The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Crescent City
The town on Paragon Bay in California.

    By Mr. Hereford, of Cram, Rogers & Co. [illegible]. Trade at Jacksonville dull; stock of goods on hand large; prices remaining about the same as at our last advices. The weather remarkably fine. Large parties out prospecting.
    The item of intelligence of particular interest is the discovery of a practical wagon road from the valley to the harbor at Paragon Bay. Several enterprising persons, among others Messrs. Steele, Cooke and Cosby, had gone to the bay from Jacksonville and Yreka to establish a trading post in conjunction with a company from San Francisco; others are preparing to follow. The harbor is reported to be safe and convenient. The distance from the new port, called Crescent City, is said to be forty miles to Sailor Diggings and seventy-five miles to Jacksonville. Profitable diggings are reported to have been found in the immediate neighborhood of the new city. If but the half of what we hear be true, a new era of commercial enterprise is just dawning upon Southern Oregon.
    CRESCENT CITY.--We find the following in the Placer Times and Transcript:
    The expedition which recently sailed to Point St. George, a locality which it is claimed will be the supply point for an extensive range of mining country, returned on the 9th inst. The company have surveyed a town, to which they have given the name of Crescent City. They have also made a survey of the harbor, and find twelve feet of water up to within 200 yards of the shore.
Oregonian, Portland, March 19, 1853, page 2

FROM HUMBOLDT BAY.--By the way of Shasta, we have late news from Humboldt Bay and Eureka. A report had reached the latter place that sixteen of the eighteen men who were exploring the road from Paragon Bay to Rogue River Valley had been killed by the Indians.
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, April 7, 1853, page 2

    Several families have left here during the spring for Althouse and Paragon  Bay. This bay is about one hundred miles southwest of this place, and about fifty miles from Althouse, in latitude 40 deg. 45 min. There is a good pack trail from it to both places. A vessel arrived there several days ago, and discharged her cargo, and has returned to San Francisco for another load. Some of the goods and groceries have been packed into the mines, and sold at reduced prices in the vicinity of Althouse. A pack train left Althouse and went to the bay, and returned in four days loaded with provisions for the miners. This is said to be a good landing, and a safe harbor for vessels nine months in the year, and some of the knowing ones say that a good safe harbor can easily be made out of it for vessels at any season of the year, by making a breakwater at the mouth of the bay. Doubtless large quantities of goods and groceries will be shipped to this point during the summer season, which will save a great amount of labor in transportation to the packers in this section of the country, and if it takes less labor to pack from this bay to the mines than it does from the Willamette Valley or from Scottsburg, it will necessarily reduce the price of provision in this part of the country during the coming summer.
Letter dated April 26, 1853, Oregonian, Portland, May 14, 1853, page 2

ALTHOUSE CREEK, April 14, 1853.
    Mr. Dryer:--Believing that the opening of every new avenue which shortens the distance whereby goods can be transported to the mines is a subject in which your readers are more or less interested, I purpose to give you an impartial description of the new harbor and the route to the same. Paragon Bay, if bay it can be called, is located about ten miles south of Smith's River, and immediately south of the peninsula known as Cape St. George, and by observation is in lat. 41 deg. 45 m., consequently is fifteen miles south of the Oregon line.
    This bay is formed by a curve in the coastline of some three or four miles in length, and is in the form of an half ellipse, the shortest diameter of which is about two miles, or in other words, the greatest distance from a straight line drawn from the headland at the north to headland south to the water's edge or shore, is about one mile. The only protection on the sea side from storms and wind is the slight defense afforded by Cape St. George, which is a low promontory rising some 15 feet above high water mark, and a reef of rocks extending some three hundred yards in a line from the head of the cape across the bay, which at high tide are mostly covered with water. Inside of this in calm weather vessels can anchor in seven fathom of water, at a distance of about a quarter of a mile from shore. The holding ground or bottom is said to be sand and rock.
