ZENA

NAME: Zena
COUNTY: Polk
ROADS: 2WD
GRID: 1
CLIMATE: Mild
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Anytime
COMMENTS: Only 6 miles from Salem.
REMAINS: An Historic Church, Bethel Cemetary, possibly other structures
The community was established in 1858 with the original name of "Spring Valley," six miles northwest of Salem. The following year, a church was erected by volunteer labor. The lumber for the church was transported by boat on the Willamette River to nearby river town of Lincoln. The church bell also came by boat, imported all the way from England and shipped around the tip of South America via Cape Horn.

In 1866, Daniel Jackson Cooper and his brother built a store in Spring Valley, and acquired the post office. They renamed the town "Zena," in honor of their wives, Melzena and Arvazena.

A sketch of the town, drawn by a Zena historian in 1961, depicts several structures: the church and it's cometary, the parsonage, blacksmith's shop, horse shed, store, the post office, a cabin, a cottage, the grist mill and the grange hall. A photo of a report card from 1892 testifies to the existence of a Zena school at one time.

It is unknown which structures and how many original houses still stand, however, the church is reportedly still holding services on Sunday, and is sometimes the site of weddings. It is known as Spring Valley Presbyterian church or Zena Church, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. According to wikipedia.org, the cemetery adjacent to the church is called "Bethel Cemetery," and local residents continue to bury their dead there. (This is interesting, as there is a nearby ghost town called Bethel.) The pioneer cemetery is said to contain approximately 100 headstones.

The article also mentions that the town is reputed to be the site of paranormal activity, drawing the attention of ghost hunting enthusiasts. It is said that visitors sometimes catch a glimpse of a silhouetted man, riding a bicycle, who then disappears. Submitted by: Kathryn Davidson

I have a correction for Zena Church near Salem, Oregon... No church services are held there, nor are any weddings of any kind. Zena church has been boarded up for years. The last time I went there was about six years ago, and it was completely locked up with windows boarded, and it looks like nobody had been in there for an extremely long time. There is supposed to be no trespassing on the property which I didn't know at the time. I did have an interesting experience while I was there. I was with a couple of friends, and they wanted to go there because they had heard that the church faces the direction in which the sun sets, but that churches are supposed to face where the sun rises and because of that, people used to hold Satan worshiping rituals there when the church was closed (I don't know if that is true). It was early evening when we went, and we were just looking at the church's exterior when I started getting this awful feeling that we needed to leave immediately. I told everyone and they attempted to get me to stay longer but I told them we needed to leave... NOW, and my urgency was convincing enough to them, so we left. We were parked across the street and down the road a little ways, and once we walked to our car and were getting in, we saw headlights in the distance. As it got closer, we saw it was a really old beat up truck and by the time it was next to our car we were taking off, but the truck slowed down and turned around to follow us. It followed us for about 10 minutes extremely closely (tailgating us at times) until finally we were getting closer to Salem and it stopped, pulled off and turned around. I'm not sure what the person wanted, but I don't think it was to tell us that there was no trespassing because they never saw us on the property. Also, there would have been no reason to follow us because we were no longer on the property. All I know is that I got a really weird feeling for no reason and if my friends and I would have still been there when that truck came by, I don't know what would have happened. Or it could have been someone wanting to tell us to stay off the property and just trying to scare us into never coming back, and I read into things way too much. Anyway, that's my story. The main point is that Zena church is closed and boarded up and that no trespassing is permitted.

Sincerely,
Marla Rasmussen


Zena Church in 1960, Salem Public Library Ben Maxwell Collection


Zena, as described by Ralph Scott, Courtesty of the Salem Public Library


An 1895 map of Oregon shows Zena ( highlighted in green)


Zena Church and Cemetery, courtesy of the Oregon State Library


A school report card from 1892, Salem Public Library


Interior of Zena Church, Salem Public Library Ben Maxwell Collection


Italianate home on Spring Valley Rd, 1965, Ben Maxwell Collection, Courtesy of Salem Public Library.  Status unknown.

 BACK