Baseball Field (now Ray’s Market)

The city block on North 5th Street occupied by the local Ray’s supermarket was Jacksonville’s baseball field in the early 1900s, home to the Jacksonville Gold Bricks baseball team. Team owner, George “Bum” Neuber, was known to bring in “guest players” as a means of defeating visiting teams. Neuber ran a card room in town for the adults, and welcomed children to the petting zoo he set up in his backyard.

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Broom and Fan Brigades


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.

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Catalpa Tree

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!

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We’re lightening Jacksonville’s January gloom with the story of how Chautauqua came to town! Chautauqua was a highly popular adult education movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that brought speakers, teachers, musicians, showmen, and preachers to cities and rural communities. President Theodore Roosevelt described Chautauqua as “the most American thing in America.” In 1924 and 1925, an inspired Jacksonville City Council persuaded enough backers to secure a week of entertainment from the Ellison-White Chautauqua Company. Lacking a grand auditorium or park, Jacksonville’s first season was held in the high school gymnasium; the second in the U.S. Hotel ballroom. Season tickets sold for $2, enough to secure “wholesome college-type entertainers who presented genteel program material.” One of the highlights of the first season was the Rouse “All Sisters Quartet,” 4 saxophone-playing sisters from Iowa. Regrettably, both seasons ended in a deficit. Medford was campaigning to become the county seat, Jacksonville was becoming a backwater, and citizens had become more concerned with necessities than culture. But for a brief period, Jacksonville still enjoyed a touch of glamor. 

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Chinese Quarters

Jacksonville was home to the first Chinatown in Oregon, located along West Main in the area where Gogi’s, Elan Guest Suites, and Veterans Park are now to be found. This area was the town’s original commercial center, but as businesses relocated to California Street in the 1850s, this block became home to hundreds of Chinese workers brought here by labor bosses to work the gold mines. As the gold played out, the Chinese Quarter was gradually abandoned. In 1888, most of what were by then derelict buildings burned in one of Jacksonville’s many fires!

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Chinese Gold Ingot

Gold Ingot-Chinese Miner

This small gold ingot was made from gold dug in Jacksonville by Chinese miners who camped on property owned by photographer Peter Britt.  At a time when most Westerners treated minorities poorly, Britt was noted for his friendly dealings with the Chinese.  The miners refined, cast and presented the ingot to Britt around 1854.  The characters translate as “Heaven Original” and “Sufficient Gold.”  At the time coins were in limited supply and most business was done by barter or by payment in gold.  The ingot may have been payment to Britt or a token of appreciation.

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Chinese Mining Tunnel

It seems that undermining Jacksonville, Oregon, may have been a common practice long before the Great Depression of the 1930s.  According to A.C. Van Gelder, an old-time miner and prospector, Chinese miners dug an extensive tunnel under much of Jacksonville in the late 1800s.  In 1968, Van Gelder considered opening the “Chinese Tunnel” as a tourist attraction since it ran under much of his property. The tunnel began near the bridge west of Jacksonville on what is now Highway 238, passed under the old train depot (now the Visitors Center), ran across Oregon on the south side of C Street, and followed the “rim” of C Street almost to 4th, ending under the community center (now the Jacksonville Inn parking lot).  The miners had dug down 12 feet to bedrock to create the tunnel.  They had also used timbers to shore up the “drift” so the tunnel would not cave in, apparently an unusual practice for the Chinese.  In 1968, the tunnel had caved in only one place since its excavation—at the southeast corner of C and North Oregon streets.  This is most likely the same tunnel under Highway 238 that was discovered when the current Jacksonville Library was built.  The tunnel could be Chinese, since it originates in an area adjacent to what was Jacksonville’s Chinatown.  But it’s equally likely that it dates from the Depression Era since one would think that 19th Century Jacksonville residents would have been aware of any Chinese miners digging a tunnel under their properties.

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Crater Lake Discovery

In 1853, Prospector John W. Hillman of Table Rock City (Jacksonville) was reportedly the first American of European descent to see Crater Lake—and he nearly fell into it. While with a party of miners seeking the storied “Lost Cabin Gold Mine,” Hillman was riding a mule along a high ridge when the animal lurched to a stop and would not budge. Hillman looked down and saw that the beast had come right to the rim of a huge crater with a brilliant blue lake at its bottom. “Not until my mule stopped within a few feet of the rim of Crater Lake did I look down,” he later wrote, “and if I had been riding a blind mule I firmly believe I would have ridden over the edge to death and destruction.” But with no luck in their quest and provisions exhausted, Hillman and his fellow miners returned to Table Rock City. Although they debated whether to call their find Deep Blue Lake or Mysterious Lake, a lake was of only passing interest when gold was the objective. Deep Blue Lake was forgotten until it was discovered by another party 9 years later.

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Dances and Fancy Dress Balls

Jacksonville’s Redmen’s Hall, the U.S. Hotel, the Masonic Hall, the Odd Fellows building, and Veit Schutz Hall all had ballrooms or dance floors, and weekly dances were a popular form of local entertainment. Masquerades, or fancy-dress balls, were particularly popular over the holidays. At masquerades, prizes were typically awarded for best costume. And it was also common for spectators to pay to watch the costumed partygoers entering the ball—like fans today paying to watch celebrities attend a gala or awards ceremony today. For Jacksonville’s 1901 New Year’s Eve ball, the local newspaper noted that a Portland costumer came down with trunk loads of costumes that could be rented or purchased for the occasion.

