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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

William Bybee

    WM. BYBEE: one of the largest land owners in Southern Oregon: resides near Jacksonville; was born in Clark County, Ky., 1830; came to Oregon in 1853 and to this county in 1854; was married in November, 1854, to Miss Elizabeth A. Walker. Children Ryland (deceased), James W., Florence (deceased), Lillie M. (deceased), Effie, Jefferson (deceased), Frank E., Alexander M. (deceased), Minnie I., Robert L., Minerva M. (deceased).
A. G. Walling, History of Southern Oregon, 1884, page 502

    Many handsome pieces of marble work have lately been put up in the Jacksonville cemetery. The lots of Mr. Beekman, and Mr. Linn, have been enclosed with substantial stone coping ornamented with marble urns and vases, much improving the appearance of that part of the cemetery. In the town cemetery a very elegant monument has been erected over the grave of Rowland Hall. The material is Rutland marble, and the style is massive and beautiful. The Bybee lot has also been enclosed with a stone coping and a magnificent family monument placed in position. The material is Rutland marble of a light shade; upon a double sandstone base is a massive pillar of the marble surmounted by a tapering column, upon which is an urn of oriental design, half draped. The marble is susceptible of a very high polish, and the finish is fern fronds and ivy, wrought in tracery. The six grave markers are of the dark marble upon a base of pure white marble. The most exquisite little piece of marble work marks the grave of Mr. Whipp's little daughter; it is a tiny cabinet with marble coping. The front is a scroll with rustic lettering; across the stone is a wreath of ivy and immortelles and above it is a dove in flight. The design is a rare combination of art and genius that cannot be excelled on this coast. The work has all been executed at the marble works of J. C. Whipp in Jacksonville.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, December 4, 1886, page 3

    WILLIAM BYBEE. In the whole of Jackson County, Ore., there is no more extensive land owner than William Bybee, to whom belongs the distinction of having owned at different periods more than half of Jackson County, whose interests have been identified with his own since first coming to this locality in the spring of 1854. A native of the state of Kentucky, born near Winchester, Clark County, April 20, 1830, and reared upon a farm, he was the recipient of but a meager education, and in the spring of 1850 he started out to seek his fortune. At Cass County, Mo., he entered the employ of the government, in the transfer of freight to Mexico, continuing to work in that capacity for about six months. In the spring of 1851 he accompanied a train of government supplies to Larimer, Kans., and a few months later returned to Cass County. Having an intense desire to go further west and try his fortune on the Pacific Slope, Mr. Bybee, in company with eight others, congregated at Larimer, provisioned an outfit of several wagons, drawn by mule teams and started for the Far West in the spring 1852. Arriving at Diamond Springs, Cal., they spent the winter at that place in prospecting and mining, with only fair success, and the following spring pushed on to the vicinity of Portland, Ore., where they remained about a year.
    Mr. Bybee first came to Jackson County in the spring of 1854, and during July, August and September, with Jesse Walker and about fifty other settlers, he assisted in protecting the settlers from the raids of the Indians, whose depredations caused considerable trouble in that locality. They chased the foe a distance of about two hundred and fifty miles before subduing them, and then returned home and disbanded soon afterwards. Mr. Bybee bought a donation claim near Jacksonville, and before him was the gigantic task of clearing the land if he would cultivate the rich soil. By perseverance and patient efforts he soon began to prosper, and in a very short time added four hundred acres to his original claim. Subsequent purchases increased his farm to one of larger dimensions, until now he owns seventeen hundred acres in that locality. Here the greater part of his life has been spent, and during these years thousands of dollars have been spent in the improvement of his land. Stock-raising is his principal business, although a part of his wealth is the result of successful mining operations. For a period of forty-one consecutive years Mr. Bybee supplied the miners in this vicinity with choice porkers, which he drove to the mines himself, often realizing a handsome profit therefrom. By keen foresight all his savings were invested in real estate and more and more attention was given to stock-raising and buying and selling land. In addition to his splendid home farm, his possessions at this writing include twenty-nine hundred acres in the Rogue River region, fifteen hundred and sixty acres along Antelope Creek, and five hundred acres along Evans Creek, seven miles above Wimer. Fine mineral springs are located on the latter farm, which enhance its value exceedingly.
    As a representative citizen of Jackson County, Mr. Bybee has carried into the political field the same keen judgment and foresight which have always characterized his business transactions. In 1878 he was the successful candidate of the Democratic Party for the office of sheriff, and during his four years of service the duties of this office claimed his attention assiduously and were executed in a prompt and fearless manner. Few enterprises have been inaugurated in or about Jacksonville which have not had the benefit of his ability and profited by his influence and guidance. His extensive business interests have left him little time for fraternal societies, and he affiliates with but one order, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which he joined in 1860.
    The marriage of Mr. Bybee, November 16, 1854, united him with Miss Elizabeth A. Walker, a daughter of Jesse Walker, and this union has been blessed with eleven children. Riland D. was killed by a falling horse at the age of fifteen; two others, Florence and Lily, died from diphtheria; Jefferson was twelve years old at the time of his demise; Alexander also died young; and Maude was five years old at the time of her death. Those living are J. William, a resident of Alaska; F. E., who resides at Medford; Robert E., a citizen of Idaho; Effie, wife of Judge Prim, of Jacksonville; and Minnie, who is now Mrs. Fred Low. The beloved mother of these children passed to her eternal rest October 31, 1899.
Portrait and Biographical Record of Western Oregon, Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904, pages 300-301

