The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Schools and Churches

More Thomas Fletcher Royal pages here.

Churches and Schools
Jacksonville, Oregon
    "In the spring of 1852 Rev. Joseph S. Smith, afterwards member of Congress, was appointed to the Rogue River Mission of the Oregon Missionary Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, by Rev. William Roberts, D.D., superintendent," says Thomas Fletcher Royal.
    "This mission included all of Rogue River Valley. This charming section of Oregon Territory was just coming into notice. Already the inhabitants were numerous and as varied in character as the scenery of the picturesque valley was diversified.
    "Rich gold mines had just recently been discovered and were attracting thousands of fortune seekers. These included almost every class of humanity, from the highest to the lowest.
    "The fertile lands of the valley were inviting homeseekers, and choice claims were rapidly being taken up; many of them by bachelors with the hope of selling them to emigrants coming later, while a formidable and hostile tribe of Indians was still clinging to this, the home of their ancestors.
    "Supplies of all kinds for this growing population of miners and settlers had to be packed in mostly from California. Hence long trains of pack mules were familiar objects, and packers were important factors in society.
    "To reach this important mission field from Portland, Oregon, required a tedious trip of 300 miles, but with the true missionary spirit, Mr. Smith and his estimable wife made this toilsome journey. With an ox team, wagon, and camping outfit and a good supply of provisions, they were prepared for their wilderness trip. The widespread boughs of an ancient fir were their only hotel shelter, even in the storms of that early springtime. The present generation can have no conception of the horrid state of roads covered by that 300 miles; bridgeless streams, rocky canyons, and steep mountains, climbing up and down stairways cut by trains of pack mules. The hardships endured by our heroic missionaries on that memorable trip are simply indescribable.
    "Their point of destination was Jacksonville, Rogue River Valley, the southern extremity of Oregon Territory, in the new mining district. The appointment of Rev. J. S. Smith to this field was wise.  He was a lawyer as well as a preacher. He had been familiar with the rough and tumble of life, and with all classes of men, and even with Indian tribes. He was a man of commanding person, tall and graceful in manner, with a kind, honest face, and clear, strong voice, and an open generous hand. These traits of character, together with his great ability, his candid statements of divine truths and his earnest, logical sermons, soon won for him the confidence and respect of the miners, farmers, and business men. The excited throngs needed just such a calm, deliberate, competent man to check them in their mad rush for gold at the risk of health, life and morals,
    "Eternity alone will reveal the results of J. S. Smith's labors in the pulpit, in the miners' cabins, shafts, and tunnels, and beside the beds of the sick, among the discouraged, disappointed fortune seekers, and in counseling youths exposed to temptations here in rough company, far from the parental home and the restraints of good society,
    "During Mr. Smith's short stay here, only one year, he did not organize a church, but began to collect materials for building a house of worship. The 'round tent,' a large round building made of split lumber, with a bare earth floor, used for the miners' alcalde courts and other public gatherings, was usually filled to overflowing with miners on Sundays to hear Mr. Smith's earnest sermons.
    "After several years absence, Hon. Joseph S. Smith returned to Jackson County, not as a preacher, but as a politician. The Democratic Party had nominated him to Congress and he was now 'stumping' the state. His old friends welcomed him and were not surprised to see him the same sincere, honest, dignified Christian gentleman on the stump that he had been in the pulpit. His opponent, David Logan, was an orator. He swayed the excited crowds with his eloquence. Smith calmed them with his cogent reasoning. Logan made the people laugh and cheer. Smith made them think. Logan, like the 'Little Giant,' amused the masses with his wit, humorous stories, jokes and sarcasm. 'Jo' Smith, like 'Honest Abe,' gained their confidence with logic and fair statement of facts. Logan won admiration and loud shouts of applause. Smith won the votes--a 1200 majority.
    "After many years of creditable political life, Hon. Joseph S. Smith, in the year 1884, at his home in Portland, Oregon, closed his honorable and useful earthly career and entered into rest."
