The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1896

    Jan. 15, '96.
    EDITOR DEMOCRAT:--When I left Estherville there was a great many of my friends wanted me to write them and tell them how I liked the country and give them a description of it and its resources. When I came out I came over the Northern Pacific; there was nothing of any note until we got into the Bad Lands or Lava Beds and from there on we began to see a different country, and the first mountains we saw were in the morning as we were coming into Helena, Montana; then we saw Mt. Adams, the snow-capped fMtn. the year round. After leaving Helena we went through a tunnel and there we were over the divide going down the Pacific Slope, and the scenery was grand. My neck was lame for some time from looking up at the mountaintops and tall trees. When we came to the Cascades and instead of going over them we went right through a tunnel, I don't know the exact length of it but they light the lamps and it took about five minutes to pass through it. The first town of any size we came to after leaving St. Paul was Tacoma. From there we went south and crossed the Columbia River by ferry; it is about one and a half miles wide at that place. Then we came to Portland and had to stay there that night and the next day and I crossed the river again over to Vancouver and called on one of our old townsmen, Mr. Rice, the jeweler. He likes the country first rate and says he is doing well. That night we took .the Southern Pacific for Grants Pass and arrived there at one o'clock the next day; we were five hours late on account of a wreck. Grants Pass is a town about the size of Estherville, situated in the Rogue River Valley. The industries are fruit growing, lumbering and mining gold and copper. I stayed there about a week and visited with my brother and some of my Clay County, Iowa friends and could find nothing to do so I came to Gold Hill, eighteen miles up the river and in the same valley. The valley is wider here and there are some fine farms in it, and the best mines in Southern Oregon are in this county, which is Jackson. Gold Hill is the hill this town derived its name from. There was a quartz pocket taken out of it some years ago that amounted to $200,000. There are several good placer mines in operation around here that employ from six to seventy-five men. Although times are very hard the miners get from $1.00 to $2.00 per day and there are two men for one place all the time. I don't see how half the people live. You will see them running around with pick, shovel and pan, and ask them what they made and they will invariably say they took out from two to four bits, and half of them don't take out more than two colors. I want to say right here that don't any of you come here expecting to live by day's work; if so you will get left. I rent a little shop here and work as cheap as we do in Iowa and pay almost double for stock as we have to in Iowa, but the climate is all right. I haven't seen ice since I have been here, only artificial which is made up at Medford by the brewery. Fruit is plentiful and cheap and so is wood and flour but oats are 25¢ and corn is 50¢. Hay is from $8.00 to $12.00 per ton and you people would call it straw. They cut wheat and oats when it is headed out and cure it for hay. There are three saw mills near here and [illegible]. The best fir and pine in the [illegible] seven dollars per thousand so you can build cheap. They don't lath and plaster they just cloth and paper, and a great many live in tents and log cabins. I will not tire you further this time and will close with my best regards.
Estherville Democrat, Estherville, Iowa, January 22, 1896, page 3

Scenes in California.
    James McNeill, formerly of this place, is now viewing the wonders of California. In a letters to Wm. Cain, of Richmond, he describes many things of interest that will pay all to read. Here is the letter:
Riverside, Cal., Feb. 10, '96.
