8th Street has simple, historic homes built in the early 1900s, lovely gardens, and several dramatic trees. It’s on the eastern edge of the Railroad Addition Historic District.
Early Ashland was Very Small
Before 1883, the city of Ashland was very small. Heading northwest from the plaza, the town extended only a few blocks to either side of Main Street as far as Wimer Street. Heading southeast on Main Street from the plaza, it became farmland after only two blocks.
Adding the first Railroad Addition building plots in late 1883 was a major increase in the size of the town. Town leaders saw the need for this when construction of the railroad south from Portland was nearly finished. The second section of the Railroad Addition, up to 8th Street, was added in 1888, after the railroad tracks connecting Oregon and California were completed.
Impact of the Railroad
Due to Ashland’s site at the base of the long Siskiyou Mountain range, Southern Pacific Railroad made Ashland both a train stop and a maintenance yard. According to the Ashland Tidings of January 4, 1889: “Ashland is the eating station for all passenger trains and a thirty minute stop is made here by every train.” Dozens of new railroad workers chose to build, buy or rent homes in the Railroad District near the train station. Mostly due to the coming of the railroad, Ashland’s population more than doubled between 1880 and 1890, from 842 to 1,784.
Now Let’s Walk 8thStreet
Let’s walk 8th Street now. We will start at the Rogue Valley Roasting Company at the corner of 8th and East Main Streets, then head north towards A Street.
The first house on the right is 92 8th Street. It was built as a rental house about 1909 for Mrs. Lou Reader, the wife of a prominent Ashland doctor.
In 1930, John and Callie Winters purchased this house. They owned the grocery store right next door at the corner of 8th and East Main Streets, so they didn’t have far to go from home to work! This corner store was later Johnson’s East Main Market, owned by Swede Johnson. Many current Ashland residents remember stopping by Swede’s store as children on their way home from Lincoln School or the Junior High School. The former small grocery is now the site of the Rogue Valley Roasting Company business.
Garden of the Month
Across C Street on your right, you will come to Ashland Garden Club’s September 2019 Garden of the Month.
Ruth Sloan of the Garden Club wrote: “By September, most gardens are starting to fade, at least, and some are downright shabby. But not Kelly and Jeff Straub’s gorgeous place at 110 8th Street. Kelly’s diligent work shows to good advantage all year. She keeps the planting areas well groomed, and always a delight to see with blooming plants.”
Ruth Sloan continued: “A special quality of this property is that the “parking strip” (the area between the sidewalk and the street) is especially wide, making the sidewalk appear to go right through the heart of the front and side yards. This does two things: It makes the parking strip more versatile as a desirable planting space and it also makes pedestrians feel a part of the garden. Being a block from a popular coffee shop also increases foot traffic, and Kelly enjoys interacting with passersby as she works in the garden. Understandably, she gets a lot of positive feedback.”
When you take a break from admiring the garden, look at the historic house. Built in 1905, it is known as the Engwicht-McMillan house.
George Engwicht, a conductor for the Southern Pacific Railroad, built the house in 1905. He sold the house in 1908 to another railroad employee, A.A. Conger. Conger lived there only one year.
In 1909, Alexander and Eva McMillan moved from Montana to Ashland and bought this house. Mr. McMillan was born in Scotland in 1850 and came to the United States as a small child. In the early 1900s, he owned a sheep ranch in Montana. The sale of the sheep ranch gave the McMillans enough money to buy 110 8th Street and retire in Ashland. Alexander McMillan lived in the house until 1932, when he died at the age of 81. Eva McMillan continued to live here until her death in 1950.
117 8th Street
Across the street, behind a hedge and lush foliage, is a hidden historic house with a large garden. Known as the Osmer and Lila Long house, it was built around 1901. Osmer Long was a brakeman for the railroad. So far in just the first three houses on 8th Street, we already know of a railroad conductor, a brakeman and another railroad employee who have lived in these houses. Yes, this is the “Railroad District.”
130 and 132 8th Street
Built about 1904, the first owners of 130 8th Street were not railroad employees. One was a painter, the second a plumber. The architecture of this house is considered to be vernacular bungalow style.
You can see similar architecture in the house next door, built – or possibly moved to this location – in 1948.
143 8th Street
Across the street is a dramatic old American sycamore tree (or plane tree), in front of the oldest house on 8th Street. 143 8th Street was built about 1890, and its best-known owner was Caleb Porter, a conductor for Southern Pacific. The Porter family owned the house for about 50 years, until 1955.
The house has been beautifully restored at some point in recent years. I enjoy the vine being trained around the front windows into what my eyes see as a heart shape.
155 and 156 8th Street
The house at 155 8th Street was built about 1903. The builders added a few Queen Anne elements to the basic vernacular style of the time.
Elmer Harrington worked on trains at the Southern Pacific roundhouse in Ashland. He built the house at 156 8th Street in 1907, but for some reason he sold the house the very next year.
248 8th Street
I like the way this tree, garden and house complement each other. It is a large, 1990s Craftsman style house that is designed to fit into the historic neighborhood. To me, the tree feels like part of the house. Take a look and see if you see this too.
8th and B Streets Yard Art
Though this house has a B Street address, the yard art along 8th Street is too good to pass by without a smile and admiration for the creative spirit.
286 8th Street
I am impressed by the healthy wisteria vine that was planted at the base of this large tree. Wisteria vines are normally trained to grow along a roofline or a fence. I have never seen one climbing a tree like this one does.
8th Street ends at A Street and Railroad Park, where you can find a lot more history. To read about the history of the railroad in Ashland, go to this article.
Many of the homes on 8th Street are at least 100 years old and have seen the march of time bring many periods of boom and bust to the Railroad District. Architects describe most of the older homes in the Railroad District as the “vernacular” style. Vernacular might be called a non-style style. Here is a more technical definition. “Its meaning is flexible according to the situation; but in essence, ‘vernacular’ means an unaffected, unselfconscious, unaccented way of building….it is the use of architectural style without being conscious of style.. .(Gowans, 1986:41)” [from the National Register of Historic Places, Ashland Railroad Addition Historic District, 5/6/1999, Section 7, page 2]
As the homes were being built on 8th Street, a business district was also built near the intersection of A Street and 4th Street, just four blocks away. By 1890, residents of 8th Street could find nearby a grocery, a stable, restaurants, lodging houses, even saloons. I will have several articles about 4th Street coming up soon at WalkAshland.com.
If you love gardens, I would encourage you to join me as a member of the Ashland Garden Club. You can learn about the Garden Club and find the link to their membership form here at the club home page.
What is the mystery of the Peerless Hotel marbles? To find out, you have to delve into the early and more recent history of 243 4th Street in Ashland, Oregon. Now the Peerless Hotel, you can see from the sign painted on the alley side of the building that this building was once the Peerless Rooms. With fourteen small 10′ by 10′ rooms and one common bathroom, Peerless Rooms was one of several inexpensive boarding houses in the early 1900s Railroad District. Its roomers included single male railroad workers, traveling salesmen, a few single women, and local loggers looking for a monthly shower plus a comfortable bed.
When Southern Pacific shut down most passenger railway service in 1927, the Railroad District fell into a decades-long decline. So when Crissy Barnett Donovan bought the Peerless Rooms building in December 1990, it had been long vacant and was falling apart. Crissy acted as her own general contractor and undertook a huge 3-year renovation project.
She was able to save and renovate the original doors, windows and most of the interior woodwork. This was important because it allowed her to have the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and for another surprising reason I will come to in a moment.
During renovation, they had to excavate a foot below the ground-level floor to meet current code for adequate space below the floor. The only historical objects found in the excavated dirt were many glass and clay marbles, the kind kids may have played with 100 years ago. Crissy theorizes that children played with marbles on the wooden floor of the front room, and some fell through cracks.
Speaking of marbles, they reappeared in Crissy’s life a few months later. The floors were back in place, but the original tall baseboard along the walls was still missing so you could see through that empty space to the floor of the next room.
Toward the end of a workday, lost in thought, Crissy assumed she was alone in the building as she walked through the downstairs rooms. She perked up as she heard the sound of a marble rolling nearby on a wood floor. She looked down through the missing baseboard area and saw, in the next room, a large marble rolling on the floor. She thought to herself, “One of the workers must still be here,” and went through the door into the next room. No worker, no one, no marble, just an empty room. It was a mystery.
Late in the renovation process, standing in an upstairs room, she got into a heated discussion with her historical consultant. Suddenly both of them heard the loud “Crack!” just like the sound of a marble that had been thrown hard hitting the floor right next to them. Startled, they looked around…and saw nothing. The tension between them dissolved in that moment. Yet the mystery deepened.
Fast forward to May 1994. With renovation complete, Crissy held an all-day open house for members of the Ashland community to walk through all the rooms of the Peerless Hotel before the first guests arrived. During the afternoon, Crissy noticed a white-haired, elderly woman who was spending a long time in the upstairs rooms. Toward the end of the open house, the elderly woman approached Crissy privately. She said to Crissy, “Do you know you have a friend?” A bit confused by the question, Crissy responded, “I hope I have a lot of friends.”
