The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1926

A Celebrated County
    Jackson County is wont to proclaim that it has within its mountain-spurred Rogue River Basin and the tributary valleys a greater variety of resources than any area of the same size in the United States.
    After reading the pages of this issue devoted to this unique unit of the southern section of Oregon, no one can gainsay that nature was lavish in her bestowals. For those who travel the great highways and picturesque byways of this territory, either as tourists or homeseekers, there are many lures. Forest, stream, lake and mountain vie to delight.
    The county claims, and has a right to claim, prestige as a sportsman's paradise. Supporting evidence convincing to the fisherman is offered by no less an authority than Zane Grey, writing in the current number of Field and Stream, where he comments that he "knew enough to realize that the Rogue River steelhead has no equal in fresh water for speed, strength, cunning and endurance," and that "anyone can see that the Rogue is in a class by itself."
    As the western gateway to Crater Lake, the county draws tourists by the tens of thousands. Departing, these visitors spread to the four corners of the earth their marvel at so great a scenic wonder.
    The region's fame is not confined, however, to its recreational attractions. In the markets of the world its luscious Bosc pears are known to be without a rival, commanding top prices and contributing to the prosperity of the growers.
    One wonders if a people so generously provided for is not inclined to accept these blessings almost as a matter of course. But observation indicates the contrary. To a peculiarly fortunate and happy combination of advantageous physical settings and surroundings are added the foresightedness and progressiveness of its citizenry in making Jackson County known.
    While the abundance of raw materials and variety of industries join with the convenience of rail and highway transportation to assure material stability and success, outstanding in the county's thoughtful preparation for the future are the splendid school system and cultural institutions of which the people are as justly proud as of their scenery, lumber and fruits.
    The thriving communities being built wisely and well look forward hopefully, for they foresee even greater things in store. Not only do they take pride in their climate and fertile soil, but they extend their hospitable welcome to those industrious and successful men and women who will also prove appreciative citizens in a progressive land.
    Cooperating splendidly in the statewide land settlement program, the Medford and Ashland chambers of commerce have reported in recent months placing a goodly number of bona fide settler families on farms.
Editorial, Oregon Business, March 1926

Industries of Jackson County
Raw Materials in Minerals, Timber and Agriculture Abound
in Territory Served by Power and Railroad

    Two industries in Jackson County serve all the other industries--the Southern Pacific Company with transportation, and The California-Oregon Power Company with electric energy. Payroll  distribution resulting from the operation of these two companies is a most important factor in the prosperity of the cities and towns of Jackson County, and the increasing business of these companies is a very fair gauge of the growth in all other branches of industrial activity.
    As you enter the county from the north by highway or railroad there are evidences of considerable agricultural activity in numerous orchards and farms. Attention is soon attracted to the plant of the Beaver Portland Cement Company at Gold Hill, now making replacements and additions to it finished grinding department and enlarging its capacity to 2,000 barrels per day. This plant has a large territory and is keeping pace with the growth of the various other industries which depend upon it for a continuing supply of high-grade cement for concrete work and building operations.
    Approaching Medford through the extensive orchard land of the Rogue River Valley, one realizes why the pear has been adopted as the symbol of agricultural activity.
    Almost before one's thoughts can be accommodated to a change of scene we are entering Medford and in the midst of the operations of the Owen-Oregon Lumber Company, a modern electric drive mill cutting 125,000 feet on one shift, and now operating two shifts per day. It is true that great stands of timber are visible on the distant hills, but the agricultural character of the valley seems at first to discount the possibility of the existence of any other kind of industry. The Medford logging railroad leads off to the timbered areas lying east, and the old railroad line
to Jacksonville to the west. The former was built as part of the Hill line activities in Southern Oregon a few years ago; the latter not operating at present.
    The Tomlin Box Factory is an electrically operated plant with a capacity of 62,500 feet of shook on one shift, and is now operating two shifts per day. It is also served by the Medford logging railroad.
    Jackson County has a total land area of about 1,815,000 acres; almost one-half of this area is covered with commercial timber as yet uncut. At the present time there are 25 sawmills of different types and capacities, most of them cutting only a few thousand feet per day.
    Traveling still further south one immediately plunges into a maze of packing plants, precooling and cold storage plants, ice manufacturing and car icing plant, and those industries which are more directly connected with the conditioning, packing and handling of the fruit crop each year, which amounts to approximately 2,100 car loads.
