The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1871

See also Theodor Kirchhoff's account of his travel through the Rogue Valley in 1871.

Jackson County--Its Agricultural and Mineral Resources.
    The open valley of the Rogue River is forty miles long by about ten miles wide. (The estimate, it will be observed, does not include the long line of valley extending from Rock Point to the boundary between Jackson and Josephine.) From the foothills of Little Butte to Jacksonville the width is not far from twenty miles; but from this central point it grows gradually narrower each way so that the average is materially cut down and will not exceed the figures above named. The best and most important part of what is called Rogue River Valley is not Rogue River Valley at all, and no sane man, conversant with the facts in the case, could be induced for a moment to believe it to be such; the inconsistency of such a supposition is too glaring and its fallacy too plain and palpable. And, though it should be proved beyond a peradventure that this river was the feeder of the great lake which, at one time, occupied its site, it does not necessarily follow that [it] formed or even assisted in forming the basin or receptacle into which its waters were discharged; but, on the contrary, the lay of the valley, its altitude, together with the adverse direction of the river, must conclusively prove that it did not, and could not in any conceivable way or by any conceivable route or means form the great valley which lies to the southeast [of it]. It is not, therefore, properly Rogue River Valley. Mary's River--better known as Bear Creek--flows the entire length of the valley, issuing from the Siskiyous and discharging into Rogue River. This stream divides the valley as near centrally as could have been done by the most competent surveyor. Let us "render under Caesar the things which are Caesar's," and unto this river that which is due it. Bear Creek or Mary's River Valley, and Rogue River, so far as this little honor [sic] is concerned, must take a back seat. The same may be said of Dry Creek, Antelope, Butte and Sams Valley, not one of which could be strictly called a valley of Rogue River. While the lower part of Sams Valley might claim this honor the upper part must indignantly deny it, and a "house divided against itself must fall." At best, we may write Rogue River's claim to this valley is--doubtful. The valley of Rogue River, taken in the strict sense of the term, in comparison with the valleys above mentioned--though there are many rich and valuable farms along its bank--is exceedingly limited and unimportant. It does not represent a tithe of the fertile land of this noble valley.
    By examination it will be found that the valley, so far as regards its soil, is divided into three divisions. All that part of the valley lying east of Rogue River and north of Bear Creek may be included in division 1st. This division presents a peculiarity of soil not found anywhere else in the valley. Here we find the noted "big sticky," a tough, gluey and tenacious kind of clay and loam mixed. The nature of this soil is such as to adhere with incorrigible obstinacy to everything brought within its reach, and won't let go worth a c-c-cent. Almost every foot of the upland of this division, in times past--and not very remote either--was a barren desert incapable of producing the lightest vegetation. Its reclamation is of comparatively recent date, and may be attributed solely to the wash of the hills that bound it on the east. This supposition approaches certainty, and may be satisfactorily proven. 1st--by a comparison of the valley soil with that of the hills. Second--by the fact that a large area lying along Rogue River and reaching towards the hills is yet totally desert, the wash not having yet reached it. Third--the unusual susceptibility of the soil to the motion of water. The whole region from Reese Creek to the Siskiyous is more or less cut up with drains or niches; and in some places these washes are so numerous and deep that stock hunters, unacquainted with the passes, experience great difficulty, and not infrequently delay, in finding a practical crossing. Now if these ditches were only seasonal, or confined to any particular locality in the given distance, they might be regarded as proving nothing; but on the contrary, along every little hollow, inclination or watershed of any kind, [water] has made its mark; and some of these "marks" are eight to ten feet deep and six or eight miles long.
    This whole side hill, from opposite Phoenix to its termination on the desert, is one succession of slides, and some of them, even now, so well defined as to be distinctly observable at a distance of five or six miles. Should the Butte Creek Ditch, now talked of, ever be built it will probably cross this spur (of the Siskiyou) east of the rocky butte, hence along the south side in a southeasterly direction, crossing the valley somewhere in the vicinity of Ashland. There is no enterprise, unless of a like nature, that would so speedily develop the resources of the country as the building of this ditch if found to be practicable. This division of the valley, though regarded as less valuable for farming purposes than either of the others, the fact is due, mainly, to the great difficulty experienced in working it--it will "stick"; yet wheat, oats and barley, when the season is favorable for working this peculiar soil, yield well, the average of wheat being about seventeen bushels per acre; oats and barley thirty per acre. When any attention is paid to gardening, vegetables rarely fail, and this part of the valley, if any difference, is superior in this respect to the black loam lying south of Bear Creek. Fruit has never as yet been fairly tested; and though there are a goodly number of young and promising orchards here and there, but little fruit, comparatively, is grown in this division. The whole district is well watered, produces excellent grass, and offers every facility for an easily accumulation or growth of stock with little or no expense. It will be found that this fact alone furnishes the key to the prosperity and independence of the many sterling citizens of this section.
    Several years ago a vein or bed of coal was discovered in the foothills north of Bear Creek, but on account of the superior attractions of gold, it was only sufficiently developed to prove the fact that it was veritable coal; and being tested by some of the 'smiths of this place, was pronounced first-rate. A notice in the Sentinel, at the time of its discovery, gave it as "anthracite coal of a good quality."
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, April 8, 1871, page 2

