Some records go back to 1862

By Terri Harber

Among Baker County Clerk Tami Green's responsibilities is maintaining a variety of records - deeds, tax rolls, probates and other documents.

And some of these records were created more than 150 years ago.

Deeds from between 1862 and 1964 are being duplicated from inside the large, leather-bound books taking up an entire wall of shelves in the clerk's office. The information will be reproduced onto film and digital forms.

Two copies will be produced from each record contained inside the roughly 200 books. One copy goes to the Oregon State Archives and the other will be kept by the county.

These books will be unavailable for public viewing starting Tuesday, Dec. 3.

Initially, "I was a little apprehensive about sending them out," Green said.

"Every county department - and the public - uses them," she said. "The original deeds date back to the origins of the county."

They contain such information as legal descriptions of properties and federal land patents.

Green is keeping the indexes in the clerk's office in case some information contained within one of the old books is needed urgently. Once the records themselves are reproduced only then will the indexes be sent out for reproduction.

Digital versions will allow people to view them on computers, she said.

Cost for the work will be about $30,000.

Jenny Long, a city-county planner, was looking through one of the books on Wednesday. Most county employees - and many residents - need to view such county documents to verify information or to remedy current problems, Green said.

Other books that aren't bound together permanently will be scanned page by page by the county and the digital images filmed, she said.

The large time-worn books will be retired from public use, Green said.

The county replaced its microfilm and microfiche readers five years ago with a device that combines both functions. It was a necessary purchase because parts were no longer available for the old readers, she said.

The next group of documents being copied into more modern formats will be those of the board of commissioners. Green would like to see work on these books start next spring.

Nearly 100 record books were restored after being soaked during the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday. That is when a plumbing failure inside the Baker County Courthouse affected multiple floors of the historic building.

That record restoration work cost the county about $74,000.

In Baker County, large bound record books gave way to microfiche starting in 1965.