Gold rush Jacksonville allegedly had as many as 36 saloons. Keep in mind, if a merchant sold liquor, he might be considered a “saloon” and for years the Jacksonville Town Council regularly issued liquor licenses because that was their main source of revenue.  But to begin at the beginning….

 

“Saloon City”

Less than 2 months after Clugage and Poole discovered gold in Daisy Creek in the winter of 1851-52, Appler & Kenney, packers from Yreka, opened a tent trading post catering to the “eruption of miners” that rushed to the Rogue Valley.  Their “bazaar” was located approximately where Scheffel’s Toys now stands at the corner of California and Oregon streets.  It reportedly maintained a minimal stock of tools, clothing and tobacco, and a liberal supply of whiskey.

 W.W. Fowler constructed the community’s first building, a canvas topped log house, near the head of Main, the only street in the embryo city.  It was a store cum saloon.  Miller’s & Wills’ “round tent” soon became the miners’ destination of choice on any Sunday, their “day of rest.”  The tent was a combination of saloon and gambling hall.  Jacksonville was well on its way to becoming “Saloon City”….

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El Dorado Saloon

The 3,000+ miners who followed the discovery of gold in Daisy Creek in the winter of 1851-2 were soon joined by “the class that struck prosperous mining camps like a blight”—gamblers, courtesans, and con men of every kind.  Their favorite place of activity was one of the most notorious landmarks in the early mining community—the El Dorado Saloon.   By the summer of 1852, this wooden structure occupied the corner of California and Oregon streets.  It fronted on Oregon and extended 100 feet along California Street, also housing “club rooms,” a barber shop and baths.  Stories of murders, prostitution, gambling, theft, and the like surrounded the El Dorado until its demise by fire in April of 1874.

Soon afterwards, the local Warren Lodge chapter of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons acquired the property and by 1877 they had erected the current Masonic Hall.  The building design included ground floor retail space whose rental income funded lodge activities.  It should be noted that one of the first building occupants was the City Brewery and Saloon!

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Orth Building Saloons & Brewery

The site where the Orth Building now stands on South Oregon Street originally housed two early Jacksonville saloons. The Palmetto Bowling Saloon was in operation no later than 1853, providing weary prospectors with a lively combination of recreation and relaxation. It was sold in November of that year along with its assemblage of mirrors, tables, benches, lamps, decanters, and stove and renamed the New England Bowling Saloon. Neighboring it was the two-story Classical Revival-style Holman House, later renamed the Beard House. Supposedly built in 1852, it also housed the original Eagle Brewery, later renamed the City Brewery and operated by Veit Schutz, one of the many German-speaking settlers.  It’s mentioned as early as March of 1852. Lodged somewhere in the midst of this high spirited atmosphere was an old hospital building and physician’s and surgeon’s office. Given that most medicines of the time tended to have high concentrations of alcohol, opium, or cocaine, they should have fit right in.  John Orth razed all of these properties in 1872 to make way for his modern two-story brick building.

 


 

Veit Schutz Hall

As you climb the stairs from Highway 238 to the Lower Britt Gardens, have you wondered about the stone walls and cavern you see on your left?  For nearly 50 years that was the main entry into what was originally Veit Schutz Hall.  Schutz had landed in Jacksonville from Bavaria in 1853.  He initially operated the City Brewery on South Oregon, but in 1856 he constructed a 3-story brewery on this site. 

One of the largest and grandest buildings in Jacksonville at the time, it also featured a bar and an elaborate dance hall and was the site of many local celebrations and other activities.  When Schutz died in 1892, Peter Britt took possession of the property, expanding the operations to include a flourishing wine and trading goods business.  After Britt’s death in 1905, the building was abandoned, falling into disrepair.  It was torn down in 1953, leaving only the stone foundation and wine tunnel you see now.

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Oregon and California Streets – Saloon Crossroads

The intersection of Oregon and California streets seems to have been a popular crossroads for early Jacksonville saloons.  We’ve already mentioned the notorious El Dorado Saloon, the New England Bowling Saloon, and the Eagle Brewery that congregated around that location.  No later than 1857 they were joined by the Chieftain Saloon and the New State Billiard and Drinking Saloon.  And next door to the El Dorado, the Jacksonville Bakery & Confectionary not only offered sweet treats, it also had its own bar.   

Naturally, all of these saloons featured the finest liquor and cigars.  The New State made a point of trying to distinguish itself, describing its interior as “cool, spacious, and elegant.”  It also boasted of new billiard tables and made a point of citing its “good supply of rare old French Brandies, prime Scotch and American whiskey, choice wines, ale, and Lager Beer, and superior Havana Cigars.”

