Jackson County 1872
A well-known, but not popular writer, as far as the will of Oregon goes, once wrote, when on the tour of the Pacific, that California ended and Oregon began where white sugar failed and a brown Kanaka article was substituted. This is, perhaps, fiction; but it is safe to say that even the Chinese wall does not divide two more distinct peoples than did the Siskiyou Mountains, until within a very few years. And, even now, after the infusion of the new life, the original Chinook or Cayuse Oregonian--a transplanted cross of Pike and Posey County--remains, as uninformed and unaffected as the Chinaman, after twenty years' contact with the Yankee.
These people held, by donation of the government, all the best portions of the state; every head of a family holding 640 acres, as a rule. They put up log cabins, fenced in a calf pasture and a cabbage patch, turned their stock loose on the native meadows, and, living on the increase of the same, reared as idle and worthless a generation as ever the sun went down upon. The old men trapped, traded in stock, ate, smoked, and slept, were very hospitable in their way, and, no doubt, were happy. The young men wore long hair, rode spotted cayuse horses; in fact, lived mostly on horseback, and mixed largely with the Indians. True, there were many men of enterprise, education, and all that, in this country--skilled mechanics, fine farmers, good lawyers, and sound men generally, who held and still hold high places in the state; but, as a rule, the old Oregonian was and is a distinct and singular individual. This is the manner of man I found on the Willamette, twenty years ago.
Twenty years ago, the old Oregonian, with his cattle on a hundred hills, had neither butter nor milk on his table, save that which he bought of his neighbor, the newly arrived immigrant. He is the same today--improvident and uncivilized. The first one you encounter is on the Oregon side of the Siskiyou Mountains. He stands in the door as the stage passes, with his hands in his pockets, patches on his knees, and with three or four blue-haired children clinging to his legs and staring at the great stagecoach. He wears a broad slouch hat, long hair, and looks as though he had just got out of bed, and is only half awake. But what will attract your attention at this first house in Oregon is the immense sign that stretches across the toll road. We pass under it as under a great gateway on entering an ancient city. The letters are so large and prominent that they suggest a popular text in holy writ:
"What does that mean?" Charley Robinson, who held the lines at my elbow, again snapped the silk at his leaders, and, lifting his head to the great Rogue River Valley before us, said, "That means we are in Oregon."
Oregon is an anomaly. With a population made up largely of such people, she has always had some man in Congress who was, in his day, a power in the land.
Here you pass a house that stands in a little pen, mossy with age. In it a generation has been born and raised, yet it has never had a window. Get into the house, if you can for the dogs and deer skins under your feet, and there you find an order of things not much above the simple siwash. The next house you pass, perhaps, will be a model of architecture and rural ornamentation, with people polite and progressive. And so it goes. Oregon is wonderfully mixed. The best and the worst of men; the sunniest and wettest of weather, and the first and most worthless livestock in the world. Rogue River Valley, which mainly lies away from that stream to the south, on Bear River, is a staid, sweet place. Rains are less frequent here than farther on, and many accept it as a compromise between the droughts of California and the great rains of the Willamette, and are not to be allured away, although it is now the most isolated portion of the state.
Joaquin Miller, "A Ride Through Oregon," Overland Monthly, April 1872, page 303
CHAPTER XIX.Rogue River Valley, like the Umpqua, extends from the Cascade Range to the sea, embracing all the country drained by Rogue River and its tributaries. It has the Umpqua Mountains on the north, the Siskiyou Mountains on the south, and is the most southern division of Western Oregon. This valley, like the Umpqua, is an aggregation of smaller valleys, divided by rolling hills, and the whole encircled by elevated mountain ranges. The Rogue River is not navigable any great distance from its mouth, owing to the numerous rapids and falls with which it abounds, but for the same reason furnishes abundant water power. Ocean steamers can enter and carry freight as far up as Ellensburg. It is a stream of unsurpassed beauty, with water as blue as a clear sky, and banks overhung, in some places, with wild trees, shaggy cliffs, and in others by thickets of grape vines and blossoming shrubbery.
ROGUE RIVER VALLEY.
