Researching the School

Are you interested in learning more about the Forest Grove Indian School? The sources listed on the page below provide some starting points for your research. Credit: These sources were compiled by the Pacific University Archivist, Eva Guggemos, in the course of research for her forthcoming book on the Forest Grove Indian School. For comments/questions, contact:


A Timeline of the Forest Grove Indian School provides a quick reference for dates, names, and major events. 

Individual Student & Staff Information

Since 2013, the Pacific University Archives has been working to document the names and basic biographical information about every student and staff person connected to the Forest Grove Indian School. In order to provide immediate access to our research, we have put this information into a set of Google Spreadsheets, linked below. Source citations for each sheet are in the right-most column. To search within the spreadsheets: (1) Click on the link and wait for the spreadsheet to load; (2) Use the "Find on Page" command to look for a name. This is Ctrl+F on a PC, or Command+F on a Mac. 

  • Student Roster - Contains a transcript of the school's original handwritten roster data (student names, tribes, enrollment dates, etc.) plus additional biographical information about each student drawn from sources such as Census data. 
  • Teachers & Administrators - A list of all the non-Native employees of the school as well as others connected to its administrations, drawn from a variety of sources. 
  • Deaths of Students at the School - Lists the death dates, cause of death and burial locations for all students who are known to have died in custody of the school through 1885. Some students who died after the school moved to Salem in 1885 are also included. 
  • Marriages of Students at the School - Lists known pairs of students from the school who married. 

Please contact the archives with your additions, corrections or questions about these spreadsheets. 

Published Histories & Essays on the School

Surprisingly little has been published specifically about the Forest Grove Indian School so far, though there are a few articles available, and a book is in progress. There are also several excellent histories of the federal boarding school system in general. For a bibliography of published sources, see the Further Reading page.

Government Reports

Reports issued by the Department of the Interior show how the school's administrators were describing their own goals and accomplishments at the Forest Grove Indian School. They also provide a record of the names of school employees, annual finances, and other facts of interest to the governnment. These reports are biased in favor of the government's point of view and should be read with this in mind. For links to some of the most relevant documents, see the Government Reports page.

Archival Sources 

Because the Forest Grove Indian School was administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, its original administrative records are held by the National Archives. Other universities, historical societies and libraries hold records that were created by other people connected to the school. Note: Many of the sources below are not digitized. For research, it is often necessary to either visit these archival sources in person, or to contact the archives for assistance in getting copies. 

  • Records of the Chemawa Indian School. Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75; National Archives and Records Administration (Seattle). Catalog Records
    The Forest Grove Indian School moved north of Salem in 1885, where it was renamed Chemawa Indian School. This collection includes the largest extant group of original records from the school, including portions of its administrative correspondence, financial records, medical records and more. The sources are fragmented however, with significant gaps. With the exception of the school roster, which is available on this site, these records are not yet digitized and must be consulted in person at the NARA branch in Seattle.
  • Reports of inspection of the field jurisdictions of the Office of Indian Affairs, 1873-1900, National Archives. Reproduced as Microform no. 1070, Reel no. 12. Digital version at
    Inspectors from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs visited the Forest Grove Indian School and its successor, Chemawa Indian School, numerous times. These field reports describe conditions at the school as seen by the inspectors beginning in 1884. 
  • Letters sent by the Indian Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, 1849-1903. National Archives. Microfilm series M606, Rolls 20-41. Digital version at
    This collection contains outgoing letters from the Indian Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior. Letters regarding the Forest Grove Indian School are mixed in with thousands of other letters. Most are routine letters approving expenses at the school but a few are most substantive.
  • "Report Books" : Containing copies of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs Letters to Sec. of Interior, 1880-1885. National Archives. Microfilm series M348, Rolls 36-53.  Digital version at
    Letters here mostly regard routine settlement of expenditures, e.g. recommending that the Secretary of the Interior approve a special purchase of food or supplies. A few letters relate to more substantial events such as the appointment of new superintendents. 
  • Forest Grove Indian School records in the Pacific University Archives, Forest Grove, Oregon. Digital version on this site; See below for more detail
    The Pacific University Archives has identified about 125 documents and photographs related to the Forest Grove Indian School, spread through several archival collections. For more detail on the sources, see below. 
  • Southwest Oregon Research Project (SWORP) Collection, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon; copies also at Chachalu Museum, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Finding aid
    This collection gathers together thousands of pages of documentation related to Native peoples in Oregon, copied from government archives in Washington D.C. This collection provides insight into what the Indian Agents on reservations in the Oregon (and to a lesser extent, Washington) were doing relative to the Forest Grove Indian School; and on how on-reservation boarding schools were operating at the same time. 
  • More Archival Sources
    Because so many students, tribes, teachers, and government agents were involved in the Forest Grove Indian School, there are dozens of other archival collections with relevant material. These are just a few of the places with related records:  
    • Historic Oregon Newspapers and Chronicling America : Hardly any issues from local newspapers dating from 1880-5 have survived, but newspapers in Portland, Salem, etc. printed some news on the school. 
    • General O.O. Howard Papers : The first superintedent of the Indian School, M.C. Wilkinson, reported to General Howard in the years leading up to the founding of the school. These papers give insight into Wilkinson's background.  
    • Richard H. Pratt Papers : Pratt was the first superintendent of the Carlisle Indian School and was a friend and peer to Forest Grove Indian School's first superintendent, M.C. Wilkinson. 
    • George Fox University Archives : the second superintendent of the Indian School went on to be the first president of what is now George Fox University. Various papers in their archives shed light on his background. 
    • Friends of Historic Forest Grove : this local historical society has collected many documents related to the town of Forest Grove and its cemeteries. Contact them via email for assistance:

