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.

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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.

The Ku Klux Klan swore in its first Oregon klansmen in Medford in 1921.  Within two years, the Klan claimed 35,000 members and more than 60 chapters in Oregon, as well as organizations for women, teenagers and foreign-born Protestants.

The Klan impacted the politics of Jackson County and statewide elections in 1922.  A gathering in Roseburg drew approximately 2,000 masked klansmen from Southern Oregon, and hooded klansmen marched in Ashland’s Fourth of July parade. 

Northwest forests once attracted government scientists investigating tree-damaging insect infestations.  

In 1899, Dr. A.D. Hopkins studied a huge area of coastal hemlock and tideland spruce that had been dead for eight years because of defoliation.  The project led to formation of the Office of Forest Insect Investigations within the Department of Agriculture, which assigned entomologists to the Pacific Northwest. 

A U.S. Forest Service lookout, J.S. McClemmons, was on a hand-crank telephone call one August afternoon in 1920 when lightning struck atop Mount Eddy in Northern California.

Mount Eddy, at 9,025 feet, is the tallest mountain west of Interstate 5, directly across the valley from Mount Shasta.

Women’s Movement Makes Lithia Park Possible

Sep 22, 2016

In 1908, women could not vote in Oregon. But the women of Ashland, Ore., wanted a park – so they organized.

That spring, 60 women formed the Ashland Women’s Civic Improvement Club.  Within weeks, its members presented a series of proposals to the City Council.  Key among them was the idea of dramatically expanding the Chautauqua Park grounds on eight acres of land where the entrance to Lithia Park now lies. The Ashland Tidings newspaper began referring to the women’s activities as “civic improvement agitation.”

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.

News soon reached the settlement of Sterling that an Indian war would involve the California, Oregon and Washington Territories.   Sterling, a town of a few stores and several saloons, changed its name to Sterlingville in 1879 when it got a post office. 

One of Oregon’s most prolific and imaginative architects of his time, William C. Knighton, designed the National Guard Armory in Roseburg, Ore., that became a prominent site in the city’s downtown district in 1913.

The Viennese Secessionist design is a likeness of a medieval fortress.  The building, not common in Oregon at the time, has lasted 103 years, the exterior remaining in nearly original condition.  It is one of Oregon’s few remaining historic armory buildings and has been on the National Register of Historical Places since 1993.

There once was a town named Manila five miles west of Gazelle, Calif., in Siskiyou County.

A miner named John Harris discovered gold on Squaw Creek shortly after the Spanish-American War of 1898.  He neglected to file a claim and soon Allan and Grant Davis discovered a rich quartz ledge as they were searching for missing cattle.  They named their mine in honor of Admiral of the Navy George Dewey and his famous Battle of Manila.

The publisher of the Oregon Sentinel newspaper in Jacksonville, B.F. Dowell, called the hanging there of a 7-year-old Indian boy in 1853 “one of the saddest and most inhuman acts” of the Rogue Indian War.

Having just hanged two grown Indians, a mob had seized the boy and headed for the scaffold.

Dowell recalled years later that he mounted a nearby log and shouted for attention, telling the crowd to punish the guilty but not the innocent child. 

An early U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report concluded that it was impossible to make the Rogue River navigable for steamers.

In early December 1878, a young Corps engineer, Philip Eastwick, arrived in Southern Oregon to make a hasty examination of the Rogue to assess its potential.  He couldn’t find a suitable boat, so he delayed his mission for 10 days while he built one.  The boat lasted about a day.  While lowering it over some rapids below Rock Point, the strong current swept it away and smashed it on a rock. 

Living in rural Josephine County in the 1920’s meant not having electricity, refrigerators or ice in the summer.  So the Walters family developed a Fourth of July tradition of ordering a 100-pound block of ice and bottled sodas from the ice plant in Grants Pass.

Early in the morning on the Fourth, the family drove their wagon to the railroad station at Leland, Ore. When the morning train arrived, the station agent transferred a block of ice from the train to the platform. The Walters paid the fees, wrapped the ice block in newspaper and gunnysacks and drove home.