The woman chuckled and continued, “What I mean is you have a friend here in the Peerless and her name is Amelia. She is a spirit here and she told me she is very happy with what you have done with the building.” The elderly woman went on to tell Crissy that the spirit-Amelia was a young woman with red hair who had lived in the Peerless Rooms for many years when it was a boarding house.
Hearing this, Crissy was in a bit of shock. Since she had already felt the presence of the playful spirit twice through the sight and sound of marbles, it kind of made sense. Though Crissy did tell me, “I am generally skeptical and I wouldn’t believe it if it hadn’t happened to me.” Crissy assured me (as she would assure all who are reading this) that Amelia is not a scary spirit but has only been playful in all of her appearances.
Crissy has received praise for her beautiful renovation from the Ashland Historic Commission, from the National Register of Historic Places and from many Ashland friends. But the most memorable praise for her dedication to the legacy of the Peerless Rooms building has to be the praise from a 100 year old spirit and former resident named Amelia.
(This article is based on an interview with Crissy Barnett Donovan, May 17, 2019.)
Rogue Roundup Rodeo & Wild West Show Butler-Perozzi Fountain is Unveiled
Ashlanders thought big in 1916. Southern Oregon had never seen anything like this before. Rogue Roundup promoters brought in three train cars full of bucking horses and quarter horses, plus steers for roping, wrestling and riding. The horses and steers came from Pendleton, Oregon, home of the very successful Pendleton Roundup since 1910. Pendleton also sent many cowboys, cowgirls and Indians. More horses and riders came over from Klamath County.
The Roundup was held at the Butler Walker property just east of Ashland. Like the parades, band concerts and baseball games, there were three days of Rogue Roundup on July 4, 5 and 6. A grandstand was built that would hold 10,000 people, which overflowed on day one and was nearly full on days two and three. Here’s a clue as to why: According to the newspaper, the Rogue Roundup was “the wildest exciting series of entertainments ever staged in the valley.”
The Rogue Roundup “Entertainments:”
**Cowboys and cowgirls half-mile pony racing. **Cowboys on bucking horses. “Donal Cannon of Pendleton, a sixteen-year-old boy, won the $300 saddle, first prize in the bucking contest, over 78 entries.” **Not only bucking horses, but also bucking burros and bucking calves. **Even a lady bucking horse rider, “Dorothy Morrell of Klamath Falls, champion lady bucking horse rider of world.” **A mile-long pony express race, with cowboys switching between two horses. **Steer roping, with the steer getting a 50-foot start on the ropers. **Steer bull-dogging (jumping off a horse at full speed and wrestling a steer to the ground). **Bull riding, with riders using saddles. **Indian relay race. **Female Indians half-mile pony race. **A horse-mounted tug of war, with teams of four saddle horses each. **How about this one…”Cowboy Roman race. Two horses each, rider to rise 50 feet from start.” [I wish I had a photo of that to show you.] **Just for fun, the “drunken ride” and fancy riding by Walter Seals of Pendleton. **And finally, the “slick ear horse race.” The newspaper described it as: “Wild horse to be given 40 feet start. Cowboy to rope, catch and ride, without saddle or bridle.”
Ashland organizers were excited that they were able to contract for a party of ten Umatilla Indians from Northeast Oregon, who brought their families. The Ashland Tidings described the Native Americans who participated in the Roundup this way: “These Indians have the most beautiful Indian costumes of any of the Oregon tribes and will come with full outfits. The head chief’s headdress, robes and so forth are ornate with beads and Elks’ teeth and are all together valued at $10,000. The Indians are all high-class athletes and will make the white cowboys hustle in all the events in which they enter. Sub-Chief Gilbert Minthorne will be in charge of the party.”
With all of this activity, Ashland was able to attract large crowds to the Roundup. The newspaper reported attendance of 15,000 the first day, 7,000 the second day and 8,000 on the third day, for a total of 30,000.
Postscript on the Roundup
It was such a success that the organizers decided to make it an annual event. They formed a stock company, with many locals investing $25 to $100 each. Organizers arranged a five-year lease for the land on which the 1916 Roundup stands and track were located. They built a larger covered grandstand and improved the grounds for 1917. The 1917 Roundup was very successful, with even greater attendance than in 1916. However, it went downhill from there and did not survive as an annual event.
Lots more to come, because this description of the three-day 1916 blowout is only up to mid-afternoon of July 4, the first day.
Water Sports and Band Concerts
As the afternoon Rogue Roundup was drawing a full house of spectators east of downtown Ashland, others had the option of water sports at the Natatorium indoor swimming pools or band concerts in Lithia Park.
At the Lithia Park main bandstand, three bands played through the afternoon of July 4. First the Central Point Band played, followed by the Medford Band and finally the Grants Pass Band.
Unveiling of the new Fountain in Lithia Park
Then at 8:00 P.M., people attended the unveiling of a beloved fountain in Lithia Park that we still enjoy today. On July 4, 1916, it was called the “Unveiling of the Fountain of Youth.” We know it as the Butler-Perozzi Fountain.
Opening the ceremony, the Medford Band played again! Professor Vining gave some remarks to dedicate the fountain and statue. Finally came the unveiling of the Fountain of Youth by 12-year-old Lucile Perozzi, daughter of Domingo and Louise Perozzi, assisted by the “flower girls.”
Here is how the Ashland Tidings of July 6, 1916 described the fountain: “The fountain is made of beautiful Verona marble. The figure is that of Cupid playing with a swan. These words are inscribed on the fountain: ‘Flori di peshi,’ [should be ‘Fiori di peshi’] which is the Italian for ‘Flower of peaches.'”
How did this fountain and statue find its way from the Florence, Italy studio of sculptor Antonio Frilli all the way to Ashland, Oregon? It came by way of the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Two Ashland friends and businessmen, Gwin Butler and Domingo Perozzi, had recently donated some of their land to the expansion of Lithia Park. Butler traveled to the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, held in San Francisco’s Marina District. Similar in size to a World’s Fair, the Exposition celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal and was attended by over 18 million people.
Many objects displayed at the Exposition were available for purchase at the end of the fair. Butler thought this Italian marble fountain he saw there would be perfect in Lithia Park, so he sent a telegram to his friend Perozzi to come immediately. When Perozzi arrived in San Francisco, he agreed to help purchase the fountain, which the two men bought for $3,000 (equivalent to about $75,000 in 2019 dollars).
The fountain unveiling ceremony concluded with Ashland Mayor O.H. Johnson accepting the fountain on behalf of the City of Ashland “in a short, humorous address,” and then wrap-up music by the Medford Band.
Those not interested in the fountain unveiling could have attended a band concert, this one by the Ashland Band, in another part of Lithia Park.
July 4th Fireworks
Was this the end of July 4th celebrations? Of course not! There must be fireworks on July 4th, and indeed there were.
Fireworks started around 9:00 P.M. on Granite Street, and were viewed by the crowds in Lithia Park. The Hitt Fireworks Company prepared the shows for all three days. T.G. Hitt was a chemist from England who opened his fireworks business in Seattle in 1905. By 1915 he was prominent enough to provide the fireworks for the massive Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco mentioned above. That may have been what brought Hitt Fireworks to the attention of Ashland organizers.
In addition to aerial fireworks, Hitt Fireworks specialized in dramatic set pieces on huge wooden frames, embedded with fireworks. Ashlanders got a taste of these set pieces all three days of the celebration. The Hitts got so famous that they were asked to create “special effects for scenes in several blockbuster movies, including the famous burning of Atlanta in Gone With the Wind, the battle scenes in All Quiet on the Western Front, and the fire and explosions in What Price Glory?” [Tate]
In addition to the best aerial fireworks Ashlanders had ever seen bursting in the sky, the Ashland Tidings described some of the elaborate set pieces produced by Hitt Fireworks. The writer raved about “dancing figures, an American flag, two monster pinwheels, a lithia fountain, a design on which below a bottle the words ‘Ashland Lithia Springs’ were emblazoned, and out of which a fountain of fire shot, more gun shots and more fixed designs, all of which beggared description.”
Following fireworks, there was a concert by the Central Point Band at 9:30 P.M. at the Lithia Park main bandstand.
Dancing past midnight
People who were still awake and on their feet after 12 hours of non-stop Independence Day celebration had a choice of two dances, where they could continue to party into the morning. One dance was at the Natatorium, which was not solely a swimming facility. It also had a maple wood dance floor and room for 500 spectators or promenaders. The Natatorium was located at A Street and 1st Street, a five-block walk from the entrance to Lithia Park.
The other dance was held at the Bungalow restaurant, conveniently located in Lithia Park. The Bungalow, as it was known, had just opened on June 1, 1916 across Winburn Way from the Lithia water gazebo. See below for photos of the gazebo in 1916 and the spot where The Bungalow was located 100 years ago (now an open grassy area).
Ashland Partied for Two More Days!
Those who started July 4th by watching the morning parade and ended the day dancing past midnight probably did not wake up in time for the July 5 morning parade. Yes, the City of Ashland provided a second day of non-stop celebrations on July 5 for the thousands of visitors (and a third day on July 6!).
