View of Rogue Valley from Wagner Butte

Ashland, Oregon Early History

ASHLAND DAILY TIDINGS                  
26 Feb 1927

      In browsing around at the library recently some interesting history of Ashland and Jackson county, giving some of the earlier business enterprise of the city was discovered and are repro­duced. Many of the names of early pioneers who built the foundation for the now beautiful and prosperous city, are familiar to those who now reside here. The captions on the various cuts that show some early Ashland scenes were furnished through the courtesy of F. W. Wagner.
      The early pioneers of the Rogue River valley have with singular unanimity and earnestness born witness to the sensa­tion with which their hearts were thrilled, when they first set eyes upon the fair region of their dreams.
Those tired and travel worn men and women had set out for the Pacific shore as for a land of promise, and throughout the long and terribly wearying journey had traveled slowly toward the setting sun, intent only upon reaching the country so often but dimly described, and from whence such romantic and charming accounts had come. The desolate never ending plains, the drouth, the imminence of death from thirst and hunger, and the ever present fear of hostile Indians, weighed upon the souls of even the strongest and many laid down their heavy burdens and sank to rest far from the goal they had struggled to reach. Perhaps there never lived a class of men and women of such a strong and self reliant character of those early pioneers.
Six Months Journey
     After the straits, to which a six months land journey across the most desolate part of north America had brought them, how welcome to their vision must have been the sight of the grassy plains, the wooded slopes, and tree fringed water courses of Southern Oregon. The country was one of primitive wilderness, yet of obvious fertility and production. The wild grasses grew in profusion, covering everywhere the land as with a garment of the softest and most luxuriant verdure. The rich soil, as yet unimpaired in fertility, sent up the stalks to the height of a man or of a horse. Wild berries flourished and the clear moun­tain streams, clear as glass, ran, unpolluted by the dirt from mines. The wild deer and elk, grazed undisturbed in the open meadow, or sought the shade of their leafy coverts and gazed out upon their quiet world. The hill tops, now mainly covered with dense thickets of manzanita, madrone and evergreen brush, were then devoid of bushes and trees because of the Indian habit of burning over the surface to remove obstructions to their seed and acorn gathering. In the streams roved the trout, the salmon trout and the salmon, a favorite sustenance of the Indians.
     Some scattered villages of natives formed the only fixed population of the beautiful Rogue River valley, which were lo­cated near Table Rock, on Ashland creek, Little Butte creek, and a few other points, where in after years they struggled manfully against the incoming tide of white settlers.
Such was the aspect of the lovely valley of Rogue river when first beheld by the immigrants at the close of their arduous journey. The current of emigration which, settling at first for the vale of the Willamette, had been partially diverted toward the gold fields of California, suffered a still further change by the beginning of 1852, when the gold placers of the Rogue River country were discovered and the town of Jacksonville was founded.
     In the year of its discovery a considerable number of people entered Oregon, passing through the Rogue river valley the line of travel entering at the head of Bear Creek and following the old California and Oregon trail from the Siskiyous down Bear creek to the Rogue river.
In 1851 began the settlement of Jackson county, or more properly speaking, it then began to be looked upon as a possible home for settlers. In the spring and summer of that year three houses or stations became occupied permanently by white men, these being the three ferries on Rogue river, namely, Long's, Evans' and Perkins'.
     Shortly after, Judge A. A. Skinner came to the valley in pursuance of his duties as Indian agent and took up his residence southeast of Table Rock, on a donation claim, supposed to have been the first taken in Jackson county, or in the whole Rogue river valley, for that matter. His house was the first built on Bear creek and was a small log structure. With Judge Skinner resided the government interpreter, Chesley Gray. Moses Hopwood came with his family and settled upon the well known Hopwood farm on Bear creek. Several other settlers came in at nearly the same time, and early in the year 1852 Judge Rice occupied the location next to Skinner's and brought his wife and small family, the lady probably being the second of her sex to locate permanently in the valley. Mrs. Lawless possessed the distinction of being the first white woman settler, coming some time in 1852. In December 1851 Stone and Poyntz took up their land claims at the crossing of Bear creek.
