Jackson County 1884

    I left Smith River at 9 p.m. in drenching rain, taking an open stage. All night we went over the mountains with the "Oregon mist" beating upon us. We had no adventures save that a gust of wind blew out our light and left us to grope our way over gulches where a misgrope would have landed us at the bottom of gorges a thousand feet deep. We had only one upset and that luckily threw us out upon a friendly sand heap. At 8 a.m. we reached the station, where we found fire and breakfast, and was committed to the care of Old Frank who built the road over the mountain from this place to Waldo, 32 miles distant. All day we rode and all day it rained. I was mounted on a long-legged, sure-footed bucking pony. I had on a dress coat, an overcoat, a gossamer and an oiled muslin coat and suppose that I was grotesque enough to suit the most distorted fancy. I rode on and over the wild mountain road; my horse bucked and Old Frank swore at the pack horses; the rain held its own with an occasional spice of snow and hail.
    Late in the day we arrived at Waldo, and the good landlord of the hotel made me happy by building a rousing fire and helping me to dry my thoroughly soaked clothes and baggage. I remained here two days and, for the first time, visited a gold mine. I also shot a fine lot of squirrels, and altogether had a good time, such as only Oregon can afford. Game of all kinds very abundant here. The country not agricultural. There is some fine pasture and fruit land in the valley of the Illinois. Mining is the leading industry. I took the stage here for the city of Jacksonville, in the Rogue River Valley, passing through some good country in Josephine County along the Applegate River.
    Just at dusk we reached our destination and after a night's rest at the U.S. Hotel--one of the worst I ever saw set--about to see this world-famed valley.
    It is a country unlike any other. From its peculiar location and surrounding mountain ranges, it has a climate peculiar to itself. Located between the dry regions of California and the excessively rainy regions of the Willamette and Umpqua valleys, it seems to be the ideal country, climatically. The county has an area of 8,000 square miles, but only a third of it is agricultural land. The valley is entirely surrounded by mountains, with here and there a few buttes and and ranges of high hills, which make the scenery of the grandest order. For the most part the country is well watered; the valley proper is a prairie country, though the foothills and mountains afford plenty of timber. The land is not all fertile by any means, but there is much of the very richest land. Anything raised in Indiana can be raised here, and, with the exception of corn, to greater perfection. Wheat often yields 50 bushels per acre. On clean land it is not necessary to sow wheat oftener than every third or fourth year. Six crops in succession have been harvested from one sowing. Col. J . E. Ross told me that he cut the sixth crop from one field having cut it every year--which yielded him 74 bushels of 62-lb. wheat per acre. Think of it! Six crops from one seeding and a yield of 75 bu. per acre! Of course this is not often done, but the fact shows what the country is capable of. Fruit is largely raised and, excepting grapes, the quality is equal to California's best products. Five-pound potatoes are common. So are Chinamen. The insect enemies common in Indiana, except the fruit tree borers, are unknown. Think of it; no worms in fruit, no potato bugs, no cabbage or currant worms, no weevil of any kind and no horseflies nor mosquitoes.
    Lands range in price from $2.50 per acre to $100, owing to location and improvements. The soil is varied--good, bad, indifferent and very bad. The natural grasses will support stock all the year. Snow seldom falls and ice half an inch thick is a great rarity. I was in the valley 15 days in January and the people were plowing every day. Wheat, oats and barley at any time from October till March. Ripe wheat will stand without injury for a month; it is cut in August. No rains from June to October, sure, yet corn never rolls.
Scott Morris, "Oregon Letter," The Plain Dealer, North Vernon, Indiana, March 13, 1884, page 1

    Passing to the inland valleys, first south of the Willamette lies the Umpqua, very pleasant, very fertile, but also very small. It is just about one farm wide, and, of course, all of this limited amount of bottom land has been occupied these twenty years. It has some of the most pleasant and comfortable farmhouses in Oregon, and I am inclined to think that this comes nearest to that ideal climate which exists in theory, but not in fact. The trouble is that when we reach that place where the rain gauge indicates just enough moisture it is not well distributed. It is all put into six months of the year, and the other six months go dry. Even in the Willamette Valley the fall season is almost entirely without rain, and dust as well as mud is a feature of that section. As we go south this fall drought increases, and in the Rogue River Valley, where we look for perfection, we begin to hear people talk about irrigation.