We will learn about the July 5 activities in Part 4.
Ashland Tidings, May 11, 1916 Ashland Tidings, May 22, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 1, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 8, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 12, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 15, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 29, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 3, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 6, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 10, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 13, 1916 Ashland Tidings, October 30, 1916
Anon. “The Greatest Fourth of All,” The Table Rock Sentinel (newsletter of the Southern Oregon Historical Society), May 1987, p. 13-24.
Brettschneider, Ginger. “Lithia Park’s Fountain of History,” Southern Oregon Heritage Today, Vol. 2, No. 2., February 2000, page 4.
In Part 1, I wrote about the seven “streams” that made up the “mighty river” of activities. I wrote about why Ashland hosted 50,000 visitors in just three days — July 4, 5 and 6, 1916. That was the big-picture introduction to the events.
In the next few articles, I will introduce you to the people who made it happen and to the hour-by-hour packed schedule from 10:00 A.M. until past midnight all three days. As the Ashland Tidings wrote on July 6, “There has been ‘something doing every minute’ from morning to – well, almost morning again.”
First Day: July 4th
July 4th began with Queen Lithia’s Pageant, the Industrial and Patriotic parade. That was followed by a baseball game, a patriotic ceremony, water sports in two locations, the Wild West Rogue River Roundup, six band concerts (!), the ceremonial unveiling of a new fountain in Lithia Park, fireworks, and finally two dances that lasted into the morning. In this article, I will focus primarily on the parade and the Lithia Park bandstand patriotic ceremony.
The Huge 4th of July Parade
The Medford Mail Tribune wrote: ” The floats, the civic organizations, the riding clubs and the cowboy contingents, escorted by four marching bands, from Ashland, Central Point, Grants Pass and Medford made up such a cavalcade as had never been witnessed before in Ashland’s streets.” [quoted in the Table Rock Sentinel]
Today’s 4th of July parades are led by Ashland police officers on motorcycles, then a color guard holding United States and Oregon flags, followed by the Ashland City Band to bump up the energy of the crowd. The opening of the 1916 parade was very similar.
“In the lead was the chief of police and the Ashland patrolmen, mounted on horseback. Then Ed Thornton [Secretary of the Elks Club] on a magnificent charger. Next came the Ashland band in their natty uniforms of blue and white.” [per the Ashland Tidings]
Back then it was police on horseback leading, now it’s police on motorcycles leading,. Back then the Ashland band was in natty uniforms of blue and white, now the Ashland band is in natty uniforms of teal and white.
The Tidings declared that “the 30,000 people who lined Main street from the East school to the West school cheered and cheered each and every feature.”
Here are the parade entries the 30,000 people saw, according to the newspaper.
This is a long list of parade entries, so brace yourself…and have fun comparing 1916 with the parade entries you see today.
**The Coast Artillery Corps company of Ashland (which had been created in response to World War I)
**Ashland Girls Marching Club, thirty marching girls in white costumes
**Red Cross Brigade
**Riding in automobiles were the Mayor, guests of honor, and officials of Southern Pacific Railroad Company — same as today
**The Lithia Springs commission rode in their own decorated car
**Queen Mary Weisenburger rode in a float of pink and white. Miss Emma Jenkins was maid of honor to the queen, with little flower girls and pages at her feet. Remember Queen Mary, as she will star in both serious and humorous episodes to come.
**J.N. Dennis’ little son rode in his “Lithia Racer” automobile
**Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) patriotic float, followed by many other patriotic floats. [The G.A.R. was a fraternal organization of veterans who fought for the Union during the Civil War. At its peak, more than 400,000 men were members. Max Pracht of Ashland, who helped make Ashland peaches famous, and for whom Pracht Street is named, was a member of the G.A.R. Read about Pracht and Pracht Street here. The last Civil War veteran died in 1956, but an organization of descendants of Civil War veterans, called Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, carries on the traditions.]
**Mrs. Peil’s decorated car, which won a first prize. [Mrs. Alice Peil is remembered today for the “Alice Peil walkway.” In order to have easier access to the family business, Alice and her husband built a steel stairway from their home at 52 Granite Street down to the Plaza, where Emil Peil had opened a blacksmith shop, and later ran an implement store with Alice. After Ashland residents started using the shortcut regularly, Mrs. Peil donated the northern six feet of her lot to the city, thus formalizing the public use of the walkway.]
**”Wah Chung’s Chinese colony was represented by an Oriental float of a unique character.” [Ashland had a small Chinatown from about 1880 to 1930, but Wah Chung and his family were the only Chinese who actively participated in the greater Ashland community. You can read my article about Wah Chung and the Chinese community in Ashland here ]
**The Vining Theatre had a coupe with a young lady representing Mary Pickford riding in it. [Ashland’s Vining Theatre offered a mix of live vaudeville shows and silent movies. In 1916 Mary Pickford was one of the most popular actresses of the silent film era, known as “America’s Sweetheart.” Three years later, in 1919, she co-founded United Artists movie studio, an amazing feat for a woman at that time.]
**Medford Riding Club, with 18 riders who wore “natty black and white riding costumes,” won a first prize.
**A World War I preparedness float
**An Indian float “was awarded the special prize.” “The noble redmen and redladies as well warwhooped and sang from a typical Indian background.” Umatilla Indians had come all the way from Northeast Oregon to be part of the parade and the Rogue Roundup.
**Pioneer ladies of Ashland float had an old wagon “such as was used in crossing the plains….”
**Local railroad workers had a complex float called the “Lithia Special.” It had a full size engine, cab and caboose constructed around a car, and “won the industrial prize and the most unique feature of the parade….”
** Bands: “…never before have four bands marched in one parade in southern Oregon.” Not only did the Ashland band march, but also the Medford band, the Central Point band and the Grants Pass band.
**The Humane Society had a float. [The American Humane Society had been established in 1877, and Ashland must have had a branch.]
**The Elks Lodge (B.P.O.E. No. 944) had 50 marchers in uniforms of white with purple ties.
**The Auxiliary float “was easily the most beautiful of the parade” and got a first prize. According to the Ashland Tidings, “The float was done in yellow and white. it represented ‘A Gift to the World,’ huge loving cups representing the gift. The center of the float was built to represent a fountain with the fairy of waters waving her wand for the waters to arise and gush forth power and health. Young ladies in costumes and carrying symbols of art and music to give praise to Ashland were grouped in niches around the fountain. A huge harp on which to play paeans of praise was played by Mrs. Shirley Keene in Grecian costume. Minora Cornelium represented the arrival of spring.”
**The Women’s Civic Improvement Club had five cars done alike in white with red rosettes, and won a second prize.
**The Maccabees, Rebekahs and Medford Woodmen of the World, more fraternal organizations, had the next floats.
**Ashland horse riders went on and on. There were “perhaps 200 in line, on horses, followed by children on ponies and many in cowboy and cowgirl costumes.”
**Western Union Telegraph Company had a float.
**Ashland Fruit and Produce Association had a “float loaded with seasonal fruits.”
**The Eden Valley Nursery float complemented the Fruit and Produce Association “with immense papier mache apples and pears.”
**Nurmi Baking Company of Medford float came next.
**Briggs & Elmore had a decorated car. [I wonder if it was anything like Briggs’ shoe store decorated car (below) at the 1912 parade.]
**”The Saunders car in white, with a bevy of pretty girls, received applause along the route.”
**East Side Pharmacy float was next.
** Then came another pharmacy, Poley’s Drug Store. Its “Malted Milk float captured second industrial prize.” [Below is a photo of Poley’s Drug Store float from the parade in the early 1900s.]
**Ashland Trading Company float was filled with greenery and with children.
**Home Laundry had a float.
**The White House Grocery was very popular in Ashland, and their float came next.
**Hotel Oregon on East Main Street was the premier hotel in Ashland at this time. They were in the parade “with an automobile load of pretty girls.”
**Clover Leaf Dairy had a float.
**The Natatorium: “Several boys in swimming costumes represented the Natatorium.” [The Natatorium was a block-long indoor swimming and dancing “palace” on A Street from 1909 to 1919.]
**The Grants Pass Moose band marched next.
**There were cowboys and cowgirls (perhaps 150) from Pendleton and Klamath Falls, as well as Ashland and Medford locals.
**The parade included clowns in vari-colored costumes, though most of the comic features were saved for the King Sulphur parade on July 6.
**I am not sure what to make of the newspaper’s description of this parade entry: “Benton Bowers handled the reins of an old-fashioned stage coach team loaded down with cowboys and three trick bears which were brought to Ashland by Cowboy Timmins after he had roped them in the wilds of the Curry country.”
**There was a Rogue Roundup float that advertised the Wild West rodeo event to take place at 2:00 P.M.
**According to the Tidings newspaper, some decorated automobiles closed out the parade (even though this was supposed to be the parade without automobiles; the next day’s parade, July 5, was supposed to be the decorated automobile parade).
