As It Was: Naked Man Spends a Month in Josephine County Woods

Jun 26, 2018

In July 1914, a Boston artist and nature enthusiast, Joseph Knowles, came West, seeking the wildest place he could find to test his survival skills.  Then he plunged naked into the wilds of Josephine County to prove men were still equal to their cavemen ancestors.

Knowles had done the same stunt the previous summer in the Maine woods, claiming to have survived by nothing more than his wits.  Eastern newspapers called him a fraud.  This time, he would prove he could do it again, entering an unfamiliar forest and feeding and clothing himself using his bare hands.  He brought a professor and a newspaperman with him as chroniclers and witnesses.  He started his adventure in mid-July along Indian Creek near the California border. 

Grants Pass residents made wagers on whether he would complete his stay.  Knowles claimed he could trap a deer for food and hides, use two sticks to start a fire, and forage for berries and nuts.

Knowles emerged alive from the woods in late August wearing a deerskin hide wrapped around his body.  He went on a lecture tour from there and wrote a book titled “Alone in the Wilderness.”
 

Sources: “Nature Man to Live in Grants Pass Wilds 60 Days." Mail Tribune 14 July 1914 [Medford, Ore.], p. 6. Historic Oregon Newspapers, https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn97071090/1914-07-14/ed-1/seq-6/#date1=01%2F01%2F1846&city=&date2=12%2F31%2F2017&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&lccn=&index=10&words=Joseph+Knowles&proxd. Accessed 19 May 2018; "Knowles Time Is Ending." The Morning Oregonian, 14 Aug. 1914 [Portland, Ore.], p. 7. Historic Oregon Newspapers, https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn83025138/1914-08-14/ed-1/seq-7/#date1=01%2F01%2F1846&city=&date2=12%2F31%2F2017&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&lccn=&index=3&words=Joseph+Knowles&proxdi. Accessed 19 May 2018.