Moving the County
To us, old Jacksonville stands as a classic and historic spot. The old hearts that are not wholly shriveled feel ravished when a new scar is made on historic old Jacksonville. Now the old town is told that the county seat with which it has been honored, and as honored thus since March 7, 1853, is to be taken away from it. It is like the heartrending produced by the separation of some loved member of the family, and we all feel deep sympathy.
However, the world is moving with accelerated speed, and we are bound to keep pace with it. Changes are constantly required in the interest of the great majority and we are bound, like good Americans, to bow when the demands are made. . . . In the interest of all the people of the county, I believe the county seat should be changed, not to the glorification of Medford, nor the humiliation of Jacksonville, but in the interest of the great majority to be served. But I suggest that in the interest of a historical fact, if you take away the courthouse, some suitable monument of lasting character should be erected at the old site.
C. B. Watson, "Jacksonville--50 Years Ago," Medford Mail Tribune, September 6, 1920, page 4
History of Movement to Remove County Seat
Some time early in the year of 1925 the county court, worried by the lack of fire protection for the valuable records of the county, and by the large expense to which the taxpayers of the county were being put, such as jurors, witnesses, county officials, etc. in order to transact county business, announced through the press that they contemplated repairs to the present structure.
Citizens Take Action.This notice caused considerable discussion all over the county, and a large number of the people expressed the idea that the proposed repairs would not only cost between $30,000 and $40,000, but when completed would not furnish proper protection for the county records and would not provide adequate quarters for the growing business of the county, in a few years it would be imperative to erect a new courthouse, in which case the proposed expenses for additions, although admittedly imperative, would necessarily result in a complete loss of that much money.
Ashland Takes Action.The individual directors of the Ashland chamber of commerce at a regular meeting Tuesday, April 7, adopted resolutions urging the county court to defer action in regard to expending additional money, either for improvements or additions on the present courthouse in Jacksonville, and that matters remain as they now are until such time as the people of Jackson County shall have been given an opportunity to vote upon the question as to whether it would not be advisable to move the county seat to Medford and to erect a modern courthouse there.
Medford Takes Action.A committee appointed by the Medford chamber of commerce also unanimously adopted a resolution asking that the proposed additions to the courthouse be postponed until the people of the county had a chance to express their wishes at an election.
Lawyers Get Busy.The Jackson County Bar Committee, composed of attorneys from different parts of the county, including Ashland, after thoroughly considering all sides of the question from the standpoint of the actual needs of the county, recently passed a resolution asking the county court not to expend money for further improvements to the present structure or erect other buildings, calling attention to the fact that a large majority of the people of the county when visiting the courthouse pass through Medford and travel about ten miles farther in order to transact necessary business at the courthouse, thereby incurring a loss of time and considerable expense. The resolutions also stated that Medford is more centrally located and more convenient to the people of the county, and the removal of the county seat to Medford would not only greatly benefit all the people, but would be an actual saving of approximately enough money in a few years to pay for the erection of a permanent courthouse.
Medford Council Takes Action.E. D. Briggs of Ashland, for the Ashland committees, and bar committee and committee members from the Medford chamber of commerce and city council at Ashland, also the committee of the Medford chamber of commerce and county bar association, asking that the Medford council take some action regarding the matter, and submitted a plan which they claimed had been thoroughly considered and which they believed as businesslike and sensible.
After thorough consideration the mayor and council unanimously decided to pledge, on behalf of the city, subject to a vote of the people, to furnish free of charge to the county a permanent site for the courthouse when needed by the county court, if the people of the county should decide to vote the county seat to Medford; also to furnish free to the county suitable temporary quarters for a courthouse until such time as the county court has sufficient funds raised to erect the new courthouse.
Citizens Appear Before Court.A delegation of citizens, with E. D. Briggs of Ashland as their chairman, appeared before the county court and presented the several resolutions and a thorough discussion followed by the members of the court and the citizens. The court explained the fact that the county's business could no longer adequately be transacted in the present structure and that some relief would have to be given within the near future, but that they were entirely willing, if prompt action were taken, to await the will of the people, if the citizens present intended to proceed with the submission of all angles of the matter to a vote of the people of the county without unnecessary delay.
County Court Defers Action Pending Vote.The court adopted the following resolution:
"Whereas, resolutions have been presented to the county court by the city council and directors of the chamber of commerce of the city of Ashland, also by the city council and chamber of commerce of the city of Medford, and also a large committee of [the] Jackson County Bar, urging the removal of the county seat of Jackson County to a more central location, and pledging an early expression by the people of Jackson County on such removal,
"It is the opinion of the county court that further expenditure for repairs and improvements to the present courthouse be deferred."
