Jackson County 1884

    Passing to the inland valleys, first south of the Willamette lies the Umpqua, very pleasant, very fertile, but also very small. It is just about one farm wide, and, of course, all of this limited amount of bottom land has been occupied these twenty years. It has some of the most pleasant and comfortable farmhouses in Oregon, and I am inclined to think that this comes nearest to that ideal climate which exists in theory, but not in fact. The trouble is that when we reach that place where the rain gauge indicates just enough moisture it is not well distributed. It is all put into six months of the year, and the other six months go dry. Even in the Willamette Valley the fall season is almost entirely without rain, and dust as well as mud is a feature of that section. As we go south this fall drought increases, and in the Rogue River Valley, where we look for perfection, we begin to hear people talk about irrigation.
    The narrow Umpqua Valley along the river is shut in by high hills with bare flanks that are admirably adapted for grazing. These hills are backed up by others that are higher and rougher, so that the valley lands of the main river or branches are the only lands sought. These lands form but a small fraction of the whole watershed, and thus it is that a country with so much territory has so little land for settlement. The lower part of Rogue River is hemmed in like the other streams, but about Jacksonville and Ashland is found the largest body of level, open land south of the Willamette. But here we strike pine barrens, or pine lands, along the foothills that are merely sand from decomposed granite. The broad, naked mountainsides that shut in the valley have few trees and little sod, and we miss those green-ribbed hills that flank the Umpqua. But this open bottom land, which is a score of miles long and five or six miles at its widest, has often a dark, rich soil that is quite productive.
    It is the most northern valley in which the grape thrives, and its peaches and apples are probably the nearest to perfection of any on the coast. In the Willamette Valley the trees in all apple orchards are covered inch-deep with moss. Here they are clean and healthy-looking, and if they do not bear better fruit they look as if they ought to.
    The only corn cribs yet seen are in this Rogue River country. Further north the crop is not a successful one, partly because it does not ripen from too-cold nights, and partly from the difficulty of keeping it from molding if ripe, as the cob never seems to dry out. It is as in a fruit country, however, that this most southern valley of Oregon is likely hereafter to distinguish itself. It now for the first time has railroad communication with Portland, and can there find a market for its fruits at figures that may pay something above the large prices here demanded for transportation.
    Taking a traveler's view of Western Oregon, its climate may be set down as everywhere healthy, free from extremes of heat or cold, and not subject to sudden changes of temperature. Thunderstorms are unknown, and the tall growth of timber, or the remains of it, in all sections along the coast bear witness to an absence of any serious wind storms.
    In the Umpqua Valley there was a week this winter with a few inches of snow on the ground, and the thermometer read within 5° of zero. This is a minimum for several years, and except for the one week the ground has been bare and out-of-door life a pleasure. The man who comes here for land will find an old-settled country, where everything desirable was long since taken up and the wild land only such as a woodsman would care to enter. Improved land is held at prices ranging around $20 per acre, and the improvements are generally not gilt-edged. In fact, the whole country looks older than any other this side of the Alleghenies, and the danger of the coming settler seems to be that he also will get moss-covered and lazy, and in a land that produces everything learn to live mainly on bacon.
    In talking with an old pioneer who came to the coast in '49, and has since lived mostly in Oregon, he extolled the virtues of his state and particularly those of his ranch in one of the best valleys tributary to Rogue River, where all the vegetables and fruits grew to the greatest perfection. There had he raised a large family and seemed surrounded by all the rude comforts that a pioneer could ask, but in a moment of confidence the man confessed that he was going to sell his ranch and go to Idaho to raise stock. The moral of this story is that if there is any paradise out here its gate will open to any man who comes along with money in his purse.
"Oregon: A Traveler's Observations," Chicago Tribune, April 8, 1884, page 6

    The Oregon and California railroad will be opened to Ashland, three hundred and forty miles south of Portland, on the 5th of May. Considerable work has been done south of Ashland; two of the largest tunnels have been bored, and the road graded a short distance to the base of the Siskiyou Mountains. This work has been temporarily suspended, owing to the embarrassment of the Oregon and Transcontinental Company, and will not be resumed until the future policy of that company is decided upon at its annual meeting in June. There is no doubt, however, that the road will be completed sometime to its junction with the California and Oregon railroad at the state line, thirty miles south of Ashland, and this connection will be made sooner, perhaps, than present appearances would indicate. When completed, the line between Portland and San Francisco will have a large fast freight, express and passenger traffic. It will be the most picturesque route on the Pacific Coast. The portion now completed has scenic attractions of great variety and interest, and people living in Portland and the lower valley could not make a pleasanter excursion, particularly at this season of the year, while the earth is "flush as May," than a trip to Ashland would afford as soon as trains begin to run to that place. The cultivated portions of the country may perhaps be more accurately described as in their glory in autumn, when the ripe fruit hangs thick upon the trees and the golden grain covers the land. But when the apple trees are in blossom, and the dogwood and skunk cabbage, having, as Miss Cooper says, made an accurate guess at the season of the year, and spread themselves upon the palette on which the Paint King sets the colors of the year, the landscape as a whole is probably at its very best. A ride through the Willamette Valley at any time almost is sufficient to sustain the confidence of Portland people in its continued prosperity and growth. For it is from this valley largely that the wealth of Portland has been derived. Situated like Tyrus of old "at the entry of the sea," Portland has been similarly "replenished" by the tribute she has levied upon the traffic of the Willamette Valley, which is capable of supporting a population of more than a million, who will contribute still more to the growth of this city and to the value of the transportation routes which terminate here.
