The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1867

ROSEBURG, August 2, 1867.
     When we left Eugene, I took a seat with the driver, so as to have a fair view of the country, and soon we were rolling away up the "Coast Fork." For several miles the valley is broad and beautiful, but as we approach [the] Calapooia Mountains, it grows much narrower. The road passes through a very low gap in these mountains, and the ascent is so gradual that it is not easy to mark the precise locality of the summit. From the summit on for several miles, the road is a toll road. It is rough, being a corduroy, but is far better than a mud road. The country is very rough and hilly until we reach Yoncalla, which is one of the most charming little valleys that I have seen. The Umpqua Valley has been described so often that I will not attempt it. It has been called a "valley of valleys," a "valley of hills," &c. I think the hills predominate, and yet there is so much beauty and diversity in the landscapes that I like it very much. The low lands are very rich and yield fine crops of grain and vegetables, while the hills are sufficiently fertile to make good pastures. It is one of the finest grazing districts in the state, especially for sheep. I am told that one of the Applegates owns 12,000 sheep, and many farmers have from 500 to 2,000 head. Transportation is so high that there is but little grain or flour shipped from here. The surplus grain is converted into bacon, which is hauled to Portland or Scottsburg. At
flour is selling at $6 per barrel, wheat 75 cents per bushel, bacon 10 cents, and beef 7 to 8 cents at retail. This pleasant little town and the hills around it are nicely shaded by wide-spreading oaks, that remind me of the live ones of Louisiana. It contains 3 stores, 2 blacksmith shops, 1 wagon shop, 1 saddler shop, 1 hotel, 1 saloon, and a good flouring mill. The trade and business of Oakland is large for a town of its size. Mr. E. A. Whittlesey, the Assistant Superintendent of the California Telegraph Company, reached here today with his party, repairing the "line." He commenced work on the line at Portland on the first of May, and has spent three months between that point and Oakland. The posts are all reset and thoroughly braced with cedar braces, and the old insulators are all removed and new ones inserted. When this job is completed, the cry of "line down" will not be heard so often. Mr. W. informs me that it is about as much work to overhaul and repair the old line as it would be to get a new one.
was the last day of July. At Oakland the thermometer stood at 107° in the shade, and at Roseburg 110° in the shade. Persons from various places in this vicinity have informed me that the plums, where exposed to the sun, were cooked to the center; and, I saw today bunches of grapes that were cooked, and even the stems were killed. The leaves on the most exposed side of a maple tree, in this town, were killed from the excessive heat, and dried so that they might be rubbed into powder.
is an old-looking town, and I should judge from its appearance that it got its growth several years ago. There are no sidewalks in the town, and as this is in "the black mud" region, I suppose the inhabitants hibernate indoors. Roseburg contains about two hundred and fifty to three hundred persons, and has the appearance of being rather a dull town.    P.W.G. [P. W. Gillette]
Morning Oregonian, Portland, August 5, 1867, page 3

