The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


    SODA SPRINGS.--These springs are distant from Jacksonville about twenty-five miles, in a southeastern direction. Dr. Colwell has located at this point, and erected a hotel building which makes no pretensions to grandeur or magnificence, but when finished will be neat, commodious and comfortable. The Doctor and his lady set a good table and render every courtesy and attention to guests.
    The springs are becoming quite a place of resort in the summer season. Pleasure parties to this locality are frequent, but a still greater number of humanity's ailing ones visit the springs for the benefits derived from drinking the mineral waters, which are in a manner similar to the celebrated springs of Seltzer, Spa and Pyrmont in Europe--containing the carbonates of lime, magnesia and iron. We believe, however, that the salutary effects of a sojourn at this spot are as much due to the pure invigorating atmosphere, the cool breezes that are ever whispering among the treetops, and the general feeling of quiet and serenity that pervades it, as to the use of the mineral waters. It is well up in the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains, off the main line of travel, and away from the bustle of business and toiling crowds, where the nerves may steady down and gain a more healthful tone--the pulse is not stirred so wickedly by the fashions and foibles of conventionality and the worry and vexations of business.
    Soda Springs is not an extraordinarily romantic or grand locality; in good truth there are many places in this county that can boast more enchantments as regards attractive scenery, but after all, one who feels worried down like a spent hound would find health and pleasure in drinking the soda water, loitering idly over the smooth, rolling slopes of the hills and among the gray, grim crags, or trouting in the waters of Emigrant Creek that lie in pools and eddies or bubble and foam swift over the stones and among the tangled roots, or in lying hour by hour under the trees, building air castles and dreaming out long vagaries, and returning always with a sharpened appetite.
    The road leading from the Jacksonville and Yreka road is poor enough at the best, but is made unnecessarily worse along up Emigrant Creek, by the encroachments of some settlers who have recently squatted upon the bench land along the creek, fenced up the road as it formerly ran and crowded it down to the edge of the channel, among the ruts and stones. This is a legalized county road, and the county survey calls for sixty feet in width along the middle of the flat, and to which the settlers above, and those generally who travel the road, are entitled and could claim if they chose to be obstinate. The settlers should of their own accord have grace of God and public spirit enough to leave at least twenty-five feet on the margin of the flat, next the creek, over which a good, safe road could be made at a much less outlay of labor by that road district, and which would be serviceable at all seasons of the year. Soda Springs is in a measure becoming a county institution, and it is due to the people generally that the road thereto be made as safe as possible, and not unnecessarily obstructed.

Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, May 18, 1867, page 2

    SODA SPRINGS.--There is not in the whole [of] Southern Oregon a more delightful place of summer resort than the soda springs of Mr. Courtney above Ashland. The water is most beneficial to invalids, and has effected many cures. The water is strongly impregnated with soda and iron, is delightful to the taste and exceedingly appetizing. Ample provision is made for the accommodation of guests, and a visit there will be sure to be repeated, as the charges are very moderate.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, June 4, 1879, page 3

    Soda Springs, on the road from Ashland to Linkville, is now a stage station, which is a great convenience to travelers. The host and hostess, Mr. and Mrs. Shannon, know how to make guests comfortable and set the best table in the country, making the "Springs" the most poular summer resort in this section.

"Local Items,"
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, June , 1880, page 3

    BUTTE CREEK SODA SPRINGS.--Attention is called to the advertisement, in another column, of S. McCallister, proprietor of these famous springs. Their health-restoring properties are said to be wonderful. As they are easy of access and accommodations are furnished at low rates, invalids or others looking for recreation should give the Butte Creek springs a trial.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, July 25, 1884, page 3

McCallister's Soda Springs,

Situated on the North Fork of Butte Creek, 32 miles from Jacksonville, in a cool canyon near Mt. McLoughlin, are a delightful resort
    These waters are highly medicinal, curing in a short time
Dyspepsia and All Stomach Complaints,
As well as many
    The Springs are easy of access, and good Board and Lodging is furnished at low rates by the proprietor. Also a few cabins for rent on the premises.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, July 25, 1884, page 2