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Dr. Brooks & A Flag Pole 

Flags and flagpoles have always been an important way of expressing political opinions and “freedom of speech”—perhaps even more so in the 19th Century than now. Historic Jacksonville has previously shared the story of Zany Ganung, who in 1861 returned home to Jacksonville from tending a sick patient only to find that someone had erected a flagpole flying the Confederate “palmetto and rattleshake flag” across the street from her front door. Without a word to anyone, Zany entered her California Street house, returned with a hatchet, crossed the street, chopped the pole down, and used the flag to stoke her stove. However, Zany had a precedent. In 1855, when town women protested their men folk leaving them unprotected during the Indian Wars, local “wags” ridiculed them by hoisting a petticoat at half mast on the post office flagpole. The women were greatly incensed but had no means of getting the petticoat down. Dr. Charles B. Brooks, a local physician, saved the day for the feminine part of the population by hauling it down, thus allowing the women to march off in triumph.

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Early Newspapers

Early Jacksonville had a succession of newspapers over the years, many of them competing and espousing opposing political viewpoints. When the Democratic News plant was destroyed in the fire of 1872, it rose again as the Democratic Times. Initially housed in the Orth Building on South Oregon Street, the Times soon outgrew that space and established its own offices at the corner of C and North 3rd streets. The Times lasted into the early 1900s when it merged with the Southern Oregonian. Depression era miners of the 1930s uncovered the Times doorstep as they undermined almost every inch of Jacksonville. The current private residence was built as a rental property in the 1930s over one of these old mine shafts.

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Eden of Oregon

We know that Jacksonville is a special place, a fact that has been recognized for a long time.  As early as 1877, the publisher of Portland’s “West Shore” magazine described Jacksonville and the Valley as THE EDEN OF OREGON.  He wrote: During a visit to Southern Oregon, on the 15th of July we observed in the gardens of Peter Britt, at Jacksonville, some magnificent fig trees. They were in full bearing, and the fruit was just turning ripe, whilst the second crop was commencing to form. A very excellent article of grapes also grows in this county, and at Mr. Britt’s place we tasted a one-year-old claret of his own growth and manufacture; and we very much doubt if it can be surpassed in the much boasted-of California vineyards. All the grain and fruits known to the tropics grow here to perfection. Extend the Oregon & California Railroad to Jackson County, and she is capable of supporting the entire present population of Oregon.

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Engine #1


The Rogue River Valley Railway, which operated from 1891 until 1925, was Jacksonville’s attempt to maintain regional economic supremacy after the main Oregon & California/Southern Pacific railroad line by-passed the town in favor of the flat valley floor. The RRVR hauled gravel, bricks, timber, crops, livestock, mail and passengers over a 5-mile, single track spur line that connected Jacksonville with Medford. The Railway’s first steam engine, Engine # 1—fondly called the “Tea Kettle” and the “Peanut Roaster”—proved underpowered to haul heavier freight loads up the 3% grade from Medford. It was soon replaced by larger engines like the one shown. Engine #1 was relegated to passenger service, pulling a single Pullman car. In 2014, Mel and Brooke Ashland arranged for the purchase and restoration of Engine #1. It now sits on original track on the Bigham Knoll Campus at the end of East E Street.

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Fire Engine Company #1


Fire was a significant hazard in early Jacksonville with major fires destroying portions of the town in 1867, 1873, 1874, and 1884, and 1888. The town’s volunteer fire department, Engine Company #1, responded to the call of the Applebaker Fire Hall bell well into the 1950s. Today, Engine Company #1 provides back up services to the town’s professional fire fighters, and the Applebaker Fire Hall, attached to Old City Hall on South Oregon Street, houses an historical fire museum.

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Fire of 1884

fires and brick buildings

Fire was a significant hazard in early Jacksonville with major fires destroying portions of the town in 1867, 1873, 1874, and 1884, and 1888. The town’s volunteer fire department, Engine Company #1, responded to the call of the Applebaker Fire Hall bell well into the 1950s. Today, Engine Company #1 provides back up services to the town’s professional fire fighters, and the Applebaker Fire Hall, attached to Old City Hall on South Oregon Street, houses an historical fire museum.

With major fires destroying portions of early Jacksonville, Oregon, fire, or more accurately “fire insurance” was the impetus for most of the brick construction that now comprises the town’s historic commercial district. The City Fathers did not mandate brick commercial buildings until 1878. However, very early on, insurance companies penalized owners of wooden structures—and buildings adjacent to wooden structures!

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As victims of the Alameda fire start to rebuild, we’re reminded of the major 19th Century fires that shaped historic Jacksonville as we know it today.  An 1867 kiln fire that began at David Linn’s lumber mill at the corner of California and S. Oregon also destroyed neighboring residences.  With only a bucket brigade and a hook and ladder wagon, Jacksonville’s Engine Company No. 1 could do little more than watch.  In 1873, a volunteer bucket brigade was outmatched by a fire at the first U.S. Hotel.  Within 15 minutes it did $50,000 in damage (equivalent to $1 million today) at a time when few had fire insurance.  We don’t believe it was a Fourth of July celebration but in the first week of 1874, 2 blocks at the southeast corner of California and Oregon went up in flames, destroying many of the town’s original wooden buildings including the notorious El Dorado Saloon.  Again, the bucket brigade could only watch and help salvage items from the stores.  In December 1984, a New Year’s Eve fire that began at the New State Saloon at the corner of California and 3rd streets (now the location of Redmen’s Hall) wiped out a block of businesses, the post office, and 2 homes. By this time Engine Co. No. 1 had a pump wagon, but an inexperienced volunteer forgot to attach a filter.  In September 1888, fire again engulfed David Linn’s business at the corner of California and Oregon streets, destroying not only his furniture store and planning mill, but also wiping out most of Jacksonville’s original Main Street business district which had become the 1st Chinatown in Oregon.  Although the 1899 Jackson County Jail fire is not considered a major fire, 3 inmates who were lodged in the jail when it burned on July 12th died in the blaze that destroyed the county’s 2nd jail building on this site.  One prisoner was due for release the next day.  The sheriff was supposed to have been spending the night in the jail, but 2 different versions of his “whereabouts” have him either in a local saloon or enjoying the attractions of a local hotel that accommodated a gentleman’s “needs.”


