The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1917

After Seeing Gem Towns of Medford and Ashland, Writer Concludes That Worst Thing About Country Is the Train That Takes One Away.

    Someone once said that the only nice thing about a certain town was the train that took you away from it. Reverse this pleasantry and apply it to Southern Oregon. The worst thing about the country is the train that fetches you away from it. Not by any chance must this be construed as a reflection on the train.
    As a matter of truth, it's the only line I ever traveled on where the button marked hot water really gave hot water. No, the train is a modern wonder on wheels, but it takes you away from Southern Oregon if you have to live in Portland. That's the only possible objection I can have to it.
    With my ear pounding the Pullman pillow en route from my Medford-Ashland memorable visit last week, I found the words of that Chauncey Olcott-ish song about how Ireland got its name running through my head set to a tune, being banged out, thumpitty thump, on the car wheels:
Sure a little bit of heav-en fell from out the skies one day--
Medford-Ashland, Ashland-Medford
Sung the wheels, spinning round.
And nestled--in Southern Oregon--gosh, it's much too far away.
    I adapted the line, caring not that my Irish forebears (maybe I should say for-Baers) would turn over in their graves for my liberties with the song.
And when the angels found it,
    Sure it looked so sweet and fair,
They said, "suppose we leave it,
    For it looks so peaceful there."
Country Wins Praise.
    Chuggitty chug went the wheels, and my sleepy head just left those four lines alone unparodied, for they surely fit Medford-Ashland.
    "And they sprinkled it with stardust," ran the next line. "Stardust--yes, and dotted it with silver and copper and drenched it with goldy sunshine and kissed its hills and its valleys and its snow-capped mountains and set the seal of health and happiness and prosperity on its people." I improvised to the pounding of the wheels.
    "And when they had it finished,
    "Sure they called it." Why, there was only one thing to call it--Medford and Ashland and the road that winds between.
    "When I get back to Portland," sez I to myself, "when I get back, I'm going to write a story about Southern Oregon. It's not a new idea, at all, to write about that locality. It's been done, and by better men than I am, Gunga Din.
Fame Spreads Afar.
    Its glories have been told in rhyme and with reason; its apples have been given greater publicity than the original apple, and it had a whole book founded on it. Tourists write to the papers, at the papers and for the papers about Southern Oregon. Its industries and its beauties are told in the films. Nevertheless I shall add my mite, about a column's worth. Personally there's a selfish reason back of this; it saves me writing individual letters to the six thousand Ashlanders who showered me with hospitality and the dozen thousand who polished up the key of the city of Medford and vacuum-cleaned the welcome on the mat for me. The occasion of my visit was the Lincoln banquet given by the Jackson Republican Club at Medford on Monday, February 12, an account of which was given in The Oregonian at the time.
Promised Land Is Found.
    They can well call it the "promised land," the land of opportunity, alike for the industrious homeseeker and the enterprising capitalist, a land of plentiful natural resources, of splendid wealth in timber and ores, of fruitful vales, and heaven-planned climate which is a cross between the golden sunshine of California and the Oregon mist. I'm not sure that I rode entirely over Jackson County. Possibly not, for it has a total area of 2836 square miles, or 1,815,040 acres. Mayor C. E. Gates, who is one chap deserving the sobriquet "our popular Mayor," for he is all that, drove me all over the country surrounding Medford on a personally conducted sightseeing tour that fired my admiration and now lives flame-like in my memory.
    To the east of us stretched the rugged and impressive snow-crowned Cascade Mountains. Lower and less rugged along the west of us ran the Coast Range, separating the far-famed Jackson County from the almost-as-well-known Pacific Ocean. To the north of us the Rogue River spur of mountains looms and the Siskiyou forms the southern boundary. Right in the heart of the Rogue River Valley nestles Medford, gateway to Crater Lake, which is one of the seven wonders of the world and visited by thousands every year.
    Fifteen miles to the east of Medford, lying among the foothills of the Siskiyou, in the upper end of the Rogue River Valley lies Ashland, the Carlsbad of America. They are linked by a wonder-road, all of it paved, and an automobile ride over it is a joy ride in the finest and best sense of the term. Steadily and smoothly we climbed along the beautiful scenic road from Medford, with its elevation of 1377 feet to Ashland where the elevation is 2000, feet, and believe me, that's a fine system, too. You can pick out your own altitude and make your plans accordingly.
