Medford in 1940

Railroad Station: N. 5th and Front Sts., for Southern Pacific Lines.
Bus Station: Jackson Hotel, 614 S. Central St., for Pacific Greyhound and Independent Motor Stages.
Airport: Municipal Airport, 3 m. NE on State 62 for United Airlines; Taxi $1.25.
Taxis: Fare, 25
Accommodations: Five hotels; six tourist camps.
Information Service: Chamber of Commerce, 1 E. Main St., near depot; Oregon State Motor Assn., 34 S. Riverside St.
Radio Station: KMED (1310 kc.).
Motion Picture Houses: Four.
Swimming: Merrick Natatorium, N. Riverside St., fee 25¢.
Golf: Rogue River Valley Golf Association, Hillcrest Road, 18 holes, greens fees $1 weekdays, $1.50 Sundays.


MEDFORD (1,377 alt., 11,007 pop.), summer resort town and fruit and lumber center, lies in the heart of the Rogue River Valley, which presents a picture of endless orchards, irrigated by clear mountain streams and hemmed in, for the most part, by the steep walls of the Cascade and Siskiyou ranges, and the broken escarpment of Table Rock. From the floor of the valley sloping benches and rounded foothills rise to the surrounding mountains, which are heavily timbered with yellow pine, sugar pine, fir, cedar, oak, madrona and other varieties of trees. In the spring the valley is filled with coral-tinted blossoms; in the autumn pears, apples, peaches, plums, almonds, and grapes are harvested.
    The city is built on both sides of Bear Creek ten miles from its confluence with Rogue River. Several bridges connect the east and west sides of the town. Orchards extend on all sides of the city, and numerous fruit trees abound within the city itself. Poor indeed is the home that has neither apple nor pear trees in its yard. In the last two decades Medford has made rapid growth, more than doubling in population, but in spite of this it is a well-planned city. Native trees have been permitted to grow and, supplemented by imported growths, give a parklike effect to the town. An extensive park system and civic center with architectural harmony add to the attractiveness of the city plan. Along the railroad tracks is an almost unbroken row of fruit-packing and shipping warehouses, fragrant with fruit in late summer and early fall.
    Many easterners maintain summer residences in the surrounding foothills and mountains, and Medford's hotels and restaurants are crowded with visitors. The city is in the heart of an extensive recreational area, and its roads give access to Crater Lake, Rogue River Gorge, the Oregon Caves, Table Rock, a natural bridge near Prospect, many varieties of mineral springs, and numerous scenic and recreational attractions. There is good fishing in nearby Rogue River, and it is said that Jackson County has more deer than cattle.
    With the approach of fall the exodus of summer residents is followed by the arrival of a small army of fruit pickers and packers of both sexes and all ages. Throngs jam the sidewalks and automobiles crowd the curb. Among the throngs are youngsters who have trekked across the continent in ancient flivvers to see the long dreamed-of West, roaming families who follow the fruit, flitting from one crop to another, Hawaiian and Filipino boys from their island homes, organizers and knights of the soapbox airing their views on government and economics. Here today and gone tomorrow, they come when the fruit calls them, and, their tasks finished, they vanish until another season beckons them back.
    Visitors to Medford in the fall and winter months may note the stacks of wood that stand unprotected from the elements, bearing "wood for sale" signs. Winters are so mild in the Rogue River Valley that householders need not store up wood for winter, but content themselves with buying an occasional load for use on chilly evenings.
    The site of Medford, unapproached by a navigable river, was settled late. The well-grassed valley and the surrounding forested mountains abounded in game, and this was a favorite hunting ground for the Indians, who resented white encroachment. When gold was discovered at nearby Jacksonville in 1851 a great many people came from the Willamette Valley to go into mining. As the richness of the gold field diminished, many of them, seeing the fertility of the valley, settled here. The Indians of Rogue River Valley were placed on a reservation under the terms of a treaty of 1856, and the area was thrown open for settlement.
    Medford was an ''opposition" town, established in 1883 by the Oregon and California Railroad Company (now the Southern Pacific), when Central Point, four miles north, refused to lend financial aid toward completion of the road through the southern part of the state. [This is untrue. The railroad failed to reach a satisfactory price for a railroad addition near Central Point.] "Though poor in purse," the people of Jackson County contributed generously to the building of the railroad. Many farmers subscribed quantities of wheat or other grain, a few made direct payments in cash, others filled out their quotas with beaver skins, and sawmill owners gave cross ties to be used in laying the track.
[Completely false. The Oregon & California Railroad was not a charity.] Unable to punish Central Point by leaving it off the main line, the railroad for a number of years refused to stop at the town or to sell tickets to that destination. [Central Point was late to receive a depot.] The new town was named Middleford because it was situated at the middle of three fords on Bear Creek, but David Loring, a railroad engineer who had lived in Medford, Massachusetts, suggested the change to the present name. [The town was never named Middleford. See The Middleford Myth.]
