Frank G. Abell

When we think of early Jacksonville photographers, we automatically think of Peter Britt.  However, Britt was not the only local photographer.  In 1876-7 and again in 1883, Frank G. Abell, who, according to Jacksonville’s “Oregon Sentinel,” was “acknowledged to be the finest photographic artist in Portland,” was resident in Jacksonville.  In 1877, in partnership with J.O. Welsh, he “put up a building on the corner of California Street, opposite Wells, Fargo & Co.’s express office.” 

Abell was in many respects an itinerant photographer, living and working at various times in San Francisco, Stockton, Grass Valley, Red Bluff, Yreka, Ashland, Roseburg, Eugene, Corvallis, Portland, Tacoma, and of course Jacksonville.  He specialized in “outdoor work”—”residences, businesses, horses, cattle, etc.”—and children’s photos, using “an instantaneous dry plate process” for the latter.

In 1883, Abell leased Peter Britt’s photograph gallery.  The “Democratic Times” declared that Abell had “a reputation second to no artist on the coast” and that citizens could have their photographs taken in “the highest style of the art.”

Abell’s work was respected by his peers.  Over the years he won numerous first place awards for entries to the Oregon Mechanic’s Fair, was vice president of the Oregon delegation to the National Convention of Photographers in 1880, and was elected president of the Photographers Association of the Pacific Northwest in 1909.  Abell died in 1910 in Tacoma, Washington, and is buried in Portland.


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Addison Helms

The original 1-story, wood-frame farmhouse portion of the home located at 380 North 4th was built around 1866 for Addison Helms, probably soon after his marriage to Ann Ross. Helms had acquired the northern half of the entire block from James Clugage, the original donation land claim owner of most of the Jacksonville townsite. Although Helms was a resident of Jacksonville for over 30 years, little is known about him. He and his wife had no children. He was twice elected Marshall of Jacksonville but does not appear to have been employed at any single occupation for an extended period of time. He is listed in the 1860 census as a “trader”; the 1870 census as a “horse jockey”; and the 1880 census as “unemployed.” At the time of his death in 1886, the Oregon Sentinel wrote: “A fortune passed through his hands since he came to Jacksonville but with unselfish generosity that was the ruling characteristic of his life, his only appreciation of fortune’s golden favors was measured by his unstinted liberality to all.”

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Alice Applegate Sargent

Did you know that Alice Applegate Sargent was the first American woman to receive a full military funeral?  Her name should sound familiar. She was the daughter of Lindsey Applegate, who with his brother Jesse, created the Applegate Trail. 

Alice led an unconventional life.  After growing up in the toll house on the first toll road over the Siskiyous, she married Herbert Howland Sargent, a newly commissioned West Point graduate.  As a military wife, she accompanied Herbert on all his assignments–forts, teaching positions, and active war duty in Cuba and the Philippines during the Spanish American War.  Herbert by then was Col. Sargent.  He authored 3 highly acclaimed books on military science and became friends with Theodore Roosevelt.  Alice chronicled her experiences in a memoir, ‘Following the Flag.” 

In 1911 the Sargents temporarily retired to Medford and became active in civic affairs. Herbert served as a Medford City Councilor, Alice as head of the Republican Club.  Then World War 1 recalled Herbert to active duty, and Alice, of course, followed him.

After the War, the Sargents retired to Jacksonville, becoming the 2nd owners of the Nunan House.  They called it Casa Grande.  They again became involved in civic affairs.

In 1920, Herbert led the initial attempt to stop the Jackson County seat’s being moved from Jacksonville to Medford, but it proved to be a Pyrrhic victory.  He died in 1921 so did not live to see it come to pass in 1927.  Herbert was buried in the Jacksonville Cemetery with full military honors.  Alice had the stone wall along Cemetery Road built in his memory.

When Alice joined her husband in the Jacksonville Cemetery in 1934, her years of service were also recognized by the Army.  The Spanish American and “Great War” veterans gave her a full military funeral—the first such rites ever accorded a woman.

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Anna and Emma Von Helms

We knew that the Von Helms family, the original owners of Jacksonville’s 1860 Table Rock Billiard Saloon and the lovely 1878 Italianate style home at the corner of South Oregon and Pine streets, suffered several family tragedies.  Three daughters died in epidemics.  Another was murdered, but we’ve only recently come across more details.  Not that we would gossip, but….

It seems that daughter Anna had married Frederick B. Martin, a salesman for the Pacific Biscuit Company.  He was their Portland representative; she ran a fashionable Portland boarding house, the Ella, at the corner of Ella and Washington streets.  Anna’s older sister Emma helped run the boarding house. 

Reportedly, the Martins’ marriage was “stormy.”  When Martin was “discharged” from the biscuit company in 1906, he abandoned Anna and left for California.  When he returned to Portland at the end of the year, Anna refused to live with him or reconcile.  Martin blamed his sister-in-law Emma for interfering.

On January 6, 1907, Martin went to the Ella and gained admission to his wife’s apartments.  There he shot both Anna and Emma then went to the basement where he killed himself.  Anna was wounded; Emma died.  What transpired before the shooting is unknown since Anna was in hysterics.

Anna eventually remarried.  Both Anna and Emma are buried in the Helms family plot in the Odd Fellows section of Jacksonville’s Pioneer Cemetery.

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Atenicia Riddle Merriman

“Some of us wait for a “Plan B.” Artenicia experienced a “Plan B” life becoming an unanticipated pioneer and an unexpected 85-year-old movie star.

In 1851, Artenicia Riddle was happily settled in Springfield, Illinois, married to John Chapman, boasting a 1-year-old son when her husband suddenly died—5 days before her parents were leaving for Oregon!  As a 21-year-old widow with a baby, she had few choices so scrambled to gather provisions and join them in the journey across the Oregon Trail.  Her father William Riddle settled what we know as Riddle, Oregon.

In 1854, Artenicia married widower William Merriman, a blacksmith, wagon maker, and agriculturalist.  Those skills were much in demand in Southern Oregon and the couple moved to the Rogue Valley in 1857, settling 2 miles north of Jacksonville, where they raised 15 more children. 

When the Medford Commercial Club learned that the Jackson County Exhibit at San Francisco’s 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition was considered “bland,” they commissioned a film to showcase the virtues of Southern Oregon. The story, highlighting the social and cultural life of the valley, starred Broadway actress, Grace Fiero, wife of wealthy local orchardist Conrad Fiero (owner of Mon Desir).  In the film, Grace visited some of the Valley’s pioneers.  Artenicia was one of them, and she bought a new bonnet for the occasion. 

The film, the first feature film made in Oregon, had a brief run in Medford before being shown at the Exposition to wild acclaim!

Artenicia died 2 years later having experienced gas cook stoves, electric lights, and automobiles—far cries from the dutch ovens, tallow candles, and wagons of the pioneer times she talked about in Grace’s “moving picture.” 

