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.

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.

U.S. Marine Corps Major-Gen. A.A. Vandergrift couldn’t bear watching some 4,000 of his World War II troops deteriorating daily from tropical diseases in the South Pacific.

Far from the battlefields of the Civil War, a grave stone near the remote Rogue River town of Agness, Ore., reads:

Early newspaper society columns kept up with local residents.  Here are some excerpts from the “Local and Personal” column in the Ashland, Ore. Daily Tidings of Sept. 2, 1919:

In the early 1900’s, intellectuals, scientists and prominent visitors seeking information on Southwest Oregon knew to visit Dr. Walter Haydon in Marshfield, Ore.  Haydon was born in England in 1854, studied medicine and nutrition in London and took lessons in carpentry and metal work for his future travels.

The Civilian Conservation Corps was also known as “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” for its work in the nation’s forests, including fighting forest fires and planting 9 billion trees over nine years beginning in 1933.  President Roosevelt put Depression era youth to work in every U.S. state and territory.

The Klamath Falls Evening Herald reported 100 years ago how a doctor saved a woman bitten by a rabid coyote by treating her with blood from intentionally rabies-infected rabbits.

A Ku Klux Klan kleagle called on the Ashland Weekly Tidings on March 22, 1922, to refute reports the Klan had anything to do with a “necktie party” the previous week at Table Rock.

The Klamath Falls Commercial Club, reminding everyone in 1916 that it was Letter-Writing Week, urged correspondence that would attract Easterners to Oregon.  Club President Fred E. Fleet said nearly all Oregon’s cities were participating in the campaign “to induce visits by Eastern tourists during the coming season.”

Pages