The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1900 
Travelers' descriptions and assessments of the state of things.

The Rogue River Valley Country.
    Having received so many letters of inquiry from people with whom we are acquainted, and from others as well--but who invariably fail to send stamps to answer their queries--we shall for their benefit attempt to write a short descriptive article upon the climate, topography and resources of the famous Rogue River country.
    Well do we remember the first time our eyes rested upon the forest-crowned mountains of Western Oregon. At one point in coming from California down into the valley your vision carries you out over the world until the whole valley, it seems, is unfolded in one grand panorama, making in springtime a scene of surpassing beauty, one in fact more beautiful from the summit of the Siskiyous than the writer has ever beheld in this or any other of the many countries and climes through which we have traveled. From this sweeping view can be seen fields of green and gold, lofty mountains, rugged, splintered and crowned with everlasting snow, the evergreen fringe of the forests along the streams and rivers make a background which is both a glory and a perplexity to the artist who truly tries to picture the grandeur of the scene.
    Not all the land in the Rogue River Valley is level; neither can you form an adequate conception of its area by a trip through it on the railroad, for there are a great many smaller valleys which you will not notice passing through on the cars, which contain many thousands of acres of fine level land. The area of the valley is estimated at 2,500 square miles of agricultural land, not all probably farm land but all susceptible of cultivation, either in annual crops or for the raising of fruits.
    The altitude of the valley varies from about 1200 feet above sea level at Woodville to 1900 at Ashland. Medford, which is situated nearly in the center of the valley as well as the center of Jackson County, has a altitude of about 1300 feet.
    The soil we shall not undertake to analyze, as we are not a chemist, but we will state we honestly believe every kind of soil known to exist will be found here. The soil of the valley generally is a rich sandy loam, while along the foothills will be found red land, adobe and yellow clay.
    All kinds of fruit that are grown in the temperate zone are raised successfully in Rogue River Valley, such as apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, strawberries, grapes, blackberries (3 kinds), raspberries, currants, gooseberries, and last but not least, the luscious watermelon. Rogue River apples are considered by competent judges to be the best apples raised upon the Pacific Coast, and the peaches raised here took first premium at the World's Fair. Such a thing as a fruit failure has never been known in the valley. Peach and apple orchards last year bore crops to the amount of $800 per acre. The grapes grown in this valley are superior to any grown in California for table use. The fruit industry has proved very remunerative, and it will not be many years until the whole valley will be one great orchard. Nearly all kinds of cereals of the known world are grown here as well as vegetables and grasses in the greatest profusion.
    There is considerable timber, such as pine, fir, oak, cedar and other softwoods. It is a good stock country, but the ranges are being fenced up, and outranges in a few years will be a thing of the past.
    In regard to climate, good judges are of the opinion that it is the finest upon the Pacific Coast and the most equable in the world, situated as it is between the Columbia Basin and Sacramento. It has neither the excessive rains of the former or the withering droughts of the latter. Storms and blizzards are absolutely unknown in this valley. The rainfall averages about 28 inches and principally falls during the months of November, December, January, March and April. The average temperature in summer is about 72 degrees and that of winter is about 46 degrees above zero.
    Mining is quite extensively carried on throughout the whole valley, mostly in placers as yet, but at present writing there are some 100 stamps running upon the different quartz mines. The gold yield this year from Jackson and Josephine counties is estimated to be about $1,000,000.
    Medford is in the heart of this immense garden; it has a population of about 2,500; is on the main line of the Southern Pacific and the junction of the Rogue River Valley Railroad. Several church buildings supply the people with places of worship. It has the finest school building in Southern Oregon; its mercantile business is carried on in good brick buildings, through two good banks. It has electric lights, water works, and a sewer system. Its manufacturing establishments are: two flouring mills, ice plant, pork packing establishment, sash and door factory, distilling and bottling works. At present every line of mercantile business is well filled, but there is plenty of room for several manufacturing enterprises, and now is the time to get in on the ground floor. Medford is a new town; ten years ago it was but a small village, but it is at present growing vigorously, splendidly. The Southern Pacific have nearly completed a beautiful new depot, three brick blocks are in course of erection with four more to be erected, while there are at present a dozen dwelling houses in course of construction, with many more to be erected the coming season. Vacant houses in Medford are virtually an unknown quantity.