Soda Springs.
    [The first sentence illegible due to paper loss.] The springs are situated on a small stream at the southeastern extremity of the valley, near the base of the Siskiyous and about twenty-seven miles from Jacksonville. The base of this spring is not soda as commonly supposed, but iron, and it is therefore a natural tonic, pleasant to the taste and most healthful and invigorating. The hotel kept in connection with the springs by Louie B. Tucker is one of the best, if not THE best in Southern Oregon. The house has recently been enlarged and very materially improved in appearance and neatly and comfortably fitted up throughout, and the table, presided over by Mrs. Tucker in person, is uniformly spread with the choicest the country affords and is second to none in the state. Those who go there during the heated term for rest and quiet and to test the virtue of the springs, the medicinal properties of which are now undoubted, can rest assured that every attention will be given them and no pains spared to render their stay both pleasant and profitable. Those who have sojourned there this summer speak in the highest terms of the benefits derived from the use of the water, and all agree that as a tonic and appetizer it is unsurpassed. The proprietors propose making it a general article of commerce so soon as arrangements can be perfected for shipping it. They think by the use of the modern soda bottle it can be shipped to Portland and intermediate points with little or no loss of its medical virtues and that the general public can thus have access to the water without the necessary expense of visiting the springs. If this should prove a success a new and important industry will be developed in Southern Oregon which will give employment to quite a number of hands besides being no inconsiderable source of revenue. We hope the proprietors will be successful in their venture.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, August 9, 1884, page 3

    Jacob Wagner, who has purchased the famous Soda Springs property, is going to make great improvements there this summer. He proposes to build a nice, commodious two-story house over the spring, and will build several neat cottages to rent and will also greatly enlarge and improve the Soda Springs hotel, which will continue under the popular management of Mr. and Mrs. L. B. Tucker, who have so successfully conducted it for the past year. Mr. Wagner is a man of enterprise, and his proposed improvements will add greatly to the comfort of health and pleasure seekers who resort there every season.
"Local Items,"
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, June 6, 1885, page 3

    Following is from a sketch of the Rogue River Valley by E. A. Swope in the Portland World:
    A ride of two hours or less from Ashland brings us to the Soda Springs, situated on the Linkville road about 10 miles from Ashland.
    The Soda Springs House is a most delightful abode, on the banks of Emigrant Creek, nestled in a remote valley surrounded by the Siskiyou and Cascade mountains, thirty-two hundred feet above the level of the sea. The air is pure mountain, perfumed with the fragrance of the variegated wildflowers and shrubs and grow in such voluptuous profusion on the mountainsides. The spring is about 40 yards from the house, around which resound the songs of the myriads of sweet-tuned birds that frequent these southern vales of Oregon, and which delight to drink of the health-giving waters of nature.
    There is a most fascinating charm about the spot. The gush of brawling waters crowding down the stream in limpid measure, the sublime view of Ashland Butte to the northwest, rearing its snow-crowned head from its
"Palace where nature thrones
Sublimity in icy halls"
to the ethereal dome of heaven, the perfect seclusion of the place, surrounded as it is by lofty mountains on all sides, where no harsher sound is heard than the coo of the turtledove or the musical shrill of the lark piping its lulling notes to the bleating flocks that browse upon the mountainsides or rest under the shade of some ancient and expansive live oak tree--all render the springs a most delightful retreat to those in search of rest and recreation, or the recuperative powers of the water so palatable to the taste and invigorating and health-giving to the system.
    The house is owned and operated by Mr. Wagner, one of the pioneers of the Rogue River Valley and erstwhile proprietor of the Ashland Mills. For comfort, cleanliness, good table and accommodations, the place is not excelled in Oregon. Mr. Wagner has only been in possession of the hotel for about four or five months, and already the improvement and change wrought under his and his wife's superior management are very marked. In one or two seasons, these soda springs will, without doubt, be a much frequented and favorite resort with the people of the state and abroad. The medicinal properties of the water are very highly commented upon by those who have received benefit from them, and their curative powers eulogized by those who have sought the healing skill of physicians in vain. For Bright's and other diseases peculiar to the kidneys, the waters of the soda springs possesses positive curative powers.
    The region is particularly rich in soda and sulfur springs, both cold and thermal, and is fast becoming a resort for invalids, tourists and those in search of the healing waters of nature. The opening of through railroad communication will, in the near future, bring thousands from abroad to these fountains of life.
    [illegible line of type] tunnel through the Siskiyou Mountains south of Ashland, which remains in the incomplete state that the bursting railroad boom left it, revealed a perfect botanic paradise to the lover of flowers. The camas, with its star-shaped flower and lavender hue, the orange blossom, larkspur, the Oregon lily, the field lily, the wild lily of the valley, the helianthus or sunflower, wild cucumber and honeysuckle, cleanthus, wild heliotrope and roses permeate the air with their aromatic fragrance.
Ashland Tidings, July 2, 1886, page 1