Medford Offers Free Building.Following the action of the Jackson County Bar Association, the chambers of commerce of Ashland and Medford, and the city councils of both cities, the city council of Medford, on the 8th day of October of last year submitted the question of building a concrete city hall, twice the size of the present courthouse, and donate same free to the county for courthouse purposes for a period of five years.
This measure carried on the ballot almost unanimously, and the city council stands ready to build a courthouse for Jackson County without any cost to the taxpayers and give them free use of it for as long as they desire.
The Question Up to People.The question of moving the county seat to a central location at Medford is on the ballot of the coming November 2nd election, and it is generally conceded that inasmuch as the county court will have to expend thousands of dollars if the courthouse remains in Jacksonville, while it will be furnished commodious quarters without any cost if moved to Medford, that the taxpayers, with the exception of some in Jacksonville and the Applegate, will be almost unanimous in voting to make the change.
COUNTY SEAT REMOVAL COMMITTEE.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 24, 1926, page B2
Statement on Removal of County Seat to Medford
Before 1903 all proposals to relocate county seats in Oregon were required to be brought before the legislature for a special act called an enabling act to allow a vote to relocate any particular county seat. As this always caused more or less wrangling and bickerings in that body before an enabling act was passed or defeated, the legislature wisely enacted a special law defining the methods of relocating county seats. This law does not refer to anything else except that subject and is one of the plainest and fairest laws ever enacted by the legislature of this state. No one can possibly misunderstand or misconstrue any part of it. This requires 60 percent of the voters to sign a petition to even call an election and also sensibly requires 60 percent of the votes cast to remove any county seat. This requirement of a decided majority by petition to bring on an election, and also 60 percent to carry it, prevented a few enthusiasts from throwing a county into the expensive and annoying throes as such elections always bring about in the county which is the victim. All previous attempts to move the county seat of this county were made under that law, since its passage in 1903.
A few of the agitators for removal had that law amended in 1925, the last session of the legislature, but did not get what they proposed, viz; to allow 15 percent of the legal voters of the county to have an election called, neither did they get authority to call a special election on the question of removal. It is very plain that the legislature did not want any set of agitators to have the chance of bringing up a county seat fight on the petition of 15 percent of the voters, nor to have a county seat relocated on a bare majority. It is well known that 15 percent can be had on any petition of any kind if petition shovers are put in the field. If a county seat should be changed on a bare majority vote it would be very easy for the loser in the election to have another election called at the next general election and have another vote and the county seat might be moved back to [the] original location or to some other place the shifting of voters should give another bare majority, and so on from one election to another. This might be continued indefinitely, something on the same plan as a neighboring county built courthouses.
The ruling the proponents of having the election on the initiative law of 1906 are basing their right on the statement that this law of 1906 being the latest law on the subject should prevail, wholly ignoring the law "Of Removal of County Seat," Chapter III, Section 3213 to 3221, Olson, which was amended and reenacted February 25, 1925, by the legislature, 19 years later than the act of 1906, which is claimed to be the latest law on the subject. You will search in vain in the law of 1906 for any reference to county seats or county seat removals, but the law entitled "On Removal of County Seats" has no other subject at all. If the county seats should be ordered removed on this 1906 law, will not the opponents take the matter into the courts to have it determined once [and] for all whether the law especially and wholly made for that one purpose and being one of the laws amended and reenacted at the last session shall prevail or not? They most certainly will.
Aside from the enormous expense of a removal to a county that is already overtaxed beyond all sense or reason, a vote to remove under the law requiring 15 percent to call an election and a bare majority to carry it would not settle permanently the county seat question in this county, but would only be the beginning of a contest that would last for years. It is not believed that even a majority of the voters of Jackson County will vote to remove on such conditions as they are now asked to vote.
