The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

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    Nothing of a political nature, worthy of note, occurred in Southern Oregon until the spring of 1861, when, after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, the pro-slavery sympathizers began to be heard from again. Of the nineteen counties in the state at the time of the adoption of the [state] constitution, Jackson was the fourth in population, gave more pro-slavery votes and a greater percentage of them than any other county, and three years afterwards gave a greater vote for Breckinridge and Lane than any other, wherefore it was assumed by those of Southern sentiment that Jackson County would be at least neutral in the contest. As a bit of humor it was reported that the Butte Creekers, living in the north end of the county, had in fact seceded. Indeed, if the prevailing talk were to be taken as proof, the whole of Jackson had gone out.
    Earnest Unionists were reminded every day that the public peace depended upon positive knowledge as to the position the whole of Oregon would take in the approaching struggle. There was no election near at hand by which to ascertain public sentiment, and the state and county officers were elected before the issue arose, and most of them were Democrats. Calling public meetings and passing resolutions was in effect to precipitate wrangling with no decisive response. Really the time for talk had passed and the time for action had come. A conference with the leading Republicans of Phoenix developed only divided counsels, and deeming delay dangerous, I drew up a subscription paper to obtain money for the purpose of raising a liberty pole and a United States flag. The real purpose was to segregate the political elements of Jackson County, and it was a method which dispensed with argument and would rally round the flag many whom argument would only confuse and who from habit and the delicious memory of other days would exult at sight of the starry banner of the Republic. Subscribers were limited to 50 cents and, after signing, I presented it to Harrison B. Oatman, a Republican, who, after inspecting it, asked with fearful emphasis, "Why, man, do you want to see blood run here in Phoenix?"
    "Oh, no, my friend, this is to dispense with bloodletting."
    But he did not sign, then.
    The next man I presented it to was a Breckenridge Democrat, who was called One-Armed Tabor. I told him of Oatman's fears, to which he replied, "When it gets so that an American citizen is afraid to raise his country's flag, it is time for him to go down into his boots, and I am not there yet." My brother, John, Orange Jacobs, S. Redlich, a Jew (the Jews were all loyal), signed, and later Mr. Oatman--who was no part of a coward--reconsidered his hasty speech, assisted in raising the pole and flag, and later in recruiting a military company of which he became first lieutenant.
    The news went abroad, subscriptions came without asking, and as a surplus was undesirable, many had to be refused, but were permitted to sign as honorary members. A Dutchman by the name of Barneburg procured a 100-foot pole from the mountains, and Mr. Redlich and I stood guard over it of nights until patriotic women had made the flag. In the meantime, the enemy came with a protest. A Mr. Wells, well known in the county, a very strong Southerner, came to the store of Redlich and Goldsmith, where I was employed, to inform us that the flag-raising would not be permitted. He introduced the subject in this style, "I hear that you are intending to raise a Yankee flag here in Phoenix next Saturday, and I came to tell you that it will cause blood to flow."
    I said, "Mr. Wells, you have been misinformed, the flag we shall raise is not a sectional flag, but the flag of the Union you have marched under many a time and shouted for much oftener."
    "Oh, that's a Yankee rag now, and it is not mine."
    At this juncture George Woolen, who sat near, put his big hand upon Mr. Wells' knee and, looking him squarely and almost fiercely in the face, said, "Mr. Wells, that flag will go up Saturday and woe be to the man who raises his hand against it." In the language of the poker table, the Yankee had called the Southerner's bluff and took the pot.
    Late the next Friday, E. L. Applegate dismounted from his mule at the store, and his first words were these: "I heard several days ago that there is to be a flag-raising in Phoenix tomorrow, and I thought I'd come down out of the Siskiyous and see about it, for from what I've heard some of our Southern brethren say, you may need help." (The last word he gasped out convulsively.)
    Whether from fear or detaining employment, not as many attended the pole-raising as were expected, but with the help of wives, daughters, sisters, the tall flag staff was firmly planted upright without a halt or accident while some half dozen or more Southern sympathizers witnessed the event from the veranda of Pat McManus' store, a few rods distant. One guy rope was managed by the women with the assistance of Samuel Colver Sr., an octogenarian immigrant from Ohio in 1857, and a pioneer to that state before 1800, as mentioned in previous pages. He was awarded the honor of raising the flag, and he suggested that the girls should share it with him.
    And in that crisis, it was verily a thrilling sight, the national banner aspiring to the top-mast like a living sentient thing, and unfurling grandly to the breeze, in response to the patriotic impulse of blushing, blooming maidens and tottering age. But exultant as were the feelings of that little assembly at this ascension of the sacred symbol of national unity, liberty, order and law, there was no shouting; it was a solemn service, a conscientious performance of duty, for the future seemed to everyone dark and portentous. Later, the expected ones arrived, and to this earnest, prayerful congregation, speeches were addressed by O. Jacobs and E. L. Applegate.
    The flag at Phoenix went up every morning at the rising of the sun, and strange what courage the sight of it gave to timid souls. They soon waved in Jacksonville and all along the road north and south. Our Southern sympathizers were not wrong in their dread of the flag, for it was an assertion of sovereignty, a challenge to submission or combat, and they were wise enough to engage in no useless struggle, and no further protest was made.
    I left Rogue River [Valley] on the first of June, and everywhere on my way north the signs of loyalty were visible. Disloyalty, whether much or little, was in hiding, and likely those affected with it were never so numerous as noisy, and then gave no intimation of discontent.
T. W. Davenport, "The Slavery Question in Oregon," Oregon Historical Quarterly, December 1908, pages 360-363

