Moving the County
REMOVAL COURT HOUSE TO CITY RECOMMENDED
The attendance at the Chamber of Commerce forum at the Holland today was the largest for many weeks, representatives being present from different parts of the county, and all were enthusiastic for the removal of the county seat to Medford, except the representatives from Jacksonville. The principal reasons advocated for removal were that the present court house is unsafe for business or the keeping of the county records, that the location is inconvenient for a major portion of the people of the county, that the county is more prosperous than at any time for years and that Medford is the logical and convenient place for the county seat, that the city will furnish a site and now is the opportune time for the removal.
About 80 attended the forum including Mayor C. B. Lamkin, J. W. McCoy, C. B. and Wm. Briggs, J. H. Fuller of Ashland; C. B. Watson of Gold Hill, Col. H. H. Sargent and Lewis Ulrich of Jacksonville.
It was decided by motion that President Walther of the Chamber of Commerce appoint a committee to act in conjunction with a committee from the county bar association to draft a petition to place the removal of the county seat to Medford on the ballet this fall. This committee will consist of citizens from Ashland, Central Point, Gold Hill and other parts of the county.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 1, 1920, page 8
To us, old Jacksonville stands as a classic and historic spot. The old hearts that are not wholly shriveled feel ravished when a new scar is made on historic old Jacksonville. Now the old town is told that the county seat with which it has been honored, and as honored thus since March 7, 1853, is to be taken away from it. It is like the heartrending produced by the separation of some loved member of the family, and we all feel deep sympathy.
However, the world is moving with accelerated speed, and we are bound to keep pace with it. Changes are constantly required in the interest of the great majority and we are bound, like good Americans, to bow when the demands are made. . . . In the interest of all the people of the county, I believe the county seat should be changed, not to the glorification of Medford, nor the humiliation of Jacksonville, but in the interest of the great majority to be served. But I suggest that in the interest of a historical fact, if you take away the courthouse, some suitable monument of lasting character should be erected at the old site.
C. B. Watson, "Jacksonville--50 Years Ago," Medford Mail Tribune, September 6, 1920, page 4
J'VILLE PETITIONS SIGNED RAPIDLY ALL PARTS COUNTY
Petitions calling for the county authorities to place the county seat removal measure upon the ballot are now being circulated in Medford, Phoenix, Ashland, Talent and Butte Falls.
The committee in placing these petitions in the hands of the various people for circulation found an enthusiastic willingness to be of service to enable this change being made.
It will be necessary to have twenty-five hundred voters sign the petitions to make it mandatory upon the county authorities to place the measure upon the ballot so that the people themselves may have the opportunity to decide the question at the November election.
To assist the committee to get the voters' signatures, a petition is on file at the Chamber of Commerce rooms. At Phoenix there is one at the general store. At Talent there are petitions at the general stores of Lewis Brown and C. C. Walter, the State Bank of Talent and at Nyswaner's pool hall.
This signature campaign must be an intensive one, as it is necessary that the petitions be filed with the county authorities on the 26th of this month.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 17, 1920, page 5
In the first place I will say that in the very nature of things there will have to be a new court house before many years. We all know that the one now used is out of date and insufficient. It is overcrowded, unsafe and inconvenient for a large majority of the people of Jackson County. It is not true that the old records now stored in the attic of the woodshed and elsewhere are of no further possible use. Some years ago I had occasion to look up the early road records of the county and found that the first county court journal was "lost." I searched for it for a year or more; Mr. Beekman and others declared that it was irretrievably gone. As a result of my search through the great mass of stuff in the attic of the woodshed, I not only unearthed and restored to the Clerk's office numerous records that had been thrown promiscuously into the woodshed "scrap heap," but I also suggested to W. R. Coleman, then Clerk, that I, somehow, had a hunch that the old county court journal might be found in that same attic. He caused the search to be made and found it. A most interesting volume, starting with the organization of Jackson County and carrying its official history up into the sixties. No one will say that this was not the restoration of a very valuable record. It will only be necessary for any citizen to look into that old "scrap pile" in the woodshed and perhaps other places to satisfy himself of the necessity for more room and more safety-first provisions for our records.
C. B. Watson, "Communications," Jacksonville Post, September 25, 1920, page 1
ORATORICAL "JACK DEMPSEY" THRILLS MEDFORD AUDIENCE WITH JACKSONVILLE EMOTIONMedford Mail Tribune, October 13, 1920, page 6
After listening to Colonel H. H. Sargent address a good-sized crowd of Medford and Jacksonville people, the majority from the former city, last night at the Natatorium one cannot help but form the opinion that the scrappy and eloquent "oratorical Jack Dempsey of Jackson County" is unalterably opposed to the proposed removal of the court house to Medford. At least he gave that impression.
Never did the colonel make a better speech. For an hour and a half he held his audience in close attention with his logical arguments, keen wit and humor, some irony and sarcasm, all in the cause of "bleeding Jacksonville." Often the audience broke into hearty laughter, and sometimes liberal applause met some of his keenest sallies.
The colonel slammed our chamber of commerce, touched up the Mail Tribune in its several departments right in the blushing face of the writer, and roasted the Medford people generally for sticking the harpoon--no, it was a very sharp-edged dirk--right into the deep interior of Jacksonville's anatomy by favoring this courthouse removal proposition, and pleaded with Medford folks to reform and not do any more fool things, but to come down to the mourners' bench on election day and do the right thing--by Jacksonville.
Our Guardian AngelAll this without rancor or offense. In fact the colonel at the outset proclaimed his love for Medford as well as for Jacksonville, and pointed out that in fighting to have the courthouse remain in Jacksonville he was only acting for Medford's good--saving us from ourselves, so to speak.
But the idea of his speaking disparagingly of our lovely chamber of commerce and jumping on the poor old Smudge Pot, who at the time was far distant busily engaged in taking a cigarette apart to see what made the blooming thing smoke.
The colonel's address was very instructive and entertaining and was much enjoyed by everyone present no matter what side of the controversy he or she was on. Unconsciously or perhaps intentionally he boosted Medford all the way through. He has for many years been one of the most ardent boosters for this city and one of the most sanguine in regard to its great rosy future Last night all the way he pointed out Jacksonville as a suburb or part of Medford in the not very distant future, and predicted that Medford would someday be a great, thriving city extending from Roxy Ann to Jacksonville, east and west, and from Table Rock to Phoenix, north and south.
Colonel Sargent's main argument against the proposal to move the court house to Medford was that it would overburden the county and city with taxation. He reviewed at length the campaign led by the chamber of commerce for signatures of qualified voters to have the court house-removing proposition put on the ballot, claiming that the manner of getting signatures left them open to fraudulent signers. He asserted that they were full of irregularities and that some Medford men had signed for both themselves and wives, and some Medford wives had signed for both themselves and husbands. He said that from the number of signatures of girls and young women he had never before dreamed there were so many in Medford 21 years of age or over.
Likens Medford to PortlandColonel Sargent was introduced briefly by Lewis Ulrich of Jacksonville. Space today forbids the publishing in full of his lengthy address. In part he spoke as follows:
The great trouble with the Medford Chamber of Commerce is that it has no vision. It is also wanting in broadmindedness. Like Portland it seems not to be able to see beyond its own narrow limits, and like Portland it is getting to look at things from a purely selfish point of view.
Let its members go with me up to the Medford reservoir and from there look westward. Spread out before us is Medford, and two or three miles or so beyond her limits lies Jacksonville. To the right a short way is Central Point; southward lies Phoenix, and between Medford and these little towns are many farm houses and a dozen or small clusters of dwellings which even now in a way join these little towns with Medford.
A Great VisionWe see that all three towns are connected with Medford by railways and jitney lines and that paved highways run from. Medford to two of them. With this beautiful panorama before us, let the members of the Chamber of Commerce ask themselves what would be the change in the scene if Medford's population were to double? What would it be with a population of 20,000? of 40,000? of 50,000? Even before that population was reached, Jacksonville would be a part of Medford. All this is as certain to come as is tomorrow. Yea, more. When the great east and west through line from Boise or Baker City through Burns, Lakeview, Klamath Falls, Ashland and Medford, or to Bend and Butte Falls to Medford, and thence through Jacksonville and Blue Ledge to Crescent City is built, or rather is finished, part of it now being already built, as it will be before many years, linking up our valley with all of Eastern Oregon, giving us tidewater within 125 miles and low freight rates, then you will see this city spring forward with mighty strides. You will see here a great city of probably two or three hundred thousand people. Behind us, it will extend to the top of Roxy Ann; in front of us into the foothills about Jacksonville; on our right to Table Rock; and on our left to Phoenix.
If the Chamber of Commerce and the people of Medford use good sense and judgment and do not expend all their energy and substance in carrying out a lot of fool things, like the moving of the court house, which can do them no good and which will be only of temporary benefit to a few lawyers and a lot of other lazy people, all this will come in a few years.
I pause for a moment to prophesy that there are young men and women here tonight who will live to witness all these things. Indeed it would not surprise me scarcely at all to witness myself many of these things come to pass before I die.
