The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1929

Memories of Bygone Days Haunt Historic Jacksonville, Says Writer; First Gold Found in December, 1851
    The road to Oregon's yesteryears lies not along the main traveled highways. To go back to the era of the pack train and stage coach you must follow the dirt roads to the back of the beyond country. At the far end of some deeply rutted, water-washed, overgrown roadway you happen on what once was--a ghost city of the West. Many of the ghost cities today are but memories, while in others a few gray-bearded pioneers still linger to dream of the glory that once was theirs. For more than 40 years I have rambled over the West on horseback or afoot, by stage and river steamer, by train and by auto, visiting the sites of the cities that once were and interviewing the men and women who helped make history in the long-gone days. Where, today, is Mount Sylvania, which of old time was a few miles to the westward of Milwaukie? It waxed and waned and passed away. Eldorado and Malheur City, once thriving mining camps, today are pasture land. Sailors' Diggins has lapsed back to nature. Pacific City, located near the mouth of the Columbia, once aspired to be the metropolis of the Oregon country. It is no more. Monticello, on the Cowlitz, is but a memory. Santiam City, on the Santiam River a few miles above its mouth, has passed from the memory of man. What of Cincinnati, which once aspired to be the state capital? It, too, has passed. Zena and Bloomington, Jennyopolis and Marysville, Starr's Point and Calapooya, Umpqua City and The Dardanelles, live only in the memory of the pioneers, old-time mining camps, where once the busy, bearded, red-shirted miners shoveled pay dirt into their rockers, their long toms or their sluice boxes, are now but windrows of water-washed stones along the creek bed, where cabins once stood. Kerbyville, now shortened to Kerby, no longer echoes to the midnight revelry of prospectors and miners. Like scores of other camps that in the lusty heyday of their youth grew like a green bay tree, Kerbyville saw its transient population drift to other camps.
    Jacksonville, at one time the commercial metropolis of southwestern Oregon, is today like some old pioneer who sits serene and untouched by the door of his cabin watching the day's afterglow fade to twilight while he harks back in memory to the old days--days of stress and turmoil, when the hot, virile blood of youth ran through his veins--days that have gone to return no more except as mellow memories in the tranquil Indian summer of his life.
    There is something elusive about Jacksonville--a subtle suggestion of familiarity which evades you. The quiet and empty business streets drowsing in the midday heat, the weather-worn brick houses, almost hidden from sight by huge masses of Mission roses, and the unrestrained luxuriance of the surrounding shade trees, seem dimly  familiar--vaguely reminiscent. You are haunted by the feeling that just around the corner is the solution of the mystery. But the turned corner reveals nothing. The feeling persists, wraithlike and dim, the memories of other days, days long gone, throng the streets--days when Jacksonville was the largest city between San Francisco and Portland. But the streets of Jacksonville no longer echo to the booted heel of the bearded miner. No longer are its streets thronged with pack trains and freight outfits. The flagstones are framed in living green. No longer do the streams flow from the circling foothills chocolate brown from the earth thrown into long tom and rocker. Today these sea-seeking streams flow crystal clear from the springs that give them birth. The old trails that end with many a sinuous curve through hills covered with oak and laurel, manzanita and evergreen, are grass-grown and rarely traveled. Sitting on a bench in the shadow you may learn from the ancient graybeards picturesque details of rich strikes, of killings and lynchings in the days when Jacksonville was one of the livest mining camps in the West--when the now staid and somnolent moss-grown old brick buildings echoed to song and revelry, to loud-voiced oaths and hasty pistol shots.
    So young is the West, so short its history, you need to go back but a brief seventy and seven years to the time when there was no Jacksonville. From the spring of 1849 to the winter of 1851 what is now Jacksonville was the favorite camping place for the eager throng of argonauts hurrying southward from the Willamette Valley to the gold diggings in California. Late in December, 185l, two young men camped on Ashland [Jackson] Creek. They were packing flour and other goods to the gold mines of Northern California. After dinner, while washing their tinware in the stream, one of them saw a small nugget. Looking more carefully he found other small nuggets in the stream bed. So little importance did they attach to their find that they did not even stake out a claim. Meeting J. R. Poole and Jim Clugage, they told them of having found gold in their camp on Ashland [sic] Creek.
    A few weeks later, or, to be exact, early in January, 1852, Clugage and Poole camped there, and near a spring in a ravine, close to Ashland [sic] Creek, they found coarse gold in large quantities. They staked claims and passed the word on to two friends, Wilson and Skinner. They named their strike Rich Gulch. Soon the rumor ran up and down the trail that new diggings had been struck and that the pay dirt was so rich that a man could pan out a tin cupful a day. Farmers in the Willamette Valley heard the rumor, and by daybreak next morning they were headed south. Miners from creek and gulch and bar of California joined the stampede. By February, Rich Gulch was staked. Appler & Kenney, at Yreka, loaded a pack train with whiskey, tobacco, boots, rough clothing, beans, flour and bacon, and headed north for Rich Gulch. They arrived in February and started a store in a tent. A few weeks later W. W. Fowler put up a log cabin, the first house to go up in the new camp. Western lumberjacks and old-time loggers from Maine felled the nearby trees, whipsawed them into lumber and sold the rough lumber at $250 a thousand.
    The winter of '52 was a hard winter. Provisions ran short. Tobacco sold at $16 a pound. Salt was not to be had. Men went out over the trails on snowshoes or skis, bringing in provisions and realizing high prices for them.
    The year 1852 saw the first occasion for primitive justice. A gambler from California, named Brown, without provocation, shot a man named Cox. A miners' meeting was called; W. W. Fowler was elected judge. Twelve men were selected as jurymen, and, after hearing the testimony of the witnesses, the jury brought in a verdict that Brown should be taken to a nearby oak and hanged. The sentence was immediately carried into execution.--Fred Lockley, in the Oregon Journal.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 1, 1929, page 10