About half a mile off the road to Jacksonville is a fall one hundred and fifty feet in height, down which the river plunges, between rocky cliffs, into a basin in the gorge below, and then rushes roaring over its rocky bed, for some distance, through a deep and narrow ravine--the whole forming one of the most beautiful of the many beautiful wild scenes in this altogether picturesque country.
It is not claimed that there is as great an amount of rich alluvial soil in this section of Oregon as in the valleys north of it. It is rather more elevated, drier, and on the whole more adapted to grazing than to the growth of cereals. Still, there is enough of rich land to supply its own population, however dense, and for fruit-growing no better soil need be looked for. A sort of compromise between the dryness of California and the moisture of Northern Oregon and Washington--warmer than the latter, from its more southern latitude, yet not too warm by reason of its altitude--the climate of this valley renders it most desirable. Midway between San Francisco Bay and the Columbia River, what with its own fruitfulness, and the productions of the Willamette and Sacramento valleys on either hand, within a few hours by railway carriage--the markets of the Rogue River Valley can be freshly supplied with both temperate and semitropical luxuries.
The grape, peach, apricot and nectarine, which are cultivated with difficulty in the Willamette Valley, thrive excellently in this more high and southern location. The creek bottoms produce Indian corn, tobacco, and vegetables equally well, and the more elevated plateaux produce wheat of excellent quality, and large quantity, where they have been cultivated; still, as before stated, this valley is commonly understood to be a stock-raising, fruit, and wool-growing country--perhaps because that kind of farming is at once easy and lucrative--and because so good a market for fruit, beef, mutton, bacon and dairy products has always existed in the mines of this valley and California.
The placer mines of Rogue River Valley continued to yield gold in paying quantities to white men for about twelve years, since when the diggings have chiefly been abandoned to Chinamen, who are content with smaller profits. Quartz leads bearing gold, copper and silver mines are known to exist in this valley, as well as lead, iron and coal mines, but the limited capital of the inhabitants and the greater security of other means of living have caused them to remain undeveloped.
Like every part of the Pacific Coast, this valley has its mineral springs, and like all the rest of Oregon, its trout streams, its fine forests, game, and abundance of good, soft water. No local causes for disease seem to exist here, and with care to avoid the miasma always arising from freshly broken ground, we cannot conceive of a country more naturally healthful, or in every way pleasant to live in.
The Rogue River Valley is divided into three counties--Jackson, Josephine and Curry. Jackson County covers an area of 11,556 square miles and has a population of 4,759, about fifteen thousand acres of cultivated land, and assessable property to the amount of $1,500,000. The price of farming land is from five to ten dollars per acre.
Jacksonville, the county seat of Jackson County, with a population of one thousand, is located at the head of a valley forty miles long by about twelve wide, near the foot of the Siskiyou Mountains, in a romantic and beautiful situation. It is a thriving business place, being the point of exchange between the mining and the agricultural population. Ashland, the second town in the county, sixteen miles southeast of Jacksonville, has a fine water power and a woolen mill erected upon it, which manufactures blankets, flannels and cassimeres. A flouring mill and two lumber mills, are also located here, besides a marble factory and machine shop--showing the manufacturing enterprise of a small community. The marble used here is taken from a quarry close by and is of a good quality. It is sparkling, white, hard and translucent looking like a conglomerate of large crystals. It is sawed by water power, the saw only penetrating about three inches per day.
Josephine County embraces 2,500 square miles of the more mountainous middle division of the Rogue River Valley. Only about six thousand acres have been put under cultivation. Its population is disproportionately large when the amount of land cultivated is considered, which only proves that its principal wealth is presumed to consist in its mines of gold, silver and copper. Mining has been carried on with profit for about ten years and the enterprise of some companies in turning the water out of the beds of some of the streams has lately opened up rich placers of gold and given a new impetus to gold mining.
Copper mining has not been so successful, chiefly on account of the purity of the metal, making it difficult to work. Another obstacle is want of transportation for the ore to any port or shipping point. This latter obstacle to mining operations is one that time and capital will remove. The chief mining localities are on Josephine, Althouse, Sucker and other tributary creeks flowing into the Illinois River, itself a tributary of Rogue River.