    Dehydration and canning are now taking an important place as byproducts of the fruit and vegetable production.
    A large part of what is raised must necessarily find its way to markets in cans. The Rogue River Valley Canning Company is a most important link in the chain which reaches from soil to consumer. The Knight Catsup Company has a plant which produces a commodity which is fast becoming famous, and which is taking the story of the Rogue River Valley to the outside world.
    All the big oil companies and many coastwide and nationally operated institutions have branches in this prosperous section of Southern Oregon, for it must not be forgotten that Jackson County leads Oregon, and the entire Northwest west of Minnesota, in percentage of increase of farm land values, the average price per acre of land and buildings, according to the U.S. Farm Census, showing an increase of 29.2% in 1925 over 1920.
    Continuing on to the California line one passes through the prosperous city of Ashland with its Southern Pacific railroad shops, its cannery, its iron works, its saw mills, box factory, and creamery, its Lithia Springs where both gas and water are bottled for shipment to all points of the coast, and its granite quarries which produce exceptionally fine monumental and building stone.
    Diversification is a sound principle in business and in finance. In Jackson County the agricultural industry is diversified so that no one group or product controls the destiny of the farm.
    There are specialists of course--and some are better adapted to one line of endeavor than others, but many lines are open to all and are to be found in successful operation. We refer to dairying, poultry raising, vegetables, stock raising and fruit growing.
    The marketing possibilities are diversified and the risks are minimized. The Southern Pacific railroad conveys products north and south to eastern rail and ocean steamer connections. The paved highways are open to motor truck transportation in every direction, and a large portion of local products find their way to the coast counties and to the Klamath country.
    A further diversity of industry is in the mineral field, for which Jackson County first attracted attention. Gold mining operations of every character have been conducted and are to be found in various stages of development--some operating, some discontinued, some preparing to reopen with modern methods and in keeping with practices which have made a success of similar operations elsewhere. Almost everywhere you go you will find some evidence of mining activity in copper, coal, gold, granite, oil shales and in other products from underground. There are some who predict that mining will be Jackson County's big industry when history's final chapters are written. At the present time it appears to be passing through that transition period when small high-grade operations must give way to the larger volume, lower grades, intensive mining operations.
    The raw material situation in every branch of industry minerals, timber and agriculture--is excellent. Capital is abundant and new groups representing outside financial circles are making big investments here. Labor supply is satisfactory, although at times there is a shortage of certain classes of labor due to the seasonal nature of some of the work. The general living conditions, however, in the Rogue River Valley are so agreeable, and it is such an attractive place in which to live, that labor contentment probably registers its highest standard on the farms and in the cities and towns of Jackson County. In the final analysis, industry to be successful must be based on labor contentment, and anything in the way of climate or living conditions which makes for contented labor reduces labor turnover, and thus cuts out one of industry's greatest losses.
    The tourist traffic, and all that must contribute to this growing feature of American life, has assumed the proportions of an outstanding industry in Jackson County. From the annual tourist crop, a certain percentage remains (or returns) as investors or as workers in the various industries of the Rogue River Valley, or as settlers. In this county irrigation is on a much more substantial footing than is reported from projects in other sections of the country.
Oregon Business, March 1926, pages 5-6

A Good Country for Livestock
Success with Beef Cattle, Dairy Cows, Sheep, Swine and Poultry
Due to Abundant Feed, Markets and Mild Climate
By R. G. Fowler
Assistant County Agent

    Three things are necessary for the success of the livestock industry. These are abundance of feed, a mild climate, and good markets. The first two Jackson County has to an extent that probably excels any other section of the Northwest. The last mentioned, good markets, the county is undoubtedly equal and in some respects better situated than the majority of counties in this section. Plenty of water with which to irrigate, a long growing season, and mild winters make a combination of factors for successful livestock raising that many people are looking for, and if the truth were told, are not taken advantage of by present residents as fully as they might be.
    According to the 1920 census there were 25,000 head of beef cattle in Jackson County. This number has undoubtedly decreased since that time owing to low prices, until there is a slight shortage on the ranges. This, however, will tend to improve feeding conditions, and permanence of this industry depends on available grass. The livestock grower feels that his cost of production must be cut to the lowest possible point, and good grass is the most important item in turning off beef in the shortest possible time.