    The narrow Umpqua Valley along the river is shut in by high hills with bare flanks that are admirably adapted for grazing. These hills are backed up by others that are higher and rougher, so that the valley lands of the main river or branches are the only lands sought. These lands form but a small fraction of the whole watershed, and thus it is that a country with so much territory has so little land for settlement. The lower part of Rogue River is hemmed in like the other streams, but about Jacksonville and Ashland is found the largest body of level, open land south of the Willamette. But here we strike pine barrens, or pine lands, along the foothills that are merely sand from decomposed granite. The broad, naked mountainsides that shut in the valley have few trees and little sod, and we miss those green-ribbed hills that flank the Umpqua. But this open bottom land, which is a score of miles long and five or six miles at its widest, has often a dark, rich soil that is quite productive.
    It is the most northern valley in which the grape thrives, and its peaches and apples are probably the nearest to perfection of any on the coast. In the Willamette Valley the trees in all apple orchards are covered inch-deep with moss. Here they are clean and healthy-looking, and if they do not bear better fruit they look as if they ought to.
    The only corn cribs yet seen are in this Rogue River country. Further north the crop is not a successful one, partly because it does not ripen from too-cold nights, and partly from the difficulty of keeping it from molding if ripe, as the cob never seems to dry out. It is as in a fruit country, however, that this most southern valley of Oregon is likely hereafter to distinguish itself. It now for the first time has railroad communication with Portland, and can there find a market for its fruits at figures that may pay something above the large prices here demanded for transportation.
    Taking a traveler's view of Western Oregon, its climate may be set down as everywhere healthy, free from extremes of heat or cold, and not subject to sudden changes of temperature. Thunderstorms are unknown, and the tall growth of timber, or the remains of it, in all sections along the coast bear witness to an absence of any serious wind storms.
    In the Umpqua Valley there was a week this winter with a few inches of snow on the ground, and the thermometer read within 5° of zero. This is a minimum for several years, and except for the one week the ground has been bare and out-of-door life a pleasure. The man who comes here for land will find an old-settled country, where everything desirable was long since taken up and the wild land only such as a woodsman would care to enter. Improved land is held at prices ranging around $20 per acre, and the improvements are generally not gilt-edged. In fact, the whole country looks older than any other this side of the Alleghenies, and the danger of the coming settler seems to be that he also will get moss-covered and lazy, and in a land that produces everything learn to live mainly on bacon.
    In talking with an old pioneer who came to the coast in '49, and has since lived mostly in Oregon, he extolled the virtues of his state and particularly those of his ranch in one of the best valleys tributary to Rogue River, where all the vegetables and fruits grew to the greatest perfection. There had he raised a large family and seemed surrounded by all the rude comforts that a pioneer could ask, but in a moment of confidence the man confessed that he was going to sell his ranch and go to Idaho to raise stock. The moral of this story is that if there is any paradise out here its gate will open to any man who comes along with money in his purse.