Owing to the shifting nature of mining populations everywhere, Josephine County has less assessable property than other portions of the country. Yet it is one of the most delightful parts of Oregon, with grand mountains and quiet, fertile valleys lying between beautiful slopes, with oak groves looking like old orchards and open woods of the noble sugar pine, with abundant wild fruits and flowers, balmy airs and odors of sweet-scented violets. ''It is," a lady said to us, "a paradise of beauty, where, if one had one's friends, life would be as charming as could be desired."
Kirbyville is the shire town of Josephine County, situated on the Illinois River, and doing the business of a flourishing country town. Several other places of minor importance are located on the different streams. Educational and religious privileges have not kept pace with other improvements in this part of the Rogue River Valley, for the same reason that renders all mining localities inattentive to such matters--the want of a permanent population. They wait for an influx of steady-going settlers with families, a great number of whom could find delightful homes in Josephine County, at government prices, or under the homestead law.
Curry County differs from Josephine in being more heavily timbered, as the mountains nearest the coast are always found to be. In among the mountains are some small prairies, and others are found extending along the sea shore. The soil everywhere is highly productive, but owing to the great preponderance of lumbering and mineral interests, this county will not become notable for agriculture, though it might be esteemed an excellent fruit or dairy country. Its population is small, on account of its inaccessibility. The present population follow gold mining, chiefly on the ocean beach, where is an inexhaustible mine, which the winter winds and tides throw up each year for the work of the following summer. The gold which is everywhere found on the coast of Oregon, but more particularly this southern portion, conclusively proves that deposits of the precious metal exist in the Cascade or Coast mountains, or both. That which is found at the mouth of the Umpqua and Rogue rivers might have been washed from the Cascade Range, as those rivers rise there. But farther north, on the coast, where the streams all rise in the Coast Range, gold is also found, though it has not been mined, as in these localities it has. In fact, the ''color" may be "raised" in almost any stream in Oregon, and we have seen it taken out of the gravel in a well which was being dug in Portland.
Curry County is well supplied with game and fish. Its splendid cedar forests are worth more than a gold mine to whoever will convert them into lumber. Cedar trees that have not a limb on them for a hundred feet, and from three to eight feet in diameter, are not uncommon. Port Orford, the only port of the Rogue River Valley, is in this county and also Cape Blanco, the westernmost point in Oregon. There is good harborage at Port Orford and water enough for such vessels as are used in the lumber trade. In fair weather, the ocean steamers sometimes call here. A road is built across the mountains from the port into the Umpqua Valley, so that, with some improvements, Curry County might be brought into note for its natural productions, instead of being considered too far out of the world to be habitable. Ellensburg is the county seat.
Curry County shares, in common with all the coast country, a climate superior in some respects to the valleys. The changes in temperature are less than in the interior, being cooler in summer and warmer in winter. The sea fogs keep the vegetation forever green, and miasmatic diseases are unknown. These are certainly advantages not to be condemned. The settlers in the valleys would like to live on the coast, if it were not for the mountains between it and their fertile prairies. Yet, it is just by these mountains that the climate of each division is made what it is--partially confining the sea fogs and winds to the coast, by which one is made cool and moist, while the other is comparatively warm and dry.
