The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1890

    Last Sunday night the writer hopped on the [steamer] Telephone and the next morning at 8 o'clock was on the southbound passenger train.
*    *    *
    As we whisked by a huge pile of flat rock, an old gentleman on the opposite side of the car tapped the wandering Astorian on the shoulder. "Do von see those rocks?" said he, "That is Table Rock: this is Rogue River: it was there in 1856 that the Rogue River war ended." Then he went on to tell about Rogue River and the Indian war, till the writer wished that Bill Chance was along so he could keep track of the stories and separate fact from fancy.
*    *    *
    Ashland was reached at 11 o'clock a.m. Tuesday. The country round about is devoted to fruit. It has a beautiful appearance and seems prosperous. Everyone takes things easy, and enjoys life. Crystal streams of ice-cold water flow through the sandy streets, and the plash of the fountains, the song of the birds and the perfume of the flowers fill the sunny air.
    A delightful day was spent riding around that part of Jackson County and visiting various points of interest, arrangements having been made for a future visit to Oregon's greatest natural phenomenon--Crater Lake.
    Like other parts of our great commonwealth, that portion of the state has a grand future. To a casual visitor there appears to be one mistake--an effort to have too many towns. The southern Oregon people are overdoing it, and as it now stands each little place will just about "hold its own."
    There is Jacksonville, Medford, Grants Pass, Ashland, Central Point. The first four each poll about 600 votes. Each one has special and just claims to recognition, yet there is just enough territory to build up and keep up a good thriving city. Jacksonville is sidetracked--is off the railroad: it has a standing offer of $25,000 and a right of way to anyone who will connect it with the railroad four and one-half miles away. It had its chance and missed it, and isn't in it. Ashland is at the apex of the triangle, and has to divide territory with Medford, which is a railroad town and the pet of the Southern Pacific Railroad Co., that corporation discriminating as much as is possible in favor of their own creation. At the other end is Grants Pass, which the writer believes will be the biggest of them all, being a new place and virtually free of the obstructionists and Silurians who hate to see progress or improvement.
    The people have little idea of Astoria and except being under the same state government have little in common with us. It is as different in many respects as though in another hemisphere. The manzanita and sugar pine and live oak take the place of our vine maple, fir and spruce, and the hills have that brown appearance that betokens the absence of rain. Bands of sheep go by, and on the purple mountains twinkle twilight campfires. Wednesday morning, about face, and the next morning the rocking waters and the green-wooded shores of the familiar Columbia greeted the return.
"Through Oregon," Daily Morning Astorian, June 14, 1890, page 3

    Jackson County has 1,416,600 acres of surveyed and 392,600 acres of unsurveyed land. The latter is principally on the high mountain ranges. The general surface of the country embraces three divisions of land--that which is on the high mountaintops, that on the hills or broken ridges, and that in the valleys. The first is utilized for summer range for stock, the green grass growing as the snow disappears and affording rich pasturage for numerous herds, and is also a most desirable place for butter and cheese making. The hill land is the timber-bearing region and the home of the stockmen. The soil is capable of a high degree of cultivation, and as it is denuded of its timber is usually planted in cereals and grasses. The valley land is composed of the successive alluvium deposits of different geological periods and the constant disintegrations of the surrounding mountains. The soil of Jackson County is more varied than that of any other in the state, and it is not unusual to find five or different kinds on a farm of 160 acres.
    The Rogue River Valley occupies the central portion of Jackson County and is about thirty-five miles long by twenty miles wide. It takes its name front the river which flows through its northern extremes, though Bear Creek drains the greater portion of the Rogue River Valley proper. Little Butte Creek and Sams Creek form considerable additions to the main valley by their contiguous territory. All of these streams empty into the main river within a few miles of each other. Rogue River Valley is next to the Willamette in extent on the west side of the Cascades, and is nearly two-thirds as large as the state of Rhode Island. Its soil is composed of the successive denudations of the surrounding mountains, and as they are the product of widely distributed geological eras it is often found that several kinds of soil are deposited within a limited area, making diversified farming easy and practicable. Lying contiguous to California, and having its climate tempered by the warm ocean breeze laden with moisture, it is specially favored as a locality for the most perfect flavoring and ripening of fruit; in this, Rogue River Valley always will excel. On the gentle slopes of the surrounding hills thousands of acres can be put into vineyards and choice fruits, while on the low bottom lands anything and everything grown in a semi- or subtropical climate can be produced. Ashland, Medford, Jacksonville, Central Point, Phoenix, Talent, Eagle Point and Gold Hill are the principal towns in the valley.
