Author Archives: Kenneth Gregg

It’s History Trivia Tuesday!


Historic Jacksonville shares tidbits from Jacksonville history every Tuesday on our Facebook page. Like us at Historic Jacksonville (historicjville) and enjoy our tales and stories of the people and places that made Jacksonville the major hub of southern Oregon in the late 1800s.  And visit the Southern Oregon Historical Society Library and Archives for access to the historical images included in our posts.

Matthew G. Kennedy

December 11, 2018

Constructed around 1855, the Matthew G. Kennedy house on North 3rd Street is the oldest Jacksonville residence still standing. One of the Valley’s earliest pioneers, Kennedy had been appointed town constable in early 1853 at the ripe old age of 23 and became the first elected Sheriff of Jackson County later that year. Kennedy also invested in Jacksonville real estate. He was the first Jacksonville settler to record his claim to a 100-foot frontage on the north side of California Street. Around 1854, he constructed 1 or 2 wood frame buildings that housed an “assemblage of shops” known as “Kennedy’s Row.” That site now houses The Pot Rack, The Blue Door Garden Store, Farmhouse Treasures, and the historic Beekman Bank Museum. But Kennedy also had a bit of the wanderlust. In 1857 he left Jacksonville to build a hotel called the Metropolitan House Hotel in Yreka, and by 1863, he had moved on to San Francisco.

“Like” Historic Jacksonville, Inc. (historicjville) on Facebook and enjoy weekly Jacksonville history trivia. Visit www.historicjacksonville.org to view all the weekly Jacksonville History Trivia posted to date!

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Emil Britt

December 4, 2018

Michael Hafner shared this photo with Historic Jacksonville. He found it in an antique store and posted it on Forgotten Oregon. He thought the tree seemed very familiar. It should. It’s a photo of Emil Britt, the son of famed Jacksonville photographer and horticulturist, Peter Britt. Peter Britt himself may have taken the photo in the early 1900s. Emil is standing next to the Giant Sequoia his father planted in 1862 in honor of his birth. This majestic 200+ foot-tall tree, an official Oregon Heritage Tree, can still be found in the Peter Britt Gardens at the start of the Jacksonville Woodlands’ Sarah Zigler Trail.

Old City Hall #3

November 27, 2018

Jacksonville’s 1880 Old City Hall is the oldest government building in Oregon to remain in continuous use. It stands at the intersection of S. Oregon and Main streets, the heart of Jacksonville’s original business district, on the site of the 1st brick building in town–the 1854 Maury & Davis Dry Goods store. Reuben Maury and Benjamin Davis had run a very successful general merchandise building at this location until 1861. Their partnership ended with the outbreak of the Civil War when Maury became an officer in the Union Army; Davis, a nephew of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, was claimed by family ties. Various enterprises occupied the original building until a fire in October 1874 gutted the interior. The burnt-out building sat empty until the Jacksonville’s Board of Trustees purchased the site for a town hall. Bricks from the original store were recycled into the current building’s construction. Completed in 1881, Jacksonville’s Old City Hall still hosts City Council meetings, City commissions and committees, municipal court, various community organizations, and monthly movie nights.

 

John Hockenjos

November 20, 2018

In the spring of 1878, John Hockenjos purchased the 100’ x 100’ northeast corner property fronting 5th Street between D and E streets in Jacksonville. By fall, the Oregon Sentinel announced Hockenjos’s intention to build “a number of new residences on the vacant lot back of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which he will offer for rent.” Hockenjos, a native of Baden, Germany, was a carpenter by training. He had arrived in Jacksonville by the late 1860s and for roughly 25 years was one of the town’s most active builders. He is reported to have made repairs to the early wood frame Jackson County Courthouse and the County Clerk’s office, to have built the Sexton’s Toolhouse in Jacksonville’s Pioneer Cemetery, to have erected the Methodist Episcopal parsonage, and to have constructed and rented homes throughout town. Although Hockenjos built the house at 345 North 5th Street as a rental, the family also occupied it for some period of time. Hockenjos died in 1894, but his wife Eva retained ownership of this house until 1915.

St. Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church #3

November 13, 2018

St. Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, now located at the corner of North 5th and D streets, was completed in 1854—the first church built in Jacksonville, the first church built in southwestern Oregon, and the oldest wood frame structure in town. At some point a parsonage was also constructed on California Street, just east of what became the site of the historic Presbyterian Church. As the Presbyterian Church neared completion in 1881, the Methodist Episcopal Trustees chose to sell the old parsonage and purchase the house at 325 North 5th, newly completed by local builder John Hockenjos. Hockenjos had purchased the entire northeast corner of the block in 1878 with the intention of constructing rental houses. What is now known as the Methodist Episcopal Parsonage may have been briefly rented before the Church Trustees purchased it in April 1881. The parsonage remained in the ownership of the Methodist Episcopal Church until 1921 when it was taken over by the county for back taxes. Sometime before the Church relinquished its title, a 1-story addition with a separate entrance was constructed—perhaps for parishioners visiting the Methodist minister at his home. The building is now a private residence.

James Cronemiller #2

November 6, 2018

James Cronemiller spent most of his life in Jacksonville, having moved here with his parents in 1864 when he was less than a year old. He followed in his father David’s footsteps as a blacksmith and then became a successful local merchant until he felt called to public service. Described as “honest, honorable, and upright,” he was named Deputy Sheriff by 1900. When Jackson County Treasurer Max Muller died in 1902, Cronemiller was appointed as his replacement and then elected to 4 terms of his own. He subsequently became Deputy County Assessor and also served as Jacksonville City Treasurer for over 20 years. Cronemiller was also active in lodge work serving s treasurer of Jacksonville’s Odd Fellows lodge for 13 years, secretary of the Warren Masonic Lodge for 14 years, and scribe of the Royal Arch lodge for 19 years. In 1908, when St. Mary’s Academy relocated to Medford, Cronemiller purchased the former school house for his residence. Located at what is now Beekman Square on E. California Street, his residence became part of Jacksonville’s pioneer “Millionaire’s Row.” Cronemiller died in 1923, “loved and respected by all.” The house burned in the 1930s.

