Medford in 1889

1889 southeast view from the railroad water tower or windmill--approximate location of today's 1910 depot.

MEDFORD. Is situated in the center of the Rogue River Valley and in the heart of the fruit belt of Jackson County. It is a station on the Southern Pacific Co.'s lines in Oregon. 328 miles south of Portland and 324 [sic] north of San Francisco, and 5 east of Jacksonville, the county seat. The first house was erected in 1884. It is now an incorporated city, the present officials being: Willard Crawford, mayor; Wm. Slinger, J. W. Short, M. Purdin and D. T. Lawton, trustees; John S. Miller, marshal. It has Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Catholic and Christian churches, planing and grist mill, the latter with a capacity of 50 barrels per day, a weekly newspaper and a bank. The city is supplied with water from Bear River three miles distant [sic]. Stages daily to Jacksonville and tri-weekly to Big Butte; fares, 50 cents and $1.50. Population 2,000. Telegraph Western Union and Pacific Postal Telegraph Co. Express Wells Fargo & Co. Mail daily. David H. Miller, postmaster.
R. L. Polk & Co.'s Oregon, Washington and Alaska Gazetteer and Business Directory 1889-90,
page 312     Abbreviations spelled out to facilitate searching.

Mrs. Whipple Describes Medford
As She Recalls it 67 Years Ago
(Editor's note: Mrs. Myrtle Whipple of Rogue River has been a correspondent for the Mail Tribune since 1922--or for 34 years, longer than any other individual. In a letter to the paper the other day, Mrs. Whipple reported she first came to Medford 67 years ago. She was asked to write a few paragraphs describing Medford as it appeared to her in 1889.)
By Mrs. Myrtle Whipple
    I was born in Spencer, Iowa, on October 5, 1881, and came to Medford in 1889.
    At that time Medford was a very small town, far from the city it now is. Only a few stores were there. Ike Webb had a furniture store, Dave Miller a hardware, with Charlie Strang having a drug store on one side. J. S. Howard ran a general store and the post office was in it.
    There was a hotel west of the track called the Clarendon House. The Oregon Saloon was on the corner of Main and Front streets.
    In a few years, other stores came.
    The depot stood in the center of Main Street by the tracks, causing a bend in the street.
    The school house stood where the courthouse now stands--a wooden building which burned in the fall of 1896, I believe. [It burned in the fall of 1895]. We went to school wherever a place could be found. I went in the Free Methodist Church until the Washington School was completed.
    The old water tank and well were where the [Carnegie] library now stands. It was called the "city water works." The water was pumped by an engine.
    The streets were not paved, and in the winter mud got as deep as the wagon hubs, right on Main Street. The street crossings were made of large flat rocks, and the city hired men to keep the mud back off the rocks so people could cross the street.
    Only two or three houses were across Bear Creek, out east of Medford, and they were ranches. My father bought two acres out northwest of town, and we were in the country. The house he built is now 303 West Clark Street.
    Speaking of my father, he turned by hand the presses that printed the Medford Mail newspaper--he and a man by the name of Boussum. If I remember correctly, the paper was owned by A. S. Bliton and Billie York, and was a weekly.
    I have watched Medford grow from a little town no bigger than Rogue River to the wonderful city it now is.
    The fastest growth was from 1908 to 1910.  [1908 to 1912 might be more accurate.]
Medford Mail Tribune, undated 1956 clipping

    In the heart of the Rogue River Valley, that portion of Southern Oregon so famous for its mild climate, its fertile soil and fruits, lies the thriving town of Medford, having a population of fifteen hundred industrious and enterprising people, though the community is but five years of age. Since the first settlement of that valley, nearly forty years ago, it has been considered by those familiar with its soil and climate to be one of the most favored of this entire region, over all of which nature has shed her bounties so prodigally. Lack of any means of reaching market at a cost that would leave the producer anything for his labor served to retard the development of agriculture, and especially fruit raising, that industry for which its soil and climate peculiarly adapt it. Considerable mining has been carried on in the foothills and mountains surrounding the valley, and this created a home market which sustained agriculture up to a certain point, beyond which it could not go until a railroad should give it connection with more distant markets. Rogue River, a stream carrying a large volume of water, is not navigable because of its rocky bed and swift current, and thus the only means of communication with the outside world was the heavy freight wagon and the lumbering stage. Five years ago the Oregon & California railroad, which had kept its terminus for a number of years at Roseburg, extended its line to the southern boundary of the state, stopping at Ashland. Two years ago the Southern Pacific extended its Northern California line to a junction with the other, making a through route between Portland and San Francisco, and has since acquired the entire combined line by purchase. Thus, within a comparatively short time, Rogue River Valley was not only placed in communication by rail with both of the large cities of the coast, but was given facilities for reaching the markets of the entire United States on the same terms as other fruit-raising sections of the coast.
    When the railroad was first built through the valley, passing some five miles to one side of Jacksonville, the county seat and oldest town of the county, a station was established at Medford and a good road constructed to Jacksonville, and thus Medford became the shipping and receiving station for the shiretown. This gave it a good business at once; but it by no means depended upon this, but drew trade to the stores that were at once opened there from the country lying about it. Medford stands on the banks of Bear Creek, the most important tributary of Rogue River, and in the center of Bear Valley, the most populous and productive of the various sections composing Rogue River Valley. Its very location made an important town of it in a very short time, and for the same reason it continues to grow and prosper. It is solidly and compactly built, a number of large and costly brick blocks standing on its business streets and giving it the most modern and progressive appearance of any town in Southern Oregon. It is this air of thrift and business enterprise that attracts strangers as they pass on the cars and gives them a most favorable impression of this new and growing town.
    The causes which made Medford what it is are still at work, increasing its importance and making more stable its commercial features. Receipts and shipments by rail increase in volume constantly, though they are still small in comparison with with what they may reasonably be expected to be when five years more have rolled along. Fruit shipments, which are destined to be a most important item, though already quite considerable, are certain to increase enormously in volume and value. Orchards and vineyards are just beginning to yield their luscious products and give a promise of what will be seen a few years hence, when the thousands of streets and vines now being set out shall have come into good bearing condition. In a few years, where there is now one acre of fruit there will be ten, and carloads of fruit leaving the station at Medford will be as common a sight as carloads of grain are in the great cereal-producing valley of the Willamette.
    Aside from its business interests, Medford is a most pleasing and attractive town. Its residences are neat and cheerful in appearance, some of them quite large and of pleasing styles of architecture, giving to the town a general air of refinement and prosperity. Its public school is a most excellent one, and offers educational advantages equal to those of many much larger and older towns. It has two enterprising and well conducted weekly newspapers, which do much toward making Medford favorably known abroad. Several good churches and a number of social and benevolent organizations attest the excellent moral, intellectual and social status of its citizens. The man who brings his family to Medford and engages in business there will find that he has entered a progressive and hospitable community, while he who decides to acquire some of the land in the adjacent country will find that he has chosen a spot where a fertile soil, delightful climate and splendid shipping facilities combine to aid him in making a home where the church and school have already firmly established themselves.
The West Shore, June 1889, page 327