Varied Industries Furnish Rogue River Valley Wealth Is Revealed
    A recent survey of industrial and agricultural activities in the Rogue River Valley shows that the wealth of the valley is not in pears alone but is diversified.
    The following interesting figures were obtained in a survey made by the Medford News:
    "Figures gathered from representatives of Medford and Ashland firms purchasing agricultural products from this vicinity show more than one million dollars paid to local growers since January 1, 1929 for crops exclusive of the popular fruit. Christmas is still 10 days in the offing, the new year further away, but the sum compiled yesterday reaches $1,135,877.64. This amount is both conservative and incomplete. It does not include money paid out by the Knight Packing Co. and Swift & Co., two leading purchasers of Rogue River Valley products. These two firms failed to submit figures and estimates.
    "Turkeys, chickens, eggs, meat, milk, butter fats and vegetables are responsible for the major portion of this million-dollar estimate. Sale of grains, berries, cherries, grapes and a few apples constitute a fraction of the sum.
    "The figures were obtained through interviews with representatives of Farmers' Exchange Cooperative, Snider Dairy and Produce Co., Gold Seal Creamery, Pacific Fruit and Produce Co., Rogue River Valley Canning Co., Bagley Canning Co., Ashland, American Fruit Growers, Medford Public Market, Parker's Potato Chip Factory, Economy Groceteria and various meat dealers.
    "Dairy products and eggs, handled by the purchasers mentioned, brought into the Rogue River Valley purse $473,778.28.
    "A survey, recently completed by the Snider Dairy and Produce Co., shows there are at the present time 8,338 cows in Jackson County which will be producing milk this winter and the following spring. This is more than three times the number owned in Josephine County and adequate to supply the entire demand of the Rogue River Valley. Dairy products are being shipped into Medford from other localities notwithstanding this fact, and local butter shipped from this valley into various California cities.
    "The meat business carried on in this city, estimates show, amounts to $1,200 a day, bringing a conservative total up to $433,000 for the year. There were 140 cars of stock shipped out of the Rogue River Valley from January 1 to December 1.
    "The turkey pools for this year managed through the Farmers' Exchange Cooperative have returned to the growers $40,380.36 for 137,448 pounds of birds, the average price being 31 cents. Turkeys are handled in important numbers by Swift and Co. and by San Francisco firms with representatives in this city during the turkey season making direct contacts with the growers.
    "Approximately $25,000 worth of meats and vegetables have been sold through the Public Market since January 1, F. M. Corlies, market master, reports.
    "The important part a small industry may play in the consumption of home products is realized in the figures presented by Carold J. Parker, operator of the Parker's Potato Chip Factory. Approximately 250,000 pounds of potatoes have been converted into potato chips by Mr. Parker's firm since January 1. Purchased at an average price of two and a half cents a pound, $6,250 was paid the growers for these potatoes. Another local product handled by Mr. Parker is honey. He has purchased during the same period of time 20,000 pounds of strained honey for $1,600 and 800 cases of comb honey for $5,200.
    "There were 1,414 tons of produce exclusive of pears canned this season by the Bagley Canning Co. Approximately $26,955 was paid to growers for this produce, which consisted of 650 tons of tomatoes, 680 tons of apples, 28 tons cherries, 26 tons cabbage, two tons raspberries.
    "For the 466 tons of produce canned by the Rogue River Valley Canning Co., $11,214.50 was returned to the growers. The greatest amount of this tonnage was represented in tomatoes and apples. Other products included were: Beans, beets, cherries, blackberries, rhubarb and prunes. The demand for beans could not be supplied, according to [a] report given out at the cannery, through inability to procure sufficient tonnage in this valley."
Ashland Daily Tidings, December 17, 1929, page 3

Last revised March 6, 2023