    Immediately south of this cape a town side has been surveyed, which from the natural curve of the beach is named Crescent City. Stores, warehouses, &c., are being built, and if the price of lots is any criterion, it is soon to rival Portland or even Sacramento City, at least in the estimation of those interested. Had it the Willamette or Sacramento rivers, with their broad and fertile prairies, it might appear a little more plausible. But it is without a navigable river by which merchandise can be transported into the interior, while the farming land in the vicinity, although good perhaps for vegetables, is limited in quantity.
    The manner of transporting goods to the mines, or at least for forty-five miles of the distance from the coast, is now and in my opinion always will be upon pack mules. Yet some are sanguine that a good wagon road will soon be made and that at a mere nominal expense. There is yet some thousands of dollars to be expended upon the route to make it a good pack trail upon which mules can carry even an average load of 250 lbs. each. Having packed a train of mules twice over the trail myself, I can speak somewhat from experience. I am of the opinion that mules can better pack three hundred pounds each upon what is termed the Oregon trail than two hundred upon this, while the grass is more abundant upon the former and of a better quality.
    If Crescent City has any advantages over Scottsburg or the Willamette Valley as a depot for obtaining supplies, it is in the distances from the respective mining sections, and in the saving of ferry bills, which are quite a tax upon packers. The distance from Crescent City to the nearest mines is about forty-five miles--from the city to Althouse Creek about fifty-five miles--to Jacksonville one hundred and ten--to Yreka one hundred and seventy-five. In coming from the coast to this place or to Jacksonville in the summer season, there will be no ferry bill between the two places, although Smith's River is to be crossed twice; and at the time when I passed we were obliged to build rafts to cross over our packs upon and swim our mules. But both of these crossings are said to be fordable in summer time.
    Had I the time I might perhaps have given you a more detailed and comprehensive letter, but for want of which this must suffice.
Respectfully yours,
Oregonian, Portland, May 14, 1853, page 2

    Business in Crescent City the past week has been comparatively dull in consequence of the decrease of the influx of pack trains--but it is hoped by the great improvement of trail, which is now pronounced by those who are good judges to be as good a pack trail as there is in California that business will be brisk again. During the week ending 7th ult. two steamers, the J. G. Hunt and U.S. Coast Surveying Steamer Gold Hunter, entered and cleared the harbor--the Gold Hunter having made a complete survey, soundings &c. A political canvass was held on Monday, 8th ult., at Crescent City, for the election of assemblyman &c. The meeting was addressed by Mr. Van Dyke, Mr. Whipple and several others.
Sacramento Daily Union, September 3, 1853, page 2

    Reached Jacksonville on Sept. 17[, 1852]. Small mining camp. Built large house for myself and engaged to build for others for $700.00. Three boys still with me. Work soon accomplished. Then engaged in other work.
    About Sept. 20, sixteen inches snow fell. Feared stock would perish. Man by name of Poole took cattle to Bear River bottom in heavy timber, came out all right. Three small provision stores. All goods used packed on animals from Portland, Oregon three hundred miles over bad road. Soon as snow fell, pack train could not travel, merchants put high tariff on goods. Salt; butter, sugar and tobacco $5.00 per lb. Flour, potatoes $1.00 lb. and other things in proportion. Soon ate up our $700.00. As soon as snow went off we went to work again. Decided that this country would not hold me longer than spring. In fall several men returned. Gave flattering account of coast. Believe man of my energy could cross mountains with wagons. Decided to try it. Several men volunteered to help me. Man with sixteen pack animals to accompany us. About March 20 loaded up and set out. First sixty miles down Applegate River and up Illinois River to junction of trail up mountains. Made without much trouble and struck camp for a time. With rifle I followed trail few miles to prospect route. Impossible for wagons to go farther. I returned to camp and reported result of investigations. Cast gloom over camp. In morning unloaded wagons, turned them bottom up, and put under them such things as we could do without. Packed freight on pack train, reserving gentlest animals for those not able to walk. Resumed journey. With difficulty reached summit and found snow six inches deep. Camped all night in pine grove. Made large log fire. Rained part of night. Had rough time. Spitting snow in morning. Situation unpleasant. As soon as light on our way down grade. Reached Smith River at 12 o'clock. River nearly bank-full here. Unpacked and turned stock loose. Grazing good. Saw first redwood timber. Some of these giants of forest measured forty feet in circumference. Large quantity of flood wood. Began building raft. Cut drift logs in 12-ft. lengths.… Rolled them to bank of river. Plenty of pack ropes so built raft of these thus: Rope wrapped around each end of a log and logs rolled into water. Ropes crossed at each end and another log rolled in. In this way until raft 20 ft. long. Other dry logs split into slabs and placed on raft crosswise under logs. River one hundred yards wide. Current smooth and moderate. Remained in camp overnight. In morning put part of freight on raft. Poled over river by seven men and unloaded. Had drifted down some in crossing so had to cordelle up to strike place where raft was built. Three men returned with raft. Balance of freight and family put on board and landed safely. Raft returned second time. Stock driven into river and forced to swim over. Those who remained boarded raft, crossed and unwound ropes. Let noble raft go down river one log at a time. Packed up again and reached coast in evening.
