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 Online Store.  Each episode is also available below.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


The Wolf Creek Job Corps will be 50 years old this year.  The center along Little River near Glide, Ore., was constructed in the mid-1960s and is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Forest Service.

It is one of 125 centers in the country and one of six in Oregon.  The coeducational center houses 231 students between the ages of 16 to 24, teaching them personal, interpersonal, and career skills

Charles Maplesden was born in 1916, son of blacksmith Charlie Maplesden and his wife, Verna, of Etna, Calif.  The family moved to Greenview where the father opened a blacksmith shop.

Charles recalled that his father was so strong that when shoeing a draft horse he would “hold onto [its] forefoot while it reared up on its hind legs. He wouldn’t let go but held the weight of the horse as it thrashed about…when he let go, the animal seemed glad to stand quietly.”


The tallest peak in Josephine County, Ore., is Grayback Mountain at 7,050 feet.

Historians are unsure about the origin of the name, which dates from the mid-19th century.  Some believe Grayback refers to the exposed granite outcroppings near the summit.  Others say that Grayback was a derogatory name for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, a term that appeared often in Jacksonville’s newspapers in the 1860s.  There is some consensus that miners named the mountain after the fleas in their clothing and bedding, which they called graybacks.


Before Klamath Falls had paved streets, the city offered a railway franchise to the first of two companies to lay the track for a horse-drawn trolley along Main Street. The Klamath Land and Transportation Company won the contract, using secondhand rail from an abandoned logging railroad.

Passenger service began on July 4, 1907, with souvenir tickets priced at $1.50.  The tracks soon reached a northern terminus near the Upper Klamath Lake docks.

Rogue River Guide Attracts Celebrities

Oct 13, 2014


After Glen Wooldridge ran the lower Rogue River in 1915 with an Indian friend, he realized it was too treacherous for commercial trips.  Although he regretted it later, he solved that problem in the 1950s by dynamiting rocks at Argo Falls, Grave Creek, Rainey Falls and Blossom Bar, still the riskiest rapid on the Lower Rogue.


John Javna was a successful writer and his wife, Sharon, was a public defender in Oakland, Calif., when they moved with their two children in 1995 to Ashland, Ore.  John’s self-published book, titled “50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth,” had sold 5 million copies.

They loved the Rogue Valley, but missed taking their children to interactive museums like those in the Bay Area. They started a small science museum in the Ashland Middle School, building exhibits, an experimental lab, and displaying a giant python.


Southern Oregon has produced many outstanding golfers, but it would be hard to find a better one than Helen Thompson Milne.  Born in the San Francisco Bay area in 1920, she moved to Medford at age 2.  She was 27 when she won her first title and proceeded to win seven straight championships, adding three more in the mid -1960s.


A drive along Carberry Creek in Oregon’s Applegate Valley leads past what was the mining town of Steamboat.  All that remains is a tumble-down fence amid some pines that marks the town’s cemetery.

In 1860 the rugged, remote corner of the Siskiyous was the site of what may have been Oregon’s first arrastra, a primitive ore-crushing mill.


Harriet Beecher Stowe is best known for her book titled Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but she and her sister Catherine also wrote another book titled The American Woman's Home. The Southern Oregon Historical Society owns a first edition, published in 1869.  The full text is available online.


The Modoc sucker, a small fish with fleshy lips that grab insects and worms and scrape algae from stream bottoms, joined the federal endangered species list in 1985. Biologists worried that its survival was threatened by stream bank erosion from cattle grazing and predatory non-native brown trout.


For years Oregon’s summer fires have not only destroyed stands of valuable timber, but also damaged the regional economy.  In the 1960's, an average of 414 fires annually were burning 5,660 acres and costing some $243,000 to extinguish.


Williams, Ore., started as a mining community in 1859.  It was first known as Williamsburg, after nearby Williams Creek.

The creek’s name refers to Captain Robert Williams, who was commander of the Althouse Mounted Volunteers during the Rogue River Indian Wars. The Volunteers was a group of 30 miners and settlers based in rural Josephine County near today’s Cave Junction who joined up on Aug. 24, 1853, with Williams as captain.


“The cry of fire was sounded at about 1:30 o’clock this morning,” the Scott Valley County Reporter newspaper wrote on March 16, 1896.  “It aroused the slumbering people of the town (of Etna, Calif.), who, half awake and half clad, rushed from all directions on to Main Street to find that Mrs. Mani’s hotel and saloon building was in flames and past all hope of being saved.”

Quickly the flames consumed more wooden buildings, including Emmel Miller’s brick store and the Odd Fellows Hall.

 There are forest fires … and there are forest fires.  The Hog Fire of 1987 especially comes to mind in Northern California.  

 Yreka, Calif., suffered terribly in what is known as the “great fire of 1871.”  It was the same year as the disastrous Chicago fire, and for residents it became a landmark in time.