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.

Although they do not appear to have much in common, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Caveman Bridge in Grants Pass share a common characteristic.  Each has been declared a portal to the Redwood Empire, the Golden Gate the southern entrance and the Caveman the northern.

It was common for newspapers in the early 1900’s to print personal news items from outlying communities.  Today those briefs chronicle contemporary daily life.  For example, here are some items from the Medford Mail in November 1908 about Stringtown, a community strung along the tracks near present-day Phoenix, Ore.

The Lava Beds National Monument in Northeast California has been called both “a place where time stood still” and “the land of burnt out fires.”

The Snowden School District was located along the right-hand side of the Montague-Ager Road north of Montague, Calif.

Predictions of rain were threatening disaster at the fourth annual Strawberry Festival in Roseburg, Ore., in May 1913.  But the clouds cleared and the festival had three days of perfect sunshine that drew thousands of enthusiastic travelers from around the state.

One afternoon in 1905, renowned opera singer Ed Andrews, musical director Charles Hazelrigg and members of his Andrews Opera troupe arrived without fanfare at the Medford, Ore., train station. 
Having traveled by train through the Rogue Valley frequently, they had decided to close their opera company and move to Medford.

A boy growing up in the mining country of Southern Oregon’s Illinois Valley had plenty of opportunity to get into mischief.  Orval Robertson was no exception.  While his father was busy trying to strike it rich, Robertson, born in 1891, had the run of the mining camps.

Between the 1850’s and 60’s, the former settlement of Petersburg, Calif., was the largest mining town along the 16-mile stretch of the South Fork of Salmon River between Abrams at Big Flat and Cecilville.

Members of the Klamath Tribes gathered along the banks of the Sprague River near Chiloquin, Ore., in March 1990 to revive the nearly lost tradition of the First Sucker Ceremony.

To match this year’s Medford Pear Blossom theme of “Our Valley – Our Heritage,” the grand marshal will be the Southern Oregon Historical Society.  Founded just a few years apart more than 60 years ago, both the parade and the society are dedicated to preserving and telling the story of the valley’s common heritage.

When Germany threatened to invade England in the summer of 1940, the British government created the Children’s Overseas Reception Board that sent children to safety in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and the United States.

Even when Medford was just a small country town, its people yearned for music and other cultural activities.

Jerome Prairie, about seven miles west of Grants Pass, got its name from a man who never found time to develop a 320-acre Donation Land Act grant.

Two Irish brothers in their mid-20’s, Hugh and Denis O’Connor, arrived in America in 1907 to seek their fortune in Lake County, Ore., where two other brothers had already settled.

In 1935, Raymond Ritter of the Pinnacle Packing Co. proposed that the Jackson County, Ore., Chamber of Commerce promote Rogue Valley pears by creating a Pear Blossom Festival similar to the apple festival in Wenatchee, Wash.

Most small communities in Southern Oregon-Northern California’s mythical State of Jefferson, had their rough edges during Prohibition.  The Klamath County logging town of Bly was no exception.

Jacksonville’s first school stood on the hill known as Bigham’s Knoll, named after Jacksonville pioneer John Bigham. It opened in 1868, only to burn down twice in the early 1900’s.

Even as a small boy growing up in northern Siskiyou County near the town of Ager, Charles Cooley had his own horse.

In 1852, a bachelor from Ohio, Jacob Wagner, built the first cabin in Talent, Ore., and a year later raised Fort Wagner around the cabin and an acre of land.

After traveling the Oregon Trail, Henry Clay Tison settled with his wife, Diega, and eight children in the Southern Oregon community of Drew on Aug. 1, 1897.  Drew is some 29 miles east of Canyonville on State Rte. 227.