    On beach met 30 men. Offered us only cabin they had built and hindquarters of fine elk. Little ship Pomona had left provisions with Mr. Waterman to supply camp until return. I called on him to buy supplies. Very dear. Asked price of rice. $1.00 per lb. He asked me if I had any milk to sell. I said I had. My price $1.00 per qt. "All right," he replied. After this he had milk with his rice and we had rice with our milk. Now idle three weeks until Pomona returned bringing more men, tools and provisions. All went to work. Place laid off in town lots, called Crescent City. Ocean to south and west. Mountains to north and east. Valley level land, extended 16 miles along coast and three miles back. Shape of half moon. Very heavy timber covered nearly whole of valley.
    Began building in earnest. Cheap sawmill built to furnish lumber. I finished first house and opened it as boarding house. Other houses finished and opened in other branches of business. Pomona returned for supplies. Country thickly inhabited by Indians. Lived chiefly in villages along coast. Lived mainly on fish. Shy at first but when acquainted were quite trustworthy. In August fine prairie land [discovered] at mouth of Smith River twelve miles from city. Company wished me to join them and locate claim. Not convenient for me to leave home, but offered them use of yoke of oxen to do hauling if they would locate claim for me and build cabin on it. Offer accepted. Sixteen men went on ground, located and built cabin on each claim. In spring I went over and examined country. Pleased with future prospects, I commenced improving. My family the first that ever landed on beach, and after living here fourteen months I rented my house and moved on my claim, which we called Smith River Valley. As soon as land came into market I bought one thousand acres. When I first settled here, game plenty, elk, deer, bear, smaller animals geese and ducks by ten thousand. Handy with rifle and many a fine elk I killed within one mile of cabin. Began to improve my farm. Very productive. Prices very good. Stock doing well. Sent to San Francisco for all kinds of fruit tree seeds. Proved success. Soon had enough trees for self and neighbors. Small lot of hogs shipped to Crescent City. Five purchased by myself, four brood sows and one male for $200.00. In proper time I supplied neighbors with a start. Several families moved into valley. I saw necessity of schoolhouse. I received volunteer labor enough to build house. Soon had school started. Had Sunday school and preaching when we could get preacher.
    Fishery established at mouth of river. Everything moved on fair and prosperous till [1855] when Indian war broke out in Jackson County, Oregon. Soon spread to coast and our trouble began. Settlers became alarmed. Some moved to Crescent City. I began fort by digging trench three feet deep around house and well. Split ten-foot logs in two and stood them on end, one flat side in and one flat side out. Chamfering round sides together to be bulletproof. Also made bastion on two opposite corners so we could enter them from inside fort and from porthole look along two of outside walls from each bastion. Kept plenty of guns and ammunition. One man, my son and myself and family held fort while other families moved to city while men were engaged in war. Just before close of war five or six roughs engaged in killing all bucks they could find. Already surrounded two small villages and killed twenty or thirty inhabitants.