    With wide streets and "a reserved space for public buildings," Medford began as a well-planned town. [There was no space reserved for public buildings. This may refer to the railroad reservation, owned by the Oregon & California, and later the Southern Pacific railroad.] Saloons were permitted to operate here, though they were barred in some other Jackson County settlements, and an occasional "ruffian" disturbed the peace and quiet of the little community, which otherwise got most of its amusement from attending church meetings and dances sponsored by the literary society or the temperance union. Medford was incorporated as a town in [1885], and reincorporated as a city in 1905.
    With the support of the railroad, Medford became the distributing point of the sparsely settled valley, but not until the turn of the century, when its fruit began to attract attention, did the town begin a consistent growth. In the first decade of the twentieth century the city grew from 1,790 to almost 9,000 population, the greatest growth taking place about 1908. During these boom days every train was crowded with landseekers from California and the eastern states, bringing capital and scientific knowledge to the fruit industry in the valley. Thousands of acres nearby were planted to pears and other fruits; Medford expanded its borders to four square miles and started public works that are still (1939) an expense to local taxpayers.
    As Medford prospered, the old mining town of Jacksonville, the original county seat, dwindled. In 1927 Medford was made the county seat. The previous year the county received a refund from the federal government on taxes owing on railroad "grant lands." This land, known as the Oregon and California Grant, was given to the railroads in the eighties as a subsidy, on condition that the railroad dispose of it at $2.50 an acre. The railroad ignored the condition and the government took back the land in 1915. The "grant counties" then persuaded the government to compensate them, in the amount of a million dollars, for lost taxes. Jackson County utilized its share of the fund in building a new courthouse, which was completed in 1932.
    The commercial life of Medford revolves around the fruit and lumber industries. Orchards planted during the boom have now reached full bearing, and the annual pear pack of the district averages about four thousand carloads, which move out in two streams, one to the eastern states and to foreign countries as fresh fruit, and one to the canneries of the Willamette Valley. Six cold-storage plants handle truck and rail shipments, and more than $12,000,000 worth of products are annually dispatched to the markets of the world. Jackson County's vast timber wealth is reflected in local industries, which include planing mills, cabinet factories, and a sawmill with a capacity of 250,000 board feet daily. Here great power-driven saws drone and whine, ripping to exact thickness and length great trees logged in the hills and mountains that encompass the valley, and stacks of yellow pine lumber shed on the air a pungency that not even the sharp fragrance of fruit blossoms can dispel. The city also has a modern candy factory, a plate glass works, a flouring mill, three stone-tile and cement-block plants, an iron foundry, a catsup plant, twenty-one fruit-packing plants, a vegetable and meat canning plant, and a large ice plant.
    Numerous federal offices are located in Medford. A branch office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is fitted with a library-laboratory in charge of a pathologist whose duty it is to attend to the horticultural interests of the Rogue River Valley.
1. JACKSON COUNTY COURTHOUSE, S. Oakdale St. between W. Main and W. 8th Sts., the most imposing edifice in the city, is a modern four-story building faced with Indiana limestone and trimmed in Ashland granite. The entrance pavilion, five bays in width, is flanked by heavy pylons, while the fourth story is in the form of a low setback. The interior trim is of Alaska marble. Designed by John G. Link, it was completed in 1932.
2. MEDFORD PUBLIC LIBRARY (open 9-9 weekdays; 2-9 Sun.) 413 W. Main St., a brick and stone structure of neoclassic design containing more than thirty thousand volumes, some of them rare and valuable editions, is opposite the courthouse in a parklike block. One of the acquisitions is a collection of books on animal life, travel and history, presented by Edison Marshall, author and big game hunter, formerly a resident of the city. The library maintains branches in several smaller towns of the county. In the grounds of the library, as in many other parts of the city, are huge native oak trees covered with great clumps of mistletoe, in some instances so abundant that it almost hides the branches.
3. MEDFORD CITY PARK, W. Main St. between S. Ivy and S. Holly Sts., has a central fountain surmounted by a Carrara marble statue of a youth seated with two dogs upon his knees. The fountain, which provides drinking water for birds and dogs, was given to the city in 1929 by C. W. and Callie Palm. The sculptor and designer are unknown.
4. NEWBRY & SONS FRUIT PACKING PLANT (open weekdays by arrangement), First St. and Southern Pacific Ry., is one of the larger packing, shipping and cold storage plants of the city where fruits are sorted, graded and packed, as they come from the orchards. After a special bath in acid or alkaline solutions the fruit is run through rinses of fresh water and dried by currents of air. Washing machines deliver the fruit to grading machines, which automatically deliver the sized fruit to the correct bin. Men and women pack the apples from the bins into the boxes in which they are to be shipped. Pickers, graders, and packers all wear gloves, and the fruit is not touched by the bare hand. After packing the fruit is stored in refrigerated rooms or shipped in refrigerated cars. 

Federal Writers Project, Oregon: End of the Trail, 1940, pages 186-190

Last revised August 8, 2016