At the upper end of the valley the Mountain House claim was taken up and here resided Barron, Russell and Gibbs. On the Tolman place were Patrick Dunn, Thomas Smith and Frederick Alber­ding. The following white persons were residing in the valley on New Year's day, 1852: Major Barron, John Gibbs, Russell, Thomas Smith, Patrick Dunn, Frederick Alberding (R. B. Hargadine came to Ashland in January) Samuel Colver, Judge Skinner, Chesley Gray, Sykes and two others residing at Skinners; Moses Hopwood and two sons, N. C. Dean, Bills and son, Davis Evans and one or two others at Evans' ferry; Perkins and probably one assistant. Total, 27 or 28 persons, all males.
In January 1852, the placers on Jackson creek were disco­vered by Sykes, Cluggage, Pool and others and there began active progress and development of this county. The seat of trade and activity was Jacksonville.
     A great many land claims were taken up in the year 1852, and nearly all the bottom lands of Bear creek and vicinity were claimed, and a large number of settlers had gathered here and found occupation. In the following year, 159 wagons came to this valley, via the southern route, accompanied by 400 men, 120 women and 170 children. These pioneers brought 2600 cattle, 1300 sheep, 140 loose horses and 40 mules.
     Jackson county was organized by an act of the legislature passed January 12, 1852 and its affairs were managed by a board and one of its first acts was the establishment of a precinct at Emery & Co's. sawmill at Ashland.
     By 1854 two flouring mills upon Bear Creek were built, one by the Thomas Bros., and the other by Helman, Emery & Morris of Ashland, which later was owned and conducted by Jacob Wagner.
     The town of Ashland was incorporated October 13, 1874 having then a population of 300. The first officers were: Jacob Wagner, F. W. Ewing, J. R. Tozer and H. C. Hill, trustees; C. K. Klum, recorder; W. C. Daly, marshall; and J. M. McCall, treasurer.
     On the sixth of January 1852, R. B. Hargadine and Pease settled on the land recently known as the Applegate farm, but now occupied by the railway depot buildings. On the eleventh of the same month, Eben Emery, Dowd Farley, J. A. Cardwell, A. D. Hell­man and A. M. Rogers, also came and settled near by.
     The first house built was the dwelling of Hargadine and Pease. The second was the sawmill built by Eben Emory, J. B. Emery, J. A. Cardwell and Dowd Farley.
It was commenced in February 1852 and finished June 16 of that year at a cost of $8,000 in money and labor, and was named the "Ashland Sawmill" in honor of Ashland, Ohio, Mr. Helman's former home, and also in honor of the home of Henry Clay, Ash­land, Kentucky, the majority of the company being Whigs. The third building was the residence of A. D. Hellman and the fourth that of Eben Emery.
In 1854 the Ashland flouring mills were built by A. D. Hellman, Eben Emery, J. B. Emery and M. B. Norris at a cost of $15,000 and were dedicated by a grand ball on the night of August 25 of that year. These mills became the nucleus of the coming city, which, was now laid out, with the mills occupying the south side of the plaza, around which part of the business of the town is now built, and the name of the sawmill "Ashland" was transferred to the town. Simultaneously with the mills the first blacksmith shop was built by the mill company.
Quite a number of other buildings were soon erected, as follows: A hotel, by J. R. Foster; a butcher shop, by Marion Westgall; carpenter and cabinet shop, by Buckingham and Williams; a wagon shop, by John Sheldon and a store by R. B. Hargadine.
     Ashland school district number 5, was now organized and the first school was taught near the residence of Mrs. Erb two miles east of Ashland, by the Rev. Myron Stearns. The first school of the town proper, was taught in the house of Eben Emery in the year 1854 5, by Miss Lizzie Anderson, who later became the wife of Gen. McCall.
     Nothing more of special interest transpired until April 5, 1853, when Dr. Sisson was killed. This homicide is a dark page in the history of Ashland, and cast a shadow over the community which was not easily dispelled. Many theories regarding the crime were advanced, but the murderer was never apprehended nor the cause of the assassination brought to light.
