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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Union Livery Stable

Union Livery Stable, East Main Street, Medford, Oregon 1901-06
The stable sometime between 1902 and 1908.

    Wm. Egan, recently from Goose Lake, is building a livery stable, and will soon be ready for business.
Ashland Tidings, December 21, 1883, page 3


    The new livery stable at Medford for McMahon & Egan was finished this week and is pronounced a substantial and commodious structure. Messrs. J. T. Roloson and Adam Schmitt of this place done the carpenter work.
    The new livery stable at Medford, owned by McMahon & Egan, is a most substantial structure. And the proprietors will always be ready to furnish food and stable room at lowest rates. Vehicles of all kinds to go in that part of the country can also be had at this stable.
"Local Items," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, January 12, 1884, page 3


    Wm. Egan, of Medford, has sold his livery stables in that place to Messrs. Llewellyn & Lynch, who recently came out from Kansas, receiving for the real estate and entire livery outfit $3,000. Mr. Egan is now in Ashland, and may possibly conclude to locate here.
"Brevities," Ashland Tidings, October 17, 1884, page 3


    SOLD OUT--Frank Lewellen has sold out his interest in the Medford livery stable to Ed Worman, a newcomer from the East, for $2,000 and will give possession on the 16th inst. Mr. Lewellen has not yet decided on the business he will follow from now on.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, November 14, 1885, page 3

March 13, 1888 Southern Oregon Transcript
March 13, 1888 Southern Oregon Transcript

Fire at Medford.
    Medford had a small loss by fire last Sunday night. The two harness shops and Hubbard's machinery warehouse on [the] south side of the main business street were burned, together with a considerable part of the contents of the buildings. Losses are reported as follows: W. G. Cooper, $2500; F. Hubbard, $600; B. F. Adkins, $100. The buildings were of wood. It took hard work to save the livery stable property adjacent.
Ashland Tidings, December 13, 1889, page 2


    UNION LIVERY STABLE. Edwin Worman, Proprietor, 7th and B streets. This business was started six years ago, and does a large trade. The stables are eighty feet square and afford accommodations for a large number of horses. Mr. Worman does a livery, feed and sale business, his stock of buggies, carriages, saddle horses, etc., being unsurpassed. Horses are boarded by the day, week or month and cared for by experienced hostlers. This gentleman also runs the daily stage to Jacksonville. He came here from Nebraska and has achieved the success of which
he is worthy.
P. W. Croake, The Rogue River Valley, "The Italy of Oregon," Glass & Prudhomme, Portland, Oregon. Undated, written March 1891.


    For ten long years the Union Livery Stables, of Medford, and Ed. Worman have been as one. But the ties which have bound the two have been severed, and Frank Mingus has taken up the business where Mr. Worman let go--a feat accomplished by Mr. Mingus purchasing the entire outfit, consisting of twenty-one head of horses, seven hacks, six buggies, all harness, robes and the whole business complete, including the stables and the three lots upon which they stand; the consideration being $5000. Mr. Mingus has a hole heap of hustle in his makeup, and if he properly utilizes it there is no good reason why he should not make several honest dollars. Mr. Worman has made a goodly sum in the business, and his retiring from it is purely because of his desire to rest from the cares incident there to and--as the boys tell--loan his dollars, of which he has accumulated several, at least. Another spring Mr. Worman expects to go east for a brief stay.
"News of the City," Medford Mail, October 5, 1894, page 3


    F. M. Mingus has had a new plank walk built at the Union Livery Stables and also made other improvements to the property.
"Medford Squibs," Democratic Times, January 31, 1895, page 2



    Dick Besse has purchased an interest in the Williams Bros. Union Livery Stables, the style of the new firm being Williams & Besse. The new combination does not in any way detract from the general popularity of the Union stables, but instead adds much to it that would tend to strengthen. Dick is a favorite with pretty nearly everybody and is a cracking good liveryman. Williams Bros. have built up a splendid business since coming to Medford--all of which has been well deserved. The new firm has added to its always good teams by purchasing from D. T. Lawton his fine Altamont driving team, said to be the best all-'round roadsters in the valley.