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August Singler

Memorial Day has Historic Jacksonville, Inc. thinking about others who have sacrificed their lives for the public good.  Did you know that August Singler was the first Oregon sheriff and the first (and to date only) Jackson County sheriff to be killed in the line of duty? 

Shortly after being elected sheriff in November 1912, Singler, his wife Rose, and their brood of 8 had moved into the sheriff’s quarters at the corner of East 6th and D streets in Jacksonville behind the 1883 Jackson County courthouse. Prior to Singler’s election, he had gained a reputation as a dedicated constable who did his duty no matter what.  He had introduced the art of fingerprinting to Jackson County and had been the first lawman in the area to use bloodhounds. His exploits were often reported in the local newspapers. 

On April 22, 1913, Singler was serving a warrant on a man name Lester Jones who was hiding out in a rural cabin about a mile south of Jacksonville.  Jones had been accused of theft a year earlier but had escaped after disarming the town marshal who tried to arrest him.  When Singler opened the cabin door, Jones shot the sheriff in the chest.  A second bullet smashed Singler’s right hand.  Although right-handed and mortally wounded, Singler switched hands and shot Jones six times, killing him.  Surgeons tried to save Singler, but the shot proved fatal.  Singler died the next morning.  He was 36 years old.

On April 25, Medford stopped all commerce for Singler’s funeral.  The procession from the church to the IOOF/Eastwood Cemetery was over 12 blocks long.

Singler may be gone, but he has not been forgotten.  In 1993, Medford dedicated the August D. Singler Memorial Plaza between the Jackson County Justice Building and the county jail.  One hundred years after Singler’s death, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden recognized Singler’s service and sacrifice with an entry in the “Congressional Record.”

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Auguste Petard

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….

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Ben Johnson

Did you know that Ben Johnson Mountain in the Applegate is named for a Black pioneer?  Historically, Southern Oregon has had only a small population of Black residents so it’s remarkable that a local mountain landmark is named for a Black man!  In fact, when Ben Johnson lived near Ruch in the 1860s, the state’s “exclusion laws” made it technically illegal for a Black to reside in Oregon.

Johnson had been born into slavery in Alabama in 1834. In 1853, he had crossed the plains with an ox team, making his way to Uniontown, Oregon as a freed slave. Uniontown, founded by Theodoric Cameron, was at the mouth of the Little Applegate River during Southern Oregon’s 1800s mining era.  Johnson worked for Cameron but by 1868-69 he was also prospecting and had built his own blacksmith shop at the base of the mountain that now bears his name. Johnson was known as a skilled blacksmith and accommodated miners by sharpening their tools. He could read and write and was respected by the community.

It appears that part of the West’s attraction for Johnson was another freed slave, Amanda Gardner.  She had also come west in 1853 with a Deckard family who had settled in the Albany area.  Although freed, Amanda had cared for her former mistress until her death. By 1870 Johnson had married Amanda and moved to Albany where he continued his blacksmith trade.  

Johnson’s history, and that of the mountain that bears his name, had been lost for over 100 years.  Dedicated research by Jan Wright, Southern Oregon Historical Society Archivist, uncovered Ben Johnson’s story. Today you can hike Ben Johnson Mountain, a 4,500 foot peak in the Rogue River National Forest portion of the Siskiyous, about 10 miles southwest of Jacksonville.  A trail head that can be reached from the Applegate’s Cantrall-Buckley Park leads to a steep 1.1-mile trail with aerial views of the Rogue Valley and eye-catching cityscapes.

We would like to thank Jan Wright, Southern Oregon Historical Society Archivist, for the research that uncovered Ben Johnson’s history. 

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Benjamin F. Dowell

The Italianate style home at 475 N. 5th Street was built for Benjamin Franklin Dowell, named for his grandmother’s uncle, Benjamin Franklin. Dowell served as prosecuting attorney for Oregon’s 1st Judicial District and as U.S. District Attorney. For 14 years he owned the Oregon Sentinel newspaper, the first newspaper in the Pacific Northwest to support the abolition of slavery and the first to nominate Ulysses S. Grant for president. The is one of the earliest Italianate style homes built in Oregon. Constructed in 1861, it may also have been the first home in Jacksonville to be built of brick. Most homes of the period had wood burning stoves for heat, but this distinctive home has 4 fireplaces—one of black onyx and 3 of marble. The marble probably came from Dowell’s own marble quarry on Williams Creek. That same marble was also used for the porch steps and all the window sills.

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Carl B. Rostel

Carl Berthold Rostel, born in 1849, was an immigrant from Germany who found his way to the Rogue Valley. According to The Oregon Sentinel advertisements from the 1880s, he had been an “Asst. Surgeon of the German Army.” Here he chose to be a “Professional Hair Cutter” and became known as “The Popular Barber and Hair Dresser” in the Orth Building on S. Oregon Street in Jacksonville. An 1881 issue of the Sentinel noted that “Rostel shaves in the highest style of the art” and is “one of the best barbers on the coast.” C.B. Rostel went on to become a prominent Rogue Valley businessman, owning several properties in the Valley, including a saloon, a variety shop, a barber shop in Medford, and the Kurth & Miller building in Central Point. After using the latter for a “store and business offices” for a decade, Rostel remodeled and doubled the size of the building in 1909, and the “Rostel 1909” building was born. Today it’s the home of The Point Pub & Grill.

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Carie Shelton

Did you know that Oregon had the nation’s first female governor? And it was 3 ½ years before Oregon women gained the right to vote? The woman was Carrie (aka Carolyn/Caralyn) B. Shelton. She was acting governor of Oregon for one weekend – 9 a.m. Saturday, February 27, through 10 a.m. Monday, March 1, 1909. It seems that the outgoing governor, George Earle Chamberlain, had been elected to the Senate and had to leave for Washington, D.C., before his term was over if he was to make it to D.C. in time to be sworn in with the rest of the freshman class of senators. Arriving late would make him the last man on the roster in terms of seniority. The incoming governor, Frank W. Benson, had gotten sick and couldn’t assume office early. So Chamberlain left his 32-year-old secretary in charge. For a weekend, Shelton, a woman who couldn’t legally cast a ballot, possessed the power to issue pardons, veto bills and sign executive orders. And in another wrinkle to the story, in 1926 Shelton married Chamberlain, her longtime boss and mentor, making them the first and only pair of former governors in U.S. history to wed.

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Carrie Beekman

You may be aware that Cornelius Beekman, Jacksonville’s wealthiest and most prominent pioneer, was a philanthropist, but did you know that his daughter Carrie followed in his footsteps?  March is Women’s History Month so Historic Jacksonville, Inc. is sharing the stories of local women, many of them previously untold. 

You may have heard how Cornelius gave money to build schools and churches.  Carrie initially did things on a more personal level, even after she moved to Portland in 1931.  For example, she financially cared for those who worked for the Beekman family until her death in 1959; she funded a “heating plant,” “pew cushions,” “well repair,” and periodically the minister’s salary at Jacksonville’s historic Presbyterian Church.  