    Not inappropriately has the beautiful valley of the Rogue River been called "The Italy of Oregon." Approach it from whatever source, an amphitheater of mountains encircles it on every side, girding the horizon with a cordon of snow-crowned peaks, towering, in many places, over 8,000 feet above the valley, and sending long forest-encumbered ridges down into the lower levels. Innumerable streams leap, in foaming cataracts, to the sea, while the charm of sylvan dell, rugged cliffs [and] rippling waters woos with resistless power. The long sweep of graceful hills on either side of undulating valleys running far up into the horizon, and there crowned by rugged mountains peaks, snow-crested, making a nature equaled only by the Alps, and excelled by no other land upon the earth.
    Out of 1,416,600 acres of surveyed land, only 192,374 is as yet in cultivation. The home-seeker can find good government land to be had under the preemption or Homestead Act. Land can be bought from the railroad at prices varying from $2 50 to $20. Land owners part with their land at reasonable figures, ranging at from $5 to $500, owing to location. Farming land sells at from $10 to $100, $25 to $50 being the prevailing price for good land. Wheat, rye, oats, barley and corn grow well on all soils, and yield fine crops. The straw is bright and clean, free from rust or mildew, and the grain full, plump and well matured. Of wheat, the best lands produce from 30 to 40 bushels, and of oats, from 40 to 50 bushels per acre. Common grade land runs from 5 to 10 bushels under the above estimate. Phenomenal yields often produce 60 bushels of wheat and 80 bushels of oats to the acre. Corn yields from 40 to 60 bushels to the acre. Corn does not require so much cultivation as in most countries. Timothy, clover and bluegrass do not do well on uplands, but make good crops on the low bottoms. Alfalfa grows anywhere, producing two good crops on the uplands, and from three to four on the bottoms; or, with irrigation, wild oats once seeded produces successive crops without planting, and is much used for hay.
    For a description of the mines and mining, attention is called to a special article on this subject. Mining, stock-raising, agriculture and fruit culture are the chief industries, though lumbering is destined to occupy additional attention as the country becomes more densely populated. The mildness of the climate and the absence of any prevailing disease among stock makes this an inviting field for the stock-grower. Aside from cattle, sheep and horses, swine and poultry are specially profitable.
    James McDonough, an old settler and member of the district board, says: "Jackson County is bounded on the north by Douglas and Josephine, on the east by Klamath, on the south by the state line, and on the west by Josephine. Rogue River rises in the Cascade Mountains, and flows through the county from east to northwest, and its many tributaries that flow from the Cascades and Siskiyous form a perfect watershed, completely draining the valley. Each smaller stream flows through valleys separate and distinct from that drained by Rogue River itself. Butte Creek Valley, though its soil differs materially from other parts of the county, is susceptible of profitable cultivation, and is especially valuable for its fine timber, which is destined in time to afford an inexhaustible revenue to its fortunate owners. As fine fruits are grown here as can be found anywhere, as was fully demonstrated by the premium exhibits from this locality at the district fair. Sams Valley, in the northern part of the county, is especially adapted to grain and fruit culture, and abounds in the finest varieties of timber indigenous to this part of the state. Stock-raising is also a profitable industry, the adjacent foothills and mountains affording excellent grazing for flocks and herds. Applegate, in the western part of the county, and separated from Rogue River Valley by a mountain range, is a rare combination of mineral, agricultural and horticultural land lying along the river bottom and between points and spurs, extending far into the foothills, where are located many comfortable homes, fine farms and gardens, with a vast extent of grazing lands in the adjoining mountains. Hydraulic and placer mining is carried on extensively along the Applegate River and its tributaries, while all kinds of semi-tropical fruits and berries are grown in sight of the most extensive hydraulic mines in the county. Evans Creek and Foots Creek, in the northern part of the county, also add a valuable pro rata to the agricultural and mineral wealth of the county.