James Cronemiller #1

October 30, 2018

James Cronemiller was born in 1863 a year before his father, blacksmith David Cronemiler, moved the family to Jacksonville. James initially followed in his father footsteps, working in the family smithy at the northeast corner of California and 3rd streets. An ambitious young man, James soon went out on his own. In partnership with George Love, he operated Cronemiller & Love from at least 1896 to 1899, offering dry goods and groceries. It was one of the many businesses that occupied the 1872 Orth Building on South Oregon Street. In this historic photo, you can see John Orth on the far left, James Cronemiller (3rd man from the left), and George Love (2nd man from the right). More on James next week as he becomes a notable public servant.

Rasmussen’s Super Serve

October 23, 2018

For most Jacksonville residents, the northeast corner of California and 3rd streets has always been home to Rasmussen’s Super Serve. Established by Ernest Rasmussen in 1950 as a combination gas station and car repair shop, the gas station portion has long been closed but Ernest’s grandson Steve still operates the popular local repair service. However, that corner has an older history of servicing local transportation needs. David Cronemiller, a native of Pennsylvania, arrived in Jacksonville in the early 1860s, and opened a blacksmith shop on that site in competition with the successful Patrick Donegan smithy diagonally across California Street. Business must have been booming since Cronemiller’s original smithy was soon replaced by a large, well-equipped blacksmith and wagon shop. He was described as “an excellent mechanic,” “always kept busy by satisfied patrons.” Donegan had closed shop by the late 1800s but Cronemiller continued to operate successfully until 1904 when his health began to fail. Cronemiller died in 1910, mourned by many for both his “honest and upright” nature and “his gentle forbearing ways.” Cronemiller’s smithy and wagon shop were torn down in 1929.

Post Office #14

October 16, 2018

We’ve finally come to the end of our Jacksonville Post Office saga after chasing the post office’s location beginning in 1854 through most of the buildings in downtown Jacksonville. The structure current residents know as the town post office, located at 175 N. Oregon Street, was officially dedicated on May 4, 1968. And what a celebration it was! The all-day event kicked off with a “buckaroo breakfast” at the original Pioneer Village, a coffee for U.S. Senator Wayne Morse, a picnic lunch on the grounds of the Jacksonville Museum (now the City offices), followed by a parade from the Museum to the new post office building. The dedication ceremony included speeches by Mayor Curly Graham, Senator Morse, the Regional Post Office Director, and other dignitaries. Morse also dedicated a flag that had flown over the Post Office Department in Washington D.C. to Jacksonville Postmaster Clarence Williams. A highlight was Pony Express riders delivering mail bags containing congratulatory letters from the mayors of Gold Hill, Central Point, Rogue River, Eagle Point, Medford, Phoenix, Talent and Ashland. But the day wasn’t over! An open house for the building followed along with a Britt Society antique show and sale. A dance in the ballroom of the U.S. Hotel finally ended the celebration. It was a very fitting day for the oldest continually operating post office in Jackson County—164 years and counting!

Post Office #13


October 9, 2018

After the “Friends of Historic Jacksonville” successfully retained the Jacksonville Post Office’s status as the oldest continually operating independent post office in Jackson County, the postal service decided it needed a new, larger building. In 1967 they chose a lot on N. Oregon Street by the old train depot, but they proposed a plain, government-designed, cement block building—a far cry from Jacksonville’s historic architecture and the town’s new standing as a National Historic Landmark District. When the Regional Postmaster in Seattle refused to answer phone calls or telegrams from local officials, Robbertson Collins, the individual who had spearheaded Jacksonville’s restoration went to work. Marshaling the support of Eric Allen (editor of the Medford Mail Tribune), Alfred Carpenter (Carpenter Foundation), Curly Graham (Jacksonville Mayor), Glen Jackson (head of the Oregon Department of Transportation), and Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield, the foundation submitted a design by local architect Jeff Shute that created a brick sheath over the proposed building, retaining its basic design but compatible with existing historic structures. Once the proposal was approved, the Regional Postmaster was set up as the hero. In planning the building’s dedication ceremony, Jacksonville Mayor Graham noted, “There is no end to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Post Office #12

October 2, 2018

When Jacksonville Postmaster Lynn Houston Valentine resigned in 1963, the Post Office Department proposed to make the Jacksonville post office a substation of Medford, citing the potential for improved service for less money. Considering that the Jacksonville post office was the oldest continuously operating post office in the county, residents, businesses, and organizations actively opposed the proposal, saying they were perfectly happy with current service. Opponents published an “ad” in the October 22, 1965, Medford Mail Tribune as “An Appeal to Friends of Historic Jacksonville.” Signed by the City Council, the Lions Club, the Garden Club, the Jacksonville Museum, the Visitors Information Center, the Boosters Club, the Properties Board, the Realtors, the Siskiyou Pioneer Sites Foundation, and the Southern Oregon Historical Society, it cited the town’s uniqueness, its efforts to preserve historic heritage, and the post office’s role as a focal point for residents, the potential for a change to jeopardize the town’s restoration program, the impact on real estate values, and the impact on tourism. The proposal’s opponents ultimately prevailed, and the Jacksonville Post Office remains the oldest continually operating independent post office in Jackson County, Oregon!

Post Office #11


September 25, 2018

We’re into the 1950s so are nearing the end of the wandering Jacksonville Post Office saga. Around 1954, the post office was again relocated—this time 2 ½ blocks down the street from the Masonic building to 220 E. California, the current home of Jacksonville Publishing. A Jacksonville resident who grew up here remembered the move clearly. “It was my job to pick up the mail on the way home from school. The boxes had dial combinations, and I had to learn a new one. I loved Wednesdays when the Saturday Evening Post came!” The Postmaster during this period was Leon Matheny. When he died suddenly in 1959, his wife Dorothy was appointed Acting Postmaster.