Points of Interest Fascinate.
    Only a Cook's tourist could make out a list of the spots of interest I visited in the metropolitan cities of Medford and Ashland. In Medford, one of the best-paved and most beautifully lighted cities I ever saw, they may well brag on their schools and churches, their splendid water system, the miles and miles and miles of cement sidewalks, the good-looking bungalows, and more pretentious residences, the fine business blocks, and a million other things. Best of all is the civic pride evidenced on every side. Not mere booster spurts, but loyal citizens in whom the flame of civic pride burns steadily. There's a University Club with 125 members, representing 43 colleges; there's a College Woman's Club, Colony Club, Shakespeare Club, Elks Ladies' Club, a big Parent-Teacher Association, a Drama League, and a dozen other clubs, church organizations, an active right-on-the-job Commercial Club, and a Merchants' Association.
    Besides all this Medford boasts the largest Hughes Alliance in the United States and a mighty busy Lincoln Club. Naturally I didn't visit all these, because they weren't in session during my two days' stay, but I met their smiling representatives. Among my souvenirs is a hunk of copper from the Blue Ledge copper mine, 22 miles southwest of Medford. These mines contain one of the largest bodies of ore in the United States. They are being worked on a moderate scale now, but plans are now progressing for their enlargement. A recent test of a car of ore from a smelter showed 16 percent copper to the ton, valued at $96, and silver valued at $7.50 to the ton, or $103.50 per ton by the car.
    S. S. Smith, editor of the Medford Sun, the thriving, newsy paper of Medford, gave me those statistics, and I wrote 'em down so I wouldn't forget. Because the time was short and I couldn't pay visits to all the places of interest, Mayor Gates whirled us a-la-observation-tourists to see the canning factory, catsup factory, flour mill, Rex spray factory, cement, brick and block works, three big creameries, two ice and cold storage plants, all worth a visit. A lumber mill and box factory is in process of building, and next year will see a beet sugar factory and another lumber mill located in Medford.
County Doing Big Things.
    No visit would be complete without a call at the Elks' building and the Carnegie library. I made both calls, and found it amply worthwhile, for the buildings and interior furnishings are beautiful. While I was sleeping, and believe me, it wasn't much I slept, so royally do they entertain with receptions at night, and get one up early to view the surrounding country while the pearl is on the dew, I slept at the Medford Hotel, and that excellent hostelry is worth a paragraph of praise if I could spare the paragraph. But I've got to get over to Ashland and tour that city beautiful in the next several paragraphs.
    Jackson County was the pioneer county in building hard-surfaced roads, and soon will have 55 miles of Pacific Highway, besides other roads all over the county.
    That part of the highway over the Siskiyous is second only in scenic beauty to our own Columbia Highway. It is all graded and partly hard-surfaced. The grading on one little stretch of 13 miles over the mountains cost Jackson County $195,000, and that's some money, isn't it, for a measly 13 miles. But that's the way they do things in Jackson County. The best isn't any too good for 'em.
Park Great Playground.
    Lithia Park is a wonderful natural playground, and maintained for the entertainment of tourists, the ones who stop in Ashland for either health or pleasure, or both, and that other great mob, the tourist who is just touring. These have to go through Ashland to complete their trip on the highway, and I think some sort of arrangement should be made so that the Lithia Park scenic road could be hitched right onto the regular Pacific Highway road in some sort of loop effect. The park covers some 600 acres of gorgeous forest-covered hills and dales, and the beautiful creek ripples right through its heart. All the natural beauties have been unmolested. Everything is on a huge scale. Flower beds are half acres of blossoms. Leaping fountains hide amid flowering shrubs. Shady walks, arched over by leafy green vaults, wind in and out miles and miles of just walks.
    There's a place for the band to play, a casino to dance in and a smart up-to-date tearoom. There's a tennis court and a croquet ground for folk who still play it.
    A splendid feature spot we visited is the automobile camp ground, the last cry in convenience and comfort for motor tourists. Can you imagine to what lengths these Ashlandites have gone to look out for the comfort of their visitors when they've provided gas for cooking, private tables, a spring of fine water, electric lights and a colony of cute cottages to house the transient? All the comforts of home, believe me, you can find right in that motor camp.
