The "Italy" of the North Pacific States.
THE GARDEN SPOT OF THE COAST
An Equable Climate--A Most Productive Soil--
A Wide-Awake People--Description of the Country.
It is with a degree of personal pride that I send The Oregonian this short sketch upon Jackson County for publication. For many years this portion of Southern Oregon was scarcely known, as its only way of communication with the outside world was by wagon across the mountains, which in many instances required several weeks. But since the advent of railroads the world at large is becoming more and better acquainted with it, and it is my intention that this sketch shall still further inform those who chance to read it.
Jackson County is in the heart of the famous Rogue River Valley, the "Italy of Oregon." It is bounded on the north by Douglas County, on the east by the Cascade Mountains, on the south by California and on the west by Josephine, and has an area of about 1,600,000 acres. About 275,000 acres are now under cultivation, and about as much more subject to profitable use for farming and fruit culture, the balance being equally divided into grazing and timber lands.
The arable land comprises the valley, table and rolling hill lands. The grazing comprises the lands too arid and hills too steep for general cultivation, which are generally sparsely covered with scattering timber. The best timber land comprises the slopes of the mountains, the more rugged hills and canyons and lands along the watercourses.
The general surface of the country embraces three divisions of land--that of the high mountaintops, that of the hills or broken ridges, and that in the valleys. The first is used for summer range for stock, the grass growing as the snow disappears, affording pasturage for large herds, and is also a 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 used for planting cereals and grasses. The valley land is composed of the successive alluvial deposits of different geological periods, and the constant disintegrations of the surrounding mountains. The soil in Jackson County is more varied than that of any other in the state, and it is not an unusual thing to find five or six different kinds on a farm of 100 acres.
This county takes in almost completely the large and fruitful valley of the Rogue River, with the converging uplands on every side and a large area of rolling and mountainous country. The great feature of the county is the valley, which is about sixty miles long and varying in width from two to twenty miles.
In a sense this great valley is not one valley, but a succession of valleys, as it is broken by rolling and hill lands into what might be termed several separate valleys. This condition of things is liable to lead one unacquainted with the country to erroneous conclusions, and it would be well for the intending settler to take time to examine the country thoroughly before forming a conclusion.
The Rogue River Valley occupies the central portion of Jackson County, and takes its name from the river which flows through its northern extreme, though Bear Creek drains the greater portion of the Rogue River Valley proper. The principal streams emptying into Rogue River on the south side are the south fork of the Rogue River, Big Butte, Little Butte, Bear Creek and Applegate, while on the north side, Button, Elk, Stearns, Sams, Trail and Evans creeks. Each one of these watercourses and its tributaries is the nucleus of a series of valleys and tablelands separated from its neighboring valleys by a range of hills. Properly speaking, the basin of Rogue River is not a valley, but a series of valleys, tablelands and hills. Many have thus been mistaken by supposing that a certain range of hills was the limit of the valley land.
The great diversity of soils and the admixture of the elements composing one class of soil with those of another grade render it exceedingly difficult to describe it, so that one not acquainted with its peculiarities and the climatic influences can form a rational conclusion concerning its merits. There is no frost to loosen or pulverize the mineral elements, but this work is done by chemical action caused by the admixture found in nearly ever grade of soil. To classify briefly, there are bottom, prairie, adobe, granite and a sand and clay soils. The bottom land is found along the rivers and creeks; the prairie soil on the prairie or tablelands; the adobe on the plains, tablelands and hills; the sand and clay loam in all parts of the valley. These soils are all good for special crops adapted to the nature of the soil. Besides these, along the hillsides there is more of a reddish cast, in which a decomposed granite, feldspar, mica, chloride of iron, clay and vegetable mold have been ground together by continual washing down the hillsides. This soil appears to be especially adapted to grapes and peaches, but will produce all other fruits of grain.
All cereals grow well on all soils and yield excellent crops. The straw is bright and clean, freer from rust or mildew and the grain full, plump and well matured. The best lands will average from 30 to 35 bushels of wheat and 40 to 50 bushels of oats per acre. Corn grows well on all good soils and yields on an average from 40 to 60 bushels to the acre.
Jackson County can truthfully be called the corn country of the state. Hitherto but little attention has been given to this product, but now that the market of the whole Pacific coast has been opened by rail there is an inducement to produce beyond the requirements of home consumption.