But Carrie Beekman is also the one who preserved the family history.  While her brother Ben saw that the 1863 Beekman Bank remained intact as a museum during his lifetime, it was Carrie who deeded the Bank and all its contents to the Oregon Historical Society following Ben’s death, along with $10,000 in Ben’s memory.  It was Carrie who donated the Jacksonville Reservoir to the City of Jacksonville and the property between the Presbyterian Church and the manse to the Church.  It was Carrie who set aside the bulk of her estate for the University of Oregon to establish the Beekman Professorship of Pacific and Northwest and History in honor of her father and brother.  It was the first endowed chair at the University.  And it was Carrie who deeded the Beekman House and its contents to the University of Oregon upon her own passing. 

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Cornelius C. Beekman

Cornelius C. Beekman came to Jacksonviille in 1853 as an express rider for Cram Rogers & Company, carrying gold, mail, and newspapers over the Siskiyous to Yreka 2 to 3 times a week—a 67 mile journey by horse or mule. When Cram Rogers went belly up in 1856, he purchased their horses and corral and opened Beekman’s Express at the southwest corner of California and 3rd streets in Jacksonville, a site he shared with Dr. Charles Brooks’ Drugstore. A large safe that he bought to store the miners’ gold made his office the oldest financial institution north of San Francisco and the oldest bank in the Pacific Northwest. When he became a Wells Fargo agent in 1863, he constructed his second bank building cattycornered across the street. Shortly thereafter, his old building became the Express Saloon until 1868, then the Pioneer Bit House which was subsequently renamed The Eagle Sample Rooms. The original building was destroyed in the fire of 1874. The “Express Office” now at that location is a reconstruction.

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Cornelius C. Beekman Update

For three years before Cornelius Beekman opened the gold dust office that preceded the bank we know today, he was an express rider for Cram & Rogers, carrying mail, parcels, newspapers, and gold over the Siskiyous between Yreka and Jacksonville.  We’ve thought for years that Cornelius Beekman moved to Jacksonville in 1853 when he became an express rider between those 2 towns, but it seems he may have remained based in Yreka.  When Cram & Rogers went belly up in 1856, he purchased his former employer’s Jacksonville horses and stable and opened Beekman’s Express. That appears to be when he moved to Jacksonville.

Why are we having this change of “heart,” or in this case “history”?  Because more contemporary accounts have become available, and we have access to more facts.  1853 Yreka newspapers show Beekman advertising his carpentry and building skills in conjunction with a partner named Goldsmith.  Beekman had trained as a carpenter before coming West and periodically fell back on his trade as an income source.  We also have access to Jacksonville’s Pioneer Census records and Beekman’s name does not appear until 1856.

Is this sufficient “evidence” to “prove” that Beekman did not move to Jacksonville until 1856?  No, but it certainly raises “reasonable doubt” and causes us to rethink our timeline.  It may change the details, but it does not change either the bank’s footnote in history or the role Beekman played in turning a gold rush town into the hub of Southern Oregon.

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Cornelius C. Beekman – Santa

Did you know that Cornelius C. Beekman, probably Jacksonville’s wealthiest and most prominent pioneer, was also a benevolent Santa Claus? 

You may know that Beekman was a prominent businessman and public servant. He had banking, mining, and real estate interests, as well as multiple other investments. He also served on the town’s school board; was a town trustee and mayor; donated land for churches, schools, and a library; was drafted as a candidate for Governor of Oregon; and served as a Regent of the University of Oregon. 

But Beekman looked at the “smaller picture” as well as the bigger one. When two local boys wanted to be part of the Presbyterian Church’s Christmas Eve celebration but lacked appropriate attire, a 1913 newspaper noted that Banker Beekman bought both of them new suits so that they could participate in the Christmas pageant.  We can’t speak for their recitations, but they certainly looked “spiffy”!

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David Linn

Today we’re using our imagination to visit a residence no longer on the map—the home of David Linn, one of the town’s most prolific early builders.  Born in Guernsey County, Ohio, in 1826, Linn was a self-supporting carpenter and cabinet-maker at age 14 and an active contractor and builder by 25.  Arriving in Jacksonville in the spring of 1852, Linn was instrumental in transforming the mining camp of Table Rock into the town of Jacksonville. During his active career, he built a fort, public and commercial buildings, 2 churches, houses, staircases, furniture, mining equipment, and coffins.  Linn also served as Jackson County Treasurer for 14 years; was a member of the Jacksonville City Council and served as Mayor; and was on the school board. 

Around 1866, Linn constructed a 1-story house at the corner of West F Street, across North Oregon Street from the home of his father-in-law, Squire William Hoffman. It’s possible that Hoffman gave the land to Linn or his wife, Ann Sophia, as a wedding present.  Linn added a second story to the family home in 1881.  In its May 14th edition, the Oregon Sentinel reported, “David Linn has just finished adding an upper story to his residence. The improvement sets off the structure handsomely.”  It also created the elegant Italianate style home featured in an 1883 West Shore Magazine, a style that had become popular in the U.S. prior to the Civil War.

Linn died in 1912.  The house outlasted him by 42 years, when it was razed to make way for contemporary housing.

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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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Dr. Will Jackson

{“tn”:”K”}”>Dr. Will Jackson was a popular Jacksonville dentist from the late 1860s to the late 1880s. Actually, he was probably the only Jacksonville dentist during that period. Although he pulled teeth and supplied “nice natural looking teeth…for those wanting,” he is also believed to have been the first dentist in the Valley to use fillings as an alternative to extraction. A colleague remembered him as “quite a large man, with black hair…who wore that determined look that made the small boy in need of his services feel that he was not to be trifled with.” Jackson’s house at 235 E. California Street was his second home at that location, constructed in 1873 after a fire took out most of the block. It’s now home to the Miners Bazaar. Jackson’s dentist office was “12 feet east” where Quady North’s tasting room now stands. The entire corner of California and 5th streets was originally the site of the corral and stables of Cram & Rogers, the company that brought C.C. Beekman to Jacksonville, but from 1857 on, that corner housed a succession of doctors’ offices.

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Emil Britt

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.

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Emil DeRoboam

Have you ever noticed the 2-story Carpenter Gothic style farmhouse at 3995 South Stage Road just past Dancin Vineyards?  In the late 1800s, this was home to Emil DeRoboam and his family.  DeRoboam was the nephew of U.S. Hotel proprietress Madame Jeanne DeRoboam Holt and prominent in his own right.

After immigrating to the United States in 1871 with his widowed father, Jean St. Luc DeRoboam, Emil became a wagon and carriage maker.  The Democratic Times newspaper at various times declared him 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. 

In the mid-1880s Emil purchased the 642 acre “Bellinger land claim” for “general farming and stock raising…directing his efforts toward making his farm a pleasant home and paying property.”  He succeeded in the latter, obtaining the contract for the “county hospital” in 1884 and the contract for “the county poor” in 1886.  For 20 years, DeRoboam was superintendent of the Jackson County poor farm, caring for the county’s wards on his farm.

