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

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.



11:52 am
Fri November 14, 2014

Single Redwood Tree Yields Lumber for 36-room Motel


Tom Wyllie’s idea was to build an entire motel from a single tree. 

Wyllie fell a curly-grained redwood in 1952 near the Klamath River. Eighteen feet in diameter at the base, the tree yielded 57,000 board feet of lumber.  The huge tree was cut into five logs so big they had to be quartered to haul them to mills, yielding enough lumber, with plenty left over for future additions, to build the 36-room Curly Redwood Lodge in Crescent City, Calif.

Read more
11:50 am
Thu November 13, 2014

Hersey House Takes Name from Early Ashland, Ore., Settlers


Hersey Street in Ashland, Ore., is named for a Michigan family that liked Ashland so much they never left.  They even convinced their grandparents to move across the country to live there too.

James Hersey was born in Michigan in 1876.  At 21, he married Carrie and they had a daughter, Violet.  The young farm family stayed in Michigan for another 10 years before moving West.

Read more
11:47 am
Wed November 12, 2014

River Hogs Die Trying to Clear Log Jams


The log drivers on the Klamath River had one of the most dangerous jobs in the logging industry as they herded thousands of logs down the Klamath River to the sawmill in Klamathon near today’s Hilt, Calif.

Known as river hogs, the drivers dressed in wool to keep warm, from underwear to shirts and pants, and wore caulked boots with 42 spikes in the soles. 

Read more
11:48 am
Tue November 11, 2014

Veterans Form Medford-based Scottish Bagpipe Band

In 1931 a group of WWI veterans and the American Legion formed the Scottish Bagpipe Band, based in Medford, Ore.  For a short time they were called the Elks Kilty Band, but in 1978 they became the Siskiyou Highland Pipes and Drums.  Today they perform under the name of the Southern Oregon Scottish Bagpipe Band.

Band members have varied cultural backgrounds and the band has played a blend of multi-cultural music ever since Pipe Major Roland Kari introduced Latin rhythms into some Scottish Bagpipe tunes.

Read more
11:46 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Oregonians Answer the Call of Duty during World War II


The World War II draft called thousands of Oregonians into the armed forces, many of them with backgrounds similar to Dick Rone of the Nonpareil neighborhood east of Sutherlin.

Born on Dec. 23, 1908, Rone attended school in Nonpareil and worked at the Bonanza and Nonpareil mercury mines, where he earned about $4 a day with a half hour for lunch, time enough, he said, to eat two or three sandwiches and an apple.

Read more
10:45 am
Fri November 7, 2014

Extreme Weather in 1889 Strikes Klamath River

The summer of 1889 was especially dry in Beswick and the Butte Valley along the Klamath River.

Wells and springs ran dry and the hay crop was poor.  The extreme weather was followed in November by a storm that left three feet of snow on the ground.  That was followed by a blinding blizzard that dropped an additional three feet of snow.

Read more
10:44 am
Thu November 6, 2014

Boys Watch Jacksonville, Ore., Hot Air Balloon Burst

Ruby and Lyle Downing watched a hot air balloon burst on July 4, sometime before 1909, in Jacksonville, Ore.  Sixty years later Lyle described the incident in writing.

“We were on hand to see all the preparations,” he wrote. “A long trench, about 15 feet long and at least two feet wide had been dug. A fire was started in this covered trench-like pit. Something in the way of fuel was added that sent up a black smoke. The balloon had been placed over one end of this covered pit. This was how the balloon was filled with hot air. The balloon filled and started to rise…

Read more
10:43 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Johnson Family Reopens Riddle Sawmill


Lumberman Don R. Johnson and his wife, JoAnne Johnson, settled in Riddle, Ore., in 1951, where they built a sawmill that still stands. Soon they built a plant that produced glue-laminated beams up to five feet deep and 96 feet long.

Further expansion in Oregon included the Umpqua Lumber Co., Prairie Wood Products in Prairie City and Grant Western Lumber Co. in John Day. The Johnsons also operated cattle ranches for 40 years in Eastern Oregon. 

Read more
10:42 am
Tue November 4, 2014

Water-Shooting Device Cools Rogue River Rafters


In the late 1980s, three young rafting enthusiasts, Medford financial planner Bill Bednar, Grants Pass banker Dorian Corliss and Medford banker Michael Neyt, were taken by surprise while enjoying a Northern California raft trip.

The trio spotted someone using a crude device resembling a “homemade syringe” that shot a long stream of water.  Seeing the potential for fun, Corliss built a four-foot-long, telescoping “tube within a tube” capable of producing long, strong streams of water.

Read more
10:41 am
Mon November 3, 2014

Adams Station Caters to Wagon Road Travelers


When travelers glanced back as they left Adams Station in Del Norte County, Calif., they were likely to see Mary Adams waving goodbye.

As early as the 1880s, Adams was catering to the needs of stage travelers on the old Grants Pass to Crescent City wagon road. She had first homesteaded 20 acres along the Smith River near

Gasquet, then paid for another 100 acres. She and neighbor Peter Peacock married and ran Adams Station for more than 50 years.