    We have a little more cause to remember that part of our journey (from
Portland to San Francisco) than any other. Indeed, we will not soon forget the night we spent in the Siskiyou Mountains. At about 9 o'clock on the night of the 29th, we left Portland for San Francisco on the Southern Pacific. Our train was a heavy one, consisting of ten cars, including mail and express cars, all well filled and equipped. Our course was up the valley of Willamette, of which valley and river
we had but a glimpse, and that by moonlight only. The next day found us in the Rogue River Valley and at Grants Pass, a very pretty little city, for dinner. In this valley we saw many ranches, orchards and homelike places. Everything was green and growing, and the day beautiful. It was a great relief to see the green earth again, after looking for days on plains and mountains covered with snow. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon we arrived at Ashland, the last important city on our road, in Southern Oregon. Here we took on an extra engine and commenced to climb the Siskiyou Mountains which are a spur of the Sierra Nevada, running westward toward the coast. They are perhaps from ten to twelve thousand feet high and very ragged. To the southward we could see abundance of snow, but did not think of getting into it again. All the same, within two hours we were climbing around the sides of snow-clad mountains, looking down upon the green valley, through which we had been traveling a good part of the day. Our ascent continued with little interruption until 6:30 o'clock, when we reached Siskiyou Station, the highest point on the road. Leaving the station we passed through a tunnel nearly two miles in length and came out on the other side of the mountains to find rain coming down in torrents. lo less than half hour our train came to a stand still caused by a land slide ahead. While waiting for the track to be cleared we took the opportunity to reconnoiter the situation. It looked anything but safe and desirable. We were hugging the side of the mountain with barely three feet of space to spare. On one side and two thousand feet below us, a mountain torrent, swollen by the heavy rains, was tearing its way to some distant valley. On the other rose an almost perpendicular wall of rock. The rattle of the rain on the roof of our car, the roar of the torrent beneath us, and the distant booming of occasional landslides, all combined to make our situation look anything but cheerful. But we were not destined to remain here all night, as many surmised. Within an hour we were again moving, but slowly and cautiously. In our car, filled with people accustomed to travel, one heard neither laughter nor ordinary conversation. No one ordered his berth made up or felt in the least inclined to sleep. I presume everyone, like myself, was thinking, "What if one of those miserable laudslides or restless boulders should take it into its head to rush down upon our train?"
    I imagine there are few places in all these mountains where such a happening
would mean less than utter destruction to passengers, crew and train. From 7 o'clock till long after midnight our situation changed but little. There was the same constrained quietness within, and the deafening roar of the elements without. Our train twisted and turned, wound around towering precipices and over roaring canyons, stopping frequently for the removal of earth and rocks from the tracks, or for the examination of bridges or trestles, with always the roar of waters above and waters beneath us. Finally weariness got the better of watchfulness, and one by one our company sought their berths and tried to sleep. I must have slept, for I was all at once aware that it was broad daylight and that we were speeding down the Sacramento Valley with a broad expanse of level land on one side of us and a tremendous river on the other. We ran into Sacramento, not disgusted that we were six hours behind time, but glad that we were there at all and alive. It is said that no bad accident has ever happened to the Southern Pacific in these mountains, and that such is the excellency of the train service here and the precaution against accident that no passenger has been killed on this part of the road. Be that as it may, I am satisfied that those in charge of our train were among the best and most level-headed of railroad men, and that on their part no pains were spared to ensure our comfort and safety. From Sacramento to San Francisco we made the run with
miles of water on either side of us. I was anxious for Mrs. McNeilI to see the beautiful lands and farms that lie between these two cities, but we could only now and then get a glimpse of the green, so mightily did the waters prevail.
    Our first afternoon in the Pacific Coast city was spent in a comfortable room of the Russ Home, wondering if the rain would ever let up. Next morning, however, the sun came up in a cloudless sky and promised us a fine and glorious day. And so it proved to be. No wind, no clouds, nothing but bright, mellow sunshine and agreeable warmth, with clean streets, green lawns and oceans of flowers everywhere. After thirty days of intense cold, snow and rain, we seemed all at once ushered into a veritable dreamland of beauty and splendor.
    Having set out early to make a day of it, we boarded a cable car at the foot of California Street and rode three miles through the finest part of the city. We were then transferred to a motor car and within thirty minutes landing at the Cliff House, beyond the Golden Gates and on the very brink of a real ocean, the largest in the world--a body of water containing 77,000,000 of square miles and surpassing in extent the combined area of all the continents and islands of the earth.
    We spent the day wandering through the world-renowned Sutro Park, or sitting on the balcony of the Cliff House, looking out over the ocean, and thinking, "How little and helpless we are, after all." Here thousands of sea lions may be seen, buffeted by the waves or sunning themselves on the rocks, while their eternal yelping may at all times be heard above the roar of the ocean's wave. There is nothing in nature that overpowers me like the ocean. I can look at a mountain peak, however lofty, and talk of its grandeur and sublimity. I can gaze into the deepest canyon and think of its age and origin. Before the ocean I am dumb. It is difficult for me to speak, or even think in its presence. Those who say I cannot remain in one place or lie quiet for five minutes at a time should see me in the presence of the ocean.