    The quality of local cattle is improving rapidly as range men are seeing the necessity of using good bulls.
    The dairy industry fits nicely into the farming scheme in Jackson County. With a fine quality and an abundant quantity of alfalfa hay, butterfat can be produced comparatively cheap. As corn does very well, silage and alfalfa hay make an ideal combination for dairy feeding. In fact, many herds are wintered on these feeds alone. In the cow testing association the butterfat averages run around thirty pounds per cow monthly, and while the association contains some of the best herds in the county, only about one-third fed anything but alfalfa and corn silage during the last winter. While it is recommended that some grain be fed, experience has shown what can be done without the higher priced concentrates. An average of thirty pounds of butterfat per month compares favorably with that of the best dairy sections.
    The 1920 census reported 3,765 cows in the county, and while this number has been materially increased during the last five years, there is still room for a 100% increase. With a surplus of alfalfa and a very high freight rate to get it on the market, the hay could be fed locally to the best advantage.
    The quality of dairy cows in use is very good. The Channel Island breeds predominate, with the Jerseys in the majority. Some of the best blood in the West is to be found in local herds, and the use of good sires is increasing rapidly. The health of all cattle is excellent, the last countywide test for tuberculosis showing but one-half of one percent reacting.
    Butterfat prices are based on the Portland price, and the manufacturing is handled largely by two plants at Medford, and one at Ashland.
    While the 1920 census reports 11,800 swine in the county, the low prices of the past three years have caused a large reduction in that number. At the present time there are not enough swine in the county to provide enough pork for home consumption. During the present season with higher prices being offered, there is again a growing demand for feeders and breeding stock. With a bumper grain crop during this season farmers needed feeder hogs to run in the stubble fields, and they were not to be had.
    The production of swine is not recommended as a major industry, but it is recommended that every farm should carry enough hogs for the utilization of waste products or on the basis of one hog for every dairy cow, and one pig for every five to ten acres of grain.
    Marketing of surplus stock has been done cooperatively in a very successful manner through the Farm Bureau Exchange. While there has not been enough hogs to do this in a large way, there has always been a number disposed of in this manner.
    The quality of local swine is excellent, and it is safe to say that 90% of all swine in Jackson County is purebred or from purebred foundations.
    The sheep industry has been largely a range proposition, and the last census shows 20,000 head in the county. More farm flocks are recommended, as the keeping of a few head of good sheep by ranchmen has been found quite profitable when not overdone. The quality of the lambs marketed can be greatly improved by the use of better rams and attention to details such as docking and early castration.
    In keeping with the general expansion of the poultry industry of the Northwest, Jackson County has made a rapid advance in the past five years. Suffering less from general deflation in farm products, it has attracted more people to enter the business and many failures have resulted. The attention to details necessary to success in this industry is lacking in many people. The climatic conditions of this county are very favorable to the commercial raising of poultry. Mild winters make housing problems simple and the production of green feed necessary to egg production in the winter time is a minor problem.
    Marketing has been pretty well handled in the past through local cooperative egg associations, but the growth of the industry means greater expansion as local needs are being well supplied. A large territory adjacent to the county has been open to the egg producer, but as the industry grows further markets will have to be sought.
Oregon Business, March 1926, pages 7-19

Where People Do Things
    In addition to the splendid tribute paid to the Jackson County fruit industry, in a recent editorial in the Oregon Journal, by the editor, B. F. Irvine, who visited this county recently, and which editorial was reprinted in the paper May 27, we print here, with two other editorials from that paper in the May 26 and 27 issues:
    In a county where the people do things, the city of Medford has voted $975,000 to bring absolutely pure water from the Big Butte Springs at the foot of Mt. Pitt for its water supply. The pipeline will be 33 miles long. The water will come from springs that issue in a torrent from the ground, and be conveyed through steel mains and delivered to Medford water users at a temperature of 38 to 42 degrees. The firm will be sufficient to accommodate a city of 50,000.
    The present water supply is brought 29 miles from the springs above Fish Lake. The lake is a natural reservoir that receives and holds the water from the springs and delivers it as needed. The water supply is also from the foot of picturesque Mt. Pitt. The water is so pure that in a huge swimming pool in Medford, which is 100 by 60 feet and cost $75,000, a collar button dropped into the water can be seen on the bottom.