A measure was offered by the county court for filing in the county clerk's office a short time ago, asking the voters to levy a tax on the whole county of 10 mills to raise funds to build a new courthouse, in case it is voted to remove the county seat. It was refused a place on the ballot because it was filed too late. As the assessed value of the county is $31,000,000, this would raise $310,000 each year. To this would be added the entire loss of the present courthouse, jail, machinery, sheds and grounds, some $400,000 more and at least about $200,000 to furnish the new building, besides the enormous rents the county would pay on the many different locations the county offices would be obliged to occupy during the five years this enormous sum would be raised. When it is realized that the present courthouse is one of the best and most substantial buildings in southern Oregon and, as the late Judge Gardner said, it will last for hundreds of years. The claim that it is not large enough to house the offices and help required can be determined by anyone who will take the trouble to go and look the building over. It is large enough, but if this were not so a few thousand dollars would build an addition that would serve for 50 years. The present location is near the center of population, on a fine paved highway and less than five miles from Medford, the largest town in the county. Many times the number of professional men who have their offices in Portland live two and three times as far from the Multnomah County courthouse as any part of Medford is from our courthouse. Even many lawyers live farther from the Multnomah courthouse than Ashland is from Jacksonville. They are not "hollerin'" to have the courthouse moved out to their front or back yards. The plea by a few Ashland residents that "Medford helped us get the normal school" will have no weight with the great majority of voters in that town. Medford did not furnish the money to build and equip the normal, the whole state furnished it, and all fair-minded persons were glad to see the school revived. The attempt to make a "pork barrel" of this matter will not receive much support at this time when pork barrels are not very popular among the taxpayers of the county. One pork barrel deal will be considered enough and plenty for this year. Let us be reasonable and not pile on this overburdened count a wholly unreasonable and entirely unnecessary burden of nearly a million dollars just to satisfy a few who seem to want the world for themselves.
JACKSON COUNTY SEAT CLUB.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 26, 1926, page 5
Medford Mail Tribune, October 27, 1926
To the Editor:
"Pop" Gates and his running mate Bro. Briggs of Ashland and a few attorneys in Medford are trying to make the taxpayers believe that if the county seat is not moved to Medford very soon it will go up in smoke or a cloudburst will wash it away or one of those high-powered zephyrs that float down Jackson Creek will blow away the buildings, records and the whole darn business, and Jackson County will go busted. But the fact is the courthouse has withstood all these calamities for over forty years and stands where it was placed and is solid as a rock. The fire hazard is very small as it stands on a large block of ground isolated from any nearby risk. And our fire protection is good, as our gravity pressure system is stronger than any in the county, and we always have a reserve reservoir full of water for fire purposes.
Now with small expense the present courthouse may be made to give adequate room to fill the bill for many years.
Now Mr. or Mrs. Taxpayer, you are not going to vote to increase your taxes for the next twenty years to please that bunch in Medford who are making all this howl and false statement for their own selfish interests.
Do you think it such an awful task to make the trip to Jacksonville over the best paved road in the county, even if it takes you a few minutes more time?
I have never heard any serious complaint except from Bro. Briggs. He says if this great crime of keeping the courthouse in Jacksonville continues he will have to raise the fees on his clients, and the extra expense of gasoline, etc., will bankrupt him. Oh, I feel so sorry for poor Briggs. Mr. Voter, you know the tax rate per capita is higher in Oregon than any other state in the U.S., and in Jackson County it is a close second to any other county in the U.S.
Mr. Medford voter, do you honestly think that a seventy-mill tax or more covering state, county and city, etc., is an inviting slogan to the newcomer who wants to invest in your city?
Vote no on this county seat removal measure and you are helping yourself and every other taxpayer in the county.
J. W. ROBINSON
Medford Mail Tribune, October 27, 1926, page 4
THEN AND NOW
The present courthouse at Jacksonville was built in 1883.
The population of Jackson County was then 8116. Jackson County's population is now over 25,000.
The assessed valuation of Jackson County in 1883 was $2,053,200. Its assessed valuation is now over $30,000,000.
In 1883 Jacksonville was a town with a population estimated at several thousand. It was the most important business center of the community. Medford did not exist. Now the population of Jacksonville is around 500, and the business center has changed to Medford and Ashland. Medford is the only large town centrally located at the crossroads of all the county.
Now the actual routine work of running the [county] is many times as large as in 1883, and as a result of the increased business it has been necessary for various county offices to seek quarters outside of the present courthouse.
HERE THEY AREThe District Attorney's office is in Medford in the Liberty Building.
The watermaster's office is in Medford in the Medford National Bank Building.
The Court Reporter's office is in Medford in the Liberty Building.
The County Engineer's office is in Medford in the Medford National Bank Building.
The County Agent's office is in Medford in the Liberty Building.
The County Assessor's office is in a small building across the street from the courthouse.
The Highway Engineer's office is in a small rented building at Jacksonville.
The county has to pay rent on all of these outside offices.