    "Rogue River Valley is the largest in the county, being about forty miles long with an average width of perhaps ten miles. Bear Creek flows through its entire length and forms a conjunction with Rogue River a few miles below the mouth of Butte Creek, and directly opposite the famous Table Rocks or Table Mountains, in the northern part of the valley. The first settlements of the valley were in 1851, when gold was discovered in Jackson Creek, near where Jacksonville now stands. The mines proved both rich and extensive, and soon drew to this part of the state a large cosmopolitan population, and the wise agriculturalists among them saw in this beautiful and fertile valley a growing and permanent wealth that would long outlive the glamour and rush of a frenzied gold excitement, and many of the finest farms in the valley were at once located under the 'Homestead Act,' and are still in the hands of the original owners. For three decades this county grew and prospered, though completely isolated from the markets of the world; our mineral resources amply supplied the circulating medium required for the general conduct of business, which, at that time, was very large on account of the great number of people who had gathered here under the impulse of a new and rich discovery, on account too of the high prices that prevailed for all necessaries by reason of the excessive freight rates from the supply centers. Grain and fruit culture were carried on solely to meet the demands of local trade.
    "Many of the early immigrants brought with them valuable horses and cattle, and stock-raising became a specialty. Large herds of cattle were annually driven to the markets north and south, and our horses were improved by the importation of the best strains of blooded stock until they have made for themselves a record as roadsters and draught horses that has placed them among the first on the coast.
    "The climate of Jackson County is a happy mean between the humidity of Northern Oregon and the droughts of California. Here the two extremes meet and amicably compromise--the result is a perfectly equable climate. The main valley through which the Southern Pacific railroad passes is completely environed by a continuous chain of hills that separate it from the several smaller valleys that form such an important part of. Jackson County. These hills rise in successive steppes and benches into the Cascades, Siskiyous, Coast Range and Grave Creek mountains, giving the valley the appearance of an immense amphitheater. Here nature holds enrapt the astonished beholder when he views for the first time the gorgeous panorama that opens out before him, blending in variegated beauty the snow-capped mountains, the distant hills, the verdant valley and sparkling waterways in changeful alliance with summer's sunshine or winter's storms.
    "The completion of the Oregon & California Railroad to a connection with the Southern Pacific, under whose management the entire system is now operated, marked a new era in our progress and prosperity, and real estate rapidly advanced in value, immigration flowed in a continuous tide, new towns sprung up as if by magic, trade was divided and extended, and the future possibilities of this favored section became at once apparent. The fruit that year after year rotted ungathered for lack of means of transportation now found a ready sale in the markets north and south; and this branch of husbandry through the discriminating judgment of its votaries has been carefully fostered and extended, many new and superior varieties added, a more thorough system of pruning and cultivation observed, until today it is one of the leading and most profitable industries in the county. Pomology has become of absorbing interest, a large area has been added to our orchards, and skilled foreign labor engaged extensively in viticulture. Our stock, grain, fruit and timber have been brought into favorable competition with other products in the markets, and every industry has received an impetus from the infusion of new life-blood into the arteries of trade; and the place that was to the early pioneers in its pristine loveliness an Eden, has become, in the new order of events and developments, an empire. When the morning sunshine breaks in golden glory over the summit of Mt. Pitt, or blazes in noonday splendor on this enchanted scene until its rays are lost in the ebb and flow of the occident ocean, it looks not down upon a more beautiful and harmonious picture than our snow-capped mountains, vine-clad hills, sparkling waters, magnificent orchards, broad fields and meadows and prosperous towns that all combine to make fair our charming valley."
    W. C. Myer, of Ashland, gives the following information regarding the importation and breeding of fine stock :
    "In 1870 I brought the first full-blood Percheron that came to the Pacific coast, the stallion White Prince, imported from France, and Doll, bred from imported stock in Ohio. Since that time I have brought several other full-blood Percheron stallions and mares, and the stallion Arabian Boy, that here was sired by the imported Arabian Col. Jenefer, out of the imported Percheron mare Rosa Bonheur. Descendants of the above have been used for breeding purposes from British Columbia to Southern California, and as far east as Montana. Wherever introduced they have given good satisfaction. In 1878 I brought the first Shetland ponies that have been kept for breeding purposes on the Northwest coast.
    "In 1872 I brought one Jersey bull, one cow, and two heifers. Part of these were registered in the A.J.C.C.H.R. From this importation many learned the value of this stock as butter producers.
    "In 1883 I brought out one Jersey bull, a grandson of the noted Eurotus, and five cows and heifers, all registered in the A.J.C.C.H.R. This was the first full herd of all A.J.-registered Jerseys brought to the Northwest coast. From the above I bred and sold a herd to Mr. D. H. Looney, of Marion County, which have been awarded first premiums at the state fair for the past two years.