Frances Fuller Victor, All Over Oregon and Washington, 1872 San Francisco, page 217
After leaving behind Lower Klamath Lake, in a couple of days one sees rising in the blue air the singular form of Pilot Knob, an elevation of the Siskiyou Mountains which, becoming a landmark to immigrants journeying to Oregon, has attained its name. This rock is a great mass of black volcanic substance, which rises perpendicularly from the mountain-crest. The Siskiyou Range has here an elevation of twenty-five hundred feet, and the knob is about five hundred feet higher; but its singularity has led to great exaggeration, and many travelers have spoken of it as eighteen hundred feet high, and of the Siskiyou Mountains as next to Shasta in importance. This is simply ridiculous. The aspect of the pass is not very prepossessing. The volcanic origin of the mountains all through this region accounts for their singular lack of beauty. The angles are so sharp that the earth which covers their skeletons cannot adhere, and comes off in great landslides, leaving the mountainsides bare and exposed. But the trees which skirt the base of the hills are very beautiful. Every step toward Oregon from this point seems to increase the size of the forests. The trees grow thicker together, and the firs and pines are larger. There are also birches, balsams, ashes, spruces, and other trees of northern climates, and it must be noted that the number and size of the firs is continually increasing, until they predominate over the pines. There is no lack of oaks, too, through these valleys, and the wagon trail often winds through groves that are parklike in the beauty of their natural arrangement; for there is this singularity about the oaks of this region, that they grow in groups or clumps, with just such distance between them as permits the fullest development of each individual, and yet preserves them in masses of the highest beauty. No landscape gardener has completed his education who has not studied the oaks of Northern California. The mistletoe is found here also in immense quantities, and one sees occasionally trees that have perished from its embrace. But this appears to be only when the tree from some other cause had received a shock to its vitality. Healthy trees do not suffer from the clasp of the parasite, and one observes continually oaks whose lower trunks are one mass of mistletoe, without any injury or loss of strength.
William Cullen Bryant, ed., Picturesque America, or, The Land We Live In, 1872, vol. 1, page 426
Our ride today was a pleasant surprise; we had no rugged mountains to cross, and the coach was quite comfortable. Soon after leaving the Klamath we enter Oregon, and the impression given on this road is that the state is covered by one immense and gloomy forest. In places the very daylight seemed to vanish into a mild twilight, and, in the few "clearings" we passed through, the sunshine was novel and enjoyable. After noon the country began to show signs of improvement; settlers' cabins became numerous, and, after running down a narrow cañon, we come out into the beautiful valley of Rogue River. Here is said to be the finest climate in Oregon, and to wearied passengers just over the mountains the sight was like a revelation of beauty. Where we enter, the valley is no more than two miles wide, but, as we go down, it widens gradually to five, thirteen or twenty, while on every hand appear fine farms, thrifty orchards, great piles of red and yellow apples of wondrous size, barns full of wheat and fine stock, and we feel with delight that we are out of the mountains and "in the settlements." Though far retired from the road, the mountains still appear rugged and lofty, sending out a succession of lofty spurs--one every two or three miles--and between these, far back into the hills, extend most beautiful coves in long fan-like shapes. The air was mild, the roads firm and smooth, and the coach rolled along with just enough of motion to give variety--and appetite.
Everybody and everything we saw had the unmistakable "Oregon look." We were among the "Webfeet" at last, and a comely race they are, if I may judge from the plump forms and fresh, clear complexions I saw on this part of the route. The climate had no suggestions of extra dampness, the sky was clear and the air cool and dry, with the general features of Indian summer in Ohio. Double plows were running in many of the fields, "breaking fallow for spring wheat," the natives said, and the apples, just gathered, were lying in heaps, to be stored away the last of the month, allowing that no freeze is to be apprehended before December. Though not extensive, this is one of the finest valleys in Oregon, and well settled. Land appears to be as high as in the rural districts of Indiana. All the farmers whom I questioned at the stations held theirs at fifty or sixty dollars per acre.
"The Way to Oregon," Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, December 5, 1872, page 2
Our San Francisco Letter.
Yreka--Its Past, Present and Future--Siskiyou Mountains--Politics by the Wayside--Story of the "Lop-Eared, Web-Footed Oregon Pike Member of the Legislature?--Overshot vs. Turbine Wheels for Running Academies--Rogue River Valley and its Early Settlement--Ashland and Jacksonville--Indian Battles and Massacres--A Lofty Waterfall--Agriculture and Horticulture--Valley of the Umpqua--Its Landscapes and Other Attractive Beauties--Canyonville and Roseburg--Bad Roads--The Lowest Deep Has a Lower Still--Stagecoach Moralizing, etc.