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First Gold Found Here

Of all the Jacksonville, Oregon “firsts,” the question of who first found gold may be the most debatable.  The “Gold First Found Here” marker on Applegate Street where it crosses Daisy Creek would have you believe that James Clugage and James Pool, two packers carrying goods to the mining camps in California, did a little panning in the creek in the winter of 1851-52 and found the first “color.” 

But the story is a little more complex than the marker would have you believe.  Several gold discoveries had been made in the Illinois Valley at Josephine and Canyon creeks and Sailor’s Diggings in 1851 before the first Rogue River Indian War broke out. 

And the previous fall, the son of Alonzo Skinner, the local Indian agent, and one of his employees, a Mr. Sykes, had found gold in nearby Jackson Creek.  Clugage and Pool learned of their discovery when they spent a night at the Skinner homestead.  So, before heading to Yreka, Clugage and Pool took time to pan a little and, voila! 

Clugage and Pool hightailed it south and immediately filed land claims on what is now most of Jacksonville.  They returned and spent the next few weeks mining, but then Clugage did something unheard of—he publicized his “find,” even boasting to California newspapers of taking out 70 ounces of gold a day from his claim. Thousands of miners poured over the Siskiyous into the Valley, closely followed by merchants, gamblers, courtesans, and settlers—all needing a mining, business, or home site. 

In the case of Jacksonville’s gold discovery, the honor of “first” probably belongs to Skinner and Sykes.  But Clugage may have found the mother lode—he made a fortune selling land! 


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First Wedding in Jacksonville

In January 1853, Col. John England Ross and Elizabeth Hopwood were married—the second wedding in Jackson County and the first in Jacksonville.  Naturally, all the town folk were invited.  Elizabeth had a special wedding dress made for the ceremony, but Ross had nothing but his buckskins.  The ladies of Jacksonville fretted over this lack of proper wedding attire. 

Jane McCully offered Ross a white shirt that belonged to her husband, but Dr. McCully’s smaller stature meant the fit was strained at best.  When the nervous bridegroom joined a jumping contest with some of the men attending the ceremony, Ross’s exuberance split the shirt down the back.  Jane quickly poked holes down each side of the split, laced it together with string, and the wedding proceeded as planned.

With no church and no place large enough to accommodate everyone, Ross and Elizabeth were married on the corner of Main and Oregon next to the town pump, even though it was early January.  The Methodist preacher, Reverend Gilbert, presided.  The groom was 35; the bride, 18.

The occasion was obvious cause for a jubilee.  A progressive supper went house to house, ending with a spectacular wedding cake improvised from duck eggs, brown sugar, and bear suet.  A grand ball, probably at one of the local saloons, capped the evening. 

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Ghost Signs

In the late 1800s Jacksonville was the hub of Southern Oregon’s commerce and government. During this “exuberant period of American capitalism,” some of Jacksonville’s brick buildings also doubled as billboards featuring large painted signs promoting local businesses. When ownership changed, a new sign might be painted over an old one. These historic brick business ads, known as “ghost signs, were painted by “wall dogs.” Wall dogs, who were usually itinerant sign painters, were a unique combination of muralist and rock climber. Their designs and execution were done by hand while the painter hung from the side of the building. They were called wall dogs because they worked like dogs and they needed to be tethered, or leashed, to the wall. Each wall dog typically mixed his own paint formula, but all formulas contained large quantities of lead—the element that made wall dog careers short lived but ensured the survival of these ghost signs to this day.

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Gold Digging in the 1930s

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.

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Hops Fields

Have you ever noticed the hops plants growing on the field at Bigham Knoll at the east end of E Street?  The German-speaking immigrants who contributed so much to early Jacksonville culture also brought with them their recipes for German lager with its pronounced flavors of malt and hops.  Joseph Wetterer and Veit Shutz were 2 of the most prominent early brewers.  
Initially, these early brewmeisters probably grew their own hops, a flowering vine trained to grow on tall strings strung between posts. Really tall strings. So tall, in fact, that before the advent of hop harvesting machinery, farm workers had to use stilts to tend the plants. Harvesting hops was so labor intensive before mechanical harvesters were invented that entire families of migrant farm workers took part in the harvesting process, taking advantage of the plentiful work and employment opportunities.

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Jackson Country Poor Farm

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?

