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Byars family papers

Identifier: WUA102

Scope and Contents

The Byars family papers is a multigenerational collection that contains books, correspondence, photographs, financial and legal documents, and memorabilia connected with the Byars family, Willamette University, and Oregon. The material in the collection ranges from 1866 to 1990, but the majority is from 1875 to 1942. Items of note include: letters from William H. Byars to Senator John H. Mitchell regarding political appointments, a collection of cabinet cards, and a collection of land deeds from the Salem and Portland areas.


  • 1866-1990
  • Majority of material found within 1875-1923


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

Library acts as “fair use” reproduction agent.

For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.

Copyright Information: Before material from collections at Willamette University Archives and Special Collections may be quoted in print, or otherwise reproduced, in whole or in part, in any publication, permission must be obtained from (1) the owner of the physical property, and (2) the holder of the copyright. It is the particular responsibility of the researcher to obtain both sets of permission. Persons wishing to quote from materials in any collections held by University Archives and Special Collections should consult the University Archivist. Reproduction of any item must contain a complete citation to the original.

Biographical / Historical

William Henry Byars was born on July 7, 1839 in Des Moines County, Iowa, the son of Fleming Byars (1817-1848) and Maria (Deardorff) Byars (1817-1894). In 1853, he crossed the Oregon Trail with his family and settled in Milwaukie, Oregon. After meeting his future wife Emma A. (Slocum) Reed in Milwaukie in 1864, he moved to Douglas County, Oregon and worked as a teacher and mail carrier. Byars attended Umpqua Academy in 1860 and entered Willamette University in 1861. On March 15, 1865 Byars enlisted with Company A of the 1st Regiment Oregon Volunteer Cavalry under Colonel Reuben F. Maury. After being honorably discharged in 1866, he graduated from Umpqua Academy on June 21, 1867 as part of the first graduating class. A year and a half later he married Emma A. Reed on December 23, 1868. In 1873, he moved to Roseburg, Oregon and purchased the Roseburg Plaindealer newspaper. In 1882 he was elected state printer and moved to Salem, Oregon. Byars also worked as dater of the Oregon Statesman in Salem and purchased the Evening Capital Journal (later the Salem Capital Journal) shortly after its founding. He served as surveyor-general of Oregon under President Harrison and was appointed commandant of the state soldiers’ home at Roseburg by Governor Lord. He died in Salem in 1922.

William Fleming Byars was born on February 26, 1871 in Wilbur, Oregon, the son of William Henry Byars (1839-1922) and Emma A. (Slocum) Byars (1843-1929). The family moved to Salem in 1883. There, he graduated from the Academy of Willamette University and spent a year in the College of Liberal Arts. At Willamette he met Ada Catharine Nesbitt of Goldendale, Washington whom he married on May 4, 1892. They moved to Portland and later to Goldendale in 1894, at which time he became the editor of the Goldendale Sentinel newspaper. Later, he acquired full ownership over the paper, which he published until he sold it in 1907. In 1908 he bought a half interest in an abstract company and would later purchase the other half. In 1913 he incorporated the three abstract companies of Klickitat County, Washington into the Abstract & Title Guaranty Company. Byars became president of the company and managed it until his death. He served as postmaster of Goldendale, Klickitat County engineer, city councilman, and mayor of Goldendale. He was active in the Goldendale Methodist Church and Mason Lodge No. 31. Byars died in Goldendale, Washington on March 6, 1949.

William “Bill” Joseph Byars was born April 14, 1917 to William N. Byars (1893-1982) and Minnie L. Byars (1890-1987). He graduated from Willamette University in 1941. During his time at Willamette, he was a member of Kappa Gamma Rho, the Mathematics Club, Songmen, and University Vespers. After her graduation from Willamette, he married Hilma May Breuser (Class of 1942). He died in Salem, Oregon on October 12, 2010.

Hilma May Breuser was born April 24, 1918 in Rainier, Oregon to Herman Mitchell Breuser (1873-1945) and Nancy Dorothy (Nowlin) Breuser (1890-1964). While attending Willamette University she worked as copy editor for the Willamette Collegian and was a member of Delta Tau Gamma and University Vespers. She graduated from Willamette University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1942 and later married William Joseph Byars (Class of 1941). She died in Salem, Oregon on January 24, 2011.


4.5 Linear Feet (5 boxes and 2 oversize boxes)


The Byars family papers consist of legal and financial documents, correspondence, photographs, and Willamette University memorabilia documenting the lives of several generations from approximately 1866 to 1990.


The Byars family papers are arranged by generation and material type into four series. Series I contains the papers of William Henry Byars and is further arranged by material type. Series II comprises the papers of his son William Fleming Byars. Willamette University memorabilia and the papers of William "Bill" Byars and his wife Hilma Breuser Byars are in Series III. Series IV contains the bulk of the photographs in the collection.

Physical Location

Mark O. Hatfield Library


Guide to the Byars family papers, 1866-1990
Finding aid processed by Mitchell Heidenreich.
© 2017
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Processing of this collection was sponsored by the Willamette University History Department.

Repository Details

Part of the Willamette University Archives and Special Collections Collection Descriptions

Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 United States