Jackson County 1882


    We receive so many letters asking information concerning this part of Oregon that we find it most convenient to answer them in our columns. Our description of Jackson and Josephine counties can only be general without going into minute details. Jackson County embraces an area of twenty-eight hundred square miles; Josephine County about thirteen hundred, being jointly about three times as large as the state of Rhode Island. Of this area there is about one-eighth only cultivable, the remainder being mountainous and only valuable for grazing purposes, or for gold mining. The climate varies according to altitude, that of Rogue River Valley in Jackson County, lying 1,400 feet above the sea, being particularly genial and salubrious, snow rarely falling more than three or four inches in depth, and ice of greater thickness than half an inch being an exception. The same may be truthfully said of all the valleys of Josephine County. The rainfall is moderate, being a mean between the excessive moisture of Northern Oregon and the drought of Middle California, but sufficient for crops of every description. Wheat, barley, oats and corn are the staple crops. On the rich bottom lands sixty bushels of wheat to the acre is not an extraordinary yield, while twenty bushels on any land is an inferior yield. The other cereals, as well as corn, yield exceedingly well. The fruits are apples, pears, plums, peaches, grapes, cherries, apricots and figs, all but the two latter being extensively cultivated, and with the exception of an occasional season when a late frost injures fruit, all bear abundantly. Improved farms can be purchased at from eight to thirty-five dollars per acre according to character of improvement and locality. A few locations may still be found where small tracts of government land may be secured sufficiently large for those who contemplate fruit raising, which industry is destined to become one of our most important interests. Timber of the finest quality is very abundant, fir, yellow pine, sugar pine, black and white oak, ash, laurel and maple being the most common varieties. Saw and grist mills are plenty and are successfully managed. A woolen factory, located at Ashland, produces fabrics of the best quality and is continually adding to its capacity. Extensive experiments in the culture of amber cane have been made, both in Jackson and Josephine counties, during the past two years with very satisfactory results. The climate and soil are found admirably suited to cane culture, and it is safe to predict that with proper mechanical appliances sugar will be made here in large quantities for export. There is a moderate quantity of the finest vine land skirting Rogue River Valley inviting tillage, and a considerable quantity of delicious wine is manufactured annually, nearly all of which is consumed at home. For fertility, the soil of Rogue River Valley--the largest compact body of land south of the Willamette--is unexcelled, and for picturesque beauty the valley has no rival on this coast. Beginning in the angle made by the junction of the Siskiyou Mountains and the Cascade Range the valley stretches northward and widens, before the river is reached, into a beautiful expanse of grain fields, meadow and orchard, interspersed with groves of oak and other timber. The valley is highly cultivated and dotted with comfortable houses but is capable of supporting three times the present population as many of the farms are much too large for the actual wants of their owners. The mineral interest of this section is still quite important. Since 1852 it is estimated that over $30,000,000 in gold has been mined out in Jackson and Josephine counties and there is a large and industrious population engaged in mining and being well remunerated. Iron, coal, copper, cinnabar and marble are among our minerals, but for lack of transportation little or no developments have been made. The railroad, now being rapidly extended in this county by the Oregon and California Railroad Company, is to reach this valley within a twelvemonth, and its completion will open a market for our fine fruits and other products and give an impetus to every branch of industry. Nearly all denominations of religion except the Episcopalian are here represented, and the public schools of Southern Oregon are equal to and, in some instances, superior to those of most agricultural sections of the country. We do not advise any person to come here expecting a rapid fortune to accumulate without labor but to sober industrious people, willing to work, we say come and share the richest soil and the most healthful climate to be found in Oregon, for there is room for many more.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, April 15, 1882, page 2

    Jackson County is in Southern Oregon, bordering on the California line. Area, 3,000,000 acres; population, 8,154. Here corn grows, and figs and sugar cane [sorghum] are also raised. This is the only county in Oregon in which grapes are raised in sufficient quantity for wine-making. Many thousand gallons of wine and brandy this county exported last year. Fine fruits and garden vegetables thrive abundantly. This county includes the Rogue River Valley. There are bright prospects for the western part of this county, and [I] would like to live in it myself. The climate here is similar to that of Central California. Less rain falls here than in the [Willamette] Valley.
"Our Oregon Letter," New Holland Clarion, New Holland, Pennsylvania, May 27, 1882, page 4


    As the completion of the Oregon and California railroad, from Roseburg in Oregon to Redding in California, now a foregone conclusion, a brief sketch of the country through which it is to pass will doubtless be read with satisfaction.
    Those of us who have suffered the agonies of a dozen or more trips by the overland stage line have perhaps a more vivid conception of what is in store for "ye traveler" than he who has never braced against the bruises and tribulations of a night stage ride, over the Grave Creek Hills, across the Siskiyou Mountains or down the Sacramento.