Post Office #10


September 18, 2018

We’re continuing our saga of the Jacksonville Post Office, the oldest continually operating independent post office in Jackson County. In late 1912, Postmaster John F. Miller, Jr. chose to take a break from his duties after 14 years of service. His wife Mabel was appointed Postmistress in his stead but died suddenly within weeks of being named. The grieving widower resumed the role on an interim basis until June 1913, when Lewis (Louis) Ulrich, Jacksonville’s “pet” baseball player, was appointed to the position. For convenience, Ulrich moved the post office into space in the P.J. Ryan Building (now the Jacksonville Inn) next to his flour and feed store. Apart from his business and baseball interests, Ulrich also took an interest in politics. In 1906 he had served as Assistant County Treasurer, and in 1920 he became Col. Herbert Sargent’s “lieutenant” in Jacksonville’s battle to retain the county seat. He gladly performed the duties of “toastmaster” at the gala that celebrated the town’s short-lived success.

Post Office #9


September 11, 2018

And so we continue the saga of the Jacksonville Post Office. Beginning in 1922, Jacksonville employed an extended series of women post masters: Flora Thompson (1922-27), who had previously worked as a stenographer in the sheriff’s office; Alice Hoefs (1928-1932), formerly a saleswoman; Lulu Saulsberry—shown here (1933); Ella Eaton (1934-38), who later became the town telephone operator; Ruth Hoffman (1939-1942), Eastern Star Matron; and Mary Smith Christean (1943-1952). Shortly prior to Saulsberry’s appointment, the post office was moved back to the Masonic Hall. And there’s still more to come, so stick with us for a few more weeks as we wend our way through the story of the oldest continually operating independent post office in Jackson County!

Post Office #8


September 4, 2018

And it’s 1912 and Postmaster John F. Miller, Jr. has moved the post office into his former hardware store at 155 W. California Street. His father had been Jacksonville’s first gunsmith and this 1874 brick building had originally housed his father’s “Hunters’ Emporium.” However, John Jr. was more of a gardener. In addition to installing copper lock boxes and special windows for money orders, registry business, and general delivery, he decorated the building with flowers and plants “hanging from the ceiling and piled in corners.” The Jacksonville Sentinel described it as a “combination of a parlor and a greenhouse.” The U.S. Postal Service authorities were not as impressed and eventually required Miller to remove the plants.

Post Office #7


August 28, 2018

It’s 1898 and the Jacksonville Post Office has moved again! John F. Miller, Jr. is the new Postmaster, and he’s moved the post office one building—from Pape’s saloon in the Masonic building into Schumpf’s barber shop next to Miller’s hardware store. By 1907, the barber shop has been replaced by a millinery shop. Currently this building at 157 E. California Street is occupied by Rebel Heart Books. Hair, hats, or books—the post office is in a very “heady” location!

Post Office #6


August 21, 2018

It’s also the next installment in our saga of the Jacksonville post office, the oldest continually operating independent post office in Jackson County since being established in 1854. In July 1888, the Democratic administration appointed Henry Pape, Sr. to the position of Jacksonville postmaster. Pape, one of the town’s substantial German citizens, had served 2 terms as Jackson County Treasurer and several years as City Treasurer. He promptly relocated the post office to his business establishment—a saloon located in the new Masonic Hall at the corner of California and Oregon streets. Pape was apparently both popular and capable since the succeeding Republican administration retained his services as post master for at least another 2 terms.

Post Office #5


August 14, 2018

We’re continuing to track the history and multiple locations of the Jacksonville post office, the oldest continually operating post office in Jackson County and the only one not a substation of Medford. Post master Max Muller saw major fires burn 2 of the post office buildings he supervised. After the 1874 fire he moved the post office to 125 W. California (now the J’ville Tavern), which had been constructed as a “fire proof” brick building. But fire again burned the post office building in 1884. The fire had originated in the New States Saloon (the current site of Redman’s Hall and Boomtown Saloon) and was not long in reaching the post office store. The building may have been fire proof, but the store’s contents were not. The fire entered the cellar from the adjacent building and “raged inside.” However, the iron coverings over the store’s windows and doors were kept closed “and the flames allowed to spend their forces.” The brick walls remained intact, and 5 months later the post office store was again ready for occupancy.

Post Office #4


August 7, 2018

We’re continuing our saga of Jacksonville’s post office. In 1870, Max Muller was appointed postmaster of Jacksonville. As well as an honor, this was a good business opportunity. For the next 18 years Muller served as postmaster and his place of business was known as the “post office store.” Initially the post office was in the Muller & Brentano “groceries, candies, nuts, and stationery” store at the corner of California and Oregon, now home to the Cotton Broker. At some point after the fire of 1874, Muller & Brentano moved to 125 W. California, currently occupied by the J’ville Tavern. This location became the “new” Post Office Store until 1888. After that it became “Max Muller & Co., Jacksonville, Or., the leading dealers in Gents Furnishing Goods.”

Post Office #3


July 31, 2018

For the next few weeks we’re continuing to track the history of the Jacksonville post office, the oldest operating post office in Jackson County. Supposedly the first actual Jacksonville post office of record was the brick building at 110 S. Oregon Street that now houses the Cotton Broker. In 1861, Robert and Israel Haines (shown here) constructed this 1-story brick building at the corner of California and Oregon streets, replacing a wooden building they had occupied since arriving in Jacksonville 7 years earlier. It’s one of the oldest commercial buildings to survive 3 major fires that ravaged the town. In 1864 it reportedly housed the Jacksonville post office. The construction expense may have over extended the brothers financially, since post-1866 records show a series of short-term occupants—Isadore Caro, Gustav Karewski, and Jeremiah Nunan. By 1872, Max Muller (also pictured) had moved his “groceries, candies, nuts, and stationery” store to this location where he also performed the duties of postmaster.