    Following are a few examples of the big things that are being done in the Rogue River Valley evidencing the aggressiveness of the community:
    The Rogue River Company of Los Angeles, California, in 1925 invested over three-quarters of a million dollars in lands and orchard properties in Jackson County, consisting of some of the best peach orchards in the valley, a large proportion of which are under irrigation. This company added three other properties to its list this year and is making improvements in its cold storage and pre-cooling plant, which when completed will have a value of over $100,000.
    This company also built a dehydrating plant last year for handling second-grade fruits. The pre-cooling plant and the dehydrator are operated co-jointly with the Southern Oregon Sales Inc. This company has established offices in New York.
    During the past five years 35,000 acres in the Rogue River Valley, tributary to Medford, has been put under irrigation, which greatly improves the orchards, increasing production of alfalfa, also small fruits and vegetables that are packed, canned and shipped fresh out of Medford.
    One of the largest properties in the Rogue River Valley is the Potter Palmer estate. The Modoc, one of its orchards, comprises 1300 acres, with 275 acres in pears. The company also owns the Klamath orchards of 200 acres in fine pears, and is one of the largest fruit shippers in this section.
    Some of the new business buildings being erected in Medford include a Terminal State Hotel at cost of $100,000; a new Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company building costing $50,000, a factory for the manufacture of the "Best" auto battery, a new high school building costing $185,000, the Schuler apartment house, costing $60,000, and a number of other building and a large number of residences.
    Medford has two excellent hotels, the Medford, a six-story structure, and the Holland, a four-story structure, both of which are modern.
    Medford is to be one of the main stations on the new air mail line from Seattle to San Francisco and Los Angeles, and has the distinction of being the only city in Oregon to have an airport. Portland does not have an airport, but the mail is brought from Vancouver, Wash.
    The Medford Chamber of Commerce is arranging a novel idea of advertising the first air mail flight, and will issue 2000 "Greetings from Medford" to be sent by the people of Medford to every part of the globe. This greeting will contain a four-color picture of Crater Lake. The envelope carrying the greeting will also have special advertising for Medford and the Rogue River Valley and will be arranged in color to attract attention.
    They do things in Jackson County.
    Along with varied and abounding resources to draw upon, the people are alert. In the population there is a very high percentage of college people. At Medford there is a University Club with a membership among the largest on the coast. Practically all the colleges of America, as well as some of the foreign countries, are represented on the roll of the club.
    Medford is known as one of the musical and theatrical centers of the coast, and gets most of the big road shows. The county's culture is reflected in the extraordinary interest in schools. There are 13 high schools in the county, those at Medford and Ashland coming under the official designation of first class.
    Two hundred and fifty teachers are employed. Medford is completing a new high school building at a cost of $185,000. It will contain 33 rooms. The old high school building is to be used as a junior high school. Perhaps the most picturesque high school in the state is at Ashland. It is of the old Spanish type of architecture and very attractive.
    The alertness of the county is exampled in the county fair. The grounds front on the Pacific Highway for a distance of half a mile. Held at a time when tourist travel is large, the travelers see the fair whether they want to or not. A novel feature is the distribution of free tickets to tourists. Fair representatives are sent to the auto parks at Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass every evening to distribute tickets and solicit attendance of the campers at the fair. More than 2000 tourists visited the fair last year.
    The grounds are highly modern. The investment in buildings is now $100,000, and when the plan is complete it will be in the neighborhood of $200,000. All buildings are new and of modern architecture. There is a half-mile fast dirt track for horse racing and a mile-and-an-eighth track for motor racing. On the grounds are the American Legion golf course and the Barber airplane landing field. The programs at this fair are unexcelled in the Northwest except by the state fairs of Oregon and Washington.
    The Jackson County Fair Association dates far back in Oregon history. The original fair was held at Jacksonville in the early '60s, in the days of the gold mining excitement. Jackson County was then the most populous county in the state, and one of the most important. At that fair the first apples grown in Oregon were exhibited and the miners bought them at a dollar an apple. The fruit was grown on trees in an orchard near Table Rock, the first orchard set out in Southern Oregon.
