Lynda Demsher

As It Was Contributor

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. During the 1990s and early 2000s she taught high school English in Redding. She lived in Alturas, California for 15 years where she ran the Adult Education program for the Modoc Joint Union High School District until her retirement. She has been an occasional contributor to the Modoc Record, and a volunteer for Modoc's High Plateau Humane Society and the Friends of the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge, among other non-profit organizations in that small community needing someone to do public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography. She moved to Grants Pass in early 2015 to be closer to family and the coast, where she and her husband keep a fishing boat ready for the salmon run.

Numerous accounts of cougar encounters sprinkled the pages of early Oregon newspapers.

Southern Oregon has wrestled with caring for the homeless for a long time.

A jailbreak one early April morning in 1911 was a case of naked ambition.

By 1906, doctors were warning women about the liver-mashing hazards of tight corsets.  Trend-setting models in Paris began calling them "instruments of torture" and promoted the "bouncing health" of a woman's unconfined body.  Alternative undergarments and cures soon arrived.

A freight train suddenly separated as it was entering a siding at the Grants Pass Station to make way for a speeding southbound passenger train.  Half the freight cars remained on the main track with a load of dynamite.

Soapbox speakers in Grants Pass could usually gather a crowd, but if listeners disliked the speech, the orator could expect more than just an argument.

In early March 1903, a young man walked into Grants Pass from Evans Creek and was immediately identified by his skin lesions as having the "dread disease."  Many startled pedestrians stepped aside for good reason, the Grants Pass Courier reported.  He had smallpox, a miserable affliction that killed a third of its victims and made those who didn't die so sick they might have preferred the painlessness of death.

Nine hundred people crowded into the Grants Pass Opera House in April 1912 to hear presidential candidate Sen. Robert M. LaFollette.  Hundreds more people anxious to see the Wisconsin Republican were turned away from the crowded opera house, the Rogue River Courier reported.

About a week before Christmas 1911, the editor of the Rogue River Courier and two of his reporters barely escaped a trampling inside their Grants Pass, Ore., newspaper office.

In 1918 Owen and Harry Baker discovered they could make money by selling fake liquor to thirsty Oregonians.  They were nicknamed the "Ninety-Nine-Percent Baker Brothers” by authorities who said their brew was 99 percent water and one percent artificial coloring.  They put it in bottles labeled "Old Crow, Aged in the Woods Eight Years," and added a little real whiskey to fool potential buyers.

The Rogue River Courier newspaper reported a series of year-end holiday season crimes in Grants Pass in 1911.  Police responded by rounding up 27 hobos lingering near the railroad tracks.  

Accused of "fiendish deviltry" and "dastardly schemes," about 40 people were rounded up and jailed in Klamath Falls during the summer of 1917.  Suspicious fires had burned a flour mill and dairy barn to the ground and dead livestock littered the ranchlands.

During World War I, women's clubs in Oregon went from planning parade floats and clean-up days to recruiting women to register for war work.

At the turn of the 19th century, Southern Oregon newspapers covered a lot of mayhem caused by a character called John Barleycorn.  The mythical deviant first appeared in a gruesome Old English ballad describing barley's painful conversion to whiskey, and was popularized by Jack London's 1913 alcoholic memoir titled “John Barleycorn.”  Described as an "arrogant, dictatorial, uncompromising advance agent of evil," John Barleycorn was the personification of liquor and substituted in polite company for the word “booze.”

The curses of lumbermen, ranchers, and Crater Lake tourists inconvenienced by limited railroad track space in Kirk, Ore., may still linger at the once-busy rail crossroad north of Klamath Falls.

It was June 1911 when a gang of outlaws learned that robbing trains wasn’t a piece of cake. The desperados halted the California Express near Glendale, Ore., by jumping on board in the middle of the night and threatening to shoot everyone.

With gold fever at high pitch in Southwest Oregon, the Josephine County Bank in Grants Pass attracted attention in May 1911 when it displayed several large chunks of gold-laced quartz.

Indians killed several cattlemen in 1861 as they drove their livestock across Indian lands near Canby in Northeastern California.  The attack was known as the Evans and Bailey Massacre in the 1870’s.

While plans lay dormant to build a railroad from Grants Pass to Crescent City, a fatal stage coach accident on Hayes Hill emphasized the need for a safer means of travel to the Coast.

An Oregon governor, who called capital punishment "a relic of the barbarous mediaeval [sic] ages of man," nevertheless refused to halt the hanging of a Grants Pass man convicted of murder.