    San Francisco is a beautiful city, built on many hills, with broad, clean streets and neatly kept lawns. It has been called the city of palaces, and it certainly deserves the name. Nowhere in our land may you see finer business blocks, hotels and private residences. The latter, however, are by far the most sightly and handsome.
    We left San Francisco for Los Angeles and arrived at this place on the evening of the 28th ult., and here we are surrounded by orange and lemon groves till you can't rest. I may have something to say about Southern California and its cities when I know more about them. Yours,
Hagerstown Exponent, Hagerstown, Indiana, February 26, 1896, page 2

Talent, Ore., 4-18-'96.
    Ed Review: Those of us who have been former residents of northeastern Iowa feel ourselves highly flattered at having been visited by ex-Gov. Larrabee and family yesterday. Their car stopped over one day at Ashland, five miles south of Talent, and knowing that R. S. Barclay's folks and others of his former acquaintance lived here, he took a special and called on us.
    There are the Carters, the Millses, and other former acquaintances and neighbors of the Larrabees, at Ashland, who also were highly pleased by a visit with old-time friends of as distinguished character.
    R. S. Barclay and son, Hall, formerly farmers between Postville and Clermont, are now engaged in the merchandise business at this flourishing suburban village. The Carters, formerly bankers at Elkader, are bankers and capitalists, and D. R. and E. V. Mills are dry goods merchants at Ashland.
    This world-renowned Rogue River Valley, by some termed the Italy of Oregon, is now out in its haughtiest colors of green for a ground work, and blooms of all colors for filling. If I thought your intelligent readers would be pleased to know it, I might write a lengthy letter descriptive of this romantic region of the country. Of its perpetual snow, held back by extinct craters. Of its numerous towering cliffs of rock. Of its subterranean caves, with lakes and streams of water clear as crystal and cold as ice the year round. Of its forests, so dense being dark at midday. Of its wild animals and fishes. Of its picturesque rocks, in all colors, as if flounced to beat art. And last and most beneficent to man, our thermal climate.
    If any doubt these assertions just ask Gov. Larrabee, or anybody who has been here long enough to see around.
Very respectfully,
    S. Sherman.
The Postville Review, Postville, Iowa, April 25, 1896, page 3

A Description of its Soil, Climate and Products.

    The following paragraphs, commendatory to the Rogue River Valley, are taken from the columns of the Garfield, Washington, Enterprise. The gentleman who signs the article is a former resident of Medford and a son of A. S. Johnson of this place:
    It is not easy for a person to form a correct idea of Rogue River Valley, Jackson County, Oregon, without visiting it; and even then a hasty tour, although instructive, is apt to be misleading in many particulars, unless accompanied by close observation and the most diligent inquiry. In topography, climate, water, soil and products it has its own peculiar character.
    Climate--Possibly no subject can interest the home-seeker more than that of climate. If such be the ease, no section will bear the scrutiny of close observation or scientific investigation and give so favorable results as Jackson County. In its climate this delightful region has combined advantages of other sections, without the accompanying drawbacks. It enjoys the warmth of summer and the frosts of winter without extremes of either. Having rainfall ample for all purposes.
    Soil--The diversity of soils and the admixture of the elements, composing one class of soil with those of another grade renders it exceedingly difficult to describe. The soil of all sections of this country seems to be adapted to the climate or the climate to the soil. To classify as nearly as possible, consistent with brevity, we have bottom, prairie, adobe, granite and a sand and clay soils. These soils are all good for special crops adapted to the nature of the soil.
    Products--The same widespread variety of soils manifests itself in the products. Take, for instance, any of the valley farms and on them you may grow, with a reasonable amount of industry, all that is necessary for the support of man or beast, including fruit from the semitropical to the most hardy varieties.
    The mildness of the climate and the absence of any prevailing disease among stock makes this an inviting field for stock raisers. Some of the best stock ever grown on the Pacific Coast was the product of this country.
    The success attending fruit culture is no longer an experiment. This country is fast becoming noted in eastern and foreign markets for its fine fruits, especially apples and pears. Ample shipping facilities give to Southern Oregon fruit growing a most inviting field for profitable industry, which bids fair in the near future to excel in commercial importance any one if not all others of her commercial interests.
