Medford in 1890

[New Year's Oregonian]

Acres of improved land  . . . . . . . . .       193,374
Number of cattle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .         10,119
Number of sheep and goats  . . . . . .         12,576
Number of swine   . . . . . . . . . . . . . .           7,865
Number of polls  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .           1,377
Value of land  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,152,698
Town lots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .       222,441
Improvements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .       632,322
Mdse. and implements  . . . . . . . . . .       343,959
Money, notes, act's and
    shares of stock  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .       470,048
Furniture, jewelry, carriages, etc.  .         94,207
Value of horses and mules  . . . . . . .         16,755
Value of swine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .         19,758
Gross value   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    3,235,347
Indebtedness  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .       686,971
Exemption  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .       271,768
Total tax equalized by
    county board  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    2,254,557
    Jackson County embraces the upper valley of the Rogue River and is pre-eminently a hill country. Subtropical fruits, vegetables and cereals grow luxuriantly in the well-watered valleys, and the hard fruit and berries of a colder clime thrive upon the hills and mountainsides. Sharing the rich soil and a climate similar to that of Josephine County, it is equally prolific in luscious peaches and grapes and produces apples of a flavor that is simply unsurpassed. The finest lamb and mutton is produced on the natural grass grown in the woods, and the poultry, eggs, milk, butter and honey raised here are all that could be desired. Indeed, the growth in population and cultivated lands has, for 1889, been enormous throughout Jackson County. A few years ago homesteads and farms and orchards were few and far between. Now the clearing of lands, the planting of orchards and building of comfortable houses go on everywhere, and not a town in the county but is growing and prospering.
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.
Excerpt, Ashland Tidings, January 10, 1890, page 1

    Medford 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.
"The Resources of Southern Oregon," Southern Oregon State Board of Agriculture, 1890, page 24

    Medford.—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 Company’s lines in Oregon, 328 miles south of Portland and five miles east of Jacksonville, the county seat. The first house was erected in 1884. It is now an incorporated city. It has a Presbyterian, Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, Catholic and Christian churches, planing and grist mill, the latter with a capacity of 50 barrels per day, a weekly newspaper, the Medford Mail, and a bank. The city is supplied with water from Bear Creek, three miles distant. Stages daily to Jacksonville and tri-weekly to Big Butte; fares, 50 cents and $1.50; population, 2,000; W.U. telegraph and P. P. telegraph companies; W.F.&Co.’s express; mail daily. J. S. Howard, postmaster.

"The Resources of Southern Oregon," Southern Oregon State Board of Agriculture, 1890, page 110

    Those days Seventh Street didn't look like it does now by a whole lot, on either side of the S.P. track. The site of the Palm-Niedermeyer and the Rialto buildings were occupied by tumble-down wood shacks, and that of the Jackson County Bank by tin ones. One had a clear view from the depot to the water tank, and while business was brisk even then, the volume wouldn't approach that of the present.
"Medford's Prosperity," Medford Mail, July 5, 1907, page 5

    When I returned to Medford [in 1890] I went to see Dr. Geary, who had been one of my physicians during my siege of pneumonia. I talked to him about studying medicine, and it ended up in his saying that he would be glad to have me come into his office and stay through the winter and that he would do all he could to get me started in the study of medicine.
    I became acquainted with many people in Medford that I had never before had an opportunity to meet. The town was quite wide open at that time. There were several saloons, all of which were gambling houses. There were many farmers in the vicinity of Medford who rode into town every day except Sunday, unless they were sick, and went direct to one of the saloons and stayed there until toward evening. Before the Civil War when there was a conflict between England and the United States as to who owned Oregon and Washington, a federal law was passed giving anybody a section of land who would go to Oregon or Washington and settle. Some of the farmers in the Rogue River Valley were the beneficiaries of that law and were quite wealthy. Some of them had gotten into trouble in the eastern states and had escaped the authorities and gone to Oregon, Washington and California. There were several men in the valley whose histories, as far as the general public knew, started with their arrival in Oregon.
Levi Harper Mattox, memoirs, typescript filed at the Southern Oregon Historical Society, page 116