    He who has gazed with interest, under such circumstances, upon the grandeur, beauty and diversity of the scenery along this route, may well anticipate the satisfaction he will feel when, reclining on the velvet cushions of a "Pullman palace coach," he is rushing over this selfsame country at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour, and inhaling poetic inspiration from the most genial breezes that fan the face of Nature.
    Having traversed the greater part of the Pacific Slope from Los Angeles to the Columbia River, and from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains, I can safely assert that nowhere can be found so equable and pleasant a climate, such diversity of scenery and production, more richness of soil or beauty of landscape, than are to be seen on this route.
    Roseburg, the county seat of Douglas County, is an enterprising town of nearly one thousand inhabitants. Until a few weeks ago it was the terminus of the O.&C.R.R. It is situated in the heart of the Umpqua Valley on the east bank of the Umpqua River, two hundred miles south from the city of Portland.
    It possesses many good buildings and has an extensive trade with the surrounding country. It is also the site of the U.S. Land Office for the Roseburg district, and aspired a few years ago to be made the head of navigation on the Umpqua River. To this end a congressional appropriation of twenty thousand dollars was secured and by dint of perseverance and outlay of money, muscle and steam, a steamboat was landed at its wharf. The event was hailed with joy by the people of the Umpqua Valley. The experiment, however, was never repeated and Roseburg lapsed into its former state of isolation until the advent of the O.&C.R.R. aroused it from its lethargy, revived its spirits and infused new vigor into its varied resources. The temporary terminus of the railroad being fixed at Roseburg created a boom not only among the merchants there, but also among the farmers and wool growers of the valley, and gave to the town an extensive forwarding and commission business for points to the south.
    The Umpqua Valley in unlike any other that I have ever seen, and is in fact no valley at all, but an extensive plain bounded on all sides by lofty, timbered mountains and made up of a succession of vales and low half-wooded hills. Its climate is less humid than that of the Willamette Valley and like the Rogue River it is never subjected to the droughts so frequent in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys of California. The ground is seldom frozen so as to interfere with the work of the farmer, and though sometimes whitened with snow it is rarely covered more than a few hours at a time. Frosts scarcely ever injure the crops, and a great variety of fruits and vegetables grow to perfection.
    Apples, pears, prunes, plums, apricots, peaches, berries and grapes are produced in abundance and of the finest quality. This valley ships yearly great quantities of wheat, rye, oats and barley. The soil is remarkably productive, and with increased facilities for shipping and travel it is destined to take rank among the most delightful spots on the Pacific Coast. It is remarkably well watered and the timber is so well distributed that little seems needed to complete its adaptability for the farmer, while the hill ranges furnish an extensive pasturage for sheep, horses and cattle.
    It is neither a timbered nor a prairie country, but a harmonious blending of the two, that adds as much to the beauty of the landscape as to the convenience of the husbandman. The timber consists of oak, ash, alder, maple, mountain mahogany, pine, fir and cedar, and supplies every demand for fuel, building or cabinet work. The North and South Umpqua are large streams, rising in the Cascade Mountains and flowing in a westerly converging course, until, reaching the center of the valley, they join and thence flow west to the ocean--a broad, beautiful river, but unnavigable by reason of rapids between Roseburg and Scottsburg, the latter being at present the head of navigation, about thirty miles from the ocean. Innumerable other smaller streams flow through the valley, wending their tortuous course among the thousand hills, through the grassy glades and groves of oak, cooling the air and giving vigor to vegetable and animal life.  The denizens of the Umpqua have strong hopes of a railroad that will at no distant day connect them with the coast at Coos Bay, sixty-five miles distant. The surrounding mountains are well stocked with a variety of game, among which may be found bear of the grizzly, black, brown and cinnamon species, deer, panthers, wildcats, and occasionally a band of elk.
    The streams furnish mountain trout, and salmon are plentiful in the rivers at the seasons for their runs. The railroad survey follows the same general course as the Oregon and California stage line, varied somewhat, of course, as the face of the country demands it. Several thousand men are now at work, and the din consequent to railway construction in this age of steam,, electricity and giant powder wakes the echoes among solitudes hitherto silent since the beginning of the world. All rejoice at this progress of civilization, except perhaps the invincible stage driver, who sighs as he sees his occupation almost gone, and looks with a jealous eye upon the driver of the iron horse, who impels his "fiery untamed steed" with a rush, a roar and a deafening scream over the route where for so many years he has held his half-despotic sway and narrated his adventures with fiendish satisfaction to trembling, frightened novices in stage riding.
