The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1895


A Fertile Region with Varied Products and a Prosperous and Thrifty Population.

Special Correspondence of the Chronicle.
    GLENDALE (Or.), July 19.--Southern Oregon comprises virtually all of the territory drained by the Rogue and Umpqua rivers and their respective tributaries. Prior to 1856 it constituted the home and hunting grounds of the two most powerful tribes on the western coast, the Rogues and the Umpquas, who fiercely resisted the invasion of their domain by white miners and settlers. The latter received no peace until the general uprising of the Indian tribes in 1856 resulted in their permanent subjection and in the establishment of the white man's authority. There is nothing surprising in the dogged resistance which the Indians offered to the white man's occupation of it, for besides being one of the loveliest regions on God's footstool it is favored with a delightful climate and is studded with fertile and well-watered valleys, while its magnificent forests are alive with game, large and small, antlered, feathered, clawed and hoofed, and its streams, which flow from every hill and course down every slope, are teeming with trout and salmon. It was the Indians' earthly paradise once; it comes very near being a white man's paradise now, for not a suggestion exists in it of its aboriginal inhabitants, save in the presence of an occasional half-breed who follows wood-chopping or hunting for a livelihood. The full-bloods have been removed to either the Indians reservations or to the happy hunting grounds.
    Southern Oregon may be described as a great forest of sugar, Douglas and other pines, mingled with fir, cedar, madrone, mountain ash and oak, and this forest stretches over an area of several tens of thousands of square miles.
    Even the openings in the valleys are studded here and there with the finest growth. The rounded tops of the ranges are mantled with the somber foliage of fir and pine. Bald mountains are rare exceptions, and openings on the hillsides are almost invariably the work of man. To the Californian who crosses the Siskiyous and makes a sudden descent of 2700 feet in seventeen miles of railroad travel to reach the level of a tributary of the Rogue River at Ashland, Southern Oregon is a revelation--a land which surprises and interests him. He finds himself suddenly translated into a new climate and a new landscape, the former having some features in common with that which he has left behind, the latter having little, if anything, that is familiar.
    Taken at this season of the year, for instance, the great valley south of Shasta is in summer gray. Harvest has been over for some weeks; the hay has been stacked long ago, and the grain is in sack and either moving into the warehouses or toward the seaboard for shipment abroad; the fields are in stubble or summer fallowed, and the vineyards and orchards are ripening their crops. But here in Southern Oregon we are not half through with haying, and the harvesting of grain is some weeks off yet. The grass is green and rank in the meadows, and the forest undergrowth is full of ripening small fruits and a gorgeous array of wildflowers. We have a reminder in July of a showery California May, with a high temperature between the showers in the day and a low one through the night. The difference between the territory north and south of Shasta and the Siskiyous is greater than the difference which exists between the territory lying north and south of Tehachapi and Point Conception. The season in Southern Oregon is a month or six weeks later than it is in Northern California.
    Yet the Umpqua and Rogue River valleys have entered into competition with California in two lines of fruit culture--peach and prune growing, more particularly the latter. Thousands of acres of land in these two valleys have been planted in prunes. Prune and peach orchards mottle the Rogue Valley all around Ashland, Medford and Grants Pass, and in the Umpqua Valley the same horticultural developments manifest themselves in the neighborhood of Roseburg, Riddle, Canyonville and other settlements therein.
    What is of vital importance to the enterprising Southern Oregonians who have gone into the prune business is that it has proven so far thoroughly successful. The trees bear well, and prices have been good. The crop of two years ago brought 15 cents per pound. The great railroad strike and hard times cut down the prices last year to 7 cents, but that is said to have yielded fair profits, and it is said further that if anything above the latter price is realized from this year's crop many a mortgage which was created by fruit-tree planing will be lifted next fall in both valleys. The experiments in grape culture which have been made in Rogue Valley have been so far successful as to warrant the introduction of viticulture on a large scale, and the slopes of the foothills bordering on the valley are now regarded as better suited for vine-growing than anything else. The liability of the district to rain makes fruit-drying by artificial processes imperative, but fuel is abundant and cheap, and the fruit men here claim that there is less danger from infection by insect, through the use of artificial dryers, than by drying by solar heat.