Post Office #2


July 24, 2018

For the next few weeks we’re tracing Jacksonville post office history. It’s the oldest continually operating post office in Jackson County—although the term “post office” may initially be a misnomer. The first “post offices” on the West Coast were essentially contracts with individuals or businesses who were authorized to handle the mail and deliver it along a designated route. Individuals were usually “express riders”; businesses were typically stage companies; and the “post office” was probably the express office or stage stop. Mail might be addressed to a general area and could turn up at any local “post office,” so individuals making trips to town might ask for mail for all their neighbors. R. Dugan opened the first Jacksonville post office on February 18, 1854. Sam Taylor (lower left) succeeded him as post master in December of that year. Taylor was a miner and early Jackson County Deputy Sheriff. C.C. Beekman (upper left) then carried the mail from Jacksonville to Yreka until 1863, initially as an express rider for Cram Rogers & Company, then for his own company, Beekman’s Express. The U.S. didn’t issue postage stamps until 1847, and for a number of years afterwards, letters could still be hand stamped. Prepayment of postage was not required until 1855. From 1851 to 1855, a prepaid ½ ounce transcontinental letter cost 6₵; the unpaid rate was 10₵. The prepaid West Coast rate was 3₵ and the unpaid rate 5₵. The mail contractor would have added a surcharge of 1₵ or 2₵ per letter.

Post Office #1


July 17, 2018

Did you know that the Jacksonville post office is the only independent post office in Jackson County with its own superintendent—a story all to itself. And it’s the oldest continually operating post office in the county since opening in 1854. It’s been located in almost every building in Jacksonville’s historic downtown. Over the next few History Trivia Tuesdays we’ll try to trace as much local post office history as we’ve been able to piece together.
The first Jackson County post office was established by William T’Vault in 1852 in the Dardanelles, across the Rogue River from Gold Hill. T’Vault, who founded the now defunct town, was Oregon’s first postmaster general, being named to that position in 1845 soon after the wagon train he commanded reached Oregon City. T’Vault came to Southern Oregon in 1852 when he learned of the region’s gold strikes. He moved to Jacksonville in 1855, establishing the first newspaper in Southern Oregon, the Table Rock Sentinel, changing its name to the Oregon Sentinel 3 years later. He also returned to his law practice, and in 1858 was elected to the Territorial Legislature as a slavery and states rights advocate, soon after becoming speaker of the House.
T’Vault was an early advocate of the “state of Jefferson,” which he pictured as an independent Pacific slave-holding republic. Although there have since been several attempts to create a “State of Jefferson” from northern California and Southern Oregon (although none included slavery), a new Pacific Coast state has yet to be realized–although California is now entertaining a proposal to break into 6 separate states!
T’Vault died in 1869, the last victim of the 1868-1869 smallpox epidemic.

Catalpa Trees


July 10, 2018

For years, 2 huge Catalpa trees with their large heart-shaped leaves and popcorn-like clusters of flowers were prominent features in the yard of Jacksonville’s historic Beekman House Museum at 470 E. California Street. These quick-growing trees were popular plantings in pioneer settlements throughout the West. Also known as the Indian bean tree, the Catalpa was valued for its medicinal uses. Tea brewed from its bark was used as an antiseptic to treat snake bites and whooping cough. A light sedative could be made from the flowers and seed pods, and the flowers were used for treating asthma. The leaves could also be turned into a poultice for treating wounds. However, the leaves may have served an even more valued purpose. Prior to the days of indoor plumbing, the large, soft Catalpa leaves may have been a welcome alternative to the Sears Roebuck catalog….
You can appreciate the remaining 100-year-old Catalpa tree when you tour the 1873 Beekman House any Saturday this summer – although public restrooms have now replaced the 2-seater outhouse which you can still see in the backyard!

4th of July


July 3, 2018

Well into the 20th Century, the Fourth of July was a bigger holiday than Christmas. And with Independence Day celebrations taking place all around the Rogue Valley, we’ve chosen to again share how Jacksonville honored this special occasion in the late 1800s. The Oregon Sentinel provided a detailed description of the town’s 1876 festivities. Residents were awakened with a reveille of cannon and gun fire, followed by an elaborate parade. The procession of prancing horses, brass bands, and floats formed in front of the courthouse. Typical floats might showcase 38 young girls representing each state, the Goddess of Liberty and the Angel of Peace, or other patriotic symbols. The parade usually ended at Bybee’s Grove where residents and visitors alike could enjoy a full day of oratory, food and drink, music, games, dancing, and other activities. Current celebrations may not be so elaborate, but Jacksonville residents can still enjoy a Fourth of July picnic with the Mayor from 12n to 3pm on the lawn of City Hall with free hot dogs, chips, and watermelon!

Auguste Petard


June 26, 2018

In 1896 a group of French settlers arrived in Jacksonville intent on establishing a large-scale grape and wine industry. One of these individuals, Francois Loran, was granted the parcel of land located at 860 Hill Street where he constructed the initial box house that still stands on the site. In 1918, the property was acquired by Auguste Petard, another Frenchman and winemaker. Petard had come to America in the late 1890s to make his fortune mining gold—only to find he was 50 years too late. He was headed for the Yukon when he stumbled across Jacksonville. He purchased a claim at the head of Rich Gulch and again tried mining—constructing the irrigation ditch that bears his name. He mined enough gold to acquire additional property including the Hill Street site, and again turned to grape growing and winemaking. Petard, with his wife Marie and their sons, farmed about 20 acres, selling most of their grapes to other winemakers while producing enough vin ordinaire for the family. However, Petard was again a victim of timing. The 1919 Volstead Act prohibited the production and consumption of alcohol, and in 1922, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union accused the Petards of making and selling “bootleg wine.” The sheriff confiscated 600+ gallons of wine (over $4,000 worth) and poured it out. The 79-year-old Auguste was fined $75 and barely escaped a jail sentence. The Petards had to content themselves with growing table grapes—although there may have been a barrel or 2 of wine produced on the side….