    A later account in the Oregonian of March 31, 1947 gave a slightly different version of Rev. J. S. Smith than did T. F. Royal:
    "The church's history dates back to the day that Rev. Joseph Smith, better known as 'Carving Fork' Smith, came into the roaring mining camp at Jackson Creek to preach the gospel. He was an able man intellectually, the old-timers state, but not able to cope with the sportive community, created by the gold excitement. The 'boys' failed to listen to his gospel, and 'Carving Fork' soon returned to Salem. During his short stay, however, he erected the frame of the first Methodist Church." [This account is from an 1898 address by William M. Colvig.]
    After Rev. Joseph S. Smith left Jacksonville, the town was left without a preacher, and his charge was left to be supplied.
    Rev. Thomas Fletcher Royal reached Southern Oregon in October of 1853, coming across the Plains with his family--a wife, Mary Ann Royal, and three children; his father, Rev. William Royal, a superannuate from the Illinois Conference; his mother, Barbara Royal; his brother, Rev. James Henry Bascom Royal; another younger brother, Jason Lee Royal, and his sister, Mary E. Royal. They were a family of well-trained teachers and preachers, and were looking for work in the Lord's behalf in the new country to which they had come.
    Rev. T. F. Royal had been transferred to active duty in the Oregon Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, but had no idea of the location of his new field of service, as the Oregon Conference had met while the Royals were still on the Plains, and there had been no means of communication. Arriving thus in Southern Oregon, near Jacksonville, with a family to support, and no assigned job in sight,
the young minister was in a quandary.
    "Strange to say, we could hear of no Methodists in the vicinity, nor obtain any information of Methodist preachers in Oregon for months," he says. They were told of the short stay of Rev. Smith, but he was gone.
    "My father (William Royal) said to me: 'Fletcher, you ought to go to Jacksonville, the county seat, to commence your work.' The Holy Spirit incessantly whispered the same thing, and I preached there a few times amid the din of Sunday trade, gambling, horse racing, and all kinds of wickedness. But I dared not take my family into such a pandemonium. Farmers said,
    "'If you think anything of your wife, don't take her into Jacksonville. That is no place for a decent woman.'
    "But after special prayer, she and I felt clearly it was my duty to go there where we were most needed and begin our work.… If I had been appointed elsewhere in the Conference, it could not have been nearer than one hundred miles, and may have been three hundred miles. Besides, it was too late in the season to go anywhere beyond this, and I had no wagon to haul my family, having been forced to leave it on the Plains five hundred miles back. So accordingly, making a virtue of necessity, we took the appointing power into our own hands, and decided to commence work at once in the county seat, Jacksonville.
    "We had been living temporarily on a bachelor's land claim in his shanty, twelve feet square, without window, chimney or floor. Our fire was built on the ground in the middle of the only room, the smoke finding its way out through the cracks. We had a rude scaffold with boards and straw on it for a bed.
    "Looking for a home in Jacksonville, I found a man who had a house and lot for sale. I offered to buy it, saying,
    "'I have no money, but I will give you this shotgun for it.'
    "He said, 'I will take that if you throw in your watch.'
    "It was a bargain and we had our first, all our own, home, a one-room log cabin with a puncheon floor and a stone fireplace. It had no window but it was a palatial residence compared with our five months on the Plains. True, it was in a bad quarter of town, just back of the saloons and gambling dens, where we were continually disturbed by their carousals. But no well-furnished parsonage in which we had lived was half so joyful as this log cabin. It was all our own, no debt on it. The very land was ours. In one corner we made a scaffold with a couple of rails and a dozen clapboards. This was our bedstead. We hung a curtain before it and set a box in this easy bedroom for a table. Other 'mission' furniture corresponding with our bedroom set was soon improvised: stools, tables, etc. We had a chair, a few tin dishes and cups, one fork and 4 knives for the table. And these served us a whole year. It was indeed a charming home to us.
    "But how were we to live? We were strangers and penniless. I went to a grocery store and said to the proprietor, Dan Kenney,
    "'We are hungry immigrants without money.'
    "Mr. Kenney, without waiting to hear explanations or promise, said in his own big-hearted way,
    "'All right. You can have anything you want, and all you want. Pay for it when you can.'
    "In a few days a $20 gold coin given us by one of the miners, 'Lucky Chris Alderson,' helped to pay for that lot of supplies. Soon after, I sold a yoke of oxen for $80 and paid the same for a young milch cow. Then we had milk for our babies.