    Another thing that made a hit with me is the special playground and amusement features for the children. Pools of water for them to wade in, to sail boats on and to splash around in generally, dot the big park. I drank seven gallons of lithia water, and I'm going to write a recommendation of their medicinal properties--with a picture of me before I took 'em and since. Really, the water is quite wonderful. It doesn't cost one penny, either. You just drink it, biting, effervescing, bubbling up out of fountains placed all over the grounds.
Springs Both Hot and Cold.
    Some day, and not distant, either, Ashland is going to be one of the greatest watering places in America. There are 40--counted 'em--lithia and soda springs in and around the picturesque place. There's hot and warm sulphur water. If I wrote all I learned about mineral springs right here, it would sound like a page out of a chemistry book. This I must tell, however. The lithia springs and the mineral springs in Ashland have the largest lithia contents of any known springs in the world. The lithia and soda waters are heavily charged with carbon dioxide gas, which makes them extremely palatable. They sparkle like champagne used to do.
    There's two splendid natatoriums in Ashland, fed by living springs of sulphur water, and if you don't want to drink the water you can bathe in it. Or you can do both. It's a sure cure for whatever ails you. Miles and miles we rode, climbing almost to the sky on a splendidly graded road. It's just as lovely, too, as our own Columbia Highway, and that is not lese majeste. It's on a smaller scale, but the view is really magnificent.
    Back from the drive on the wonder road, we made a tour over the city, a community of home-loving folk. Ashland has all the advantages of a right-up-to-the-minute municipality, in addition to natural advantages in the line of healthful climate and ideal surroundings. Ashland is beautiful. Its streets are pleasant places, well paved and well lighted. Lovely homes bedeck it. Flower-crowded gardens and a wealth of green things a-growing are on all sides. Splendid schools, a duck of a library--quaint and picturesque--a gorgeous armory, lots of churches, two big hospitals and buildings for a Normal School, but no Normal School; attractive stores, shops and factories are a few of the places I visited, and I mustn't forget the dear little theater, a gem of architecture and artistic throughout. Someday, when my dreams come true, I'm going to have a wee, squatty, fat bungalow, where I can read and write all my days. I had never decided just where I've wanted to put that bungalow. Now I know. It's going to be midway between Ashland and Medford, down in Jackson County.
    There's an automobile for every 18 people in Medford, and the place looks as if they're holding an automobile show all day and an electrical display at night. They even drive out to hunt and fish by automobiles, and the roads are good, no matter which way you go. The road to Ashland is traveled constantly. It's a picturesque, winding ribbon of hard surface, threading its way between highly developed orchards of pears, prunes. apples, peaches, fields of tangled berry vine, great spaces of alfalfa land, fruit-packing plants, dairies and dairy-grazing lands, fine little farm houses, big ranch homes and pretentious country places dot the surrounding hills and valleys. Truly 'tis a place where earth and heaven blend, and heaven has a handicap from the start and is beaten.
    Ashland is only 22 miles away from the California line, and the Pacific road from British Columbia to Mexico through the coast states of Washington, Oregon and California, passes right through the heart of Ashland. But Ashland, not content with being merely on the direct line of automobile travel up and down the Pacific Coast, went to work and spent something like $200,000 in creating a park, a gathering place for their own and their friends and the stranger within the gates. In an automobile filled with Ashland enthusiasts, I was taken for a memorable ride in Lithia Park, a ride that will stick close in my remembrance for many a day to come. Possibly one of the features that most impressed me is that we drove right out of the heart of the busy business district into the cool green recesses of this wonderful park. Every other park I've visited necessitated a ride for an hour or so to get to it. You had to start home before you were half through seeing the park because home was miles away from the park. But visiting Lithia Park is just like closing our eyes for a moment and, presto! you've left the brick and granite buildings and the crowds and their noise, to live a dream hour in a sweet-scented forest, with a roguish, noisy, blessed mountain stream dashing at your feet, and miles upon miles of scenic marvels unfolding before your fascinated gaze.
Sunday Oregonian, Portland, March 4, 1917, page C11

Last revised October 3, 2018