As It Was

Classics & News: Mon-Fri • 9:30am & 1pm | News & Information: Mon-Fri • 9:57am

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.

A trail in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness is named Shorty Noble Way for a miner who declared in a 1978 interview that he was “the last free man.”

The Rogue Valley’s orchard boom went bust after 1912.  A letter sent to the New York City Daily Worker in 1939 said land scams continued with slick guys deceptively promising riches through fruit-land speculation to strangers arriving at the Medford train station.  The writer enclosed a poem written by Mary Agnes Daily for the Ashland Tidings in 1918, which reads:

During its 1900 July Fourth celebrations, Medford featured a hot air balloon daredevil, Professor Chris Nelson.  For a fee of $125, Nelson said he would ride a trapeze attached to the balloon to an elevation of 5,000 feet, jump from the balloon and parachute back to earth.

Mary Adams was born at Waldo, Ore., in 1861.  When she grew up, she moved to Grants Pass to start a dressmaking business while working as a housekeeper to make ends meet.

Medford, Ore., quadrupled in size from 1900 to 1910, one of the fastest growing towns in America.  Its second elementary school was built in 1906 on rabbit scrubland just north of town.  Two nearby subdivisions sprang up with small houses on small lots and were annexed to the city.  The area became known as the Liberty Park neighborhood.

In the mid-to-late 19th century, the Northern California Shasta tribe faced frequent attacks by Modoc Tribe warriors seeking slaves.

Close inspection of the tombstones in the cemetery located next to the church in the Josephine County ghost town of Golden reveals that none of them have legible markings on them.  It’s impossible to know who is buried there. That’s because no one is.

Finding safe places for people to enjoy ice skating in the early 1900s was a real preoccupation of community leaders in Klamath Falls.  The smooth, expansive frozen surface of Upper Klamath Lake continued to lure young skaters, despite drownings beneath the ice.

The arboretum of 40 trees established at the Southern Oregon Experiment Station in 1961 was a joint project of the Siskiyou District of the Oregon Federation of Garden Clubs, Jackson and Josephine County Extension Services and the Southern Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station.  Extension Agent John W. McLoughlin managed the project.

Frank Colvin once said, “If I could be remembered for anything, it would be fishing.”

In the 1850s, a fortified ranch house doubled as a fort near Selma in Josephine County, Ore.

By 1910, Ashland, Ore., was primed for growth, with a population topping 5,000, a clean water supply, sewage systems and a hospital.  Landed families were turning property over to developers for quick sales.

In 1854, a northbound ship anchored offshore near the Chetco River on Oregon’s South Coast and sent three men ashore on a reconnaissance mission.  Hostile Indians captured them as they were surveying the area. An Indian boy and his 12-year-old sister, named Skamamahtra, or Prairie Flower, felt compassion for the men and helped them escape and hide nearby.

Crater Lake National Patrol Ranger Alice Siebecker was pursuing a speeding car on the park’s south entrance road in 1982 when the car exploded, ran off the road, and flew 500 feet through the air into an embankment.

The Chelsea Lumber and Box Company announced plans in 1917 to build a new sawmill in Klamath Falls at the county fairgrounds at the south end of Lake Ewauna.

There was a land rush in Oregon in 1902 by people seeking homesteads on timber lands.  They poured off the trains in places like Ashland, where self-declared land agents were waiting with buggy and farm wagon to lure them to alleged timber lands 60 to 150 miles to the east.

John William Fitzhugh gave new meaning to the phrase “going barefoot.”

While the concept of the mythical State of Jefferson is popular with some today, a similar separation effort in the 1800’s had more nefarious goals.

In 1861, Sarah Slagle York and her husband moved to a home on Southern Oregon’s Applegate River where they raised 12 children. Years later Sarah wrote down her memories of that time.  Here is one of her stories.

Right after World War II, the government offered returning veterans homesteads in the Tule Lake Basin near the California border with Oregon.