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 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.

At a time when newspapers didn’t always let facts get in the way of a good story, the San Francisco Examiner and the Roseburg Review published an interview in 1890 of fictional old miner Phil Maguire by Charles L. Mosher, grandson of Oregon’s first territorial governor, Gen. Joseph Lane.

There was a time when Jacksonville, Ore., was one of the rowdiest towns in the Rogue Valley.  With all the money flowing in from the gold rush, guns and liquor were always close at hand.

None of this intimidated Emily Overbeck and Emily Royal, wife of the Rev. Fletcher Royal.

The Ship Ashore Resort on U.S. Route 101 just three miles south of the Oregon border got its name from the 158-foot yacht, the S.S. Castle Rock, displayed on dry land a quarter mile from the ocean.

One of Oregon’s first female doctors was an outspoken advocate of women’s suffrage and Prohibition before shaking up the state in 1904 by calling for the sterilization of criminals, the insane and the developmentally disabled.

 

Dr. Bethenia Owens-Adair faced gender discrimination throughout her life. 

In the 1870s, most U.S. medical schools refused to enroll women.  That didn’t intimidate Owens-Adair, a divorced mother who at 27 had opened a successful hat and dress shop in Roseburg, Ore.  Graduating in 1874 from the Eclectic School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Penn., she returned to Roseburg to wind up her business.

The life of Dr. Bethenia Owens-Adair was so full that today’s episode will be the first of three to explore it.  She once said, “The regret of my life up to the age of thirty-five was that I had not been born a boy… (and was) … hampered and hemmed in on all sides simply by the accident of … (gender).”

Fifteen-year-old David Klemczak set a Guinness World Record by twirling a hubcap on one finger for 22 hours in the KOBI television studios in Medford, Ore., on Nov. 2, 1980.

Stephen Hall Meek, the brother of Joe Meek, Oregon’s most famous mountain man, came West in 1831 as a trapper.  Traveling to California with the Walker brothers, Joel and Joseph, Meek began working for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1835.

The Roseburg City Commercial Club staged its first Strawberry Festival in May of 1909 to showcase Roseburg’s business interests.  The three-day event had food booths and a thatch-roofed stage on unpaved Jackson Street.  Capitola Willis was the first Strawberry queen.

Robinson Butte rises southwest of Mount McLoughlin in Southern Oregon’s Cascades.  It once was part of the summer hunting grounds of the Takelma Indians, but was named for an unspecified early settler. Several Robinsons lived in the 19th century near Little Butte Creek, below Robinson Butte.

Each August when she was young, Frances Aiken Pearson of Prospect, Ore., and her family joined hundreds of other berry pickers for a week or so on Huckleberry Mountain.  In an oral history recorded in 1981 when she was 95 years old, Pearson exclaimed, “Oh, but those were great days!”

What some call “Oregon’s Secret Garden” features more than 300 species of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. It’s an early-1900s-style woodland garden from the O. Howard Hinsdale Estate near the Dead Creek elk viewing area along Hwy 38 east of Reedsport. Largely unnoticed for years, it is better known as Spruce Reach Island.

The Bybee Springs and Health Resort, built in 1892 near Wimer, Ore., offered its guests reputed health benefits of the water.

 

The Little Butte Creek watershed in Jackson County, Ore., has undergone many changes due to human settlement since the 1850s. The watershed extends from Howard Prairie, on the high plateau east of Ashland, down to today’s city of Eagle Point. 

Medford and Ashland, Ore., had electricity before 1900 because they had enough water power to run generators, but Jacksonville residents and businesses still used kerosene.

 

Early settlers in Southern Oregon depended on wild fruits and animals for much of their food.  Longtime Prospect resident Jack Hallenbeak described in an oral history interview how his family stored food for winter.

The family gathered huckleberries and wild blackberries known as dewberries and his father brought peaches from the Rogue Valley. 

 

Legal authorities commonly use fingerprints today to identify and convict criminals.  It wasn’t always so.

In 1893 sheriff’s deputy J. K. Mount had the job of making sure the Chinese citizens living in Coos County paid their poll taxes.  Oregon had recently passed a law requiring them to pay special taxes. After paying the annual tax, they received a receipt.

Many small towns in Northern California and Southern Oregon had their own newspapers, but few had an editor as colorful as Catherine Terry, a Baltimore typesetter who bought the Merrill Weekly Record in Klamath County in 1909.

 

Around 1900 an angry mob sought but failed to apply frontier justice in Callahan, Calif.  A man known to have a terrible temper had drawn a knife and threatened to “disembowel” another man standing at the bar in Baker’s Saloon.  Others in the saloon grabbed the man with the knife and tied him up.  In the heat of the moment, they decided to hang him from a nearby bridge. 

Zella Wright and her husband, Herb, spent the winter of 1942-43 as lookouts scanning the skies for enemy aircraft for the Army Air Corps Aircraft Warning Service. Their lookout was on 6,000-foot-high Blue Rock Peak in the mountains east of Butte Falls, Ore.

Interviewed in 1982 for an oral history project, they told U.S. Forest Service historian Jeff LaLand the tedium and isolation was only occasionally relieved by the hum of an airplane overhead, none of them Japanese.

But one day was literally a shocker for Zella Wright when lightning struck their lookout station while she was talking on their hand-cranked telephone.

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