Reminiscences of a Pioneer
Continued from yesterday.
Many changes undreamed of by us in 1876 have come about. Jacksonville and Ashland were the two principal trading points in the valley, and our exports and imports were freighted [by] teams to and from Roseburg and Crescent city, giving to our county a long and discouraging drawback to immigration and the development of her many diversified industries. In 1876 trade and exchange of produce for your many wants was the prevailing custom. Today everything is done on a cash basis. It has just taken thirty years to change our complete county. Politically it has changed from Democratic to Republican, for in 1876, a man's nomination was equivalent to an election. My first taxes were paid to Sheriff Manning of this county in 1878. James Birdseye was the first Republican sheriff elected in the county. I can recall but few of the business men of Jacksonville in 1876, but we gladly recall few of the names whose forms are bent and are grey and grizzled with time. Among them we note J. Nunan, P. Donegan, P. J. Ryan, Mr. DeRoboam, J. R. Neil, Judge Prim, Judge Colvig, Judge Hanna, Adam Smith. There may be others that we have overlooked, but not intentionally. Time and space will not permit us to enumerate the names of the many prominent public men that have passed over the divide since 1876. It is hard for us to realize in these days how great a part they played in the settlement and civilization of our county.
J. G. MARTIN.Medford Daily Tribune, October 3, 1906, page 2. The October 2 issue, with the first installment of this article, is lost.
Editor, Medford Sun:
Sir--I was pleasantly remembered recently by a special invitation from my much esteemed neighbor and fellow townsman, Samuel Bateman, of North Maple Street, to accompany him for a day's rest, sightseeing and recreation to our sister city of Central Point, so we took tie-pass at 8 o'clock in the morning, leaving noisy, busy Medford behind for a day. We became interested in our walk from the start, as the day was warm and cheerful and the view delightful. My friend became at once infatuated with the sights and scenes through Rogue River Valley. They were so indescribably different from Montana, his former cold, bleak, fruitless home, and he also made it pretty interesting for me, pointing out the different towns and landmarks and their names that dotted the valley in the distance. We reached the city of Central Point at 10:30 o'clock fresh and game as a bantam rooster, found the city's streets full of farmers' teams, a very desirable class of citizens that gives life and activity and a pretty good indication that she is getting her share of the valley trade. Also the right impression to the visiting stranger.
Central Point, centrally located as it is, is a trading center and in the midst of fruit, grain and alfalfa fields galore, now clothed and carpeted with much promise; with her clean streets, attractive business houses, residences and brick building in construction, certainly points to a city of much promise. Here, somewhat bewildered, while looking about me with the untold changes and developments of the old Rogue River Valley, I at once called to memory my first ride through this section in the fall of '76. Things moved pretty slowly and quietly in those pioneer, mossback days, with Jacksonville and Ashland as the only two trading points. Their supplies were furnished from Roseburg, consuming about two weeks' time by freight teams, with amusing scenes of balky horses, breakdowns and cuss words through Cow Creek Canyon.
At that time old Rogue River Valley cultivated about one-quarter of its choice land. The balance was pastured, as stock raising was the principal industry. One wagon road then split the valley north and south, marked with stage stations and a cloud of dust from the overland coaches. One bridge, and it toll, spanned the Rogue at Rock Point. The court house, church and residences of Jacksonville and Ashland were principally wooden structures of the pioneer pattern, and the log residences and school houses dotted the country districts with the old worn rail fences. No party politics in those days. Every man who had any respect for his country or his yellow dog voted the straight Democratic ticket. Wheat was 40 cents a bushel, flour 50 and 75 cents a sack at the Phoenix and Eagle Point flouring mills, then run by water; hogs, cattle and sheep were a drug on the market. Ducks, quail and jackrabbits were as numerous as the stars and about as gentle as the barnyard chick. The circuit rider minister earned his salary of spuds, sorghum, flour and an occasional crazy quilt donated by some good Christian sister, for preaching the good old-time religion. But those were the good, old, happy, independent days when a man could kill his deer, catch his fish and dam the Rogue with salmon and fatten his hogs all without a license; also pay his 50 or 75 cents for the privilege of being put across Rogue River on Captain Bybee's ferry boat.
But to my pioneer farmer, merchant and associates of thirty-five years ago that are still living, and we hope enjoying health, peace and contentment on the sunny side of life, what do we observe today spread out before us in this rapid life and activity? Can we realize the endless transformation of this grand old Rogue River Valley in this brief space of time that has unfolded to us such a charming, lovable valley, newly clothed with indescribable changes and improvements in every industry over the dear old Rogue Valley that is almost forgotten, save her history. The new valley is now before us, the envy and admiration of all Oregon, the most attractive spot on earth for the tourist to rest and recuperate and the homeseeker to cast his everlasting lot. Isn't it pleasant for us today to see and admire the new Rogue Valley with her eight thrifty incorporated cities and suburban towns galore that dot the new valley with unsurpassed beauty and with her three undreamed-of railroads, telegraph and telephone lines that traverse the most remote sections of the new valley, with three free bridges that span the broad, swift Rogue River and as far as the eye will permit us to see her countless acres of clean commercial fruit orchards, with productive farms without number that have been carved out of the once rough, uninviting tracts once considered worthless to the pioneer farmer, orchardist, and speculator that gave us the interesting history of the old Rogue River Valley while in its infancy.
And now, patient, reader, is not the credit mostly due to the advent of the iron horse of the Southern Pacific Company, the new emigration of capital, custom and methods of industry that have so completely revolutionized the aged, decrepit Rogue River into this young, hopeful valley and gave to you, Mr. farmer, orchardist, stock raiser and speculator, a brighter and more promising future?
J. G. MARTIN.Medford Sun, May 12, 1911, page 5
Last revised February 10, 2018