"News of the City," Medford Mail, October 2, 1896, page 7


    Last Friday catalogued another business change in Medford, E. P. Orser, of this place, having purchased an interest in Williams Bros. livery stable, and the business will hereafter be conducted under the firm name of Williams & Orser. Since Mr. Orser has been a resident of Medford he has proven himself to be an honest and upright gentleman, and The Mail feels justified in saying that any confidence reposed in Mr. Orser will not be misplaced--and the same can be said of Mr. Williams.

"News of the City," Medford Mail, February 5, 1897, page 7



    I. A. Mounce has sold his livery stock, consisting of horses, harness and buggies to Messrs. Williams & Childers, which gentlemen are now conducting the business as heretofore and at the "New Brick Stable." By the last purchase is consolidated the livery business of Medford. Where formerly there were three livery stables there is now but one, and this one of gigantic proportion. Under the new regime there is brought together a stable filled with the best driving horses in Southern Oregon. There are thirty-five horses in the three barns and about thirty carriages. Medford can truthfully boast of the best livery turnouts in Oregon.

"A Grist of Local Haps and Mishaps," Medford Mail, April 30, 1897, page 7


    John Compton and Del. Terrill of the Union Livery Stables at Medford have been in town several times during the week. They are doing a lively business in that line.
"Local Notes," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, February 17, 1898, page 3


Dissolution of Partnership.
    Notice is hereby given that the co-partnership heretofore existing under the firm name of Compton & Terrill, proprietors of the Union Livery Stables, is by mutual consent this day dissolved. Mr. Terrill retires and the business will be continued by Mr. Compton. All accounts due the firm are payable to Mr. Compton, and all accounts owed by the firm will be paid by him. A settlement of all accounts must be made at once.
JOHN COMPTON,
DELBERT TERRILL.
Medford, Oregon, May 7, 1898.
Medford Mail, May 20, 1898, page 7


   
John Compton of the Union Livery Stable has had his carriages and hacks repainted in fine style by Geo. Coulter.
"Medford Squibs," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, July 7, 1898, page 3


    John Compton has disposed of his interest in the Union Livery Stables to Emil DeRoboam of Jacksonville and Ned Orser, and has returned to his farm at Lake Creek.
"Medford Squibs," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, January 5, 1899, page 2


    Emil DeRoboam, proprietor of the Union Livery Stables, is fitting out his livery stock in splendid shape. He is making many repairs on old rigs and adding several new ones, also putting in new driving horses. Mr. DeRoboam is a man of business--a fact which is noticeable everywhere about the stables.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, May 25, 1900, page 7

Union Livery, circa 1905
The Union Livery Stable (far left) at Main and Bartlett circa 1905.

    E. B. Jennings, of Table Rock, has purchased the Union Livery Stable from Emil DeRoboam. Mr. Jennings will add several new rigs to the stable and will put in a number of fresh horses, and those horses now in the barn which have been worked down will be put out to pasture for a few weeks. Mr. Jennings is a jolly good fellow and a friend to pretty nearly everybody--and a hustler, all of which are adjuncts necessary in the makeup of a successful liveryman. The Mail hopes success will always be with him in his new venture.
"Additional Local Items," Medford Mail, July 20, 1900, page 2


    E. B. Jennings, the new proprietor of the Union Livery Stables, is unquestionably a well-qualified liveryman and is doing a cracking good business. He is making many changes about the stables--remodeling and cleaning up generally. He has also added several new driving horses to his already large number of drivers, and best of all he has put in pasture several head of worked-out animals--giving them a needful rest. Mr. Jennings also keeps his rigs in splendid repair.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, August 10, 1900, page 7


    E. B. Jennings has purchased the Dr. Pickel residence, now occupied by Mrs. L. J. Sears, consideration $1000. The dwelling is very suitably situated for Mr. Jennings, being near the Union Livery Stables, of which he is proprietor. Possession of the property will be given within thirty days, when Mr. Jennings will occupy the residence with his family, who now reside on the farm over at Table Rock.

"City Happenings," Medford Mail, August 24, 1900, page 7


    R. S. Lane, of Roseburg, has purchased an interest in the Union Livery Stables from E. S. Jennings--and the two will continue the business under the firm name of Jennings & Lane. Mr. Lane is a very fine gentleman and a good business man, and there is no good reason why the hitherto big business of the stables should not continue--and increase--under the new management and added assistance of Mr. Lane. Mr. Lane has also invested some money in Medford real estate--and may become the possessor of more.