    Leaving Roseburg we will now follow the old stage road southward. At the edge of the town we commence the ascent of a ridge which crowds its rocky point into the river, forcing the sparkling stream further to the west. Reaching the summit of this ridge, we pause to view the landscape o'er. Roseburg nestles in its little cove at the foot of wooded hills, looking fresh, bright and cozy beside its winding river. Pleasant cottages, prosperous-looking business houses, churches, schools, court house, and all that goes to make up a thrifty western county seat, with a laudable ambition to excel, is spread out to our view, and with its shade trees of oak, alder and maple presents a pretty picture for our contemplation. Bordering either bank of the river, where the hills do not crowd too closely are seen pleasant farmhouses and gardens, with oak- and fir-covered knobs and knolls for a background. The bushes at the roadside tell of one of the chief occupations of the people, bearing as they do stolen fleeces of wool from the sheep that graze among them. Above this point and further south, the valley bordering the river spreads its arms further to the east and west, and furnishes broad farms of level ground and excellent soil. Our road follows the river, and as we traverse its crooked course new attractions are constantly presented. Now we are passing around a rocky point, the road a mere artificial shelf cut in the solid wall, with a mountain above and the roaring river below. Anon we have passed the point of danger, and the sharp crack of the driver's whip rings out on the morning air. We go flying over a fine level road, with fences, farms and orchards on either hand. Thus in and out, now skimming along the water's edge, lulled by its ripple, again at a giddy height on the hillside, with a beautiful prospect below, or stifled in the dust of some neighborhood lane, our journey is sufficiently varied to keep both ennui and Morpheus at a distance. Oak Grove, until recently the first stage station, is 16 miles from Roseburg. Four miles further on, we reach Myrtle Creek, a pleasant little burg, with a prosperous farming community around it. About eight miles south is Riddleburg, at the present time the terminus of the railroad. Nine miles from Myrtle Creek, by stage, we reach Canyonville, at the extreme south end of the Umpqua Valley. This village constitutes the base of supplies for a fine farming country, stretching away for miles up and down the Umpqua River, which passes about two miles to the north and flows west by north. The railroad will cross the mountains through Cow Creek Canyon, about six miles west of Canyonville.
    From Canyonville to the southward our route lies over a heavily timbered and mountainous country, until we reach Rogue River Valley. We pass occasional settlements nestling at the foot of high mountains and half hid away beneath the shade of the ever-present forests of fir, cedar and pine. Many of these little vales and valleys possess all the attractions for which Switzerland is famous, except that which time and an industrious people alone can make. The people who dwell in these isolated nooks are necessarily frugal and industrious, and are fast making some of the most attractive homes to be found in the state, and only await the advent of the railroad to complete their comfort and conveniences. The soil in these little valleys is an accumulation of centuries, from the surrounding mountains, and is as productive as any that can be found anywhere. The climate is healthful and invigorating, and all that is needed for domestic use, except such articles as the latitude will not produce, is raised. Cow Creek, Wolf Creek, Grave Creek, Jumpoff Joe and Grants Pass are successively the settlements passed after leaving Canyonville and before we reach Rogue River Valley, a distance of about seventy miles. These settlements are all small and will come under the general description given above. This stretch of country has a great many gold mines which are being worked with profit, principally placer. Without stopping for further observation, I must hasten on to  Rock Point, a little hamlet on the north bank of Rogue River just in the northwest corner of the valley of that name. It contains a store, saloon, hotel, school house, blacksmith shop, and is a station on the overland stage line. The river here is a roaring, rushing torrent, deep, clear as crystal and filled with a plentiful supply of trout, and in the springtime with salmon. Its turbulent channel is here spanned by a bridge, though the one crossed by the stage is about two miles farther up the stream, and is a very substantial structure, having crossed which, we are fairly into
which I conceive to be the most pleasant and desirable one on the Pacific Coast. It has an altitude of from one to two thousand feet above tidewater. It seems to be peculiarly adapted to the highest perfection of the apple, the pear, the peach, the plum, apricot, quince, grape, the blackberry, strawberry and raspberry. Almonds are produced in abundance and the fig tree grows well, but does not produce abundantly. The climate is remarkably healthful, and the high mountains surrounding it give off grateful breezes which temper the summer's heat. Rogue River Valley is bounded on the north by the Rogue River Mountains, east by the Cascades, south by the Siskiyous and west by the Coast Range. Its greatest length is from southeast to northwest, and the distance about forty miles. It is irregular in shape but has an average width of about eight miles, though in places it is much wider. The river which gives name to the valley rises among the snow peaks of the Cascade Mountains, and flowing west through the north side of the valley finds its way, after a tortuous course through deep dark canyons and overhanging forests, to the ocean. I venture the assertion that no valley on earth, in its natural state, presents so many delightfully pleasant features of landscape as does this one, or whose surrounding mountains afford more of the grand, rugged, picturesque and sublime, as do the