Archival Sources at Pacific University (more detail)

Pacific University has digitized nearly all of our known records that are related to the Forest Grove Indian School. Because Pacific did not directly administer the school, we do not have the original administrative records of the Indian School itself (those are in the National Archives). Our materials were either generated by Pacific University, or donated to the Archives by the families of people connected to the Indian School.

Relevant materials from the sources below have already been digitized and are available here on this siteTo see the catalog records for the original physical materials, search the Archives Catalog

  • Forest Grove Indian School Collection
    A small collection of documents and photographs from a variety of sources that were gathered together by the Pacific University Archives. Includes some photocopies from other archival collections. 
  • George H. Atkinson Papers
    Atkinson was a founder of Pacific University and the Secretary of its Board of Trustees. He was also a very well connected minister within the Congregational Church who helped coordinate educational, missionary and charitable works across the Pacific Northwest. His papers show how Atkinson, working on behalf of Pacific, supported the Forest Grove Indian School.
  • Lyman Family Papers
    The papers of the family of minister/professor Horace Lyman include some letters from his daughter, Mary Frances Lyman, who taught at the Forest Grove Indian School. 
  • Joseph W. Marsh Papers
    This collection includes several letters relating to Indian School business. Joseph W. Marsh was a librarian and professor at Pacific University. He was the half-brother of the university's first president, Sidney Harper Marsh, and he served as the university's acting president after Sidney died, from 1879-1880.
  • Pacific University Board of Trustees Records
    Minutes from the meetings of the highest-level administrative body at Pacific University show how Pacific interacted with the Forest Grove Indian School. 
  • Pacific University Historic Photographs Collection Digital Collection
    This collection contains thousands of photographs related to Pacific and the surrounding community, gathered from many different sources. A few of the photographs relate to the Indian School. 
  • Elkanah & Mary Richardson Walker Family Papers
    This family included several missionaries and educators with connections to the Indian School. Mary Walker (former missionary to the Spokane) lived down the street from the Indian School and kept a diary that includes many mentions of the school. Her daughter-in-law, Belle Walker, kept an autograph book signed by many students at the school.
  • Samuel A. T. Walker Diaries
    The brief entries in these diaries from the school's shoemaking instructor provide a small window into the everyday life of its faculty and students. We believe that many of the individual student portraits in Pacific's historic photographs collection derived from his family. His wife, Minnie Walker, also worked at the school. (Note: Samuel A. T. Walker was not related to the Elkanah & Mary R. Walker clan.)