DeRoboam was described as “a progressive man” and “prominent in political undertakings.”  He was one of the chief promoters of rural free delivery, the delivery of mail directly to farm families. He was active in the Republican Party from shortly after his arrival in the U.S. until his death. He was also associated with several fraternal organizations—he “passed all the chairs” in the International Order of Odd Fellows; he was a charter member of the Jacksonville Lodge of the Improved Order of Red Men; and he was a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen.

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First Teacher in Jacksonville

The location of Jacksonville’s first schoolhouse may be open to debate, but surely we know who was the town’s first teacher. Or do we?  Rev. Thomas Fletcher Royal is credited with having established the first school in Jacksonville in 1853, albeit we’re not sure where. 

One source says the school was organized by Royal’s sister, Mary Elizabeth Royal, and that Jane McCully, a trained schoolteacher who was the 3rd “proper” white woman to arrive in Jacksonville, was the first instructor.  Another source says that Mary Elizabeth Royal was the teacher.  However, Rev. Royal, in his journals, records renting a house from Col. John Ross “for a school and church purposes” where Rev. Royal’s brother, James Henry Bascom Royal, taught school one winter and spring (1854).

The following year the Oregon Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church accepted J. H. B. Royal as a member and assigned him the principalship of the newly formed Umpqua Academy at Wilbur, Oregon. Then Rev. Royal bought another house and turned the front room into a school.  His sister, Miss Mary E. Royal (later Mrs. John Flinn), took over the teaching duties in Jacksonville and taught that summer and winter (1854-5).  We’ll note that Jane McCully did open the first private academy in Jacksonville, but that was not until 1862.  And John Merritt, another individual sometimes listed as the first teacher, became Jacksonville’s schoolteacher and principal in 1875.  Who knew?

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First White Child Born in Jacksonville

The title of “first white child born in Jacksonville” has been a subject of debate for over 150 years given there are multiple claimants.  The issue is clouded since “firsts” are usually awarded in retrospect and memories can be unreliable.  Also most individuals reporting on the subject credited any event happening in southern Oregon to Jacksonville because that was the closest town, the name known to them, and subsequently the County Seat. 

August 11, 1852, the earliest known birth date, belongs to Bruce Evans.  In 1903 he applied for a passport and listed his birthplace as Jacksonville.  There is a 2-year-old Bruce Evans listed in the 1854 Jackson County Territorial Census.  However, the only Evans family on record at that time lived near what is now Rogue River.  Beginning in 1851, Davis “Coyote” Evans operated a ferry on what became known as Evans Creek, a tributary of the Rogue.

A second claimant is Cornelius Jasper Armstrong, born February 24, 1853, to Robert and Minerva Armstrong.  When the Armstrong family arrived in 1852, Robert and Minerva settled on a farm 4 miles north of Jacksonville at the base of the western hills.  They did not move into Jacksonville until 1890.

A third claimant is James Clugage McCully, born August 27, 1853, to Jane and John McCully and named after James Clugage, one of Jacksonville’s “town fathers.”  We do know the McCully’s lived in town, initially in a log cabin on the property at the corner of California and South 5th streets where the McCully House now stands.

In the 1850s, babies were born at home.  So while Bruce Evans may lay claim to the title “first white child born in Jackson County,” we’ll give the title of “first white child born in Jacksonville” to James Clugage McCully.

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First White Child Born in Jacksonville” OOPS

We’re eating crow.  As noted when we started on the subject of “firsts,” claims can be unreliable since “firsts” are usually awarded in retrospect and memories can be unreliable.  Information can also be missing.  And we just came across information that restores the title of “first white child born in Jacksonville” to Cornelius Jasper Armstrong! 

When Robert and Minerva Armstrong arrived in Jacksonville in October of 1852, Robert built a “pole cabin” on the site of what is now known as the “Judge Hanna House” at 285 South 1st Street.  That’s where Cornelius Jasper Armstrong was born on February 24, 1853.  It was later that spring that the Armstrongs traded the pole cabin and a hack to a Mr. Rogers for the donation land claim about 4 miles north of town that the Armstrong family occupied for the next 37 years.

So Cornelius Jasper was indeed born in Jacksonville! 

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Frederick Frick

Frederick “Fred” Fick, born in 1878, was the oldest son of Jacksonville’s German butcher Nicholas Fick. At age 19, Fred left home to go into the “building business” and by 1906 is listed in local directories as a “building contractor.” He participated in many Rogue Valley construction projects including the 1908 Jacksonville school, now Bigham Knoll. Around 1909 he built the Fick House at 810 South 3rd Street in Jacksonville. For 25 years he owned and operated a hardware store at 125 W. California Street, now home to the Jville Tavern. He also served on the City Council and various standing committees. In 1920 Fred was a member of the temporarily successful committee charged with keeping the Jackson County Courthouse in Jacksonville; in 1926 he spearheaded a tree planting project on the “Jacksonville Highway” (North 5th); and in 1928 he petitioned the County Court to establish a museum in the U.S. Hotel. But in 1935 Fred saw the “handwriting on the wall” and moved his hardware business to Medford where “Fick’s Hardware was for many years located on West Main Street.”

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George Schumpf

The Classical Revival style home at the corner of Fir and South Oregon in Jacksonville is known as the Colvig House. Since Historic Jacksonville, Inc. recently had a Colvig family descendent ask about it, we thought we would share a little of its history. The house was probably built in the late 1870s for George Schumpf, the town barber. Schumpf, a native of Alsace, Germany, was the town barber for most of his life, also providing “bathing rooms and bathtubs” in his California Street shop. In 1887, Schumpf sold the house to William and Addie Colvig following his first wife’s death.

William Colvig, a lawyer, served three terms as Jackson County District Attorney. After this latter appointment, he finally got around to taking the bar exam. Colvig was an authority on Shakespeare and spoke fluent Chinook, the language of the local Indian tribe. He was also a soldier and was among the party of soldiers that first mapped Crater Lake.

The house is also known as the “Bozo the Clown House.” Vance “Pinto” Colvig, the youngest of the Colvig children, was the original creator of Bozo the Clown. Pinto worked as an animator for Walt Disney and supplied many Disney cartoon voices, including those of ‘Goofy,’ ‘Pluto’ and two of the seven dwarfs. He also wrote the song, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.”

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George “Bum” Neuber #1 

 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.

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George “Bum” Neuber #2

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.

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Gin Lin

The 2022 Chinese New Year continues through February 15, so Historic Jacksonville, Inc. is again highlighting Jacksonville’s early Chinese population.  Did you know that a Chinese labor boss, Gin Lin, was probably one of the wealthiest men in town during his time here? 

Gin apparently left China shortly after gold was discovered in California in 1849. He was one of the Chinese men who came by the thousands, lured by tales of “Gold Mountain.” 