But if you move the court house and overburden your city and county with an already excessive taxation, you will put a damper on all progress.
Not infrequently have I heard persons in Medford and, especially the lawyers, say that they are greatly inconvenienced by having their court house at Jacksonville. It was only the other day that one of the leading lawyers of Jackson County said to me: "The court house being at Jacksonville necessitates my owning an automobile." I did not want to hurt the poor man's feelings since he was a mighty good friend of mine, or I should have replied: "What is the matter with the jitney? Are you too proud to ride in it? Look at me! I ride in it several times a week; and frequently for days at a time I come down in it each morning, walk about a mile to my orchard, do a good day's work, walk back in the evening and catch the jitney going home; and I am a man of importance. I am the oratorical Jack Dempsey of Jackson County, Ore. If you are too proud to ride with me and the other members of the proletariat who constantly make use of the jitney, what is the matter with the walking? It is only an hour and a quarter's walk for a good, long-legged husky man like you, and an hour and a quarter spent in this exercise every morning and evening of your life would be a godsend to you and to nearly all the other lawyers. You all need exercise, and for the lack of it some of you are getting to be a timid lot. Already a number of you have lost the use of your legs; many even now take an automobile to go round a block, and a lot of you are now shying at a contest of words. Some of you are like a lot of girls: you will not take a dare.
Lawyers Need Exercise"What you need, first, is physical exercise. The editor of the Mail Tribune understands it; indeed, he has pointed the way in making it clear. But you need also real mental exercise; you need now and then to go up against a fighter. This would sharpen your wits, give you confidence, and make you worth much more to future clients; and it would obliterate the impression among men that you have little pluck and among women that you are 'a fraidy cat'."
Now, ladies and gentlemen, none of you might think that because one of the most distinguished lawyers of Southern Oregon has refused to accept my challenge to a debate on this question and because the Chamber of Commerce cannot find another lawyer in all this city to take his place that they are afraid. But most solemnly I assure you it is not cowardice. It is simply pure timidity.
Although, as I have said, I did not want to hurt the feelings of this good lawyer friend of mine, and therefore did not say these things to him. I did say: "Can't you see that if the county court house had been here in Medford, the Medford automobile dealer would not have sold you that automobile, nor would the Medford oil company have sold you gasoline, nor the Medford mechanic have repaired your machine, nor the Medford merchant have sold you new tires and other accessories. Seems to me," to said, "that having the county court house at Jacksonville has, in your case, brought much business to Medford that it never would have got had the county court house been located in Medford."
Medford for years has drawn profit or toll from all merchandise coming to or going from Jacksonville, so that anything which hurts Jacksonville in a business way is bound to hurt Medford: for commercially Jacksonville today is a suburb of Medford. From being the father and mother she has become the child, the daughter of Medford. Such being the case, the wise business man of Medford and the members of the Chamber of Commerce of broad vision should always stand ready to extend to Jacksonville a helping hand, as a son would honor his old parents, or as a father would lift up his child when it stumbles and falls in the rough pathway. But has Medford done this? No. Her Chamber of Commerce waited until a great calamity befell Jacksonville, then having gotten Ashland's mayor and two of her leading attorneys to point the dagger, she drove it to the very hilt into the prostrate body of bleeding Jacksonville. And for what profit? What is the commercial gain? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
Good Place to Live InJacksonville is one of the loveliest towns for a home in this beautiful valley. It is a good place to be born in, to live in, and to die in; and although it would seem now to be too late for me to select it as a birthplace, I would say I have selected it as a permanent home and own in its beautiful cemetery a little plot of ground with an eastern front overlooking the valley; and here someday I expect to rest, perhaps within almost speaking distance of a number of my Medford friends who are now trying to steal the Jacksonville court house.
"Thou shalt not steal." This is one of the commandments.
"Honor thy father and mother that thy days may be long on the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." This is another. "Do not unto others as you would that they would do not unto you." This is the Golden Rule in its negative form as it was promulgated by Confucius. I believe in it. I would say to you, "Do not unto Jacksonville as you would that Jacksonville would do not unto you." Of course, if you have already done it, as a number of you have, then, well then, repent of it and you shall be forgiven, provided of course you vote right in the coming election on the court house matter.
Stabbing JacksonvilleOne of the good things the members of the Chamber of Commerce do--and there are many--is to induce, by advertisement and otherwise, people to come to Medford and Jackson County to settle. But can you not see that if they carry through undertakings of this kind that tax this city and this county almost beyond the limit that they will stop people's coming here. What taxes do you pay? That is one of the first questions that visitors ask and when they find that this town and this county is taxed beyond all reason they will not come here. Thus, in its enthusiasm and energetic efforts to move the court house and stab your prostrate child, Jacksonville, to the heart, the Medford Chamber of Commerce is simply cutting off its own poor, cruel, fool head.
Thou, Too, Brutus!The Jacksonville people were hard hit by the failure of the Bank of Jacksonville. There were many widows and old couples living there who lost their little all. Some of the causes are positively pitiful. When this great calamity befell them, naturally they expected kind instead of cruel treatment from Medford. They looked for an olive branch. They received a dagger. No wonder that with agonizing eyes riveted upon your city, they exclaimed: And thou, too, Brutus!
But they still have friends and, by the shade of Andrew Jackson, here stands one who will fight for them to the last trench. And, mark you! their cause is going to triumph; for when the good people of this valley clearly understand what this iniquitous measure really means, it is going to be buried beneath an avalanche of votes.
Many of the good people before me doubtless signed the petitions without fully realizing just what the movement of the court house to Medford at this time meant.
You probably did not know that if the measure passed, the court house had to be moved within ninety days with all its books and records, whether there was any place for it or not.
You probably did not realize the enormous burden of additional taxation it would bring upon your county, your town, and upon yourselves.
You probably did not stop to think that, even granting that it were wise that the court house should someday be moved, it was very unwise to select this time to move it when material and labor are higher than they ever have been before in the world's history.
And you probably did not consider the fact that such an enormous additional burden of taxation placed upon the county, as the carrying out of this measure would involve, would deter many people from coming here to settle and thus put a damper upon the progress and prosperity of this beautiful valley.
These facts I earnestly ask you to consider. Remember that because you signed the petition, that, of itself, is no reason why you should vote for the measure. On the contrary, regardless of your former views if after careful consideration of all the facts and arguments you come to the conclusion that it would be unwise to move the court house now, then it is your duty to vote against the measure.
Another important ordinance to come up at the special election is the proposition to issue $50,000 in bonds for a new city hall structure and to authorize the sale of the present city hall, for which the city has already been offered $25,000 by a prospective purchaser. The passing of this ordinance is to pave the way for the proposed removal of the courthouse to Medford from Jacksonville, the new city hall to be occupied as a temporary courthouse while a permanent courthouse is being erected in the city. Of course, this plan is contingent on the voters of Jackson County approving the removal of the courthouse to this city. If they do not the $50,000 bond issue becomes void.
"Bond Issue to Be $975,000 for Butte Cr. Water," Medford Mail Tribune, August 8, 1925, page 2
STATE COMMENT UPON PLANS TO MOVE CO. SEATMedford Mail Tribune, July 15, 1926, page 3
A group of Ashland people have started an initiative petition to shift the county seat to Medford, and the case is meeting with opposition. The supreme court will be asked to step in this week. One way of asking for a change is by an old law requiring that 60 percent of the people must be on the petition and that it takes a three-fifths vote to carry. Under this law 9000 signatures would be required. However, Ashland wants to try an initiative, which needs but 15 percent and under which a majority decides. Under the latter, 1500 signatures are enough, and a petition which has been prepared carries 2500. Which petition should be used is for the supreme court to determine. William Briggs, of Ashland, Republican candidate for representative in the legislature, and Rawles Moore, of Medford, who are supporting the 15 percent petition, and Porter Neff, of Medford, and District Attorney Chaney, representing the county, have been to Salem in conference and came to Portland before returning home. The city of Medford has agreed to provide free any site site the county may select if the county seat is moved to Medford. Medford has agreed to have its city hall used as a temporary courthouse. The objection to the arrangement comes from Jacksonville, which every so often has to fight against a plot to take the county seat away.--Oregonian.
----The old fight to remove the county seat of Jackson County from Jacksonville to Medford is on again. While on his way to Portland, John H. Carkin, city attorney of Medford and speaker presumptive of the next state legislature, stopped at Salem and arranged with the supreme court to hear an argument on a motion to compel the county clerk to place on the ballot the question of removal. Proceeding under the initiative law, the proponents of removal offered a petition which the county clerk refused to accept, holding that the old county law should have been employed. Under this law three-fifths of the vote should be received to carry the measure. Under the initiative law a bare majority is required. It is reported that Ashland sentiment is now in favor of removal. The city of Medford has offered the county the use of a building temporarily and a site for permanent buildings.--Portland Journal.
Required Number Names on Petition Ct. House Removal
The county clerk's office has just completed checking the names of legal voters on the petitions asking for an election to vote on removal of the court house to Medford.
They found 1833 legal signers, and the fifteen percent of the voters at the last general election required under the initiative and referendum law is 1520, which finally settles the question, and the petition for removal will appear on the ballot in November.