    One town of this character located on my land near beach. Very ancient village contained about one hundred persons. Roughs threatened this town also. Said they would kill my Indian boy who had lived with me three years. Faithful boy. My Indians became much alarmed. Many of them came to me crying for protection. Three roughs came to my house to kill my boy. Sharp words and serious threats but finally left. Indians had done no harm but were true and trustworthy. My duty to help them. Next morning at break of day I mounted my horse, armed with shotgun and pistols, started with boy to Crescent City where I left him with friend of mine. Went to city authorities and asked permission for my Indians to be put on Lighthouse Island in front of city. About fifteen acres of north half covered with scrubby timber made convenient shelter. Permission granted. I returned to Indian camp and told them to be ready at sunrise on morrow to move to island. Went to camp in morning equipped as before. They were ready. Followed beach to avoid danger. Reached city safely. If I had been caught in act by roughs it would have cost me my life as they still threatened me till peace proclaimed by General Canby [sic] about six weeks after Indians moved to island. After war they returned home. Ever remembered me for protection. Considered lives in my hands.
    Valley refilled by former occupants. Business revived. I built large barn and new house. Orchard bearing fruit. Good home. Valley very fertile. Good water and finest timber I ever saw. Felled several trees five to six feet in diameter. Sawed off 16 rail cuts each eleven feet long. Average would be 12 cuts of same length. Timber called redwood splits easiest and smoothest of any I ever worked in. Raised 65 bu. wheat to acre, same of barley, 115 bu. Chile oats and 300 bu. potatoes. When several farms got underway--home consumption overdone. Prices fell so low there was no money in farming and valley so isolated outside market could not be reached with any profit. Country mountainous and of rockiest character. Only one road from valley to interior. Road cost $1,000.00 per mile for first forty miles then less per mile to Rogue River Valley. Placed heavy tax on people. My portion $1,200.00. Road crossed copper belt. Large sums spent in search for copper ore. Search unsuccessful. I worked two summers and spent $1,500 but failure. Went to Copperopolis by way of San Francisco to examine mines there. Copper mining precarious business. I gave it up. Visited San Jose, Watsonville, Santa Cruz and several other smaller towns and Oakland and San Francisco. Had good time. Returned home after journey of 1,000 miles through populous country. Our valley looked very small to me compared to this land with broad and extensive plains. Upon mature reflection made up mind to sell out and leave valley. All daughters except one had married and moved out of country. This one lived in Crescent City. I had now lived in the country nine years, the longest I had ever remained in one place. Had served people as county supervisor for number of terms and had become acquainted with almost every man in county, besides being leading farmer. Seemed to be leaving a good home but finally sold out to Colonel Dave Buell for $20,000.00, stock and all included.
    I then gave my farewell party. Entire neighborhood invited besides friends from Crescent City. Spent twenty-four hours in one of most enjoyable and social parties of my life. Table furnished with all comforts country afforded. Plenty of new cider from our orchard, first made in county. Moved to San Francisco in 1862.
Biographical Sketches of the Life of Major Ward Bradford 1893. Typescript at Indiana State Library.

    During the past score of years or more I have run across some very interesting original documents at old farmhouses and in the homes of pioneers. While in Crescent City I visited James McNulty, who showed me the original charter of Crescent City. It was dated at Sailor Diggings, on Illinois Creek, as the town of Waldo, in Josephine County, Oregon, was then called. A group of Oregon miners, who were mining at Sailor Diggings, decided to make their way to the coast and start a city at what was then called Paragon Bay. Among these miners were a number of sailors who had discovered rich ground, giving Waldo its original name of Sailor Diggings. The camp was called Sailor Diggings from 1852 to 1855, when the name was changed to Waldo and it became the first county seat of Josephine County. In the winter of 1852 the miners of Sailor Diggings organized a company and elected D. C. Lewis, whose daughter is one of the pioneer residents of Portland, secretary of the company. The ink on the old charter is somewhat faded, but I was able to make it out. It reads as follows:
    "We whose names are hereby annexed to the following constitution do hereby, for our mutual interests, form ourselves into a company for the purpose of locating and building up of a town on and near Paragon Bay on the Pacific Coast near the boundary line between the state of California and the Territory of Oregon, and we hereby agree to be governed by the following articles:
    "Article 1. This company shall be started and known as the Point St. George Exploring Company.
