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.

Harry and David’s first retail store in Medford, Ore., opened on May 5, 1928, as a “five-and-dime” store that also sold fruit.

In early March 1903, a young man walked into Grants Pass from Evans Creek and was immediately identified by his skin lesions as having the "dread disease."  Many startled pedestrians stepped aside for good reason, the Grants Pass Courier reported.  He had smallpox, a miserable affliction that killed a third of its victims and made those who didn't die so sick they might have preferred the painlessness of death.

Since the 1920's, Oakridge, Ore., had been recognized as the heart of the surrounding timber empire.  That ended by 1992 when the community’s two sawmills -- and principal employers -- closed down.

One of the Civil War veterans buried in the Marshfield Pioneer Cemetery in Coos Bay, Ore., is Thomas C. Wyman, who served as the assistant Cape Arago lighthouse keeper from 1891 to 1906.

Nine hundred people crowded into the Grants Pass Opera House in April 1912 to hear presidential candidate Sen. Robert M. LaFollette.  Hundreds more people anxious to see the Wisconsin Republican were turned away from the crowded opera house, the Rogue River Courier reported.

In the spring of 1893, Jackson County, Ore., earned the sobriquet of “Sucker County” after William Gooch arrived in Jacksonville to promote the Economy Flour Bin as a marvelous invention.  Gooch guaranteed the metal bin with a sifter at the bottom was water, insect and rodent proof.  He didn’t mention foolproof.

The owners closed the Rogue River Lodge in November with plans to convert the main building into their home and to remove the parking lot. Anne and Lee Kimball are the eighth owners of the lodge, a 78-year landmark a half hour’s drive east of Medford, Ore.

When an 81-year-old Chinese man, Henry Dorsey “Tee” Franklin, died in 1940, he left the bulk of his estate in stocks and property to the City of Yreka, Calif., and its American Legion Post.  Franklin made money from various pursuits during his life, including running supplies to the Army during the Modoc War of 1871-1872.

About a week before Christmas 1911, the editor of the Rogue River Courier and two of his reporters barely escaped a trampling inside their Grants Pass, Ore., newspaper office.

The manager of the Craterian Theatre in Medford, Ore., offered a free Christmas matinee in 1927. Here’s how the Medford Tribune described the mob reaction:

For two decades the Capitol Christmas tree in Washington D.C. had come from eastern states, but in 1986 Northern California’s Siskiyou County provided the first tree from west of the Mississippi.

Practically every service club and civic organization in Medford, Ore., had been talking for years about providing a live Christmas tree for the city, but none had every done it.  Finally, the Parent Teacher Association undertook the challenge in 1927.

The building that opened as the Barnum Hotel celebrated its 100th anniversary this year as the Grand Apartments, which provides subsidized, affordable housing on the corner of Front and Fifth streets in Medford, Ore.

In 1918 Owen and Harry Baker discovered they could make money by selling fake liquor to thirsty Oregonians.  They were nicknamed the "Ninety-Nine-Percent Baker Brothers” by authorities who said their brew was 99 percent water and one percent artificial coloring.  They put it in bottles labeled "Old Crow, Aged in the Woods Eight Years," and added a little real whiskey to fool potential buyers.

Yreka, Calif., stonecutter James B. Russell and his school teacher wife, Clara, lived a long life together.

Born just over the California-Oregon border, James accompanied his family to Yreka as a child. The family moved to Ashland for several years, but James eventually returned to Yreka and started his own business in 1881.  He became a stonecutter and monument builder, following in his father and mother’s footsteps.  His mother’s finely detailed, decorative stone work won the grand prize in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair.  Yreka’s Siskiyou County Museum featured the winning piece for many years.

James became an avid collector of mineral specimens and jewel stones and frequently exhibited his collection.

Clara Russell, born Clara Millie Hovey, was a gifted writer and schoolteacher. The couple were married 60 years and raised five children.  After her death, he published many of her poems.

The croaking of the frogs in Emil Britt’s park-like grounds was more than he could stand. They were keeping him awake at night and making him too tired to do his job in 1903 as mayor of Jacksonville, Ore.

One hundred years ago, the Medford Mail Tribune ran an editorial asking what could be done about the Rogue River Valley’s lack of development.

A stage coach station known as Starveout was once located about three miles south of Grenada, Calif, The first mention of “Starveout” is in a book by Helene Bacon Boggs titled “My Playhouse Was A Concord Coach.”  Starveout was a “swing station,” with a 10-minute stop versus 30-minute stops at “home stations.” Starveout got its name most likely because the area was not just remote, but also desolate and dry.

Snowy Butte Orchard just south of Central Point, Ore., hired 16 girls in 1900 to pack apples and pears for 11 hours of daily hard work.

In early October 1915, the Klamath Falls Commercial Club encouraged people to attend Klamath Day at the Oregon exhibition of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. It was the third World’s Fair held in the United States and the 12th anywhere.