WAMS History

The Willamette Agate and Mineral Society, Inc. was organized to simulate interest in the study and collection of agates, minerals, gem materials, fossils, lapidary work, and the educational and scientific study of natural earth sciences.  WAMS is a charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code.

WAMS was formed November 1, 1947 under the name of Willamette Gem Cutters. It began with a group of people interested in gems and minerals and was at first a social society where people compared rocks and minerals.

The name was soon changed to Willamette Agate and Mineral Society to cover all phases of lapidary and mineral interests. By 1950 the group had Joined the Northwest Federation of Mineralogical Societies, thereby becoming affiliated with the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies and members began to display their collections and lapidary work at Valley and Eastern Oregon gem and mineral shows.

  • In 1956 the organization held its first non-competitive show in the old Isaac Walton Building on Mill Creek.
  • In 1957 the first competitive show was held at the State Fairgrounds beneath the grandstand. In 1958 the Society was incorporated under the Oregon State laws for nonprofit organizations. WAMS. is also a member of the Oregon Council of Rock and Mineral Clubs.
  • In 1963 The Willamette Agate and Mineral Society started the second Junior Rock Club in Oregon (The Mineral Minors).
  • Working with other Oregon organizations, WAMS. helped to raise money to build the Lon Hancock Room at OMSI in Portland to house Mr. Hancock’s gift of John Day artifacts.
  • In 1966 we worked to make the Thunder Egg, the official Oregon State Rock and presented a case of thunder eggs to the State which is on display in the Capitol Building.
  • Rockhound Rumblings is the official publication of the organization. The first issue was printed in 1967 and is published monthly for circulation to members as a means to keep them informed on local, northwest and national news concerning the gem and mineral hobby.  In 1968 Willamette Agate and Mineral Society won the All American Award for Community Service given by the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies.
  • The club project of 1978 was a trailer-van for storing the club gem show display cases and equipment.
  • In 2000, WAMS moved the meeting location to the Salem Senior Center and started lapidary classes.
  • In 2001 WAMS started silversmithing classes.
  • In 2003 WAMS membership exceeded 200 rockhounds.
  • In 2009 WAMS membership exceeds 250 members and our club meetings have been moved to the new 50+ Center in Salem.
  • Today WAMS is still going strong with about 200 members. In addition to membership benefits in the club, WAMS provides educational opportunities for local schools and youth groups. The first day of our annual “River of Gems” Show is dedicated to School Groups and we have the joy of entertaining and educating the hundreds of kids that attend each year.  The Jon and Lucille Sams Memorial College Scholarship Fund is also available to qualified students applying to college to study the earth sciences.