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 the Southern Oregon Historical Society at publicrelations@sohs.org.

A collection of As It Was essays is available in a high-quality paperback book at the JPR Store.  Each episode is also available below.

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History
9:41 am
Fri January 2, 2015

Early Surveyor Marks Meandering Oregon-California Line

The U.S. General Land Office hired Daniel Major in 1868 to survey the Oregon-California Line. 

Major used a sextant and a crew of 19 to locate the intersection of Nevada, California and Oregon, which he marked by placing three large black bottles and a cottonwood stake surrounded by rocks.  He also erected a sandstone monument with the states’ names engraved on the sides.

Continuing west, Major tracked the 42nd parallel all the way to the Pacific.  Near today’s I-5, the surveyors marked the intersection of the “Emigrant Road to Jacksonville.”

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History
9:38 am
Thu January 1, 2015

Child Star Barbara La Marr Becomes Screen Vamp

 

Billed as “The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful,” silent-screen actor Barbara La Marr was for a time the most advertised actress and greatest box office attraction in America.  She mesmerized audiences as a child in 1904 and later as an adult. With her black hair, heart-shaped face, enormous brown eyes, and cupid’s-bow mouth, she was most often cast as the silent-screen vamp.

She was born Reatha Dale Watson in 1896 in Yakima, Wash. Her father, William W. Watson, a newspaperman, eventually moved the family to Medford, Ore., and her uncle, J. C. Watson, was a judge in Ashland.

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History
3:06 pm
Wed December 31, 2014

Silver Lake Fire Kills at Least 40 People in 1894

One hundred twenty years ago this month, a Christmas Eve fire in Silver Lake, Ore., killed at least 40 people and seriously injured many more. Silver Lake is on State Route 31 in northern Lake County.

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History
3:05 pm
Tue December 30, 2014

Wild Horses Face Uncertain Future

 

Wild horses in Eastern Oregon have been seen as a problem for more than 100 years. Today the Bureau of Land Management pastures, but does not slaughter, more wild horses than remain in the wild.

By 1901, demand for horsemeat in Europe had tapered off and Oregon’s only slaughterhouse in the Portland suburb of Linnton had closed. But the Boer War in South Africa created a sudden demand for horsemeat, and the slaughterhouse reopened in 1902. That year more than 10,000 wild mustangs were rounded up and sent to Linnton.

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History
3:03 pm
Mon December 29, 2014

Hoboes Seek Free Jail-House Dinner

 

For a time, many transients in the late 1920s headed for the jail house in Gold Hill. The “occasional hobo,” as the homeless were called in that time’s vernacular, jumped from a Southern Pacific freight car as the train slowed to pick up a mail pouch. Pilfering a chicken or a few ears of corn from a backyard garden, a transient was assured of an improvised hobo stew under the bridge south of town, or a free jail-house dinner.

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History
3:01 pm
Fri December 26, 2014

Taking the Stage out of Red Bluff in 1873

 

In a letter written to his cousin in Massachusetts, Joel Shepard describes a stage ride in 1873. He wrote, “As we leave Red Bluff (Calif.) we strike out into a wilderness of mountains through which the Sacramento and Pit Rivers come rushing with inexpressible force.  For awhile we follow the windings of the rivers, now cross on the rude ferry board, now zigzag (or, as the drivers express it, ‘jack knifing’) up a precipitous height of perhaps a thousand feet …when … it looks as though a single misstep of the horses would plunge us headlong into the fury.

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History
3:00 pm
Thu December 25, 2014

Ashland Mills Gathers Peacefully on Christmas Eve 1859

 

When Oregon became a state in 1859, Ashland Mills – today’s Ashland, Ore. – had a lumber mill and a flour mill and only a scattering of homes on donated land claims.

There was no church, but the town was a settled place, and people felt Christmas should reflect it by avoiding the kind of drunken fights anticipated in the mining town of Jacksonville.

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History
2:58 pm
Wed December 24, 2014

Medford Celebrates Christmas in 1885

 

At Christmastime in 1885, Medford had about 100 buildings and 400 people.  On the other hand, the railroad had spurred growth in Ashland, which had a population of about 1,000. The Rogue River Valley had just begun its fruit industry, shipping apples, pears, and peaches to buyers on the other side of the mountains.  Phoenix was producing cider and jelly from orchard waste. 

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History
2:57 pm
Tue December 23, 2014

Rogue Valley Christmases Change Over the Years

 

Rogue Valley Christmas celebrations have changed in the years since the first pioneers and miners arrived in the 1850s.  As populations grew and stores opened up, families decorated Christmas trees with popcorn, candies, handmade hankies, paper chains and candles. Stores’ windows advertised dolls and carriages for girls and wagons and knives for boys.  Churches held special services.