    Some of the richest history in the West was made in Jackson County. It is history in which hostile Indians, gold, hardy pioneers and the beginnings of a rude civilization are intermingled. Out of it has come one of the finest communities and one of the best ordered and most beautiful districts on the planet.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 30, 1926, page B2

Where They Do Things
    The fourth editorial from the Oregon Journal, written by the editor, B. F. Irvine, appeared May 30, after a visit to Southern Oregon:
    Once Jackson County was the richest and most populous county in Oregon. It rose to first place in 1855 [sic]. It was the result of the gold discoveries and the flooding into the region of excited miners from the Willamette Valley and the California diggings.
    In 1852 gold was found in Jackson Creek by Poole, Clugage, Sykes and others, and reports of the finds were so glowing that a stampede into the new diggings followed. Within two months hundreds of miners were working in the vicinity of Rich Gulch and the right fork of Jackson Creek.
    James Skinner was among the lucky ones, and took out a fortune within a few weeks. Mr. Shively, working in the gulch that bears his name, took out $50,000 in gold dust within a short time and set out for home, guarding the box that contained his new wealth with a drawn revolver.
    By midsummer 1000 miners were at work in the valleys of Rogue River and its tributaries. Jacksonville was the product of the mining excitement and soon became a prosperous mining town.
    It is now a beautiful little city. It lost its premiership to Medford because when the O.&C. railroad was built, the promoters asked for a larger bonus for routing the line through Jacksonville than the people felt able to pay. [Click here for the truth behind the bonus myth.] The line passed Jacksonville by five miles to the east, and Medford rose on the possibilities of what Jacksonville might have been.
    The site of Jacksonville is a place of beauty. From a slight eminence, it overlooks a valley of surpassing loveliness that in blossom time, with the orchards in bloom, is a picture never to be forgotten. On a favorable day, from the suburbs of Jacksonville you can see the rim of Crater Lake, 80 miles away.
    To the west, the two Table Rocks, huge, mighty and picturesque, are in full view. Any morning now, in the streets of suburban Jacksonville, the perfume of flowers is so thick that you look around to see if there is a florist's shop near.
    In Jacksonville there still stands the oldest church building west of the Rocky Mountains. A tablet on the door recites that it was dedicated January 1, 1854; that it was built during the pastorate of the late Dr. T. F. Royal of the Methodist denomination, and that Rev. C. Alderson, father of Superintendent Alderson of Multnomah County, was among its early pastors.
    By 1855, the gold output of Jackson County had risen to $3,000,000 a year. The growth of the county had been such that the territorial legislature divided it by creating Josephine County out of what had hitherto been Jackson County territory.
    As early as 1860 a county fair was held, and so abundant was gold that apples on exhibit grown on the first trees planted in the county were later bought by a miner at $2.50 apiece.
    The mineral resources of Jackson County has within its mountain-spurred Rogue River basin and the tributary valleys a greater variety of resources than any other areas of the same size in the United States. Anyone who visits the district and studies its assets will admit that nature there has been lavish in its bestowals.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 1, 1926, page 4

Mrs. Floyd Cook's Article on Removal of County Seat
    As an aged mother mourns the departure of her best loved child, so mourns the old town of Jacksonville today over the loss of her court house and the distinction of being the county seat of Jackson County.
    The recent election held in the county gave a majority of over 900 for the removal of the court house from Jacksonville to Medford.
    The entire state of Oregon, which meeds [sic] a reverence for this pioneer town, and the entire county of Jackson, which saw fit to vote for the removal of its county seat, and triumphant Medford as well, proud victor in the recent fight for removal, sympathizes with the little town in its loss and admires the valiant fight which its few hundred citizens put up to retain its one remaining glory.
Colonel Sargent Champions
    Four years ago the same measure came up before the voters of Jackson County. At that time Jacksonville had as its able champion Colonel H. H. Sargent, personal friend of President Roosevelt, and a retired army officer, who had been prominent in the reconstruction of Havana and Manila after the Spanish war. When Colonel Sargent retired from army life he selected the beautiful, peaceful little town of Jacksonville in Southern Oregon as his home, for no other place which he had seen in all his world wandering had appealed to him as this quaint, picturesque town did.
    Here he bought a home on the hillside and devoted himself to literary pursuits. In a short time he grew to love the old town and took as much interest in it as if he had been a native son. When the proposed removal of its cherished court house was put on the ballot Colonel Sargent came forth from his retirement, and with all of his old fighting spirit entered the conflict; thanks to him, the result at that time was a loss of the measure by 90 votes.