    Mr. C. D. Knox, who shipped his goods from this place about August 20, to Medford, Oregon, returned last Friday evening having become entirely disgusted with the country, which he considered the most overestimated and greatest boomed country in the United States. He visited the Rogue River Valley last winter and found the climate very mild for winter, [and] from the indication at that time formed a good opinion of the country. But his residence since April has changed his mind completely. Everything in the line of vegetation became completely parched after May 1st, and sickness of all kinds such as diphtheria, typhoid and scarlet fever, spinal disease, ague and all other complaints are common. The temperature ranges from 90 to 110 through the day while at night it falls to 40 to 50 degrees, with a damp, unhealthy atmosphere. No winds or freezing purify the air; no rains after May 1st to relieve the monotony; no good land to be had, and very little poor land at high prices is the way Mr. Knox describes it.--Ogallala News.
Lincoln County Tribune, North Platte, Nebraska, August 28, 1889, page 4

    Medford was laid off and, backed by railroad influence and capital, has grown gradually ever since. She has now 1500 inhabitants, twenty-five business houses, bank, flouring mill, planing mills, shops, stables, etc. Her growth has been a solid one, both in size and trade. Her citizens are putting in a good system of waterworks and improving the principal streets. Along with the motor line the city is to be lighted by electricity. The great number of Hoosiers in Medford explains her spirit of enterprise. I should say also that the town is a church town, having built six good churches within three years.
Scott Morris, "Our Oregon Letter,"
The Plain Dealer, North Vernon, Indiana, November 6, 1889, page 2

    Rolling along through the valley we pass Phoenix and Medford, prosperous towns of moderate size.
Stanley Wood, Over the Range to the Golden Gate: A Complete Tourist's Guide, 1889, page 229

    On the railroad, five miles east of Jacksonville, is growing very fast. Numerous new buildings are being erected, and the whole place has on an air of substantial and permanent growth. The Medford Mail is published here by a Mr. Harlan, recently from the western states [i.e., the Midwest].
Excerpt, "The Rogue River Valley," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, April 18, 1889, page 1. Also printed in the Ashland Tidings, April 26, 1889, page 1

    Farm follows farm, bearing unmistakable evidence of the thrift and prosperity of their owners, until we arrive at Medford. It is the second town at which we have stopped in Oregon, and here we dine at the station. There is a small brick church surrounded by a neat and pretty village, all new and evidently the railroad center of Rogue River Valley.
Abby Johnson Woodman, Picturesque Alaska, Houghton, Mifflin (published 1893), page 39

    Mr. Ticknor, whose field of labor is in Jackson and Josephine counties, on the southern line of the state, says of Medford, his place of residence: "This is a new town on the line of the Oregon and California Railroad of about 1,500 inhabitants and has promise of a sure and solid growth. I found here five men who were desirous of having Church services. These held a meeting and pledged themselves for $50 each toward building a church. To this the Bishop added $100, and a few other small subscriptions were given in, making in all $395. With this I built on some very nice lots given us by the railroad company a chapel 20x40 feet containing seats for 100 persons. It is of frame, not ceiled on the inside, and has one coat of paint on the outside; has a temporary chancel, vestry and furniture. We need help to finish it inside and to get a stove and organ. I held the first service in the church the first Sunday in June, one month after I arrived here. I have found a few other Church people, and after the Bishop's next visit we will number sixteen communicants."
"Twenty-First Annual Report of the Missionary Bishop of Oregon," The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church, New York: 1889

Is the second town in Jackson County in enterprise and population. It appears to have made greater strides during the past season than those to be credited to Ashland, and the number of stores, residences and solid business blocks that have just been built prove that Medford is alive to the great chances that are in store for the wide-awake towns of Southern Oregon.
"In Southern Oregon," Oregonian, Portland, January 1, 1890, page 18

Last revised October 5, 2015