    "Article 2. The officers of the company shall be a president and secretary. The duty of the president shall be to superintend and regulate the general concerns of the company. He shall, in all cases, submit to the wishes of the majority of the company. A majority of the voters of the company is requisite to elect the officers, whose term of office is to continue for six months from election unless two-thirds of the members thould require a new election. In such case the secretary shall call an election. The duty of the secretary shall be to receive all moneys and pay the same over to the president and to keep a correct record of all proceedings of the company, also a correct account of the receipts and expenditures, ready for inspection at any time.
    "Article 3. By-laws may, at any time, if not inconsistent with the present constitution, be appended by a vote of the majority of the company.
    "Article 4. This constitution may be amended by consent of two-thirds of the members of the company.
    "Sailor Diggings on Illinois Creek,
        January 31, 1852.
    "Signed:  C. Mathias Smythe,
Alexander Coyle,
Thomas H. McGrew,
Michael Martin,
John B. Cook,
John Picket,
FlyMarket Ranger Ward,
J. B. Tailor,
Phillemore A. Ozimur,
H. Kennedy,
James McCoy,
James Judson,
D. C. Lewis."
Fred Lockley, "Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man," Oregon Journal, Portland, May 3, 1927, page 12

    The Sentinel makes a strong point in an article under the above caption in its last issue when it says that the people of Jackson County are throwing away annually in the matter of unnecessary freighting expenses a sum equal to their taxation. This is easily demonstrable. As at present imported, the merchandise from San Francisco comes to us by the overland route over nearly two hundred and fifty miles of railroad and then has to be hauled in freight wagons about a hundred and seventy miles; by the circumlocution [sic] route it travels some seven hundred miles by water and is then about three hundred miles north of us. Of this distance it comes two hundred miles by rail and still has to be hauled over a hundred miles by wagon, making a trip of about a thousand miles. Our merchants now find it cheaper to ship by the northern route, notwithstanding the great distance, so we may compare the Crescent City route with that. By way of Crescent City freight would need to be hauled over a wagon road a little shorter than that between us and Roseburg, a road, however, which would doubtless, if properly built, be more easily traveled than the latter; from San Francisco to Crescent City is but a little over three hundred miles by water. So we should save the freightage upon the two hundred miles of railroad, never less than half a cent a pound, and the difference in ocean freightage which the saving of about four hundred miles in distance and the towage and pilotage on the Columbia river would make. Add to this the saving of the cost of handling the freight once and the slight difference in favor of the Crescent City road which teamsters will be able to make in hauling, and we may safely conclude that the people of Jackson County would save nearly twenty dollars upon every ton of freight which they ship to or from San Francisco. This saving, it must be remembered, would not fall into the hands of those only who are directly engaged in the shipping or mercantile trade; it would be shared by every individual who buys a pound of sugar or nails or leather, by everyone who takes part in the consumption or use of the merchandise brought from the outside world into our valley. What the people of this valley would save in one year is amply sufficient to meet their share of the expense of building the road. To take a simple example: Something over 200,000 pounds of wool is exported annually from Jackson County. The saving of one cent per pound upon this would amount to two thousand dollars. Let those directly interested in wool growing contribute two thousand dollars to the building of the new road, and when they ship their next year's clip of wool by the new route they will get the two thousand dollars back in the one cent per pound more which they will receive for their wool. So it will be with all who may contribute. To speak of our people collectively, they will in contributing toward the building of the new road only be paying in advance a small portion of their next year's freight bill. The road will cost them absolutely nothing but the interest for a few months on the amount of about one-fourth of their annual freight bill, and when once built it will be dropping money into their pockets every year.