ASHLAND, August 4th, 1867.
        At Dardanelles, eleven miles north of Jacksonville, is the beginning of one of the prettiest valleys in Oregon. It is about 40 miles long, and from two to twelve miles wide, and runs in a northwest and southeasterly direction across the country. The face of the valley is beautifully diversified with level and undulating lands; with broad prairies and sparsely timbered groves of oak and pine; with voluptuous hills, and crystal streams gushing from the surrounding mountains. There is, perhaps, no richer land in the state than that found in this valley; and where is the scenery any finer than here?
is situated near the foothills on the west side of the valley, and is the largest town south of Albany, containing about 1,000 inhabitants. It is the center of trade for the surrounding agricultural and mineral districts. The town, though rather dull at present, exhibits marks of enterprise and prosperity. The streets and sidewalks are very good, and there are many fine residences, and a number of good brick stores and business houses. The goods, groceries, &c., from abroad, used in this county, are brought in by way of Crescent City, at a cost of about $100 per ton for transportation, and anything that is shipped away from here is subject to the same enormous tax. Hence, it is not surprising that the people of this locality are clamorous for a railroad.
    In going from Jacksonville to
sixteen miles southeast, we pass through Gasburg--once a flourishing little town, but now a dilapidated village with vacant houses falling into ruins. It is said to be the haunt of fever and ague, caused by the stagnant water of that vicinity. Ashland is located on Bear Creek, in a very healthful and pleasant place near the southern end of the valley. It contains a grist mill, saw mill and marble factory now in operation, and the Rogue River Woolen Manufacturing Co. are erecting their factory building. The stone wall foundation is already laid, and the framework will be ready to raise in a few days. This enterprise will give a new impetus to the town and surrounding county, and will doubtless prove a "success" to the company, because it stands in the midst of the best wool-growing district in the state. The machinery is to be propelled by the water of Bear Creek.
    Mr. J. H. Russell of this place is manufacturing marble slabs from marble obtained in the vicinity. The marble is of an excellent quality--beautiful, and of a peculiar formation. It is different from any I ever saw. It is translucent, very hard, and appears to be a mass of large crystals connected together. When highly polished, it gleams in the sunlight almost like diamonds. His saw is run by water power, and so hard is the marble that the saw only penetrates about three inches in a day. So it takes many days to saw up a block.
    Yesterday I visited the farm of Hon. L. Applegate, where I found much to please and interest me. Mr. A. irrigates his land, and now it is as green as spring, while the surrounding country is parched and barren. The luxuriance of his corn fields, vines and vineyard almost made me fancy that I was in the Mississippi Valley again. Here I found an abundance of ripe plums and pears, the first I had seen this season. There stands in his yard several large oak trees, with Catawba grape vines clambering over their tops, just loaded with immense clusters of grapes. As this valley is subject to extremer drought than the Willamette, it needs irrigating. There has not been a drop of rain here for three months, and it may be three more before they have any. I found here Hon. J. Wagner and Capt. McCall, whose kindness and hospitality I cannot forget.    P.W.G.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, August 12, 1867, page 2

    August 10th, 1867.

is about ten miles southeast of Ashland, on Emigrant Creek. This spring is an object of interest, and a source of health and pleasure. It belongs to Dr. Caldwell, who is well prepared to accommodate visitors, health and pleasure seekers. The spring is very clear, and sparkles with myriads of little globules bubbling from the fountain. The water is strongly tinctured with soda, and has a pleasant flavor, and is said to contain valuable medicinal properties. We found several invalids there, drinking its waters. Quite a number of persons go there now, in summer, and the time is not far off when this will be a fashionable resort.
    As I was so near, I concluded to see the southern boundary of our state, so I took the stage at Ashland for the "Toll Gate," kept by the Applegate Bros., on the Siskiyou Mountains. At the foot of the mountains we halted at the "Mountain House," to exchange horses. This house is kept by Mr. Casey, who has a fine farm and broad pastures, kept green by irrigation, upon which numerous droves of cattle and sheep are fed, preparatory to ascending the mountains. At the Toll House I was joined by Gen. E. L. Applegate and two of his brothers, and at 5 p.m. we set out for
on the summit of the Siskiyou Mountains, distant about ten miles. We packed our luncheon and blankets on a horse, leaving us nothing but our guns and spyglass to carry. At dark we camped by a spring, in the abode of panthers and grizzly bears. In the night we heard the fierce scream of a panther, but nothing molested us. We arose at 3 o'clock, and after taking coffee set off on foot for the rock, still about four miles ahead. Our intention was to be there in time to witness the sunrise, but the brush was so thick and the ascent so difficult that before we reached our destination the sun had been shining over the land an hour. Just before we reached the summit, we drove a huge grizzly bear from his bed, and as he fled through the thicket one of our party fired at him, but the shot did not take effect, and away he went crashing through the brush, over the summit and down into California. We reached the top of the rock at half past six a.m., quite exhausted by fatigue. This giant rock, according to the best estimate yet made, stands precisely on the 42nd north parallel, and consequently the boundary line between Oregon and California runs over the top of it. It stands on the summit of the Siskiyou Mountains, and, at its base, is nearly or quite one-fourth of a mile in diameter, and towers one thousand feet above the ground upon which it stands. We made the ascent from the north side, through a winding canyon or stairway, which reaches to the top. From the top of this magnificent pile, distance only obstructs the vision, and it seems like the whole world was spread out at your feet. You look down on the great Klamath country on the east, Siskiyou County, California, on the south, the Coast Mountains on the west, and Jackson County on the north. Away to the northeast, the great Cascade Range stretches away towards the north until lost in distance, while the far-off Sierra Nevadas fade away in the southward. Sixty miles south stands Shasta Butte (the rival of our Hood), piercing the sky like a monument of alabaster. Yreka likes hid among her hills, but the little town of Cottonwood, California, gleams in the valley below, and the Klamath River meanders through the mountains at our feet and glides on to the sea. Pilot Rock was the great beacon or guideboard to the early travelers of this country, enabling them to find the pass in these mountains. The top of the rock is about 6,500 feet above the sea, and a stone thrown from its top falls over one thousand feet before it strikes the earth. We amused ourselves by rolling huge stones down this frightful precipice, and it was grand to see them bound and hear them thundering down the deep abyss. Before we left, we "laid a cornerstone" and build a monument, and deposited--not a "bottle of whiskey," nor "greenbacks," but simply a paper bearing our names and the date of our visit. While we were laying the "cornerstone," the General made a speech appropriate to the occasion, and characteristic of "Lish." An eagle has built her nest in a niche, near the top of the rock, which she inhabits alone, for I saw no other signs of animal life. The juniper trees on the top of this mountain are stunted and bear the marks of years and storms, and the oaks are mere dwarfs, only two or three feet high, yet they bear acorns. The Siskiyou Mountains are the chain connecting the Coast and Cascade ranges. The road across this mountain is first rate, and passes through the lowest gap in the range.    P.W.G.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, August 16, 1867, page 2