    The principal game consists of blacktail deer, brown bear, black bear, grizzly bear, otter, martin, jackrabbits, two varieties of quail, pheasants, grouse, wild geese and wild ducks. An abundance of fish is found in all the principal streams comprising salmon, salmon trout, speckled trout, mountain trout and other varieties of freshwater fish.
    Prices of land--Some fine improved farms, from three to four miles from Medford, can be had for from $20 to $30 per acre, and from $1000 to $1500 will buy a pretty good home a little farther away.
Medford Mail, August 21, 1896, page 4

    Our train had an observation car from Dunsmuir to Ashland, that is from 9 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon. After we had lost sight of Mt. Shasta, we struck the Siskiyou Range. The scenery here is uninterrupted for more than 100 miles. Nothing but rocks, canyons and mountains clothed with a bristling coat of pine and fir. About the most wonderful thing in this part of the country is the freak of engineering it required to run a road through such mountains and valleys. In one place the road descends 2,300 feet in seventeen miles. Just over the line in Oregon it descends 4,100 feet in eight miles. You put your head out of the car window on
the right, twist your neck around and look almost perpendicularly above, and you will see the shelf that the train passed over twenty minutes ago; then look out of the other side down the steep mountain, 2,000 feet or more, and you will catch from time to time a glance of the shelf that you are going over twenty minutes later. This road, literally speaking, is a three-ply road. It has three strands, double and twisted. In this portion of the mountains it is laid out somewhat on the plan of
doughnut. It is looped around itself two or three times, dives down at one side, comes up in the middle of the strands, falls out over the outside line, and runs down through a deep canyon on a kind of a corkscrew plan.
    About this place we struck Ashland. Ashland is the first town of importance in Oregon. It is the gate to the Rogue River Valley and it is reputed to be the best valley for fruit in either the West or Northwest. It has the appearance of a fertile and fruitful valley. There were several fruit stands at the station, and here I got some Hungarian prunes nearly two inches in diameter. I also got some peaches known as the strawberry peach. I had been looking for these peaches through California, but found them very scarce. They are white with pink cheek, large and luscious, and remind one of the best peaches of New York and Ohio. They were fully an inch in the drupe. The yellow peach, the big California yellow peach, seems to have the right of way in this country. All other kinds are scarce. To me the big, pompous, well-dressed California yellow peach is about as luscious and juicy as a baseball. While I was admiring and praising the fruit, a dealer said that I must not take it as a specimen or sample of the Rogue River country. "The season this year has been unfavorable, the fruit started too early and was injured by the severe weather." I thought if this was the result of a failure. I would like to see Rogue River fruit when at its best. They say here that California ships fruit from this part of Oregon to the east under the California brand.
    Out of the Rogue River Valley we passed into the Umpqua Valley. Coming through these valleys and over the Siskiyou Mountains, the weather was exceedingly hot. If you complain of anything out here, the natives say: "That is something unusual. You have struck us in rather an unfortunate time. I have never seen anything like this before. I am in this country going on twenty years, and never remember of seeing it so hot and dry." Of course there is nothing wrong or unnatural in this. For the most part they say that everywhere. Taking the country, however, on its general merits, it needs few apologies; still I believe this hot weather is common in these parts of Oregon »nd California. All day long the thermometer hanging over our seat in the Pullman registered 100 degrees, notwithstanding the ventilation and current of air in the car, yet in this heat and wilting sun, the trees look fresh and are of a deep and healthy green.
J. F. Nugent, "Nugent in California," Daily Iowa Capital, Des Moines, September 17, 1896, page 8

Trout Fishing on the Rogue River.
    Do you want to catch a trout? If so, I can tell you where to go. But as you are so far away, let me take you and all our readers upon a trouting trip I recently took. We are to go for some of the finest fish that swim.
    Take a map of late date. Look at Southern Oregon and find the Rogue River (by the way this river was so named before l came to dwell upon its banks), find the city of Grants Pass. It lies nestling among surrounding mountains. Here I am at present domiciled in the M.E. parsonage. Have a good charge, fine people, excellent climate, and so am happy.
