Medford in 1897

Reporter Gets Ancient Scoop
Medford Lively Place in 1897

   A News reporter, making the daily round, entered a well-known store one morning to witness a most unusual sight. The proprietors, the advertising man and four clerks were huddled together, bending over a counter and almost climbing over one another in the effort to look at something greatly exciting their curiosity. Customers there were "to the right of them," two fair feminine tourists "to the left of them," but it made no difference. Nothing was registering on the conscious or subconscious grey matter of the aforesaid but the immediate object on the counter.
    The reporter advanced, first cautiously, then with firmer tread. "What's all the row?" she enquired politely, with delicacy and tact and the use of both elbows, making a place for herself in the front line trench. And this is what she saw:
Medford, Oregon, Thursday, Mar. 18, 1897
    "Medford, the metropolis . . . which has about 3000 population. It has electric lights, water works, a large pork packing establishment, flouring mills, a distillery, a brewery and ice plant, a cigar factory, steam dye works, steam laundry, marble works, a fruit packing establishment, soda works, two newspapers, two brick yards and numerous mercantile establishments, which have been so managed as to draw patronage from every part of Southern Oregon, making it the chief trading center. The new brick school building is the finest in the southern part of the state and no town between Portland and San Francisco has better hotel accommodations. Medford has more brick business houses than any other city of its size in the state, and five new business blocks are now in the process of construction. The large corps of legal, medical and other professional men rank favorably in the scholarship and professional standing with those of metropolitan cities. Medford has seven churches and THREE SALOONS."
    The edges torn, the pages yellow with age, but all intact and the lettering clear was this newspaper relic of a past age. The reporter forgot all about a "story" while she read on and on, visualizing the Medford of nearly thirty years ago.
    W. S. Crowell was county judge, G. P. Lindley was treasurer, J. (presumably Jim) Grieve was assessor, Gus Newbury was school superintendent, G. H. Haskins (father of Leon B.) was mayor, Charles Strang city treasurer, and the following were trustees: Fort Hubbard, F. M. Plymale, A. M. Woodford, J. R. Wilson.
    William McKinley was president of the United States, Phil Metschan State Treasurer, H. K. Hanna circuit judge of the Western Division. All of these names were more or less familiar. The rest meant nothing to one reader, at least.
    Business cards showed somebody (name torn out) and Vawter, attorneys at law, and Drs. Geary and Pickel, physicians and surgeons. In a column headed "Whom to Patronize" and under "Hardware" was Boyden & Nicholson; under "Groceries" Lumsden & Berlin; "Lumber," Wallace Woods; "Agricultural Implements," Hubbard Bros.; "Millinery," Mrs. C. W. Palm; "Hostelries," Hotel Nash; "Photographers," H. C. Mackey; "Real Estate," C. W. Palm; and "Beverages," The One Horse Saloon.   
    The only display ad that looked at all familiar contained the announcement of Hotel Nash Barber Shop, Bates Bros., Props. Another advertisement of the Ashland Normal School stated that board and room could be had for $1.75 per week, the tuition $6.25 a term. Imagine getting food at such prices! Them was the days!
    A personal from a Grants Pass paper showed the name to be the "Oregon Mining Journal." There wasn't so much of a fruit industry at that time, evidently. Another personal informed the public that "Robert Vining, a merchant of Tacoma, is visiting relatives at his old home at Ashland." "Court Hall left last Sunday for Carson, Nevada, to witness the Corbett-Fitzsimmons prize fight"; "Mrs. E. R. Reames and daughter, Mollie, who spent the winter in California, are visiting relatives in Jacksonville," and "Miss Mary Mee returned from Grants Pass to her home in Central Point."
    The editor was much "wrought up" over a charge made by the Valley Record against one Senator Holt, alleged to have ridden on a pass from Salem at the close of the legislature. He also had much to say concerning "whether the counties will send the state tax to the (state) treasurer, to lie there until the next legislature meets, or retain it in the counties to pay our own indebtedness."
    The group read on and on until the air was suddenly pierced by the sonorous and deafening blasts of the Pantorium whistle. It was noon. The News scooper returned to modern Medford, well satisfied, and wended lunchward.
Jackson County News, July 17, 1925, page 2

