Pat Harper

As It Was Contributor

Pat Harper is the archivist for the Southern Oregon Historical Society, where she digitizes records, manages websites and learns more about regional history from the SOHS volunteers. After receiving her Master’s Degree in library science from the University of Illinois in 1980, Harper worked as a reference librarian, then as a library administrator. From 1994 to 2005, she was the Siskiyou County library director and lived in the country near Hornbrook, California. Pat and her husband moved to San Rafael, Calif., in 2005 to begin their sailing adventures, and after three years they took an 18-month voyage on their sailboat, Ecos. Now they enjoy a more settled life in Medford, and cruise the Caribbean during winter months.

A teacher at the Wagner Creek School, Willis J. Dean, believed children should be taught science, health and practical skills, but never religion.  He was also a spiritualist.  Dean taught at the school, located at present-day Talent, Ore., from 1884 until he retired.

One rainy night in 1912 the Stratton family’s neighbor in West Medford, Ore., Wells Lounsbury, came to their door with a suitcase.  He said he had walked from Central Point but hadn’t found his family at home.

In 1892, a group of Methodists at a camp meeting in Central Point agreed to begin a Chautauqua program in Southern Oregon. Their goal was to hold their first event in July of the following year.

It’s difficult to describe Wes Howard.  He’s been called a curmudgeon, hermit and hoarder. Others say he was sincere, friendly, helpful, charitable and an intelligent, informed and concerned citizen.

Gus Newbury was the Jackson County school superintendent for seven years, followed by a successful law career. In spite of Newbury’s prestige, his friend Court Hall challenged him in the Medford Mail Tribune to a mock spelling match at the Elks Club.

The actress Grace Andrews married Conro Fiero in Medford in 1910. When their orchard crop failed in 1914, he found a diplomatic job in Washington, D. C., and she worked as a code-breaker at the State Department.

As the Southern Oregon Historical Society celebrates 70 years of service to Southern Oregon, it acknowledges the contributions of thousands of volunteers, including Claire Hanley, the society’s president from 1950 until her death in 1963.  Before the society existed, Claire ran the Jacksonville Museum, which provided the society’s first artifacts.

B. F. Miller wrote that one day in the spring of 1855 when he was with 100 or 200 other men at the Sterling Mine, eight miles from Jacksonville , they learned the Indians were holding a “skookum wa wa,” or meeting, and the miners should keep quiet during the night.

An early Methodist preacher in the Rogue Valley, Thomas Fletcher Royal, faced danger bravely.

Susannah Mask, believed to be the third child of Dudley Mask of North Carolina and his slave, Nellie, became an Oregon pioneer in 1852.

Among those honored by the Siskiyou Smokejumper Base Museum is Allen Owen, known by his fellow parachute firefighters as Mouse.

From the time Robert Ruhl and his wife Mabel arrived in 1911, they were distinguished members of Medford society.  Robert was a journalist who became editor of the Medford Tribune in 1919 and continued through 1958.  Although Mabel said she did not influence Robert, others disagreed.  Mabel claimed Robert was more liberal, she was more conservative.

Mrs. P. J. Ryan died in 1913 in an asylum in Salem, Ore., where she had been placed one year after she was widowed because her dementia “had developed a violent form.”

Growing up in a mining cabin could have been a grim experience lacking in educational or cultural opportunities, but Rose Opp was a determined mother. Even though her daughters, Gertrude and Julia, slept in a tent winter and summer and showered beneath buckets of cold water, Opp insisted on freshly ironed linens at every meal. Proper silverware and flowers graced her table.

W. J. Bennet moved to Roseburg, Ore., in 1892, and became its first architect. After designing the original Old Soldiers Home and other Roseburg buildings, Bennet moved to Medford in 1895.

Apparently Emmerson “Doc” Kennedy was a creative man, not overly constrained by convention, propriety or laws.

In 1856, Indian Agent George Ambrose led Indians from the Table Rock Reservation on a forced march 263 miles to the Grand Ronde Reservation.  Ambrose kept a diary of the 33-day march, his deadpan notes recording deaths, illness and hardships.

Southern Oregon settlers were fortunate when Moses Williams arrived in 1858 to become the area’s first full time Presbyterian minister.  His parishioners helped build his home on 150 acres he bought on Bear Creek, where the National Guard Armory now stands in Medford, Ore.

Imagine a picture of the Jacksonville post office in 1903, with varnished and polished woodwork, oil paintings, engravings, deer antlers on the walls, and spotless linoleum floors.  Envision many hanging flower pots containing “heavy foliaged plants and trailing vines.” Add pots lining the entry way and plants on the clerk’s desk.

Moses Williams established the first Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville in 1857.  Prior to becoming known as “Father Williams” to Presbyterians and many others, Williams lived in Pennsylvania and San Francisco and established a Christian school in Valparaiso, Chile.

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