    I think my proclivities toward the sport of angling are known to some of the people of your vicinity. If I have any one weakness more reprehensible than another it is a special delight in inveigling a fish to bite at a hook and to surprise the simple thing by throwing him out on the bank. Let me say, however, that these Oregon trout do not inveigle worth a cent. They are by no means as simple as your eastern "bullheads," or your Kankakee "dogfish." I once deemed it "rare sport forsooth" to sit on the banks of the sluggish Kankakee and with a wriggling worm on my hook catch a few mud cats or pull out a lazy dogfish. Since coming into these western lands and tasting the sports of the angler along these rushing, roaring, foaming, splashing, dashing, mountain streams, you could not run fast enough to coax me to throw a hook with a worm on it into your stagnant pools or sluggish streams back in old Indiana. Bah! Let the indolent sleepy fisherman if he likes sit yawning in his boat by the hour on Clear Lake waiting for a nibble of a "pumpkinseed" or a "bluegill"; let him if he prefers to fight Kankakee mosquitoes and spend a day after a half dozen "mud cats." No more of that in mine. Give me the indolent fly, or the spinner spoon, the split-bamboo rod just a trifle larger than a good buggy whip, the plunging mountain torrent, with its boiling pools, and rocky beds, its dangerous banks, its icy waters and its swarming trout that have eyes as sharp as those of the eagle, that seem to even be able to see you when you start from home and constantly watch your every maneuver from the time you start till you fling your fly into the boiling pool just above his nose, as you try to fool him in believing a luscious morsel has accidentally dropped within his reach. Then if you can by hook or crook inveigle him to jump for it and can hook him strongly you have no lazy "bullhead" at the other of your line, neither is it a "pumpkinseed" that will accommodate you by immediately surrendering and willingly slide out to the bank for you. You must fight for it if you master him. The instant he feels the prick of the hook, if he is a good-sized one, your reel makes merry music as your line runs swiftly out. Now comes the time for skill on your part. He must be persuaded to stop before all your line is out or off he goes with [the] hook or tears loose. He hopes for a kink in your line or that you will inadvertently give him a straight pole instead of the bend of it. He must be kept from rubbing his nose against a rock or you lose him. Look out now, for he is making for that sunken limb that he may wind your line around it for a solid tug at it, for if so he gives a rush, pulls out the hook gives his tail a saucy flip and then laughs a fishy laugh at you from some pool farther down the stream. Take care now or he gets into that deep pool where he is making for where he will sulk on you at the bottom and refuse to come up at at your bidding. Now after trying his many well-known arts to outwit you he pauses in his endeavors to learn what you propose to do with him. You reel in slowly thinking the fight is now over and that he has surrendered. You are badly mistaken. In an unguarded moment you inadvertently give a slackness to your line, a thing he has been patiently waiting for, when with a flash he whirls his tail against your line, flirts the hook cut of his mouth and is as as free as is the bird which cleaves the air above your head. Well, possibly after about ten thousand have outwitted you, you may be able to land one and you feel as proud as a conquerer.
    The trout of this river at this season of the year are known as the salmon trout. They follow the salmon up from the ocean at spawning time and feed upon their roe. They run in weight from one to fifteen pounds. What magnificent fish they are, beautiful, gamey, sly, cunning, quick, and as fine fish to eat as swim. They take fly, spoon or salmon eggs. Well, now about that trip I promised you. The crack fisherman of all this valley is the pastor of the Presbyterian church [Robert McLean] of this city. It seems strange that a rigid Presbyterian takes so strongly to water as does this fellow. Soon after my arrival at this place, I suppose rumor reached him that the new Methodist preacher who had just arrived proposed to compel him to divide up the honors of angling and not attempt to carry them all. At least I soon received from him a kind invitation to cast a fly with him in the upper waters of this river. Deeming it a good time to demand a dividing of the honors of successful angling, I accepted. On election day after trying to help save the country we betook ourselves to conveyance for an upriver trip twenty-five miles away to the salmon beds where this expert knew the sharpest trout of creation were just spoiling for some verdant fisherman to try a contest with them. Our way led mostly along the side of this lovely mountain stream. We would wind around cliff and rocky crag, down into darkening chasm and woody dale, then up some steep slope to plunge again down into some frightful canyon, on over exhausted placer mining grounds where a million dollars in gold had been taken out of a few acres of ground some time ago, on we went till gaining the summit of a high ridge when a lovely sight burst upon our view. Before us for miles away stretched a lovely valley off towards the east and south with old Mount Pitt rising two miles high in glistening grandeur with his fresh garments of newly fallen snows crowning his brow and shoulders fifty miles directly east of us.