Farm grasses, such as timothy, clover, bluegrass, alfalfa, etc., grow in abundance on bottom lands, or lands irrigated, while the poorest, sandy, gravelly soil, favored by irrigation, will produce two or three crops of alfalfa each year.
The mildness of the climate, and the absence of any prevailing disease among stock, makes this an inviting country for the stock-grower. Very few furnish shelter for their stock in the winter season, nor is it necessary. Stock, ranging in the foothills, seldom require feeding in the winter. Where it is more densely settled in the valley, and the native grasses more exhausted, more hay for winter feeding or more tame pasturage is required.
The climate of Jackson County approaches, without reaching, the semi-tropical, and is highly favorable to a sort of production which, in the colder regions, needs the most careful nursing. The county is especially adapted to the growing of fruit. Until about three years ago this country was wholly destitute of transportation, excepting such as was afforded by wagon on a mountain road, and this fact will explain its slow development; but since the extension of the Oregon & California road, in 1884, giving it a connection with the general market at Portland, the metropolis of the state, progress has been wonderful. Population has increased rapidly; the area of cultivated land has been largely extended. In orcharding especially there has been great progress made, hundreds of thousands of orchard trees having been planted within the past twelve months. This season surpasses any other in the planting of orchards, and in a few years more, with the same progress, Jackson County will be able to furnish all the fruit the entire state of Oregon can use. Fruit canning and drying establishments are being erected throughout the county, so that all the fruit raised will be taken care of.
Forests of [a] fine quality of timber, consisting of yellow pine, sugar pine, white and red fir, and various other woods, useful in mechanical and manufacturing pursuits, are found along the headwaters of the Rogue River and its tributaries. This timber can be floated down the streams to the valleys, where it may be manufactured and placed upon the cars at the mill door and shipped to any part of the world. There are some few sawmills already located in the county, but more could be established and their output would be a source of great revenue to the owners.
There are thousands of acres of land in this county, both school, government and railroad, which may yet be taken up or purchased from first hands.
Improved farms on or near the line of railroad range from $20 to $60 per acre, varying from the character of the land and improvements. Five to ten miles away improved land sells for $8 to $20 per acre, owing to improvements. Unimproved lands in the interior are selling for $2.50 to $10 per acre.
It might well be said that the farmers in this valley devote their attention to a mixed husbandry. Thousands of head of cattle, horses, sheep, hogs, chickens, etc., are shipped out every year, besides the immense amount of small grain and fruit. This county is importing horses in large numbers each year, as well as cattle and sheep, and it is only a question of a short time when this county will furnish the markets of the north Pacific country with all they want in this line.
Medford is a town of about 2500 inhabitants, is located in the very heart of the Rogue River Valley, on the line of the Oregon & California Railroad, a distance from Portland, their chief market, of about 320 miles. It is also the present terminus of the Rogue River Valley Railroad, which runs from Jacksonville to Medford. This road will soon be extended east from Medford to Eagle Point, and then from there to some point in the eastern portion of Oregon, thereby giving the Rogue River Valley the benefit of an eastern market for their many products.
The city of Medford is well supplied with business houses, mostly brick, representing almost every branch of business.
The streets are broad and level and paved with a good, solid gravel paving. The city also has a complete system of water works, and a move is on foot at the present time to have the city lighted with electric light. It has more miles of plank sidewalks than any city in the valley. The residence portion of the city is beautifully laid out. Some of the residences are beauties of architecture, surrounded with beautiful lawns and flower beds, and would do credit to a city of 50,000 inhabitants.
Medford has a fine brick opera house, three stories high, with seating capacity of 600, costing about $12,000.
There is now being erected just at the outskirts of the city, a fine distillery, 170x40 in size, three stories high, with a capacity of 500 bushels of corn daily; when completed will cost $25,000. It will be used for manufacturing French spirits only.
There has just been organized a stock company called the Southern Oregon Pork Packing Company; capital stock, $25,000. They will do a general pork-packing business, and it is expected the capacity will be about 2000 head of hogs. This factory will supply a long-felt want for Southern Oregon, as it will give the farmers a home market for all the hogs they can raise for some years to come.
The city also has her sash and door factory and planing mill, whose plant cost $10,000.
The Medford roller mills is a large three-story building, with a capacity of 100 barrels daily.