A majority vote is all that is necessary for removal. At the last election a three-fifths vote was necessary, and the proposition lost by a little over 100 votes. There were over 500 people who voted in Medford at that time that did not vote on the court house.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 13, 1926, page 7
CITIZENS URGED TO ATTEND MEET AT NAT TONIGHT
Every citizen of Medford, man and woman, who possibly can, despite the weather, is urged to attend the opening meeting of the county seat removal issue campaign at the Nat tonight at 8 p.m.
One thing certain is that the county court, after advising with competent architects and builders, have decided they will not throw away money repairing the old court house, but will build an entire new structure to meet the demands of the county for the next 25 or 30 years, either in Jacksonville or Medford.
If the vote proposition is decided not to remove to Medford, the court will immediately proceed to take the preliminary steps to erect the same kind of structure in Jacksonville, which will settle the county seat question for years to come.
E. D. Briggs, of Ashland, one of the leaders in the removal proposition, who is supported by a vote of the city council and the chamber of commerce, as well as the people generally of Ashland, will speak at tonight's meeting, as will Paul Scherer of Table Rock and C. E. Gates of Medford.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 15, 1926, page 1
Statement of County Court on Future Courthouse Building Plans
The county court has issued the following statement relative to the courthouse situation:
To the voters of Jackson County:
We have made a very careful study as to the present courthouse, which was built in 1883, over 43 years ago, and have come to the conclusion that we will not build any separate buildings, but that the situation demands that we either fireproof and otherwise modernize the present courthouse if that be feasible and make the necessary additions to the present structure sufficient to adequately house the county officials, or if it is not feasible to salvage the present courthouse then we must build an entirely new permanent fireproof courthouse adequate to house them.
In addition to donating a site to Jackson County for a permanent courthouse, whenever in the future the people of Jackson County shall desire to erect a permanent courthouse in said city, the people of the city of Medford have voted and the council has agreed to build a three-story concrete city hall, containing approximately one-third more floor space than the present Grants Pass courthouse and more than twice the space of the present Jackson County courthouse and to lease it to us free of cost for five years.
We are told by reliable builders that the present courthouse has very little value for reconstruction purposes.
Whether it has any salvage value can only be determined by an experienced architect after going thoroughly into the matter. But the salvage value of the old structure cannot be great.
We are therefore faced with two propositions, one to provide adequate permanent quarters at the present location in Jacksonville, the other to accept from Medford the free use of the new city hall for five years. In other words, shall the county build onto the present structure, if there be any salvage value, or if not build an adequate new building in Jacksonville, or shall the county accept the free proposition made by the city of Medford for a five-year period and make the necessary arrangements for the building of a permanent courthouse, costing approximately $210,000, at some future time when the people of Jackson County shall desire to erect a permanent courthouse.
We realize that Medford is more centrally located as regards the population of the county and that the location of the county seat in Medford would mean a considerable saving to the taxpayers of the county every year. This saving would come from the cutting down of the travel and time of the sheriff in serving all papers, as well as extra time and travel of other county officials, the mileage of witnesses and jurors, the time and expense of recording papers and paying taxes.
The above statement of facts is presented to the voters of Jackson County in order that they may have the full view of the situation in voting on the matter at the November 2 election.
JACKSON COUNTY COURTMedford Mail Tribune, October 22, 1926, page 2
W. J. Hartzell, Co Judge,
Victor Bursell, Co. Com.
Geo. Alford, Co. Com.
History of Movement to Remove County Seat
Some time early in the year of 1925 the county court, worried by the lack of fire protection for the valuable records of the county, and by the large expense to which the taxpayers of the county were being put, such as jurors, witnesses, county officials, etc. in order to transact county business, announced through the press that they contemplated repairs to the present structure.
Citizens Take Action.This notice caused considerable discussion all over the county, and a large number of the people expressed the idea that the proposed repairs would not only cost between $30,000 and $40,000, but when completed would not furnish proper protection for the county records and would not provide adequate quarters for the growing business of the county, in a few years it would be imperative to erect a new courthouse, in which case the proposed expenses for additions, although admittedly imperative, would necessarily result in a complete loss of that much money.
Ashland Takes Action.The individual directors of the Ashland chamber of commerce at a regular meeting Tuesday, April 7, adopted resolutions urging the county court to defer action in regard to expending additional money, either for improvements or additions on the present courthouse in Jacksonville, and that matters remain as they now are until such time as the people of Jackson County shall have been given an opportunity to vote upon the question as to whether it would not be advisable to move the county seat to Medford and to erect a modern courthouse there.
Medford Takes Action.A committee appointed by the Medford chamber of commerce also unanimously adopted a resolution asking that the proposed additions to the courthouse be postponed until the people of the county had a chance to express their wishes at an election.
Lawyers Get Busy.The Jackson County Bar Committee, composed of attorneys from different parts of the county, including Ashland, after thoroughly considering all sides of the question from the standpoint of the actual needs of the county, recently passed a resolution asking the county court not to expend money for further improvements to the present structure or erect other buildings, calling attention to the fact that a large majority of the people of the county when visiting the courthouse pass through Medford and travel about ten miles farther in order to transact necessary business at the courthouse, thereby incurring a loss of time and considerable expense. The resolutions also stated that Medford is more centrally located and more convenient to the people of the county, and the removal of the county seat to Medford would not only greatly benefit all the people, but would be an actual saving of approximately enough money in a few years to pay for the erection of a permanent courthouse.
Medford Council Takes Action.E. D. Briggs of Ashland, for the Ashland committees, and bar committee and committee members from the Medford chamber of commerce and city council at Ashland, also the committee of the Medford chamber of commerce and county bar association, asking that the Medford council take some action regarding the matter, and submitted a plan which they claimed had been thoroughly considered and which they believed as businesslike and sensible.
After thorough consideration the mayor and council unanimously decided to pledge, on behalf of the city, subject to a vote of the people, to furnish free of charge to the county a permanent site for the courthouse when needed by the county court, if the people of the county should decide to vote the county seat to Medford; also to furnish free to the county suitable temporary quarters for a courthouse until such time as the county court has sufficient funds raised to erect the new courthouse.
Citizens Appear Before Court.A delegation of citizens, with E. D. Briggs of Ashland as their chairman, appeared before the county court and presented the several resolutions and a thorough discussion followed by the members of the court and the citizens. The court explained the fact that the county's business could no longer adequately be transacted in the present structure and that some relief would have to be given within the near future, but that they were entirely willing, if prompt action were taken, to await the will of the people, if the citizens present intended to proceed with the submission of all angles of the matter to a vote of the people of the county without unnecessary delay.
County Court Defers Action Pending Vote.The court adopted the following resolution:
"Whereas, resolutions have been presented to the county court by the city council and directors of the chamber of commerce of the city of Ashland, also by the city council and chamber of commerce of the city of Medford, and also a large committee of [the] Jackson County Bar, urging the removal of the county seat of Jackson County to a more central location, and pledging an early expression by the people of Jackson County on such removal,
"It is the opinion of the county court that further expenditure for repairs and improvements to the present courthouse be deferred."
Medford Offers Free Building.Following the action of the Jackson County Bar Association, the chambers of commerce of Ashland and Medford, and the city councils of both cities, the city council of Medford, on the 8th day of October of last year submitted the question of building a concrete city hall, twice the size of the present courthouse, and donate same free to the county for courthouse purposes for a period of five years.
This measure carried on the ballot almost unanimously, and the city council stands ready to build a courthouse for Jackson County without any cost to the taxpayers and give them free use of it for as long as they desire.
The Question Up to People.The question of moving the county seat to a central location at Medford is on the ballot of the coming November 2nd election, and it is generally conceded that inasmuch as the county court will have to expend thousands of dollars if the courthouse remains in Jacksonville, while it will be furnished commodious quarters without any cost if moved to Medford, that the taxpayers, with the exception of some in Jacksonville and the Applegate, will be almost unanimous in voting to make the change.
COUNTY SEAT REMOVAL COMMITTEE.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 24, 1926, page B2
Statement on Removal of County Seat to Medford
Before 1903 all proposals to relocate county seats in Oregon were required to be brought before the legislature for a special act called an enabling act to allow a vote to relocate any particular county seat. As this always caused more or less wrangling and bickerings in that body before an enabling act was passed or defeated, the legislature wisely enacted a special law defining the methods of relocating county seats. This law does not refer to anything else except that subject and is one of the plainest and fairest laws ever enacted by the legislature of this state. No one can possibly misunderstand or misconstrue any part of it. This requires 60 percent of the voters to sign a petition to even call an election and also sensibly requires 60 percent of the votes cast to remove any county seat. This requirement of a decided majority by petition to bring on an election, and also 60 percent to carry it, prevented a few enthusiasts from throwing a county into the expensive and annoying throes as such elections always bring about in the county which is the victim. All previous attempts to move the county seat of this county were made under that law, since its passage in 1903.