"City Happenings," Medford Mail, November 23, 1900, page 7


    E. B. Jennings has sold a half interest in the Union Livery Stable to S. R. Lane, lately of Douglas County.
"Medford Squibs," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, November 26, 1900, page 3



    Last week these columns said that S. R. Lane, of Roseburg, had purchased a half interest in the Union Livery Stable, from E. B. Jennings. This week we are telling you that he has sold out again--to Mr. Jennings. It was like this:--The purchase was made conditioned that if Mr. Lane could make the purchase of certain real estate here the deal was a go with Mr. Jennings, but if he could not the Jennings deal was off. Mr. Lane was unable to secure the real estate--hence the sequel--Mr. Jennings is alone again. Later--Here is another hence: M. F. Cown, of Oregon City, has bought a half interest in the stables--and the firm is now Jennings & McCown.

"City Happenings," Medford Mail, November 30, 1900, page 7


    The firm of Jennings & Lane, which has been conducting the Union Livery Stables, was dissolved a short time since. E. B. Jennings will continue the business. He is in California at present.
"Medford Squibs," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, December 13, 1900, page 3


    About the first of the present month E. B. Jennings, one of the proprietors of the Union Livery Stable in this city, boarded the northbound train, saying he was going to Myrtle Creek to look after some mining interests. It has since transpired that he had misappropriated the sum of $123, and that a warrant for his arrest on a charge of larceny by bailee is now in the hands of Sheriff Orme, who is endeavoring to locate his present whereabouts. The warrant was issued at the instigation of W. Cramer, of Myrtle Creek. Jennings, our reporter is told, acted as an agent for Mr. Cramer, for the purchase of some wheat. He shipped him one carload and a few days later notified him that he had another carload ready for shipment upon receipt of the money to pay for same. Mr. Cramer forwarded him the money, $243, which he claims Jennings appropriated to his own use. The last seen of Jennings was in Portland, where he is said to have stated that he was going to St. Paul upon business connected with the Southern Pacific railroad. The information against him was wired to the Portland police, but they have been unable to locate him. It is thought that he has gone to Alaska.

"City Happenings," Medford Mail, March 15, 1901, page 7


    McCown & Jennings, the Union liverymen, are doing a good business and generally satisfying the traveling public.
Medford Enquirer, April 27, 1901, page 5



    Messrs. McCown and Jennings, the energetic proprietors of the Union Livery Stables, are doing a good business. Prompt and courteous, always vigilant in their efforts to accommodate the traveling public, they have become deservedly popular.
"Medford Squibs," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, May 16, 1901, page 5


    M. F. McCown has purchased Mrs. E. B. Jennings' interest in the Union livery stables, and is now sole proprietor.

Medford Mail, June 21, 1901, page 3


    M. F. McCown has sold the horses and rigs of the Union Livery Stables to Messrs. Fox & Good, the Ashland liverymen, who took possession of the stables Tuesday.

"Purely Personal," Medford Mail, August 16, 1901, page 6


    The Union Livery Stables are now under the management of H. J. Mattoon and Wm. Fox, late of Ashland, Messrs. McCown and Jennings having retired.
"Medford Squibs," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, August 22, 1901, page 2


    H. J. Mattoon is the gentleman who is in charge of the Union Livery Stables, which were purchased last week by Mr. Fox, of Ashland. He tells that things about the place were pretty badly run down, but says Mr. Fox will make over all the rigs that are worth repairing and will add many new ones. He will also put in several head of new horses and will keep everything about the place in first-class shape. Mr. Mattoon is a liveryman of experience and proposes to do everything the right way and treat every customer square.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, August 23, 1901, page 7


    The Medford livery stables have consolidated and are now run under one management. The brick stables [i.e., the Nash] are closed and are only used for storage rooms, all business being done at the Union barns.

"City Happenings," Medford Mail, October 4, 1901, page 7


    The owner of the Union Livery Stable property was ordered to connect the vehicle washing apparatus with the sewer.

"City Council Proceedings," Medford Mail, February 7, 1902, page 6


    The proprietors of the Union Livery Stables have a crew of men at work putting new flooring in the Nash Livery Stable and making divers other improvements. On the 15th inst. they will open this barn and run it in connection with their other stables.
"Additional Local," Medford Mail, April 4, 1902, page 6


    The proprietors of the Union Livery Stables have taken ten of their reserve horses from the pastures and now have them in their brick stables, fitting them for the summer work. These gentlemen have also put in several new rigs--bought from Mitchell, Lewis & Staver Co.