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Jacksonville Stagecoach

This photo of a stagecoach arriving in Jacksonville is dated 1851. Whoa, Nellie! In 1851, Jacksonville didn’t exist. It wasn’t until gold was discovered the winter of 1851-52 that Table Rock City (later renamed Jacksonville) became a mining camp. Which also means there was no photographer around to take the picture. Not to mention there were no roads for stagecoaches to travel. The Siskiyou Trail mountain crossing was a rough and difficult passage best made on foot or horseback. Few wagons tried it, and only in summer months. Regularly scheduled local stage runs began in the early-to-mid 1850s and the stops were Ashland, Jacksonville, and Rock Point. They traveled what we know as “Old Stage Road.” Stage service to Jacksonville from Yreka first began in the summer of 1854. But it wasn’t until August 1859 that the Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road, the first “engineered” road over the Siskiyous, opened. It was a toll road, owned and operated by Lindsay Applegate of Applegate Trail fame for the next 10 years. We think it’s safe to surmise that, while this may be a photograph of a stagecoach arriving in Jacksonville, it was not in 1851!”

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Jacksonville’s Cannon

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”!

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Jacksonville’s Silver Cornet Band

Jacksonville’s Swiss-German pioneers made up about 1/3 of the town’s early population. They also turned 19th Century Jacksonville into a musical culture center.  Almost everyone in town owned a musical instrument, and many participated in Jacksonville’s Silver Cornet Band.  Members had to own their instruments, attend all rehearsals, and show up for performances.  Although the band won many contests, not all residents were fans.  Someone described it as “adding a harmonious noise to the community and may have had something to do with driving the predatory wild animals out of the forest surrounding Jacksonville.”

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James Mason Hutchings

In the winter of 1855, seasoned English traveler James Mason Hutchings spent time in Jacksonville, then a major hub in the vast Oregon Territory. He recorded the following in his diary: “The population is about 700 — 22 families — and over 200 families in the Rogue River Valley. There are 53 marriageable (women) within a circuit of 12 miles of Jacksonville — nine within Jacksonville”—and “there seems a number of long-faced religionists.” He listed 10 stores, three boarding houses, one bowling alley, one saloon, four physicians, one tin shop, one meat market, one livery stable, one church and one schoolhouse. He also noted that apples grown in the Willamette Valley were being sold in Jacksonville for 90 cents a pound.

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Law and Order

Law and order in early Jacksonville might best be described as “catch as catch can.”  In this case, it appears the murderer was not caught.  The “Jacksonville Sentinel” reported a shooting that took place on January 18, 1857.  About 2pm, A.J. Driskell, a local miner, was crossing South Oregon from the Brunner & Bros. store to the Table Rock Bakery, when he stopped midway to talk to a Mr. Denby.  R.L. Williams stepped out of the shadows, told Denby to “get out of the way,” and fired a double-barreled shotgun loaded with buckshot at Driskell.  Five of the balls passed through Driskell’s intestines.  Driskell turned, ran a few paces and fell, but then got up, drew his revolver and started firing at Williams as Williams ran for cover behind the Maury & Davis store (site of Old City Hall).  Williams prepared to fire again but, finding that Driskell had sought refuge back in the Brunner store, ran instead to the nearby livery stable where he had a horse already saddled.  Williams was chased as far as the Applegate where his pursuers gave up.  No further effort was made to capture him.  Driskell died 5 days later, but not before Justice Hoffman took a formal affidavit in which Driskell implicated Williams and several other men “as being connected with a band of horse thieves” operating between California and the Dalles.  What previous interaction Driskell and Williams had is unknown.  Not exactly a “shoot out at the O.K. Corral,” but perhaps an indication of how effective law enforcement was when gold and gains were foremost in most people’s minds.

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Mercy Flights

Did you know that Jacksonville reportedly provided the first ambulance service west of the Rockies?  This newspaper photo pretty much speaks for itself.  It also tells us to be very grateful for Mercy Flights, our local ground and air ambulance service!  We should mention that Mercy Flights also boasts its own first—the nation’s first non-profit air ambulance service. 

Mercy Flights was founded in 1949 by Medford air traffic controller George Milligan after a friend died of polio when he was unable to survive the drive to Portland.  It added ground transportation in 1992, creating a regional medical transportation network.  Normal ambulance service can be expensive–$1,200 or more for ground; $20,000+ for air. Mercy Flights offers membership subscriptions that accept any insurance you have as payment in full and discounts costs by 50% for those without insurance.  

Because regional hospitals were so overwhelmed with COVID patients, Mercy Flights expanded its air ambulance service to Washington Nevada, southern California, and Idaho—wherever a physician can find an open bed and a doctor who will accept the patient.

So be grateful, very grateful, that you’re not reliant on a mule for medical transport!

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Mining Glory Holes

On several of Jacksonville’s Woodlands Trails, hikers see deep mining shafts called “Glory Holes,” remnants of 1930s Depression Era mining.  They were named “Glory Holes” because they were get-rich-quick attempts at gold prospecting.  For most, these typically 10- to 20-foot-deep holes held little glory.

One of these shafts at the junction of the Rich Gulch and Petard trails is particularly well known—at the bottom is a 1950s GMC pickup truck.  A former owner of the Rich Gulch property reported 7 vehicles buried in various shafts.  Most were dragged and dumped during the last half of the 1900s as a way of getting rid of them.  It’s thought the truck was dropped into this 35-plus foot shaft to hold up the sides.  Most of the holes have since been filled in.  This particular shaft was designated as an “antiquity” under Rich Gulch’s National Historic Landmark status and has since been covered by a see-through metal lid for safety purposes.