A few of the agitators for removal had that law amended in 1925, the last session of the legislature, but did not get what they proposed, viz; to allow 15 percent of the legal voters of the county to have an election called, neither did they get authority to call a special election on the question of removal. It is very plain that the legislature did not want any set of agitators to have the chance of bringing up a county seat fight on the petition of 15 percent of the voters, nor to have a county seat relocated on a bare majority. It is well known that 15 percent can be had on any petition of any kind if petition shovers are put in the field. If a county seat should be changed on a bare majority vote it would be very easy for the loser in the election to have another election called at the next general election and have another vote and the county seat might be moved back to [the] original location or to some other place the shifting of voters should give another bare majority, and so on from one election to another. This might be continued indefinitely, something on the same plan as a neighboring county built courthouses.
The ruling the proponents of having the election on the initiative law of 1906 are basing their right on the statement that this law of 1906 being the latest law on the subject should prevail, wholly ignoring the law "Of Removal of County Seat," Chapter III, Section 3213 to 3221, Olson, which was amended and reenacted February 25, 1925, by the legislature, 19 years later than the act of 1906, which is claimed to be the latest law on the subject. You will search in vain in the law of 1906 for any reference to county seats or county seat removals, but the law entitled "On Removal of County Seats" has no other subject at all. If the county seats should be ordered removed on this 1906 law, will not the opponents take the matter into the courts to have it determined once [and] for all whether the law especially and wholly made for that one purpose and being one of the laws amended and reenacted at the last session shall prevail or not? They most certainly will.
Aside from the enormous expense of a removal to a county that is already overtaxed beyond all sense or reason, a vote to remove under the law requiring 15 percent to call an election and a bare majority to carry it would not settle permanently the county seat question in this county, but would only be the beginning of a contest that would last for years. It is not believed that even a majority of the voters of Jackson County will vote to remove on such conditions as they are now asked to vote.
A measure was offered by the county court for filing in the county clerk's office a short time ago, asking the voters to levy a tax on the whole county of 10 mills to raise funds to build a new courthouse, in case it is voted to remove the county seat. It was refused a place on the ballot because it was filed too late. As the assessed value of the county is $31,000,000, this would raise $310,000 each year. To this would be added the entire loss of the present courthouse, jail, machinery, sheds and grounds, some $400,000 more and at least about $200,000 to furnish the new building, besides the enormous rents the county would pay on the many different locations the county offices would be obliged to occupy during the five years this enormous sum would be raised. When it is realized that the present courthouse is one of the best and most substantial buildings in southern Oregon and, as the late Judge Gardner said, it will last for hundreds of years. The claim that it is not large enough to house the offices and help required can be determined by anyone who will take the trouble to go and look the building over. It is large enough, but if this were not so a few thousand dollars would build an addition that would serve for 50 years. The present location is near the center of population, on a fine paved highway and less than five miles from Medford, the largest town in the county. Many times the number of professional men who have their offices in Portland live two and three times as far from the Multnomah County courthouse as any part of Medford is from our courthouse. Even many lawyers live farther from the Multnomah courthouse than Ashland is from Jacksonville. They are not "hollerin'" to have the courthouse moved out to their front or back yards. The plea by a few Ashland residents that "Medford helped us get the normal school" will have no weight with the great majority of voters in that town. Medford did not furnish the money to build and equip the normal, the whole state furnished it, and all fair-minded persons were glad to see the school revived. The attempt to make a "pork barrel" of this matter will not receive much support at this time when pork barrels are not very popular among the taxpayers of the county. One pork barrel deal will be considered enough and plenty for this year. Let us be reasonable and not pile on this overburdened count a wholly unreasonable and entirely unnecessary burden of nearly a million dollars just to satisfy a few who seem to want the world for themselves.
JACKSON COUNTY SEAT CLUB.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 26, 1926, page 5
Medford Mail Tribune, October 27, 1926
To the Editor:
"Pop" Gates and his running mate Bro. Briggs of Ashland and a few attorneys in Medford are trying to make the taxpayers believe that if the county seat is not moved to Medford very soon it will go up in smoke or a cloudburst will wash it away or one of those high-powered zephyrs that float down Jackson Creek will blow away the buildings, records and the whole darn business, and Jackson County will go busted. But the fact is the courthouse has withstood all these calamities for over forty years and stands where it was placed and is solid as a rock. The fire hazard is very small as it stands on a large block of ground isolated from any nearby risk. And our fire protection is good, as our gravity pressure system is stronger than any in the county, and we always have a reserve reservoir full of water for fire purposes.
Now with small expense the present courthouse may be made to give adequate room to fill the bill for many years.
Now Mr. or Mrs. Taxpayer, you are not going to vote to increase your taxes for the next twenty years to please that bunch in Medford who are making all this howl and false statement for their own selfish interests.
Do you think it such an awful task to make the trip to Jacksonville over the best paved road in the county, even if it takes you a few minutes more time?
I have never heard any serious complaint except from Bro. Briggs. He says if this great crime of keeping the courthouse in Jacksonville continues he will have to raise the fees on his clients, and the extra expense of gasoline, etc., will bankrupt him. Oh, I feel so sorry for poor Briggs. Mr. Voter, you know the tax rate per capita is higher in Oregon than any other state in the U.S., and in Jackson County it is a close second to any other county in the U.S.
Mr. Medford voter, do you honestly think that a seventy-mill tax or more covering state, county and city, etc., is an inviting slogan to the newcomer who wants to invest in your city?
Vote no on this county seat removal measure and you are helping yourself and every other taxpayer in the county.
J. W. ROBINSON
Medford Mail Tribune, October 27, 1926, page 4
THEN AND NOW
The present courthouse at Jacksonville was built in 1883.
The population of Jackson County was then 8116. Jackson County's population is now over 25,000.
The assessed valuation of Jackson County in 1883 was $2,053,200. Its assessed valuation is now over $30,000,000.
In 1883 Jacksonville was a town with a population estimated at several thousand. It was the most important business center of the community. Medford did not exist. Now the population of Jacksonville is around 500, and the business center has changed to Medford and Ashland. Medford is the only large town centrally located at the crossroads of all the county.
Now the actual routine work of running the [county] is many times as large as in 1883, and as a result of the increased business it has been necessary for various county offices to seek quarters outside of the present courthouse.
HERE THEY AREThe District Attorney's office is in Medford in the Liberty Building.
The watermaster's office is in Medford in the Medford National Bank Building.
The Court Reporter's office is in Medford in the Liberty Building.
The County Engineer's office is in Medford in the Medford National Bank Building.
The County Agent's office is in Medford in the Liberty Building.
The County Assessor's office is in a small building across the street from the courthouse.
The Highway Engineer's office is in a small rented building at Jacksonville.
The county has to pay rent on all of these outside offices.
ONLY SEVEN DEPARTMENTS OUT OF FOURTEEN ARE STILL LEFT IN THE COURTHOUSE, AND THEY ARE SO CROWDED THAT THE PERFORMANCE OF THEIR DAILY DUTIES IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE.
Good business judgment demands that this situation be corrected, that the other seven departments also come to Medford and that the county avail itself of the free offer of an adequate and up-to-date building in Medford that will not cost the taxpayers one cent and will save the taxpayers from a tax levy to either patch up the present courthouse or build a new one in Jacksonville.
Ashland Daily Tidings, October 27, 1926, page 5
Medford Mail Tribune, October 28, 1926
Medford Mail Tribune, October 30, 1926
MEDFORD'S PLEDGE FREE COURTHOUSE IS IRONCLAD
The Jacksonville committee say Medford will not furnish a suitable building, and what the city proposes to do is promised in a vague way, is uncertain and largely visionary: there is no way to enforce the agreement and the promise is made with the deliberate intent to deceive the voters.
This is another evidence of what the Jacksonville committee will stoop to do in an endeavor to carry their point. As their claims are mostly visionary and made with intent to deceive voters, they imagine others do the same things.
The ironclad pledge of the City of Medford, officially signed by Mayor Alenderfer and all councilmen, is filed with the County Court and accepted by them. It will be carried out to the letter.
The members of the committee,as well as everyone else, know the people of Medford decided, by almost a unanimous vote, to erect an adequate, three-story concrete building, large enough to furnish ample room for all the county offices. Mayor Alenderfer and every member of the Medford City Council are for the proposition and, inasmuch as it was voted by the people, it is compulsory to erect the building and furnish it free to the county for five years.
Work on the new building at Medford will commence as soon as possible after the election November 2, if the people vote to remove the county seat to Medford.
The county now has seven of the county offices outside the present court house, six of which are in Medford, and the county is paying rent for the same and has for several years. If the vote for removal carries all the county offices will be housed in the new free quarters to be furnished by Medford, and the county will stop paying rent. There will also be no immediate county tax levy. Any legal voter, man or woman, whether registered or not, or whether they are taxpayers, are entitled to vote Tuesday on all candidates and measures, including the county seat removal proposition. If you have lived in the state six months, in the county or precinct one day, you are entitled to vote and if not registered you can vote by two freeholders vouching for you.
Vote 500 X yes for county seat removal.
