Department of State Lands Records Guide
History - 1900-1959
Separate legislation created the A.R. Burbank Trust Fund for the use and benefit of orphan homes in Salem and Portland (OL 1907, Ch. 39). The act named as trustees the Governor, Secretary of State, and State Treasurer. The fund operates on principles similar to the Common School Fund and is still administered by the State Land Board. Money is loaned from the estate for real property purchases and the interest the loans accumulate is paid out to children’s organizations. Currently, the Boys and Girls Club and the Waverly Children’s Home in Portland receive annual interest earnings from the fund.
The board lost control of reclamation contracts and settlement on desert lands when the Desert Land Board was created (OL 1909, Ch. 226). However, the Legislative Assembly authorized the board in 1913 to enter into contracts for the drainage; reclamation; and sale of swamplands, marshes and lake lands. Funds derived from the activity would be deposited into the Common School Fund after state expenses (OL 1913, Ch. 11). That same year, the office of the State Land Agent was abolished and its duties transferred to the Clerk of the Land Board (OL 1913, Ch. 15).
In 1916, Oregonians approved a constitutional amendment that sanctioned the new name of the board and created Article XI-A of the Constitution. This amendment permitted the State Land Board to make loans to farmers from funds gathered from the issuance and sale of bonds. The Legislative Assembly established the Rural Credits Loan Fund a year later from the proceeds (OL 1917, Ch. 398).
The board’s early leasing programs emphasized the most important assets of Oregon’s economy: mining, timber and agriculture. In 1917, it expanded this initiative with the implementation of kelp and seaweed leases on offshore beds (OL 1917, Ch. 276). Three years later the Special Session of the Legislative Assembly authorized the leasing of the beds of navigable streams and waters for the removal and sale of sand, gravel and rock (OL 1920, Ch. 32). Consequently, the value of these resources was immediately acknowledged and the Legislative Assembly enacted a law that secured the lakebeds of all meandered lakes as state property. This act would no longer allow any person, firm or corporation the opportunity to acquire rights, titles or interests of state waters. Additionally, the State Land Board was to acquire and secure any and all riparian rights of these waters for the benefit of the state (OL 1921, Ch. 280).
The 1921 Legislative Assembly passed a law making the State Land Board the custodian of all notes, bonds, and other securities covering loans made from the various trust funds it administered (OL 1921, Ch. 57). In 1925, the J.T. Apperson fund was placed under the control of the board which left money to the state for deserving students at the Agricultural College (OL 1925, Ch. 20). Loans made from the J.T. Apperson Agricultural College Education Fund are still issued today under the terms of the will by the OSU Financial Aid Office.
In 1925, the board’s office staff consisted of the clerk, an assistant clerk, a special field inspector, and stenographers. The board was represented in each Oregon county by an attorney paid on a fee basis. The attorney examined abstracts of titles, transmitted applications for loans and assisted in collecting and foreclosing mortgages. By 1937, they were joined in the field by land agents whose duty was to sell and lease state lands within their territory and collect rent on state property.
During the 1930s and early 1940s, the Legislative Assembly continued to revise procedures concerning lending and investing procedures for the various funds. The next major change in the board’s duties came by way of a constitutional revision in 1942. That year Oregon voters repealed Article XI-A, and all of the remaining assets of the Rural Credits Loan Fund were transferred into the Common School Fund. The next year the Legislative Assembly voted to abolish the World War Veterans’ State Aid Commission and transferred its duties to the State Land Board. This action also created the Veterans Welfare Department of the board to administer outstanding loans and mortgages that were issued by the defunct commission (OL 1943, Ch. 175).
The conclusion of World War II created a need for a revolving loan fund for returning war veterans. Therefore, the Legislative Assembly authorized the Director of Veterans Affairs to offer loans for homes and farms. The State Land Board was tasked with appraising the land and certifying the amount of money that could be offered. The board was also tasked with selling property that was lost due to foreclosure. Sale proceeds went to the State Treasurer for the Oregon War Veterans Fund (OL 1945, Ch. 403). Two years later a law was created that terminated the board’s involvement with veterans’ loans (OL 1947, Ch. 532).
Several changes occurred in the board’s responsibilities during the 1950s. In 1952, Oregonians repealed Article XI-C of the state Constitution abolishing the World War Veterans State Aid Sinking Fund. Assets from the fund were transferred into the Common School Fund. A year later, the board received the assets of the Oregon Rural Rehabilitation Corporation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The money was used for rural rehabilitation projects. Moreover, in 1959, the Legislative Assembly created the Property Foreclosure Revolving Fund as a means of protecting liens against property held by state agencies (OL 1959, Ch. 499). The State Land Board was authorized to purchase and sell these properties to cover debts, taxes or duties owed to the state.