    "Wife then bought a little 'step stove,' an old-fashioned cook stove, for which she paid $80 in baking, from the hardware firm. Little and poor as it was, it was a great improvement over the campfire cooking of the last six months.
    "After many weeks of uncertainty, I got the address of the superintendent of the Southern Oregon Mission District, Rev. James H. Wilbur, and wrote to him, telling him that, having arrived with no instructions as to my work, I had gone to work in the vacant Jacksonville area.
    "Mr. Wilbur mounted his horse at once and came over a rough mountain route of one hundred miles to see us. He said,
    "'Bishop Ames, who transferred you to Oregon, came around by water ahead of you and organized our conference. Your transfer was received, and the Bishop appointed you to the Spencer's Butte Circuit in the Willamette Valley two hundred miles from here, but now it is too late in the season for you to go there. I am glad you are here, so I shall employ you on this Rogue River Circuit and make it all right with your Presiding Elder, Rev. T. H. Pearne.'
    "Mr. Wilbur remained with us a few days, visiting and getting acquainted with the people. He preached two sermons of wonderful power in the courthouse, raised a liberal collection for us, and charged the people to look out for our support. He seemed perfectly at home in our log cabin, but he would not patronize our scaffold bedstead. He preferred to sleep on his own blankets on the floor.
    "An unlooked-for source of support came to us in the shape of marriage fees. New as the country was, matches were being made, and young people, and some older, were being married; some not so much for love as for land. The government donated twice as much land to a married couple as to a single person. No fees were collected for a marriage license in those days, and none were yet prescribed by statute law for solemnizing matrimony. I was often called on to officiate on such occasions, and although I made no charge for my services, I always accepted the offered present, which was never less than from $25 to $30. Some humorous incidents occurred in this line. A grass widow compelled Dr. C----- to marry her at the point of her pistol. (But I did not officiate in that wedding!) An early protest march was formed by a company of young bachelors with feather brushes on their heads for plumes, as they mounted and paraded the streets with the sign: 'We are organized to protect ourselves against women!'
    "The afternoon proved to be the most desirable time for preaching in town, as the miners did not come in early enough for a morning service. So I usually preached in a boarding house at 11 o'clock in One Horse Town on Jackson Creek a mile or two above town, and at 2 p.m. at the courthouse in Jacksonville.
    "Having no morning paper to announce the services, and no bell to ring, I usually elbowed my way into every crowded store, shop and saloon to the very center, even to the gambling tables, and with hat off, cried at the top of my voice:
    "'Gentlemen! Preaching in 15 minutes at the courthouse! Come on, boys!' And they came until the house was overflowing with respectful listeners!"
    The Oregonian article of March 31[, 1947] refers to this as follows: "In the fall of 1853 another preacher rode into the mining camp (of Jacksonville.) His name was Royal, and he was early designated as 'Limpy.' He took up the work that Smith had abandoned and he got along with 'the boys.'… He would saunter into the gambling halls each Sunday morning, watch the games for a while, then invite the boys to hear a "little preaching.'"
    T. F. Royal continues:
    "The first Methodist church in Jackson County was organized in Jacksonville on the 1st day of January 1854, with the following members, viz: Sylvester H. Taylor, Christopher Alderson, Rev. J. H. B. Royal, Mrs. Mary Ann Royal, the wife of the pastor, and Rev. T. F. Royal. The society was increased by the following members, viz.: William Kahler; Mrs. William Kahler; Mrs. S. H. Taylor; Miss Mary E. Royal; J. P. Hawks; R. S. Munn; Rice Benson; Thomas Trimble; Curtis Davenport; W. B. Horn; Mrs. Ganung; S. G. Shock; George Payne; Isaac Jones, a colored local preacher and a noble man of God; Dr. William Miller; Mrs. William Miller; and her father, George Young; Enoch Walker; Mrs. Enoch Walker; and Mrs. Newcomb of Butte Creek.