"Additional Local," Medford Mail, April 18, 1902, page 6


    Wm. Beckley, of Oakland, Oregon, was in Medford this week looking over the business situation. He was very favorably impressed with the city and is now figuring on the proposition of buying an interest in the Union Livery Stable.
"Purely Personal," Medford Mail, April 25, 1902, page 6


    The Union Livery Stable has about served its usefulness, and ere many years a new stable will, presumably, be erected on the lots. Here is a grand opportunity for an architect to do some good work.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, August 8, 1902, page 7


    Fox & Good, who have been conducting the Union Livery Stables in Medford, on Saturday sold out to Chas. E. Tull, acting for Cox & Scott. The new proprietors are well and favorably known, already being engaged in the same business.
"Medford Squibs," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, December 10, 1902, page 4


    There were some changes in the livery business in Medford this week. Fox & Goode have transferred the Union Livery Stables and the lease of the Nash brick barn to Chas. E. Tull, acting for D. T. Cox, and the latter has sold his interest in the C Street stables to James Scott. It is the understanding that Mr. Scott will lease the brick barn on D Street and will continue the business of the C Street stables at that point, while Mr. Cox will hold forth at the Union stables.

Medford Mail, December 12, 1902, page 2


    True Cox is now proprietor of the Union Livery Stables, which means they will be run in a first-class manner and for the accommodation of the public. Don't forget True when you want a rig.

Medford Enquirer, December 13, 1902, page 5



LANDMARK TO BE REMOVED
Handsome Brick Block Will Occupy Present Site of the Union Livery Stable.
    The passing away of a landmark is what's going to happen in Medford one of these days. The initial move in this passing act was made on Monday of this week when F. K. Deuel purchased from Mrs. Conrad Mingus the old Union Livery Stable property, corner of East Seventh and B streets. For years--since Medford was a yearling, or thereabouts, the Union Livery Stable has occupied this corner, and in those early days it had just as good a right to be there as did others of the few much less pretentious buildings a right to their preempted quarters, but conditions have changed in this blooming metropolis of ours, and those things which looked pretty good to the then-few inhabitants don't bear the earmarks of respectability required by the several thousand people who inhabit our town today. Then again this stable has been sort o' in the way for some time past--in the way of the advancement of other business in that locality. The purchase by Mr. Deuel of this property insures a removal of the old buildings and the erection of new ones thereon. The property is 75x140 feet in size, and the price paid for it was $9500.
    In January Mr. Deuel will go East, and before returning it is his intention to make a careful study of modern store architecture, and just so soon as weather will permit in the spring he will commence the construction of a three-story store building. The building will cover the entire corner and when completed will be occupied by
Messrs. Deuel & Kentner. This firm will occupy all three floors and will undoubtedly add other lines to their stock, but will not put in either groceries or hardware.
    The removal of these old buildings from this corner and the erection of new ones thereon is an act which will entitle Mr. Deuel to the sincere gratitude of our townspeople, especially those who live in East Medford or who have nearby business interests.
    I. L. Hamilton, the renter of the Union stables, has not decided where he will move his livery business, but he will, in all probability, buy property elsewhere and build.
Medford Mail, December 7, 1906, page 1


    I. L. Hamilton, proprietor of the Union Livery Stables, has purchased the E. Worman property, corner South B and Eighth streets, and which extends east to South A Street. Mr. Hamilton is now having plans drawn for a fine livery stable, which he will erect thereon.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, December 14, 1906, page 5


BUILD NEW BARN.
    Work was started yesterday to tear out the buildings for the large new store belonging to Deuel & Kentner. The Union Livery Stable is one of the buildings to go, and for the present temporary quarters have been arranged for one block south of the present location. Duncan & Koontz announce that they will erect a large new barn on the lot between A and B streets, south of the present location. The livery will be moved tomorrow.
Medford Mail, July 17, 1908, page 8


Union Stables Barn, March 1910
The new Union Livery Stables barn, March 1910, as seen from the roof
of St. Mary's Academy at Eleventh and Holly.