Morris Mensor


June 19, 2018

Morris Mensor was “well known as one of the enterprising businessmen” in early Jacksonville. A native of Prussia, he left home at age 19 and became a laborer in an oil factory in Hamburg, Germany. Within 6 months he was clerk and a year later foreman, supervising 1200 men. Accumulating a few thousand dollars, he returned home and gave the money to his parents to care for his younger siblings. When he sailed for America a year or so later, he could barely pay his passage, but on-board ship earned over $600 as an amateur musician—which he again sent home. In New York, he worked as a glazier and painter for a few years. Then in 1854, at age 42, he married 16-year-old Matilda Fisher. A year later, the couple came to San Francisco. With the gold rush over, they soon moved on to Jacksonville, where Morris became co-partner with his wife’s cousins in the Fisher Brothers mercantile. Within a few years he went out on his own, opening a mercantile in Phoenix. When health problems arose in 1876, he returned to Jacksonville and opened Morris Mensor’s New York Store at 170 S. Oregon in the old Brunner Building. Mensor operated his New York Store general merchandise business until his death in 1887, one of the handful of merchants to remain in Jacksonville after the railroad by-passed the town.

Patrick Donegan


June 12, 2018

From as early as 1855 to at least 1888, Jacksonville’s southwest corner of California and 4th streets housed Patrick Donegan’s smithy. Donegan, a native of Ireland, had immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager and by 1850 had followed the hordes of gold seekers to San Francisco. After trying his hand in the California gold fields, he staked a claim in the Oregon mining camp of Sterling before settling in Jacksonville in 1855 and returning to the profession for which he had trained. His black smithy proved profitable; the 1870 census showed a personal wealth of $12,000 plus real estate valued at $3,000 which included a 5,000-acre tract on the Rogue River used for sheep farming. In 1860, he had married Margaret Lynch, 12 years his junior, with whom he had 5 children. Following Margaret’s death at age 30, he married Mary Fleming, 18 years his junior, whom he met on a visit to Ireland. They had 3 more children. Only 3 of Donegan’s 8 children survived; 4 died in typhoid or diphtheria epidemics; one died from “lockjaw” (tetanus) after a toy pistol exploded in a 4th of July accident. By the turn of the century, Donegan had closed his smithy and moved to San Diego where he died in 1919. He is buried in the Catholic section of the Jacksonville cemetery.

Jacob Grob


June 5, 2018

Emil Britt and Mollie Britt, son and daughter of pioneer photographer and horticulturist Peter Britt, are well known names in Jacksonville history. Less well known is Jacob Grob, Peter Britt’s adopted son. Britt had courted Grob’s mother Amalia in their home country, Switzerland, but her parents had opposed her marrying an itinerant artist. When a now successful Peter heard of her husband’s death, he sent her money to come to Oregon and marry him. The couple married in 1861 and Peter adopted Amalia’s then 7 year-old son, Jacob Grob. The couple had 2 surviving children of their own—Emil and Mollie—before Amalia’s death in 1871. As adults, Mollie assumed management of the household, and Emil became a partner in the photography business. Jake oversaw Peter’s agricultural holdings and affairs, helping establish Britt’s legacy as the father of Southern Oregon’s commercial orchard, wine, and ornamental horticulture industries. Britt Park, now the Britt Festival grounds and the City-owned lower Britt Gardens, was the focal point of many of these efforts. Grob died in 1896 at age 42.

Jackson County Poor Farm


May 29, 2018

Today we’re also asking for your help with a history mystery! We’re trying to locate Emil DeRoboam’s Jackson County Poor Farm. [See photos.] We recently told you how Emil DeRoboam was the farm’s superintendent. He apparently took over from his aunt, Madame Jeanne DeRoboam Holt, proprietress of the U.S. Hotel. She had obtained the contract for the county “poor hospital” in 1880, housing the indigent for $1.49 a day in a building she rented adjacent to her Franco-American Hotel, the current site of the Jacksonville Inn cottages. Emil apparently ran it for two years after her death in 1884. When he moved his family to Yreka, the inmates were relocated to J.M Lofland’s farm near Jacksonville. However, by 1888, Emil was back in town and purchased the 642-acre Bellinger land claim. In addition to farming the land, he obtained the contract for the county “poor farm” in his own right and ran it for almost 20 years until the county purchased a site near Talent. The Talent site, which operated until 1983, is now home to the Southern Oregon Educational Service District. But back to Emil. Where was his “poor farm”? It had to be somewhere near Bellinger Lane and his home at 3995 S. Stage Road. Can you help us locate it?

Gold Digging in the 1930s


May 22, 2018

Are you familiar with how the discovery of gold during the winter of 1851-52 led to the founding of Jacksonville? Within a few months the area was dotted with the tents of 3,000+ miners seeking the promise of treasure. However, you may be less familiar with Jacksonville’s second gold rush. As an alternative to putting residents on the “dole” during the Great Depression, the County gave out mining permits, allowing residents to dig for any residual gold. Some got lucky, but most latter-day miners only found enough gold to live from day to day. However, almost every inch of Jacksonville was “undermined.” Most mining shafts were dug in backyards, but some residents had sufficient moxie to burrow under the town’s commercial buildings like the shaft pictured here in what is now the parking lot behind Jacksonville’s post office and Visitors Center. The result is periodic “sink holes” opening over old mine shafts around town. Learn more about Depression Era Jacksonville this Saturday, May 26, when you join Beekman family members and friends for 1932 Living History tours at the town’s historic Beekman House Museum, located at 470 E. California. Interact with historical interpreters at 11am, 1 or 3pm as they close this 1873 home, go through family belongings, comment on current affairs, and reminisce about growing up in the late 1800s.

Emil DeRoboam


May 15, 2018

Emil DeRoboam, nephew of U.S. Hotel proprietress Madame Jeanne DeRoboam Holt, had learned the tailor’s trade as a youth in France. After emigrating to Jacksonville in 1871 with his widowed father, Jean St. Luc DeRoboam, he became a wagon and carriage maker. The Democratic Times newspaper at various times declared Emil to be “an excellent mechanic” and “an excellent wheelwright.” After his father married rich Prussian widow Henrietta Schmidling in 1873, Emil courted and married her daughter Rosa 2 years later. The couple had 4 children. Emil was described as a “progressive man” and “prominent in political undertakings.” In the mid-1880s he purchased the 642 acre “Bellinger land claim” for “general farming and stock raising” and obtained the contract for the “county poor.” For 20 years, Emil was superintendent of the Jackson County poor farm, caring for the county’s wards on his farm. His home, pictured here, still stands on South Stage Road.