    After leaving the Willamette Valley the railroad passes through the Calapooia Mountains to the Yoncalla Valley and thence to the Umpqua, which is a succession of valleys among the hills, all very fertile and inviting spots for villages and farms. The South Umpqua Valley, through which the railroad runs on leaving Roseburg, is one of the richest parts of the state. But on either side of the road there are other valleys ensconced among the hills, of equal beauty and fertility, which will furnish, when fully developed, a large traffic. The road leaves the South Umpqua about twenty-five miles from Roseburg and enters the Cow Creek Valley, which is about thirty miles in length, and though narrow is fertile and capable of producing much more grain, hay and fruit than it has heretofore done with only a limited local market to stimulate production, while beyond on either side are ranges for stock. This has been a good sheep region, but the coyotes have now control of the country and the flocks are dwindling to small proportions. At Nichols, a station named, we presume, for one of the heroes of the battle of Hungry Hill, who still lives in the valley, the railroad begins its tortuous course through the Cow Creek Canyon, where the scenery is wild and the country incapable of much cultivation. Some of the hillsides are rich, and if the elevation were not too great they might bear grapes, but a good deal of the soil is a decomposed white granite, which cannot be profitably cultivated in any crop. The mountains, however, are full of timber, some of which, as the sugar pine, is very valuable. The railroad passes by many places of historic interest. Near Glendale is Hungry Hill, where the most disastrous battle in Oregon was fought. Grave Creek, Jump-off Joe and Table Rock are all associated with events of tragic or grotesque interest. At Grants Pass the railroad begins to ascend the Rogue River through a narrow valley, with here and there an open space inviting settlement, and all the way placer diggings, some of which are now profitably worked and more might be if water could be had for washing the gravel. Winding around Gold Hill the railroad passes out of the mountains into the famous Rogue River Valley, which has been so often described, though it is really the Bear Creek Valley, a branch of the Rogue River, which the railroad follows up to Ashland at the foot of the Siskiyou Mountains. The railroad leaves Jacksonville on the right about four miles from Medford, a new town situated in the center of the valley, and destined apparently to become the center of trade for that region. It has already some business and good prospects. At Phoenix, the present terminus of railroad traffic, an addition has been projected to the quiet old town. This is seven miles from Ashland, which for the present, while it remains the terminus of the railroad, will enjoy special advantages for business, such as Roseburg had during the ten years the railroad stopped there. This town is delightfully situated. It has an air of thrift and comfort, and, though it has no special boom, there are unmistakable evidences of assured growth. It is the manufacturing town of the county. The famous Ashland woolen mills, a fine flouring mill, a sawmill, two furniture and sash and door factories, and a number of other establishments run by machinery are located on Ashland Creek in the immediate vicinity of the town. Supplies for Fort Klamath and for the stock raisers of Lake and Klamath counties are purchased here and freighted by wagons to the points where they are required. This alone brings to Ashland a profitable trade, aside from that of the wealthy farming community in the neighborhood. A portion at least of the business in the mining regions below, at the prosperous town of Yreka and other points will reach the railroad at Ashland, and probably some of the cattle from the ranges east of the mountains will be shipped there.
    In another article more will be said about the country and railroad which is inviting it to a new and larger growth.
Oregonian, Portland, April 26, 1884, page 2


STAFFORD, Or., April, 18, 1884.        
Editor Willamette Farmer,
    I met with Pomona Grange at Salem April 3rd. Was rejoiced to find present so many of our tried veterans, among them Bro. White of Butte Creek, and Bro. Bonney of Woodburn Grange. Spent the night pleasantly with the editor of the Willamette Farmer and family. Bro. C. is busily engaged on his farm, while our kind hostess is as ever busy in the performance of household and editorial duties. On the morning of the 4th, W.S.M. [Worthy State Master] and myself took the train for Roseburg; Bro. Owens met us at the station with a cordial greeting. W.S.O. [Worthy State Overseer] Buick and Sister B. met us on the morning of the 5th, ready as usual to labor for our Order. At 1 o'clock we held a meeting, at which W.S.M. Boise proved to his hearers the interest he so ardently feels in the agricultural portion of this rising state. Took the train at six, for Myrtle Creek, where we spent the Sabbath with Bro. and Sister Buick, enjoying our visit amid those romantic hills and fertile valley with the true Grange relish, and on Monday morning, that we might have an extended view of the country by daylight, boarded the freight train at 8:30 for Grants Pass, a distance of seventy-five miles. Having crossed the Umpqua River at Myrtle Creek, we coursed our way along its western bank, some ten or twelve miles from Cow Creek, where the railroad leaves the Umpqua and enters Cow Creek Canyon. Here we seated ourselves on top of the car that we might enjoy the delightful scenery along the creek and over the mountains. There is some mining done on the creek. Here we passed out of the farming country, and the iron horse pulled us up, up, up for miles in the canyon, through tunnels and along mountain gorges, until we came to the divide, where we passed through two tunnels and shot out to the other side of the mountain, the appearance of the entire country being changed; the mountain steeps consist of granite. The pine and manzanita bush reminded me of the gold fields of California in '49 and '50. The road follows down along the side of the mountain until it reaches Wolf Creek, where it forms a complete loop and winds its course toward Rogue River, the country being rough and almost barren. Arrived at Grants Pass, on Rogue River, about 4 o'clock. The farming land here is quite limited. This place may in the future make quite a shipping point for Josephine County, if the inhabitants can succeed in raising such products as will demand a greater price in the market than the railroad company charges for transportation.