NEW LIVERY FOR MEDFORD.
    C. O. Power, architect, in the employ of Perkins & Janney, is putting in long hours these days perfecting plans and specifications for a grand new livery barn for R. O. Duncan.
    The site for this structure is on Eighth Street, between Riverside Avenue and Bartlett Street. It will face on Bartlett Street and will extend east the full width of the block.
    The building will be 64x134 feet in size, built of lumber, but later will have a brick veneering on the outside. It will be two stories high and will have stabling room for 60 head of horses and a carriage room capable of accommodating 44 rigs and six or eight automobiles. The second story will afford room for 50 tons of loose hay or 100 tons of baled hay.
    Part of the second story will be used for a carriage and automobile room and will be reached with these vehicles by an elevator operated by an electric motor. There will be sleeping rooms for employees, a harness room and a toilet. Besides these, there will be the office and a nicely fitted up waiting room with lavatory and toilet for ladies.
    The cost of the building will be about $5000. The site, as described above, is just one block south of where the old Union Stables were located for so many years. This building, when completed, will be as convenient and imposing a structure as it is possible to make a structure for this use, and Mr. Duncan is entitled to a great amount of credit for his enterprise in putting up so good a building.
Medford Mail, August 21, 1908, page 5


NEW LIVERY BARN.
    The new livery stable situated on Riverside Avenue, between Eighth and Ninth streets, R. O. Duncan, proprietor, will be a commodious structure, 64x140 feet, two stories, accommodate with sheds 100 head of stock, will be known as the Union Stables. Roofing of fireproof material, ready to occupy in about 30 days. Temporary sheds are now being used.
Medford Mail, October 16, 1908, page 10


    Ed Bostwick has resigned his position with the Union Livery Stable of this city and will take charge of the West Side Stable at Medford in the near future.

"Local News," Jacksonville Post, May 3, 1913, page 3



Union Stables Fire, 1913

HORSES DIE IN $15,000 LIVERY STABLE BLAZE
City's Business District Imperiled When Union Barn Burns--
Loose Hay Makes Firebrands--Gasoline in Garages Worries.
Defective Wiring Given As Origin of Spectacular Fire Friday Night--
Flames Spread Swiftly.
    Fire, caused either by defective wiring, the generally accepted theory, or smoking in the hay loft by an unknown man, little credited, destroyed the Union livery and feed stables on South Riverside Avenue last night at 11 o'clock, at an estimated damage totaling $15,000. Seven head of horses, thirteen wagons and two dozen sets of harness and other equipment, two unoccupied houses belonging to Mrs. L. R. Parker and about 500 tons of loose green hay were burned. The blaze was the most spectacular in the history of the city, and for a time imperiled the business district. Most work in preventing the spread of the flames was done by the fire department.
    The fire was discovered at 11 o'clock by W. Williams, the night watchman at the barn, who had lain down for a rest. His attention was attracted by the kicking of a horse against the stall. He looked out the office door, and the inside of the building was a mass of flames. Alone he began the work of rescuing the horses, who filled the air with shrieks of agony and terror.
Flames Spread Quickly
    Before the flames burst forth from the loft, heavy clouds of black smoke rolled skyward. Night policeman Cingcade on West Main Street saw this and ran to the Commercial Club to turn in the alarm. By this time the building was one solid mass of flames, and before the fire department left the fire house the livery stable was doomed.
    Within a radius of half a block of the barn most of the garages of the city are located, and these, with their supply of gasoline, gave the chief concern. Water was turned on these structures and the autos moved away.
Firebrands Fill Air
    When the fire was at its height, firebrands of hay as bag as hams floated over the city, alighting on the roofs of business houses. Live coals fell on Main Street, and the roof of the Warner, Wortman & Gore store was fired, but was extinguished before it got a start. Rubbish collected in back yards in the neighborhood were also lighted, further imperiling the danger. The peril from live wires was heightened by the poles catching afire, and the unwillingness of the firefighters to turn on the hose, for fear of being shocked.
    The livery stable [building] was owned by Hubbard Brothers, valued at $5000 and insured for $3000. Ray Gaunyaw, owner of the livery stable [i.e., the business], carried $1000 insurance on the hay and $500 on the stock and equipment. The two unoccupied dwellings, belonging to Mrs. L. R. Parker, were valued at $1500, upon which no insurance was carried. The garage of William Offutt, adjoining the livery stable, was damaged to the extent of $100, and was saved after a hard fight.
Large Crowd Collects
    The fire attracted a crowd of about 2000 people, who came on foot, horseback and in autos. The intense heat kept them back from the flames. Volunteer firemen were plentiful, and the volunteer chief more so.
    The rescue of the horses furnished the thrills. "Sam," a racehorse of some local reputation, was taken from the burning structure, only to rush back again into the flames, and died in the door. The horses belonging to R. W. Ruhl, editor of the Morning Sun, and the gray horse owned by the Pantorium, were led from their stalls with tails and backs afire, and may have to be shot.
Many Horses Cremated
    Ray Gaunyaw lost four horses, the Ashland Laundry two, the Domestic Laundry one. The wagon of the Wells-Fargo Express Company was burned, also the vehicles of the Ashland and Domestic Laundry. Several buggies and rigs belonging to the barn and citizens were destroyed.
    Assistant Chief Harry Ling was stunned by a falling ladder while at work, but was uninjured. A hundred feet of hose was burned.
Lack of Wind Saves City
    Fortune favored the city. There was no wind, and the gasoline stored in the neighborhood stood the heat. During the fire a number of property owners agitated the advisability of the council passing an ordinance forbidding the storage of gasoline and loose hay and other highly inflammable material in the downtown districts.
    An hour after the blaze started all danger was passed. But in that hour all business men east of the railroad tracks were anxious.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 27, 1913, page 1


