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.

Frustrated because his Granada Hills Little League team in Southern California had trouble hitting a baseball, coach Norm Bruce invented “a little machine to throw plastic balls.”

An old trail up the east side of Lower Table Rock near Medford, Ore., had a grade that reached 38 percent.  Early automobile enthusiasts couldn’t resist the temptation.

Ashland wisely turned to brick construction after a fire started on March 11, 1879, in a blacksmith shop, consuming the Plaza’s wooden buildings, including the Masonic Lodge.

Perhaps you’ve seen it, a sharp, bright black-and-white image of Crater Lake, the heavily clouded sky reflected in the water below.  It is one of three photographs taken by pioneer photographer Peter Britt on Aug. 13, 1874. Crater Lake historians Larry and Lloyd Smith described the scene: “The Britt Party has been camping at the Rim for days.  Britt is ready to give up and leave without a photograph when suddenly the clouds part, the sun shines through and the first photograph ever of Crater Lake is taken.”

W. J. Bennet moved to Roseburg, Ore., in 1892, and became its first architect. After designing the original Old Soldiers Home and other Roseburg buildings, Bennet moved to Medford in 1895.

Sportsmen formed a rod and gun club in 1912 in Riddle, Ore., that invited the whole community the following Labor Day to a venison barbeque.

Beaver once were so abundant in the Scott Valley in Siskiyou County, Calif., that it was known for a time as Beaver Valley.  The rodent’s numbers were decimated during the early days of settlement.

There’s an unincorporated community situated at 4,511 feet elevation in the high desert of South Central Oregon that goes by the name of Plush.  Plush had a population of 52 in July 2015, a grocery store and a one-teacher K-8 school with fewer than 10 students.

Miss Mary Timmons was a favorite teacher in the 1880's at the Big Springs School in Siskiyou County, Calif.  Since housing was scarce, it was customary for unmarried female teachers to board with a family during the school year.  Mary and her sister both boarded with the Buckner family at the White Mountain Ranch.

Mel and Glen Crocker ran the Crocker Brother’s Union Station on Central Avenue in Medford, Ore., in the early 1950's. But they were more than that.

James DeMoss and his wife Elizabeth were part of an 1862 wagon train.  They were musicians who traveled the world with their five children, playing 41 different instruments.  Son George played two cornets at the same time and also had the ability to play several different pieces of music at the same time. Son Henry composed the song “Sweet Oregon,” which became the unofficial state song for a number of years.

It has taken 129 years to publish Levi Scott’s reminiscence of leading the first pioneers on the Applegate Trail. Emigrating to Oregon in 1844, Scott soon joined other Willamette Valley settlers, including Applegate brothers Jesse and Lindsay, in searching for a southern alternative to the Oregon Trail’s perilous Columbia River route.  After reaching Fort Hall in today’s Idaho, Jesse Applegate encouraged 75 wagons to take the route also known as Applegate’s Cut-off and the Southern Emigrant Road.

In 1919, the Grants Pass Daily Courier bragged it was going to be the first Southern Oregon paper to receive pictures sent by telegraph and publish pictures from world events a day after they happened.

Pioneers were a hardy folk and proud of their heritage.  Their legacy lives strongly in descendants in many of the small, rural communities of Northern California.  In Siskiyou County, children and grandchildren of pioneers who settled in communities such as Yreka, Dunsmuir, McCloud, Happy Camp, and Fort Jones, dedicated themselves to preserving and sharing their heritage by forming the Siskiyou County Historical Society.

R. Boswell and his son purchased land in 1913 near Sucker Creek in the Holland Mining District just 9 miles from Cave Junction, Ore.  The following year while exploring their property they found some pieces of brownish material.  The Boswells dug prospect holes and showed their sample to another miner.  The pieces of material the size of peas turned out to be gold and by 1917 they had recovered $46,000 in gold bullion.

Apparently Emmerson “Doc” Kennedy was a creative man, not overly constrained by convention, propriety or laws.

Eli and Mary Ann Barnum and six children crossed the plains in 1859 to California. They branched off the Applegate Trail toward Yreka and stopped at some hand-hewn watering troughs fed by springs. A dilapidated building nearby became the family home for the next 10 years. While living there, the couple’s seventh child, Winfield Scott, was born. The couple lost three more children in infancy.

For more than a decade the Crissey State Line Airport was the southernmost airport in Oregon.  Located just a few miles from Brookings in California, it was the only West Coast airport with its access road in another state. The site was named for W. L. Crissey, who grew lily bulbs on the land before the Second World War.

The sprawling branches of the old apple tree shaded members of the Grants Pass Commercial Club in 1909 while they listened to its story.

When David Henry Miller and his wife, Elmira, settled in Medford in 1883, the town was being platted for the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Miller may have been Medford’s first property owner.