COUNTY SEAT REMOVAL COMMITTEE.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 31, 1926, page 3
Medford Mail Tribune, November 1, 1926
COURTHOUSE REMOVAL MEASURE CARRIES
MEDFORD'S MAJORITY NEARLY 1500
Ashland Votes for Measure by Small Margin
With 41 precincts in the county complete, including Jacksonville, out of a total of 56, the vote on the transfer of the county seat from Jacksonville to Medford stood, at 3 p.m. today:
For removal . . . . . . . . . 3227This makes victory for Medford certain, and city and council officials were busy today going over plans for preliminary steps toward the construction of a new city hall and transfer of the courthouse records, pending the erection of a new courthouse in this city.
Against removal . . . . . 1987
Majority in favor 1240, or over 60 percent.
Medford voted overwhelmingly for the courthouse, and the city of Ashland also voted in favor of removal, though by a small majority. The precincts of Ashland in the business district were strong for removal, but in outlying districts a majority against was registered.
Excerpt, Medford Mail Tribune, November 3, 1926, page 1
Passing of the Landmark
Jacksonville, nestling at the foot of the hills, being long heralded and recognized as the "Queen City" of Southern Oregon, the oldest city in this section of the state, is about to lose that what has been her pride and boast.
She was founded by our sturdy forefathers when the red man pervaded this territory. She was a city, the seat of government of Jackson County, when her rival neighbor was nothing but a pasture.
How time changes.
On election day, the good voters of the county, by a substantial majority, decided to forsake the "Mother City" and cast their lot with another, and give to this adopted city the name of "county seat."
Jacksonville extends the loving hand of fellowship, asking you to ever bear in mind you are but her spawn and she your poor tottering mother.
Jacksonville Post, November 5, 1926, page 1
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
Hark, the sudden sound is heardJacksonville Post, November 5, 1926, page 1
Ringing clear from earth to sky?
Let us move the county court house
To a town that's nearer by.
Never mind, if crops are failures,
Ye, who till the valley's soil;
Be good sports and move the court house
It will save us gas and oil.
Never mind, though you are burdened
With taxes more than you can pay
Boost them up a little higher
What's the difference, anyway?
Medford wants the county court house,
Wants to be the "County Seat";
Dig down deeper in your pockets
Make her happiness complete.
Never mind what it may cost you
For the bills of course you'll meet;
Think how proud we'll be in Medford
Just to be in the county seat.
With all the shouting, Jacksonville is still our county seat. We may have been beaten, but were not "knocked out," neither are we dead--time will tell.
"Local Briefs and Personals," Jacksonville Post, November 5, 1926, page 1
The official count on the county seat removal bill was completed this afternoon and shows that the measure carried by a majority of 1820, the official county being:
For . . . 4761
Against . . . 1820
"Removal County Seat Is Carried by 2941 Margin," Medford Mail Tribune, October 22, 1926, page 2
JACKSONVILLE'S REQUIEMMedford Mail Tribune, November 21, 1926, page 4 Jacksonville citizens rebutted this article on December 2, transcribed below.
Voters of Jackson County sounded a requiem when they cast their ballots on November 2. The poor, pitiful thing they sang it over was Jacksonville, one-time booming gold mining camp of the Old West. For Jacksonville in that election lost the county seat.
The reason that the Jackson County voters' verdict amounted only to the singing of a final requiem was that Jacksonville as a town was already dead--had been dead for years. It had died because there was nothing to sustain its life. Unwittingly it had administered its own death stroke back years ago, when its citizens, haughty in their then dominating position as clearing point for the mines which surrounded it, flouted the overtures of men who came to offer it a railroad. Raise a bonus for a railroad! Ridiculous, said they. [Click here for the truth about the bonus myth.] Jacksonville was doing well enough. So the railroad passed by on the other side. And so Medford grew up beside the railroad. And the mines gave out gradually, until there came a time when the historic Beekman Bank found less and less use for its gold-dust scales, and finally none at all. Amazed observers actually saw people come into the bank and make deposits in coin and paper currency instead of the dust and nuggets to which they had been accustomed through the years. As business grew ever less and the population shrank, there came a day finally when the Beekman Bank announced an honorable liquidation with all obligations paid, and went out of business. Most of the stores had already gone long since. [The Beekman Bank was never in financial trouble; it closed when C. C. Beekman died.]
Jacksonville still had the county seat. In time of court sessions there was a semblance of life on its streets. Between sessions Jacksonville sat and dreamed of its vanished glory--of the days when alcaldes administered its justice, when arrastras turned out their golden wealth, when gunmen shot up its saloons, when the rarin' tearin' stagecoach dashed down its streets en route from Sacramento to Portland and when pack trains came and went with their loads of supplies for the mines and their riches from them. Glorious days! Glorious dreams!
With the passing of the years most of the dreamers gradually passed also. And a town must have something more than a county seat to keep it alive. So Jacksonville died a slow death. And the voters of the county sounded its requiem on November 2. Jacksonville will always be a place of splendid memories.--(Eugene Register.)
Mrs. Floyd Cook's Article on Removal of County SeatAs an aged mother mourns the departure of her best loved child, so mourns the old town of Jacksonville today over the loss of her court house and the distinction of being the county seat of Jackson County.
By HELEN COLVIG COOK
The recent election held in the county gave a majority of over 900 for the removal of the court house from Jacksonville to Medford.
The entire state of Oregon, which meeds [sic] a reverence for this pioneer town, and the entire county of Jackson, which saw fit to vote for the removal of its county seat, and triumphant Medford as well, proud victor in the recent fight for removal, sympathizes with the little town in its loss and admires the valiant fight which its few hundred citizens put up to retain its one remaining glory.
Colonel Sargent ChampionsFour years ago the same measure came up before the voters of Jackson County. At that time Jacksonville had as its able champion Colonel H. H. Sargent, personal friend of President Roosevelt, and a retired army officer, who had been prominent in the reconstruction of Havana and Manila after the Spanish war. When Colonel Sargent retired from army life he selected the beautiful, peaceful little town of Jacksonville in Southern Oregon as his home, for no other place which he had seen in all his world wandering had appealed to him as this quaint, picturesque town did.
Here he bought a home on the hillside and devoted himself to literary pursuits. In a short time he grew to love the old town and took as much interest in it as if he had been a native son. When the proposed removal of its cherished court house was put on the ballot Colonel Sargent came forth from his retirement, and with all of his old fighting spirit entered the conflict; thanks to him, the result at that time was a loss of the measure by 90 votes.
Town's Victory CelebratedNever since those early days of wild mining excitement had the little town been the scene of such revelry as it was on the night it gave a celebration in honor of its victory. The entire countryside was invited to share its joy over the defeat of the measure. Every public building in the town was open to the public. A musical program was given in the Masonic hall, at which Colonel Sargent was tendered an enthusiastic ovation.
A banquet, such as no other town but Jacksonville, long famous for its hospitality and excellent housewives, could serve was attended by hundreds of people. People came not only from all over the county and state but from other states as well. Toasts were responded to by native sons and daughters who had gone forth from this, their home town, and had attained distinction and prominence in the outside world.
The court house town hall, various lodge rooms and streets swarmed with people as it had not done since the early days of mining excitement. A big dance, which young and old joined, lasted till daylight, when another banquet was spread. Jacksonville was jubilant, and even those who had opposed her in the past campaign caught the contagion of happiness and were glad for the old town's victory. The spirit of the celebration obviously was not one of arrogant triumph, but one of joy and thankfulness for having retained its own rights.
Triumph Short-LivedBut today it is different. Colonel Sargent is dead; but had he lived he could not have kept sentiment from being pushed aside in the path of progress. It was inevitable that the county seat would eventually be taken from the little town, which is tucked off in a far corner of this large county, and is also five miles from the railroad, and be placed in a more central and populous district.
But it is tragic--it is heartbreaking to Jacksonville, which now has only its memories of past grandeur to live on.
But such memories.
No other town in the state has had such a colorful and romantic past. Jacksonville was not built up slowly and arduously by weary men and women, worn out after a long journey across the plains, as the northern part of Oregon was; in fact, this rich domain was shunned by the first pioneers on account of its surroundings; impassable mountains and its treacherous, cruel and warlike Indian tribes. It was known as "the Indian country," and the few daring white people who tried to pass through it prior to 1850 were killed by the Indians or barely escaped with their lives. [Those who took adequate precautions passed without incident.] In 1851, however, two men, more foolhardy and daring than most, were passing through and discovered gold in the locality where Jacksonville stands today.
Gold Seekers Swarm InThose who seek gold forget all hardships and danger, and as soon as a report of this first gold strike was circulated, men swarmed into the vicinity from all directions, and suddenly a town of thousands of people sprung up where formerly only the Indian held undisputed sway. [Farmers preceded the discovery of gold.]
Tents, cabins, shacks grew up overnight among the creek banks. Adventurers, courtesans, miners, gamblers and pioneers came in over the hills with pack trains following close behind. What is now only a town of less than 500 people at one time boasted of 5,000 or 10,000 population. [The population probably never reached 5,000 during the gold rush.]