    "The first Methodist society at Phoenix (Oregon) was organized Jan. 15, 1854. The members were Rev. S. P. Taylor, a local preacher; Mrs. S. P. Taylor; Rev. John Gray, a superannuate of the Missouri Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South; Mrs. John Gray; Hobart Taylor; Rachel Taylor; Mary Gray; Robert Gray; Clark Taylor; Mrs. Clark Taylor; and Abigail Taylor. Having enjoyed the society of all these persons for five months in crossing the Plains, we knew them to be excellent and worthy Christians, and therefore cordially welcomed them to the fellowship of the church.
    "The first church and Quarterly Conference in Eden Schoolhouse was organized on the 18th of February 1854. The members of the class were: Rev. William Royal, superannuate of the Rock River Conference, Illinois; Barbara Royal, his wife; Jason Lee Royal; Father Rockfellow; Albert Rockfellow; Mrs. Albert Rockfellow; [W.] Cortez Myer; Mrs. [W.] Cortez Myer; Mrs. John Myers; and Miss Myers, later the wife of E. K. Anderson, Esq.
    "The members of the Quarterly Conference were T. F. Royal, P.C.; Rev. S. P. Taylor, local preacher; S. H. Taylor, steward and secretary; John Gray, local elder; William Royal, superannuated elder of the Rock River Conference, Illinois; J. H. B. Royal, local preacher; George Payne, steward. [W.] Cortez Myer, steward. Rev. J. H. B. Royal was recommended to be received into the traveling connection of the Oregon Annual Conference
    "As the families in town began to relax from Indian fears, and the numbers of settlers increased, parents began to be concerned for the education of their children, both in public schools and Sunday schools.
    "The first Sunday school in Jacksonville was organized on the 1st day of January 1854, with William Kahler as superintendent, J. H. B. Royal as assistant, Sylvester H. Taylor, secretary and librarian. The teachers were the above officers and Mrs. Mary A. Royal, Miss Mary E. Royal, and Christopher Alderson. Mr. Taylor presented to the Sunday school a small, but choice, library from the American Sunday School Union, which he had hauled across the Plains.
    "Other Sunday schools were organized in different parts of my circuit: Butte Creek, Eden Schoolhouse, later Phoenix. This latter was a union Sunday school conducted jointly by the Methodists and Presbyterians. The Baptists organized the first Sunday school in Jackson County.
    "One of the most pleasing scenes that ever was witnessed in Jacksonville was when all the Sunday schools of the valley and the citizens of the communities generally formed in processions in the main street in 1854 to celebrate the Fourth of July.
    "Five beautiful banners had been prepared by a French artist: Charley Simonds. One of them was painted on white satin, and draped with illusion and inscribed as follows: 'Clinton Butte Baptist Sunday School,' with these suggestive designs: a flowing fountain in the center, beneath it clasped hands, and the quotation 'Feed My Lambs.'
    "A procession was arranged with the five Sunday schools in front: Jacksonville, Eden, Butte Creek, Phoenix, and the Baptist last. I then presented to each school a neat and appropriate banner. To the Baptist school, I said:
    "'You have the honor of organizing the first Sunday school in Rogue River Valley, hence I present to you this banner which represents in its designs the water of life, free and overflowing, the universal brotherhood of man, and the command of the Lord Jesus Christ to the church to feed and shepherd his sheeplings.' Then, parting the double column, the Baptist school marched through to the front, and a standard bearer with our national flag then led the procession to the Heber Grove, where appropriate addresses, patriotic songs, and a sumptuous feast were enjoyed.
    "One of the most pleasing speakers on that occasion was the snow-white-haired Rev. Kenney, a local Methodist preacher from New Orleans, La., who was on a visit to his son, Dan Kenney, a merchant in Jacksonville. His words were especially gratifying. He was surprised and delighted to witness such a celebration here in this wilderness that was so recently the home of savage tribes and wild beasts. He said:
    "'I have enjoyed many such occasions, but none more than this. This congregation, these patriotic exercises, and the display on these tables all compare favorably with the best I ever saw in my own city.'
    The Conference of the Methodist Church in 1854 returned Thomas Fletcher Royal to Jacksonville and assigned his superannuated father, Rev. William Royal, to be his assistant, where he would have charge of the societies in the upper part of the valley, where he had first settled on a claim and was residing. T. F. was therefore free to work in Jacksonville and the mines.