"Oregon: A Traveler's Observations," Chicago Tribune, April 8, 1884, page 6

    EDITOR CHRONICLE: As we take much pleasure in reading the letters of your correspondents from various parts of our glorious and diversified country, describing its productions and resources, climatic conditions, etc., it has occurred to us that perhaps a few lines from this extreme northwestern state might be the means to while away a few spare moments at least, to those who would take pains to read it. We have no oranges or alligators here to speak of, neither have we any floods, cyclones or blizzards to chronicle, but a more congenial climate, the year round, or a more healthful, easy and desirable country to live in, we are quite sure would be hard to find. While we are in nearly the same latitude as you, our coldest weather rarely marks lower than eighteen or twenty degrees above zero, and our warmest scarcely ninety; and neither lasts more than a day or two at a time. Wild flowers can be found blooming ten months in the year, and I believe all our feathered songsters, except the bobolink and swallow, are satisfied to remain in Southern Oregon all the year round. Snow seldom falls in the valleys to cover the ground more than twenty-four hours at a time, and little or no provision is usually made for winter stock that runs at large. Farmers put in their crops for six or seven months and gather for four and five. In fact, there is no month in the year but that neither planting or gathering is done, and yet, snow on the high mountains, and but a few miles off, can usually be seen for seven or eight months of the year. Wheat, oats, and barley are the principal cereals grown; but corn, in favorable localities, is also a good paying crop. Rye is not a favorite crop in Oregon, but yields remarkably well when planted. All the southern tier and coast counties are very broken and mountainous, and perhaps not more than one acre in a hundred is adapted to cultivation. The mining interest brought most of the early settlers here and the influence of successful gold mining became so firmly fixed in their minds, that no other business seems to have any lasting charms for them; and the blighting effects of that chronic mania--gold hunting--is plainly visible throughout these extreme southwestern counties, in their undeveloped resources and neglected farm improvements, by the idle and unprogressive portion of the inhabitants. Comparatively few of the oldest settlers have the comforts and conveniences about them that those have who came in the country after the exciting days of gold hunting had become a thing of the past, and who turned their attention to farming, stock raising, and wool growing. We are anxious to see live, energetic and progressive people moving in here and taking the places of these fossils and Rip Van Winkles, which can [be] easily done--as they nearly all want to sell--by paying them from five to fifteen dollars  per acre for their farms. We believe few or none would regret having exchanged their Atlantic homes for others on the shores of the broad Pacific, and in a far more salubrious clime. Farther north, in the larger valleys, and in the great and grand Willamette, a different class of people settled, and went to work improving their farms and surrounding themselves with the comforts and luxuries of life, and are now enjoying the fruits of their labor. There the price of land is very high and but few caring to sell.
    Two of these extreme southwestern counties--Curry and Josephine--have been neglected by permanent settlers, that today their entire population combined numbers less than this village. Jackson County, with its eight thousand inhabitants, is the oldest one in the southern part of this state, and contains about one third the population in the southern tier--seven in all. So you see there is still plenty of room for people to settle in either and all of these large counties. Heretofore it was believed that only the valley lands were adapted to agricultural purposes. But a few practical demonstrations have proved that the mesas or table lands along the foothills produce better wheat, fruit and grapes than the valleys. Much of these lands is yet in the hands of our great and generous uncle, and he is very anxious to have his industrious and intelligent sons of the East come out and possess them. Many little fertile spots along the numerous mountain streams can be found of sufficient size to make comfortable homes by growing fruits, grapes, berries, etc., and have free and unlimited outside range for stock. We are only prompted to say this for the special benefit of those who are desirous of getting homes on the easiest terms, and in a most inviting and healthful climate. We have never lived in Florida, but fancy it an overheated and unhealthful country, especially for people born and raised in a much higher latitude. Very warm days, sultry nights, unrefreshing sleep, and poor water, are among the things that few of us crave.