    After spending the night, crossed the Rogue River on the 6th, and traveled some fifteen miles to Applegate Creek. Here we found a nice little valley, the lowlands producing corn and sorghum; the syrup made from it is every good. Fruit, particularly peaches, grows abundantly in this valley.
    We visited the Grange Cooperative Store, kept by Bro. Powell, for Washington Grange. They have at present a $5,000 or $6,000 stock of goods and are doing an excellent cooperative business. Spent the night most pleasantly with Bro. Basye and family. Attended Washington Grange on the 7th, and was surprised at the concourse of Patrons met in the hall, who made its walls ring with vocal and instrumental music, which delightful exercise seemed to be conducted by the sisters, who are wholehearted Grangers. W.M. [Worthy Master] Day finally called to order and Judge Boise addressed the meeting for an hour and a half, in which everyone seemed interested. Then followed the tables laden with delicious delicacies enough to satisfy a company three times its number, at which we all labored faithfully. Order being again restored, your Lecturer was requested to favor them with an address. We had a very interesting meeting and many a cheering word was spoken for the good of our Order. The Patrons of this remote locality are deserving much credit for their praiseworthy and heroic conduct, and for their indomitable perseverance, for which at every meeting they seem to realize a full compensation. With reluctance I bade adieu to friends so generous and kind.
    There having been no other appointments made in Josephine and Jackson counties, and wishing to accomplish as much as possible during our brief sojourn, the S.M. [State Master] visited as far as possible in the former, while I traversed a portion of the latter county laboring in behalf of the Grange, explaining its objects and urging upon the citizens the necessity of immediate, earnest cooperative action.
    On the 10th went up the Applegate to Poormans Creek. The country as we proceed further east seems better adapted to the raising of stock. Hydraulic mining is carried on to a certain extent, but water seems to be scarce. After traveling fifteen or twenty miles obtained a bird's eye view of Rogue River Valley proper. The lovely valley spread out before us like a rich panorama, dotted with fine farms, presented a spectacle beautiful to behold, while the grand old Siskiyou Mountains standing to the south and Mt. McLoughlin, with her eternal snowcap, and the Cascades to the east and north, seemed to say: "This is my treasured farm, trespass not."
    We proceeded about five miles into the valley, called on Bro. Mingus, last Master of Jackson Grange, who after a lengthy conversation decided that it would be best to converse with other brothers throughout the valley, which I did, spending the night with Bro. Plymale; my companion, Bro. Clappel, tarried with Bro. Walker. April 11th. Bro. Walker took his team and hack, and we visited the farmers in various sections of the valley, while Bro. Clappel returned to his home on Applegate.
    The renowned Table Rocks stand in the northwest part of the valley, and to the south is the farm of Col. Ross, whom we visited, finding him a granger both in heart and practice. His farm is in order and everything about it bespeaks taste and refinement. Found the Colonel engaged in tanning deer skins, which reminded us of early days.
    I saw large fields ready to plant to corn and sorghum. Went through Bro. Walker's mill for crushing cane and making syrup, of which he can manufacture two barrels a day. The valley has not yet produced enough for home consumption. Am informed that it grows very large upon black soil, though it is sometimes caught by frost, but always ripens upon thin soil. The yield of syrup per acre is from sixty to one hundred and twenty gallons. In my opinion the raising of sorghum is the most inviting business for farmers of Jackson County, as the manufacture of sugar would soon follow, while they could find ready market in the various sections of this large state, and we should import nothing which we can successfully raise at home. It will be necessary for fruit growers to resort to the drying and canning processes, as the freights by rail are so enormous that no profit would return to the producer upon green fruit.
    We are in hopes that there may yet be several Granges organized in Jackson County. The little town of Medford is upon the line of rail, five miles from Jacksonville and near the center of the valley, and I think ere many years will be the principal town in the county.
H. E. Hayes, Willamette Farmer, May 2, 1884, page 7   End of the letter not transcribed.

Last revised October 30, 2018