**Wait…one more thing…the paper said there were decorative bicycles interspersed throughout the parade.
Mrs. Hilty, coordinator of all three parades
Today’s Chamber of Commerce staff and volunteers can tell you how much work it takes to put on Ashland’s large 4th of July parade each year. In 1916, one woman volunteer took on even more, and the newspaper gave credit where credit was due. “Mrs. Hilty was in charge of the parades of the three days, and her executive ability was a monster factor in the success which all three scored.”
Mrs. Hilty was an active community member. She also appears to have been a social activist at heart. Later that year in October 1916, she put on a one-woman program at the ladies’ Civic Improvement Club meeting. According to the Ashland Tidings, “Then Mrs. Hilty carried the gathering back to old school days in her sketches of Harriet Beecher Stowe [abolitionist, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin], Julia Ward Howe [abolitionist, women’s suffragette, poet and author, who wrote the song ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’], Helen Hunt Jackson [Native American rights activist, poet, author], Ella Wheeler Wilcox [poet and author] and Louise May Olcott [should be spelled Louisa May Alcott; author of Little Women]. Especially close and dear are the recollections of the vivid human bond in ‘Little Women.'”
After the parade was over, visitors and locals had a choice of multiple activities. At 10:00 A.M. people could watch the first of three baseball games between teams from Weed, California and Medford. The first game was an easy win for Medford, 9-0.
Those who approved of Oregon’s new prohibition law that had just taken effect on January 1, 1916 could have heard a lecture at the Chautauqua building sponsored by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
If July 4, 1916 were a normal hot July day, many people would have walked over to Helman’s Sulphur Baths for 11:00 A.M. water sports. See photos below for what Helman’s looked like inside and outside.
After the parade, most people probably attended the patriotic ceremony at the Lithia Park bandstand. If we had the ability to travel back in a time machine, the 1916 Lithia Park bandstand event would seem very familiar to those of us who attend today’s 4th of July Lithia Park band shell after-parade patriotic ceremony.
Here is the 1916 program and how it compares with today’s programs: Opening music by a city band…in 1916 and today. Reading of the Declaration of Independence…in 1916 and today. The “Star Spangled Banner,” played by a city band, sung by a vocalist accompanied by the audience…in 1916 and today. Speeches by dignitaries…in 1916 and today. More band music and vocal music…in 1916 and today.
One more “in 1916 and today:” the current Butler Band Shell in Lithia Park, built in 1949, is located right where the original, smaller Lithia Park bandstand was built.
In 1916, the Declaration of Independence was read by Miss Minnie Bernice Jackson, who was 23 years of age at the time. E.L. Rasor led the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner,” and the main dignitary address was given by I.E. Vining, owner of the Vining Theatre on East Main Street. [Irving Vining received a postgraduate degree at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York. In addition to owning the Vining Theatre, he taught for seven years at Southern Oregon Normal School.]
In Part 3, we will learn about the Rogue Roundup Wild West show, more band concerts, the unveiling of the “Fountain of Youth” in Lithia Park (now called the Butler-Perozzi Fountain), fireworks on Granite Street and finally late night dances in two Ashland locations. All of that was still on July 4! Then we will start all over again on July 5 with more parades, dedications, music and more.
Ashland Tidings, May 11, 1916 Ashland Tidings, May 22, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 1, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 8, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 12, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 15, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 29, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 3, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 6, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 10, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 13, 1916 Ashland Tidings, October 30, 1916
Anon. “The Greatest Fourth of All,” The Table Rock Sentinel (newsletter of the Southern Oregon Historical Society), May 1987, p. 13-24.
Was this the largest and most audacious celebration in the history of our town?
It takes many streams coming together to form a huge river. The Amazon River of Ashland 4th of July celebrations was the year 1916. From what I know of Ashland history, I think it was the largest and most audacious celebration in the history of our town.
Here are the streams that created 1916’s audacious river.
The first large stream…the 4th of July parade had already been an Ashland tradition for decades as of 1916. Ashland’s parade history began with floats on horse-drawn wagons in the late 1800s. Decorated autos were added in the early 1900s. In 1916, bold Ashland boosters planned a parade on the 4th of July (of course) followed by a parade on the 5th of July (oh, my!) followed by a parade on the 6th of July (three in three days!).
A second large tributary…the dedication of Lithia Park. Ashland’s Lithia Park grew out of a humble 1892 beginning as 8-acre Chautauqua Park. Thanks to the vision and perseverance of women in the Chautauqua Park Club and the Women’s Civic Improvement Club, with support from some wealthy men of Ashland who saw their vision, land was purchased in 1908 to create much larger Lithia Park. The official dedication of Lithia Park was July 5, 1916.
The third, an audacious and booster-crazed stream…July 5, 1916 was also the official dedication of Ashland’s Lithia springs water. Local boosters were convinced that the combination of Lithia water, sulphur water and soda springs water was about to catapult Ashland to recognition as a spa town of national and world renown.
A fourth, more modest stream…July 4, 1916 was the unveiling of the “Fountain of Youth, now known as the Butler-Perozzi Fountain. Generous Ashland businessmen Gwin Butler and Dominic Perozzi had recently donated some of their land for the expansion of Lithia Park. Butler traveled to the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, held in San Francisco’s Marina District. A massive event, the Exposition celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal and was attended by over 18 million people. Butler thought an Italian marble fountain he saw there would be perfect in Lithia Park, so he sent a telegram to his friend Perozzi to come immediately. When Perozzi arrived in San Francisco, he agreed to help purchase the fountain, which the two men bought for $3,000 (equivalent to about $75,000 in 2019 dollars).
Fourth, another huge, audacious tributary…the Rogue Roundup, a Wild West show to rival the already successful Pendleton, Oregon Roundup. The first Pendleton Roundup (rodeo and more) in 1910 had drawn 7,000 spectators, and it just kept growing from there. Ashland aimed to outdo their fellow Oregon town in 1916.
Fifth, a small but passionate stream…baseball fans were treated to a three-day, three-game rematch between the Medford, Oregon and Weed, California baseball teams.
Sixth, a musical stream…more band music in one place than Southern Oregon had ever heard. The Ashland band, the Medford band, the Grants Pass band and the Central Point band each played two or three times a day for all three days. They even played all together as a massed band in a grand symphony of band music.
Seventh, another bigger-and-bolder-than-Southern-Oregon-has-ever-seen stream…you can’t forget fireworks on the 4th of July. But not just one day, not even two days…three days in a row of massive fireworks! July 5 and 6 featured unusual daylight fireworks.
Finally, what made this blowout “4th” possibly the largest event in Ashland’s history was a combination of three straight days of multiple activities (each of which attracted between hundreds and thousands of spectators) with nonstop action from early morning until past midnight all three of the days.
How Big Was the 1916 Celebration?
To get an idea how big, let’s compare some numbers from 1916 with recent years. In recent years the 4th of July parade attendance has been estimated at 20,000 people. That’s with Ashland’s population currently about 21,000 and Jackson County’s population about 220,000.
In 1916, 4th of July parade attendance was estimated at 30,000 people, with the City of Ashland’s population only 5,000 and the entire Jackson County population under 25,000!
That was just July 4th. Twenty thousand more came for all-day and into-the-night celebrations on July 5 and July 6.
Where did all the people come from?
From far and wide! For example, the Ashland newspaper quoted the Klamath County Evening Herald on June 1, 1916: “there will be many automobiles of Klamath people romping across the hills for Ashland” and regarding the Roundup, “Klamath county vaqueros will of course take a prominent part – and the prominent prizes.”
Most Southern Oregon cities canceled their own 4th of July celebrations in 1916 and cooperated to make Ashland’s celebration a success. Ashland reciprocated by calling July 5 “Medford Day” and July 6 “Grants Pass and Klamath Falls Day.”
Southern Pacific railroad company was committed to making Ashland’s 1916 Independence Day celebrations a success. It was a win for the railroad, because at that time many people still visited Ashland by train. Southern Pacific railroad sent two of their Vice Presidents and their general passenger agent John M. Scott, who spoke at one of the dedication ceremonies.
Beyond this July 4th bash, Southern Pacific was committed to helping Ashland become a popular resort town, as that would increase their passenger train business long term.
Here is one small example of Southern Pacific’s largesse. Local professor Henry Gillmore wrote a song called “Ashland the Beautiful.” The front and back covers of the sheet music described Ashland as “Oregon’s Famous Spa.” In addition, the back cover promoted Crater Lake National Park and Josephine County Caves (now Oregon Caves National Monument). Southern Pacific printed the sheet music at its own printing plant. The Tidings of July 31, 1916 wrote: “Ten thousand copies of the song are to be printed immediately for distribution throughout the east, and later ten thousand more for the Pacific coast territory.”
Ashland Tidings, May 11, 1916 Ashland Tidings, May 22, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 1, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 8, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 12, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 15, 1916 Ashland Tidings, June 29, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 3, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 6, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 10, 1916 Ashland Tidings, July 13, 1916
Anon. “The Greatest Fourth of All,” The Table Rock Sentinel (newsletter of the Southern Oregon Historical Society), May 1987, p. 13-24.
