ASHLAND TIDINGS 31 OCTOBER 1884
REMINISCENCES OF OLD DAYS
Notes and Reminiscences of a Pioneer Who Has Recently Visited
Wagner Creek After a Long Absense.
Talent, Oregon, Oct. 21, 1884
After many years I have again visited my old home in the "classic precincts" of Wagner creek, and I was so much surprised at the changes that have taken place in the last few years that I thought I would give vent to my feelings by writing you a narrative as it were, of my trip.
Be it remembered that some twenty five years ago I resided on Wagner creek, when A. G. Rockfellow, George W. Rockfellow, Jacob Wagner, John M. McCall, James Thornton and O. Coolidge, all of your flourishing city at the present time, were then residents of Wagner creek, which derived its name from Hon. Jacob Wagner, who was among the first pioneer residents of the creek, and who was proprietor of old Fort Wagner, which afforded a home and shelter for many of the earlier pioneers. Well, on a beautiful morning in the last days of September I journeyed from your town on the old stage road. As I passed the old Eagle Mills, my memory reverted to the time when Thomas & Bros., with energy and enterprise, were running a business here, employing more than fifty laborers, keeping a hotel, store, blacksmith shop, mill and a distillery. The latter business proved a bane to all the other enterprises, all the employees becoming victims to the product of the still, and even at last the older Thomas died a resident of the poor house, and his younger brother a most painful death. I understand the property is now in reasonably flourishing condi tion, under the direction of Mrs. Farnham, the widow of the late A. F. Farnham, whom I well knew in the early mining days of Salmon river, across the line.
Progressing down the road I passed the Warm springs, where the line of the O.& C.R.R. winds around the rocky points at dizzy height. In early days, when driving the patient pack mules on the trail over these same points of rock, if any one had told me the steam horse would puff heavy trains of cars, carrying more in one car than one hundred mules could pack, I certainly would have thought him as foolish as I should a man now who would tell me that some day man will navigate the air like the birds. Jogging along, I passed the former home of O. Coolidge, where I learned a gentleman named Wm. Patton now lives. Here I see great improvement in the way of clearing land and planting fruit trees. Before coming to the Coolidge place I saw a dwelling and orchard where I understand Father Kilgore, a staunch old friend in days of yore, has located to spend in quiet retirment his declining years. May they be long, as also those of his good wife. I also notice that the old Dennis Crowley diggings give evidence of extensive mining operations, likewise the old French diggings where there appears to be a large hydraulic pipe crossing the stage road and Bear creek, conveying water from the Ashland mining ditch, to wash the dirt somewhat faster than the three Frenchmen used to do, when carrying it in buckets to Bear creek and washing it out with an old fashioned rocker. I learned that E. K. Anderson (Joe Anderson, my Joe, as we used to call him over in Siskiyou, in the long, long ago) is the principal proprietor, as also of the Charley Boxley, and Forty nine diggings below Wagner creek. Ah! well do I remember when Jack Walker and Charley Cummings, made the first clean up in what is known as the Forty nine diggings. They got all their pans, frying pans, pots, camp kettles, and everything about the camp, full of amalgam, and pronounced the diggings as rich as any struck in 1849; and so that is the way the diggings derived its name.
Leaving the Coolidge place I soon came to Wagner creek and to what used to be the Rockfellow place, but I had to be told by an old settler that this was the place. I was not sure myself. The scenery had changed so new buildings, new fences, and trees and brush grubbed out and fruit trees and locust trees growing in their place. The first half dozen persons I met and asked if this is the Rockfellow place said, "No, it is the Helms place." They told me James Helms had lived there ever since they knew the place. One person finally told me it was the old Thornton place, but I knew better than that, for the old Thornton place was higher up the creek. I finally met an old gentleman, an acquaintance of former years, Father John Holton. (He did not know me,) and he told me "yes, this is where the Rockfellows used to live, but James Helms lives here now, and over across there is the site of old Fort Wagner, and the Wagner farm." It is all divided up now and is being covered with houses, forming quite a village. I crossed the bridge and found new buildings in every direction. I find Wm. H. Breese, recently from Iowa, is building a blacksmith shop almost on the identical spot where poor old Jim Clarkson of Yreka had the first blacksmith shop in all this county. Poor Jim now sleeps the last sleep, with many others of those earlier times. I went to try to find the exact place where the picket of the Fort stood. The only sign left was the mound where the old fire place of Jacob Wagner's hospitable log cabin used to stand. Near by is a fine residence which I understand was erected by Esq. H. Root, a more recent owner, now residing in Ashland. The present occupant is a gentleman by name of James Hemmer, recently from California, who has purchased three acres of the old Wagner orchard and is preparing to put a dwelling up soon. He seems to be a very pleasant gentleman, but could give no information in regard to any of the old settlers. He said that a Mr. A. P. Talent owned the property where we were talking and that he was proprietor of the store and several acres of land which he was selling off in lots to suit purchasers. I went to the store which I found situated on the high ground just west of the old Fort site. Mr. Talent seems to be a real, live business man. Such a resident is a benefit to any neighborhood. He seems to think that eventually the railroad will see the necessity of a side track at this point and will put one in. I understand that parties on Wagner creek are about to take a contract to furnish a thousand or more cords of wood here for the use of the railroad. I spent an hour here very pleasantly, during which time I could hear the mechanics' saw and hammers on half a dozen different houses in course of construction.
I started up the lane leading up the creek, but nothing looked natural until I came to the conical shaped roof of the dwelling of my old friend, Welborn Beeson, who is the second person I had as yet seen of by gone acquaintances. I found him drying fruit with the assistance of several neighbors. He did not recognize me at first, but on my telling him who I was appeared glad to see me and immediately made me feel at home with that same open hospitality for which he and his mother were noted in former times.
By the way, I found Welborn's father residing with him, a gentleman I never had happened to meet before, but had heard of always, in fact, he has a wide reputation as being the friend of humanity, especially of the Indian. I find him an intelligent and spry old gentleman in his eighty third year, still writing on his favorite subjects. He seems to have a comfortable home with his son in his declining years, and nothing to occupy his mind but humanity's good and progression. Welborn gave me a great deal of information in regard to old friends. He tells me that the Robison family and Uncle David Stearns and Uncle John Holton and himself are all that are left of the former residents on Wagner creek. I afterwards met Auntie Robison, who is living with one of her sons. Although she did not know me I remembered her with a full heart, knowing the many kind acts she had done for the neighbors in all the section around, during cases of sickness and suffering she was younger no such her knowledge, but with all the kindness and sympathy a noble woman could bestow, and hundreds have felt the benefit of her presence at the sick bed. If she should ever be sick or suffer ing, it is to be hoped some one will return the kindness ten fold.
I also met my old friends D. W. Brittain and wife who now live on Wagner creek. He is somewhat noted as being one of the survivors of the Indian attack on Siskiyou mountains in 1855. He wisely took the poet's advice to "run away and live to fight another day."
Well, Mr. Editor, this letter is much longer than I had intended to write, and as I could write as much more on the school and improvements and about the new acquaintances and my visit to E. K. Anderson's, etc., perhaps, if this is worth pub lishing, I will write again. I will close and sign myself the
(Note: The are unreadable parts of the newspaper)
[A search through the 1884 Welborn Beeson diary has not yet revealed who this "prodigal son" was ]