    "I have some of as fine specimens of Percherons, Shetlands, and Jerseys as can be found on this coast."
    The following is taken from the Daily Oregonian:
Acres of improved land  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     192, 374
Number of cattle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . .        10,119
Number of sheep and goats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        12,576
Number of swine  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .          7,866
Number of polls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . .          1,377
Value of land . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $l,152,693
Town lots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     222,441
Improvements   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    632,322
Merchandise and implements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    343,959
Money, notes, accounts and shares of stock . . . .    470,048
Furniture, jewelry, carriages, etc. . . . . . . . . . . . . .      94,207
Value of horses and mules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  152, 248
Value of cattle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   130,900
Value of sheep and goats. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     16,755
Value of swine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     19,758
Gross value. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3,235,347
Indebtedness  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   686,971
Exemption  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   271,768
Total tax equalized by county board. . . . . . . . . . . .2,254,557
   Jackson County embraces the upper valley of the Rogue River and is preeminently a hill country. Subtropical fruits, vegetables and cereals grow luxuriantly in the well-watered valleys, and the hard fruit and berries of a colder clime thrive upon the hills and mountainsides. Sharing the rich soil and a climate similar to that of Josephine County, it is equally prolific in luscious peaches and grapes and produces apples of a flavor that is simply unsurpassed. The finest lamb and mutton is produced on the natural grass grown in the woods, and the poultry, eggs, milk, butter and honey raised here are all that could be desired. Indeed, the growth in population and cultivated land has, for 1889, been enormous throughout Jackson County. A few years ago homesteads and farms and orchards were few and far between. Now the clearing of lands, the planting of orchards and building of comfortable houses go on everywhere, and not a town in the county but is growing and prospering. Ashland, though not the capital, is the largest town in the county. It reminds the stranger of one of those Tuscan towns which are picturesquely located in the ravines of the Apennines. South and east is a range of delightfully wooded hills, and north and west is another range less picturesque but equally lofty. The Southern Pacific railroad reaches Ashland from the south, through a ravine which the Rogue River must have carved for itself in the course of ages. It then winds along the valley to the northwest, disappearing through a narrow gorge. Ashland is the distribution point for the fruit of the surrounding country. From it peaches and apples are shipped to Portland and San Francisco, and it tells well for Ashland peaches when they fetch a higher price in the San Francisco market than the native-grown California peach. Indeed, peach growing has become so profitable that the planting of peach trees amounts almost to a craze. An old settler told the Oregonian correspondent that until seven years ago the farmers used to produce only as much as would keep body and soul together. Now they can easily make over $400 an acre from peaches, and that with the supply the demand has gone on increasing. In consequence of the impetus given to trade by the new era of prosperity that is opening up for the farmers, Ashland is booming at an abnormally rapid rate. It has more than doubled in the last summer. A fine brick hotel was erected at a cost of $25,000; a beautiful opera house built of brick is just being completed, and in addition Ashland can boast of the finest water power and the finest electric light system of any town in the state. The power for its electric system is derived from water, as is also the power used in its woolen and lumber mills. Ashland's business houses are mostly substantially built of brick and stone, and its private houses would do credit to metropolitan cities. Its villa residences, perched on the slopes of the mountain and surrounded by fruit and lower gardens. present a charming vista, and in summertime are fanned by delightful breezes while the folks in the valley below are sweltering in the sun. Two new churches have also been erected within the past year.
    Jacksonville is the county seat of Jackson County, and has a population of about 1,000. It is five miles from Medford and about the same distance from Central Point, the nearest railway stations. In consequence of no direct railroad communication it has been placed at a great disadvantage and is consequently not pushing on with the rapidity of other towns in the county. It is, however, keeping its own and boasts the finest vintage in Oregon. Indeed, a very good connoisseur told me that he preferred Jacksonville wine to the finest produced in California, and as the industry is constantly growing, others must think so too.
    Medford is the second town in Jackson County in enterprise and population. It appears to have made greater strides during the past season than those to be credited to Ashland, and the number of stores, residences and solid business blocks that have just been built prove that Medford is alive to the great chances that are in store for the wide-awake towns of Southern Oregon.
"The Resources of Southern Oregon," Southern Oregon State Board of Agriculture, 1890, page 20

Last revised May 30, 2014