    Thus, in the narrowest view of the subject, it is seen that the simplest rules of economy leave our people but one course to pursue in this matter. What would be thought of the business sagacity of a man who could save his taxes every year hereafter by simply paying them in advance for the next year if, having the means at command, he should neglect to take advantage of the extraordinary opportunity? This is the situation of our people on the Crescent City wagon road matter. Will they act upon business principles?
Ashland Tidings, November 21, 1879, page 2

By Fred Lockley
    For 55 years James C. Bradford, who lives at 5275 Northeast 18th Avenue, worked in sawmills, most of that time in various mills in Portland.
    "I retired six years ago," said Mr. Bradford, "when I was nearly 75 years of age. I was born at Crescent City, Cal. on March 4, 1854, in which city my father, Major Ward Bradford, built the first house. My first recollection has to do with something that rankled my soul with childish indignation of what I considered an injustice to me. My father had moved from Crescent City to a ranch in Smith River Valley, about 12 miles from Crescent City. In those days transportation was almost entirely by pack horse. A packer had put up at our place and left a small spotted cayuse pony, which had played out. I was about 5 years old at the time, and the packer gave me the pony. This pony was so lazy and gentle that it was absolutely safe for me to handle. I spent most of my time leading it into fence corners and climbing on its back. In time this pony became really fond of me and I became devoted to Billy, for he was the only thing I could call really my own.
    "At the close of the Rogue River Indian war there were a few Indians left who refused to sign our peace treaty. The white men, they claimed, had taken their land without payment, and killed their people, so a little group of seven Indians moved back into the mountains, swearing vengeance. Their leader was called "Six-toed Pete." He had six toes on each foot and six fingers on each hand. He was about 6 feet 2 inches tall and extremely powerful. One day one of the friendly Indians came to my father and told him that Six-toed Pete was trying to get the friendly Indians to join his band to attack the whites. Father said, 'The next time they send up a smoke signal, answer it, meet with them and learn their plans.' This Indian did so, and reported that Pete wanted this Indian, with six others, to meet him and the six Indians of his band and plan an attack. Father said, 'If you will kill Pete and the Indians in his band the white men of Crescent City will give you all the blankets you want, and pay you well.' The Indian said, 'I know the white man. If we kill Pete and his band, then the white men will kill us.'
    "Father went with this Indian to Crescent City and met the business men there and they assured the Indian that no harm would come to him or the other friendly Indians, and that they would give him blankets, guns, powder, lead, flour, sugar, and other supplies, if he would kill Pete and his band. Finally, Father persuaded the Indians to kill their tribesmen, the hostiles. The seven friendly Indians met Pete on Bald Mountain. They sat down to discuss plans for attack. The arrangement had been for both parties to come to the council without arms. The friendly Indians had been furnished with short sharp-bladed knives, which they had secreted, and at a preconcerted signal they attacked Pete and his six unarmed warriors, killed them, dragged their bodies to a small gully nearby and covered them with brush.
    "The friendly Indian then came to our ranch, reported the killing of Pete and the other hostiles, and wanted his pay. Father gathered a posse of about 20 armed men, went to Bad Mountain, and found the bodies of the slain Indians. They buried the bodies and came back to our ranch. Father went with the Indians to Crescent City, where they selected their pay in blankets, beads, powder, lead and groceries. Father's share of the payment did not cost him anything, for he gave my spotted pony, Billy, to the chief of the friendly Indians for the use of his boy, who was about my age. Thereafter I never saw that little Indian riding my spotted cayuse without feeling that someone had stolen my horse. I couldn't figure out whether it was my father, the little Indian boy, or the Indian boy's father; nevertheless, I knew I had been shortchanged in that particular deal."
Oregon Journal, Portland, October 6, 1934, page 4

Last revised February 13, 2024