Millions of dollars were taken from the creek beds and quartz hills nearby. Soon roads were cut through the stubborn mountains and the stage coach rumbled and jangled through the streets, bringing news and people from the outside world. Saloons, gambling halls and dance halls flourished. A substantial trading post was established and gold dust and nuggets were used in exchange instead of coin.
All was excitement, rush, gaiety and splendid adventure, instead of the usual worry and sordid struggle of building up a civilization in the wilderness. There was, of course, the oft-recurring troubles with the Indians and at one time a terrible and devastating scourge of smallpox, but these calamities were overshadowed by the lure and excitement of gold.
When the first rush was over, Jacksonville began to assume the semblance of a town instead of a camp, and began to build, not as mining towns usually do--flimsily, for the present only--but solidly and substantially for the future. Respectable families began to come into the town, and homes were built which are occupied today by descendants of those early pioneers. Furniture was brought "around the Horn" and packed in from the nearest seaport, giving a social prominence to those possessing such things. Brick business buildings were erected, which are as solid today as they were when they were built, even though all the granite steps in front of them are worn to half-moon circles by the many feet that have ascended them through the years. [The steps are sandstone.]
Flagstone sidewalks took the place of paths and a church was built, being one of the first Protestant churches west of the Rocky Mountains. The first money donated toward the building of this little church, in which services are still held, was won over the faro table by a famous gambler. In fact, if it had not been for the generosity of those early-day gamblers there would not have been a church built until a later date. [Thomas Fletcher Royal's records of donations for the church survive. "An exact copy of all subscriptions, headings, names, amounts, and for what purposes" (Royal's words) is transcribed here. One of the gamblers usually cited in this myth is listed as having donated $5; others are not mentioned.]
Peter Britt First PhotographerJacksonville also had the first photograph gallery established in Oregon. The photographer was Peter Britt, who used to bluntly tell the ladies, when they were displeased with their likeness and prone to lay the fault onto the photographer, "If you want a pretty picture, you must bring a pretty face." This interesting old gallery is kept just as it was in the early '50s when the dance hall girls and bearded miners preened and posed for their daguerreotypes.
Then there was the U.S. Hotel, another brick building, at which the tired travelers rested after their rough stage trip into the valley, and in which President Hayes once slept. It is used as a pioneer museum now. The express office, combined with Beekman's banking house, which was one of the first banks in the state, is also unchanged by time, and one feels as he enters its doors today as if he had stepped back over half a century. In it are the gold scales used in those early days, and notices on the walls, dimmed by time, still read, "Gold dust shipped to the Atlantic states" "Gold dust exchanged for United States gold coin."
And there is an advertisement for the Oregon and California stage coach with a picture of that ancient vehicle proudly exhibiting the comforts and safety of travel behind its six prancing horses, with an armed express messenger on the box beside the driver.
The counter, worn by time and use, where miners used to empty their buckskin pokes of nuggets, still holds, as if ready for instant use, tin candlesticks with half-burnt tallow candles in them. About the rusty box stove, still arranged in a companionable circle, are the crude chairs and rough-hewn benches where the leading men of the community once sat and discussed momentous affairs. There may be more imposing banks in the state of Oregon than this little one, but few--if any--through which so much wealth has passed.
All of these things and places, which are only landmarks and objects of curious interest today, at that time were important factors in the new country. And as the town began to grow and a definite form of society crystallized, it became necessary to establish some kind of law and order.
Swift Justice DispatchedOregon was a territory and Jackson County an empire in itself, comprising within its boundaries at that time what has since been subdivided into Josephine, Lake, Klamath and Curry counties. The few territorial laws that had been compiled hastily for the state related mostly to property rights and did not suffice for the dispensation of justice in a thickly populated--and sometimes lawless--community, such as Jacksonville had suddenly become.
In 1852 the necessity of mutual protection caused a "people's court" or a sort of vigilantes committee, to grow up. The decrees of the court were inflexible and punishment was swift and certain. When a man was condemned for murder he was taken out and hanged as soon as sentence was pronounced. [This "people's court" was only convened once, to try Robert S. Maynard for murder. Accounts report variously that he was hanged the next day, or after a week or ten days.] In 1853, on account of increasing crime and property disputes, it became necessary to do away with such informal proceedings and establish a judicial court. A mass meeting was held on Jackson Creek by the citizens and miners, who, by general consent, appointed a man as "alcalde," investing him with unlimited jurisdiction. But it soon developed that the man chosen was unworthy of public confidence and a "superior alcalde" was appointed over him. [The alcalde was a feature only of the ad hoc government of the valley prior to Jackson County's organization under the laws of Oregon Territory in 1853. There was no "mass meeting" until it became necessary to override an alcalde's decision.]
Judge Deady Opens CourtIn September, 1853, this court held the last session, for Matthew P. Deady, who had been appointed United States district judge of the Territory of Oregon, held the first regular court in Jacksonville, in a building next to the "New State Saloon." [Jackson County was organized on March 4, 1853, initiating a conventional county structure on that date.] The bench was a dry goods box, covered with a blue blanket, and, as one history says: "Probably the uncomfortable seat occupied by the judge was so irksome that it had something to do with his rapid dispensation of justice."
Eventually a wooden structure was built for the court house, and in 1883, against bitter opposition from all over the county, the present two-story brick building was erected. Jacksonville was stronger than her county in those days.
A history of Oregon, written at that time, in summing up Jacksonville's merits and acquisitions, says: "But the crowning glory of Jacksonville is its magnificent court house, built in 1883, at a cost of $32,000 and after a strenuous opposition from rival points and citizens. It is the cheapest public building of its kind ever erected in Oregon, and the bill of costs never exceeded a single dollar from the amount stipulated in the contract, which disappointed the must bitter opponents, who predicted the building would ultimately foot up $100,000."
Contractor Loses MoneyThe historian fails to add that Mr. Byers, the contractor, was either that rare thing--a conscientious contractor--or else very deficient in calculation, and he lost $1500 on his contract. This was made up to him, however, by the ladies of Jacksonville, who gave a grand ball in the edifice when it was completed, and turned the proceeds over to the honest and deserving Mr. Byers. [Byers & Guerin were the subcontractors for the brickwork and plastering. The ball was to honor the contractor, L. S. P. Marsh.]
Since that day, when the court house was deemed a magnificent and awe-inspiring structure, Jackson County has increased to a population of 20,000 people. An accumulation of important records during the 43 years has outgrown the capacity of the old building. Valuable records have been relegated to storerooms outside the court house and some have became so stained that they are illegible and useless. It was impossible to remodel the old building for the present or future needs, and so the tragedy of losing the chief prize came to Jacksonville.
The new generation sees nothing amazing or imposing in the stately, solid, old brick building, whose small offices are Dickensesque in their quaintness, each boasting paneled wainscoting and a fireplace. The old court room, saturated with years of strong cigars, has in its center also a huge, big stove, which somehow mars the dignity of what is otherwise an unusually imposing court room. Magnificent it may have seemed at the time it was built to those men who had attended court when his honor sat on a packing box, but it fails to impress the present generation and is inadequate for the growing needs of the thriving county.
Court Room Social CenterNot only as a hall of justice has the court room served, for being the most imposing and important structure in Southern Oregon, it was used in the past for all the large social and civic gatherings which the town and county had. It has been the scene of famous Fourth of July celebrations and those wonderful pioneer reunions, community Christmas trees, grand balls and even formal weddings.
Its old walls have resounded with the eloquence of some of the ablest jurists on the coast, and many a sensational trial has been conducted there. Murderers have listened to their doom and innocent people have been freed within its portals. But no more will the life and stir of intense interest animate its old frame. Its doom is sealed, and it, too, passes into the limbo of Jacksonville's memories.
Many of us who knew it when it was young and proud--and we were young, too--knew that it was not only a "court house" in one sense of the word, but in another sense as well. For, having no other park in the town, its large yard, shaded by splendid maples, served as a meeting and a trysting place for the young people of the community. Many who spent their early life in Jacksonville and who are fathers and mothers--even some who are grandfathers and grandmothers now--treasure, I know, as their fondest memory those wide granite steps and the shaded court house yard splashed with moonlight.
Happy Hours RecalledThey remember as if yesterday the fragrance of rain-washed lilacs and the cloying sweetness of locust blossoms blended with the perfume of high lush grass sprinkled with buttercups that made youth and love most glorious things in those spring evenings of long ago. The unfolding quiet of the village evening, broken only by the rustle of leaves above them and the trickling of the creek that flowed nearby, was like a benediction which has attended them through all the years.
Jacksonville will come into her own some day. Like children, seeking adventure, who have strayed from their mother's knee, people will gratefully and happily return to bless her in her old age. Situated as the town is in the sheltering arms of pine- and laurel-clad hills, commanding a view of the rolling valley before it, with a background of towering and snow-capped mountains in the distance, it has the most beautiful location in the Rogue River Valley. Already homes are building rapidly toward it along the highway, and the time is not far distant when it will be the exclusive residence district of Southern Oregon.
Dignity Guards BordersTowns, like people, have a distinct personality, and Jacksonville attracts with its dignity, its peacefulness and contentment. Out of its hectic early life it has sifted the useless and only retained the things that endure. Things that make life worthwhile, after all. And these it will hand on as a heritage to those who live within its boundaries.