Jacksonville’s original gold rush began in the spring of 1852, but during the 1930s Depression, Jackson County issued mining permits as an alternative to putting people on the “dole” (i.e., welfare).  A miner could eke out enough residual gold to live on, perhaps $2 a day—double local wages.  A few found actual riches.  As a result, most of the town itself was undermined, with the exception of a portion of North 5th Street that included New City Hall (the historic Jackson County Courthouse) and St. Andrews Methodist-Episcopal Church.  The City of Jacksonville refused to permit it. 

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Mining Sink Holes

Given the response to last week’s Depression Era gold mining “glory holes” in the Jacksonville Woodlands, Historic Jacksonville, Inc. thought we’d follow up with a little more information on Jacksonville’s second gold rush. As an alternative to putting residents on the “dole” during the 1930s, the County gave out mining permits, allowing residents to dig for any residual gold lingering from the 1850s.  Some got lucky, but most latter-day miners only found enough gold to live from day to day.  Still $2 a day was more than most jobs paid—assuming you could find one. 

    Most mining shafts were dug in backyards, but some residents had sufficient moxie to burrow under the town’s commercial buildings.  According to 1935 newspaper accounts, 4th Street had several dips in it; on Main Street, “the bottom fell away from light poles, leaving them suspended by the wires on the cross arms.”  The shaft pictured here is in what is now the parking lot behind Jacksonville’s post office and Visitors Center, the old Rogue River Valley Railroad station.    

    Almost every inch of Jacksonville was “undermined.”  The result is periodic “sink holes” opening over old mine shafts around town.  In just the past few years we’ve had sink holes opening behind the Jacksonville Inn, in the post office/Visitors Center parking lot, and in Ray’s Market’s parking lot—all remnants of what individuals might do for what one journalist described as a “ham-and-eggs” existence.

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Old Stage Road

Have you ever wondered about the names “Old Stage Road” or “South Stage Road” for the streets leading north and south from Jacksonville?  Well, you can’t have stage service without roads.  Regular stage service for the area did not begin until the mid-1850s and the stops were Ashland, Jacksonville, and Rock Point (near Gold Hill).  

The route to Yreka was not a road; it was a rough and difficult passage best made on foot or horseback.  The Siskiyou Mountain Wagon Road, a toll road and the first “engineered” road over the mountain crest that separates California and Oregon, did not open until August 1859.

Stages could now run from Sacramento, California, to Portland, Oregon.  The stage and freight companies carried passengers at a charge of 12½¢ per mile. Freight was hauled for 4¢ per pound, in large, heavily built wagons.  What made the service profitable was a lucrative contract to carry the U.S. Mail. This 710-mile route was the second longest stage run in the U.S.

So why the strange 90 degree turns in the road?  If a land claim holder refused permission to pass through his property, the road had to go around it.

Although pack trains occasionally carried passengers, the stage and freight wagons were the principal methods of transportation and passenger travel until 1884, when the railroad entered the Rogue River Valley.  With completion of the railroad over the Siskiyous, the last stagecoach traversed the pass on December 18, 1887, the day following the official Golden Spike ceremony in Ashland.

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Peter Britt’s Gold Ingot

This small gold ingot weighing 2.2 grams was made from gold dug in Jacksonville by Chinese miners who camped on property owned by photographer Peter Britt. At a time when most Westerners treated minorities poorly, Britt was noted for his friendly dealings with the Chinese. The miners refined, cast and presented the ingot to Britt around 1854. The characters on the front translate as “Heaven Original” and “Sufficient Gold”; the back is blank. At the time coins were in limited supply and most business was done by barter or by payment in gold. This ingot would have been intended for use as money. According to Britt’s son Emil, it was given to his father as a token of appreciation.

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Pine Street Snow Sledding

We’ll wish you a Merry Christmas and some very happy holidays with this photo from the late 1800s of sledding on Jacksonville’s Britt Hill. The vantage point is the corner of Pine and South Oregon streets. Herman von Helms house is on the left corner with stables and a shed behind it, and Peter Britt’s house can be seen at the top of the hill on 1st Street.

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Relocated Buildings #1

Employees of I.B.M. used to joke that the initials stood for “I’ve Been Moved” since they were relocated so frequently.  Well, in early Jacksonville, it was buildings that were frequently relocated.  Here are three with that distinction. 

When St. Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1854, the church faced 4th Street. Three years after the new Jackson County Courthouse was completed in 1884 and 5th Street became the main route to Medford, the building was rotated and moved to face the new thoroughfare. 

The “Gwinn House” located at 415 East C Street was purchased from the original builder in September 1859 “for the County Clerk’s office, Sheriff’s office, and jury rooms…and removed to the Court House block” where it stood at the corner of 6th and C streets.  It served those functions for the next 25 years until the County Clerk and Sheriff moved into the new brick courthouse in 1884. Sometime after 1907, the house was moved to its present site.

The Applebaker Barn, located at the corner of North 3rd and D streets, was originally a steam grist mill, built in 1880, and located about 1 mile south on 3rd.  At one time it ranked third in the state in flour production.  In 1915, Joseph Applebaker dismantled, moved, and reconstructed the building at its present location to serve as his blacksmith’s shop.

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Relocated Buildings #2

The southern portion of the house at 560 North Oregon Street is believed to have been Jacksonville’s first schoolhouse, but this was not its original site.  Constructed in 1856, records show it was located on the opposite side of North Oregon and about ¼ mile farther north.  The house was deeded to Robert Dunlap in payment of $137 he was owed “for improvements – digging well, making fences, walks, etc. – about the new school house” that had been constructed on Bigham Knoll in 1868.  Dunlap, best known as the cemetery sexton, moved the old schoolhouse to this lot where it became his home.