By the 1860s, Gin was in Oregon. Despite state laws prohibiting Chinese property ownership, Gin was able to purchase a claim in 1864 on the Little Applegate River at the mouth of Sterling Creek for $900. He subsequently leased or purchased other “played out” placer mines in the vicinity from white men who had already taken out the easy gold.  He was able to hire other Chinese laborers, using them to work his own claims and hiring them out to other mine owners.

Gin was honest and fair, even helping some of his men purchase their own claims, ensuring they were legally recorded and the proper taxes paid. As a result, Lin’s crew was willing to work hard for him and many of the laborers Gin had previously contracted to other mine owners came to work for him.  Local legend credits him with founding the old mining ghost town of Buncom to house his Sterling Creek mining crew.

When the placer gold was depleted, they began excavating for gold in old stream beds long since buried in adjacent hillsides. To make the effort profitable, Gin is credited with introducing hydraulic mining to Southern Oregon. A remnant of this is the Applegate’s Gin Lin hiking trail.

Through industry and ingenuity, Gin Lin and his mining company began to play an important role in Southern Oregon’s economy. It also helped Gin amass a fortune. When he returned to China in the 1890s, he reportedly was worth over $2 million in gold from his various mining claims. 

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Henry Blecher

All of those 1852 gold miners had to eat, and, according to A.G. Walling, Jacksonville’s first butcher shop had opened within the year.  Described as “one of the finest” (although we can’t imagine there was that much competition), it was owned by Henry Blecher, a native of Prussia.  Born in 1822, he had immigrated to the U.S. in 1848.  Undoubtedly, like many others, he followed the promise of riches to the West Coast.  By the beginning of 1854, he was carrying “a heavy stock.”  That undoubtedly included venison, chicken, pork, rabbit, beef, and probably sausage—common staples of the time. 

The shop appears to have been located on South Oregon between California and Main streets, probably where the Orth building now stands.  In fact, he may have joined or sold out to John Orth in the butcher business.  We do know that he regularly provisioned the Jackson County jail, and in December 1875, he delivered 70,000 pounds of beef at $4.49 per hundred pounds to the Indian agent at Yainax, Oregon.  He was regularly listed as one of Jackson County’s heaviest taxpayers. 

We’re not sure who his suppliers were, but Blecher did own 1283 acres of land on Poorman’s Creek, 3 miles south of Jacksonville on the road to Sterling.  We don’t know if he farmed or ranched the property, but 90 acres housed a dwelling, barn, and orchard.  A fair amount of the acreage appears to have been forested since in 1891 he was hauling wood for the Rogue River Valley Railway between Jacksonville and Medford.  Blecher passed away in 1900 at the age of 77.  His property was inherited by his half brother and sister and by 1902 the Jacksonville Lumber Company had established a sawmill on the “old Blecher place.”

A few hard facts and a lot of “probablies and maybes.”  Keep in mind there was no newspaper in Jacksonville until 1854 and earlier accounts rely on personal diaries, hearsay published in Portland or Yreka papers, and memoirs from much later years.  Such are the basis of much of our early history….

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Henry Klippel

German-born Henry Klippel became one of Southern Oregon’s most prominent pioneers, achieving success in mining, politics, business, and ranching. Klippel mined for gold in Jackson and Josephine counties before becoming part owner of the Gold Hill quartz mine which employed the first stamp mill in Oregon. He later became engaged in large scale hydraulic mining at Squaw Lake. When Jacksonville was incorporated in 1860, Klippel became the town’s first Recorder then President of the Board of Trustees. He was elected Jackson County Sheriff in 1870; appointed one of the commissioners for construction of the state capitol in Salem in 1874; and chaired the State Democratic Central Committee. In 1880 and 1884 he served as Jackson County Clerk. He also ran a “first class tin and stove establishment” in Jacksonville before becoming actively involved in stock raising in Lake County. Klippel died in 1901 and is buried in the Odd Fellows section of the Jacksonville Cemetery.

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Ish Family

The Ish family plot is the most photographed plot in Jacksonville’s Pioneer Cemetery. Sarah’s husband, Jacob Ish, son of a Virginia plantation owner, had come west in 1861 to escape the Civil War.  He purchased 320 acres about three miles from Jacksonville and started a ranch, now the site of Ish Ranch Estates off West McAndrews.  When opportunity arose, Ish added to his holdings.  He eventually became one of the largest landowners in Jackson County with over 5,000 acres, including the site of the Medford Airport.  His fields were some of the most productive in the Valley, and his ranch became known for its “broad fertile acres, sturdy stock and immaculately maintained buildings.”  Ish’s holdings supplied government troops at Fort Klamath and stage stations from Grants Pass to San Francisco.

Sarah was actually Jacob’s 2nd wife.  He had originally married her sister Ellen.  In 1877, when Ellen was dying of cancer, Sarah had left Virginia and sailed around the horn to care for her, arriving 2 weeks too late.  Sarah stayed on to care for Jacob and Ellen’s daughter, Sophia, and her niece, Phenie.  A year later, Jacob and Sarah were married.

The marriage lasted 3 years.  In 1881, Jacob Ish died from bronchitis, leaving his wife Sarah one of the wealthiest women in the county.  A “woman of strong character and rare business ability,” Sarah managed the Ish ranch for the next 25 years until her death in 1906.

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J. C. Whipp #1

Stone mason J.C. Whipp is responsible for many of the marble monuments in Jacksonville’s pioneer cemetery as well as cemeteries throughout southern Oregon and northern California. He opened his Jacksonville Marble Works around 1885. They were originally located “just north of town,” but after the 1888 fire destroyed David Linn’s furniture factory, he moved them to the corner of California and Oregon streets. Whipp was described as “doing the best of work,” and having “no peer in this part of the state…. A visit to the Jacksonville cemetery will bear out this assertion.”

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J. C. Whipp #2

Stone mason J.C. Whipp came to Jacksonville from Portland in 1883 to build the foundation for Jackson County’s historic courthouse, including laying its cornerstone. He later became noted for his marble cemetery headstones, but he also built culverts and bridges. In 1887, he turned the Methodist Episcopal Church 180 degrees to face the new North 5th Street thoroughfare, and in 1893 he created a stone mantelpiece that won a blue ribbon at the Chicago World’s Fair.

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Jacob Grob

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.

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James Cronemiller #1

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.

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James Cronemiller #2

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.

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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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James Miller

Colonel James Napper Tandy Miller is remembered most often for setting aside the original acreage for Jacksonville’s Pioneer Cemetery around 1859, which he subsequently sold to the City, four fraternal orders, and two religions for amounts ranging from $1 to $100. The cemetery acreage was originally part of Miller’s 320 acre Donation Land Claim. Under a Donation Land Claim, a settler could claim 160 acres of free land if single, 320 if married, provided he farmed it for four years. Miller emigrated from Kentucky to Oregon in 1846 and to Jacksonville in 1854. He was a renowned fighter in the Indian wars, he planted some of the valley’s earliest vineyards, and he was a well-known figure in state politics, serving as both State Assemblyman and State Senator. Miller also began publication of Jacksonville’s second newspaper, the Democratic Times.