First, Jacksonville was robbed of her gold and deserted by those who ravished her; later the railroad snubbed her and cut her off from the main thoroughfare of progress. She has seen her younger generations depart, seeking success in faraway places, and finally in her old age the upstart town of Medford, like an ungrateful stepchild, has stolen her court house from her.
But there are some things that are all her own. Some things which nothing ever can take from her, and these are her memories and traditions.
The love, gratitude and reverence which are her due will grow stronger as the country grows older and will be handed down through the generations by those who know that the very name of Jacksonville is synonymous of all that is brave, strong and courageous. The whole state is proud of that indomitable pioneer spirit concentrated in Jacksonville, which mothered our civilization, which fought for right and justice in days of hazard and strife and still fought--and went down fighting an outnumbering and overpowering foe.--Oregonian.
Medford Mail Tribune, November 28, 1926, page B2
CommunicationsMedford Mail Tribune, December 2, 1926, page 4 This is in response to an article transcribed above, November 21, 1926.
The Eugene Guard recently printed an article regarding Jacksonville and the loss of the court house, which was reprinted in this paper, and to which the people of that city objected, and this is a copy of the answer sent to the Eugene paper, and is printed at the request of the writers:
Jacksonville, Oregon,To the Editor Eugene Guard:
November 24, 1926.
A short time ago you published an article on this city that contains so many errors and misstatements that we are asking you to give the same publicity to this correction. That the vote November 2nd on removal of the county seat sounded a requiem on this town already dead is so wide of the mark that it is rather difficult to make a good-natured statement pointing out the error. We do not know why you should publish such a vindictive and misleading article, as we surely never showed any hostility to your widely read paper or to your fine city.
Now for the facts: This town of Jacksonville is now in a more prosperous condition than it has been for many years, and it also has a larger population than at any time during the last 20 years. There are now 22 active business houses in the town, besides the various offices in the court house. Among the various lines of business is a very fine up-to-date hardware store that would be a credit to a town of several thousand population. All the other lines of business are represented, and they are all doing well. We have every year a fine Chautauqua in the municipal auditorium. Every Red Cross or other worthy drive is put over the top in short order. We have fine paved streets in the business parts of town and one of the best paved roads in the state leading to the Pacific Highway. We have a splendid municipal water system with very high pressure in the mains. This system is at this time being enlarged to supply the increased demand for water. The population at this time is near the 1,000 mark and growing all the time. We have one of the finest and best school buildings in Southern Oregon, in which all grades are taught, including high school grades. We have two churches in the town, the Presbyterian building being large and commodious, with a large congregation. The much maligned Jackson County court house is in fact one of the best and most substantial brick buildings in Southern Oregon. It is in perfect condition, with two fireproof vaults built a few years ago. The grounds and surroundings are probably the most beautiful in the state. A modern, up-to-date jail and steel machinery barns are also located near the court house. This is one of the most complete and substantial county outfits in any of the counties outside of the large cities of the state.
As to the death knell of Jacksonville being sounded when the people of the town turned down the offer of the railroad about 1883: Now the truth is that no official offer to bring the O.&C. railroad to this town was ever made. The facts, as given by B. B. Beekman, now of Portland and widely and favorably known through the state and who was raised here, are simply these: A survey for the location of the railroad was made through the valley about two and a quarter miles east of Jacksonville, but when this survey was continued to Ashland, where a division point was planned, it was found that the line was far above any suitable grounds for shops or tracks. Another survey was made by Mr. Howard, the engineer in charge of location, leaving the Rogue River canyon near Rock Point and running in an almost straight line to within a few miles of Ashland. This being much the best route for the road, [it] was therefore adopted. The reason and the only reason Jacksonville was left off the line was a topographical one. Just the same reason that Yreka was left to one side. That C. C. Beekman closed his bank here was not for the reason that there was no business for a bank, but on account of advancing age and a desire to quit active business. This is shown to be true by the fact that several years before Beekman quit banking, another bank was started here and continued in business till 1920, when it was looted by the bank officers and was closed, and the cashier was sent to serve a prison sentence. Let us have facts regarding things in the past and not some uninformed person's romancing.
The election reports so far put out regarding the removal from this town of the county seat seem to show a majority for removal, but that matter will be settled by the courts. That the fight for removal was not made against a dead town was plainly shown by the campaign for removal made by those who coveted another's house. Many hundreds of dollars were spent in this by the proponents of removal in a campaign that is probably without parallel in the history of the state for vindictiveness and vituperation, not even excepting the late campaign against the successful candidate for the United States Senate. In addition to this, pecuniary considerations were openly offered to the people of the county in the way of the offer to furnish a building amply large enough to house all the county offices for five years at a rental of one dollar a year, and also a permanent site for a new court house, if removal carried, the site to be given absolutely free for all time to Jackson County. These considerations at a conservative estimate would amount to something like $20,000. Over 1,800 voters were sworn in in the town asking removal, showing that the election was not carried, if carried, by the votes of taxpayers. Taxpayers of Jackson County would never vote to remove, if left to them. This last campaign for removal of the county seat from Jacksonville was the culmination of a fight for removal that has been carried on for almost 40 years. The county seat is not the thing that keeps Jacksonville going, by any means. Our location is the best in Rogue River Valley, also the most beautiful. Above the fog and out of the winds, nestled among the foothills, it is the most desirable location for residence purposes. Many new houses have been built the last two years and one building is now going up that was started since the late election. Progress will not be stopped if the county seat should be removed. Our wonderful and healthy climate, pure water and beautiful scenery cannot be taken away by any superior numbers or wealth. We try to obey the scriptural command: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house." Also the command which says: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."
Jacksonville County Seat Club.
JACKSON COUNTY SEAT REMOVALThe supreme court has enjoined the moving of the county seat from Jacksonville to Medford on a technical error in the election, said error being failure to publish a pamphlet containing the arguments pro and con. This is another evidence that the voter's pamphlet law should be repealed. Does anyone imagine that the people of Jackson County were not thoroughly familiar with the proposed project which has been before them for a dozen years? Ashland people favored placing the county seat in Medford, where it ought to accommodate the most people.
If there is any way for the legislature to move the county seat regardless of this technicality, it ought to be done at this session.--Corvallis Gazette-Times.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 28, 1927, page 6
MEDFORD COUNTY SEAT REMOVAL COM. STATEMENT
The Medford County Seat Removal Committee wishes to make the following statement:
"It has come to our attention that citizens of Jacksonville who are disgruntled over the removal of the county seat to Medford are circulating petitions in Medford and elsewhere throughout the county, requesting that this issue be again submitted to the vote of the people. A number of those, who have already signed these petitions, seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that it is necessary to again submit this question to the people, but such is not correct. This issue was carried at the last election by an overwhelming majority, and the removal of the county seat to Medford was authorized, but upon submitting the matter to the supreme court it was ruled that the election was void on account of no voters pamphlet having been issued and mailed to the voters of Jackson County.
"The matter was then presented to the recent session of the legislature, and a law was passed authorizing the removal of the county seat to Medford July 1, 1927, or as soon thereafter as possible.
"This law is now in full force and effect, and the City of Medford is prepared to construct the temporary court house as soon as bonds are voted at a special election on May 16 of this year.
"Twenty-three twenty-fourths of the population of Jackson County will obtain better service and save traveling costs by having the county seat at Medford. It is unnecessary to again submit this vote to the voters.
"This statement is made so the people will know the exact situation, and we believe that it is to the best interests of the county for citizens to refuse to sign any petitions calling for another vote on this matter."
Medford Mail Tribune, April 22, 1927, page 4
LOCAL ARMORY TO BE USED AS A COURT HOUSE
City Rents Armory and County Officials Packing,
Ready for Complete Removal by July 1st--
Circuit Court in Federal Building.
The Medford armory has been rented for the temporary court house in this city, and county officials in Jacksonville are now packing up their equipment so that everything will be moved here and in operation by the first of the month.
This arrangement was made several days ago, but was not officially announced until last night, both Medford and county officials wishing to keep the matter a secret until all preliminaries had been completed.
The city of Medford is paying for the armory, the rental being $200 a month, and Captain Tengwald of the National Guard has the building nearly ready for the removal.
The main auditorium and rooms on the ground floor will be used by the sheriff and county clerk, partitions of beaverboard now being put in to provide separate offices.
Sheriff Jennings will also have a special office in the basement, as will the county health unit.
Captain Tengwald's offices will be used by the county court, and have been slightly rearranged for that purpose.
The county assessor will occupy the present American Legion rooms on the second floor, and the county treasurer will have the present supply room on the same floor.
The county school superintendent and county engineer will have quarters opposite the present American Legion room.
All valuable records will remain in the fireproof vaults in Jacksonville for the present and probably until the new city hall is completed, which will then be the permanent county court house until the final building is erected by the county itself. This is according to the plan originally agreed upon when the proposition of court house removal was first made.
The city, in addition to providing the armory, will also have a night watchman and janitor on duty 24 hours each day while the armory is being used as a court house.