Medford is well supplied with churches. The Baptist Church is brick, and cost $4500; Methodist, frame, costing $4000; Presbyterian, frame, costing $1500; Christian, frame, costing $2500; Episcopal, frame, costing $500. Catholic, frame, costing $1000. Methodist South hold services in a hall at present. Seventh-Day Adventists have an organization also.
The city has a complete system of graded schools, but her school buildings are not what they should be. Another year, however, will see fine school buildings erected.
While there is no considerable portion of this valley that needs irrigating in order to make it productive, there are some portions, of it, however, that irrigation will help materially, and there is an irrigation company organized in Medford with a capital stock sufficiently large to construct and operate the irrigation canal. The canal will tap the Little Butte seven miles below Fish Lake and will supply water for at least 25,000 acres.
The citizens of Medford are all enterprising and sociable, and when any new company wish to establish an enterprise of any kind they give them the substantial encouragement asked. Medford also has a bright and newsy newspaper, the Mail, which is each week advocating the cause of the city in which it is printed.
John Harryman, manager of the Oregon Loan & Trust Company's branch office in Medford, is a wide-awake young man, and takes great pleasure in showing a newcomer the main advantages of the Rogue River Valley.
H. S. L.Oregonian, Portland, June 10, 1891, page 13
Rogue River rises in the Cascade Mountains and courses southwest and west to Grants Pass, where it runs northwest, and again southwest, receiving the Illinois River, which drains Josephine County, about twenty miles from the sea. Rogue River Valley, embracing all the country drained by that river and its numerous tributaries, is an aggregation of smaller valleys divided by rolling hills, the whole encircled by elevated mountain ranges. The river is not navigable for any great distance from the sea, but abounds in rapids and falls, furnishing abundant power for manufacturing purposes. It is a stream of unsurpassed beauty, with water as blue as the sky, and banks overhung in some places with shaggy cliffs and in others with thickets of wild grape vines and blossoming shrubs.
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.
Rogue River Valley during a period of about twelve years was the scene of active and profitable placer mining, after which for an equal term the mines were abandoned to the Chinese, but in later years mining has revived, and several companies are realizing good returns from investments in mining ditches and quartz leads. The other minerals known to exist in his region are copper, cinnabar, lead, iron, coal, granite, limestone, kaolin and marble. The latter is of very fine quality, white, exceedingly hard, and translucent.
Like every part of Oregon, this valley has its mineral springs, its trout streams, its fine forests, game, and abundance of pure soft water. No local causes of disease seem to exist here, and it is hard to conceive of a country more naturally beautiful and agreeable than this. The forest is confined to the mountains and hillsides, and is not so dense as towards the Columbia.
Rogue River Valley is divided into three counties--Jackson, Josephine and Curry. Jackson County was crested January 12, 1852, and Josephine was cut off from it in January 1856. The name of the former does not refer, as one might suppose, to the deity of good Democrats, but to Jackson the discoverer of the mines on Jackson Creek, after whom Jacksonville, the county seat, was also named.
Jackson was the owner of a pack train which transported provisions to the mines, who being encamped at this place made himself and the locality suddenly famous by his discovery. [This account of the naming of Jacksonville and the gold discovery is inaccurate. Jacksonville was named after Andrew Jackson] For many years the town enjoyed a good trade, but Jacksonville lost its opportunity when it permitted the Oregon and California Railroad to pass by on the other side. Medford, a few miles to the northeast, is on the railroad, and takes away the trade that formerly went to Jacksonville, which is now trying to recover it by building a branch road to Medford, which has about two thousand inhabitants.
Ashland, one of the prettiest towns in Oregon, has, on the contrary, profited by being upon the line of communication between two great states, and is prosperous. It was settled in 1852 by J. A. Cardwell, E. Emery and David Hurley, who, being from Ashland, Ohio, named the place after their old home. It is located where Stuart Creek [i.e., Bear Creek, though Victor is referring to Ashland Creek] comes dancing down from the foothills of the Cascades, offering abundance of water power, and where the view over the whole of Rogue River Valley is delightsome. Its manufactures are lumber, flour and woolen goods.
The population of Ashland is about three thousand, and there are over a dozen smaller towns in the county, the population of which is fifteen thousand.
Frances Fuller Victor, Atlantis Arisen, 1891 Philadelphia, page 133 This description is substantially the same as one Victor wrote in 1872.
Last revised March 3, 2014