(Delayed Letter.)
JACKSONVILLE, Aug. 4, 1867.
    I have traveled down Snake River in a miserable skiff, glided over the Cowlitz rapids in an Indian canoe, and rode in all manner of small boats in the boisterous waters of the Columbia River about Astoria, but nothing of that nature makes me feel so skittish as a night drive on the stage, over the mountain waves of the Umpqua Valley. Sometimes scaling dizzy heights, and rapidly wheeling over "grades" around abrupt hillsides with yawning gulfs below, or, plunging headlong down into some dark valley, you know not how or where, is by no means pleasant to the inexperienced stager; and when colored by a dark night and backed by a vivid imagination, it is capable of producing the most peculiar sensations. But I suppose it's all a "notion"--the driver says there is no danger, and he ought to know. There seems to be fewer accidents by stage, than by rail, or by water, so it must be the safest way to travel, unless one goes "on foot." Staging is almost science, and the system and order by which this long line is conducted is quite wonderful. The Oregon Stage Company have been fortunate in securing the service of a corps of gentlemanly and obliging agents, and safe and intelligent drivers.
    We reached
at four in the morning, tired and sleepy. But I soon found a comfortable bed at D. C. McCallan's, who never fails to make the wayfaring man as comfortable as possible. Canyonville is at the end of the "good country," or, as some fellow says, "the last of God's country." From there on south for thirty or forty miles it is mountainous and barren, with a few small exceptions. This little place is new but thriving. It has 3 dry goods stores, 1 drug store, 2 blacksmith shops, 1 wagon shop, 1 saddle and harness shop, 1 boot and shoe shop, 1 photographic gallery, 1 hotel, 2 saloons, 1 brewery, 1 grist mill and 1 tannery, besides two sawmills, and one grist mill near the town, and a distillery, not now in operation. The people of the town and vicinity are enterprising and intelligent, and stick closely to business. This is the strongest Union precinct in Douglas County. Canyonville is situated at the mouth of the great
    This canyon was first explored in 1846, by the Applegates, and through their efforts a road was opened through it. It is nine miles long, and for many years was the dread of every traveler on account of the almost impassable condition of the road. But now it is one of the best roads in the state--a toll road. The canyon is very narrow, walled on either side by mountains high and steep. The soil is poor and rocky. The trees are heavy with long, gray moss that makes them seem to have grown old with weary years of sucking life from the sterile soil of this solitary place. From Canyonville to Rocky Point (12 miles north of Jacksonville), the greater part of the country is mountainous and barren. There are a few good farms on Cow Creek; a tributary of the Umpqua, and also a few on Grave Creek, a tributary of Rogue River, and there is some good land along the Rogue River bottoms. We passed through several mining districts, where acres and acres of the "bedrock" is left bare, the soil having all been washed away, leaving the face of the country looking as desolate as possible.    P.W.G.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, August 17, 1867, page 2