Town's Victory Celebrated
    Never since those early days of wild mining excitement had the little town been the scene of such revelry as it was on the night it gave a celebration in honor of its victory. The entire countryside was invited to share its joy over the defeat of the measure. Every public building in the town was open to the public. A musical program was given in the Masonic hall, at which Colonel Sargent was tendered an enthusiastic ovation.
    A banquet, such as no other town but Jacksonville, long famous for its hospitality and excellent housewives, could serve was attended by hundreds of people. People came not only from all over the county and state but from other states as well. Toasts were responded to by native sons and daughters who had gone forth from this, their home town, and had attained distinction and prominence in the outside world.
    The court house town hall, various lodge rooms and streets swarmed with people as it had not done since the early days of mining excitement. A big dance, which young and old joined, lasted till daylight, when another banquet was spread. Jacksonville was jubilant, and even those who had opposed her in the past campaign caught the contagion of happiness and were glad for the old town's victory. The spirit of the celebration obviously was not one of arrogant triumph, but one of joy and thankfulness for having retained its own rights.
Triumph Short-Lived
    But today it is different. Colonel Sargent is dead; but had he lived he could not have kept sentiment from being pushed aside in the path of progress. It was inevitable that the county seat would eventually be taken from the little town, which is tucked off in a far corner of this large county, and is also five miles from the railroad, and be placed in a more central and populous district.
    But it is tragic--it is heartbreaking to Jacksonville, which now has only its memories of past grandeur to live on.
    But such memories.
    No other town in the state has had such a colorful and romantic past. Jacksonville was not built up slowly and arduously by weary men and women, worn out after a long journey across the plains, as the northern part of Oregon was; in fact, this rich domain was shunned by the first pioneers on account of its surroundings; impassable mountains and its treacherous, cruel and warlike Indian tribes. It was known as "the Indian country," and the few daring white people who tried to pass through it prior to 1850 were killed by the Indians or barely escaped with their lives. [Those who took adequate precautions passed without incident.] In 1851, however, two men, more foolhardy and daring than most, were passing through and discovered gold in the locality where Jacksonville stands today.
Gold Seekers Swarm In
    Those who seek gold forget all hardships and danger, and as soon as a report of this first gold strike was circulated, men swarmed into the vicinity from all directions, and suddenly a town of thousands of people sprung up where formerly only the Indian held undisputed sway. [Farmers preceded the discovery of gold.]
    Tents, cabins, shacks grew up overnight among the creek banks. Adventurers, courtesans, miners, gamblers and pioneers came in over the hills with pack trains following close behind. What is now only a town of less than 500 people at one time boasted of 5,000 or 10,000 population. [The population probably never reached 5,000 during the gold rush.]
    Millions of dollars were taken from the creek beds and quartz hills nearby. Soon roads were cut through the stubborn mountains and the stage coach rumbled and jangled through the streets, bringing news and people from the outside world. Saloons, gambling halls and dance halls flourished. A substantial trading post was established and gold dust and nuggets were used in exchange instead of coin.
    All was excitement, rush, gaiety and splendid adventure, instead of the usual worry and sordid struggle of building up a civilization in the wilderness. There was, of course, the oft-recurring troubles with the Indians and at one time a terrible and devastating scourge of smallpox, but these calamities were overshadowed by the lure and excitement of gold.
    When the first rush was over, Jacksonville began to assume the semblance of a town instead of a camp, and began to build, not as mining towns usually do--flimsily, for the present only--but solidly and substantially for the future. Respectable families began to come into the town, and homes were built which are occupied today by descendants of those early pioneers. Furniture was brought "around the Horn" and packed in from the nearest seaport, giving a social prominence to those possessing such things. Brick business buildings were erected, which are as solid today as they were when they were built, even though all the granite steps in front of them are worn to half-moon circles by the many feet that have ascended them through the years. [The steps are sandstone.]
    Flagstone sidewalks took the place of paths and a church was built, being one of the first Protestant churches west of the Rocky Mountains. The first money donated toward the building of this little church, in which services are still held, was won over the faro table by a famous gambler. In fact, if it had not been for the generosity of those early-day gamblers there would not have been a church built until a later date. [Thomas Fletcher Royal's fundraising records of donations for the church survive. "An exact copy of all subscriptions, headings, names, amounts, and for what purposes" (Royal's words) is transcribed here. One of the gamblers usually cited in this myth is listed as having donated $5; others are not mentioned.]