    "When I came back from the Yakima Indian war in February, 1856," said Ben Blackburn of Roseburg, "I went home to our farm between Butte Creek and the Abiqua and started to school.…
    "We lived on our place near Silverton till the spring of 1858, when we moved to Jackson County. I got work at teaming and freighting. My father and mother were living on what was then known as the Frank and Cortez Myer place, on Bear River. Pretty soon I took up placer mining not far from what was then called Gasburg, now known as Phoenix. It was a great place for drinking and gambling and horse racing. Gasburg got to be so lively that the church people thought of it as a regular Sodom and Gomorrah. Finally a young preacher named C. C. Stratton came down to Gasburg and conducted revival services. He converted most of us and broke up the best horse racing in the state. That revival knocked the reputation of Gasburg as a tough town higher than a kite. It not only knocked out the horse racing and broke up the gambling, but they started a Sunday school and used the card tables in the Sunday school and prayer meeting.
    "After working for Harrison Oatman for a spell in his mines I freighted from Jacksonville to Crescent City and Yreka. In 1862 I came back to the Abiqua in Marion County and wintered at Uncle Dicky Miller's place.…
    "Toward the close of the Civil War I was running a feed stable on Buena Vista Bar in Idaho Basin. I heard that my father and mother had died, so I went back to Gasburg, or Phoenix, to give it the name it now goes by. My three sisters were living there. The oldest was 16 years old, the next 14 and the other 12. I took my sisters up to La Grande in 1865. Within a few years all three of them were married…
Fred Lockley, "In Early Days," Oregon Journal, Portland, July 18, 1915, page C4

    "Phoenix, in Southern Oregon, was originally named Gasburg," writes Fred Lockley, feature writer of the Portland Journal, in a sketch about that well-known Rogue River Valley village and its founders, in Tuesday's issue of that publication.
    "Samuel Colver took up a donation land claim in the fall of 1851, on which the town of Phoenix was later built. In 1852 his brother, Hiram Colver, came with his own family and that of his brother Samuel. Each of these brothers took up a full mile square of land. Other settlers who took up places in 1852 were Sam Van Dyke, Matthew Little, E. E. Gore and O. D. Hoxie. In 1853 a number of other settlers took up places nearby, among them being George T. Vining, C. S. Sergeant, James Sterling, John Pullman and his brother H. M. Pullman, J. P. Burns, W. Lynch, Milton Lindley, Henry Church, Harry and Harvey Oatman.
    "The town of Phoenix was laid out in 1854. The following year Sam Colver donated land to S. M. Wait to start a flour mill. Later Mr. Wait sold the mill to E. D. Foudray, and Mr. Wait went up to Washington Territory and founded the town of Waitsburg. In 1859 William Hess bought the mill, selling it three years later to James T. Glenn. Two years later Glenn sold it to E. D. Foudray, who ran it until 1871 and sold it to G. W. Wimer. This old mill was taken over by the grangers in 1876. Later they sold it to P. W. Olwell. Harvey Oatman built the first hotel in Phoenix. Harrison B. Oatman and Henry Church ran the first store there. One of the first teachers at Phoenix was Orange Jacobs, who later became a distinguished jurist in Washington. He served as chief justice and also as delegate in Congress from Washington Territory."
Medford Mail Tribune, October 16, 1930, page 10  Originally printed in the Oregon Journal, October 14, 1930, page 10.