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John Bilger

When merchant and civic leader John Bilger died in the 1877 cholera epidemic, he was one of the wealthiest men in Jacksonville. His monument in Jacksonville’s Pioneer Cemetery cost $1200—a princely sum at the time. A similar monument today would cost about $25,000. Bilger was a member of both the Masons and the Odd Fellows, and the Italian marble obelisk that marks his grave bears both the Masonic ruler and compass and the Odd Fellows linked circles. The hand pointing upward anticipates Bilger’s heavenly reward.

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John Boyer

The historic brick portion of the Bella Union Restaurant and Saloon at 170 W. California Street was constructed in 1874 by pioneer woodworker and builder David Linn after an April fire destroyed many of the original buildings in the western end of Jacksonville. That summer, John Boyer announced the opening of his “new store in Linn’s brick building.” Boyer, born in 1836 in Pennsylvania, had arrived in Jacksonville around 1871. Apparently, he soon became an active part of the community, opening a general store and joining the local chapter of the International Order of Odd Fellows. By 1876 Boyer had been named a Grand Marshall of the IOOF of Oregon, representing Jacksonville around the state. A general store remained at the Bella Union location into the 1880s and 90s, but in 1879 Boyer accepted the position of confidential clerk at the Cornelius C. Beekman Bank, the oldest financial institution in the Pacific Northwest located at 110 W. California. For some years, Boyer even lodged in the back room of the Bank. At some point Boyer also became the resident agent for the Fire Marine Insurance Company of San Francisco, possibly handling Beekman’s insurance business. Boyer died in January 1902, received a full ceremonial IOOF funeral, and is buried in the IOOF section of Jacksonville’s pioneer cemetery.

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John Hockenjos

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.

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John Love

John Love

John Love, a leading Jacksonville businessman and public servant, helped plat the town in its infancy, served as one of the town’s first trustees, and was instrumental in establishing the town cemetery. When his mother Margaret died in 1859, the town could not refuse his request to bury her in the new cemetery, even though it was not officially open. Since there was no road, relatives and friends laboriously carried her through the rain up an Indian trail to the top of the hill where she was interred in the family plot, the first person to be buried in the Jacksonville Cemetery. The tall marble obelisk that marks her grave was shipped from Italy around Cape Horn and hauled overland from Crescent City.

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John Miller

Although Jacksonville’s City Administrative Offices are now housed in New City Hall (Jackson County’s historic 1883 Courthouse), for almost 40 years they were “temporarily” housed at 110 E. Main Street in what was once one of several elaborate “Queen Anne” style homes built in Jacksonville during the late 1800s.   The Queen Anne structures represented a movement away from earlier modest architectural styles to houses celebrating financial success. 

In 1883, John Miller had purchased the entire block, consisting at the time of 2 wood frame buildings and a dense thicket of trees, later referred to as an “orchard.”  However, it was almost 10 years later that the Queen Anne home was constructed at the corner of 3rd and E. Main using house plans published in one of architect George F. Barber’s pattern books. 

“Gunsmith” Miller, born in Bavaria, was one of Jacksonville’s many German-speaking settlers, arriving in Oregon in 1860.  Miller was probably the town’s most successful gunsmith.  For at least 20 years his Hunters’ Emporium on California Street specialized in guns, and later hardware and cutlery.  Given that the house was built around the time of Miller’s death, it may have been constructed by his son, John F. Miller, rather than “Gunsmith” Miller.  John F. continued to operate his father’s hardware store well into the 20th Century and also served as Jacksonville Postmaster from 1898 to 1913.  The Miller family occupied the home into the 1930s.

In early 1944, a fire destroyed the top floors of the house.  The owner at the time, Harold Lind, remodeled the surviving first floor into the current L-shaped structure.

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John Neuber

The building that is now the Blue Door Garden Store at 130 West California Street in Jacksonville was built around 1862 by German-born John Neuber to house his jewelry store. Neuber was Jacksonville’s first goldsmith and silversmith. He specialized in solid gold buckles for women’s belts. While running to fight one of the periodic fires that broke out in the town’s early wooden structures, Neuber incurred severe head injuries. In 1874 he was declared insane by the Jackson County commissioners and ordered to the state insane asylum where he died a year later.

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Josephine Martin Plymale

Josephine Martin Plymale, a Jacksonville suffragette, 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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John Ross

You may be familiar with Ross Lane where it connects Old Stage and Hanley roads and then zigs and zags around Fry Family Farms and Channel 10 until it crosses Rossanley as far as Main Street.  Most likely these were the borders of Col. John Ross’ donation land claim.  Ross was an Indian fighter, treasure seeker, and entrepreneur.  He and Elizabeth Hopwood were also the first couple to be married in Jacksonville—complete with a town pump ceremony, bear grease wedding cake, and a pre-wedding jumping contest for the groom.  But that’s another story—one that you can read about in our Jacksonville Review’s Pioneer Profiles series at

Ross led troops through all the Rogue and Modoc Indian Wars, eventually being named a Brigadier General of the Oregon Milita before assuming the role of “solid citizen.”  He also represented Jackson County in the Territorial Council in 1855-56, served as a member of the State House in 1860, and was elected a member of the State Senate in 1866. When the Oregon & California Railroad Company was formed, Ross was elected a director.  Ross served another term as state senator during which he chaired the military committee. In 1882, he retired to his farm on Ross Lane, having served the Oregon Territory and State for almost 50 years.

Now for the History Mystery. With all of Ross Lane’s meanderings, we have no idea where Ross’ farm and elaborate farmhouse were located other than this etching describing it as 3 miles NE of Jacksonville—which could put it anywhere within the landholdings indicated above.  We would be surprised if the house still existed, but….  We would welcome any knowledge you have to share!

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Martin Vrooman

The vernacular farmhouse at 675 E. California Street was built in 1878 for prominent local physician, Dr. Martin Vrooman. Born in New York in 1818, Vrooman apparently did have formal medical training since an Oregon Sentinel article described him as a “regular graduate” and not one of the “guessing school of physicians.” But like many others, Vrooman heard the call of gold and headed west. In 1850 he was mining in California on the Middle Fork of the American River. He apparently alternated between mining and medicine, pursuing one or both in California and the Nevada Territory. Vrooman settled on medicine, arriving in Jacksonville in the early 1870s where he opened a practice. At some point he married divorcee Christina Strang—one source says early 1870s; a marriage certificate in the SOHS archives gives the date as 1878, around the same time his house was constructed. (The latter date would have been cause for scandal since their son Francis was born in 1876!) By 1881 Vrooman had added a drug store, the Jacksonville Dispensary. But when the Oregon and California Railroad bypassed Jacksonville in 1883, Vrooman moved his practice and his drugstore to the new town of Medford and sold his Jacksonville home. Unfortunately, his son Francis died that same year, 1884, 1 day short of his 8th birthday. Vrooman himself died 7 months later in 1885 from “bronchial consumption,” i.e., tuberculosis.