Yates County Chronicle, Penn Yan, New York, April 9, 1884, page 4

    The Oregon and California railroad will be opened to Ashland, three hundred and forty miles south of Portland, on the 5th of May. Considerable work has been done south of Ashland; two of the largest tunnels have been bored, and the road graded a short distance to the base of the Siskiyou Mountains. This work has been temporarily suspended, owing to the embarrassment of the Oregon and Transcontinental Company, and will not be resumed until the future policy of that company is decided upon at its annual meeting in June. There is no doubt, however, that the road will be completed sometime to its junction with the California and Oregon railroad at the state line, thirty miles south of Ashland, and this connection will be made sooner, perhaps, than present appearances would indicate. When completed, the line between Portland and San Francisco will have a large fast freight, express and passenger traffic. It will be the most picturesque route on the Pacific Coast. The portion now completed has scenic attractions of great variety and interest, and people living in Portland and the lower valley could not make a pleasanter excursion, particularly at this season of the year, while the earth is "flush as May," than a trip to Ashland would afford as soon as trains begin to run to that place. The cultivated portions of the country may perhaps be more accurately described as in their glory in autumn, when the ripe fruit hangs thick upon the trees and the golden grain covers the land. But when the apple trees are in blossom, and the dogwood and skunk cabbage, having, as Miss Cooper says, made an accurate guess at the season of the year, and spread themselves upon the palette on which the Paint King sets the colors of the year, the landscape as a whole is probably at its very best. A ride through the Willamette Valley at any time almost is sufficient to sustain the confidence of Portland people in its continued prosperity and growth. For it is from this valley largely that the wealth of Portland has been derived. Situated like Tyrus of old "at the entry of the sea," Portland has been similarly "replenished" by the tribute she has levied upon the traffic of the Willamette Valley, which is capable of supporting a population of more than a million, who will contribute still more to the growth of this city and to the value of the transportation routes which terminate here.
    After leaving the Willamette Valley the railroad passes through the Calapooia Mountains to the Yoncalla Valley and thence to the Umpqua, which is a succession of valleys among the hills, all very fertile and inviting spots for villages and farms. The South Umpqua Valley, through which the railroad runs on leaving Roseburg, is one of the richest parts of the state. But on either side of the road there are other valleys ensconced among the hills, of equal beauty and fertility, which will furnish, when fully developed, a large traffic. The road leaves the South Umpqua about twenty-five miles from Roseburg and enters the Cow Creek Valley, which is about thirty miles in length, and though narrow is fertile and capable of producing much more grain, hay and fruit than it has heretofore done with only a limited local market to stimulate production, while beyond on either side are ranges for stock. This has been a good sheep region, but the coyotes have now control of the country and the flocks are dwindling to small proportions. At Nichols, a station named, we presume, for one of the heroes of the battle of Hungry Hill, who still lives in the valley, the railroad begins its tortuous course through the Cow Creek Canyon, where the scenery is wild and the country incapable of much cultivation. Some of the hillsides are rich, and if the elevation were not too great they might bear grapes, but a good deal of the soil is a decomposed white granite, which cannot be profitably cultivated in any crop. The mountains, however, are full of timber, some of which, as the sugar pine, is very valuable. The railroad passes by many places of historic interest. Near Glendale is Hungry Hill, where the most disastrous battle in Oregon was fought. Grave Creek, Jump-off Joe and Table Rock are all associated with events of tragic or grotesque interest. At Grants Pass the railroad begins to ascend the Rogue River through a narrow valley, with here and there an open space inviting settlement, and all the way placer diggings, some of which are now profitably worked and more might be if water could be had for washing the gravel. Winding around Gold Hill the railroad passes out of the mountains into the famous Rogue River Valley, which has been so often described, though it is really the Bear Creek Valley, a branch of the Rogue River, which the railroad follows up to Ashland at the foot of the Siskiyou Mountains. The railroad leaves Jacksonville on the right about four miles from Medford, a new town situated in the center of the valley, and destined apparently to become the center of trade for that region. It has already some business and good prospects. At Phoenix, the present terminus of railroad traffic, an addition has been projected to the quiet old town. This is seven miles from Ashland, which for the present, while it remains the terminus of the railroad, will enjoy special advantages for business, such as Roseburg had during the ten years the railroad stopped there. This town is delightfully situated. It has an air of thrift and comfort, and, though it has no special boom, there are unmistakable evidences of assured growth. It is the manufacturing town of the county. The famous Ashland woolen mills, a fine flouring mill, a sawmill, two furniture and sash and door factories, and a number of other establishments run by machinery are located on Ashland Creek in the immediate vicinity of the town. Supplies for Fort Klamath and for the stock raisers of Lake and Klamath counties are purchased here and freighted by wagons to the points where they are required. This alone brings to Ashland a profitable trade, aside from that of the wealthy farming community in the neighborhood. A portion at least of the business in the mining regions below, at the prosperous town of Yreka and other points will reach the railroad at Ashland, and probably some of the cattle from the ranges east of the mountains will be shipped there.