    I endeavored to impress my companion as we rode along by relating stories of my expertness in catching bass and pike in eastern waters. Seeing that they seemed to strike him as stale and uninteresting, I turned to more exciting accounts of the capture of trout along the the streams in the northern woods skirting the base of old Mount Hood, and in the limpid waters of the Santiam coming from the everlasting snows of Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters of the Cascade Range, farther to the south. I noticed as I thought a peculiar twinkle to his eye and a smile of distrust upon his countenance as I dwelt upon my former success. I surmised finally that the old maxim was perhaps running through his mind viz: "The proof of the pudding is chewing the string," so I concluded to hold in reserve any more evidences of my skill till we should reach the banks of the river. It was a wise conclusion. I should have thus concluded sooner. I have learned this since coming west; you cannot "stuff" these western fellows.
    Do you recall the old recipe for cooking a trout? It begins: "First catch him." It is well that the author laid down that in the beginning; it so often saves the cook much useless preparation.
    By four o'clock with rod and reel, fly and spoon, line and snell, I stood ready to listen to terms of capitulation from my staunch Presbyterian yoke-fellow that he would divide equally the honors with me without compulsion on my part. I waited. He did not then divide. So with a scientific whirl I cast my first fly into the rushing water. My friend watched with interest. And would you believe me when I say the very first cast I made, no trout rose in response? Neither, I think, did any even deign to wink at my fly for the next five hundred casts I made. I changed flier, going from "Brown Hackle" to "Royal Coach," then to the "Professor," back to "Brown Hackle" with a red body, then to the spoon, and back to fly, only to grow desperate as the twilight began to deepen. I think not a trout in the whole Rogue River even flipped a fin towards jumping at my hook. As darkness deepened I concluded to ascend the stream to where my friend was standing in midstream hip deep and note his results. Three as pretty fish as I ever saw were strung up weighing from three to five pounds as trophies of his success over me. Whistle as merrily as I might and appear as unconcerned as it was in my power to do, that evening, I know that he could detect my secret admiration of his abilities, and deep chagrin over my flat failure. As we were to fish during the next forenoon I concluded under the circumstances not to ask then for a division of the honors. I thought best to wait. I waited. It was best.
    By daylight next morning attired for the fray, and dressed in wading pants water tight to my waist, borrowed from a friend, I sallied forth to fine fishing grounds downstream a mile, hinting to my friend that if he met with no satisfactory luck by noon he might come down and help me carry back my catch to the buggy. I fished till noon and he did not come. I presume he thought there was no special need of his coming. He was right. There was none. I had not landed a scale. Sometime however about nine o'clock an old trout, out of pure pity, I think, commiserating [with] my discouragement and well knowing I never could land him anyway, twitched my spoon. My reel spun around and line ran out for a hundred feet or more. I was nearly jerked out of my breeches, and that old trout after dreadfully near drowning me curled his tail around against my line, reminding me of a saucy boy with thumb to his nose and fingers wiggling, yanked the hook out of his mouth and with a derisive grin dove down to relate his exploits to his finny companions. No, I did not swear. But I want to say it was dreadful hard on a fellow's constitution.
    Well, about noon I went back upstream to my partner. I sat on the bank and took notes. Why, I believe that fellow could catch fish in a rain barrel. It was surprisingly strange to me how hungry trout were around him. I waded right out beside him. Trout within thirty feet of where I stood would grab that fellow's hook and not a single trout would deign to blink an eye at mine.
    As a final result twelve as pretty fish as I ever looked at were strung up to take home, weighing from three to ten pounds. How many did I catch? Now please do not be too inquisitive. I let the other fellow drag them ashore, but I got to help clean them and carry them to the buggy all the same.
    NIM, The Angling Preacher or the Preaching Angler
    [probably N. F. Jenkins--possibly Nimrod F. Jenkins]
    (just as you like).
The Indicator, Westville, Indiana, November 19, 1896, page 2

Last revised February 29, 2020