JACKSON COUNTY, August 5, 1889.
    The Colestein springs, in Southern Oregon, are becoming very popular, and this season the accommodations are all taken and, besides, over 100 campers are on the grounds. The springs are situated twenty miles beyond Ashland, directly on the Oregon & California Railroad, two miles south of the Siskiyou tunnel, 4100 feet long. We are high up in the mountains here, some 4000 feet, yet there are magnificent ridges towering close at hand all about us, so that the springs are in a wonderfully cool and pleasant place. The sugar pine and other varieties, the fir and cedar, are here in their full growth. Neither forest fires or the ravages of the woodsman have yet marred the works of nature in these mountains. Byron Cole is the fortunate owner of 1100 acres, together with the springs. The guest house accommodates only twenty-five people, but his plan is to build cottages and keep this as the dining room, or house for cooking and eating. Families with children can live by themselves, and persons who are sickly or who cough at nights can then enjoy the freedom of being at home. The water has considerable iron in it and is heavily charged with carbonic acid. The people who stop here are mostly eastern people who in taking the Mount Shasta route remain here from a day or two to a week. They say the water is like the Congress water at Saratoga, and take great delight in drinking it freely in the morning before breakfast, drinking it all day and at night and then take pitchers of the water with them to their rooms or tents. Boys sell it on the trains, and trainmen and workers on the road fill their demijohns and are happy. Perhaps this explains what Leland Stanford said when he and his wife were here not long ago. When drinking the mineral water, he said it was so refreshing that he believed it was slightly intoxicating. These mineral waters only a few hundred steps from the Colestein station are destined to be famous far and near. The water flows strong and steady, and the fact that these springs have been known for forty years is a guarantee of their permanence. The deer at night come down to the springs and drink, and Mr. Cole does not allow the shooting of deer on his grounds. The air here is balmy from these forests, and its bracing influence, with the help of these Congress waters of Oregon, would start anew many an invalid as they do the few here now.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, August 15, 1889, page 1

    The new buildings which Gen. Tolman has had erected at his vapor baths and mineral springs on Emigrant Creek above the Wagner Soda Springs were completed last week, and the baths are now ready for the use of anyone who desires to try them. They are located where a volume of gases issues from the ground--supposed to be not only carbonic acid gas but also sulfurous--and as far back as the traditions of the Indians go, the place has been a cure-all for them--[Tidings.
"Here and There," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, July 3, 1891, page 3

New Use for Indians.
    Tolman's magic mud springs above Ashland are becoming quite popular among those who are afflicted with rheumatism and kindred ailments. He is having new baths constructed all around the original springs, and with each excavation a newer and nastier variety of mineral water has been discovered. The General has brought over several antique squaws from the Klamath agency to instruct him in the art of using the water. Of course, the wily general understands the ordinary saponaceous uses of the ordinary fluid, but the thing seems to be to combine the least cleansing properties of the viler mineral compounds with as liberal an application of mud as possible, and the squaws are supposed to be experts in the art. It seems passing strange that, with as many mudslingers as have graduated with high honors at Ashland in local politics, it should have been necessary to have called in the services of the aborigines. However, the springs are proving all that was ever claimed for them, and the General is happy.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, September 4, 1891, page 3

Smith's Springs.
    The number of people who are camped at Smith's Springs, on Carter Creek, is increasing daily. They are situated 12 miles south of Ashland and 1¼ miles from Steinman, a station on the S.P.R.R. The altitude is 2400 feet, away above the malaria of the lower valley and in a cool, delightful locality. The scenery is grand, and there is an abundance of fish and game not far away. Besides the superior medicinal qualities of the springs, the vapor baths must be taken prominently into consideration, as they often prove a cure for rheumatism and the many kindred diseases that humanity is heir to. A visit to Smith's Springs may prove beneficial.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, August 12, 1892, page 3

Smith's Mineral Springs
-- AND --
V A P O R   B A T H S
Will be offered at
Public Sale
-- ON --
Monday, September 25th, 1893.
    This valuable property contains 160 acres situated within 1¼ miles of Steinman on the S.P.R.R. and 12 miles southeast of Ashland. The elevation is 2,460 feet above sea level. It contains valuable mineral springs and the now celebrated Vapor Baths over the Gas Springs which are proving so efficacious in curing Rheumatism, Neuralgia, Catarrh, Asthma, Dyspepsia and Liver and Kidney Disease. The property is partly improved as a summer resort and has done a good business for several years, considering the accommodations. It can be made a fine paying investment.
    For further particulars call at the Springs or address
Steinman, Jackson County, Oregon.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, August 25, 1893, page 2

Portland Man Has Leased Property and Will Improve Fine Sulfur Springs.