    In another article more will be said about the country and railroad which is inviting it to a new and larger growth.
Oregonian, Portland, April 26, 1884, page 2


STAFFORD, Or., April, 18, 1884.        
Editor Willamette Farmer,
    I met with Pomona Grange at Salem April 3rd. Was rejoiced to find present so many of our tried veterans, among them Bro. White of Butte Creek, and Bro. Bonney of Woodburn Grange. Spent the night pleasantly with the editor of the Willamette Farmer and family. Bro. C. is busily engaged on his farm, while our kind hostess is as ever busy in the performance of household and editorial duties. On the morning of the 4th, W.S.M. [Worthy State Master] and myself took the train for Roseburg; Bro. Owens met us at the station with a cordial greeting. W.S.O. [Worthy State Overseer] Buick and Sister B. met us on the morning of the 5th, ready as usual to labor for our Order. At 1 o'clock we held a meeting, at which W.S.M. Boise proved to his hearers the interest he so ardently feels in the agricultural portion of this rising state. Took the train at six, for Myrtle Creek, where we spent the Sabbath with Bro. and Sister Buick, enjoying our visit amid those romantic hills and fertile valley with the true Grange relish, and on Monday morning, that we might have an extended view of the country by daylight, boarded the freight train at 8:30 for Grants Pass, a distance of seventy-five miles. Having crossed the Umpqua River at Myrtle Creek, we coursed our way along its western bank, some ten or twelve miles from Cow Creek, where the railroad leaves the Umpqua and enters Cow Creek Canyon. Here we seated ourselves on top of the car that we might enjoy the delightful scenery along the creek and over the mountains. There is some mining done on the creek. Here we passed out of the farming country, and the iron horse pulled us up, up, up for miles in the canyon, through tunnels and along mountain gorges, until we came to the divide, where we passed through two tunnels and shot out to the other side of the mountain, the appearance of the entire country being changed; the mountain steeps consist of granite. The pine and manzanita bush reminded me of the gold fields of California in '49 and '50. The road follows down along the side of the mountain until it reaches Wolf Creek, where it forms a complete loop and winds its course toward Rogue River, the country being rough and almost barren. Arrived at Grants Pass, on Rogue River, about 4 o'clock. The farming land here is quite limited. This place may in the future make quite a shipping point for Josephine County, if the inhabitants can succeed in raising such products as will demand a greater price in the market than the railroad company charges for transportation.
    After spending the night, crossed the Rogue River on the 6th, and traveled some fifteen miles to Applegate Creek. Here we found a nice little valley, the lowlands producing corn and sorghum; the syrup made from it is every good. Fruit, particularly peaches, grows abundantly in this valley.
    We visited the Grange Cooperative Store, kept by Bro. Powell, for Washington Grange. They have at present a $5,000 or $6,000 stock of goods and are doing an excellent cooperative business. Spent the night most pleasantly with Bro. Basye and family. Attended Washington Grange on the 7th, and was surprised at the concourse of Patrons met in the hall, who made its walls ring with vocal and instrumental music, which delightful exercise seemed to be conducted by the sisters, who are wholehearted Grangers. W.M. [Worthy Master] Day finally called to order and Judge Boise addressed the meeting for an hour and a half, in which everyone seemed interested. Then followed the tables laden with delicious delicacies enough to satisfy a company three times its number, at which we all labored faithfully. Order being again restored, your Lecturer was requested to favor them with an address. We had a very interesting meeting and many a cheering word was spoken for the good of our Order. The Patrons of this remote locality are deserving much credit for their praiseworthy and heroic conduct, and for their indomitable perseverance, for which at every meeting they seem to realize a full compensation. With reluctance I bade adieu to friends so generous and kind.