Union Hotel


May 8, 2018

The southeast corner of Oregon and California streets has been the site of a hotel almost since Jacksonville was founded. As early as November 1852, Jesse Robinson claimed “squatters rights” to an existing 2-story wood frame structure. The “Robinson House” became a “private boarding house patronized by the elite.” Austin Badger and Nelson Smith purchased the building in late 1855, renamed it the Union Hotel, and enlarged it. When Badger and Nelson couldn’t pay their debts, the Union Hotel was sold to Louis Horne who rechristened it the U.S. Hotel. Horne “improved” the hotel in 1868 by adding a 50’ x 30’ hall fronting on E. California. The 2nd floor, resting on “steel springs,” was made expressly for dancing; the ground floor housed offices and shops. Three years later a skating rink was opened in “Horne’s Hall.” The disastrous 1873 fire which leveled many of the wood frame structures on California Street was believed to have originated in a flue of the U.S. Hotel. The fire destroyed everything on the block…except for Horne’s chicken coop. The property was subsequently sold at a sheriff’s sale and then resold to brick mason George Holt, and his wife, hotel proprietress Jeanne DeRoboam Holt. George fired the bricks for his wife’s long dreamed-of, brick hotel. The brick U.S. Hotel, the structure we know today, opened in 1880 with a Tammany Day celebration, a Fourth of July Ball, and a visit by President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Jacksonville Library


May 1, 2018

In 1885, Jacksonville residents began fund raising efforts for a public library, but it was 1908 before a free public library was finally established for town residents. The Library Association rented the “Beekman building on Main Street” and fitted up a reading room with table, bookcase, desk and chairs. It was initially stocked with 50 books from the State traveling library, 80 donated books, and a collection of Harper’s Monthly magazines dating from 1868. Library hours were Tuesday and Friday from 7 to 9 pm and Wednesday and Saturday from 2 to 6 pm. Books could be checked out for 1 week. There had been earlier town libraries—a subscription circulating library; a Catholic library established by the local priest; and a Young Men’s Library & Reading Room Club. In 1920 Jacksonville, with a population of 489, was the first town to respond to a cooperative arrangement with the County, finding a “suitable room” in the 1855 Brunner Building at the corner of S. Oregon and Main streets—the oldest brick building still standing in Jacksonville and the Pacific Northwest. On 2 afternoons and 1 evening each week Mrs. H. K. Hanna, the first librarian, supervised the circulation of 290 books. But long before the end of the 20th Century, the Brunner Building was a very “tight squeeze.” A 2000 County-wide bond measure funded construction of the current Jacksonville library on West C Street.

Jacksonville Museum #3-U.S. Hotel


April 24, 2018

Soon after its 1925 formal opening, the 1-room Jacksonville museum in the Brunner Building operated by the Native Daughters of Jacksonville was deemed inadequate. More space was needed and as early as 1928 the Chamber of Commerce and City Council petitioned Jackson County for money to establish a museum in the U.S. Hotel on California Street. The County “took it under advisement.” In the 1930s, “a treasure house of junk and a handful of historical artifacts” was set up in what is now the Bella Union. The “Cabinet of Curiosities” from the old Table Rock Saloon was added to the collection along with other items from “historical minded folks.” Then local antique dealer Frank Zell stepped in. He had both a valuable collection of his own and an eye for history. But when crowded exhibits threatened to crash through the floor to the cellar below, Zell asked the City Council to move the museum to the U.S. Hotel—a goal embraced by local folk for over 10 years. The Council approved the move; the collection was transferred to the U.S. Hotel; and the U.S. Hotel became the Jacksonville Museum. Visitors sometimes contributed a quarter to the kitty, and Jacksonville acquired its first tourist attraction.

Jacksonville Museum #2-Brunner Building


April 17, 2018

Shortly after the Table Rock Saloon closed in 1914, the residents of Jacksonville began lamenting the loss of its “Cabinet of Curiosities”—a collections of pioneer artifacts and relics that owner Herman von Helms had amassed. After Paramount Pictures released “The Covered Wagon” in 1923—the industry’s first historical “Epic Big Screen Western”—it intensified local interest in “old pioneer days” since the silent movie depicted the settlement of Oregon. “The Covered Wagon” became one of the most popular and critically acclaimed films of the first half of the 1920s, and a Jacksonville museum became more than wishful thinking. Inspired by the film and the upcoming Jacksonville reunion of the Pioneer Society of Southern Oregon, Mrs. Alice Applegate Sargent purchased the 1855 Brunner Building at the corner of Main and S. Oregon streets with the goal of creating “a repository for pioneer relics.” The museum opened briefly for the society’s annual meeting in October 1924, then had its formal opening February 27, 1925. Open on Tuesdays and Fridays, local newspapers reported that it attracted so many visitors that Mrs. Sargent and her assistant were kept very busy!

Jacksonville Museum #1-Table Rock Saloon

 

April 10, 2018

A museum has long been a feature of Jacksonville. The Table Rock Billiard Saloon, constructed in 1860 at 165 S. Oregon Street, was also Jacksonville’s first museum. Saloonkeeper Herman Von Helms collected fossils and oddities to attract a clientele that then stayed for his lager. When the saloon closed in 1914, the Helms’ “Cabinet of Curiosities” boasted a collection of artifacts valued at $50,000. It encompassed “every possible manner of relic…mutely telling pages in the early history of Jackson County.” Highlights included the first piece of gold found in Jacksonville, a photo and piece of rope from a hanging, and the first billiard table in the Oregon Territory. The billiard table was twice the size of those used today and was transported in sections on pack horses from Crescent City, CA. Today the Table Rock Saloon is home to the Good Bean coffee house, but you can still enjoy some Jacksonville history in the form of the 19th Century photos decorating the walls.