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Eagle Brewery and Saloon

The Eagle Brewery was probably Jacksonville’s first brewery, in operation no later than 1856 on the block between Main and California streets that now houses the Orth Building.  But by 1859 the Brewery was in existence at its current location, 355 S. Oregon Street, and under the ownership of German-born Joseph Wetterer.  Two years later Wetterer “commenced the building of a large beer saloon in front of his brewery.”  For the next 18 years, Wetterer and his wife Fredericka ran the saloon, advertising “the best lager beer in Southern Oregon”—even though we can find no trace of Wetterer ever owning a liquor license. 

Although the business was successful, when Wetterer died in 1879 he left significant debts for his wife Frederica. The brewery closed in 1880, but her father, Joseph Sage, paid off the mortgage and transferred the property to her the next year. In 1883, she married William Heeley, a former employee, and the brewery was renamed the William and Frederica Heeley Brewery.  Fredericka continued operating the brewery for a period after Wetterer’s death in 1879, but by 1892 the Eagle Brewery and its complex of buildings containing the “malt kiln,” “mash tub,” “cooler,” “furnace heat,” and “beer kettle” were no longer in operation.  The saloon stood vacant, and the property was labeled “dilapidated” on local maps—marriage, debt, and death having all played their parts in family business management.

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Table Rock Billiard Saloon

The Table Rock Billiard Saloon actually began as the Table Rock Bakery, but when German-born Herman von Helms bought out John Wintjen’s partners in October 1858, the Bakery began advertising “The Bar” stocked with a choice lot of liquors, wines, and wholesome lager beer.  It appears to have taken over the Oregon Street space previously occupied by the Jacksonville Bakery and Bar next to the El Dorado Saloon. 

In 1860 Wintjen and Helms tore down their wooden frame structure and an adjacent building and constructed the arcaded brick building we are familiar with today.  Their brick building prevented the 1874 fire that began in the El Dorado Saloon from spreading to Oregon Street although it took out most of its adjacent California Street buildings.  It also eliminated the El Dorado, the Table Rock’s closest, and perhaps primary, competition. 

The Table Rock Billiard Saloon became a Jacksonville institution for the next 50 years.  It served as an informal social and political headquarters, home to business deals, court decisions, and even trials.  It was also Jacksonville’s first museum, Helms’ “Cabinet of Curiosities”—a collection of pioneer relics, fossils, and oddities designed to attract a clientele that then stayed for the saloon’s lager.  Herman von Helms ran the saloon until his death in 1899; his son Ed operated it until his retirement in 1914.

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Civil War Soldiers

Even though the Civil War raged from 1861 to 1865, a man still needed a drink—possibly even more so since there was a war on.  Today’s image dates to 1863 and shows Civil War soldiers in Jacksonville, most likely at the Eagle Saloon.

Southern Oregon was heavily divided between Confederate and Union sympathies, even causing businesses to close when partners held opposing loyalties.  Although we’re not aware of local saloonkeepers expressing strong support for one side or another, they may have done so subtly through their advertising, placing their larger ads in the local newspaper best reflecting their politics.  Given that the soldiers shown are wearing Union uniforms, one could guess the Eagle Saloon owners, the Wetterers, were Union supporters.

On a side note, this photo is unique in that it may be the earliest image from Oregon showing people drinking beer.

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George “Bum” Neuber’s Saloon and Card Room

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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Bella Union Saloon

The oldest part of the Bella Union Restaurant and Saloon at 170 W. California Street was constructed in 1874 after fire destroyed many of the original buildings in Jacksonville.  It replaced a 1-story brick building erected on this site in 1856, also home to a Bella Union Saloon. 

From 1864 to 1871, Prussian native Henry Breitbarth operated the original Bella Union, a popular social gathering spot.  “Bella Union” was a popular name for drinking and gambling establishments in early mining towns, but it is believed Breitbarth borrowed the name from the infamous San Francisco Bella Union gambling house.

The beginning of the end for Breitbarth’s Bella Union was the 1871 shooting incident between Senator James D. Fay and V.S. Ralls over Ralls’ daughter, Hannah.  It seems that Sen. Fay had employed Hannah as housekeeper, but she found her “duties” involved more than keeping house.  When Hannah gave birth to an illegitimate child, her father tracked Fay down.  Ralls found Fay in the Bella Union, accused him of the seduction of his daughter, and said that one of them must die.  Shooting commenced.  Fay sustained a flesh wound; Ralls mounted his horse and rode home.  Since Fay was a State Senator, the incident made headlines around Oregon. 

Although the notorious El Dorado Saloon had been the scene of many shootings and still thrived, apparently the Bella could not so easily brush off the scandal.  Breitbarth closed the saloon and moved to Portland.

