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 publicrelations@sohs.org.

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.

Every spring, rockhounds and gemstone collectors head for the Rabbit Basin of southeastern Lake County’s Warner Valley, about 25 miles north of Plush, Ore. They’re searching for sunstones, known locally as Plush diamonds, which are large crystals of feldspar found in basaltic lava flows.

As a youngster, Emma Bolt, the daughter of Applegate, Ore., merchant and miner John Bolt, once invited a hungry and sick stranger to supper.  Her Mother obliged and nursed the man back to health.  He was given shoes at Emma’s request and slept in the girls’ playhouse.  He told Emma “You are kind ma petit and the good God will bless you.”

On July 9, 1953, two dozen exhausted firefighters, including 14 volunteer missionaries, were resting after helping control the Rattlesnake Fire in the Grindstone Canyon of the Mendocino National Forest in Northern California.  Suddenly the wind changed, blowing sparks over a firebreak line, and sending flames roaring down the canyon in their direction.  Hunkered in a gully, they didn’t see what was happening.

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.

E.R. Jackson and Reub Long co-authored a book a half century ago about the Oregon desert titled, appropriately, The Oregon Desert.  Long had lived all his life in the state’s central and southeastern desert.  The book is filled with information about desert life, human and animal, and a lot of homespun humor and philosophy.

Roads became desperately needed in Southern Oregon in the mid-1800’s as the growth of mining and agriculture required more access to markets.

More than 100 people armed with clubs joined a rabbit drive in April 1916 near the Oregon-California state line south of Klamath Falls, Ore.  The Evening Herald newspaper reported the next day that 286 “bunnies” were slain.

A newlywed's devotion to her groom in the face of danger 107 years ago so impressed the Rogue River Courier that it speculated her tragedy would become part of Josephine County's history.  The woman, Victorine Ellis, had stayed in the depths of the Oregon Caves with her gunshot-wounded husband while her companions fled in panic.

When he decided to travel to Oregon from Ohio in 1845, Alonzo A. Skinner was already a member of the bar, and a prosecuting attorney. He became the first judge in the Pacific Northwest.

Firemen thought they had about extinguished a basement fire in the White Pelican Hotel in Klamath Falls, Ore., before flames got into the air vents and spread through the hotel and to the rooftop.

Ranchers in the Wood River Valley of Klamath County, Ore., learned in the early 1900’s that it didn’t pay to keep cattle there through snow-bound winters, although Fort Klamath’s nearby grasslands were prized for summer fattening.

During the Modoc War of 1872-73 that pitted Captain Jack’s small Modoc band against some 1,000 Army troops and artillery at the lava beds stronghold near Northern California’s Tule Lake, a Modoc woman fled with two babies.  Unable to make her escape carrying both children, she abandoned one on the battlefield.

Although Jim Holland founded Holland, Ore., around 1877, the person who really built the town was Jack Smock, who arrived 18 years later.

Keno, Ore., wasn’t always Keno.  And it wasn’t named after the popular card game, well, not directly, anyway.

The mining community of Deadwood, located on the old road that connected Scott Valley to Yreka, Calif., only 10 miles from Fort Jones, was an important town from 1851 to 1861.  The California-Oregon stage line stopped there until 1886.  Deadwood, Cherry, Indian, French, and McAdam creeks all yielded significant amounts of placer gold during the early years of the gold rush and later to dredging.

The first of many excited but apprehensive residents to take a 10-minute ride over Grants Pass, Ore., H. W. Webber, climbed out of the little Curtiss airplane after landing in a field just outside town.  “Nothing like it!” he exclaimed.  It was 1919.

Oregon Route 140 heads into the Oregon High Desert east of Klamath Falls, passing by some colorfully named communities, including Dairy and nearby Bonanza and farther east Bly, Adel and nearby Plush.  The highway reaches 4,547 feet elevation at Adel and climbs to 6,060 feet over the remaining 38 miles to the Nevada state line.

Frustrated because his Granada Hills Little League team in Southern California had trouble hitting a baseball, coach Norm Bruce invented “a little machine to throw plastic balls.”

An old trail up the east side of Lower Table Rock near Medford, Ore., had a grade that reached 38 percent.  Early automobile enthusiasts couldn’t resist the temptation.

Ashland wisely turned to brick construction after a fire started on March 11, 1879, in a blacksmith shop, consuming the Plaza’s wooden buildings, including the Masonic Lodge.

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