The Fine State of Oregon.
Mrs. Damon Writes of Its Beauties and Rich Prospects.
    A letter has been received at this office from Mrs. Major Damon, of Medford, Oregon, in which she says:
    This valley is again clothed in all its beauties, and everything seems to be moving at its usual steady rate. Beautiful brick buildings have been erected on Main Street and still more contemplated. A very nice flouring mill, under the supervision of Ferry & Davis, of Minnesota, turns out flour in quality such as Stockton, Cal., might be proud of. A large and elevated tank has been built, which supplies the city with water, and an observatory is finished off upon the top of it, from which can be seen Ashland, Jacksonville, Central Point, and other towns of minor importance, as well as the beautiful scenery for many miles around, such as Table Rock, about ten miles from Medford, which is an immense solid rock standing nearly perpendicular in the air hundreds of feet high and perfectly level across the top for miles.
    This country is becoming settled very rapidly and great improvements are being made each year, and as people come to understand the nature of the soil and climate it will become one of the leading states of the union. It is only waiting for men of means to come here and open coal mines and give employment to those who are trying to secure homes and have not the means to make the start. There are very many at the present time vainly endeavoring to hold their claims in the rich gold mines or valuable timber lands, who have not means to carry the work into execution. Gold nuggets have been picked up to the value of several hundred dollars, and people are getting more and more deeply [financially] interested in their claims, and are banding together and going out into the mountains to form some plans of opening them. But this will take time and capital.
Daily Freeman and Republican, Waukesha, Wisconsin, July 3, 1890, page 1

From an Old Friend.
Mrs. Damon Writes from Her Oregon Home.
MEDFORD, Ore, Dec. 1, 1890.
    Medford has awakened from its slumbers of infancy; it has been overpowered by a sort of sleeping lethargy for the past year, but has again come forth to a new life of business and enterprise. A railroad is nearing completion from Medford to Jacksonville, the county seat, where is the splendid large stone building, the Court House, and where untold wealth of minerals is buried beneath this lofty structure. It is said there is more gold lying underneath the city than there is wealth in it, also in the surrounding mountains. Having the pleasure not long since of a trip from Medford to Grants Pass, a distance of 30 miles through the mountain road, we were deeply interested in the history of this grand and picturesque scenery. Near Gold Hill, a station about halfway, a very high peak runs up far above the rest; this is called a chimney, from which many thousand dollars in gold has been taken; it was discovered by a poor man that for years he had a rough piece of the precious ore upon a mantle over his cabin door worth $300. As we journeyed along through the mountains the valley began to widen along the beautiful Rogue River and for miles on either side was the celebrated stock ranch purchased by this poor cabin peasant. There is a steam quartz mill in operation near the place, also beautiful granite rock, clouded in various colors, is taken out to some extent. The cry from Oregon is where are the capitalists that will come and develop these rich mines, thus bringing wealth and enterprise to our beautiful country.
.Waukesha (Wisconsin) Freeman, December 18, 1890, page 9

    I came to Medford 40 years ago today," said N. S. Bennett, the pioneer nurseryman, as he passed around the cigars on Main Street this morning, "and if they will let me I hope to live here 40 years more."
    "What did Medford look like on January 7, 1890? Well, it was hustling little place even then, and coming from snowbound Iowa via Idaho, we thought it looked like the Garden of Eden. It was only a little village of perhaps 1000 people, but it was lively. All the town centered around what is now the Nash Hotel, and the only buildings were east of the S.P. track. [Bennett exaggerates. By 1890 the school was standing on today's courthouse site, the city park had been laid out, and there were residences west of the tracks, as well as the Clarendon Hotel and Henry Baker's grain warehouse.] Where the Liberty Building and public library are now was only scrub oak and grass.
    "But we liked it, and here we have raised our children and hope to live many years more. Our 40th anniversary seemed worth celebrating so I am passing around the cigars. If you don't like the brand, don't blame me. I don't smoke. Blame the man who sold them to me."
    During his long residence here Mr. Bennett has been the leading valley nurseryman, has set out thousands of fruit trees, shade trees and shrubs, and has taken an active part in the many civic enterprises, having been particularly prominent in the charitable work conducted by the Medford Elks.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 7, 1930, page 2

