers, and Woods said one of the more interesting finds is a ledger of subscribers.
“This is cool because the Oregonian index, which I’m guessing is their subscriber list to the Oregonian newspaper,” he said. “There’s a lot of classic Dallas names. I posted a couple (on Facebook), like Hayter and Dalton.”
Woods said his detective work, with the assistance of the Polk County Museum, has been fun and fascinating.
“They were pretty successful. There’s a whole thing about them going to Egypt and taking a tour of the world for three months,” he said. “Stuff that people wouldn’t write an article about now.”
For now, Woods said he’s going to keep the contents together.
“I’ve had a few people ask me about buying a few things. I will probably keep it at the house for now,” he said. “It’s way too cool to piece out and sell, because nothing is really valuable by itself. It’s more of the historical factor. I would much rather keep it all together.”