Wm. Bybee Calls on His Friends of Pioneer Days.

    William Bybee of Jacksonville was in Grants Pass over Monday, coming down Sunday evening and returning Tuesday morning. While here Mr. Bybee met many of his old-time friends, for he is a Rogue River pioneer of 1854. Mr. Bybee is a Kentuckian and left his native state in 1853 for California, where he stayed for two years, when he came to Southern Oregon. Mr. Bybee at one time was the largest land owner in Rogue River Valley, his holdings being up into the thousands of acres. He yet owns several fine farms in Jackson County and other property, among which is the famous Bybee mineral springs. Mr. Bybee was at one time extensively interested in placer mining in Josephine County, and he built in the Illinois River district one of the longest and most expensive mining ditches ever constructed in Southern Oregon.
    For nearly 40 years Mr. Bybee bought nearly all the hogs raised in Rogue River Valley. He did not pack the meat, but drove the hogs to the various mining camps, where he sold them to local butchers and to Chinamen. His principal market was Happy Camp and the other mining camps of Northern California, though he drove some as far distant as to the camps in Nevada. Mr. Bybee says that his drover days were the most enjoyable of his life. With a band of from 200 to 600 head of hogs and teams hauling feed or a pack train when the road became a trail in the mountains and a half a dozen men to assist him, he would start for the California mining camps. Some of his trips over the Siskiyou Mountains were far from a pleasure jaunt. On one of these trips he had to break a trail with horses through four feet of snow for his hogs to travel on.
    Mr. Bybee was a drover in his boyhood and assisted his father, who was one of the biggest dealers of Kentucky, in driving bands of hogs, cattle and sheep to market in Virginia and South Carolina. Mr. Bybee expects to visit the home of his boyhood, which he has not seen since he left it 53 years ago this spring. He has a brother living at the old family home near Winchester, Kentucky, and he has a sister in Texas and he will pay each of them a visit. Though 76 years of age, Mr. Bybee is yet hale and hearty and good for many years yet of active life. The old Bybee home was one of the best known and most hospitable in all Southern Oregon, and many a pioneer of Rogue River Valley has a kindly remembrance of Uncle Billy Bybee and his noble wife, now gone to the beyond. The big old white house, of the architecture of days long ago, with its full two stories, and its spacious sitting room, dining room and kitchen and many bedrooms, that ample accommodations might be had for all comers, is yet standing in a grove of fine old oaks on the Bybee donation claim one mile north of Jacksonville, an historic reminder of the days when Rogue River Valley was being changed from a wilderness to one of the fairest valleys on the Pacific Coast by the work of such men and women as Uncle Billy and Mrs. Bybee.
Rogue River Courier, Grants Pass, April 28, 1905, page 6

Last revised October 24, 2018