ONLY SEVEN DEPARTMENTS OUT OF FOURTEEN ARE STILL LEFT IN THE COURTHOUSE, AND THEY ARE SO CROWDED THAT THE PERFORMANCE OF THEIR DAILY DUTIES IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE.
Good business judgment demands that this situation be corrected, that the other seven departments also come to Medford and that the county avail itself of the free offer of an adequate and up-to-date building in Medford that will not cost the taxpayers one cent and will save the taxpayers from a tax levy to either patch up the present courthouse or build a new one in Jacksonville.
Ashland Daily Tidings, October 27, 1926, page 5
Medford Mail Tribune, October 28, 1926
Medford Mail Tribune, October 30, 1926
Medford Mail Tribune, November 1, 1926
COURTHOUSE REMOVAL MEASURE CARRIES
MEDFORD'S MAJORITY NEARLY 1500
Ashland Votes for Measure by Small Margin
With 41 precincts in the county complete, including Jacksonville, out of a total of 56, the vote on the transfer of the county seat from Jacksonville to Medford stood, at 3 p.m. today:
For removal . . . . . . . . . 3227This makes victory for Medford certain, and city and council officials were busy today going over plans for preliminary steps toward the construction of a new city hall and transfer of the courthouse records, pending the erection of a new courthouse in this city.
Against removal . . . . . 1987
Majority in favor 1240, or over 60 percent.
Medford voted overwhelmingly for the courthouse, and the city of Ashland also voted in favor of removal, though by a small majority. The precincts of Ashland in the business district were strong for removal, but in outlying districts a majority against was registered.
Excerpt, Medford Mail Tribune, November 3, 1926, page 1
Passing of the Landmark
Jacksonville, nestling at the foot of the hills, being long heralded and recognized as the "Queen City" of Southern Oregon, the oldest city in this section of the state, is about to lose that what has been her pride and boast.
She was founded by our sturdy forefathers when the red man pervaded this territory. She was a city, the seat of government of Jackson County, when her rival neighbor was nothing but a pasture.
How time changes.
On election day, the good voters of the county, by a substantial majority, decided to forsake the "Mother City" and cast their lot with another, and give to this adopted city the name of "county seat."
Jacksonville extends the loving hand of fellowship, asking you to ever bear in mind you are but her spawn and she your poor tottering mother.
Jacksonville Post, November 5, 1926, page 1
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
Hark, the sudden sound is heardJacksonville Post, November 5, 1926, page 1
Ringing clear from earth to sky?
Let us move the county court house
To a town that's nearer by.
Never mind, if crops are failures,
Ye, who till the valley's soil;
Be good sports and move the court house
It will save us gas and oil.
Never mind, though you are burdened
With taxes more than you can pay
Boost them up a little higher
What's the difference, anyway?
Medford wants the county court house,
Wants to be the "County Seat";
Dig down deeper in your pockets
Make her happiness complete.
Never mind what it may cost you
For the bills of course you'll meet;
Think how proud we'll be in Medford
Just to be in the county seat.
With all the shouting, Jacksonville is still our county seat. We may have been beaten, but were not "knocked out," neither are we dead--time will tell.
"Local Briefs and Personals," Jacksonville Post, November 5, 1926, page 1
JACKSON COUNTY SEAT REMOVAL
The supreme court has enjoined the moving of the county seat from Jacksonville to Medford on a technical error in the election, said error being failure to publish a pamphlet containing the arguments pro and con. This is another evidence that the voter's pamphlet law should be repealed. Does anyone imagine that the people of Jackson County were not thoroughly familiar with the proposed project which has been before them for a dozen years? Ashland people favored placing the county seat in Medford, where it ought to accommodate the most people.
If there is any way for the legislature to move the county seat regardless of this technicality, it ought to be done at this session.--Corvallis Gazette-Times.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 28, 1927, page 6
MEDFORD COUNTY SEAT REMOVAL COM. STATEMENT
The Medford County Seat Removal Committee wishes to make the following statement:
"It has come to our attention that citizens of Jacksonville who are disgruntled over the removal of the county seat to Medford are circulating petitions in Medford and elsewhere throughout the county, requesting that this issue be again submitted to the vote of the people. A number of those, who have already signed these petitions, seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that it is necessary to again submit this question to the people, but such is not correct. This issue was carried at the last election by an overwhelming majority, and the removal of the county seat to Medford was authorized, but upon submitting the matter to the supreme court it was ruled that the election was void on account of no voters pamphlet having been issued and mailed to the voters of Jackson County.