Special at Star.
    Manager Burkhart of the Star Theater has secured a couple of fine views of last night's fire, while at its height, and they will be shown tonight. They are very realistic, being made while the fire was at its height.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 27, 1913, page 2


    The city began today the work of cleaning up the debris left from the Union Livery Stable fire Friday night. The hay smoldered until Sunday when the rains put it out. In the present condition the ruins constitute a health menace.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, September 29, 1913, page 2


    The green hay destroyed in the Union Livery Stable last Friday is still smoldering and steaming, and the city has been appealed to by residents of that district asking that the nuisance be abated.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, September 30, 1913, page 4


    The work of hauling away the debris of the Union Livery Stable fire has been begun by the property owners and the city. Ray Gaunyaw will reopen for business, but where is not known as yet.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, October 2, 1913, page 2


    Hubbard brothers, owners of the Union Livery Stables that were destroyed by fire a week ago, have announced that they will begin at once construction of a concrete building to take its place. The structure will cost $10,000, be 100x144 and will be occupied by Ray Gaunyaw, who is buying up stock. Work on the new building will begin as soon as the debris is cleared away.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, October 4, 1913, page 2


    Workmen are busy clearing away the debris of the Union Livery Stable fire, and work will commence at once building a new concrete structure on the site. It is expected to be ready for occupancy by the middle of December by Ray Gaunyaw.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, October 24, 1913, page 2


    Work is progressing rapidly on the new Union Livery Stables on Riverside Avenue.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, December 6, 1913, page 2


    The Union Livery Stable on Riverside Avenue destroyed by fire last fall is fast nearing completion as a modern $6000 concrete structure and will be ready for occupancy by February 1, under the management of Ray Gaunyaw.

"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, January 20, 1914, page 2


Medford Mail Tribune, January 29, 1914
Medford Mail Tribune, January 29, 1914

Medford Mail Tribune, March 14, 1914
Medford Mail Tribune, March 14, 1914


June 15, 1916 Medford Sun
June 15, 1916 Medford Sun

    Inquire at the Union Stable for information and transportation to the Oregon Caves. Ford cars for hire with or without driver. Payne and Bostwick.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, July 27, 1916, page 4

