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 17-year-old Japanese-American boy in Hood River, Ore., wrote a poem shortly before committing suicide on Feb. 27, 1931.  The youth, Kay Yasui, son of Japanese immigrants Masuo and Shidzuyo Yasui, had faced racial harassment at a time Asian discrimination was especially high in the United States.  Much of his family would later spend World War II in Northern California’s Tule Lake Japanese confinement camp.

During the heyday of the gold rush, the towns of Northern California teemed with men seeking relief from their day’s labor.  Bartenders in the numerous saloons lining the streets needed a hook to bring in business as they competed for the coin of the pleasure seekers.  Hence, the hurdy-gurdy girl was born.

On the Klamath Indian Reservation in the 1900’s, fourth grade was the highest level available to Indians.  Nevertheless, Dibbon Cook got a broad education, learning to hunt, find wild vegetables, and fish for salmon.  He repeated fourth grade four times, just to learn everything he could.

Gold Beach derived its name from a short-lived coastal gold rush between the town and Coos Bay, but it was coal that became a significant mining industry on the Southern Oregon Coast.

In 1926, sixteen-year-old Dorothy Hester of Milwaukie, Ore., had never seen an airplane up close.  One time a hot-air balloon passed over her house and she yelled, “Gimme a ride!"  Learning paid rides were available at the nearby Portland airport, she saved her money and took a flight.  Loving it, she determined to become a pilot.

In 1860's Oregon, most young men, and even teenagers, had guns and went hunting.

Canadian immigrant Joseph Edward Merriam spent many years at sea before sailing into the Eureka, Calif., harbor on June 19, 1885, with his wife, Clara Russell Webster.  A biography published 30 years later said Merriam never went to sea again.

An Oregon governor, who called capital punishment "a relic of the barbarous mediaeval [sic] ages of man," nevertheless refused to halt the hanging of a Grants Pass man convicted of murder.

Two early settlers, Henry D. Wright and Charles H. Fletcher, mined successfully in Oro Fino in Siskiyou County, Calif.

In July 1913 Winston Churchill visited Grants Pass.   This was not the Churchill who led the British during World War II, however.  This was an American Winston Churchill, a famous early 1900’s novelist and a New Hampshire state legislator.

Farms in Douglas County, Ore., have grown melons commercially since the early 1880’s. A photograph from 1886 shows horse-drawn wagons full of melons near Grants Pass waiting for shipment by rail. Even earlier, in August 1859, an itinerate preacher traveling by train from near present-day Dixonville to Ashland, Ore., noted in his journal, “The conductor gave me a watermelon.”

Bill Hanley, the Jacksonville-born owner of the Double O Ranch in Eastern Oregon, operated five ranches and had access to thousands of acres of public range.  In 1913 his cattle operations covered 200,000 acres.

Brilliant defense attorney Samuel Abraham Jetmore gained national attention practicing law in small South Central Oregon towns.

Few pioneer women in the 1850’s began their cross-country journey to Oregon as widows. And even fewer appeared on film.  Artinecia Riddle Chapman lost her husband five days before they were scheduled to join a wagon train, but she carried on. Accompanied by her parents and 1-year-old son, John, Artinecia led her wagon hitched to six oxen to Southern Oregon in 1851.

It came out of the sky like a huge dragonfly and skimmed to a halt on the visitor flight line at the Medford, Ore., Airport on June 6, 1932.  Spectators saw with amazement their first Pitcairn Auto-Gyro, a forerunner of the helicopter.

In the 1850’s, settlers named Barnes and Terry built a cabin some six miles east of Etna, Calif.  Because they were from Ohio, they planted a buckeye tree for good luck.  The landmark became known as the "Ohio Ranch," which later became the "Ohio House."  Irish immigrant John McBride purchased the ranch in 1858 and built the larger ranch house in 1860.

In 1925, a group of Medford men offered 1,000 shares at $25 each to form the Lake of the Woods Recreation Corporation. Their goal was to create a summer fishing resort at the lake with a hotel, store, cottages, and 15 to 20 boats for the 1926 vacation season. 

The first American ship to round Cape Horn and touch shore in Oregon near today’s Tillamook was the Lady Washington, named for President Washington’s wife, Martha.  Capt. Robert Gray sailed the 90-ton sloop from Boston to the Pacific Northwest in the late 1700’s to trade for otter pelts.

Railroad accidents were common around 1900, but few as amazing as Frank Smith’s fall in 1932 in front of an advancing train on the Rogue River Valley Railroad in Medford, Ore.  Here’s how the Jacksonville Miner newspaper reported it:

Until the late 1800’s, Medford, Ore., did not have a hospital, forcing the sick and injured to receive treatment at home or in a doctor’s office.  Only very ill patients received nursing care until 1895 when Olivia Dyre Osbourne moved to town.  Osbourne was an 1892 graduate of the Illinois Nurses Training School and had worked at hospitals in Chicago.