San Francisco, December 25, 1872.To the Editor of the Herald:
A moonlight midnight is unfavorable to observation, yet, from what I saw of Yreka while passing through, and during the stoppage of half an hour at a very well-appointed hotel, I formed a pleasant opinion of its appearance and enterprise. It is not as flourishing now as in earlier years, before the placer mines were worked out, and the quartz broke to the hope the promise it made to the eye, but should the Oregon and California Railroad take Yreka in its route, as originally designed, there is a chance for it to become the center of an extensive country. This, I imagine, is its only hope for future growth, and since the idea has been conceived of constructing the railroad through the lake region, east of the Cascade Range, this hope has been gradually fading, so that when speaking of the railroad now, the Yrekian qualifies all visions with those discouraging words, "If the railroad comes!" Yreka is isolated, and the country around it, without facilities for transportation, is only cultivated for home supplies. There are 2,000 inhabitants here; they have built a handsome town, have fine public buildings and elegant residences, and it will go hard with them before they relax their efforts to obtain a business communication with the rest of the world.
Eight miles beyond Yreka we commenced the ascent of Siskiyou Mountain. It was a slow, cold process, and we were glad to stop at Cole's, with the work half done, to partake of a good breakfast. We knew the mountain air had sharpened our appetites to the point of extreme eagerness. "It was a nipping and eager air," and reminded us forcibly of a midwinter ride which we took some years ago over Boulder Divide. Stopping at the Mountain House to change horses, we were much amused with the conversation which the landlord directed at us, concerning Oregon and Oregonians, generally. He, it seemed, had lived in California until within a year, and still retained all the prejudices incident to that location.
"So," said he, "Greeley ain't elected after all. We supposed he was. Our precinct went for him by a large majority, and we thought that conclusive. Every man that could not read or write voted for the Democrats, and in Oregon that always carries the majority. We elected one of those lop-eared, web-footed Oregon Pikes to the Legislature. He had heard that new members held office two years, and he went down to Salem and engaged board for the whole period. He didn't find out his mistake until the Legislature adjourned after a session of a few weeks, and the state refused to pay him for any longer service. A lot of these amphibites have been building an academy down in Ashland, and ever since it was finished they have been trying to decide whether they will run it by an overshot or a turbine wheel. They've got mixed up on the question, and there's nineteen of 'em who expected to graduate in time to run for some office at the last election that have got to remain in ignorance until the question is decided. They expect when once in operation it will turn out about forty finished scholars a day." How much longer this kind of conversation would have continued we were deprived of knowing by the cry of "all aboard" from our driver, so bidding our hyperbolical friend "good morning," we resumed our descent into Rogue River Valley. To one who has seen the beautiful valleys of Montana, this valley in appearance is a failure. It has none of the landscape beauties of Gallatin or Deer Lodge, though skirted by the Cascades on the east, and bounded by lofty spurs on the north and south; Rogue River, so called because of the rogueries of the Indians in the early settlement, runs through the valley to the ocean. That part of the valley traversed by the stage road is well settled, farm houses are numerous and well appointed, large orchards stretch along the roadside, the ground is covered with decaying fruit, and farmers are everywhere visible putting in their fall crops. The improved face of the country presents a pleasing contrast to the wild and tenantless forest whence we have just emerged. Next to the pine, the black oak is now the most familiar tree. It grows all over the Oregon valleys in great profusion, and its bleaching foliage is spotted with the dark-green clusters of innumerable mistletoes. Another feature of the oak, new to eastern eyes, is the long, fibrous, pale-green moss depending the entire length of every limb, giving to the tree a strangely weird and unique appearance. Miniature forests stretching for miles, draped in this livery, occur at irregular intervals in all the valleys. These beautiful lichens and fungi are doubtless caused by the frequent rains of this region. We entered the valley upon the heels of a storm, which had passed over it a day or two before, and in our ride through it were able to form some opinion of Oregon mud.
A ride of a few miles from the base of the mountain brought us to the pleasant little village of Ashland, with its neat, white dwellings, mills and stores. Here we fell in with a loquacious citizen, who, in answer to a few inquiries, betrayed such an ardent affection for Oregon, and for Ashland especially, that we found, in the brief period he was with us, we were receiving much more important information than we had bargained for. He pointed out to us the academy of which our friend on the mountain had spoken, a modest little building with a cupola, and assured us that it contained, as he supposed, the best furnished school room on the continent. Every other improvement in the town was extolled in equal phrase, so that when our informant left us we were in doubt which of us had been most successfully imposed upon. It was a sort of mutual thing all around. We listened with as much complacency as he related the wonders of the little world he lived in.
