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Mary E. Betty Cody: A guardian of Estacada history

MJ Cody discussed her mothers collection of historic photographs


by: PHOTOGRAPHER: ED BONER. COLLECTED BY BETTY CODY. USED COURTESY OF M.J. CODY. - Check out the plank road under the oxen's feet. That's an early version of Broadway Street in downtown Estacada. M.J. Cody estimates this photo is from somewhere between 1913-16. This is just one example of the historic photographs that Mary E. 'Betty' Cody procured. Talking with history buffs around town, one name keeps popping up: Mary E. “Betty” Cody.

“Betty (Cody) is responsible for a lot of what we got going here. She was probably the catalyst for the whole thing,” said Joanne Broadhurst, who along with Cody was a charter member of the Jacknife-Zion-Horseheaven (JZH) Historical Society which runs Philip Foster Farm.

“She was a lot of fun,” Broadhurst said of Cody.

Despite a 20 year age difference, Broadhurst said Cody’s enthusiasm for life and love of history made the two “quite good friends.”

Broadhurst explained that Cody was one of the area’s most well-known private collectors of Estacada history.

She even had a history column that ran in the then Clackamas County News in the 1970s.

Mary E. (Betty) Cody shows one of her classes a school bell from Estacadas early history. A hand-written note on the back of th photograph explains that at the time (in 1974) the bell was more than 80 years old and was used to call students in from recess. This photograph is in Philip Foster Farm archives.“Oh my gosh, the things she kept,” said Cody’s daughter, Mary Jane "MJ" Cody, as she described the sorts of things her mother collected and preserved from the Estacada area.

Since Betty Cody was a well-known history buff and collector, people would often donate historic items to her.

Betty Cody certainly must have been a prolific collector.

University of Oregon graduate student Susie Trexler has devoted her entire summer to entering items that Cody donated to JZH into Philip Foster Farm’s archival database.

So far she’s mostly processed papers, but Trexler still has boxes and boxes of Cody donations left to catalogue.

Betty Cody had taught at Eagle Creek Elementary and was married to Robert E. “Bob” Cody who was a grade school principal and later the district superintendent.

Judging from the papers that Trexler has archived so far, it seems that Cody was particularly interested in the early history of Estacada schools.

Trexler has come across a school report from 1886. And a photograph from 1974 is of Cody showing some of her students an early school bell. Trexler also has discovered lists of students and more early Estacada area school memorabilia.

When discussing Cody donations she’s come across, Trexler has no shortage of interesting items that stick out in her mind.

There’s the pre-World War I book of postcards with the inscription “Hazel Githens, Dec. 10, 1910” on the inside cover. One can find invitations, personal notes and pleasantries written on festively colored postcards; a ledger written in German, but one can catch the “1859” date when flipping through the pages.

Tiny shoes stand out among the historic treasures.

“The weirdest thing I found was a lock of hair. We don’t know whose it is,” Trexler said.

Trexler explained that cataloguing these historic items has been a long process.

She is working toward a master's degree in historic preservation through University of Oregon and decided to spend the summer interning for Philip Foster Farm to further her studies.

Trexler suspects she is one of the only people to have attempted to archive the Cody donations.

“They don’t have any staff member to work on this stuff. So it’s me and Joanne (Broadhurst) when she has the time,” Trexler explained.

“The hope in the long term for the farm is that we can someday have these things archived and accessible for public research, “ she said. by: PHOTOGRAPHER: ED BONER. COLLECTED BY BETTY CODY. USED COURTESY OF M.J. CODY. - These ladies are having a good time about 100 years ago. M.J. Cody dates this photo between1907-10.“The whole point of saving things is so people can learn from them.”

But the historical items that Betty Cody is perhaps most well-known for are the photographs in what MJ Cody has deemed “the Cody Collection.”

Once upon a time, there was a man named Ed Boner.

He owned an ice cream store and also sold film and cameras. Boner was a prolific photographer.

According to MJ Cody, Boner documented everything (in the Estacada area) from 1903 through the 1940s.

When Boner doed, his friend Sam Barr inherited many of his photographs.

After Barr’s death, his son, Joe Barr, found a box of Boner’s negatives in the attic.

Joe Barr got in touch with Betty Cody. She purchased the collection in the 1970s.

by: PHOTOGRAPHER: ED BONER. COLLECTED BY BETTY CODY. USED COURTESY OF M.J. CODY. - This photo, taken circa 1913, shows Broadway and Main Streets. MJ Cody points out the train station at the far left and The Estacada hotel (left center). The hotel had a large yard, which faced the tracks.“Those photographs stayed up in the attic for about 30 years until Joe called my mom and she bought (them),” MJ Cody explained.

MJ Cody was a photographer in Seattle at the time, but she remembers helping her mother catalogue and proof Boner’s photographs.

She's been doing so off and on since the 1970s.

Even now, MJ Cody estimates there are about 200 negatives that have never been developed locked in a safe deposit box.

Many of the historic photographs hanging in various places around Estacada come from this collection.

by: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - You can see some prints from the Cody Collection in Thriftway.One can see some of Boner’s photographs (mostly copies) from the Cody Collection hanging in the Cazadero Inn, Viewpoint Restaurant & Lounge, City Hall and in the Harvest Market Thriftway.

MJ Cody mentioned that her mother donated several photographs from the collection to be displayed in the Estacada Area Historical Museum.

Somewhere along the line in the disintegration of that museum, Cody thinks that some of those photographs have “disappeared.”

MJ Cody said that for a while, an Estacada school had an entire hallway of photographs from the collection, but they were returned to the Cody family when the school changed principals.

She explained that there “really isn’t a good resource” on the collection. There’s no one place to go get a feel for it.

“It would be nice to have a repository, but with no museum and JZH basically doing Philip Foster Farm there’s really no place,” she said.

Betty Cody was 90 when she died in 2007 in Baker City in Eastern Oregon.

All four of her children are now writers.



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