Broom and Fan Brigades

 

April 3, 2018

Our pioneer forefathers didn’t have TV, radio, or movies to entertain them; they had to create their own amusements. Most could play an instrument, sing a tune, or recite a poem when called upon. Tableaux depicting popular images were also frequent in-home entertainment. By the 1880s, inspired by reunions of Civil War soldiers, young ladies began forming drill teams and executing precise drill routines. Manuals were even published to illustrate appropriate movements. Jacksonville is known to have had a scarf team, a fan brigade, and a broom brigade. The latter was especially commended in local newspapers for the way in which it executed the commands of its drill-master “in marching, counter-marching, wheeling, advancing, and handling their ‘deadly weapons.’” Following the brigade’s performance at an 1889 benefit, the teams’ brooms were even auctioned off. The brooms realized the handsome sum of $8 for the cemetery well fund.

Thomas Fletcher Royal

March 27, 2018

Thomas Fletcher Royal, who raised the money for and oversaw the completion of Jacksonville’s St. Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in 1854, preached for over 50 years becoming one of the most widely known and longest serving pioneer clergyman in the Pacific Northwest. The Jacksonville circuit was his first Oregon assignment. In addition to filling multiple pulpits, he was also heavily involved in education. He played a major role in the development of Jackson County’s early school system and served as the first superintendent of Jackson County School District #1. After leaving Jacksonville in the early 1860s, he served as Principal of Douglas County’s Umpqua Academy, Principal of the Portland Academy and Female Seminary, teacher and clerk for the Siletz Indian reservation, and Superintendent of the Klamath Indian Mission and Boarding School. When he returned to pastoral duties, he served numerous churches. Even after “retiring”, he continued preaching, ministering to the convicts of the Salem Penitentiary and the inmates of the Salem Insane Asylum.

St. Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church

March 20, 2018

St. Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church at the corner of D and North 5th streets in Jacksonville is one of a handful of churches claiming the title of “Oldest Protestant Church West of the Rockies.” Two pastors can be credited with its construction—Joseph Smith and Thomas Fletcher Royal (shown here). Both had arrived in Jacksonville in October 1853 as part of a “Preacher Wagon Train.” Smith is credited with beginning the church’s construction; Royal with completing it in 1854 as its pastor and guiding force. Royal’s wife, Mary Ann, was one of the women who visited various gold camps asking for donations toward its construction. Royal went a step farther. In his memoirs, he recorded walking into a Jacksonville saloon and asking gamblers for help in building the church. When they questioned his willingness to use gambling money to build a house of worship, Royal reported replying, “Oh, yes. And we would put it to a better use.”

Stagecoach


March 13, 2018

Before the Jacksonville Trolley began offering narrated history tours, visitors and residents alike could board a stagecoach operated by George McUne for a 15-minute tour of the town. After traveling in a covered wagon from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon as part of Oregon’s 1959 Centennial Wagon Train, McUne had sent to the Smithsonian for original Wells Fargo stagecoach plans and handcrafted a replica. In 1961, he began offering stagecoach tours of Jacksonville. The coach carried 12 to 15 passengers and was drawn by his reliable mules, Fibber and Molly. McUne would share stories about the discovery of gold, President Hayes’ visit to Jacksonville, the West’s last great train robbery, and other local tales. And tours always included a robbery at the Beekman Bank. McUne’s stagecoach rides were the genesis of what became Jacksonville’s original Pioneer Village with its array of “rescued” historic buildings and its multiple attractions.

Pioneer Village

March 6, 2018

Jacksonville’s current Pioneer Village at 805 North 5th Street is the namesake of an earlier 5-acre Pioneer Village constructed by George McUne between 1961 and 1964. For over 20 years, McUne’s Pioneer Village was an adventure into Jacksonville’s past with authentic buildings from nearby locations that were filled with the historic relics McUne collected. In the village stockade, visitors watched western fights and “black snake whip” demonstrations. They took pony rides and boarded a stagecoach. They watched a blacksmith make hand rolled wagon tires in his forge. They enjoyed Victorian melodramas. They explored Yreka’s Dogtown Saloon, still sporting bullet holes in the front door; or visited a jail, a moon-shiner’s cabin, or a little red schoolhouse that served Valley Falls students in southeast Oregon from 1880-1919. When George died in 1979, his passion for historical treasure died with him. His collection of 8,000 items was sold in 1985, leaving an empty lot that would later become the Pioneer Village Retirement Community.

Brunner Building #2


February 27, 2018

Constructed around 1855, the Brunner Building at 170 S. Oregon Street was the second brick building erected in Jacksonville and remains the town’s and Oregon’s oldest brick building still standing. Jacob Brunner was an early arrival to the young gold mining camp and by 1854 had established himself as a merchant carrying one of the heaviest stock of goods. A year earlier, Brunner had purchased the Main and Oregon corner lot at the new settlement’s first commercial street intersection. By January 1856 he was advertising his “fire-proof brick” store. An 1860 rear addition made it not only the “largest store building in Jackson County” but also “the largest south of Salem.” Brunner was among the first elected Trustees of Jacksonville after the town government was organized in 1860. However, by 1863 he had sold the “Brunner Building.” Belatedly catching “gold fever,” he appears to have moved on to the mines of southern Idaho.

Matthew G. Kennedy

February 20, 2018

Matthew G. Kennedy was the first Jacksonville settler to record his claim to a 100-foot frontage on the north side of California Street. Around 1854, he constructed 1 or 2 wood frame buildings that housed an “assemblage of shops” known as “Kennedy’s Row.” That site now houses The Pot Rack, The Blue Door Garden Store, Farmhouse Treasures, and the historic Beekman Bank Museum. Early newspapers carry advertisements for Kennedy Tinware (a hardware store) at what is now 150 W. California (The Pot Rack). In addition to being a merchant and one of Jacksonville’s earliest settlers, Kennedy had been appointed town constable in early 1853 at the ripe old age of 23 and became the first elected Sheriff of Jackson County later that year. At the time, Jackson County also included Josephine, Curry, and Coos counties.