YONCALLA, Aug. 20, 1867.
    These hot days and warm nights, as well as the wild grape vines on the creeks and valleys climbing over shrubbery and trees, the native plum trees, blushing with loads of crimson fruit; the great bunches of mistletoe on the oaks and pines, and the broad fields of luxuriant corn--are indications that the climate as well as the productions of Southern Oregon are quite different from that of the north part of the state, and reminds one very much of the Middle and Western States.
    I saw on the farm of Mr. H. Conn, near Roseburg, a field of corn containing 60 acres. His farm lies in the "South Umpqua" River bottom. The land is very rich, and produces corn almost equal to the western prairies. Small grain, grass, vegetables and fruit of all kinds yield remarkably well upon these bottom lands.
    The rich valley lands of Jackson and Douglas counties are already valuable, although so remote from market, and so locked in by mountains. But so soon as the railroad is built to carry away their abundant products, their value will be enhanced fourfold.
    In my rambles through the Umpqua, I have fallen upon some of the most charming little valleys that can be found anywhere, among which are Cole's Valley, near where the Umpqua plunges into the Coast Mountains; and Garden Bottom, and the French settlement just above, as well as the country at and above the junction of North and South Umpqua rivers--Yoncalla and others--all of which are rapidly growing into homes of wealth, pleasure and intelligence. I visited the scene of the atrocious "Roseburg Riot" of last Christmas, and entered and inspected the room where the horrid tragedy was enacted. It is about six miles from Roseburg, on the South Umpqua, at the house of Mr. Champagne. I also heard the detailed statements of several persons who were present and witnessed the whole affair, and there seems to be no room for a doubt that it was an unprovoked and premeditated outrage, of too base and malicious a character for any but the most depraved to engage in. The case now seems to have assumed a political aspect--the Copperheads of the locality, with a few exceptions, siding with the rioters. I found
at home, busily engaged in the affairs of his farm. It is a treat to converse with this intellectual pioneer. He is a man of deep thought, close observation and extensive learning--one from whom something may always be learned. Being one of the earliest settlers of Territory, and having watched its rise and progress, he is a living history of the state. In exploring the country, opening roads and developing our young state, no man has done more than Jesse Applegate. I have met many of the subscribers of the
    This paper has been a great favorite among the people of the southern counties of Oregon; as well as in California, but there is not one in fifty of its patrons, that I have seen, who endorse its course in the present political campaign in California. And very many of them declare they will not countenance or sustain that or any other paper that refuses to support the Union nominations. I can see among the people a fixed determination that no newspaper, or man, can, or shall, destroy the Union organization. And it is an object of pride to know that the people of the loyal states acknowledge no leader but the right. Seward was once the great chieftain of his party; Johnson, Dolittle, &c., were favorites, but the great loyal people dropped them in a twinkling as soon as they varied from their standard of principle. Many of the
are disheartened, and quite discouraged on account of the short crops and the low price of grain and other farm products. It is true that the present crop is below the average and prices are not so high as usual, but that is not sufficient cause for men to give up and lie down to scold about low prices. Now, it seems to me, that when the profits on the staple articles of the country are small that it would be necessary to produce the greater quantity to make up the deficiency. But the reverse of this has been true in Oregon. Whenever an article gets a little low, nearly everybody stops producing it, so that there is always a "feast or a famine" among us. Whenever it is known that there is always an abundant and constant supply of any of the staple products of the farm, such as flour, grain, bacon, &c., in any state, locality or country, the simple fact that the article is always to be had there opens to it a great channel of trade, and it always has an equal chance in the great markets of the world. Suppose, for instance, that it was known throughout the flour-consuming world that there was always a very large quantity of wheat for sale in the Willamette Valley, at the general market price; how soon would the railroad and steamboat men open a channel to this fountain of trade and wealth, and there would not be half so much danger of monopoly, for the quantity and reliability of the trade would invite competition. Capitalists will never build roads, railroads and steamboats until there is something for them to do, and the more there is for them to do, the cheaper it can and will be done.    P.W.G.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, August 24, 1867, page 2

Last revised September 10, 2019