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


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 February 21, 2018