George “Bum” Neuber #2

February 13, 2018

Jacksonville’s Calvary Church at 520 North 5th Street was originally the site of George “Bum” Neuber’s home. Bum kept a petting zoo for children in his back yard. However, he was known more for being a “sporting man.” He owned a downtown saloon and card parlor, owned the Jacksonville Gold Bricks baseball team, speculated in copper mining, and was a founding member of the Gold Ray Rod and Gun Club. As noted in last week’s trivia, he was also a prankster. By the late 1880s, that newfangled invention, the bicycle, had become a popular mode of transportation and exercise. According to an April 1897 Medford Mail, when a party of cyclists stopped to rest in Jacksonville one Sunday afternoon, Neuber and a pal “borrowed” a couple of the “wheels”, presumably to take a spin around the block. Apparently Neuber wasn’t good at navigating turns. Although he fell at least once, tearing his pants and scraping his knee, he didn’t stop until he reached Medford…just in time to take the train back to Jacksonville.

George “Bum” Neuber #1

 

February 6, 2018

George “Bum” Neuber (1865-1929) was a prankster and a joker. He was responsible for firing the Jacksonville cannon in the 1904 “celebration” that wiped out most of the windows on California Street. He was a “card” in the language of his day, so it seems appropriate that he ran a Jacksonville card room and saloon. Located at 130 W. California Street, his saloon and gaming establishment occupied the same location where his father, John Neuber, had opened the town’s first jewelry shop. John specialized in solid gold buckles for women’s belts. George specialized in relieving customers of their gold. In addition to his card room and saloon, he also owned the Jacksonville Gold Brick baseball team and was known for bringing in “ringers” to ensure the success of his players.

Jacksonville’s Cannon

January 31, 2018

The mock cannon outside the Public Works shop behind Jacksonville’s City Hall serves as a tribute to the 6 pound brass field piece the Governor ordered for Jacksonville at the beginning of the Civil War. The original cannon, now housed in the Oregon Military Museum in Clackamas, was fired in honor of Union victories and on special post-war occasions. During a 1904 Grand Army of the Republic reunion, some local veterans staged their own celebration. Around midnight on Saturday, September 24, George “Bum” Neuber and some of his colleagues, under the supervision of town Marshal Bill Kenney, pulled the cannon to the middle of California Street, stuffed 6 woolen socks full of gunpowder down the barrel, and lit the fuse. The blast took out every window from 3rd to 5th streets, and left shattered doors, broken window frames, and cracked plaster in surrounding buildings. It took the local glazier 3 weeks to replace all the glass. Bum Neuber gladly footed the bill, declaring it “jolly good fun”!

Thomas Kenney

January 23, 2018

Thomas Joseph Kenney (also Kinney or Kenny) was described in the 1904 publication, Portrait and Biographical Record of Western Oregon, as “a worthy representative of the esteemed and valued citizens of Jacksonville” who by “persistent energy and foresight became established among the successful business men of the city while he was yet a comparatively young man.” In many respects, he followed in his father’s footsteps. Tom was the older son of Daniel Kenney who, with a man named Appler, opened the area’s first “house of commerce” in the spring of 1852–a trading post at the northeast corner of Oregon and California streets. It was known for years as “the old Kenney and Appler corner” so in 1906 it was a fitting place for Tom to locate his hardware and grocery business, one of his many enterprises. Tom’s business occupied the oldest portion of the current Bella Union Restaurant & Saloon at 170 W. California, but it was still the “Kenney corner”—Tom owned the entire business block!

 

Thomas Kenney House

January 16, 2018

The house at 285 North 4th Street, one of Jacksonville’s few Queen Anne style homes, was built around 1898 by Thomas J. Kenney. Kenney’s father, Daniel M. Kenney, had opened the town’s first trading post in 1852, a tent structure at the corner of Oregon and California streets. His mother was Elizabeth T’Vault, daughter of lawyer, politician, and newspaper publisher William T’Vault. At age 8, Thomas began working as a “chore boy” in a livery stable, became an apprentice harness maker at age 10, and at 25 opened his own harness and saddle store. He subsequently sold insurance, invested in mines, accumulated considerable property, and conducted a hardware and grocery business becoming one of the town’s leading merchants. He served on the school board and city council, was active in various lodges, and was regarded as one of Jacksonville’s legendary patriarchs.

William T’Vault

January 9, 2018

In the block next to the Interpretive Center in Jacksonville’s Pioneer Cemetery there is a marker shaped like an open book, a Victorian symbol for immortality. It reads William Green T’Vault, 1809-1869. T’Vault was a brilliant writer and journalist. He published the first newspaper in the Pacific Northwest, The Oregon Spectator¸ and the first newspaper in Southern Oregon, the Table Rock Sentinel. T’Vault was also a lawyer and a politician, at different times serving as provisional legislator, state legislator, Speaker of the House, and District Attorney. He co-authored with Joseph Lane the laws that governed the Territory until Oregon became a state in 1859. He was the last victim of the 1869 smallpox epidemic, a disease so feared that not a single mourner attended his burial.

Jacksonville Cemetery

January 2, 2018

Jacksonville’s Historic Cemetery, located at the end of West “D” Street, is one of the oldest cemeteries in the Pacific Northwest and one of the few that has remained in continuous use. Its 32 acres contain over 4,000 grave sites. The cemetery was platted in 1859 and dedicated in 1860, but there are headstones with earlier dates. Before this cemetery opened, it was common for settlers to have family graveyards on their own property. Later some chose to move loved ones to the community cemetery. Two such are Gabriel and Anderville Plymale, father and son, the earliest recorded deaths in Jacksonville. Having survived the 2,000 mile trek across the Oregon Trail, they arrived in Jacksonville in October of 1852. Gabriel died within the month from “swamp fever,” more commonly known as typhoid fever. Anderville died just three weeks after his father. There was no cemetery at the time, so they were buried at the bottom of the hill. When the cemetery opened in 1860, they were brought here to their final resting place.