The first person to say he had seen sea serpent tracks in Lake County’s alkaline Lake
Abert was an Indian known in Lakeview as “John.”  Cowboys in the area did not believe the story, but John led them in 1900 to its tracks.

Years later, rancher S.B. Chandler said he saw a sea serpent swimming in the lake in March 1917.  He told anyone who would listen in Lakeview that he had stopped at the lake and the reptile swam slowly by about 100 yards offshore.  He said it was about eight inches in diameter and of unknown length.

The physical history of Northern California’s coastal redwood region is linked to the human populations that have interacted with it, from pre-contact times to the present.

The original forest people were intimately connected to their environment.  Their lives depended on more than just the redwood, although it was a source of much of their material culture.

The Chilula people are “from within the redwood tree,” tribal elder and religious leader Minni Reeves of the Hupa Indian Reservation said in an interview in 1976.

Rogue River People living in isolation in the 1800’s along the Rogue River relied on each other instead of doctors. 

A Gold Beach doctor, Dr. James Spence, visited upriver residents, but after each harrowing boat ride he swore he’d never go back.  Miners either ignored medical problems until they died in their cabins, or consulted someone, not infrequently a grandmother of Indian descent, who treated each ailment with different leaves and roots.

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

Perhaps his worst day was on Feb. 27, 1854, when Canyon Creek was rising and he had no choice but to wade and float downstream on horseback. 

Royal encountered dangerous rapids, floating logs, and a tree lodged across the creek. He jumped off his horse, Spotty, in time to save himself, and the horse was pushed against the tree and reached safety too.  

Sawmills in the early days of north-central Siskiyou County numbered in the dozens. Some operated for only months and others for many years.  Today there are few traces left.

The Schmitt Brothers Mill was located a half mile up Ball Mountain Road.  It began operations in 1930 and shut down in 1939.  Trucks brought the logs to the mill, which cut about 25,000 board feet of lumber daily.

The water-powered Cleland Mill, located just off Ball Mountain Road, operated during the 1870’s. 

An 1872 graduate of Hahnemann School of Homeopathy in San Francisco, Dr. James Spence, and his wife settled in 1874 in Josephine County’s Bridgeview, Ore.  His practice included caring for the miners and farmers at Althouse Creek, Brownstone, Kerbyville and Sailor’s Diggings.

In 1883 he pulled many families through a diphtheria epidemic, but lost his own two young daughters to the disease.

For nearly 70 years, hamburger enthusiasts in Medford, Ore., frequented the little stand on the corner of Sixth and Riverside streets known as Dell’s Hamburgers. 

The owner, E.N. “Dell” Cline came to Medford in 1927 from Montana with $35 in his pocket.  He rented a small hamburger stand mounted on a trailer made of an old car chassis.   Customers said Dell’s hamburgers, a combination of burger, patty, bun, mustard and lettuce, with or without onions, had a special taste credited to his ancient grill.  It was said that the grill could put out a dozen burgers in one minute. 

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

Another slave owner purchased her mother when Susannah was three years old, and they were freed shortly thereafter.  The mother fled with her family to Tennessee after the Nat Turner slave revolt.

Susannah married when she was 15.  By age 28 she was a widow with five children in Missouri. In 1852, Susannah and her children emigrated with her mother’s family to Oregon.  

When the Rogue River Indian War erupted in 1855, the U.S. military had 350 men assigned to the vast Oregon and Washington territories.  A militia called the Second Regiment Mounted Volunteers formed and played a major role in the war.  Its success depended on the smooth delivery of supplies to the troops.

Soldiers carried two days’ supply of rations, a change of clothes and ammunition.  The rest of their food and supplies had to be transported from distribution centers on roads that were little more than trails impassible for wheeled freight wagons.

In 1913, the Klamath Development Company recruited Russian immigrants to purchase farm land in the Henley-Mount Laki district of Klamath County.  Only about 20 actually settled there.