    There having been no other appointments made in Josephine and Jackson counties, and wishing to accomplish as much as possible during our brief sojourn, the S.M. [State Master] visited as far as possible in the former, while I traversed a portion of the latter county laboring in behalf of the Grange, explaining its objects and urging upon the citizens the necessity of immediate, earnest cooperative action.
    On the 10th went up the Applegate to Poormans Creek. The country as we proceed further east seems better adapted to the raising of stock. Hydraulic mining is carried on to a certain extent, but water seems to be scarce. After traveling fifteen or twenty miles obtained a bird's eye view of Rogue River Valley proper. The lovely valley spread out before us like a rich panorama, dotted with fine farms, presented a spectacle beautiful to behold, while the grand old Siskiyou Mountains standing to the south and Mt. McLoughlin, with her eternal snowcap, and the Cascades to the east and north, seemed to say: "This is my treasured farm, trespass not."
    We proceeded about five miles into the valley, called on Bro. Mingus, last Master of Jackson Grange, who after a lengthy conversation decided that it would be best to converse with other brothers throughout the valley, which I did, spending the night with Bro. Plymale; my companion, Bro. Clappel, tarried with Bro. Walker. April 11th. Bro. Walker took his team and hack, and we visited the farmers in various sections of the valley, while Bro. Clappel returned to his home on Applegate.
    The renowned Table Rocks stand in the northwest part of the valley, and to the south is the farm of Col. Ross, whom we visited, finding him a granger both in heart and practice. His farm is in order and everything about it bespeaks taste and refinement. Found the Colonel engaged in tanning deer skins, which reminded us of early days.
    I saw large fields ready to plant to corn and sorghum. Went through Bro. Walker's mill for crushing cane and making syrup, of which he can manufacture two barrels a day. The valley has not yet produced enough for home consumption. Am informed that it grows very large upon black soil, though it is sometimes caught by frost, but always ripens upon thin soil. The yield of syrup per acre is from sixty to one hundred and twenty gallons. In my opinion the raising of sorghum is the most inviting business for farmers of Jackson County, as the manufacture of sugar would soon follow, while they could find ready market in the various sections of this large state, and we should import nothing which we can successfully raise at home. It will be necessary for fruit growers to resort to the drying and canning processes, as the freights by rail are so enormous that no profit would return to the producer upon green fruit.
    We are in hopes that there may yet be several Granges organized in Jackson County. The little town of Medford is upon the line of rail, five miles from Jacksonville and near the center of the valley, and I think ere many years will be the principal town in the county.
H. E. Hayes, Willamette Farmer, May 2, 1884, page 7   End of the letter not transcribed.

    After a very long, monotonous ride of ten days of the usual amount of roar and jolt of the train, I arrived at this place last Monday morning about 5 o'clock. When I stepped out on the platform, I saw no one I knew. I looked around, found myself a stranger in a very strange land. I was landed in Rogue River Valley. I could see the sun pushing the usual eastern light far above the mountain peaks. I noticed my time, and found I had gained about two hours and a half. Rogue River Valley is very pretty, about 30 miles wide and about 75 miles long, all nicely improved, on either side of which rise the Cascades from the beautiful lawn, higher and higher until you see snow here and there. Now and then a cloud obstructs the view, but upwards they go until they lift their venerable heads into the regions of snow and ice the year round. Mt. Pitt lifts its head far above all the rest, and is covered with snow all the year. It is about 40 miles from here, and can be seen only when the clouds are very high. The valleys all along the Oregon and California R.R. are very rich farming land. If they were to have rain as they do in the States, crops would grow so rank that much would go to waste. All farms, large or small, are called ranches. The land is of a black soil with sand enough in it so as not to be very sticky, and works very fine. There is so much nice fruit here that it is like the Garden of Eden. Crops and fruits of all kinds are advanced about as much here as the difference in time is. I am very much in love with the valleys of Oregon. Don't see how anyone could but like it here. All the country I saw between the states and the coast, Indiana, Illinois, and the valleys here are the prettiest of all.
"Letter from E. F. Merriman," Goshen Times, Goshen, Indiana, May 22, 1884, page 5

Last revised January 26, 2020