MARSHFIELD, August, 1897.
    Here is a region which less than half a century ago was an unbroken wilderness, whose annals offer to the historian nothing striking or romantic, and which the uncommercial traveler knows only as a given area on the map. Owing to its broken topography of hill and dale, abruptly alternating, it can never become a densely populated region, but the fertility of the narrow strips along the streams has attracted settlers, and there is hardly a tillable area of a few acres but has its cabin. The necessary elongated farms separate the dwellings rather widely. The towns are few and small. The farmers of this region share with those of California the convenience of a dry harvest. July, August and September are usually rainless. The sun pours down its rays with ardency; the lips dry and crack, the dry air does away with visible perspiration, and, in spite of the noon temperature hovering in the vicinity of 90 to 100 degrees F., the heat is stimulating rather than oppressive. Dust, of course, is ever-present. The roads are usually poor, formed, on the hillsides, of the surface soil, with an occasional sprinkling of rounded river gravel, which does not pack. The rocks are mostly friable sandstones and shales, or an exceedingly refractory diabase, and do not afford good road-metal. A further explanation of the wretched highways is afforded by the fact that the farmer gets all his heavy hauling done just after harvest, while the roads are still sunbaked, and in the rainy season, when they are mostly quagmires, he has nothing to haul; or, if he has, betakes himself to a broad-runnered wooden sledge, which glides over the mud almost as easily as if it were snow. As the day wanes, a haze overspreads the sky, the remnant of the coast fogs brought by the persistent trade wind. After nightfall the air becomes cool, and, with one's window up, a refreshing sleep may be enjoyed under two heavy blankets. The rainy season, by all accounts, is trying to those unused to isolation and intellectual torpor. For reasons above indicated there can be but a minimum of moving about on the country roads and little sociality. Those in more easy circumstances go to the towns; the others exist until the seed-time comes.
    The conditions foster lethargy of mind. The village papers have mostly "patent outsides" and a vacuous interior. At the stationer's, in one of the larger towns, I was informed that they did not take in a single weekly illustrated paper or any monthly magazine. Those who wished such things got them from the train boy of the daily local. In two weeks I did not see him sell anything except a few daily papers, when, following the usage, I went to get a paper for myself. The schoolhouses, scattered at intervals along the hill-roads, were small, untidy and unpainted. I heard from residents repeated criticism of the poor work done by the state normal schools, which were said to graduate immature, incompetent and untrained teachers, each provided with a diploma which exempted the bearer from further examinations. On the other hand, the extremely meager pay given to the district schoolteachers could hardly attract competent persons to do the work. It is probable, also, that politics plays some part in appointments. However, the criticism heard is a more favorable symptom than content with an unsatisfactory state of affairs would be. The higher educators are not indifferent to the lack of culture, and earnest efforts in the direction of "university extension" are being made.
    The mental torpor referred to is quite a different thing from stupidity. In conversation with the people I found no lack of intelligence, and was surprised to discover how generally sound views on the currency and other analogous topics were entertained. The women, as usual, were more alert in such matters than the men, and, even under disadvantageous circumstances, showed praiseworthy strivings for thrift, neatness and other than domestic interests. The physique of both sexes seemed good, and attractive faces were not rare. There was apparently some tendency to pallor, and a physician of long experience in the region assured me that, though the country is exceptionally healthful, the people lacked physical tone and succumbed with astonishing ease to relatively slight attacks of disease. Searching for some explanation of this singular fact, I learned that the settlers, though more or less mixed with European stock, are derived mainly from immigrants from Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia, where malarial conditions may have undermined the constitutions of the progenitors of the present population. Much weight must be allowed, I am convinced, to the unhygienic cuisine which is nearly universal, and always comprises an excess of fatty, sweet and acid constituents, badly cooked and hurriedly consumed. There is no doubt that this part of the country is sadly in need of missionaries capable of teaching better domestic economy and methods of thrift.
    The products of the region are the staples, wheat, hops, prunes and beef cattle; while timber, staves and poultry contribute a not unimportant share. The high price of wheat has recently greatly encouraged the farmers and will bring much money into the valleys. In general, I was informed, the farmers are free from encumbrance, and the people have been, in spite of the hard times, fairly prosperous. The transportation of the region is wholly in the hands of a single railway, and the rates are high. The coast may be reached by several stage lines, one of which starts west from Roseburg for the Coos Bay country, while another, over a better road, crosses the mountains by a moderate divide and descends the valley of the Umpqua. The ride by the latter is picturesque and interesting, and, with a comfortable coach (which is not provided), might be recommended to tourists. As it is, however, the hotels in most cases are far from meeting the most elementary requirements of cleanliness and good food, while the stages are merely rough covered wagons, with hard seats and insufficient springs. The omnipresent dust is a factor not to be ignored.
Excerpt, The Nation, September 9, 1897, page 201    Apparently the writer didn't travel farther south than the Umpqua basin.