An intelligent gentleman, who rode with us from Ashland to Jacksonville, and who was among the earliest settlers of the valley, entertained us with a detailed account of the Indian battles and massacres, which were more frequent and bloody in this than any other part of Oregon. He pointed out as we rode along the various sites of these early struggles of the whites and their sufferings, "all of which he saw, and part of which he was." The narrative was full of stories of thrilling adventure and fearful forays.
"Beyond those tabular hills," said he, "was where Crook had his battle with the red devils in 1857, and a good whipping he gave them, but it was of little account. [Crook's Pit River Expedition did not extend into Oregon. The informant must be referring to General Lane's 1853 encounter in the battle on Evans Creek.] They kept us in hot water all the while. I once had a run of five miles for my life, with three Indians in close pursuit, over the very ground we are now passing. Arrows flew all around me, and when, finally, they saw my escape was effected, the leader among them praised my speed in good set terms, and in his Indian way said I deserved to escape for my good wind." As we crossed the bridge across the river, "right here," said our friend, in 1848, some thirty of us en route for the California gold diggings encountered a company of a hundred or more Indians. There was no bridge here then. We were fording with pack animals. There was no alternative but fight, and fight we did, killing over fifty of our assailants, and losing but a single man. But it was desperate work, and but for that ridge of rocks which prevented us from running away, I fancy we should all have been killed in attempting to escape. The best way always with Indians is to give fight at once and never run."
Jacksonville, at the head of the valley, is the largest town in Southern Oregon. The scenery of mountain, rock and hill surrounding is romantic, interesting and full of variety. There is a cataract of 135 feet in the river, a few miles distant, which is said to possess many points of beauty. The town, the largest and handsomest we have seen since leaving Marysville, contains several fine churches, and a large number of neat, villa-like residences. It is growing rapidly, and is the point of exchange between the mining and agricultural population. It is 120 miles distant from Crescent City, a small seaport town, where shipments are made and freights received for a large and fertile inland country. The mines in the vicinity give employment to a great number of miners, and though they have ceased to be the only dependence of the town, they still form, and will continue to for many years, a very prosperous resource.
In the seventy miles between Jacksonville and Canyonville we passed through several thriving settlements, and crossed Canyon Mountain into the beautiful valley of the Umpqua. There is a quiet landscape beauty to the scenery, which comes in admirable place after the ride through the Valley of Rogue River-- it is that of repose--as if nature had doffed her robes of rock and mountain and waterfall, and sought among these oak and maple groves, by the side of this gurgling stream, a rest from toil. The surface of the earth in this valley is nowhere smooth or level, but then its inequalities are just such as one would like to have who wished for hill and vale and forest in a home. The variety is all here, never reaching to grandeur or falling into insipidity, but preserving that mild beauty, which for all practical purposes is preferable to either.
When within five miles of Roseburg our driver gravely informed us that we had passed over all the good road. He meant it literally, but we had, as we supposed, been riding for twelve hours over the most execrable road in the world, and the idea of finding beneath that "lowest deep a lower still," had never occurred to us. but it was true. We have encountered many bad roads in our time, but for depth, adhesiveness and impassable consistency, none ever tried our patience more grievously than this black mud of Oregon. Our six noble horses dragged us through, and at one o'clock in the afternoon, after a stage ride of four nights and three days, we drove up in front of the hotel in the little oak-embowered village of Roseburg, the present terminus of the Oregon and California Railroad. Notwithstanding the fatigue of this long journey, we left the stagecoach with regret. In no other conveyance could we have seen so much of the beautiful region through which we had passed, or learned so much of its history. The coach is the most sociable vehicle in the world. The bruises, with all other unpleasant memories, soon pass away, but the sights we have seen, the stories we have heard, the pleasant acquaintances we have formed, these remain, to be recalled with pleasure so long as life lasts.
ALTER EGO.Helena Weekly Herald, January 16, 1873, page 2
Last revised February 21, 2018