    The following we take from the S.F. Bulletin of Sept. 15th. It is from the pen of Mr. Hugh Small, a gentleman of culture, who has recently visited this section of country:
JACKSONVILLE, Aug. 31, 1871.       
    The greatest canyon at the head of the Umpqua Valley south is a marvelous work of nature. It is at least ten miles long, and the mountains on each side, all the way, average some hundreds of feet high, heavily timbered on the highest point. The road is very narrow in some places, the inclines are steep and precipitous, but good horses and a competent driver gives an assurance of safety. I passed through this canyon by moonlight; it presented an aspect of wild, natural boldness and grandeur that was solemn and impressive.
    The head of the canyon leads from Douglas into Jackson County, over the Rogue River Mountains, a rather tedious, rough and tiresome ascending and descending, but the reward is ample in beholding the fertile valleys below that manifest signs of rich, productive soil and abundant crops. The Rogue River is of inestimable value to Jackson County. It runs through the entire county, and from it proceeds numerous branches widely distributed, and into it flow numerous tributaries, and out of the mountain ranges are constantly running a vast number of springs of delightful water.
    Along Little Butte Creek, Big Butte Creek, Antelope Creek, Stuart's Creek [i.e., Bear Creek] and many others of a similar character are valleys of great beauty and richness, producing crops of wheat, oats and barley equal in quantity and quality to any in Oregon. This famous river has its rise in the Cascade Range, and runs into the Pacific Ocean, distributing in its course fertility, richness and beauty. The country is distinguished for, and is especially adapted for, grazing, but its numerous valleys, large and small, are equally suitable for agricultural purposes.
    The reason why its agricultural resources have not been more fully developed is simply for want of a market beyond the local wants. The nearest port for hauling wheat for shipment is Crescent City, 120 miles distant. The price of wheat would not pay the inland freight alone, and therefore shipping wheat has been abandoned long since. Shipping for some time has been confined to wool and bacon, which have paid well, the former for many years, and the latter last season in particular. The climate of Jackson County is highly favorable to the production of
    I have seen and examined a number of large fields of corn as good and abundant as I ever saw in any of the eastern states, and very little behind the yield of many of the western states. Between corn, wheat and acorns, the raising of hogs in Jackson County will continue to be great and profitable. Chicago and the West may pour in their bacon, hams and hogs into the San Francisco market, but when the Oregon and California railway reaches this country, the farmers and merchants will continue to compete successfully with them. The farmers of Oregon say that all they want is a clear stage, fair play and convenient market, and they will hold their own with any on wheat and flour, hogs, ham and bacon, cattle, sheep and wool.
    I have visited several vineyards in the neighborhood of Jacksonville, and I have found them in a very favorable condition, laden with every variety of grapes. Some of these vineyards are from ten to fifty acres in extent, and are being cultivated extensively. One of the small vineyards produced 700 gallons of wine last year. The soil, climate and foothills of Jackson County are admirably adapted for grapes. There is now no doubt in the minds of intelligent men here but that this country will be as distinguished for vines and grapes, peaches and figs, almonds and apples, pears and plums, cherries and currants, as it is for the production of herds and flocks, wool and hogs.
    Is a town of considerable importance. It has a population of 800. The whole aspect of the place indicates business, life and trade. There are a number of large stores, fine houses, neat cottages and good public buildings, such as the county courthouse, churches, private schools, and above all a first-class public school, and a fine academy just being finished. There are the usual number of professional gentlemen; a fair percentage of them are distinguished in their line. The town enjoyed great prosperity during the early discovery from 1852 onwards. Now it is depending almost wholly upon the rich and prosperous agricultural and grazing districts of the county.
    The limited fall of rain during the winter, and the dry summers for the last three years, have rendered gold mining unprofitable, and will continue so until a sufficient supply of water from some quarter can be obtained. Placer, hydraulic and quartz mining were very productive from 1852 till 1866 in the neighborhood of Jacksonville and the surrounding districts. During that time more than $15,000,000 were taken out of these mines. Some of these mines are still wrought to advantage during the winter months, but the great majority of them are useless at present, for want of water. There is an abundance of water in the river and lakes of the county, but the expense in cutting a ditch to secure a supply would be considerable. There is plenty of capital in Jacksonville to accomplish this desirable object. All that is wanted is an experienced, competent and energetic leader to head such a movement, to call out the individual and united cooperation of the wealthy and intelligent men of this town and county to organize a company for this purpose.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, September 23, 1871, page 2