    R. C. Wilson, a gentleman who became interested in the thermal mineral springs on D. H. Jackson's place through an acquaintance made with Mr. Jackson at the Lewis and Clark Exposition, has effected a lease of the springs and will erect a bath house and small hotel there this winter. Mr. Wilson is now engaged in prospecting the springs, of which there are a series, with the object of utilizing the largest and warmest spring at the normal temperature at which the water issues from its subterranean depths. By the diversion of a colder spring he thinks he can raise the temperature of the water nearest the road, which now registers 105º Fahrenheit, to 110º. The spring, which has been devoted to private use in a small way for many years, has a temperature of 95º. The plans of Mr. Wilson contemplate a larger exploitation of these springs at a later date with a view to turning their well-known therapeutic properties to maintaining a commercial project of some magnitude. These springs and the Helman Springs, inside the city, are the most noted of this region, which has been so bounteously favored with mineral springs within a radius of fifteen miles from Ashland. The fine potable waters of the so-called soda springs of the upper valley have become quite well known, but the healing virtues of others have already given the country considerable repute as a resort for persons seeking relief from rheumatism and gout ailments.
    Only yesterday a gentleman passing through to California made inquiries at the exhibit building [at the Ashland railroad depot] as to the accommodations to be had at the Tolman Springs, stating that he had been there once and that the mud baths and the waters there possessed wonderful curative properties for rheumatic troubles with which he had been afflicted.
    Someday Ashland's mineral springs will become as widely known as the famous hot springs of Arkansas.

Ashland Tidings, November 23, 1905, page 3

    ASHLAND, Or., Feb. 14--Considerable interest has recently been manifested by several persons in the exploitation of some of the mineral springs about Ashland. The city is surrounded on three sides by some of the finest natural soda water springs that exist in any part of the West.
    The famous Wagner soda springs, whose waters have been in popular use since the earliest pioneers came into the country, have brought back the vigor of health to many people, and this may be said also of the Tolman mineral springs, ten miles southeast of Ashland. The Wagner Springs are eight miles southeast of Ashland, Kingsbury Springs seven miles and Murphy Springs only five miles from the city.
    The Ashland lithia spring is regarded as possessing therapeutic qualities in a high degree. This spring was recently discovered, and a government analysis lately made shows it to possess a greater amount of lithia than any of the other springs. There are also numerous sulfur springs, all of which have great medicinal value.
Medford Mail Tribune, February 14, 1908, page 1

Nature's Medicine Chest Always Open and Free to Everybody.

    Among the various resources near Medford are the mineral springs near the source of Little Butte Creek. A recent visit to this noted place calls forth an expression of interest from the tourist.
    First, these springs are in sanitary surroundings; second, the waters issue from a crevice in lime rock, free from contamination of soil; third, the medicinal properties have been assayed by government chemists and contain the salts of lime, soda, potassium, iron, magnesium and traces of lithium and free acid. We note the free acid as it escapes from the sparkling waters issuing from the stone fountain.
    I met about 75 tourists at the beautiful camping grounds. All were happy, especially the merry children.
    A new name was proposed for this beautiful nature scene. The Indian is forgotten. His campfires have long ago died out on the mountains and the wild love song of the dusky-hued maiden is hushed in the valley. Let the school children of Medford give an appropriate name through the columns of the Morning Mail, one which will show due respect to Oregon and the pioneers.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 27, 1908, page 5