Chaparral in the Medford area, 1913
Chaparral somewhere in the Medford area, 1913

    It was just 30 years ago last Tuesday night that [N. S. Bennett] and Mrs. Bennett arrived in Medford from their old home near Keokuk, Iowa, with the intention of staying here a year if they liked it. They have been here ever since. Medford was a small village then, and the site of the Farmers & Fruitgrowers Bank was out in the suburbs, covered with scrub oak and chaparral. There was then three inches of snow on the ground, and then the developments of the next few days and month the newly arrived Iowans did not fall in love with Medford.
    The following Saturday it began to snow, and before it let up there was 17¼ inches of snow on the ground. The weather was not so cold at that time as during the recent big snowfall, which amounted to a foot, and if Mr. Bennett's memory serves him right the thermometer stood about 8 degrees above zero, whereas during the recent snowfall it was about 10 degrees below.
    The majority of this great depth of snow, although it thawed a little and snowed a little several times, remained on the ground about a month, and then when it did go away rather suddenly caused big flood conditions, and the Bear Creek bridge was washed away by the raging torrent.
    The business part of Medford was on this side of the creek, and to enable the farmers living in the territory across the stream to come across a cable was rigged up over the torrent. The farmers drove to the other side in their stick carts, consisting of rear wheels of a wagon attached to a wagon pole, and then were pulled across in a big basket attached to the cable.
    Due to the flood conditions in Oregon and California at that time Mr. Bennett says the train service was demoralized in both directions, and because of washouts on Cow Creek Cañon and the Sacramento Valley there was no through train service from January 26 to February 26, and no mail was received from the east and west during that time.
    In relating the above Mr. Bennett recalled that the previous year had been a very dry one and hence food, grain and other prices were very high, but that about that time he purchased a dressed hog for six cents a pound and wheat at about [60] cents a bushel.
Excerpt, Medford Mail Tribune, January 9, 1920, page 6

Wheat Was 60¢ a Bushel
    To the editor: Reference to a news item in yesterday's Mail Tribune headed "Recalls Medford When Wheat Sold for 30 Cents a Bushel" will say your reporter got his wires crossed slightly.
    Grain and stock raising at that time were the principal sources of revenue, and droves of cattle and hogs were a common sight along the county highways as well as in the fields, bands of cows roamed the streets of Medford and foraged from the ranchers' wagons, those large black walnut trees on South Central Avenue were at that time small whips of trees and were protected from the cattle by stakes and slats.
    Wheat was the main grain product of the valley and was selling at 65 cents a bushel instead of 30 cents as the item gave it.
    Eggs 30¢ a dozen, butter 30¢ lb., lard 10¢ lb., and dressed pork, as your item gave it, was worth 6¢ lb.
    1889 was a very dry season, and produce of every kind was scarce and high, and there was a general complaint about the high cost of living.
    All south of East Main Street from the bridge was at that time a wheat field, and there was one dwelling house on the north side about where Mr. Nye now lives.
    The big snow storm mentioned demoralized telegraph service for some time, but there was no power line or telephone line broken.
    Water for Medford's fire protection was supplied by a little pumping plant, and the little depression at [the] northeast corner of the library building marks the spot yet where the water tower stood.
    The brick business block built by Angle & Plymale and now occupied by the Economy Meat Market loomed up at that time like a skyscraper.
    Practically all the business houses on Main Street were small frame buildings with shingled awnings built over the plank sidewalks.
    I at that time kept a diary, and many of these items are not a matter of memory but copied from a record written at the time.
    If the city recorder will turn to the records of the early '90s I think she will find copies of contracts made by the city for wood for the pumping plant, and it will show that the price of seasoned body fir wood was about $3.00 per cord, and one year as low as $2.20.
N. S. BENNETT.       
    Jan. 10.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 10, 1920, page 4

Last revised May 31, 2014
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