(From the Willamette Farmer.)
    Table Rock Valley comprises that portion of country in Jackson County north of Rogue River, in the vicinity of Table Rock. The arable land contained therein is about equal to the Boise Creek Valley, in the same county; but being separated from the main thoroughfare, it has heretofore attracted but little notice. The expectation that the railroad will pass east of Table Rock has caused much excitement of late. Parties, mostly speculators, have gobbled up the best portion of the country. Yet there remains much good land subject to preemption or homestead.
    The time is not far distant when there will be extensive and valuable improvements in this part of Jackson County. It is contemplated to extend a water ditch of sufficient capacity for manufacturing and irrigating purposes from Hamar's ferry, on Rogue River, to the mouth of Sams Creek, a distance of about 25 miles. This done, it will open up to agriculture a large section of land which is now comparatively of little value, besides creating water power for mills and machinery to any extent desired.
    The timber upon the mountains, north of the valley, is not excelled in the state.
    Coal of excellent quality has been found in several localities, and is supposed to exist in large deposits; but little prospecting has been done, however, as yet, to develop that valuable mineral.
    Grazing is the principal occupation and yields better returns for the capital invested than any other employment.
    It is not necessary for me to say that Jackson County is the banner county this year for its yield of cereals, in proportion to the amount. Some corn in Table Rock Valley will compare favorably with the best crops in Iowa or Missouri.
    I think the climate in Southern Oregon much better than in the Willamette for those who have weak lungs. There is less cloudy weather in winter, and perhaps a few degrees colder. The summers are much like the Willamette.
    The White Sulphur Springs in Sams Valley (a portion of Table Rock Valley, situated at the west of lower Table Rock) possesses rare medical properties, and in time will be a favorite resort for invalids. The health has been excellent for the past year, very few cases of sickness having occurred in this portion of Jackson County.
    I would suggest to those who wish to try a different climate from the Willamette and escape from the rain and fogs there, and dread the severe cold of Eastern Oregon, to try this part of the state. All kinds of produce being abundant and cheap. Peaches, apples, pears, plums and grapes grow well here. Game in the mountains is easily captured, giving pastime to the sportsmen. Let me say, in conclusion, to those who are seeking homes, health or amusement, come and see us.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, October 14, 1871, page 1

Last revised December 17, 2013