Alice Mullaly

As It Was Contributor

Alice Mullaly was raised in the same Central Point home where she lives today with her husband, Larry. A graduate of Crater High School, Oregon State, and Stanford universities, she taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York.; Mill Valley, California, and at Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. She retired from Southern Oregon University where she trained new mathematics teachers. Mullaly’s husband was also a teacher as are her two daughters. Her husband is a Southern Pacific Railroad historian, and both of them enjoy hunting for “the story” in primary sources. Alice’s mother was an early member of the Southern Oregon Historical Society, and Alice has been an SOHS volunteer for nearly 30 years. She enjoys the puzzles people bring to the Research Library, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.

The U. S. Congress encouraged settlement of the West by passing the Homestead Act in 1862.  People could file on unclaimed land, live on it, and then buy it for $2.50 per acre.  Within 50 years, virtually all land in Oregon had been claimed.

As many as 1,500 people gathered on Feb. 24, 1884, to view the first locomotive many of them had ever seen.  The Oregon and California Railroad was under construction toward Ashland to the south when Engineer Dan McCarthy drove a passenger train to the temporary terminus at Phoenix, Ore.

One old man who boarded the engine cab shouted,  “Thank God, thank God, I have lived to see this day.” 

Most Medford, Ore., residents worked passionately for the war effort in 1918.  Red Cross groups formed, young men enlisted in large numbers, and everyone was expected to buy liberty bonds.

To make ends meet during the Great Depression of the 1930s, rural families often lived lives similar to their pioneer ancestors, cooking and heating with wood stoves, using kerosene lamps and hauling water.

Railroad history in Southern Oregon is often thought to have had its beginnings in the 1880s, but the groundwork began nearly 20 years earlier.

The year 1912 was an auspicious one for the residents of Woodville, Ore.  The town’s original name had been Tailholt, but that changed to Woodville, in honor of pioneer postmaster John Wood, when the railroad came in the early 1880s.

The Holly Theater opened as both a stage and movie theater in Medford, Ore., on Aug. 29, 1930.  The first performance was a local production that played to a sold-out audience of 1,200 at $1 a ticket.

Jackson County, Ore., had more than 100 school districts in the 1920s, most consisting of a single one-room school for grade one through eight.  One of them was in Climax, an isolated community with just a few families living behind Roxy Ann Peak.

Brownsboro, Ore., rancher Floyd Charley has been described as “the patriarch of 4-H, who like a pebble in the center of a pond, caused a huge ripple effect through Jackson County.”

The Brown girls, Jennie, Mary and Emogene, were born in Oregon in the 1860s.  They grew up shifting summer and winter between the family’s two properties, spending winters on a gold claim on Sterling Creek out of Jacksonville, and summers on a large cattle ranch east of Eagle Point.

Growing up in rural Oregon communities in the early 1900s was a combination of hard farm and ranch work, a few months of school and lots of good times.  For the Charley family in Brownsboro, chores always came first -- and there were plenty of them.

The Rogue Valley’s orchard boom went bust after 1912.  A letter sent to the New York City Daily Worker in 1939 said land scams continued with slick guys deceptively promising riches through fruit-land speculation to strangers arriving at the Medford train station.  The writer enclosed a poem written by Mary Agnes Daily for the Ashland Tidings in 1918, which reads:

Medford, Ore., quadrupled in size from 1900 to 1910, one of the fastest growing towns in America.  Its second elementary school was built in 1906 on rabbit scrubland just north of town.  Two nearby subdivisions sprang up with small houses on small lots and were annexed to the city.  The area became known as the Liberty Park neighborhood.

There was a land rush in Oregon in 1902 by people seeking homesteads on timber lands.  They poured off the trains in places like Ashland, where self-declared land agents were waiting with buggy and farm wagon to lure them to alleged timber lands 60 to 150 miles to the east.

In 1861, Sarah Slagle York and her husband moved to a home on Southern Oregon’s Applegate River where they raised 12 children. Years later Sarah wrote down her memories of that time.  Here is one of her stories.

One file of newspaper articles at the Southern Oregon Historical Society Research Library in Medford, Ore., is labeled “Romance,” an ironic misnomer as the folder contains stories of murder and suicide resulting from bad love affairs. 

On a warm sunny day in July, 1858, all was ready for the wedding of Miss Wagner and Mr. Pursely in Phoenix, Ore.  The Justice of the Peace had provided all the appropriate preliminaries before the 60 guests.  Miss Wagner stood before the groom in her best dress.  Pursely was a little tipsy from alcoholic fortification.

In 1894, a terrible fire burned down the Silver Lake general store in South Central Oregon, where 200 people had gathered on the second-floor ballroom for a community dance.  An exit door that opened in, instead of out, and a collapsed stairway contributed to the death of 40 people and injuries for another 50, many severely burned.

There was little in the background of Kenn Knackstedt to suggest his future contribution to Southern Oregon history.

Miwaleta, chief of the Cow Creek band of Umpqua Indians, befriended the Riddle family when they settled in Southern Oregon in 1851. Young George Riddle later wrote about his family’s relations with the band.

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