The Indian Legends of the Springs
By C. B. Watson, Ashland
    Long before white men came to this country, so long ago, in fact, that Indian tradition does not fix the date, that wonderful collection of mineral springs, that promises to make Ashland famous, was known and valued by the aborigines for their medicinal properties.
    I first visited these springs forty-four years ago, and more than forty years ago published a prophecy that sometime a great health and watering resort would be built up here.
    I had then only recently arrived from my home in the prairies of Illinois, and everything I saw was new to me and wonderfully interesting. The mountains, forests, game and Indians were a source of delightful study for me. I went among the Indians east and west of the Cascade Mountains and learned many things not published in newspapers nor books. When I came Jackson County embraced all that area known now as Jackson, Klamath and Lake counties, and did not contain as many white people by one-third as the city of Ashland now has.
    The country now comprising Klamath and Lake counties was known as the "Lake country" and by the Indians as the "Land of Many Lakes." It was inhabited mainly by the Klamath and Modoc Indians, two powerful and warlike tribes, often engaged in war with each other, but sometimes by treaty combining to fight with the tribes west of the Cascades, also a warlike people, later known as the Rogue River Indians. These last were, however, so depleted by the wars with the whites in 1855 and '56 that they ceased to be a menace to the Lake tribes.
    When I first came, there were stories told of the aboriginals' use of the mineral springs, especially those known as the Tolman Springs, now owned by Mr. Lawrence and known as "Buckhorn Lodge," the escaping gases of which were prized by the redskins as "hyas skookum medicine." I visited them and verified some of the stories told. There were the places hollowed out on the banks of the stream where the gases escaped through fractures in the underlying rocks excavated by the Indians and in which they treated their patients. Dead birds, squirrels, snakes, rats and other small animals and reptiles lying in these pits told of the deadly quality of this carbonic acid gas [i.e., carbon dioxide] when not used with caution. In fact, the same thing may still be seen about these gas vents. From these facts the early settlers called them poison springs. The Indians, however, had learned how to use them and to value them accordingly.
    Their method was to find a spot where this gas escaped, hollow out a sufficient space, spread fir boughs in it for comfort and place the patient on the boughs, where he remained under watchful care until unconscious. He was then taken into a "wikiup" or tent made of skins and boughs and there put through a course of manipulation and teas until he recovered consciousness. Then would follow a day or two of sweating and incantations by a medicine man. This treatment was repeated until the patient was declared to be cured, or incurable. All this time they drank the water from the springs and used it for vapor baths in their sweat house.
    The Modocs and Klamaths were very skillful in the manufacture of baskets. Many of them were made for cooking in and holding water. These watertight baskets were filled and hot stones put into them, filling the sweat house with steam almost to the point of suffocation. The treatment was heroic, but the Indians insisted that it seldom failed to cure the most obstinate case of rheumatism, asthma, kidney disease and stomach trouble. It was not unusual for patients to be strapped onto ponies and brought from distant parts of the "Land of Many Lakes" to be treated.
    Forty years ago the old warriors, those that possessed the most wisdom, could seldom be induced to talk on such matters, but I became acquainted with Frank Riddle, who came among these Indians nearly seventy years go, took a wife among them and remained until he died a few years ago. Riddle was a man of much intelligence and grew to be a man of great influence among them. During the Modoc War of 1872 and 1873 he and his wife Toby did great service for the government troops, acting as interpreters and messengers of mediation. Riddle wanted me to write his history, and I agreed to do it if he would prepare the data for me. This he promised to do but never did. Our acquaintance ran through twenty years, and he often related his experiences and adventures to me. It goes without saying that his tales were thrilling. I asked him how long the Modocs and Klamaths had used the mineral springs of the Upper Rogue River Valley [i.e., the Upper Bear Creek Valley]. He said he did not know and that the oldest men of the tribes when he first came among them did not know. They were in use then and appeared to have been for ages. The people had a superstition about them and attributed them and their virtues to the "Great Spirit." The escaping gas was the breath of the "Great Spirit," and was a guarantee of sure cure if the patient had led a worthy life, but sure death if he had not. The place where the "Great Spirit" chose to administer the benefits of his healing breath was considered sacred and for ages was supervised by a great medicine man. Even when the tribes of the "Land of Many Lakes" were at war with the tribes in whose territory these springs were situated, if pilgrims from east of the mountains succeeded in reaching the springs for medical treatment, they were not molested while there, but if they could intercept them before they had passed the great forest they were driven back or killed. In this connection he told me a beautiful romance of two lovers of the dim past. They sought the springs in hope that the maiden might be cured of a malady that threatened her life. This story would be too long for this article, and I may give it at another time.
    I asked my friend why the people of the Land of Many Lakes always stopped at this one cluster of springs, why they did not go to the others where there were so many farther down in the valley; where the grass was better and no rugged canyon to hedge them in. He said that in the early time, of which, in their superstition, they spoked with bated breath, this one cluster of springs had by treaty been granted for their use and they were prohibited from visiting any other.
    The Wagner Soda Spring was taken up more than fifty years ago by an old hunter who took a fancy to the water as an antidote for some ailment he had. Another man by the name of Samuel Whitmore, who doubtless he remembered as one of the early school teachers of Ashland, visited this spring, and being himself afflicted got permission from the old hunter to stop with him and try the water. After a time the hunter got restless and sold his interests to Whitmore, who afterwards sold to a Dr. Caldwell. The doctor occupied the place when I first saw it in 1871. He had a comfortable house and other improvements and furnished accommodations to travelers crossing the mountains and entertainment for those who visited the springs for health and pleasure. Even at that time this spring was quite a resort, considering the dearth of population then in the valley. Even then it was not infrequent to have visitors from Portland, Salem and other places outside of the valley. The old doctor conducted a sanitarium on a modest scale, and the therapeutical value of these waters was then recognized and discussed. Splendid meals were set, and from that time to the present the Wagner Soda Spring has grown in popularity.
Ashland Tidings, December 31, 1914, page 10


Last revised May 19, 2019