I walked two-blocks-long Ohio Street in order to visit Ashland’s beautiful Garden of the Month for June 2019 (chosen by the Ashland Garden Club).
The Garden of the Month address is 265 Ohio Street. If you visit the garden, please respect the privacy of the homeowner. Please view the garden through the artistic fence from either Ohio Street or the alley along the side of the house.
For this walk, my wife and I started at the Helman Street end of Ohio Street, and finished the walk at Gene’s lovely Garden of the Month.
The yellow house at the corner of Helman and Ohio was built about 1905. The Oregon Historic Sites Database lists it as Frank Jordan house. On the Ashland City Band website, I found the photo below of Ashland’s “Woodmen of the World” band taken April 30, 1905. It lists Frank Jordan (back row, third from left) as a clarinet player. Could that be the same Frank Jordan?
Gates of Ohio Street
I found many quirky and artistic gates on Ohio Street. Here are photos of the gates, in order from lower house numbers to higher house numbers.
Mrs. Anna McCarthy in 1914
Now let’s turn from gate photos to the rest of our walk along Ohio Street, starting with a quick historical detour. Built in 1905, 147 Ohio Street is another historic house, called the Anna G. McCarthy house. This is a vernacular style hipped cottage with a wrapped hipped porch.
I found a photo of Anna G. McCarthy in the Ashland Tidings of December 31, 1914. As President of the Chautauqua Park Club, she was one of the female “movers and shakers” of early Ashland. In 1893, the City of Ashland had purchased eight acres for the Chautauqua dome (where meetings were held) and nearby park land for people to gather. By 1916, Chautauqua Park had grown into the much larger and more elaborate Lithia Park. Now in 2019, the original eight acres is the site of the Shakespeare Festival’s Elizabethan Theater and the current entrance to Lithia Park.
Thanks to the Ashland Tidings of December 28, 1914, I can provide you with a list of Mrs. McCarthy’s 1914 Christmas guests: “…Miss Carrie Foster of Klamath Falls, Mr. and Mrs. Frank M. Moore of Eugene, Mrs. Agnes Jury of Seattle and Mrs. McCarthy’s son H.G. McCarthy. As dinner guests on Christmas day Mr. and Mrs. S.J. Evans and son and daughter were present.”
Back to Ohio Street in 2019
This tree at 167 Ohio Street seems unusually large and lush for a flowering plum tree. I would love to see it when it’s covered with blossoms! The house was built about 1914 and still retains its original bungalow style.
A friend I play tennis with was out in front at 211 Ohio Street when I walked by, so now I know where he lives. He built this lovely raised walkway that accommodates the roots of his huge maple tree.His house dates back to 1930 and was moved to this location.
Garden of the Month for June 2019
Ruth Sloan of the Ashland Garden Club wrote: “This garden, designed and maintained by Gene Leyden, is the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Monthfor June 2019. This is a naturally wet parcel (note the giant pond next door) where dampness- and shade-loving plants thrive and carefully placed sun-loving plants also flourish. Gene planted the willow tree, now enormous (14 feet in circumference!), when she moved in with her family in 1987, transporting it to the site from the nursery in the back of the Volkswagon bus. Garden observers can walk or drive down the alley to the right of the house to get more views.”
I was fortunate that my wife Kathy was with me as I walked Ohio Street and visited the Garden of the Month, because she had known Gene about 25 years ago. When Gene saw us outside the gate, she recognized Kathy and invited us in. What a treat!
Gene showed us the Curly Willow tree she “stuck in the ground as a stick” back in 1987. It now rises high, with both curly leaves and branches.
“In addition to the prospering plant life, there are remarkably beautiful constructions by Gene’s friend, the artist and carpenter Nathan Sharples. Look carefully at the gorgeous fence, installed only three years ago. Note the unusual wooden screen door. Also salted throughout the garden are sculptures by Gene’s friend Cheryl Garcia, as well as other items of interest.”
“Gene says she has a special fondness for fragrance in the garden and chooses many plants on that basis, including roses, jasmine and nicotiana. Among the many highlights in the garden are a selection of huge hostas loving their location under the willow, Lady Banks and Cecile Brunner roses climbing through the vegetation, and a smoke tree and smoke bush lending their rich dark foliage as contrast to the riot of greens plus colorful blossoms. There’s a little bit of everything here. This is clearly the work of people of great imagination, especially the primary gardener.”
The garden is the star of the show, but the house has an interesting history. Built around 1890, perhaps as a parsonage for the historic Methodist Church, its original location was on South Laurel Street. The house was moved here to Ohio Street in 1987.
If you love gardens #1: Since this article features a beautiful garden, I will end it with a photo of wise words from a poem by Dorothy Frances Gurney.
If you love gardens #2: I would encourage you to join me as a member of the Ashland Garden Club. You can find the link to their membership form here at the club home page.
Notes: All descriptions of the Garden of the Month in quotation marks are from the Ashland Garden Club article by Ruth Sloan. Photos are by Peter Finkle, except when marked otherwise.
A version of this article was published in the Ashland Tidings newspaper on June 4, 2019. This WalkAshland post contains additional text and historical photos.
Were you in Ashland during the flood on January 1, 1997? Heavy snow followed by warm rain flooded the Plaza and knocked out our water treatment plant. Life was inconvenient because Ashlanders had to use Porta Potties for two weeks. But Ashland wasn’t cut off from the outside world as in 1927.
Ashland was thriving in 1927. The Lithia Springs Hotel, then the tallest building between San Francisco and Portland, had just opened on Main Street in 1925 (it’s now the Ashland Springs Hotel). The downtown Enders Department Store, where you could walk indoors from one store to the next for an entire city block, was considered a wonder. Lithia Park was eleven years old and already a tourist draw, though stormy February weather would not have been ideal for taking a stroll in the park.
Then in February 1927, heavy snow followed by hours of warm rain led to “havoc.” In Ashland, though one bridge was destroyed and several damaged, there was less damage from the flood overall than in 1997. But the word “havoc” described what happened around Ashland.
The road to Medford was impassable in 15 to 20 places. Highways over the Siskiyou Mountains and the Greensprings were covered with snow. At Jackson Hot Springs, water covered Highway 99 three feet deep when Bear Creek overflowed. O. M. Franklin and his boat rescued people who were staying in cabins at the Hot Springs.
Some of the worst damage was to the train tracks both north and south of Ashland. Southern Pacific railway workers who had been with the company as long as 25 years told the Ashland American newspaper that “the storm has rendered unprecedented damage to their line” that was “the worst in history.”
With the tracks blocked both north and south, hundreds of passengers on two (or possibly four) long passenger trains at the Ashland depot were stranded in Ashland.
Southern Pacific hired 40 to 50 men to clear and repair the tracks, but it was no easy task. In some places, huge rocks weighing hundreds of tons blocked the tracks. In others, the rushing waters had washed out the grade underneath the tracks. Dynamite was used to blast rocks free. A crane attached to a railway car lifted boulders off the tracks.
Meanwhile, what to do with all the stranded passengers? The people of Ashland rose to the occasion and entertained the visitors. Ashland did have a lot to offer. There were hotels large and small, plus restaurants in both the Railroad District and downtown. Those of a scholarly bent could visit a public library and a brand new college (Churchill Hall, home of Southern Oregon Normal School, had just been completed the year before).
Several stranded passengers were home-seekers, so they had lots of time to view local real estate. One passenger was a fruit cannery man, so he could visit local orchards and canneries. Ashland growers packed and shipped apples, peaches, pears and more all over the United States. The large fruit packing plant building on A Street next to the railroad tracks is still there (currently home of Plexis Healthcare Systems software company).
I’m not sure what the Standard Oil executive or the buyer for Skaggs-Safeway stores would have found entertaining, but the railroad company tried its best for them and all the passengers.
According to Maurice Bailey, a railroad employee for many years: “Southern Pacific installed radios in each train to provide entertainment for the stranded guests. At this time, Ashland’s depot was 3 stories high with a dining room, hotel, and offices, so Southern Pacific bedded down all the passengers free, and then hired an orchestra and put on a dance each of the 3 evenings for the benefit of the passengers.”
Food, music and dancing…what more do you need? How about toilets that don’t stink? So on a practical level, Southern Pacific bought almost all the chloride of lime in Ashland hardware stores to keep the odors down in their railway car toilets.
After three days, the tracks were finally repaired and passengers could go on their way. I wonder how many of them decided during those three days that they would come back to live in Ashland? If they were anything like current Ashland residents who have told me stories why they decided to move here, I bet a few of them did.
Anon. Ashland American newspaper articles, Feb 25, 1927 Anon. Ashland Daily Tidings newspaper articles, Feb 21 & 24, 1927 Mr. & Mrs. Maurice Bailey interviewed by student Denise Atkinson in the book History of Ashland Oregon, written by 8thgrade students at Ashland Junior High School, published 1977. Teacher: Marjorie Lininger
This story describes a creative hobo begging for dinner at an Ashland home in 1898: “An Ashland lady asked a tramp who applied for assistance why he did not work at some trade, and was indignantly informed that he was a professional man. Further questioning developed that he was an after-dinner speaker, and would like to have an opportunity to practice his profession.”