"The matter was then presented to the recent session of the legislature, and a law was passed authorizing the removal of the county seat to Medford July 1, 1927, or as soon thereafter as possible.
"This law is now in full force and effect, and the City of Medford is prepared to construct the temporary court house as soon as bonds are voted at a special election on May 16 of this year.
"Twenty-three twenty-fourths of the population of Jackson County will obtain better service and save traveling costs by having the county seat at Medford. It is unnecessary to again submit this vote to the voters.
"This statement is made so the people will know the exact situation, and we believe that it is to the best interests of the county for citizens to refuse to sign any petitions calling for another vote on this matter."
Medford Mail Tribune, April 22, 1927, page 4
LOCAL ARMORY TO BE USED AS A COURT HOUSE
City Rents Armory and County Officials Packing,
Ready for Complete Removal by July 1st--
Circuit Court in Federal Building.
The Medford armory has been rented for the temporary court house in this city, and county officials in Jacksonville are now packing up their equipment so that everything will be moved here and in operation by the first of the month.
This arrangement was made several days ago, but was not officially announced until last night, both Medford and county officials wishing to keep the matter a secret until all preliminaries had been completed.
The city of Medford is paying for the armory, the rental being $200 a month, and Captain Tengwald of the National Guard has the building nearly ready for the removal.
The main auditorium and rooms on the ground floor will be used by the sheriff and county clerk, partitions of beaverboard now being put in to provide separate offices.
Sheriff Jennings will also have a special office in the basement, as will the county health unit.
Captain Tengwald's offices will be used by the county court, and have been slightly rearranged for that purpose.
The county assessor will occupy the present American Legion rooms on the second floor, and the county treasurer will have the present supply room on the same floor.
The county school superintendent and county engineer will have quarters opposite the present American Legion room.
All valuable records will remain in the fireproof vaults in Jacksonville for the present and probably until the new city hall is completed, which will then be the permanent county court house until the final building is erected by the county itself. This is according to the plan originally agreed upon when the proposition of court house removal was first made.
The city, in addition to providing the armory, will also have a night watchman and janitor on duty 24 hours each day while the armory is being used as a court house.
Circuit court will be held until July 1st in the federal court rooms in the Medford post office building, and it is expected this privilege will be extended until the temporary court house is completed, which is expected to be in September.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 10, 1927, page 1
COUNTRY FOLKS FROWN ON SITE CONTROVERSIES
Want Medford to Keep Promise to Abide by Selection of County Court,
Consider Petition to Move Courthouse Back to Jacksonville.
Residents of the rural districts of Jackson County view with alarm the prospect of legal civil war in this city over the selection of a courthouse site, and according to Herman Offenbacher of the Applegate section have taken preliminary steps to stop it, by considering calling for a vote to move the courthouse back to Jacksonville unless peace abides.
"Medford agreed to give a site for the courthouse, and to abide by the selection of the country court," said Mr. Offenbacher yesterday. "Now they are getting ready to fight among themselves, with injunctions and petitions. The people in the country think Medford ought to keep their word, and do as she said she would do."
He also said the rural districts opposed to the county mixing in a purely civic battle, and many voted for the courthouse change with the specific understanding and promises made by local civic leaders there would be no controversy over the site and that the selection of the county court would be accepted as final and definite.
Mr. Offenbacher said he had heard that a petition was being circulated asking that the courthouse be removed to Jacksonville if legal warfare broke out over the site selection. He thought the petitions were being held in abeyance for future use, but [was] not certain.
County officials who come in daily contact with country residents said they had heard considerable dissatisfaction over the prospects of a legal battle and heard: "Are we going to be another Klamath County?" Klamath built three courthouses and "lawed" ten years before they finally reached a decision.
A petition to remove the courthouse from Medford back to Jacksonville would require 1500 names and could be placed on the general election ballot next November.
A circular entitled "The Truth About the Courthouse" was distributed in the business district Saturday afternoon by attorney W. E. Phipps. It sets forth three reasons why the Washington School site should not be selected and eight reasons why the armory site should be selected. The circular is signed by E. E. Kelly, 911 Queen Anne Avenue; W. E. Phipps, 1239 North Riverside; J. H. Butler, 916 East. Main; R. B. Strang, 1100 East Main; P. C. Bigham, 503 North Grape; M. Purdin, 912 North Central, and I. D. Phipps, 923 East Main, all of this city.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 11, 1930, page 2
Last revised February 14, 2017