It’s History Trivia Tuesday!

Historic Jacksonville shares tidbits from Jacksonville history every Tuesday on our Facebook and Instagram pages. “Like” us on Facebook at Historic Jacksonville (historicjville) or “follow” us on Instagram (historicjacksonville) 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.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving has historically been the most heavily traveled day of the year and the Sunday after Thanksgiving runs it a close second.  Did you drive over the Siskiyous to visit family or friends in California?  Or did you have guests making the trip in reverse?  If so, you or they will be traveled “Oregon’s Main Street.”  Did you know that some version of that route has been followed for thousands of years?  

When Cornelius Beekman rode his 67-mile express route between Jacksonville and Yreka in the 1850s, he followed the Siskiyou Trail blazed by Hudson Bay Company trappers in the 1820s that roughly followed an ancient network of Native American footpaths.  In 1837, an enterprising Californian spent 3 months driving 700 cattle over the trail to sell to British and American settlers in Oregon, widening and establishing the trail in the process.

The 1848 discovery of gold sent Oregonians pouring over the pass in search of riches; the 1851 discovery of gold in Southern Oregon reversed the migration.  By the 1850s the “population explosion” demanded a real road.  In 1859, a toll road, the Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road, the first “engineered” road over the Siskiyous opened.  A little excavation was done, a few culverts put in, but the route varied only slightly from that of the Trail. 

The toll road continued to operate until 1915, when the Pacific Highway, a “national auto trail,” was constructed over essentially the same route.  It was straighter and wider, but it was still a dirt road.  A “Get Out of the Mud” campaign begun in the 1920s turned it into a paved surface.  In 1945, the Oregon Highway Commission designated the Pacific Highway the “official inter-regional north-south route through Oregon.”  The federal government designated it U.S. Highway 99.

When the old highway was replaced by I-5 in 1967, bits and pieces of the Siskiyou Road were incorporated into the Interstate.  So the next time you cross the Siskiyous, appreciate your ease of travel and give a salute to “Oregon’s Main Street”!

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