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Mary Ann Harris-Chambers #1

The Mary Ann Harris-Chambers house at the corner of North 3rd and C streets was built around 1867, replacing her earlier home on this site. She moved to Jacksonville from a homestead north of Grants Pass after an 1855 Rogue Indian raid killed her first husband, George Harris, and her son. With her daughter reloading, Mary Ann had fired the family’s shotguns from various cabin windows, holding off the attack for over 5 hours until the Indians gave up and left. On Valentine’s Day in 1863, Mary Ann married farmer Aaron Chambers. They lived at this location until Aaron died 7 years later. This house remained in the family into the 1890s.

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Mary Ann Harris-Chambers #2

Not only did Mary Ann Harris Chambers hold off an Indian attack that cost the lives of her first husband and son, she took in her daughter and 4 young grandchildren after her son-in-law died from tuberculosis in 1867. To accommodate 3 generations, she razed her old home and constructed what we know as the Harris Chambers house on Jacksonville’s North 3rd Street. When her daughter and a granddaughter died in a smallpox epidemic in 1869, she raised her 3 surviving grandchildren. Following her second husband’s death 6 months later, she moved with all the grandchildren to his farm, located 1 ½ miles outside of Jacksonville next to the J. Herbert Stone Forest Service tree farm on what we now call Hanley Road. Mary Ann Harris Chambers picked up the pieces and went on with her life. After all, that’s what she had learned to do—she was a survivor.

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Matthew G. Kennedy

We’re back to our series of Jacksonville “firsts.”  This time Historic Jacksonville, Inc. is highlighting one of the Valley’s earliest pioneers, Mathew G. Kennedy.  Kennedy had arrived in “Table Rock City” in 1852—at the time little more than a rowdy mining camp.  In early 1853, he was appointed town constable at the ripe old age of 23 and became the first elected Sheriff of Jackson County later that year.

However, that was not the only “first” to Kennedy’s credit.  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). 

Kennedy sold his tin shop to Love and Bilger in 1856, and a year later left Jacksonville to build a hotel called the Metropolitan House Hotel in Yreka.  By 1863, he had moved on to San Francisco.

However, Kennedy’s house still stands at 240 North 3rd Street.  Constructed in 1855, it’s the oldest Jacksonville residence still standing!


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Minerva Plymale Armstrong

Minerva Plymale Armstrong and her husband Robert traveled with her parents and siblings from Illinois to Oregon in 1852 along the Oregon Trail. They settled on a farm 4 miles north of Jacksonville at the base of the western hills overlooking the beautiful valley to the east of Old Stage Road. One of their 11 children, Cornelius Jasper Armstrong, born February 24, 1853, is a contender for the title of “first child born in Jacksonville.” In 1890 the Armstrongs moved to town, purchasing the small “saltbox” style home at 375 E. California Street, historically known as the G.W. Cool house after the individual who constructed it around 1858. Cool had received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Baltimore College of Dentistry. He came to the West Coast in 1850, practicing first in British Columbia and then in Washington before settling in Oregon. The house was both residence and dental office. However, his practice appears to have been lackluster since a mechanic’s lien for construction costs was attached against the property. By 1861 Cool had moved on to Portland. The next decade saw him in San Francisco where he did experience success and was one of the first members of the California State Dental Association.

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Morris Mensor

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.

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Patrick Donegan

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.

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Patrick J. Ryan

The building at 125 South 3rd Street in Jacksonville that now houses South Stage Cellars is sometimes known as the B.F. Dowell Law Office but that’s a misnomer—Dowell’s office was next door.  The building was originally P.J. Ryan’s “Dwelling House.”  

A 23-year-old Patrick Ryan, a native of Ireland, had arrived in Jacksonville no later than 1853.  That same year he purchased the Palmetto Bowling Saloon, marking the dawning of a career as one of the town’s earliest and longest-term commercial property investors.  His specialty became “fire proof” brick buildings.  He had acquired title to this lot by 1865 and probably constructed the current building that same year. 

There is no indication that Ryan actually “dwelled” here, but the term may refer to the use of the building as a hotel.  It appears to have been such from 1868 to 1871, and again from 1873 to 1883.  In other years it was a doctor’s office, a butcher shop, and an ice cream parlor.   In the 1960s it became the home of Robertson Collins, the individual credited with preventing Highway 238 from taking out 11 of Jacksonville’s historical homes and the leader of the organization that established the city’s National Historic Landmark status.

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Peter Britt #1


It’s Britt music festival season in Jacksonville! The Britt Festival grounds, the Britt Gardens, and portions of Jacksonville’s Woodlands Trail System were the homestead of Swiss-born pioneer Peter Britt who arrived in Jacksonville in 1852. Britt is perhaps best known as the pioneer photographer who documented Southern Oregon’s people, activities, and landscapes from the 1850s to 1900. However, he was also an avid gardener and is considered to be 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.

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Peter Britt #2

Pter Britt #2

Have you ever wondered about the stone foundation in the lower Britt Gardens? It’s a 1976 reconstruction of the footprint of Peter Britt’s home that burned in 1960. As pioneer photographer Peter Britt’s enterprises expanded over the years, his Jacksonville home on Britt hill became a reflection of his growing prosperity. By 1854, the dugout log cabin that served as both living quarters and daguerreotype studio seemed crude and confining. He cleared ground for a new one-story studio and residence which he constructed in front of the old cabin. This small studio remained the core of Britt’s home as numerous additions were made over the years. Its original Classic Revival style was transformed into one of the first Cottage Gothic dwellings in Southern Oregon complete

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Peter Britt Photo Gallery #1

Have you been enjoying Britt Festival’s fabulous summer season?  If you’re a Jacksonville resident you may know that the Festival grounds are part of the estate of Swiss-born Peter Britt, Oregon’s first photographer.  He arrived in Jacksonville in the fall of 1852 with a 2-wheeled cart of photographic equipment, a yoke of oxen, a mule, and $5 in his pocket.  He filed a donation land claim on acreage that is now the Festival grounds, the lower Britt gardens, and a portion of the Jacksonville Woodlands. 

Today we would call Britt a “Renaissance Man.” Not only did he photographically document a half century of Southern Oregon people and places, he is also credited with founding the region’s commercial orchard, wine, and ornamental horticulture industries. 

However, Britt is most famous for his photography.  After trying his hand at gold mining and running a pack train, he opened “P. Britt’s Photograph and Daguerreotype Room” in 1856 and people came from all parts of Southern Oregon to have their photographs taken.  Britt became the best-known and most popular photographer in the southwestern Oregon and northern California area, photographing almost all of the prominent citizens as well as farmers, miners, Chinese workers and Native Americans.

Britt may have been indiscriminate in terms of his subjects, but he did have an ego when it came to his work.  When ladies were displeased with their likeness and laid fault on the photographer, he is reported to have bluntly told them, “If you want a pretty picture, you must bring a pretty face.” Many of the pretty…and not so pretty… are depicted in his studio gallery shown here.