Elegy of an Old-Time Livery Stable
    Ah, me--times have changed, indeed, when residents of a neighborhood seek to oust the old livery stable as a nuisance. Time was, and not so far distant at that, when the livery stable was pretty much the center of things in every town. Yet none of the colorful institutions of the '90s has been so effectively eliminated since the dawn of the motor age as that savory equine abode, where one might loaf in serene contentment and enjoy the fragrance of stale corncob pipe smoke, clover hay and those other and varied aromas peculiar unto that vanished institution, while he hearkened to the politically sagacious and the purveyors of the choice tidbits of scandalous community gossip.
    At the livery stable the town smart aleck, wearing a swastika stickpin crosswise through his tie, rented a rig on a Sunday and drove around with the top down and one foot dangling over the side, writes Chet Shafer in the Detroit News. And, spotting a loafer moored by an awning rope, he'd sing out boisterously:
    "How's your corporosity sagaciating' t'day, Elmer?"
    Elmer, chuckling, would reply: "So's t' be around. How are you, Ez?"
    "Sick abed on two chairs," he'd retort, as he cracked his whip and clattered along for more sallies, leaving in his wake tumultuous laughter and the comment from Elmer: "Ez sure's a goer. Got an answer for everything."
The Inviting Interior Display
    Long rows of vehicles, from buckboards to the snappy Democrat wagon and an occasional hearse, lined the spaces on either side of the main floor driveway of the livery stable, their shafts propped high with notched boards. Every stable had some sulkies, too, and a prime little gig with patent leather dashboard and glass-sided lamps at the side, in which candles were burned. Tangles of harness hung in profusion on numerous pegs, some sets gaudily decorated with rings of bright colors, and with a glinting silver crest under a glass medallion near the blinders. A huge oil lamp with a quicksilver reflector shed a weird flickering light that aroused wavering, grotesque shadows between the rows at night.
    Yellow fly nets, and the white lacy kind the undertaker used, were festooned here and there. Boxes nailed up in convenient spots contained curry combs, round cans of axle grease and horse clippers. Ropes of sleigh bells were looped over spikes in the walls of the grain bin in the corner. The horses, usually stalled downstairs, were led up a dark, winding, cobwebby ramp cleated with lengths of old fire hose. On the ceiling beams tin signs were tacked with advertised Gitchell's Liniment and Kendall's Spavin Cure. And above a slate which was tacked to the wall of the office was this terse, though comprehensive, general admonition of the livery business:
Whip Light,
Drive Slow,
Pay Cash
Before You Go.
    The planking of the floor was worn and splintered with the action of many sharp-shod hoofs. The running gear of the rigs was washed by a swipe dressed in overalls and an undershirt. He worked out back in an addition where the boards of the floor were separated so the water could drip through. With his sponge and hose he was an artist. He had a very fascinating manner of giving a wheel a twist to see if it was true.
The Livery Stable Swipes
    All livery stable swipes were characters, mostly worthless and shiftless. But they loved horses, were philosophers and had individuality.
Livery Stable Art.
    Whips were kept in a rack, hung by the knot of the lash. All inveterate drivers, before starting away, tested the crack on some nearby legs and made it whistle and whine to see if it were limber. The accepted style for tony driving was with the lines crossed and gripped together in the left hand, the right hand free to manipulate the whip and attract attention. Not infrequently, a customer, on returning, would make the turn out in front on two wheels and negotiate the entrance on a full trot. He was reminded by the irate proprietor that the stable was no racetrack. And along about midnight, especially in winter when the sliding doors were closed as far as they would go, the muffled thud of the hoofs of a restless steed was a frightening sound to a belated passerby.
    On a rickety table in the office, set against the wall under a glass-doored case containing special chain and jointed bits, were a few smudged copies of the village newspaper, and a dog-eared deck of cards for games of casino. Prints of Maud S. with her record of 2:08¼, the Chimes and Palo Alto adorned the walls. These, together with the prints of jockeys, vied rather unsuccessfully for notice with the small card photographs of burlesque queens in tights that came with one of the few brands of "coffin nails" known to the day. These surrounded a photograph of the stable, showing the horses lined up and the proprietor, flowing mustache and all, holding a spirited steed with one hand and a beribboned whip with the other.
A Temple of Philosophy.
    In winter the round-bellied stove of the office was red hot much of the time, simmering the water in a dirty pan on top. In summer the flies buzzed with insolent abandon through the wide rents in the screening of the door. Loafers abounded aplenty, in all seasons, waiting for an opportunity to drive a hack in a funeral procession. Tipped back in their chairs, their priority rights were inalienable. They drowsily discussed Pop Geers, Bud Doble and Red Wilkes. They ranted about current prices of commodities--eggs selling out of sight at 8 and 10 cents a dozen and meat enough for dinner, with a kidney thrown in for the cat, costing as much as 20 cents. They argued all subjects, but were unanimous in the opinion that any horse that could up the hill west of town without stopping to rest was a darn good roader.