Most know that the Jacksonville’s 1891 Visitors Center building was originally the depot for the Rogue River Valley Railway.  The small spur rail line was the town’s attempt to maintain regional prominence after the Oregon and California Railroad bypassed Jacksonville in the 1880s in favor of the flat valley floor.  But it was too little too late.  The railway ceased operation in 1924 and the depot was abandoned.  In the 1960s, the depot became the headquarters of the Jacksonville Boosters Club.  Although the building remained on the same site, it was rotated 90 degrees so that it faced the new post office building rather than Oregon Street.

The central portion of the lovely home at 465 East C Street known as the “Carriage House,” was originally a barn constructed in the 1880s, probably by Max Muller.  The next owner of the property built the right portion of the house as a carriage house around 1908.  When George and Doris Brewer purchased the property in the 1960s, they jacked up the old barn, put it on skids, and pulled it to a cement foundation.  They then moved the carriage house from its original location, turned it 180 degrees, and attached it to the barn.  The current structure was finished with materials salvaged from historic properties throughout the Valley. 

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Rudolph Red-Nosed Reindeer

Bob May was not feeling much comfort or joy as the 1938 holiday season approached.  A 34-year-old ad writer for Montgomery Ward in Chicago, May was exhausted and nearly broke. His wife, Evelyn, was bedridden, on the losing end of a two-year battle with cancer. This left Bob to look after their four-year old-daughter, Barbara.

One night, Barbara asked her father, “Why isn’t my mommy like everybody else’s mommy?” As he struggled to answer his daughter’s question, Bob remembered the pain of his own childhood. A small, sickly boy, he was constantly picked on and called names. But he wanted to give his daughter hope and show her that being different was nothing to be ashamed of. More than that, he wanted her to know that he loved her and would always take care of her. So he began to spin a tale about a reindeer with a bright red nose who found a special place on Santa’s team. Barbara loved the story so much that she made her father tell it every night before bedtime. As he did, it grew more elaborate. Because he couldn’t afford to buy his daughter a gift for Christmas, Bob decided to turn the story into a homemade picture book.

In early December, Bob’s wife died. Though he was heartbroken, he kept working on the book for his daughter. A few days before Christmas, he reluctantly attended a company party at Montgomery Ward. His co-workers encouraged him to share the story he’d written. After he read it, there was a standing ovation. Everyone wanted copies of their own. Montgomery Ward bought the rights to the book from their debt-ridden employee. Over the next six years, at Christmas, they gave away six million copies of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer to shoppers. Every major publishing house in the country was making offers to obtain the book. In an incredible display of good will, the head of the department store returned all rights to Bob May. Four years later, Rudolph had made him into a millionaire.

Now remarried with a growing family, May felt blessed by his good fortune. But there was more to come. His brother-in-law, a successful songwriter named Johnny Marks, set the uplifting story to music. The song was pitched to artists from Bing Crosby on down. They all passed. Finally, Marks approached Gene Autry. The cowboy star had scored a holiday hit with “Here Comes Santa Claus” a few years before. Like the others, Autry wasn’t impressed with the song about the misfit reindeer. Marks begged him to give it a second listen. Autry played it for his wife, Ina. She was so touched by the line “They wouldn’t let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games” that she insisted her husband record the tune.

Within a few years, it had become the second best-selling Christmas song ever, right behind “White Christmas.” Since then, Rudolph has come to life in TV specials, cartoons, movies, toys, games, coloring books, greeting cards and even a Ringling Bros. circus act. The little red-nosed reindeer dreamed up by Bob May and immortalized in song by Johnny Marks has come to symbolize Christmas as much as Santa Claus, evergreen trees and presents. As the last line of the song says, “He’ll go down in history.”

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Sexton’s Tool House

In 1863 R. Sergeant Dunlap was appointed the first sexton of Jacksonville’s Pioneer Cemetery. He served in that capacity for many years – maintaining the cemetery grounds, selling plots, digging graves, and keeping the cemetery records. However, what’s known as the Sexton’s Tool House at the top of Cemetery Road was not constructed until 1878. The tool house also doubled as a mortuary. An underground vault provided storage for bodies when the ground was too frozen or too soggy to dig.

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Snafu #1

So what does a yellow crested white cockatoo have to do with the 1893 Queen Anne style home at 390 E. California Street in Jacksonville? It’s a long story so it’s going to be a multi-part history trivia. Let’s start with the cockatoo. It’s name was Snafu. Snafu had been brought home from Biak Island in the Dutch East Indies at the end of World War II by Lt. Hugh Collins. During 3 years in Army camps, the cockatoo had acquired an extensive vocabulary of cusswords. Snafu’s fluency in profanity proved a problem for Lt. Collins’ father, Medford Coucilman James C. Collins, and the cockatoo was sent to a Portland pet shop. Unsurprisingly, Snafu was deemed unadoptable and was sent back to Medford where Collins arranged for Snafu to be housed in the County Jail where the cockatoo had the run of the jail’s corridors. County jailor, Tony Solger, reported the bird to be well behaved until it would let loose with streams of profanity that shocked even the inmates. We’ll share more of this “jail bird’s” story next week.