    In another account T. F. Royal tells of using his first home in Jacksonville as a meeting place as well as a home. Shortly, though, he says they rented a house of Col. John Ross for $15 a month "in order that they might have room for a school and church purposes." And here James Henry Bascom Royal taught school one winter and spring (1854). The following year the Oregon Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church accepted J. H. B. Royal as a member and assigned him the principalship of the newly formed Umpqua Academy at Wilbur, Oregon. But the Royals bought another house of Thomas Pyle for $250--apparently next door to the first log cabin--and in the front room of this house, their sister, Miss Mary E. Royal (later Mrs. John Flinn) took over the teaching duties in Jacksonville and taught that summer and winter (1854-5).
    The school was supported on a subscription or tuition basis by the townsmen and miners of the community. An article in the Sunday Oregonian Nov. 6, 1910, says: "(in the summer of 1854) a young school teacher from the East opened a school in Jacksonville. Generous gifts of gold from the miners and tuition charges of from $5 to $8 a quarter sustained the school. Sixty students were enrolled the first year." However, the school had been in operation earlier under her brother, J. H. B. Royal.
    T. F. Royal was given credit for much of the organization of schools in Jackson County, having been elected county superintendent (he was placed on the ballot by both parties!) and served for two years without charge until Col. William G. T'Vault insisted that he be paid by the county, as "you have done more than any future superintendent will have to do. You have laid out our school districts, you have located school lands, you have organized our schools, put good competent teachers in them and introduced teachers associations," and he secured the pay for Mr. Royal--$500.
    Undoubtedly the "front room" of the Royals' home continued to be the location for class meetings, prayer meetings, singing schools, etc., from the start--indeed the men in the neighboring saloons objected to the noise made by "those Royals" in their prayer meetings! But the county officials had been kind enough to allow the Methodists the use of the county courthouse for their weekly preaching service. Rev. Royal and his good wife felt, however, that there should be a more consecrated building for their worship and sacrament, and worked toward that end from almost the beginning of their ministry there.
    Rev. Smith had laid the foundation for a church and erected thereon the hewed timbers that formed the skeleton of a frame. But the Royals felt that it was not in the best location in town for a church. James Clugage, the early discoverer of gold on Jackson Creek, and owner of the land in the town, donated a lot at D Street off 4th, and Rev. Royal had the materials dismantled and moved to this location. But money was needed to complete the project, and the members of the young church were few and not wealthy. There was no Church Extension Society to draw upon for loans. So the Royals set about to solicit funds for the venture. All the residents of the town, as well as the miners who visited it, were open to Royal's pleas for assistance. The article in the Sunday Oregonian, referred to above, tells an oft-repeated story of his methods:
    "One day he (Royal) walked into the leading Jacksonville saloon, where Ad Helms and Charley Williams were busy at faro.
    "'Boys, we must have some help in building our church and I want you fellows to give us a lift,' the preacher is quoted as saying.
    "'But,' remarked Helms, the dealer. 'You wouldn't use money got in this way for such a purpose.'
    "Oh, yes,' replied Royal, 'and we would turn it to a better use.'
    "Williams, in order to test the preacher's statement, placed $10 in the pot. 'If it wins, you take all,' he informed Royal.
    "'And,' said the dealer, 'if she loses, old man, the ten shall be yours anyway.'
    "It won and with the two $10 coins, Royal started the fund that made possible the completion of the little church."
    T. F. Royal, himself, remarks that such efforts reported later were "over-romanticized!" [Judging from Royal's careful bookkeeping, the "faro" story didn't happen at all. No contribution from Ad Helms is recorded, and Charley Williams only donated $5. The ledger also makes clear that donations were pledged--"subscribed"--and collected later.]
    But he does report:
    "A subscription was started on the 18th of May 1854. The result was so encouraging that we all resolved to make the venture, trusting in God. Wife agreed to board the builders and help otherwise all she could, and I agreed to haul the lumber and help about the church. We hired David Linn and James McDonough and Thomas Pyle to build the church. They commenced at once on the site donated by Clugage and Pool. With Capt. Miller's ox team and wagon, I hauled the lumber from Lindley's sawmill on Bear Creek, a distance of eight miles. A rude dry-kiln was constructed and I kept fire under it day and night to season some of the lumber. Having no planing mills, everything had to be dressed by hand.