    "Mr. S. Bradbury writes from Medford, Oregon, ordering the Chronicle sent him and adds: If you will have room in your columns, I want to make a few statements. I have been in Southern Oregon some two years, and find it to be a fruit and wheat growing country, but yields light crops, and is worth from $12 to $15 per acre. This is a kind of starve-out country. I want to say to the citizens of King City and surrounding country, don't ever come this side of the Rocky Mountains to make your fortune, and you that have homes in old Missouri, Iowa or Illinois, stay with them . We have no good market or church privileges. Some of the people do not appear to be scarcely half-civilized in some localities. Old Missouri is good enough."
    The above clipping was published some ten years ago in a Missouri paper, and illustrates the changes that may occur not only in men's minds but in a country like this. Note what Mr. Bradbury says about this country, and his advice to people in his old home about coming here, then ask him what he thinks now. Perhaps the best answer to that question lies in the fact that he is here yet, you couldn't persuade him to live anywhere else, and he hasn't starved. When Mr. Bradbury came here matters were not as flourishing as they are now, the country was in process of evolution from the old stock raising, placer mining stage to a fruit growing section such as it is now. That land that could have been purchased for $12 to $15 then is worth from $150 to $500 now. Mr. Bradbury was shown the clipping--which had been preserved by the editor of this paper all these years--the other day, and acknowledged that he had changed his mind. "I guess I must have been pretty homesick and discouraged about that time," he said. "It's different now, and I wouldn't live anywhere else for a whole lot."
Medford Mail, August 2, 1907, page 1

    Situated on the west bank of Bear Creek, on the line of the Southern Pacific railway about midway between Portland and San Francisco.
    Its location is in the heart of the famous Rogue River Valley.
    The site upon which Medford is located is one of the most picturesque on the continent.
    The broad and beautiful expanse of scenery surrounding it cannot be surpassed. The window openings of every stately structure in and about the city frame a picture of some scene that delights the eye.
    Medford, unlike most western towns, has never experienced the ups and downs of a forced boom with its demoralizing effects. The growth of the town has been steady and permanent, based upon actual demand, and what is found here can be accounted for upon that basis of existing to supply a present, instead of a prospective demand.
    As a trading point Medford ranks with the ordinary town of twice its size, this being accounted for by the nature and extent of its tributary country.
    The city is well governed and economically administered. Owns its own water works, operated by gravity system, and water is furnished to consumers at low rates, and affords ample fire protection. First-class electric light plant with lines to all parts of the city, furnishing illumination as cheaply as in older and larger cities of the coast. The city is provided with an excellent public school, several churches of different denominations, all creditable edifices, and our social advantages are as desirable as can be found in any western town. While Medford is justly proud of her business enterprises, and the outlook for the future is certainly good, it is only fair to state that there are sufficient business concerns of every size and character for present business needs, and that there is sufficient labor here to fill market demands. It would be wrong to mislead and call people here on false hopes.
    The city is growing, the country is growing, and there are good inducements held out to prospectors, or those seeking legitimate investments. The field is as yet but half occupied, and the resources of the surrounding country and the advantages of the town afford excellent opportunities for establishing mills and manufactories. The city is among the foremost in fraternal orders, all in good financial standing.
    We cannot describe Medford and the lands that surround her. We can give but a few plain facts and call upon our eastern readers to come and see the land endowed by nature with every precious gift; the land of boundless opportunities; the land of progress and integrity; the land which can give capital the best, the safest investment to be found in America; the city and country that can and will deal generously with the miner, the manufacturer, the capitalist or the farmer.
Medford Mail, May 28, 1897, page 1

    Medford is one of the new towns which sprang into existence with the completion of the Oregon & California Railroad. It is located in the Rogue River Valley, on the railroad, and is 328 miles south of Port1and and 444 miles north of San Francisco. It has a population of about 2,500. A motor line connects it with Jacksonville, six miles distant.
    The country in the immediate vicinity of Medford is devoted almost entirely to the raising of corn, wheat, rye, barley, fruits and vegetables. Almonds, grapes, figs and fruits of a semi-tropical nature are raised here to perfection, and the fruit industry is conducted on a scale that has made this one of the best known fruit-producing belts on the coast.
    Medford supports a number of manufacturing industries, among which is a pork-packing establishment, a planing mill, a flouring mill, a brewery and an ice plant. The farmers in the immediate vicinity of Medford and elsewhere have found a valuable market for their hogs at the pork-packing plant in the town.
    Medford justly prides herself upon possessing a number of fine brick blocks, which line the main street. The business community is fairly prosperous, notwithstanding the "hard times," and a number of the leading stores carry heavy stocks of goods. These goods find a ready sale, not only in the surrounding agricultural communities, but among the miners on the Applegate.
    Good public schools are maintained. The town is also well supplied with churches which possess their own buildings. Two newspapers are supported-- the Mail and the Monitor-Miner. The first is non-partisan and the other populist.
    Medford also boasts of a fine opera house, and in the Hotel Nash has a hostelry which would be a credit to any place of the same population. It has a wide-awake, energetic population, which is ever reaching out after trade. The counties of Klamath and Lake are partially tributary to Medford, and a good many thousand dollars worth of goods is yearly sold to the farmers and stock-raisers of those two counties. Located in the midst of the largest body of agricultural land in Southern Oregon, with a superb climate, the place has an assured future.
Oregon Mining Journal, Grants Pass, Midsummer Edition 1897, page 24

Last revised August 21, 2018