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Snafu #2

We’re resuming the story of Snafu, the pet yellow crested white cockatoo who became literally a “jailbird.” The fowl’s foul language, learned in World War II army camps in the South Pacific, had made him unadoptable. Arrangements had been made for Snafu to be housed in the Jackson County Jail where even the inmates were shocked by his profanity and the jailor himself learned many new swear words. But while in jail, Snafu began attending the weekly religious services. In the process he became more inclined to sing a portion of a hymn than to exercise his extensive vocabulary of cusswords. Deemed reformed, Snafu was paroled to the fire department. Snafu liked his new home, and mimic that he was, began imitating the fire bells and sirens. Unfortunately, he made such a clatter when the telephone rang that the firemen couldn’t understand reports of fires. Moreover, Snafu was a great attraction for the small boys in the neighborhood who then climbed on the equipment and generally got in the way. So once again, Snafu had to find a new home…and he still takes a few detours before arriving in Jacksonville. We’ll continue the saga of Snafu next week.

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Snafu #3

We’re continuing our saga of Snafu, the pet yellow crested white cockatoo whose vocabulary had been “enriched” by 3 ½ years in World War II South Pacific army camps. So far Snafu’s uninhibited ability to mimic everything from profanity to fire sirens and alarms has caused the bird to be “kicked out” by his owner’s family, a Portland pet shop, the Jackson County Jail, and the County Fire Department. His travels and travails have been reported in newspapers all over the country, and his owner, Lt. Hugh Collins, now a local attorney, has received multiple offers to buy Snafu, but has refused to sell. Snafu’s next home was a feed store where he spent his time “moulting and pouting.” From there he moved on to the Surge Dairy Supply store where he apparently enjoyed performing acrobatics for visitors. In the process of putting on a show, Snafu fell off a wire, landed on his tail feathers, and broke off one beneath the skin. It became infected, and seeking relief, Snafu applied self-surgery, pulling out tail feathers and bursting a blood vessel in the process. Snafu was found on the floor near exhaustion and rushed to a pet hospital where a shot of thronorozion stopped the flow of blood and cured the infection. However, it took a few months for the tail feathers to regrow and for Snafu to resume next week’s reported antics.

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Snafu #4

And Snafu, the pet “cussing cockatoo” whose vocabulary had been “enriched” by 3 ½ years in World War II South Pacific army camps, is finally arriving in Jacksonville. So far Snafu and his uninhibited ability to mimic everything from profanity to hymns to fire sirens and alarms has had him kicked out by his owner’s family, a Portland pet shop, the Jackson County Jail, the County Fire Department and a local feed store. When we left him, he was resident in the Surge Dairy Supply store where he entertained the customers. He also proved to be a ladies’ man with a habit of whistling at any girl passing. On more than one occasion this left Traffic Officer Dick Baize in an awkward position since he was the only male in sight. In June 1947, Snafu moved to Jacksonville to the residence of Mrs. Frank (Bernice) Janosky, joining other cockatoos and parrots in her aviary at 290 East California Street for the next 8 years. There, Snafu finally found his medium. He joined “show business” and the Jacksonville Footlighters in a production of Moss Hart’s “Light up the Sky.” And we should mention there’s an “oops” to end our story. After moving to Jacksonville, Snafu laid an egg. He was not supposed to be that kind of bird…. His original owner’s sister was skeptical, saying, “Trust me, he was no lady!”

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Stagecoach Rides
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.

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Sterling Ditch Trail

If you’re feeling cooped up these days, the Sterling Ditch Trail just 8 miles south of Jacksonville offers year-round intermediate level hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian opportunities.  But silver was never mined here, so where does the name come from?  Sterlingville was founded in 1854 when two miners named James Sterling and Aaron Davis discovered gold in nearby Sterling Creek (named after Sterling of course).  Word leaked out that gold had been found, and within two years Sterlingville was home to over 800 people.  Soon there were general stores, a warehouse, boarding houses, a bakery, a casino, a dance hall, saloons, a blacksmith shop, a barber shop, and many houses.  At its peak Sterlingville had a population of over 1,500.  It even had a school district and a post office.  In 1877, the newly founded Sterling Mine Company built the Sterling Ditch, diverting water 23 miles from Little Applegate River for hydraulic mining of gold and chromite.  Sterling Mine quickly became the largest hydraulic mine in Oregon, and possibly the entire western United States.  But as the gold ran out, the population of the town declined.  During the Great Depression, Sterlingville saw a revival of hydraulic mining, but after the mines closed in 1957, the town was abandoned, and nature eventually reclaimed the buildings. Today, the cemetery—and the Sterling Ditch Trail—are the only remaining signs of Sterlingville’s existence.

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Sterlingville Cemetery

Both John Cantrall and Patrick Fehely, featured in our last 2 History Trivia Tuesdays, mined in Sterlingville, located about 6 miles south of Jacksonville. An entire town sprang up after miners James Sterling and Aaron Davis struck gold in 1854 in nearby Sterling Creek. With the gold miners came boarding houses, saloons, general stores, a casino, a dance hall, a barbershop and blacksmith shop and many houses. Within 2 years Sterlingville was home to over 800 people; at its peak Sterlingville had a population over 1,500. Jacksonville’s South 3rd Street (shown here in front of the Fehely House) connected to the Sterlingville Road. In 1877, the Sterling Mine Company built the Sterling Ditch, diverting water 23 miles from the Little Applegate River for hydraulic mining. Sterling Mine quickly became the largest hydraulic mine in Oregon. But as the gold diminished, so did the township. After the Great Depression, what little business and population were left slowly faded away and nature eventually reclaimed the buildings. Today, the cemetery is the only remaining sign of Sterlingville’s existence. Patrick Fehely and his wife, Sarah Jane, are both buried there.