     The hotel known as the "Ashland House" was built in the year 1859, by Eben Emery at a cost of $3,000, by whom it was kept for 10 years and then sold to Jasper Houck for $6,000.
The first public school house was built in 1867 on a lot donated by R. B. Hargadine. It was a substantial frame building 18 by 20 feet on a solid foundation of cut stone, at a cost of $2,000.
      In this new building a school of nine months in each year was taught by the best instructors the country afforded, from whence 250 scholars in its several departments, drew their educa­tions.
The next enterprise was the marble sawmill and ships built by James H. Russell in the years 1865 and 1869 for the purpose of utilizing the native marbles of the country. To Ashland belongs the credit of the first marble works in Oregon south of Portland. The sawing department of this mill was destroyed by fire in 1879.
      The planing mills and cabinet shops of Marsh & Company were projected and partly built by H. S. Emery in 1868. In 1874, they were purchased by Messrs Marsh and Vaupel for $1,400.
      The Ashland college and normal school was inaugurated in 1869, at a quarterly conference of the Methodist Episcopal church held at Ashland in June of that year. Rev. C. Alderson, President of this meeting, proposed the enterprise. Plans and specifications were made out by the Rev. J. W. Kuykendall and a contract was closed with Messrs Blake and Emery for the erection of the building. Before its completion, however, funds failed and the enterprise was suspended. In 1872, Reverend J. H. Skid­more, by the help of many friends, completed and furnished the building and commenced the school as a private enterprise. Heavy debts so embarrassed him that he was obliged to turn the school over to his creditors, from whom it was redeemed in 1878 by its friends and placed again under the supervision of the above church as a college and normal school. Professor L. L. Roger, A. M., was chosen president. Unforeseen complications, however, arising, it was soon in the dust of humility; patrons forsook it, friends became disheartened and Rogers resigned his position. Though the case now seemed almost hopeless, the trustees resolved to make one more trial and on August 26, 1882, Rev. M. G. Royal, A. M., was appointed to the management and since his installation the course of the school was onward and upward, and the state made it a branch of its normal school system.
      The Ashland Woolen Mills was originally established by a joint stock company, consisting of 30 members with J. M. McCall as the leader. It was inaugurated in 1868, under the name of the Rogue River Woolen Manufacturing company with J. M. McCall as president; C. K. Klum, secretary and John Daly, superintendent. The mill was completed and equipped with one set of cards, one spinning jack, four looms, and some machinery at a cost of $32,000. It was sold after three years to G. N. Marshall and Charles Goodchild. During the second year of this administration James Thornton became a partner in the business and in 1878 he bought the entire stock of the concern. In the same year W. H. Atkinson, Jacob Wagner and E. K. Anderson became partners with Mr. Thornton, when the name was changed to "Ashland Woolen Manu­facturing Company." In 1881 Mr. Wagner retired and Capt. J. M. McCall again became interested in the business.
     The planing mill and cabinet shop of Daly & Co. was built in 1878 at a cost of $3,000. It was situated at the junction of Mechanic and Helman streets, and the power used was the water of Ashland creek, acting on a turbine wheel. The proprietors were W. C. Daly, J. R. Tozer and H. S. Emery.
The extensive nursery of Orlando Coolidge was established in 1868, and was the most extensive of its kind in Southern Oregon. It contained almost all varieties of fruits, nuts, shrubs, flo­wers and ornamental trees to be found on the coast.
    The public library was organized in December, 1879, under the name of the Ashland library and reading room, of which J. M. McCall, M. Baum, W. H. Atkinson, W. A. Wilshire, James Thornton, H. C. Hill, J. P. Walker, H. T. Chitwood, W. H. Leeds, W. Nichols and others were members.
      The Ashland bank was incorporated Feb. 9, 1884 with a capi­tal stock of $50,000. The incorporators were J. M. McCall, W. H. Atkinson and H. B. Carter.
Population of the town in 1854 was 25; in 1864 was 50; in 1874 was 300 and in 1884 it was 1000, and probably no town in Oregon has evinced such refined and elevated sentiment as Ash­land.