Ruth McBride Powers (1903-1995)

Ruth McBride was born in Michigan in 1903, graduating from Stanford University in California. According to a 1980 OHS oral history interview, she became interested in history when "as a young bride" she moved to the Coos County lumber town, Powers,Oregon, named after her husband’s family. She began studying the history of her adopted state, especially its architecture and pioneer furniture. Her initial preservation project, in 1956, was reconstruction of the badly-burned 1852 Robert Newell house at Champoeg, subsequently given to the Daughters of the American Revolution to operate as an educational site.   Alfred Powers, her husband died in 1961 in Portland.


She continued her efforts, using her financial resources to save many of Oregon’s oldest buildings; sometimes they were purchased outright, at other times she providing major underwriting. In addition to the Ainsworth House, Rose and Locust Farms also known as the (Morton Mathew McCarver House), she is credited with saving the Philip Foster house and barn, Horace Dibble house, David Wagner log house, Murray Wade house, Lake Oswego IOOF hall, Pleasant Grove-Condit Church, John Boon house, and Francis Ermatinger house. In 1975 she received national recognition for her work from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


In the final 25 years of her life Mrs. Powers divided her time between The McCarver House and the Rose. She often opened the latter for fund-raising tours and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The McCarver House (Locust Farm) 1852, the 1847 William and Louisa Holmes House ("Rose Farm"), and the Captain John Ainsworth House built in 1852  are the three remaining settlement-era houses built in the Mt. Pleasant area of Clackamas County. The survival of all three is due to the preservation efforts of a single benefactor, Mrs. Ruth McBride Powers.


The Dibble House in its original condition




Ruth McBride Powers, a historic preservationist who was involved in restoring many Oregon properties, died Jan. 26, 1995, at her daughter's home in Salem. She was 91.


Mrs. Powers' first restoration effort was the Robert Newell House at Champoeg. Built in 1852, it was the only dwelling to survive the Champoeg flood of 1861. While she was the state regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Mrs. Powers acquired and presented the house to the state society and served as co-chairwoman for its restoration.


Among her other restoration projects were the 1850 Capt. John C. Ainsworth House in Oregon City, the 1857 Horace Dibble House in Molalla, the Ox Barn Museum building in Aurora, the 1865 Flannery Cottage in Oregon City, the 1868 Wagner Log House in Powers, the 1889 Odd Fellows Hall in Lake Oswego, the 1847 John D. Boon House in Salem and the 1865 Murray Lincoln Wade House in Salem.


She also assisted in restoring the 1841 Jason Lee House and the 1841 Methodist Parsonage, both now at Mission Mill Museum in Salem.


Mrs. Powers' home since 1968 was the Gen. Morton Matthew McCarver House in Oregon City. The rooms were made of Maine timber that was precut in Boston in the late 1840s and shipped around the Horn. McCarver, who made a fortune during the Gold Rush shipping fresh produce from Oregon to California, bought the house on the San Francisco docks and erected the house in Oregon City in 1850.


In 1965, Mrs. Powers was named an Oregon Journal Woman of Achievement for her contribution to historic preservation. Also in 1965, she was the Portland Women's Forum's Woman of the Year.


In 1974 she was one of four people honored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation at a luncheon in Washington, D.C. In 1975 she became the first woman member of the Honorary Council of the Oregon Historical Society.


She was a member of many civic organizations.


Mrs. Powers was born March 14, 1903, in St. Clair, Mich. She graduated from Stanford University and did graduate studies at Stanford Law School.


In 1926 she married Albert H. Powers, a Coos County cattleman, and moved to Powers. After her husband died in 1961, she moved to Portland.


She is survived by her sons, Albert H. Jr. of Seattle and Quincy M. of Eugene; daughter, Diana Powers Evans of Salem; eight grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.B


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