As It Was

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Colorful vignettes dedicated to the regional history of Southern Oregon and Northern California. As It Was is an all volunteer effort -- produced by Raymond Scully and narrated by Shirley Patton in partnership with writers from the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

If you have a writing background and would like to submit an As It Was essay for consideration, email your written piece to

A collection of As It Was essays is available in a high-quality paperback book at the JPR Online Store.  Each episode is also available below.

George Gibbs traveled with Indian Agent Col. Reddick McKee on his 1851 expedition to Northwestern California to meet with tribes and explore the region.  Gibbs’ journal describes some of the customs of the Indians of coastal and inland Northern California. Until the account was published in 1853, little was known about the mountainous region.

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.

Despite legislative attempts to change its name to Alder Creek, Bully Creek in Southeastern Malheur County still goes by Bully Creek.

In Jacksonville, Ore., many children died in accidents and disease outbreaks in the early days, including diphtheria in 1859 and smallpox 10 years later.  Eight-year-old Mary Bailey was shot when her older sister tried to take a dangerous gun away from her. Mary Angel was 18 months old in 1858 when she fell into a washtub filled with scalding water and died the next morning.

It was 1965 when Lee Hobbs founded the Blackbird Shopping Center as an army surplus store in Medford.  To attract customers, Hobbs built a huge statue of a blackbird in the parking lot.

In Jack London’s 1912 novel of the Yukon gold rush titled Smoke Bellew, one character, Little Man, shares his hopes for a Rogue Valley future.  Here is an excerpt:

In August 1855, famed Civil War Gen. Phil Sheridan was a young lieutenant on an exploratory expedition in Southern Oregon. The soldiers ran into an armed party of Jacksonville citizens in hot pursuit of some Indians, but Sheridan soon surmised they weren’t anxious to find any “hostiles.”

Medford, Ore., had so many people coming to see the wonders of the Rogue Valley that in 1909 hotel rooms filled early every day, and the Southern Pacific Railroad was allowing people to camp on the station grounds.

In 1934, Shenie and Hattie Hogue and their two boys moved to Brushy Bar above Agness, Ore., reachable only by foot, boat or horseback.  Shenie worked for the U.S. Forest Service, building a guard station and patrolling for fires.

It's no secret that whiskey was about as essential to the early miners as beans and coffee.  They could buy whiskey wherever any supplies were sold, and some locations kept nothing else but whiskey shipped by the barrel on the back of a mule.

In 1895 Jacksonville, Ore., Sadie Trefren’s parents had just buried their 17-year-old daughter, Mary, who had died of typhoid fever during the town’s epidemic.  So when Sadie fell in love with Albert Perry, they were saddened she would leave the family home, but happy she had made a good match.

Trains don’t fly, but one regularly received a green light from the airport control tower in the early 1950’s in Medford, Ore. It happened like this:

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.

The Yreka Journal ran this announcement on July 16, 1887: “The new town of Mott, near the town of Sisson in the Mt. Shasta neighborhood, was named after Mr. Mott, the energetic and popular roadmaster of the Railroad Company, who supervises the wagon road building for accommodation of the railroad’s construction of its track, and repairs or replaces roads where the track damages or follows established roads. The North Star is the new newspaper being published in this town, the paper having been started recently by Goldsten and Kernan.”

Southern Oregon’s Rogue River has had several names.

Brass Feet Lead to Medford Shoe Store since 1901

Sep 17, 2015

Three brass feet measuring nearly 20 inches each are positioned in the cement sidewalk in front of Norris Shoes at 221 East Main in downtown Medford, Ore.  Generations of kids and adults have delighted in jumping on the feet since 1901 when the brass feet first welcomed shoppers.

Douglas County volunteers formed an organization named Sane Orderly Development and registered it with the Oregon Secretary of State as a non-profit corporation in 1987.  Known by its acronym, SOD, its purpose is to compare proposed local land-use changes and decisions with Oregon’s state land-use goals.  It makes its findings known to residents and public officials.

Early pioneers had a great fear of Indian attack.  One settler named Price, assisted by Sam Hadley and a few other neighbors, took matters into their own hands by constructing a small, fort-like stone structure at the head of Northern California’s Shasta Valley.

The town of Placer, Ore., served as a mining center for the Tom East and Upper Grave Creek mines in Southern Oregon.

Audio Pending...

Riders lampooned the Rogue River Valley Railroad, a 6-mile line joining Medford and Jacksonville Oregon, and its owner Bill Barnum.  What follows is a song from 1909, written to the tune of “It’s Just the Same Old Moon.”