Peter Britt First Photographer
    Jacksonville also had the first photograph gallery established in Oregon. The photographer was Peter Britt, who used to bluntly tell the ladies, when they were displeased with their likeness and prone to lay the fault onto the photographer, "If you want a pretty picture, you must bring a pretty face." This interesting old gallery is kept just as it was in the early '50s when the dance hall girls and bearded miners preened and posed for their daguerreotypes.
    Then there was the U.S. Hotel, another brick building, at which the tired travelers rested after their rough stage trip into the valley, and in which President Hayes once slept. It is used as a pioneer museum now. The express office, combined with Beekman's banking house, which
was one of the first banks in the state, is also unchanged by time, and one feels as he enters its doors today as if he had stepped back over half a century. In it are the gold scales used in those early days, and notices on the walls, dimmed by time, still read, "Gold dust shipped to the Atlantic states" "Gold dust exchanged for United States gold coin."
    And there is an advertisement for the Oregon and California stage coach with a picture of that ancient vehicle proudly exhibiting the comforts and safety of travel behind its six prancing horses, with an armed express messenger on the box beside the driver.
    The counter, worn by time and use, where miners used to empty their buckskin pokes of nuggets, still holds, as if ready for instant use, tin candlesticks with half-burnt tallow candles in them. About the rusty box stove, still arranged in a companionable circle, are the crude chairs and rough-hewn benches where the leading men of the community once sat and discussed momentous affairs. There may be more imposing banks in the state of Oregon than this little one, but few--if any--through which so much wealth has passed.
    All of these things and places, which are only landmarks and objects of curious interest today, at that time were important factors in the new country. And as the town began to grow and a definite form of society crystallized, it became necessary to establish some kind of law and order.
Swift Justice Dispatched
    Oregon was a territory and Jackson County an empire in itself, comprising within its boundaries at that time what has since been subdivided into Josephine, Lake, Klamath and Curry counties. The few territorial laws that had been compiled hastily for the state related mostly to property rights and did not suffice for the dispensation of justice in a thickly populated--and sometimes lawless--community, such as Jacksonville had suddenly become.
    In 1852 the necessity of mutual protection caused a "people's court" or a sort of vigilantes committee, to grow up. The decrees of the court were inflexible and punishment was swift and certain. When a man was condemned for murder he was taken out and hanged as soon as sentence was pronounced. [This "people's court" was only convened once, to try Robert S. Maynard for murder. Accounts report he was hanged the next day, or after a week or ten days.] In 1853, on account of increasing crime and property disputes, it became necessary to do away with such informal proceedings and establish a judicial court. A mass meeting was held on Jackson Creek by the citizens and miners, who, by general consent, appointed a man as "alcalde," investing him with unlimited jurisdiction. But it soon developed that the man chosen was unworthy of public confidence and a "superior alcalde" was appointed over him. [The alcalde was a feature only of the ad hoc government of the valley prior to Jackson County's organization under the laws of Oregon Territory in 1853. There was no "mass meeting" until it became necessary to override an alcalde's decision.]
Judge Deady Opens Court
    In September, 1853, this court held the last session, for Matthew P. Deady, who had been appointed United States district judge of the Territory of Oregon, held the first regular court in Jacksonville, in a building next to the "New State Saloon." [Jackson County was organized on March 4, 1853, initiating a conventional county structure on that date.] The bench was a dry goods box, covered with a blue blanket, and, as one history says: "Probably the uncomfortable seat occupied by the judge was so irksome that it had something to do with his rapid dispensation of justice."
    Eventually a wooden structure was built for the court house, and in 1883, against bitter opposition from all over the county, the present two-story brick building was erected. Jacksonville was stronger than her county in those days.
    A history of Oregon, written at that time, in summing up Jacksonville's merits and acquisitions, says: "But the crowning glory of Jacksonville is its magnificent court house, built in 1883, at a cost of $32,000 and after a strenuous opposition from rival points and citizens. It is the cheapest public building of its kind ever erected in Oregon, and the bill of costs never exceeded a single dollar from the amount stipulated in the contract, which disappointed the must bitter opponents, who predicted the building would ultimately foot up $100,000."