    If the unfortunate village halfwit--and there was at least one in every town--chuckled in, they sent him over to the hardware store for a left-handed monkey wrench or the "skyhooks." Chews of tobacco were borrowed when possible. No one budged a speck for the proprietor when he rushed in and made some cryptic entries in a dirty, yellow-leafed day book.
Horse Trading a Favored Subject.
    All records of business were tallied in that book. Depreciation and overhead were unheard-of then. Profits constituted the cash taken in daily, and any good boot obtained in a trade of heave-wracked "crowbaits." That horse swapping was profitable, however, is illustrated in the once-popular story that every loafer has laughed at in his day.
    Two habitual traders met.
    "I'll trade you horses sight unseen," suggested one.
    "I'll go you," agreed the other. They shook hands to bind the bargain.
    "Well," laughed the first trader, "I got the best of you that time, all right. My horse is dead."
    His supposed victim was unaffected.
    "So's mine," he chuckled, "and I took his shoes off."
    As soon as warm weather weather came on the loafers moved their chairs out in front. There they whittled bobbers for fishing, or carved their initials. When a game of "quoits" was in progress they had an excellent view of all parades--and when any respectable woman went past they'd laugh, and she'd pick up her skirt and tilt her head disdainfully.
A Mecca for Sporting Gentry.
    Largely because of these hangers-on and because it was the Mecca for the sporting fraternity, the livery stable had an unsavory reputation. Substantial lay leaders avoided it, and ministers often classed it, along with the poolroom and the saloon, with the "hell-hole." The town pug, ever-present, had no uplifting influence. He wore a striped turtleneck sweater and was always trying to get someone to "put up his dukes" so he could illustrate a new blow. High-collared sports with derby hats hung around. Racetrack touts made the place their headquarters. And the mow above, with its wealth of fragrant timothy hay, was a true haven for every immoderate tippler who realized, after the saloons had closed, that it would be very inadvisable to try for a landing at his own domicile.
    Of course, when a livery stable burned down, it was always at night. No livery stable ever burned in the daytime. It was about the best fire that could be seen, and the blame was laid on someone who went to sleep with a pipe in his mouth. When the alarm was sounded and the smoke and flames poured out, heroic hostlers rushed in and brought out snorting horses with blankets over their heads. The volunteer firemen gave the best they had--because whisky was usually served free from the hotel bar. If the charred body of a swipe was discovered in the ruins the next day it was interred in the potter's field. And the incident of his passing without friends to provide a decent burial was pointed out by every father as an indication of what the future might hold for anyone who would hang around a livery stable.
Its Lure to the Boys.
    But what a glamor there was about the place for a small boy!
    Regardless of parental threats of tannings and hidings he always dallied there on his way home from school. He could get horseshoe nails to make rings, and he hung with high interest on the lies of the loafers.
A Victim of Progress.
    Some of the livery stables around the country have steadily resisted the encroachments of the grease-spotted mechanic whose idea of a thoroughbred is a machine that hits on all cylinders. A few have staunchly defied the onward march of the filling station attendant whose eyes never dim at the recollection of the green, slimy, moss-swaying depths of a public horse trough. But yellowing newspapers of an ancient date now obstruct a few through the cobwebbed windows of the silent office. A rusting padlock holds the sliding doors securely. And the loafers have all departed--many of them to rest in the Fifth Ward--as the cemetery in every town of four civic divisions is known.
    The smart aleck chugs past in a flivver now, driving with one hand. The wooden sign, a horse's head with crossed whips, and gilded, no longer creaks in the wind. The carryall, greatest of all ceremonial vehicles, has vanished, no one knows where. The body of the bus, purchased by a farmer, is used as a hen coop. And the prancing steeds, with their gay fly nets, and ringed martingales, have gone to the land whence none save "Bony" and his stone boat return.
    The livery stable and the glorious part it played is done. But as long as the building remains intact, though dilapidation and decay may have set in, its distinctive atmosphere will linger. Faintly, perhaps, when the snows of winter drift up unhindered by broom or shovel. But full, rich and unmistakable under the warming suns of summer, not unpleasantly remindful of those days that are gone forever.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 7, 1930, page 3  




Last revised February 11, 2015