    Medford has the name of being the best town commercially in the Rogue River Valley, and it is better today than ever before. It will be much better in a few years provided her citizens do not forget to advertise, so we may be able to tell the world of this garden fair, sitting amid the grain fields, the orchards, the rose and vegetable gardens, with the sparkling streams winding and wandering through them. The wooded hills in the background, snow-capped Mt. Pitt in the distance, and the glint of the glorious sunlight upon this veritable fairyland, making it resplendent, radiant, a land wherein the weary traveler may find that peace and rest that comes from a heart which holds communion with nature's most glorious spot. Come and see it.
Medford Enquirer, February 23, 1900, page 2

    Is a progressive city with a population of 3,500, the county seat of Douglas County, in the heart of the Umpqua Valley. The U.S. Land Office, U.S. Weather Bureau office, State Soldiers' Home and other public institutions are located here. It is a freight and passenger division of the Southern Pacific railroad. It is noted for its fine fruits, and ranks first in prune-raising in the state. Grain and hog raising, gardening and stockraising are also among its chief industries. In point of mining operations, Douglas County is excelled by few in the state. Gold, copper, quicksilver, nickel and a fine quality of marble are found within her borders.
    Is a pleasant little city, its business portion well built with two-story brick buildings, its residences very neat, nestled at the foot of a low mountain range. The mountains and valleys surrounding it are rich in minerals. The city is situated on the Rogue River, which abounds in some of the finest fish caught in the state. The few hours that we stopped in this city were very pleasantly spent, and the kindness of its citizens thoroughly appreciated.
    Is located toward the southern end of the state. It is a well-built-up business city of 2,500 people, whose hospitality knows no limit. We were met at the depot by the townspeople who piloted us to a pleasant grove nearby, where a bountiful repast was in waiting. The CHIEF representatives were met by Mr. George Gregory, county superintendent, who was an old-time Nebraska friend, who took charge of us, as well as the balance of the Nebraska delegates, and seated us at a table presided over by former Nebraska ladies. There is quite a colony of Nebraska people settled in and around Medford. We were very much surprised to meet Chris. Reidel, formerly of our city. He has lived there for three years and likes the country. A stub railroad runs from Medford to Jacksonville, the county seat, and many embraced the opportunity of going to see the oldest town in that part of the state. The entertainment we received at Medford was fine, and we will always have a pleasant recollection of the young city. The editors of its papers were untiring in their efforts to look after the comforts of their guests.
    The southernmost city in the state on the Southern Pacific railroad, is located on the Bear Creek arm of the Rogue River Valley, twenty miles from the California state line. It is a city of over 3000 people, and after talking with some of its leading citizens, we doubt if another city in the state has shown a more solid growth during the past year, the building improvements during that time footing up over $50,000. It is the educational center of Southern Oregon. One of the state normal schools, as well as the Southern Oregon Chautauqua Association, is located here, and hundreds of people are drawn here yearly on account of the city's excellent educational advantages. Three fine brick buildings represent the public schools, which are presided over by a corps of competent instructors. There are nine churches in the city, many of them handsome edifices, distributed among the leading denominations.
    The business portion of the city is well built with substantial brick buildings, which would be a credit to a city several times its size. Its merchants appear to be doing good business, and the large and complete stocks of goods they carry speak well for the city. In the residence portion we notice some very handsome dwellings, and we believe the claim made by its citizens that they have more beautiful residences than any city three times its size in the state, is correct.
    Chautauqua Grove, containing nine acres, in which are the buildings of Southern Oregon Chautauqua, is located within the city limits, but a few minutes' walk from the business center of the city. It was in this beautiful grove that the members of the National Editorial Association were treated to a breakfast by the citizens of the city. Busy hands had prepared a feast of everything that heart could desire or palate crave, and that breakfast was as thoroughly enjoyed as any meal partaken of during the trip.