Contractor Loses Money
    The historian fails to add that Mr. Byers, the contractor, was either that rare thing--a conscientious contractor--or else very deficient in calculation, and he lost $1500 on his contract. This was made up to him, however, by the ladies of Jacksonville, who gave a grand ball in the edifice when it was completed, and turned the proceeds over to the honest and deserving Mr. Byers. [Byers & Guerin were the subcontractors for the brickwork and plastering. The ball was to honor the contractor, L. S. P. Marsh.]
    Since that day, when the court house was deemed a magnificent and awe-inspiring structure, Jackson County has increased to a population of 20,000 people. An accumulation of important records during the 43 years has outgrown the capacity of the old building. Valuable records have been relegated to storerooms outside the court house and some have became so stained that they are illegible and useless. It was impossible to remodel the old building for the present or future needs, and so the tragedy of losing the chief prize came to Jacksonville.
    The new generation sees nothing amazing or imposing in the stately, solid, old brick building, whose small offices are Dickensesque in their quaintness, each boasting paneled wainscoting and a fireplace. The old court room, saturated with years of strong cigars, has in its center also a huge, big stove, which somehow mars the dignity of what is otherwise an unusually imposing court room. Magnificent it may have seemed at the time it was built to those men who had attended court when his honor sat on a packing box, but it fails to impress the present generation and is inadequate for the growing needs of the thriving county.
Court Room Social Center
    Not only as a hall of justice has the court room served, for being the most imposing and important structure in Southern Oregon, it was used in the past for all the large social and civic gatherings which the town and county had. It has been the scene of famous Fourth of July celebrations and those wonderful pioneer reunions, community Christmas trees, grand balls and even formal weddings.
    Its old walls have resounded with the eloquence of some of the ablest jurists on the coast, and many a sensational trial has been conducted there. Murderers have listened to their doom and innocent people have been freed within its portals. But no more will the life and stir of intense interest animate its old frame. Its doom is sealed, and it, too, passes into the limbo of Jacksonville's memories.
    Many of us who knew it when it was young and proud--and we were young, too--knew that it was not only a "court house" in one sense of the word, but in another sense as well. For, having no other park in the town, its large yard, shaded by splendid maples, served as a meeting and a trysting place for the young people of the community. Many who spent their early life in Jacksonville and who are fathers and mothers--even some who are grandfathers and grandmothers now--treasure, I know, as their fondest memory those wide granite steps and the shaded court house yard splashed with moonlight.
Happy Hours Recalled
    They remember as if yesterday the fragrance of rain-washed lilacs and the cloying sweetness of locust blossoms blended with the perfume of high lush grass sprinkled with buttercups that made youth and love most glorious things in those spring evenings of long ago. The unfolding quiet of the village evening, broken only by the rustle of leaves above them and the trickling of the creek that flowed nearby, was like a benediction which has attended them through all the years.
    Jacksonville will come into her own some day. Like children, seeking adventure, who have strayed from their mother's knee, people will gratefully and happily return to bless her in her old age. Situated as the town is in the sheltering arms of pine- and laurel-clad hills, commanding a view of the rolling valley before it, with a background of towering and snow-capped mountains in the distance, it has the most beautiful location in the Rogue River Valley. Already homes are building rapidly toward it along the highway, and the time is not far distant when it will be the exclusive residence district of Southern Oregon.
Dignity Guards Borders
    Towns, like people, have a distinct personality, and Jacksonville attracts with its dignity, its peacefulness and contentment. Out of its hectic early life it has sifted the useless and only retained the things that endure. Things that make life worthwhile, after all. And these it will hand on as a heritage to those who live within its boundaries.
    First, Jacksonville was robbed of her gold and deserted by those who ravished her; later the railroad snubbed her and cut her off from the main thoroughfare of progress. She has seen her younger generations depart, seeking success in faraway places, and finally in her old age the upstart town of Medford, like an ungrateful stepchild, has stolen her court house from her.
    But there are some things that are all her own. Some things which nothing ever can take from her, and these are her memories and traditions.
    The love, gratitude and reverence which are her due will grow stronger as the country grows older and will be handed down through the generations by those who know that the very name of Jacksonville is synonymous of all that is brave, strong and courageous. The whole state is proud of that indomitable pioneer spirit concentrated in Jacksonville, which mothered our civilization, which fought for right and justice in days of hazard and strife and still fought--and went down fighting an outnumbering and overpowering foe.--Oregonian.
Medford Mail Tribune, November 28, 1926, page B2

Last revised December 4, 2022