Otto J. & Adelia M. Hahn Scholarship Fund

Otto Hahn shows off one of his favorite steam tractors

Otto John Hahn was born November 4, 1901, in Sherburn, Minnesota, to Carl and Christina Petersen Hahn. The Hahns, originally from Germany, moved to Oregon around 1912 and settled on farmland off Smith Loop Road south of Corvallis. Carl Hahn was a dedicated farmer who felt strongly that Otto would follow in his footsteps. As a teenager, Otto drove log trucks—the early chain drive trucks with no mechanical brakes—over the Alsea hills, which may have provided some of his early fascination with machinery. He went to Corvallis Schools but was taken out each spring as soon as he was needed to work on the farm. His father allowed him to take one term of college, and as a result Otto was offered an opportunity to go to work for International Harvester Tractor Company in Chicago. His father refused to let him go; Otto was needed on the farm.

Otto’s two sisters went to college, and Otto met and became smitten with one of his sister’s friends, Adelia Mullen, from Portland. When Otto brought her home to meet the family, his father made it clear that he did not think she was the right girl for his son.

Otto was a somewhat reluctant farmer, but an absolute wizard with any kind of machinery. He was known in the Corvallis farming community as the man to turn to when equipment broke down. According to longtime family friend Loren Smith, Sr., many area farmers had gone to Otto with an out-of-order thresher or combine or tractor only to have Otto tell them he would like to be able to fix it, but he had his hay to bring in. The result was that quite a few locals recall bringing in Otto’s hay in exchange for his genius in the machine shop! Otto shared that genius over the years with Linn-Benton Community College students, teaching welding and mechanics classes in the evenings at Corvallis High School and LBCC. He had a special love for steam engines and could often be seen on his reconditioned Russell Steam tractor. He built all kinds of equipment, including truck beds and frames and every kind of farm machinery. He built two 70-foot-long steel bridges for Loren Smith, Sr., and erected them over Clark Slough on the Smith farm.

Adelia Mullen was born March 1, 1901, in Denver, Colorado, daughter of John and Gertrude Smalley Mullen. She attended Columbia Grade School and North Denver High School for three years, then in 1916 the family moved to Portland, where her father worked with Southern Pacific Railroad. She graduated from Franklin High School in Portland in 1918 with a scholarship to the University of Chicago. There she completed the teacher’s training course in two years, graduating in 1920. She taught school in Forest Grove from 1920 to 1922, then in the Portland Public School District for forty-six years. She also worked for the Portland Library Association from 1922 to 1966. She worked with a number of Chinese students over the years, several of whom regularly traveled to Corvallis to visit her.

Otto’s sister had stayed in touch with Adelia through the years. In 1973, when following the death of Otto’s first wife and Adelia’s first husband, Otto’s his sister brought the two back together in 1973. With no further family objection, Otto and Adelia were married in 1975.

Otto built his house and several barns on the farm, and worked in his machine shop to within three years of his death on August 30, 1991. After Otto’s death, neighbor and friend Loren Smith served as trustee to his estate and looked after Adelia. Upon her death, he acted on their behalf to establish the Otto J. and Adelia M. Hahn Scholarship Fund to award full-tuition scholarships (including books) to Benton County students attending institutions of higher education. “They shared an interest in education, and Otto had always been interested in passing on his knowledge to younger generations,” Loren Smith, Jr. recalls. The scholarship benefits rural Benton County students pursuing higher education in manual or mechanical arts. Because of Otto’s long involvement with Linn-Benton Community College priority is given to students attending LBCC.

Adelia passed away November 28, 1999, at age 98.