    After the inner man had been provided for, rigs were placed at the disposal of the visitors, and all who wished were taken for a drive among the orchards and truck gardens about the city, or for a short trip into the surrounding valleys.
    Among its manufacturing interests, Ashland has a woolen mill, two flouring mills, two planing mills, iron works, canning factory, two sawmills, wood working mills, quartz mills for working up the ore from the mines in the surrounding mountains, and a large creamery. Being the terminus of the Shasta branch of the Southern Pacific railroad, it is a division point of importance. The company have large machine shops here, and have a monthly payroll of $10,000. The company have also expended $35,000 on their depot and eating station and grounds.
    Situated in the midst of orchards, gardens and immense grain fields, in a climate that is unsurpassed, where neither heat nor cold is extreme, it is not to be wondered at that they can raise peaches, apples, pears, plums, prunes, apricots, cherries, all kinds of berries, and the finest flowers on the coast, and claim they have the finest climate in the country, for they can certainly back up their statements with positive proof.
    The writer took a ten-minute walk back from the city, from whence was obtained a view which for beauty could not be excelled, as we looked down upon the "granite city," and out upon the beautiful valley beyond, with its farms, gardens, orchards and broad fields of grain. Behind us arose by terrace and cliff the rugged Siskiyous--the "granite range"--to a height of 8,000 feet, covered with luxuriant forests and crested with snow, and in whose mountain fastness great quantities of gold and other minerals are being constantly mined.
    It was the great pleasure of the writer to meet with and visit at the home of our former townsman, George W. Trefren, who is a prominent business man in his town; is a member of the city council and clerk of the school board, and appears to be prospering. Our visit at Ashland was a very pleasant one, the memories of which will always be bright spots in our trip into Southern Oregon.
"A Delightful Trip to the Pacific Coast," report on a National Editorial Association excursion, Custer County Chief, Broken Bow, Nebraska, May 25, 1900, pages 13-14

    About 3 o'clock in the afternoon of the next day we saw two large signs which read: "California" and "Oregon." Those marked the state lines. I jumped from the buggy and almost ran to drink from a spring on the Oregon side, for it made me feel as though we were much nearer home, you know. The road continued for eight miles over the summit of the Siskiyou, to a toll gate, where $1 is charged each team. A comical thing occurred as we neared the toll house, when a little child ran out, closed and padlocked the gate in our very faces. We camped here overnight and I purchased a fowl to fry; the lady kindly volunteering to bake a pan of biscuit for me. We enjoyed a meal fit for a king that night--fried chicken, hot biscuit and butter, with plenty of good milk. Was that not fine? At 11 o'clock on the following day we left the toll gate and had proceeded some way down the road when a woman's voice called upon us to stop and, running up behind our buggy, the friendly mother of the toll house presented us with a supply of hot doughnuts for our lunch.
    A drive of twelve miles carried us to Ashland, Or. All spare space in the town was covered by small white tents, where an army of Chautauquans were camping. Next came Gold Hill, and from there our road led along the Rogue River. For some distance we met parties out killing rattlesnakes, and we did not dare to alight, neither would I allow "Sport" or "Tom" to leave the buggy. Then came Grants Pass, Roseburg and Cottage Grove. On the roads of California we covered some miles in four minutes, we were able to tell by the mileposts, but in Oregon or the southern portion of it, the roads were fearful, and especially so in the timber, where the mud was hub deep [in July].
Mrs. Edward Thompson, "Thirty-Five Days' Drive," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 5, 1900, page 11

    Overlooking the Rogue River Valley on one side are the Siskiyou Mountains and on the other the Cascades and Coast Range. The train does not run so fast that the careful observer will fail to note the fine fruit, grain and stock farms. The fertility of the soil in these valleys is something wonderful, and the climate is such that wheat may be sown and harvested every month in the year. The Blackford County farmer will be surprised to learn that four or five big crops of wheat may be harvested from one sowing. It is a fact that many farmers here actually harvest three, four and sometimes five crops from one seeding. One wheat grower has the record of harvesting 37 bushels to the acre the second year, 20 bushels to the acre the third year, 15 bushels to the acre the fourth year, making a total of 102 bushels to the acre from a single sowing. It is no uncommon thing to see here plowing, harrowing, seeding, harvesting and threshing all going on at the same time. With these advantages it is little wonder that Oregon, although sparsely settled in some parts of the state, produced last year a twentieth of the entire wheat crop of the country. These valleys and the southern part of the state had the biggest apples, pears, prunes, peaches and cherries at the World's Fair.