Cascade and Siskiyou mountains that bound the valley on the east and south. Jacksonville, the county seat of Jackson County, occupies a cove at the junction of the Siskiyou and Cascade Range of mountains, eleven miles south from Rock Point. Without describing the delightful ride between these points, through the groves of fir, pine, oak and maple, I will invite the reader through the streets of Jacksonville, and to the summit of the hill at the foot of which it stands. We now find ourselves between five hundred and a thousand feet above the town, and with a magnificent prospect spread out below us. Immediately at our feet, nestling in its little mountain cove, shaded with oak and maple, whose leaves are tinted with the bright colors of autumn, stands the town through which we have just passed. Its neat and tasteful residences, its school houses and church spires, and its solid buildings of brick bespeak wealth and prosperity, and a population of nearly 1,000 people. Its hillsides and ravines furnish an index to its history as a mining town. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been taken from the earth, and yet its gravel beds are not allowed to rest undisturbed, though the attention of the people has long since been directed to other pursuits, and now agriculture forms the chief occupation of the valley, though mining is still carried on to a considerable extent, and but a few miles away is worked the heaviest mining machinery of the state. A great variety of precious metals have been found, and the prospector remaineth not idle during the winter months. Looking now to the north and northeast, the valley spreads out in all its beauty. Bright fields of stubble and groves of oak and fir blend in fine relief. Farm houses and barns, orchards and vineyards, dot the level plain as far as the eye can distinguish these smaller objects. The course of numberless streams are easily traced by their sinuous lines of maple, alder and ash, while in the distance rise the noble Cascades, already whitened by the approaching winter, and Mount McLoughlin, capped with eternal snow, its symmetrical form towering 10,000 feet above the sea, and standing as a monarch of the giants that modestly crowd about his foot. To the northeast are other shining peaks piercing the sky and dimly seen because near 100 miles away. These are the rough jutting points that stand as sentinels guarding that mystic spot, Crater Lake. The Table Rocks stand as natural wonders in this panorama to the north, with a history clustering about them which I have no time here to chronicle. To see all that may be found of interest, one should spend a summer here and explore the hundreds of nooks, crannies and coves that reach out into the surrounding mountains, and the little valleys that are hid away from the casual observer. Every home has its orchard and vineyard, its grain field, its garden and its "woods pasture." I known of no spot where the people live so independently and enjoy such advantages of climate and soil. Seventeen miles southeast from Jacksonville is the town of Ashland, by far the handsomest village in the state. It has a thousand inhabitants, is growing rapidly, and presents advantages which are sure to build up here one of the chief towns south of the Willamette Valley. Ashland has two drug stores, two hardware establishments, four general merchandise establishments, two or three minor stores, two hotels, [a] large and popular flouring mill, a large woolen factory, two large cabinet factories, marble works, one newspaper, two fine church buildings, an excellent college, and a fine public school, but no saloon. It is situated directly on the line of the O.&C.R.R. on a fine mountain stream that furnishes [an] abundance of pure, cold snow water for all purposes, manufacturing and otherwise. The town is more than usually attractive. The lots are large, and nearly every lot has its orchard, its garden, and ornamental shrubs and flowers. The soil is of granite and consequently neither mud nor dust is produced to a troublesome extent. The valley at this point is not more than a mile wide, but the mountains to the north have but little timber, and, possessing an excellent soil, are farmed halfway to their summits. To the south the Siskiyou Mountains rise abruptly and are clothed with magnificent forests. Besides the fruit of this valley, there is no part of the coast that can outdo it in the quality or quantity of its vegetables, its wheat, rye, oats and barley. The mountains furnish an abundance of sugar and yellow pine, from which the finest lumber in the world is made. There also abounds in the streams the festive trout, the joy of the angler, and among the woods and canyons bear, deer, elk, panther, cougar, wildcats, etc. so that the searcher for game and pleasure need not go away dissatisfied. Ten miles farther up the valley is a cluster of soda springs, already a place of great resort, and which promises a wide fame when the R.R. comes along to enable the outside world to reach them. Ashland is the last town in Oregon as you go southward, the first reached from California. Following the proposed line of the railroad, from Ashland to the state line it is about 25 miles, though on a direct course it is only fourteen. Leaving Ashland our course runs to the southeast for eight miles where we commence the ascent of the Siskiyou Mountains; though steep, the distance is not great, and when the summit is reached a magnificent landscape greets the eye. The Klamath and Shasta valleys are spread out before us, and Mount Shasta, 14,440 feet high, seems almost within a stone's throw, though sixty miles distant. Its eternal snow, its glaciers and pinnacles of ice shine like polished steel in the bright sunshine, and all other objects seem dwindled to insignificance. From the summit of the Siskiyou to the California line is about two miles, and we soon find ourselves whirling along toward Yreka, the first town of significance after leaving Oregon.    C. B. WATSON.
West Shore, Portland, October 1882, pages 184-185

Last revised January 31, 2020