    "After the woodwork of the building was finished, I found a miner who could lay brick. I employed him to build the flue of the church. After he had finished it nicely, I asked him for his bill. He said,
    "'I make no charge.'
    "'Well,' I replied, 'on behalf of the church, I sincerely thank you.'
    "He said, 'I didn't do this for the church. I don't believe in the church, I don't believe in the Bible, nor in God. I did this for you.'
    "'Why should you do this for me?'
    "He said: 'Do you remember a sick man lying in his cabin up in Rich Gulch where you and your wife came to him and tried to have him go to your house and have him cared for and doctored? You came daily and cared for him until he got well. I am that man. I resolved then that if I had an opportunity, I would do you a favor.'"
    When all else was finished, "the church was lined with ducking, Mrs. Royal and my sister Mary having sewed it together by hand."
    "On the first Sunday of 1855 the church was dedicated to the worship of Almighty God. Ebenezer Arnold, of Yreka, California, Presiding Elder of Northern California District, preached in the morning, and Rev. James H. Wilbur, our own Presiding Elder, preached at night, after which he conducted the dedication service, the trustees presenting the church free of debt, ready for dedication. This was the first church built in the southern half of the state, and the only church in Jackson County for several years. This was not built as a union church, however; people of all denominations used it and were welcome to it whenever the Methodists were not occupying it."
    In 1904 T. F. Royal and his wife visited Jacksonville. We quote: "Our first rush was to see the half-century-old church, whose 50th anniversary we had come to celebrate. We opened our eyes still wider when we saw, instead of a paintless, dilapidated building, a finer church than when it was first built. It had been cared for. That noble, sweet-spirited man, William Kahler, had greatly improved it many ways, inside and out, and in location. He had fronted it on a more popular street (D, facing on 5th), elevated it, and enclosed it and the parsonage with a neat fence."
    "Before closing my account of the church in Jacksonville and vicinity," T. F. Royal concludes, "I feel it my duty as well as a pleasure to pay a deserved tribute to the memory of fellow workers in other denominations.
    "The Baptists and Presbyterians share largely in the honor of laying solid foundations and building thereon the kind of material that promotes civic righteousness and good society.
    "The Baptists located homes near Jacksonville and organized a church of twelve members at the house of David Clinton, May 23, 1853, and named it "The Table Rock Baptist Church." This was an appropriate name, for it was almost under the shadow of that towering monument that stands at the entrance of the Rogue River Valley, impressing the beholder with awe and admiration. Who can look upon that gigantic sentinel without thinking of Him who created it--the Rock of Ages? That church was worthy of its name because they began their foundation on the solid rock Christ Jesus by caring for their children in organizing a Sunday school, the first in those southern counties. Their first pastor was Rev. J. S. Reed, who soon returned to Indiana. They were afterwards served by Rev. Myron M. Stearns, and later by his brother, both of whom were able ministers of the gospel. I recall the names of a few prominent families in that original church: Clintons, Overbecks, Hebers, and Stearns.
    "The Presbyterians 'pitched their tents' toward Phoenix, where they also entered into the work of molding society while it was yet in its plastic state. They were all Sunday school workers. Some of the leading families of that church were the Van Dykes, Gores, and Esq. Hoffmans, a prominent business man and model Christian in Jacksonville and whose family was influential in building up good society in that place and in the surrounding country. Their pastor for many years was that able and popular minister, Elder [Moses A.] Williams.
    "We worked in harmony with the members of these churches, We had the same religious experience and preached the same gospel, with little variation in terminology."
    Rev. Royal later taught some of the students from Jacksonville in the Umpqua Academy, where he served as principal and instructor for many years. Later he became Presiding Elder over the Southern District and was again in Jacksonville on these duties. Although later he was called farther north in Oregon to serve as teacher and minister, he and his wife always had a specially warm place in their hearts for Southern Oregon and especially Jacksonville, the scene of their first labors in the Oregon Territory.
Edited by Violet M. Mumford from notes and clippings of Thomas Fletcher Royal and various news clippings.
Southern Oregon Historical Society Research Library, typescript copy, MS 161 folder 19

Last revised February 27, 2020