Read more
9:33 am
Fri October 31, 2014

East Side Ghost Haunts Medford, Ore., in 1911


It’s Halloween and ghost-story time. Here’s one from the Sept. 2, 1911, edition of the Medford (Ore.) Sun newspaper.  It starts like this:

“Ghosts!  The residents of the east side near the bridge have been seeing one. The ghost is the regulation kind being white and having the faculty of doing unexplainable things.”

Read more
9:33 am
Thu October 30, 2014

Western Lingo Adopts Spanish Words


Many words left behind by early Spanish explorers as they named settlements, bays and rivers along the Pacific Coast, and other words from Mexican cowboy jargon have enriched the Western lingo of Southern Oregon and Northern California.  The word “cowboy” itself comes from vaquero, Spanish for “cowman.”

Who hasn’t heard of a “dude?” The word is derived from the Mexican phrase los dudos, meaning “the doubtful ones;” for example, city slickers who fall off horses.

Read more
9:32 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Daughter of Tombstone Carvers Becomes Landscape Artist


After marrying and having two children, Grace Russell Fountain took up painting.

She had grown up in Southern Oregon, attending school in the 1860's and 70's in Ashland, Ore.  She was the second of 11 children of Ann and James Russell, who carved decorative tombstones in the Rogue Valley.

In 1878, Grace married James Fountain, a merchant, miner and teacher. She studied painting in Klamath Falls with a famous landscape artist of the time, William S. Parrott. He taught by having students watch him paint and then go home to try to do the same.

Read more
9:31 am
Tue October 28, 2014

Gemstones Attract Rockhounds from Far Away


Rockhounds abound in Southern Oregon and Northern California, and there’s a story behind each rock, fossil or mineral they collect.

One ardent collector warned, “Rockhounds are like ants. If you give them enough time they will move a mountain.”

When the 1964 flood receded, it left behind an exposed, cabin-sized boulder of jade near Happy Camp, Calif. Within six weeks it was gone! People from around the country had chipped off pieces until there was nothing left.

Read more
9:30 am
Mon October 27, 2014

Steam Locomotive Rests Under Shelter in Klamath Falls, Ore.

An example of the early-day rail engines that served Southern Oregon and Northern California, Locomotive No. 2579, rests quietly under shelter in Veterans Memorial Park facing Lake Ewauna in Klamath Falls, Ore.

The Southern Pacific engine once was one of more than 350 small steam locomotives that, it has been written, “carried America from before the Civil War into the 20th Century.”

A marker at the site says No. 2579’s last use was for the revenue service in November 1956, before being donated the following year to the City of Klamath Falls.

Read more
10:52 am
Fri October 24, 2014

Orin Palmerton Sells His Arboretum to Preserve


A veteran of the Spanish-American War, Orin Palmerton, purchased five acres of land in the 1920s near the City of Rogue River, Ore., where he began planting many domestic and exotic trees from around the world.

Evans Creek slices through the property, a five-minute drive from downtown, as the creek flows toward the Rogue River.

Palmerton operated a nursery there for years before deciding to sell the pristine acreage to Jackson County in 1960. The City of Rogue River acquired it in 1994 from the county as part of the city’s park system.

Read more
10:50 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Mud and Rock Slide Draws Attention to Mount Shasta Glaciers


National Weather Service officials issued a cautionary flash-flood watch on Sept. 20, 2014, after volcanic mud, rock and water cascaded down Northern California’s Mount Shasta, possibly when a piece of a glacier broke off.

The incident, blamed on drought conditions and sun exposure, drew attention to the 14,179-foot volcanic mountain’s seven glaciers.

Read more
10:48 am
Wed October 22, 2014

Steamer Winema Reigns as Queen of Upper Klamath Lake


The largest boat ever to sail Upper Klamath Lake north of Klamath Falls, Ore., was the $10,000 Winema, a stern-wheeled steamboat 125 feet long with a 22-foot beam.

The steamer, known as the Queen of the Lake, offered moonlight excursions with a band for dancing, $1 Sunday cruises and annual school picnics.  It carried both passengers and freight early in the 1900s when boats offered a chief mode of transportation in the Klamath country.

Read more
10:46 am
Tue October 21, 2014

Journal Reports Northern California Mining Activities


The July 15, 1903, edition of the mining journal, Mineral Wealth of Northern California, was full of news, including that Southern Oregon placer mines were expected to top $1 million in gold for the season.

Other news included the following:

-- The Old Channel mines on Galice Creek had sent 10 big gold bricks to company headquarters in Chicago, and “they are but half done cleaning the yellow metal from the sluices.”

Read more
10:45 am
Mon October 20, 2014

Jump Off Joe Creek Gets Name from Trapper’s Fall


Jump Off Joe Creek, 11 miles north of Grants Pass, Ore., refers to an accident involving 29-year-old Joseph McLoughlin, son of Dr. John McLoughlin, officially designated “the Father of Oregon.”  The creek’s name dates to the 1830s, when the only non-native people in Southern Oregon were transient fur trappers and explorers.

McLoughlin’s father was the powerful chief of the Hudson’s Bay Company operations in the Oregon Territory.  The son’s mother was a Chippewa Indian woman from eastern Canada.

Read more