(Democratic Times, Jacksonville, March 21, 1898)
I published an article in the Ashland Tidings newspaper of April 12, 2019 telling stories of the hobos in Ashland from the late 1800s through the 1920s. For those who don’t read the Ashland Tidings, I would like to share the stories here, and include some additional photos that were not in the newspaper.
In the past ten years or so, there seems to have been an increase in the number of young people begging, or just hanging out with their dogs, in downtown Ashland. Those who curse or snarl rude comments at people walking by can make both tourists and local residents uncomfortable. If we feel overwhelmed by the young “home-free travelers” passing through town now, we would definitely not want to go back in time to the 1890s or early 1900s in Ashland.
Let’s start with some history first, and then I will explain the “where” and “why” of the window in the photo above.
175 Hobos in One Day!
Here is a quote from the Jacksonville newspaper in 1893: ” Ashland, Or., Dec. 17.–One hundred and seventy-five hobo tourists came in from the north this evening on a freight train on top of box cars. The town has refused to feed them, and there is some fear they will resort to violence, though appearing to be a peaceable set of men. All are bound for the warmer climate of California.” (Democratic Times, Jacksonville, December 22, 1893)
175 hobos in one day! In addition to bringing prosperity and “welcome guests” to Ashland, the completion of the West Coast railroad line in 1887 also brought with it “unwelcome guests.” Some of the train-hopping hobos were migrant agricultural workers who followed the harvests from Southern California to Washington and back again. Others were panhandlers and petty thieves — or for the more creative ones, “after-dinner speakers” like the man quoted in the introduction to this article.
Ashland and Medford tried many strategies to deal with the ongoing hobo problem. Hobos were run out of town. They were jailed. They were paid to work. They were forced to work. They were even fed and given a place a sleep overnight.
Were the Hobos Allergic to Work?
In 1914, the Medford police chief made these complaints about hobos who refused to work: “Every hobo in the county wants to congregate in Medford,” said Chief Hittson this morning. “They all wanted to stay in Ashland last winter when they were giving them free soup there. Now there is work on the Pacific Highway, close to that city, and what do they do but come up here.” (Medford Mail Tribune, April 8, 1914)
The Mystery of the Window
Now I am ready to clear up the “mystery of the window” in the photo for those who can’t place it.
The coming of the railroad to Ashland in the 1880s caused a boom in the local economy and population. Many people built homes and began businesses near the railroad depot on A Street. Thus the Railroad District became a second thriving neighborhood in Ashland, in addition to the Plaza/downtown area where the town began.
Several devastating fires in the Railroad District caused the City Council to authorize construction of a second fire station on 4th Street just to serve this part of town. With horse drawn fire wagons, it served the area until gasoline powered fire trucks made a second fire station unnecessary.
Ashland’s second fire station at 264 4th Street was constructed in 1908 of hollow concrete block. With many single men in the Railroad District — who tended to get into trouble – and with the constant influx of hobos hopping off trains at the Ashland depot, a jail cell was added in the back of the new fire station.
The “mystery photo” shows the jail cell window. You can see it on the alley side of the building, which now houses Revive, an eclectic collection of “revived” furniture and home decor.
According to newspapers of the early 1900s, hobos grabbed clothes drying outside on clotheslines, snatched chickens from chicken coops, and generally caused a nuisance begging for food door to door. This is where the 4th Street fire station/jail came into play, but not how you might think.
This 1914 newspaper article, which calls the hobos “transient unemployed,” explains it well. “The city police department have cared for 480 transient unemployed from December thirteenth to January first and 349 from January first to the twentieth. The Fourth street fire station is used for the place of shelter and most of them come in during the night, showing up after the arrival in the yards of freight trains. They are fed on soup and bread about midnight and are started out of town in the morning in squads. Sometimes a breakfast on coffee and sandwiches is needed for those that get in after the main meal. The food is secured from the restaurant nearby and the price paid for it in bulk is very reasonable. The program is satisfactory to the unemployed and kept them from soliciting about town, which would be a large sized nuisance considering the large number passing through at this season of the year when employment is impossible.”
Ashland Tidings, January 22, 1914
Two factors in the late 1920s led to a decline in Ashland’s transient hobo problem. One was Southern Pacific’s decision to re-route most of its trains through Klamath Falls in 1927. The other was the convenience of auto travel. In 1929, the Ashland Daily Tidings quoted Phil Eiker, a director of the Oregon State Motor Association: “‘Weary Willie,’ the wanderlust citizen who formerly traveled in discomfort on the rods of a freight train, now stands by the roadside and begs a ride from passing motorists….” (Ashland Daily Tidings, September 17, 1929)
As the number of hobos declined, Ashlanders were happy to have fewer incidents like this one: “Some of [the tramps] thought to demolish Tom Roberts’ saloon at Ashland one night last week, because he refused them drink, but he made it very lively for them, wounding two or three of them with his pistol.” (Democratic Times, Jacksonville, December 8, 1893)
When Ashland had a Chinatown (90 to 130 years ago)
The Chinese family that mixed with Ashland’s elite
The village cluster in China where Ashland’s Chinese residents were born
Chinese New Year in Ashland highlights
What was different about Chinese New Year in 1916?
“The well known local capitalist”
He was described in 1913 as “the well known local capitalist” by the Ashland Tidings newspaper. Was he the owner of a local bank? No. Was he one of the big local landowners from a pioneer family? No again.
Here is a hint from a 1915 Ashland Tidings article: “Mr. and Mrs. Hum Pracht and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Provost were entertained at dinner Sunday evening by Mr. and Mrs. Wah Chung at their home on A street.”
This wasn’t just any dinner and these weren’t just any guests. This was a Chinese New Year dinner. As for the guests, Hum Pracht had managed the bustling Ashland Depot Hotel, and his father Max Pracht had shipped peaches all over the country from his huge Ashland orchard. [Max Pracht article] Henry Provost was a former Mayor of Ashland and part of a prominent Ashland family.
His Real Name
These Tidings articles described a Chinese man who, along with his family, became part of the fabric of early 20thcentury Ashland. He was known in Ashland as Wah Chung, which was the name of his business: Wah Chung and Company.
For some reason, people found it easier to call him by his business name rather than learning his Chinese name. That’s why in all the quotes from the Tidings his name is Wah Chung. However, his birth name was Wong Quon Sue. Out of respect for him and his culture, I will refer to Wah Chung primarily by his family name, Mr. Wong.
Social Standing in Ashland
Here’s another glimpse of Mr. Wong’s social standing from an Ashland Tidings article about the 1916 Chinese New Year. “The local celebration lacked some of the features of those of bygone years when the entire population of Ashland made a pilgrimage to Wah Chung’s on China New Year and partook of Chinese nuts and candies and watched the fireworks.”
If you bear with me until the end of the article, I will explain why the people of Ashland could not enjoy the 1916 Chinese New Year with “rice wine, plum wine and other ancient drinks which go down like water but biteth like the serpent and kicketh like the mule….”
Mr. Wong, the Businessman
Mr. Wong made his money and his place in the community as the Chinese Labor Contractor for Southern Pacific (SP) railroad, a position he held more than 42 years. Most of the workers who built the railroad line across the Siskiyou Mountains in the mid-1880s were Chinese laborers. Some stayed on to maintain the tracks.
Mr. Wong was responsible for hiring, feeding and taking care of Chinese workers to maintain a section of the SP tracks in Oregon and Northern California. That would be a big responsibility in itself. But he also was responsible for finding, feeding and taking care of Chinese workers to maintain a section of SP tracks in the Salt Lake region! How did he find time for all of this plus a family, a grocery store, a restaurant, a mine in the Applegate, community activities and more?
Chinese Community in Ashland
Originally, Ashland’s Chinese community consisted mostly of railroad workers. This was quite different than in Jacksonville, where most Chinese residents were active in gold mining, and where there were more conflicts between the Chinese and American residents.
After the railroad’s completion in 1887, dozens of Chinese stayed on as railroad maintenance workers and used Ashland as a home base. In addition to railroad work, “During the period from 1890 to 1940, many of the Chinese left were running laundries and cooking for hotels and families.” [Atwood-2, page 9] According to Henry Enders, the cooks and waiters at the Ashland Depot Hotel were Chinese men. [Atwood-1, page 83]
Mr. Wong’s Roots in China
I am indebted to staff archeologist Chelsea Rose of SOULA (Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology) for telling me that Wah Chung’s birth name was Wong Quon Sue, and that he was born in Chun Lock Village in China’s coastal Taishan county, Guangdong province.
I read dozens of early 1900s newspaper articles and many other references about the early Ashland Chinese community, but never saw his birth name. Ms. Rose pointed out to me that Mr. Wong may have named his store and business Wah Chung (which was a common Chinese-American store or business name) because it roughly translates as “Flower of Opportunity.”
In 2017, Chelsea Rose traveled to Chun Lock Village in China as part of her research for the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project. She has learned that not only Wah Chung, but also most of Ashland’s Chinese residents in the late 1800s and early 1900s, were from this same village cluster in China.
