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

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.

Federal troops were so busy with the Civil War in 1863 that they enlisted the voluntary First Oregon Cavalry to build Fort Klamath.  Its mission was to contain Indian resistance to the loss of their homeland to settlers arriving by the thousands on the Applegate Trail.

The early settlers of Yreka quickly learned to fear fire and its catastrophic effects.

Joseph Endert, his mother, stepfather and 11 siblings left Ohio for Del Norte, Calif., after hearing of its fruitful farmland.  They reached San Francisco and took a side-wheeler boat to Crescent City, arriving in 1871.

The only Jackson County sheriff ever killed in the line of duty, August Singler, died in 1913 in an exchange of gunfire with 19-year-old fugitive Lester Jones.

William D. Mathews Sr. was born in Fort Jones, Calif., to Israel S. and Ann Mathews—both early pioneers of Siskiyou County.  William’s father was one of the earliest pioneers to enter Scott Valley.

Many early-day logging companies around the world used a curious looking piece of equipment called a “Walking Dudley,” described as a power car on rails.

Amos Earle Voorhies came to Oregon from Michigan looking for work as a journalist in 1891.

Music and politics seem to go together, but in 1904, a welcoming band received the bad end of the deal.

Present-day Tokay Heights is a meandering street in the hills of Grants Pass, Ore., between Interstate 5 and Foothill Boulevard.  In 1908, it was a 350-acre tract of land owned by vintner W.B. Sherman, known at the time as the “Grape King.”

When the North American fur trade reached its peak in the 1800’s, European and American trappers encountered an abundance of sea otters, especially on the Oregon Coast.  It wouldn’t last long.

They’d been talking for at least 10 years about the need for a free public library before the 11 women appeared before the Grants Pass City Council in May 1913.

In Southern Oregon, the sound of a helicopter often heralds another season of logging in the Cascades and Siskiyous.  Before the 1970’s, logging in the Pacific Northwest was primarily the province of earth-bound men and machines.  There had been interest in using helicopters for logging in the 1950’s and 60’s, but until the development of heavy-lifting copters for military use in the Vietnam War, the aircraft couldn’t handle the weight of heavy timber.

The sinking of the steamer Brother Jonathan in 1865 just north of Crescent City, Calif., resulted in a change of steamship shipping laws and the construction of the St. George Reef Lighthouse, one of the most costly and dangerous lighthouses in the United States.

All that remains of many early Southern Oregon and Northern California boom towns are charcoal, rotting timbers or dust.  One of them was Ayers, also known as Ayers Spur or Mistletoe, home during the early 20th century to the Ashland Box & Lumber Manufacturing Co.

In the 1920’s, hundreds of men with horses and wagons excavated rough, back-country terrain in the Southern Oregon Cascades to create the Fish Lake irrigation reservoir.  Today the lake, 35 miles northeast of Medford, Ore., provides year-round recreation and water for Rogue Valley farms and orchards.

Jacksonville, Ore., hosted a music festival long before The Britt Festival began in the 1960’s.  In 1889, more than 2,500 [twenty-five hundred] people attended the town’s band festival. All-day bands played on the balcony of the U.S. Hotel to crowds below in the street.

Blinded in the prime of life, George Spencer could no longer work as a logger or gold miner.  In 1922, when paralysis of the optic nerve rendered him sightless, he opened a newsstand in a shack on Sixth Street in Grants Pass.

In the summer of 1878, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey sent Benjamin Colonna to place precision instruments on the 14,179-foot summit of Northern California’s Mount Shasta.  He spent nine days and nights there, subsisting on cold food, except coffee and some toasted cheese.  He lost 15 pounds and yearned for hot soup.

Riding home by train in the early 1900’s, Sierra Club founder John Muir described to a companion a “little hike” he took around Mount Shasta.

Before World War II, the land around Barneburg Hill where Rogue Valley Manor now stands was undeveloped countryside.  Barnett was a country road and Interstate 5 didn’t exist.  The Frederick Barneburg family owned the hill and 2,000 acres surrounding it.