"Across the Big Divide," Hartford City Telegram, Hartford City, Indiana, August 22, 1900, page 1

Along the California-Oregon Line.
    The success that has attended the inauguration of copper mining in northern California is drawing attention to a part of the West that has been much neglected. In 1851-54 the region around the California-Oregon line, comprising Shasta, Siskiyou, Del Norte, Trinity and Humboldt counties in the former, and Jackson, Douglas and Josephine counties in the latter, was one of the liveliest in the West, and for a few years poured out a steady stream of placer gold; but like other alluvial districts became almost deserted when the cream of the diggings was skimmed, and others as good discovered. But those who remained behind in these parts fell heir not only to a rich but beautiful land, and are now receiving their reward. The Siskiyou Mountains, which cover much of the region, are one of the few uplifts in the West where serpentines and old slate are prevailing rocks. The formations are everywhere found to be rich in metals, and particularly in the rarer metals, such as bismuth, quicksilver, nickel, cobalt, tin, platinum, iridium, osmium and gold.
    A great deal of the country is still an unknown wilderness, but it is being attacked by the prospector, and will become in a short time a very active mining region. It has always maintained a considerable gold output from the old diggings, and for a dozen years past hydraulic operations have been increasing very fast. It is a country of deep and narrow river canyons, in which the volume of water is so great that the tailings question seldom if ever causes difficulty. The dredge men are now entering it with fair prospects of success; and, better than all, the quartz miner.
    Near Hornbrook in Shasta County are croppings of an immense auriferous conglomerate bed, the material from which is now being successfully handled in stamp mills. Near Riddle, in the Umpqua Valley in Douglas County, are very rich deposits of nickel ore, while quicksilver is being mined in Trinity County, and each year there is an increase in the amount of platinum and iridosmine from the hydraulic mines of the Rogue River and Klamath valleys. To the northeast, in the counties of Klamath Lake, Harney and Crook, in Oregon, is a lava-strewn lake region in which borax, soda, nitrates and economic minerals of that class abound, and only await the coming of the railroad to become available. Within the last few weeks, reports have come in of the discovery of quicksilver in the mountains about twelve miles south of Gold Hill, in Jackson County.
    The mires of this part of the West are located at altitudes under 4,000 feet. The country is densely timbered. The rainfall ranges from 40 to 60 inches per year. The winters are very mild, with but little snowfall, except on the mountaintops. There is a probability that in another year active work will begin on the railroad projects from Boise, Idaho, to the coast, at the mouth of the Klamath. For a distance of several hundred miles on the ocean in this vicinity gold was found in early days and recovered in considerable quantity from the sea shore; and at several favored points operations have been prosecuted in a small way ever since. Perhaps if the beaches of southwestern Oregon and northwestern California were prospected with the same energy and by as many miners as is the case in parts of Alaska, equally good discoveries would be made.--Denver Mining Reporter.
Del Norte Record, Crescent City, November 10, 1900, page 2

County Never Has Been Prosperous As It Is Now.
    There has never been a time in the history of Jackson County when all classes have been so prosperous as at the present. Every industry is in a flourishing condition. The mortgage indebtedness is less than at any time in the past 35 years, and a greater percentage of it was paid of last year than during any preceding rears.