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Express Saloon

When Beekman’s Express occupied the southwest corner of California and Oregon from 1856 to 1863, the location became known as “Express Corner.”  So it seems appropriate that the saloon that took over the old express building was known as the Express Saloon.  The Express Saloon was in operation no later than 1861 under the proprietorship of P.H. Lynch.  However, according to ads in the “Oregon Sentinel,” the saloon was located “next door to Beekman’s Express Office.” 

Lynch ran the saloon at least through October 1862 but is listed at year end as the proprietor of the notorious El Dorado Saloon.  By 1863, Beekman had built his new banking office kitty-cornered across the street from “Express Corner” and the Express Saloon occupied Beekman’s old express building.  Under the ownership of R.K. Myers & Co., the saloon advertised “the very best liquors” at 1863, not 1849, prices; “lunch” served at both 11 a.m. and 10 p.m.; and “ice in abundance.” 

By 1864, John Noland is running the saloon.  Although we have not located any ads for the Express Saloon after 1864, there are references to it and to “Express Saloon Corner” as late as 1866, and it appears on a hand drawn map of Jacksonville that dates to that time.

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Marble Corner Saloon

We’ve already mentioned that the intersection of Oregon and California streets was a popular crossroads for early Jacksonville saloons, with the notorious El Dorado Saloon, the New England Bowling Saloon, the Eagle Brewery, the Chieftain Saloon and the New State Billiard and Drinking Saloon congregated around that location. 

It seems the pattern persisted with one of the longest running tenants of the 1874 brick building that currently houses Scheffel’s Toys being home to the Marble Corner Saloon.  Also known as the Marble Arch Saloon, the saloon occupied the building from around 1890 to 1934.  The saloon was presumably named after the Jacksonville Marble Works which occupied the corner directly across North Oregon after the fire of 1888…or because the saloon’s recessed entryway was tiled with marble at roughly the same time. 

The 1912 photo shows owner and operator, Ed Dunnington, behind the Marble Corner Saloon bar.  We’re not sure how the saloon fared after prohibition was enacted—perhaps selling sarsaparilla?  After Dunnington threw in the towel, it became a confectionary known as the Chocolate Corner.  But it appears that we’re coming full cycle.  We understand the new owners of the “Corner Saloon” plan to open a wine tasting room.

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Railroad Saloon

Everyone looked forward to the coming of the railroad, knowing that it would make a big difference in their lives. In 1866, Congress had passed the Oregon & California Railroad Act which made 3,700,000 acres of land available for a company that built a railroad from Portland to San Francisco.  As the railroad inched its way south, local businesses tapped into the excitement, using the railroad theme as a marketing ploy. 

One such enterprising soul was Max Brentano (shown here).  No later than 1869 he had opened the Railroad Saloon at the corner of California and Oregon streets, that popular Jacksonville intersection that over the years earned the designation “saloon corner.”  Brentano titled himself the “engineer” and offered “through tickets” (i.e., drinks) for 12 ½ cents—even though it would be almost 2 decades before the railroad route over the Siskiyous was actually completed. 

Alas, the Railroad Saloon didn’t survive to see that completion although it lasted into the early 1880s with Henry Pape as proprietor.  Pape added a “reading room…well supplied with Eastern periodicals and leading papers of the Coast.”  But even such “travel luxuries” did not insure its longevity.  Perhaps when the railroad bypassed Jacksonville, the railroad marketing theme lost its allure…and its clientele.

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The Petards: Prohibition

Early settlers recognized the Rogue Valley’s potential for grape and wine production as early as the 1850s.  French-born Auguste Petard was a Johnny-come-lately to the scene, arriving around 1900.  Initially in search of gold, there was also land to be had—ideal for vineyards and winemaking, something he knew well from his native France.  His wife and sons joined him, and he purchased the hillside acreage next to the stream where Jacksonville gold was first discovered.   

By 1918, the Petards had planted 20 acres of grapevines on the slopes and produced a little red and white vin ordinaire.  Life was good.  But there was this strange English word, “prohibition.” Then in 1919, there was this Volstead Act. 

Rumors of the Petard’s “illegal wine” reached the members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.  They demanded the Sheriff act.  Armed with a search warrant, he discovered at least 600 gallons plus 50 quarts of wine.  Local ministers and 16 members of the W.C.T.U. gathered to watch the sheriff’s deputies bash the barrels with their axes and dump the wine on “schoolhouse hill.”  In 1922, $4,000 of Auguste’s wine soaked into the weeds of Bigham Knoll….

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Tending the Hops

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. Initially, these early brewmeisters would have grown their own hops, a flowering vine that is 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 were 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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