Kernan Turner

As It Was Editor & Coordinator

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP.  His assignments included the World Desk in New York City and 27 years as a foreign correspondent and bureau chief, living and working in Mexico and Central America, South America, the Caribbean and the Iberian Peninsula. His final assignment was as chief of Iberian Services in Madrid, Spain. He retired in Ashland, his birthplace,  in 2002, with his wife, Betzabé “Mina” Turner, an Oregon certified court interpreter.  He and his wife are active boosters of Ashland’s Sister City connection with Guanajuato, Mexico.

One of the last strongholds of pronghorn antelope is the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in Oregon’s high desert some 30 miles east of Lakeview.  This is “a home where the deer and the antelope play.”

George W. Riddle came to Oregon by covered wagon in April of 1851, settling with his family south of Roseburg.  He was 11 years old.

It’s usually called the Applegate Trail, but no one was more involved in its creation and improvement than Capt. Levi Scott.

The town of Drewsey, Ore., wasn’t always Drewsey.  When Abner Robbins opened a store there in the summer of 1883, he called the place Gouge Eye. That raised some eyebrows, if you’ll excuse the pun.

The first automobile to make the trip from Portland to Klamath Falls, Ore., faced three days of rough and muddy roads more suited for horse-drawn stage coaches.  The Klamath Falls Evening Herald reported on April 22, 1916, that Harry Telford was the driver of the Michigan-built Saxon motorcar.

Medford, Ore., commemorated the 100th anniversary of its federal courthouse in May.  Historian Ben Truwe’s keynote speech said that the three-story brick building had been used to house not only the court, but also mail, coal and chicken eggs.

The name Warner dominates the terrain in the desert and mountains east of Lakeview, Ore., including the Warner Mountains, Warner Valley, Warner Lakes, Warner Canyon, Warner Rim, and Warner Peak, the highest point on Hart Mountain at 8,017 feet.

Every spring, rockhounds and gemstone collectors head for the Rabbit Basin of southeastern Lake County’s Warner Valley, about 25 miles north of Plush, Ore. They’re searching for sunstones, known locally as Plush diamonds, which are large crystals of feldspar found in basaltic lava flows.

On July 9, 1953, two dozen exhausted firefighters, including 14 volunteer missionaries, were resting after helping control the Rattlesnake Fire in the Grindstone Canyon of the Mendocino National Forest in Northern California.  Suddenly the wind changed, blowing sparks over a firebreak line, and sending flames roaring down the canyon in their direction.  Hunkered in a gully, they didn’t see what was happening.

E.R. Jackson and Reub Long co-authored a book a half century ago about the Oregon desert titled, appropriately, The Oregon Desert.  Long had lived all his life in the state’s central and southeastern desert.  The book is filled with information about desert life, human and animal, and a lot of homespun humor and philosophy.

More than 100 people armed with clubs joined a rabbit drive in April 1916 near the Oregon-California state line south of Klamath Falls, Ore.  The Evening Herald newspaper reported the next day that 286 “bunnies” were slain.

Firemen thought they had about extinguished a basement fire in the White Pelican Hotel in Klamath Falls, Ore., before flames got into the air vents and spread through the hotel and to the rooftop.

Keno, Ore., wasn’t always Keno.  And it wasn’t named after the popular card game, well, not directly, anyway.

Oregon Route 140 heads into the Oregon High Desert east of Klamath Falls, passing by some colorfully named communities, including Dairy and nearby Bonanza and farther east Bly, Adel and nearby Plush.  The highway reaches 4,547 feet elevation at Adel and climbs to 6,060 feet over the remaining 38 miles to the Nevada state line.

Perhaps you’ve seen it, a sharp, bright black-and-white image of Crater Lake, the heavily clouded sky reflected in the water below.  It is one of three photographs taken by pioneer photographer Peter Britt on Aug. 13, 1874. Crater Lake historians Larry and Lloyd Smith described the scene: “The Britt Party has been camping at the Rim for days.  Britt is ready to give up and leave without a photograph when suddenly the clouds part, the sun shines through and the first photograph ever of Crater Lake is taken.”

There’s an unincorporated community situated at 4,511 feet elevation in the high desert of South Central Oregon that goes by the name of Plush.  Plush had a population of 52 in July 2015, a grocery store and a one-teacher K-8 school with fewer than 10 students.

It has taken 129 years to publish Levi Scott’s reminiscence of leading the first pioneers on the Applegate Trail. Emigrating to Oregon in 1844, Scott soon joined other Willamette Valley settlers, including Applegate brothers Jesse and Lindsay, in searching for a southern alternative to the Oregon Trail’s perilous Columbia River route.  After reaching Fort Hall in today’s Idaho, Jesse Applegate encouraged 75 wagons to take the route also known as Applegate’s Cut-off and the Southern Emigrant Road.

When David Henry Miller and his wife, Elmira, settled in Medford in 1883, the town was being platted for the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Miller may have been Medford’s first property owner.

Southern Oregonians and Northern Californians are growing accustomed to wolves once again roaming the mountains. Grizzly bears might be next, some conservationists say.

Every traveler discovers that history isn’t found only in books, movies or online; it can be experienced in person. The Frances Shrader Old Growth Trail east of Gold Beach, Ore., offers that opportunity.

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