Marriage, New Home and Ashland’s Chinatown
Mr. Wong started working for Southern Pacific as their Chinese Labor Agent in 1883. He likely moved to Ashland in 1883 or 1884. On September 13, 1901, he married “a San Francisco belle of China town” in a wedding that was attended by “many of the aristocratic circle” of San Francisco, as well as leading Chinese residents of Yreka. His wife, Wong Soo Lue, was known in Ashland as Mrs. Wah Chung.
Mr. Wong owned four lots in the railroad district. At least three of them were at the corner of A Street and 2nd Street, the historic center of Ashland’s Chinatown. Most Chinese in Ashland lived near A and 2nd Streets, or in houses or tents across the railroad tracks from there.
He built a new two-story house there. Carpenters were putting the finishing touches on the house just in time for his 1901 wedding. A newspaper article described his house as having electric lights, a small but beautiful bedroom, and all modern conveniences.
The Wongs’ Garden
The Wah Chung family raised vegetables and fish in their yard. They grew “both vegetables of native variety and vegetables of Oriental variety,” according to the Ashland Tidings of September 6, 1915. “The other day one of the employees of the Tidings office was shown over the patch.” Mrs. Wah Chung gave the Tidings writer several Chinese cucumbers to try. The writer was impressed with their “superior flavor” compared to American cucumbers. He was most impressed by the Chinese string beans – 1 to 2 ½ feet long!
As for fish, “Three large deep pools in the back yard supplied eels and a kind of shrimp which were often used in meal preparation…..” [Dunlap 1964]
Why Ashlanders went to his Chinese Grocery
Mr. Wong owned a two-story Chinese grocery store on A Street next to his house, with a Chinese laundry in the building he owned next to that. In addition to serving the local Chinese community, his store was a magnet for children in the railroad district. Elizabeth Carter remembers going to Wah Chung’s store with her father and brother to buy firecrackers. And Almeda Helman Coder said that “He [Wah Chung] used to give us Chinese nuts, funny little round Chinese nuts, more like a little dried up fruit.” Archeologist Chelsea Rose told me these were lychee nuts. It is interesting to note that she and colleagues found lychee nuts during a 2013 archeological excavation in the Jacksonville Chinatown.
In addition to buying firecrackers, adults in town had another reason to visit his store – the Chinese medicines available there. On Jan. 9, 1910, the Medford Mail Tribune ran this ad: “Chow Young’s Chinese Medicines will cure rheumatism, asthma, paralysis, sores and private diseases. These remedies may be procured at the store of Wah Chung on A street, Ashland, Oregon.”
Wah Chung & Co. included at least two other businesses. At one point he owned a Chinese restaurant at 82 North Main Street (current site of Bluebird Park next to the Thai Pepper restaurant). A 1913 newspaper article said it had been closed for some time and was being reopened by “a gentleman of Chinese lineage” named Charlie. Beyond Ashland, Wah Chung & Co. bought a gold mine in 1896 for $600 from John O’Brien of Applegate.
Mr. Wong was active in the larger community of Ashland. He was a member of the Ashland Commercial Club, precursor to today’s Ashland Chamber of Commerce. He and his wife were listed in the newspaper among the givers to the Ashland Red Cross Offering of 1917.
Mrs. Wah Chung (Mrs. Wong) and the Children
Despite extensive research, I haven’t been able to learn much about the children. Mr. and Mrs. Wong adopted a girl, Jennie, and several years later their son Sammy was born.
They also had a daughter Gin Tie, who sadly died of cholera at nine months of age. Victoria Kindell (who ran the Ashland Historic Railroad Museum for seven years) located Gin Tie Wah Chung’s unmarked grave at the Ashland Cemetery and paid for a grave marker to be placed there.
Jennie and Sammy both attended public schools in Ashland. According to the Mail Tribune, Sammy “was a bright boy and was well liked by both teachers and pupils.” Elizabeth Carter, who grew up on Mountain Avenue next to the railroad tracks, remembers Sammy coming to her house many times to play.
We also know that on Christmas 1921, Sammy was a guest at a “very merry Christmas party” at the home of Mr. and Mrs. G. C. Peebles on upper Liberty Street. First Santa Claus arrived (by car, not sleigh) and then they had a feast.
Mabel Dunlap remembered that when Jennie was in elementary school, “Many of the children made fun of her and called her names. Probably because of my defense of the bewildered Chinese girl, and because of our friendship, I became a special friend of her family.”
“I often went to Jennie’s home with her and at times was asked to write letters for Mrs. Wah Chung, who could speak English but could not write it.” “Sometimes I helped with her sewing and was always received with dignity and warmth.”
Mabel Dunlap 1964
Marie Prescott remembers attending Jennie’s birthday party at the family home one year. She was in Jennie’s class at school, and said the parents invited everyone in the class to the party and served them a full meal.
Bridging Two Cultures
The Tidings in 1913 wrote warmly of the doll Jennie brought to her elementary school fair. “A Chinese doll dressed and entered in a doll cab handsomely decorated with the Stars and Stripes and with the Chinese national colors, by Jennie Wah Chung, attracted much attention.”
I think this doll perfectly encapsulates the way Mr. Wong and his family were able to successfully bridge two cultures. On the one hand, Jennie had a Chinese doll. On the other hand, she entered it decorated with the Stars and Stripes. That made it hard to judge her as a “foreigner.” Yet she didn’t abandon her culture. Along with the Stars and Stripes, she included the Chinese national colors in the doll cab.
Mr. Wong seems to have been able to adeptly live this balancing act.
“Wah Chung was a perfect gentleman…everybody trusted him.”
Ashland business owner Henry Enders
He was able to befriend and gain the trust of the powerful families and institutions of Ashland. He and his wife mixed socially with “the cream of the crop” in town, and he did things like drive his patriotically decorated car in Ashland 4th of July parades.
Mr. Wong’s stellar reputation allowed him to represent and help Ashland’s Chinese citizens, both locally and around the West Coast.
In this introduction to the Chinese community in Ashland, it is important to acknowledge the legal and social discrimination they lived with.
The Chinese faced tremendous discrimination and racism both in Oregon and throughout the United States for many decades. Nationally, “The Chinese Exclusion Act [of 1882] prohibited further immigration of Chinese laborers, and barred those already living in the United States from bringing their wives and families over to join them. The law became increasingly more restrictive, and by 1892 Chinese individuals needed to carry proof of legal residence with them at all times or risk deportation (Voss and Allen 2008:12).” [Rose & Ruiz, page 194]
Wah Chung sometimes had to travel to San Francisco, Portland or Seattle to assist someone who needed help reentering the United States after making a trip home to visit family in China. Here is an example, from an actual document in the year 1900.
The City of Ashland had local discriminatory laws. For example, in 1883, the Ashland city council passed an ordinance designed to keep out Chinese who might want to open a laundry business: “December 7, 1883: ‘China Washouse [sic] or laundry to pay a license of forty dollars per year or at the same rate for a shorter period.'”
The atmosphere in Ashland for Chinese seemed to improve in the last decade of the 1800s and the first few decades of the 1900s. Despite this, Wah Chung’s acceptance in the community was an exception. The majority of the Chinese in Ashland either spent almost all their time out of town maintaining the railroad, or they seem to have been nameless and little known to the larger community.
Mabel Dunlap described “…Chinese families who lived in the houses clustered about the Wah Chungs. In these buildings the shades were always drawn and this appealed to my youthful curiosity. Jennie once took me through some of the houses and although the rooms were in semi-darkness, I noted everything was spotless. The women were sewing and doing their household chores and the children were well-behaved.” [Dunlap 1964]
Later Life and Death
Mr. Wong had an outstanding and astounding career with the Southern Pacific. In 1925, the Southern Pacific Bulletin wrote:
“Wah Chung is now 82 years old, yet judging from his hale and hearty appearance he will probably continue for many more years to be of helpful service to the Company’s Maintenance of Way Department.”
The article went on: “Wah Chung keeps these gangs [the Chinese track workers] up to maximum requirement, looks after the welfare of the men, takes care of their commissary, and has been a very valuable asset to this Company. He enjoys a wide acquaintance and is always a welcome visitor, either in the office or on the line. Although well along in years, he is still quite an active man and personally handles all the details of his work.”
Mr. Wong died in a Portland hospital in 1927, two years after this glowing article was written. Tragically for Mrs. Wong (Mrs. Wah Chung), their son Sammy died only three months after his father, due to a drowning accident in the Willamette River.
In her 1964 interview, Mabel Dunlap said: “The last time I saw Mrs. Wah Chung was on a summer day on a street corner in Ashland. She had come to collect the last of the money due her late husband by the railroad. She planned to return to China. She wept as she told me of Sammy’s death.”
Their daughter Jennie married, perhaps to a San Francisco Chinese businessman. The 1925 Southern Pacific article states that Wah Chung “has a married daughter living in Boston.” I have not been able to track her life after that point.