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Tom Thumb

On October 4, 1869, Jacksonville was agog!  Charles Sherwood Stratton, the most famous superstar of his time, would be appearing at Horne’s Hall that night along with his troup of entertainers.  You might be more familiar with Stratton’s stage name—General Tom Thumb.  And you would know Horne’s Hall under its official designation—the U.S. Hotel, the wooden predecessor to the 1880 brick structure we know today. 

Standing 2’ 11” tall when fully grown, Stratton had been discovered by P.T. Barnum when Stratton was 5-years-old.  Barnum taught the boy how to sing, dance, mime, exchange comic banter, and impersonate famous people.  Stratton became an international celebrity, a favorite of Queen Victoria, and changed the perception of the public towards “human curiosities,” making them one of the most popular forms of 19th Century U.S. entertainment.

Stratton’s 1863 marriage to Lavinia Warren, another “little person” became front page news, knocking the Civil War off the front page of the “New York Times” for 3 days straight.  Warren’s sister, Minnie, and another Barnum performer, “Commodore” George Washington Morrison Nutt, were their attendants.  10,000 guests attended their wedding reception at New York’s Metropolitan Hotel and the couple was subsequently entertained by President and Mrs. Lincoln at the White House. 

The Strattons, along with Minnie Warren and Commodore Nutt, toured the world.  How they came to perform in Jacksonville is unknown.  The “Oregon Sentinel” reported that “the quartet gave a beautiful performance of songs, duets, comic acts, burlesque and laughable eccentricities” but also wondered “at the audacity of such little souls coming on so long a journey.”

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In 1789, the U.S. Constitution gave property-owning or tax-paying white males the right to vote—only 6% of the population.  It was another 67 years (1856) before most states adopted universal white male suffrage.  In 1870 the 15th Amendment to the Constitution prevented states from denying males the right to vote on grounds of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”—but it did not prevent them from disenfranchising racial minorities and poor white voters through poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses, and other restrictions applied in a discriminatory manner. 

Oregon gave women the right to vote in state elections in 1912, but it was 1920—8 years later and 100 years ago—when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified giving (white) women the right to vote in national elections as well. 

In 1964, poll taxes were prohibited as a condition of voting and in 1965, the Federal Voting Rights Act protected voter registration and voting rights for minorities.  But that did not eliminate voter discrimination with some states still choosing to limit polling places, voting hours, and access to absentee ballots among other things.  In 1971, voting age was lowered to 18—if you were old enough to fight for your country, you were old enough to vote.  And in 1986, service personnel and U.S. citizens living overseas were given the right to vote in federal elections.

On November 7, 2000, Oregon became the nation’s 1st all vote-by-mail state—if you have an address, you receive a ballot.  However, in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, paving the way for states and jurisdictions to enact restrictive voter identification laws.  23 states created new obstacles to voting.  Oregon did the opposite.  In 2016, Oregon’s Motor Voter Law took effect, automatically registering to vote anyone applying for or renewing a driver’s license.

As individuals, we may have different visions of what we want our future to be, but Oregon has chosen not to limit our citizens’ participation in the conversation about that future.  Historic Jacksonville looks forward to a time when we will again be able to talk—and listen—to each other in search of the unity and compromise that made us the United States of America.

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Women’s Suffrage #1

Since August is Women’s Suffrage Month marking the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Historic Jacksonville, Inc. is using the opportunity to recognize a Jacksonville suffragette—Josephine Martin Plymale. Josephine was in many ways a product of her time. She crossed the Oregon Trail with her family in a covered wagon, came to Jacksonville at age 17 as a teacher, and a year later married William Plymale. However, Josephine also defied the standards of her day.
In a time when anti-suffragists claimed women had no time to vote, Josephine raised 12 children and worked in the family livery business; became an orchardist and was a frequent speaker at Granges and agricultural societies; and was a journalist and served as Vice President of the Oregon Press Association. She was Vice President of the Oregon State Women’s Suffrage Association, described as “one of the most active workers in the Women Suffrage field…anywhere.” She was such an active suffragist that she once had an angry mob outside her Jacksonville home.
In 1892 Josephine officially filed for the position of Jackson County Recorder, but her name never appeared on the ballot. Not to be denied a role in politics, she obtained the position of committee clerk for the Oregon State Legislature and 2 years later clerked for the senate chamber. Josephine took her 2 youngest daughters with her to Salem to give them a taste of politics and to learn how laws were made.
Josephine died in 1899 at the age of 54. She never realized her political ambitions or the right to vote. But her daughters did. Oregon gave women the right to vote in 1912—8 years before the U.S. afforded them that privilege.

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Women’s Suffrage #2

It’s the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gave (white) women the right to vote. But Oregon had an 8-year jump on the nation—the state granted women voting rights in 1912. One of the foremost leaders of the suffrage movement in the West was Oregon’s own Abigail Scott Duniway—teacher, author, newspaper publisher, and lecturer. Because of her efforts she was given the privileges of drafting the state’s Equal Suffrage Proclamation and being the first woman in Oregon to vote. Duniway made multiple trips to Jacksonville during her voting rights campaigns, but her strong determination and outspoken manner were not always well received by the local menfolk. During an 1879 tour, when an inflammatory editorial she had written was made known, she was burned in effigy and pelted with eggs. Abigail laughed it off saying, “Only one egg hit us and that was fresh and sweet.”

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