By Fred Lockley
    "I was born right here in Phoenix on October 18, 1863," said Mrs. Lilly Blackwood when I interviewed her recently at her home in Phoenix. "My maiden name was Lilly Caldwell. My father, Dr. Matthew Caldwell, was born at South Salem, Ohio, September 1, 1824. My mother's maiden name was Mary Jane McCormick. I was their only child. My father died when I was 10 years old, and my mother passed on when I was 18. Father attended the Cincinnati Medical College. He went to California in 1849 and mined on Feather River. His partner was the Rev. M. A. Williams, a Presbyterian minister.
    "Father came here to Phoenix in 1853 and started a drug store. There was a woman who lived here at that time who was quite a gossip. They called her 'Gassing Kate,' so, out of revenge, she called Phoenix 'Gasburg,' and the name stuck to it for years.
    "When my mother married Father she was a widow with one son. Father took down the house and moved it to what is known as Wagner's Soda Springs, 11 miles south of Ashland on the old California-Oregon stage road. Father and Mother ran a hotel there, and this hotel was used as a stage station, and later our place became a well-known summer resort. My father purchased 1000 acres of land at $1.25 an acre. They ran this hotel and resort nine years. I was only a year old when we moved there, in the fall of 1864. Father died in 1874 and Mother leased the place.
    "Four years later Mother married D. C. Courtney. At that time he was mining on Galice Creek. I was 11 years old when I entered St. Mary's Academy at Jacksonville. This was after Mother had leased our place at the springs. My father had taught me at home, and he had taught me so well that I was able to enter classes with girls older than myself. Among my schoolmates were Carrie Beekman, Ben B. Beekman, whose father, C. C. Beekman, was the leading banker of Jacksonville, Minnie Day, daughter of Silas J. Day, Anna Miller, sister of Colonel Robert A. Miller of Portland, and Allie Hanley, whose brother, Bill Hanley, is a rancher in Harney County.
    "I was married on August 17, 1881, to R. T. Blackwood, a railroad engineer. We farmed my father's old home place. We had one child, Mary Jessamine, who married W. S. Stonecliff. My husband died in 1906. I live with Mrs. Frederick Malmgren, who was born in Holland and who is the widow of Dr. Theodore Malmgren."

•    •    •
    Phoenix is located on the donation land claim of Samuel Colver. He took up a claim there in 1851 and in the summer of 1852 his brother, Hiram, took a claim adjoining his brother's. This same year a number of other settlers took up claims in the vicinity of what is now Phoenix, among them being George T. Vining, James Sterling, John and H. M. Coleman, C. S. Sergeant, J. P. Burns, Milton Lindley, W. Lynch, Harvey and Henry Oatman and Henry Church. The town of Phoenix was laid out in 1854. The following year S. M. Wait built a flour and grist mill there. Later Mr. Wait sold his mill to E. D. Foudray and went to Washington Territory, where he started the town of Waitsburg.
    The first hotel in Phoenix was built by Harvey Oatman. The first merchants of Phoenix were Henry Church and Harrison B. Oatman, the firm name being Church & Oatman. Judge Orange Jacobs was a teacher there and later practiced law there. He was born in New York state in 1829 and crossed the plains to Oregon when he was 23 years old, settling at first at Salem and moving from there to Phoenix. He was appointed associate justice of Washington Territory in 1867 and shortly thereafter became chief justice. He represented Washington Territory in Congress two terms. In 1880 he was elected mayor of Seattle. Four years later he was elected to the Washington Territory senate. He lacked but one vote, while living in Oregon, of being elected to the United States Senate.
Oregon Journal, Portland, August 18, 1933, page 8

    Jackson County has purchased 38 acres of land in the Louis Colver place, just outside the southern city limits of Phoenix, for $2300 the acreage comprises 23 acres of gravel and sand, to be used as a county gravel pit, and 15 acres of farm. The county expects to sell the farm land, County Engineer Paul B. Rynning said today.
    The gravel and sand deposit is centrally located for county road purposes, and to procure it it was necessary to buy adjacent land. The gravel and sand will be used in road work. It was also cheaper to purchase the gravel bed outright than on a footage basis, county officials said.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 5, 1937, page 3

Last revised February 22, 2024