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History
2:55 pm
Mon December 22, 2014

The Murder of Richard Cave, 1859

 

Although violence often followed the miners into the gold fields, murder was less common. One incident happened in 1859 in the Salmon River region of Northern California’s Siskiyou County.  It began when Richard Cave traveled to Sawyers Bar to invite son Alfred to join him in raising cattle.

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History
2:53 pm
Fri December 19, 2014

Talent Farmer Welborn Beeson Keeps Christmas Diary

 

Talent, Ore., farmer Welborn Beeson’s journal in 1860 mentioned that the valley was cold and foggy, but that it was clear up on the mountain top.

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History
2:51 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Rialto Theater in Medford, Ore., Has 36-Year Run

 

The Rialto Theater in Medford, Ore., opened its doors in 1917.  Designed by architect Frank Clark, the Rialto’s leather auditorium seats and individual wicker loges seated 1,000.  It was considered one of the finest theaters on the Pacific Coast. 

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History
2:49 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Mon Desir Restaurant Closes, Burns to Ground

 

Many Southern Oregonians are familiar with the Mon Desir restaurant in Central Point that closed in 2001.  Orchardist Conro Fiero built the revival-style Tudor mansion in 1910 as a home for him and his wife, Grace Andrews, a Broadway actress who had traveled the theater circuit in the early 1900s.  Mon Desir is French for “My Desire.”

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History
2:48 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Lookout Guard Recalls Summer Jobs in the 1950’s

 

A fire lookout in the 1950s, Lois Christiansen Eagleton of Umpqua, Ore., vividly remembers the four summers when she earned about $250 a month for college.

The first two summers she looked out over the Three Sisters Mountains in Central Oregon. The next two summers, near Fossil, Ore., in Eastern Oregon, she had a panoramic view of what she called a “string of pearls,” snow-capped peaks stretching from Mount Shasta in California to Mount Rainier in Washington.

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History
2:45 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Early Southern Oregon Explorers Add Dogs to Their Diet

 

The first explorers of European descent to visit Southern Oregon sometimes turned to Indian dogs for sustenance. When Hudson’s Bay Company trapper Peter Skene Ogden and his party visited Upper Klamath Lake in December 1826, they obtained nine dogs for food from the Klamath Indians. 

Seventeen years later in December 1843 John Charles Fremont and his 39 men reached Klamath Lake on his second exploring expedition in the West. With them was a dog that had wandered wounded into camp one cold and rainy night in mountains above Salt Lake, Utah.

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History
2:45 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Capt. John C. Fremont Visits Klamath Lake in 1843

 

Known as The Pathfinder for his early explorations west of the Mississippi and Missouri river system, Capt. John C. Fremont visited an Indian Village on Southern Oregon’s Klamath Lake on Dec. 11, 1843.

He wrote in his memoirs that the Indians were well adapted to their surroundings.  He described “great quantities of small smoked and dried fish suspended on strings about a lodge.”  They had shoes made of straw or grass and the women wore caps made of tightly woven baskets and adorned their noses with shells.

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History
2:09 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Conservationist Converts Redwood Tree into Motor Home

 

When a redwood tree 11 feet in diameter fell in 1917 on the Eel River of Humboldt County, the Pacific Lumber Company donated it to vaudeville performer Charles “Birdman” Kellogg.  He built a motor home out of the hollowed tree and traveled the East Coast awaking public sentiment against the depletion of Northern California’s giant redwoods.

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History
2:07 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Vaudeville Entertainer Promotes Forest Conservation

 

Born with a unique larynx, Charles “Birdman” Kellogg could sing like a bird, his voice ranging over 12 octaves.  His extraordinary singing and ability to mimic birds and insects made him an international vaudeville star. 

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History
2:06 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Gold Hill Suspension Bridge Provides Swinging

 

Built in the 1880s, Gold Hill’s suspension bridge crossed the Rogue River from Sixth Street. It had wire-webbed sides and wooden floorboards placed over 2-by-4s.  Cables held the swinging bridge in place by attaching to the Hays home and bedrock on the Gold Hill side and to a tree and the Fleming home on the Echo Mountain side.

An old picture shows the suspension bridge looped low toward the middle of the crossing.  Its planks were wide enough for a light, horse-drawn cart, although no sober person would attempt such a feat.

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History
2:05 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Oregon Singer Earns Nickname as “The Prince of Wails”

It is said that singer Johnnie Ray wrote one of his biggest hits, “The Little White Cloud That Cried,” on the banks of the Umpqua River in Roseburg, Ore. He entertained for a time at the Elks Lodge on Jackson Street.

A double-sided, 78 rpm single of “Cry” and “The Little White Cloud That Cried” launched Ray to stardom in 1951. By March of 1952, three Ray songs were among the top six of the national musical charts, including “Cry,”  “Please Mr. Sun,” and “The Little White Cloud.”

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