    These new lines of fruit-growing are threatening to relegate apple-growing, for which all Oregon has hitherto been famous, to a secondary place in the industries of Southern Oregon. They are certainly having an appreciable effect upon the values of land. Orchard land in the Rogue Valley is now quoted at anywhere from $50 to $100 per acre, and in the Umpqua choice land adjacent to the more important settlements runs as high as $50 per acre, although "a snap," as an old-timer puts it, may now and again be encountered at from $10 to $20 per acre. The "snap" in question usually consists of a foreclosure or the urgent necessities of the owner of the land for ready cash for immediate use. Hard times overtook Southern Oregon, like other parts of the country, and "snaps" are said to be just now not uncommon.
    A Southern Oregon farm is ordinarily a thing of rural beauty. It is very different from a California ranch. The latter is a one-crop affair. The Oregonian believes in a diversity of crops. An average farm will have a field of corn, another of hay, still another of grain, a potato patch, an orchard, a tract devoted to root crops, a small vineyard for grapes and wine for home consumption, a stand of beehives, and a piece of wild land as a wood lot and pasture. But everywhere the farm requires protection from the raids of the deer which inhabit the surrounding forests, and high Virginia-worm fences are as common in Southern Oregon as rabbit-proof and barbed-wire fences are familiar in California. Nearly every farm is touched or traversed by a babbling brook or a broad and rippled stream, supplying man, beast and plant plant life with [an] abundance of pure water. And if the observer lifts his eyes from the many-colored picture which such a farm presents before him, they will rest on the somber forest-clad hills which surround it and form its appropriate frame.
    Hop-growing is also one of the agricultural industries of Rogue Valley, and therein will be found hop gardens quite as extensive and apparently as thrifty and productive as those of Pleasanton, Cal. In the smaller gardens the hop plants are trained on poles, but in the larger ones the wire-frame system in vogue at Pleasanton has been adopted.
    Cattle and hog raising constitute adjuncts to almost every Southern Oregon farm, but they are rarely visible in the open field and meadows. Their pastures lie in the wild and unbroken pine forest, which is full of suitable fodder, where the cattle are sleek and the swine grow fat and multiply.
    With such environment, is there any wonder that the Southern Oregon farmer is ordinarily thrifty and contented? Almost every farm bears the evidences of his thrift. The average farmhouse is a comfortable and commodious dwelling, which would be no discredit to any suburb of San Francisco. The outbuildings, such as barns, stables, cow houses and hog pens, are in good order, and they are usually substantial structures. There are no gaps left in the fences, and every product and resource of the farm seems to be turned to profitable account. If it be true that thrift is the handmaiden of prosperity, then the Southern Oregon farmer is prosperous, for he is certainly thrifty. All the communities which have grown up under the influence of the trade which his industry and enterprise have created are sharing in his prosperity, for they are passing just now from the temporary ramshackle condition of pioneer days to a state of permanency more befitting the times, as is manifested very conspicuously at Grants Pass, Medford and Ashland, where permanent and handsome structures of brick are displacing the temporary edifices of wood which formerly fronted on their principal streets.
    In a country where timber is so abundant it is strange how little attention is given here to lumbering. Except for fuel, there is apparently no use for the forests. All lumber used for building purposes comes from Portland and farther north. It is said by oldtimers that the forests of Southern Oregon are much more extensive now than when the Indians held full sway in the Rogue and Umpqua valleys. Then the young forest growth was kept down by the application of the torch, to facilitate hunting and to furnish fodder for deer. Now firing the forest is a crime, and its occasional occurrence, whether through accident or design, is regarded as a calamity. Where the heavier growth has been removed by the lumberer and the woodchopper, the young timber is crowding upward to the sunlight in denser growth than ever before covered the ground, and it takes only a comparatively short period in this moist and fertile region to rehabilitate the land which has been once denuded of its timber.
San Francisco Chronicle, July 15, 1895, page 3

Last revised April 15, 2017