Circuit court will be held until July 1st in the federal court rooms in the Medford post office building, and it is expected this privilege will be extended until the temporary court house is completed, which is expected to be in September.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 10, 1927, page 1
INSTALL CELLS FROM OLD JAIL IN CITY HALL
The work of installing the cells of the county jail in the new county courthouse started this morning, all the material being moved over Monday.
According to Sheriff Jennings, there will be one tier of cells in the new jail, with quarters to accommodate 25 prisoners. The work of installing the equipment will take a week or ten days. As soon as the heating plant is in operation the prisoners will be moved from Jacksonville.
The 15 or 20 prisoners in the county jail now have no cells, and all are in the main section. They have no beds and sleep on the concrete floor, which Sheriff Jennings says was constructed soft side up.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 26, 1927, page 3
ALLOT SPACE IN NEW CITY HALL FOR CO. OFFICES
Allotment of space in the new city hall to the various county offices has been tentatively made, and they will be slightly cramped. It is expected that the machinery of county government will all be moved by December 15, and that by the first of the year normalcy will again rule.
The first floor of the structure will be occupied by the sheriff, the county clerk, and the county judge.
The basement will be occupied by the assessor's office and the treasurer, and one room for the county health unit, with another room on the second floor. The jail and jailer's office are also on this floor.
The second floor will be occupied by the circuit judge, the court room, the prosecuting attorney, the school superintendent, and the county agent.
The vault, with sufficient room in which to place all of the county records, is a part of the clerk's office.
There is a lack of room for the sheriff's office during the tax collecting period, the available space not being in excess of that in the old courthouse at Jacksonville.
One room has been given the county school superintendent. This is one of the largest offices.
A number of the county officials have suggested that the heat in the structure be turned on full blast for two weeks before moving so the walls will be thoroughly dry before the records are moved in. According to Assessor Coleman, his volumes containing maps of the county absorb moisture "worse than a sponge," and he predicts considerable damage unless caution is exercised.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 28, 1927, page 4
COUNTRY FOLKS FROWN ON SITE CONTROVERSIES
Want Medford to Keep Promise to Abide by Selection of County Court,
Consider Petition to Move Courthouse Back to Jacksonville.
Residents of the rural districts of Jackson County view with alarm the prospect of legal civil war in this city over the selection of a courthouse site, and according to Herman Offenbacher of the Applegate section have taken preliminary steps to stop it, by considering calling for a vote to move the courthouse back to Jacksonville unless peace abides.
"Medford agreed to give a site for the courthouse, and to abide by the selection of the country court," said Mr. Offenbacher yesterday. "Now they are getting ready to fight among themselves, with injunctions and petitions. The people in the country think Medford ought to keep their word, and do as she said she would do."
He also said the rural districts opposed to the county mixing in a purely civic battle, and many voted for the courthouse change with the specific understanding and promises made by local civic leaders there would be no controversy over the site and that the selection of the county court would be accepted as final and definite.
Mr. Offenbacher said he had heard that a petition was being circulated asking that the courthouse be removed to Jacksonville if legal warfare broke out over the site selection. He thought the petitions were being held in abeyance for future use, but [was] not certain.
County officials who come in daily contact with country residents said they had heard considerable dissatisfaction over the prospects of a legal battle and heard: "Are we going to be another Klamath County?" Klamath built three courthouses and "lawed" ten years before they finally reached a decision.
A petition to remove the courthouse from Medford back to Jacksonville would require 1500 names and could be placed on the general election ballot next November.
A circular entitled "The Truth About the Courthouse" was distributed in the business district Saturday afternoon by attorney W. E. Phipps. It sets forth three reasons why the Washington School site should not be selected and eight reasons why the armory site should be selected. The circular is signed by E. E. Kelly, 911 Queen Anne Avenue; W. E. Phipps, 1239 North Riverside; J. H. Butler, 916 East. Main; R. B. Strang, 1100 East Main; P. C. Bigham, 503 North Grape; M. Purdin, 912 North Central, and I. D. Phipps, 923 East Main, all of this city.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 11, 1930, page 2
Courthouse an Outgrowth of Small Fire in Pioneer StructureThe storing of valuable and pioneer records in the woodshed of the county courthouse at Jacksonville was one of the first seeds from which the magnificent and stately $265,000 new courthouse, to be formally dedicated tomorrow, grew. One evening in the fall of the year, shortly after the war, a county jail trusty went to the woodshed for a load of wood and became careless with a cigarette. There was an incipient blaze which Sheriff Charles Terrill kicked out while yelling fire.
YEARS REQUIRED FOR SUCCESS IN REMOVAL PLANS
Lack of Fireproof Depository for Records Leads to Agitation
for New Courthouse--Two Votes Taken
Before this Paul Janney of the Jackson County Abstract Company, in prowling around to keep the titles straight, was frequently forced to go to the woodshed to get abstracts and was impressed with the inconvenience and loss if anything should happen to destroy the shed. He spoke to Geo. A. Gardner, then county judge, and County Commissioner Victor Bursell about it and they agreed that it was "poor business," but the county was cramped for space and the woodshed was the only place. In fact, the county was so cramped for space that it was necessary to purchase a concrete building across the street from the courthouse to house the county assessor and his voluminous records.
Safe Housing UrgedThe Mail Tribune, editorially and in its news columns, urged that the county records be housed someplace besides the woodshed, as a matter of good business and protection of valuable data.
Commissioner Victor Bursell and the late County Judge Gardner favored a betterment. The attorneys of the city and county also favored a change, and one day attorney Porter J. Neff suggested to Commissioner Bursell that he might be able to build a structure at Sixth and Grape Street in this city suitable for courthouse use, if the county would sign a lease.
By this time civic organizations of Medford took up the cudgels for a bigger and better courthouse, and in 1922 the first step was taken in the calling and holding of an election for removal of the county seat to Medford. The measure was defeated, largely through the efforts of Col. H. H. Sargent, noted writer on military affairs and retired army officer, and Lewis Ulrich, a Jacksonville merchant and native son.
Following the election, the county court ordered construction of a vault and judge's chambers on the rear of the courthouse, and the county records were brought under lock, key and cover.
Election Finally CarriesThe seeds sown in the preliminary move still lingered in the minds of the county court and the matter was discussed pro and con the length and breadth of the county for three years before the issue came to a head again, in a courthouse removal election held in 1926. This time the measure carried, through a united front presented by Ashland and Medford and some of the country districts. Because of sentimental reasons, many of the older residents opposed the removal to this city.
In 1927 Jackson County received its first O.-C. tax refund check of more than $1,000,00. Some favored that this money be used for the paying of road bonds, some for delinquent taxes, some for irrigation districts, and other purposes, but the county court, led by Commissioner Bursell, ruled that the money be distributed among the various county funds, with $260,000 set aside for a new courthouse and a $10,000 emergency fund for the same purpose. The city of Medford agreed to furnish a site and quarters for the county offices pending the construction of the new courthouse.
Attempts to Divert FundAfter the $260,000 courthouse fund had been established and the country was "getting beck to normalcy," several propositions were advanced to divert the fund to other purposes, and when agitation was launched to this end the county court had Representative John H. Carkins of this county introduce a bill in the legislature prohibiting the use of the fund save for construction of a new courthouse. Before this the state supreme court declared the election and preliminaries thereto constitutional and in accordance with Oregon law.
In July, 1927, the county offices moved to temporary quarters in the Medford armory while the city of Medford was erecting a temporary courthouse and city hall at North Central Avenue and Fifth Street. The city hall was completed and December 1, 1927, the county offices moved into it.
The next important step was the selection of a site which Medford had agreed to furnish free. A site election was held and the Washington School chosen by a vote of the people. Several sites were advanced, including the city park, a site on North Central Avenue and one on North Riverside.
With the site question out of the way, the unwinding of the long strands of red tape necessary before construction could start was begun. County Judge Hartsell had been called by death. Alex Sparrow, of beloved memory, was appointed to the vacancy. With characteristic zeal and thoroughness, aided by Commissioners Bursell and Alford, he plunged into the task of clearing away the preliminaries. John Barneburg succeeded George Alford to the county commissionership
Clerk Great AidIn all the vast preliminary work the county court was aided by County Clerk Delilah Stevens Meyer, who possessed an intimate knowledge of all numerous details and was well nigh invaluable.
After selection of a site, architects of the Northwest submitted plans and specifications. After weeks of discussion, the plans of J. G. Link of Billings, Mont., were accepted. Then came many weeks of conferring with the architect, and finally they were completed.
On November 9, 1931, bids for the construction of the new courthouse were opened, and the following day, November 10, 1931, the contract was awarded to the L. H. Hoffman Co. of Portland, Ore. They started excavating early in December and started pouring concrete late in January, the work being held up by bad weather.
Many civic leaders of the city and valley gave liberally of their time and knowledge to the building of the courthouse. It stands today a beautiful monument to the spirit of progress in Jackson County--and a far cry from an incipient blaze caused by a jailbird's cigarette in the woodshed of the old Jacksonville courthouse.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 31, 1932, page 2
Last revised October 22, 2022