    There was greater activity in the mines last year than at any time in the past 30 years. Many hydraulic enterprises were started, and many more are in contemplation for this year. The demand for mining property was never so great, and there were never so many large cash sales made in any one year as in 1900. The lighter placers have been almost wholly worked out, and those engaged in this branch of the industry have turned their attention to deep hydraulic mining. Unusual interest has been manifested in quartz the past year, and many promising veins have been discovered. More or less preliminary work was done on 300 to 400 ledges during the summer, and a number give promise of developing into permanent and valuable properties. There are now about 25 stamp mills in operation in the district, and a number more projected for the present year. The time is near at hand when the quartz branch of mining will surpass the placer. The output of 1900 is estimated at $400,000, and exceeds that of 1899 by $150,000.
    A number of important enterprises in connection with quartz are in progress. Among them may be mentioned the 20-stamp mill and cyanide plant of Opp Brothers, on Jackson Creek. Dr. C. R. Ray, of the old Swinden ledge, near Gold Hill, is installing a cyanide plant, and will soon have it completed and ready for operation. He is adding to his machinery with a view to operations on a larger scale. Dr. Ray and the Opp Brothers will employ a force of 50 men each. The Ashland mine, under the new ownership of the Montreal & Oregon Company, is undergoing steady development, with a force of 40 men. The company will add five stamps to its mill in Ashland. The new Humason custom mill, at Gold Hill, is regarded as one of the most perfect and complete in the district. Two new discoveries in quartz are creating considerable interest. One is near the base of old Gold Hill, the famous strike of 1860, and the other on the divide between Forest Creek and Applegate. Both give promise of large value. The recent quartz discoveries at Elk Creek bid fair to make this the most permanent and valuable quartz section of the district. The veins, like those at Bohemia, are large and base and the country volcanic as at Bohemia. The idea, originated in an early day, that this was only a pocket country, has been exploded by the deep levels of 300 to 900 feet, the ore maintaining its value to the greatest depth yet attained.
    The increasing demand and ready sale for good fruit for shipment have had a stimulating effect on this industry, and a number of new orchards have been put out and the older ones better pruned and cultivated, with more attention given to spraying. Leading fruit dealers estimate the export apple crop of 1900 at 225 carloads, an excess of 100 cars over any previous year. This represents a value, at the present price of 80 cents a box, of $108,000.
    The projected enterprises of greatest magnitude are the Gold Hill High Line and Medford ditches. The former will be 94 miles long, 1 foot wide on top, eight on the bottom and six deep. Its capacity will be 15,000 miner's inches. The estimated cost of construction is $700,000. Eleven thousand dollars has been expended in completing the surveys and clearing part of the right of way. The ditch will cover 20,000 acres of fertile foothill and light bottom lands specially adapted to fruit-growing, and which, without the ditch, are practically worthless except for timber and grazing. In addition, there will be available for mining about 6000 acres of mineral land which cannot be utilized without artificial water supply. With 400 feet [of] fall at Gold Hill, the ditch may be continued down Rogue River indefinitely.
    The Medford ditch will be 53 miles long and have a capacity of 10,000 inches. The estimated cost of construction is $200,000. It will cover, approximately, 50,000 acres of valuable farming land and furnish water for domestic and power purposes at Medford and other points in the valley. Three thousand five hundred dollars has been expended in surveys. It is expected that work on both enterprises will be commenced in the spring.
    Improvements in the towns and valley during 1900 have been in keeping with the general prosperity. Several brick business houses and something like 75 dwellings were built in Ashland and vicinity during the year at a cost of $100,000. A number of brick houses and, perhaps, 60 dwellings were built in Medford, at a cost of nearly $100,000. Gold Hill, Talent and Eagle Point show many new buildings and improvements, and evidences of prosperity are observable all over the county.
    At least 300 families moved into the county in 1900--most of them people of means for investment. Of these, 100 should be credited to Ashland, 80 to Medford, and the remainder to other towns and sections of the county.
    Sales of livestock, horses, cattle, sheep, hogs and goats for the year aggregate $140,000. Fruit, hops, wool, lumber, pelts, poultry and manufactured articles, $180,000. Output of gold, $400,000.
    The income of the county for the year aside from grain, hay, vegetable and general products of home consumption, may be set down, approximately, at $720,000.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, January 1, 1901, page 15

Last revised September 12, 2023