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Peter Britt Photo Gallery #2

Do you remember when 1-Hour Photo Service became popular?  Jacksonville’s famed pioneer photographer, Peter Britt, offered the service in the mid-1800s—100 years before it became trendy again!  And it seems that Britt’s exotic gardens were not only a regional horticultural and tourist attraction, they were also part of his 1-hour service.  Historic Jacksonville, Inc. came across the following notice in a June 17, 1865, “Oregon Sentinel” newspaper: 
“PHOTOGRAPHY—Those who wish to see the art of photography in all its branches and in its greatest perfection would do well to visit the rooms of Peter Britt at his residence. No one can spend an hour better than to go there, get his picture, and see the pictures and flowers.”
It seems Britt’s gardens were as much a business decision as anything. Apparently, Britt was able to develop, print, and mount his photos in about an hour.  Customers choosing to wait for their finished images could explore Britt’s gardens and gallery, making the time lapse entertaining instead of boring! 

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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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Robertson “Robbie” Collins

Have you ever wondered why state Highway 238 zigs and zags its way around and through Jacksonville?  In the mid-1960s a more direct route had been planned—a route that would also raze 11 of the town’s historic buildings.  Led by Robertson “Robbie” Collins, Jacksonville residents rose up in protest—and in some cases lay down in protest, quite literally lying in the streets along the proposed route.  Collins persuaded Glen Jackson, then head of the Oregon Department of Transportation, to visit the town and revisit ODOT’s proposal.  As a result of Jackson’s visit, the highway was rerouted.  And Jackson purportedly said to Collins, “All right.  You’ve got the buildings.  Now what are you going to do with them?”  The group that was formed to envision a future for the town evolved into the Jacksonville Boosters Club.  The vision they created led to the establishment of Jacksonville’s National Historic Landmark District, the first West Coast buildings to be listed on the National Historic Register as a group!

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Sarah Ish

Did you know that Sarah Ish was one of the richest women in the Rogue Valley? 

The Ish family plot is the most photographed plot in Jacksonville’s Pioneer Cemetery. Sarah’s husband, Jacob Ish, son of a Virginia plantation owner, had come west in 1861 to escape the Civil War.  He purchased 320 acres about three miles from Jacksonville and started a ranch, now the site of Ish Ranch Estates off West McAndrews.  When opportunity arose, Ish added to his holdings.  He eventually became one of the largest landowners in Jackson County with over 5,000 acres, including the site of the Medford Airport.  His fields were some of the most productive in the Valley, and his ranch became known for its “broad fertile acres, sturdy stock and immaculately maintained buildings.”  Ish’s holdings supplied government troops at Fort Klamath and stage stations from Grants Pass to San Francisco.

Sarah was actually Jacob’s 2nd wife.  He had originally married her sister Ellen.  In 1877, when Ellen was dying of cancer, Sarah had left Virginia and sailed around the horn to care for her, arriving 2 weeks too late.  Sarah stayed on to care for Jacob and Ellen’s daughter, Sophia, and her niece, Phenie.  A year later, Jacob and Sarah were married.

The marriage lasted 3 years.  In 1881, Jacob Ish died from bronchitis, leaving his wife Sarah one of the wealthiest women in the county.  A “woman of strong character and rare business ability,” Sarah managed the Ish ranch for the next 25 years until her death in 1906.

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Sarah Zigler

It’s perfect weather for hiking one of the Jacksonville Woodlands most popular trails—the Sarah Zigler Trail along Jackson Creek.  But who was Sarah Zigler and why does she have a trail as a namesake? 

Well, the first part is easy.  Sarah Plymale Zigler was the daughter of Gabriel Plymale, one of the “first comers” to the new mining camp.  He died from typhoid fever 3 weeks after his arrival in October 1852 and has the distinction of being the first person to be buried in Jacksonville.  In 1854, a 15-year-old Sarah married Louis Zigler, miner, blacksmith, proprietor of the Adams Hotel, and at one time the County Sheriff. 

Now for the second part.  In 1878, Peter Britt sold Sarah 8 acres of his property for $1.  Although no one really knows why, it could be because Britt and Louis Zigler had been partners in mining that 200-foot wide and 3/8 of a mile long stretch of land along Jackson Creek.  At the height of their mine’s production, Zigler and Britt were taking out about $1280 in gold per day.

Sarah’s granddaughter donated the property to the Jacksonville Woodlands Association, and you can now explore it via the 0.7-mile Zigler trail that begins in the lower Britt Gardens.  If you hike the Trail within the next few weeks, you can experience riches of a different kind—a wealth of spring wildflowers including Wake Robin, Bleeding Heart, and the rare Gentner’s Fritillaria, found only in this region!

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Stonewall Jackson

Did you know that Stonewall Jackson helped build the 1883 Jackson County Courthouse (now Jacksonville’s New City Hall)?  No, not the Confederate general.  This Stonewall Jackson was a half breed Indian.  His father, a native of Tennessee, had come soon after the Mexican American War to part of the Oregon Territory (now Washington) where he married a Yakima Indian girl.  Stonewall came to Jacksonville with a relative, obtained a job with George Holt, a building contractor, and became a trained carpenter and brick mason.

In a 1929 Medford Mail Tribune article, he recalled his time in Jacksonville.  According to Jackson, he helped build the first old Jacksonville jail, laid brick for the Pat Ryan building and Fisher’s store; erected the brick building for Gunsmith Miller; and practically built the courthouse.  “And there was a French lady by the name of [DeRoboam] who ran a hotel. Well, I cut every stone in that building alone.”

Stonewall married a member of the Klamath tribe and was adopted into the tribe.  He later lived out his life on the Klamath reservation with his wife, children, and grandchildren.

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Thomas Fletcher Royal

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.

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Thomas Kenney

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!

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William T’Vault

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.

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Zany Ganung

Did a Confederate flag once fly over Jacksonville?  And did Zany Ganung have the audacity to chop it down?

Lewis and Zany Ganung had traveled west from Ohio, arriving in Jacksonville in 1854.  Lewis Ganung was a doctor, and Zany frequently acted as his nurse.  On June 11, 1861, so the story goes, Zany returned home tired and exhausted after spending the past 24 hours with a very sick patient.  Overnight, someone had erected a flagpole flying the Confederate “palmetto and rattleshake flag” across the street from her house at 160 E. California Street.  No one knew who had raised it, and no one ventured to remove it for fear of starting a local civil war.  Without a word to anyone, Zany entered her house, returned with a hatchet, crossed the street, and chopped the pole down.  She then untied the flag, returned home, and used the flag to stoke the stove.  The Confederate flag never again flew over Jacksonville.

However, the story may have been confused with an 1855 incident, when town women protested their menfolk 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.  A neighbor came to the rescue, hauling it down and allowing the women to march off with it in triumph.  Zany was in Jacksonville at the time, but no one knows if she was involved. 

The Ganung house was razed in 1965, and the site is now home to Pico’s Worldwide.


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