Back to Chinese New Year 1916
Rather than end this article with death, I’d like to add a bit of humor about Ashland life in 1916. Let’s circle back to my description of Ashland’s Chinese New Year 1916. Why was it different than previous years “when the entire population of Ashland made a pilgrimage to Wah Chung’s on China New Year and partook of Chinese nuts and candies and watched the fireworks.”?
The Tidings article goes on to say: “The great difference was in the banquet, which is the central feature of the New Year celebration, and at which every manner of dish from the Flowery Kingdom is served.”
Now we get to the crux of the matter: “What’s the use of banqueting on bird’s nest soup, shark’s fin and other delicacies if the edibles can not be washed down with good old wine imported from Canton.”
“Alas, rice wine, plum wine and other ancient drinks which go down like water but biteth like the serpent and kicketh like the mule, can not be served at the spreads. ‘Gum sing,’ which means ‘bottom’s up,’ is a toast that can not be drunk. The white man’s prohibition law put a crimp in the celebration.”
Ashland Tidings February 3, 1916
Many residents of Ashland were probably cheering when they read this article, due to the cultural clashes at the time around the subject of alcohol. If you remember from your school days that Prohibition in the United States became law in 1920, you remember correctly. So how did that affect Chinese New Year 1916 in Ashland, Oregon? Simply because voters in the State of Oregon “jumped the gun” on the national trend and voted 136,842 to 100,362 “to prohibit after January first, 1916 the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors within the State of Oregon….”
Sadly, this is why the people of Ashland could no longer enjoy Chinese New Year in 1916 with “rice wine, plum wine and other ancient drinks which go down like water but biteth like the serpent and kicketh like the mule….” Thank you, Tidings columnist, for the colorful language.
In conclusion, here is an upbeat entry from the Ashland Tidings that says a lot about the man Mr. Wong and his relationship with the Ashland community.
“Wah Chung, popular Chinese merchant, made his yearly round last week, distributing Chinese lily bulbs to his merchant friends. The bulbs are supposed to have the peculiar property of bringing happiness and prosperity to those under whose care they bloom.”
Ashland Tidings December 14, 1916
References for this article:
Ashland Tidings 3/31/1913 Ashland Tidings 6/5/1913 Ashland Tidings 9/29/1913 Ashland Tidings 2/18/1915 Ashland Tidings 2/3/1916 Ashland Tidings 12/14/1916 Ashland Tidings 6/28/1917 Ashland Tidings 6/3/1919 Ashland Tidings 1/4/1922 Atwood-1: Atwood, Kay. Jackson County Conversations, Jackson County Intermediate Education District, 1975. Atwood-2: Atwood, Kay. Minorities of Early Jackson County, Jackson County Intermediate Education District, 1976. Dunlap, Mabel Roach, as told to Bernice Gillespie, "Local Woman Recalls Days of the Chinese in Ashland," Ashland Daily Tidings October 7, 1964. Kindell, Victoria. Personal interview 2/16/2019. Medford Mail 5/22/1896 Medford Mail Tribune 1/9/1910 Medford Mail Tribune 5/25/1927 Medford Mail Tribune 8/8/1927 Oregon Secretary of State website. https://sos.oregon.gov/archives/exhibits/highlights/Documents/proclamation-oswald-west-prohibition.pdf Rose, Chelsea, M.A. Personal interview 2/13/2019. Chelsea is Staff Archeologist at SOULA (Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology). Her research locally and around the state is part of the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project. Rose, Chelsea and Ruiz, Chris. "Strangers in a Strange Land: Nation Building, Ethnicity, and Identity in the Oregon Territory," in ALIS VOLAT PROPRIIS: Tales from the Oregon Territory, 1848-1859, Association of Oregon Archaeologists, Occasional Papers No. 9, 2014. Waldron, Sue. "Growing Up In Ashland's Railroad District," Table Rock Sentinel, SOHS, March 1988.
COLLABORATORS AND FRIENDS
The Southern Oregon Historical Society is a great resource. (1) If you like history, SOHS can always use volunteers to help with research, digitizing and transcribing. Learn about SOHS here. (2) Second, I encourage you to join SOHS as a member to support their work. The JOIN link is here.
Painting of Oak Street Tank & Steel by Dorothy Nugent
In The Beginning…
To understand Oak Street Tank & Steel, you have to go back to the beginning of time (well, Ashland time, anyway).
In the year 1852, Abel Helman and Eber Emery were the first settlers to claim land along Ashland Creek. The two friends from Ohio had tried, and failed, to find gold together in California. As a fallback, they used their carpentry skills to start a business, as they built the first sawmill in Southern Oregon on the creek.
Helman is remembered today by the names of Helman Street and Helman School. I will tell you much more about Abel Helman when I write about the Ashland Plaza. Emery hosted Ashland’s first school classes in his home. Keep an eye out for his name later in this article in connection with Oak Street Tank & Steel.
Two years later, in 1854, Helman and Emery built a flourmill. These two mills formed the nucleus of the brand new town of 23 people then called Ashland Mills.
Founding of the Business
Fast-forward 60 years from the beginning of Ashland. In 1912, the business now called Oak Street Tank & Steel began life as the Park Garage, founded by Sim Morris. In the 1915 photo above, Sim Morris is the man on the right wearing a tall hat.
If you had wanted to find Sim at the Park Garage in 1915, you would have walked across the street from the newly developed Lithia Park, which had its “Grand Opening” in 1916. This address (now 51 Winburn Way) housed the Ashland Hillah Temple for decades, and is now home of Ashland’s Community Development department.
In 1925, Sim Morris and his son Harry moved the business to a brand new building at 101 Oak Street. First called Oak Street Garage, it later became Oak Street Tank & Steel (AKA Oak Street Tank), a name they have kept through two additional moves.
At 101 Oak Street, Sim and Harry expanded the business beyond auto repair to include a blacksmith and machine shop. They finally found their niche in 1938 when they started making steel tanks, which they have now been doing for 80 years through many generations of the Morris family.
The building at 101 Oak Street is on the National Register of Historic Places. Long-time Ashlanders may remember it as the site of Pioneer Glass & Cabinet from 1953 to 1996. It is now the site of popular brewpub Standing Stone Brewing Company.
In 1945 they needed more room for their growing tank business, so Harry moved Oak Street Tank a short distance to a block-long building at the corner of A Street and Oak Street. This building is still often called the Oak Street Tank building, even though the business moved out 18 years ago. Next to the railroad tracks, the location was perfect for the expanding business that sent and received products by rail as well as by truck.
Harry Morris married the great-granddaughter of Ashland founder Eber Emery. Harry’s son Gene Morris ran the company for decades. It is now managed by Gene’s son Jim Morris and his daughter Chris Decker. That makes Chris’ son Nick, who works in the business, the 5thgeneration family member (and a 6thgeneration Ashlander) to work at Oak Street Tank & Steel!
Fascinating fact: Oak Street Tank is the third oldest business in Ashland, after the Ashland Daily Tidings (since 1876) and the Ashland Greenhouse (since 1906)
The A Street location had been a successful fruit packing plant for Ashland’s orchards for many years. In the early 1900’s, each year hundreds of train cars full of peaches, apples, pears and other fruit would leave Ashland from that building for sale around the country.
Oak Street Tank Products
Oak Street Tank stayed in business by adapting to the times. They made many products through the years in addition to tanks: aluminum hulled boats (photo above), “wigwam” burners for local lumber mills, steam cleaners, steel boxes, bomb shelters, and more.
Yes…even bomb shelters!
During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Cave Junction resident Art Robinson exhibited at State and County fairs, where he found a market of “preppers” who wanted to purchase bomb shelters. He contracted with Oak Street Tank to make the shelters for him. Gene Morris’ daughter Sharon told me she estimated about 50 of them were made for Art, both a basic 8′ by 15′ size and a larger 9′ by 24′ size.
Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of an Oak Street Tank bomb shelter, but here are photos of some of their other unusual products.
As company office manager Chris (Morris) Decker was showing me some company historical documents, this brochure (date unknown) jumped out at me. Look at the “Sunmate,” described in the brochure as “The First Aluminum Surf-Paddleboard in America.” Do you see in the description: “For added sport – use a sail.”? Yes, the Oak Street Tank surf-paddleboard could even be used for windsurfing!
Modern windsurfing was invented in the 1960’s and took off in the 1980’s, when it became an Olympic sport for the first time in 1984. The brochure states that Oak Street Tank has been building aluminum watercraft since 1937. Could this old-fashioned steel tank company in Ashland have been a pioneer in both windsurfing and SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard)?
Chris (Morris) Decker told me this photo (date unknown) was taken in Ashland. Based on the clothing people in the photo are wearing, my guess is the early 1950’s.
Do you recognize the purpose of the white machine on wheels? Chris said it’s a coin collection box for the City of Ashland parking department. Oak Street Tank made the steel box that holds the coins.
This is one of the “wigwam burners” built of steel by Oak Street Tank. It looks like it must be 50 feet tall. They were used at lumber mills to dispose of wood scrap by burning. The heavy (unfiltered) smoke that came out of the top was gradually recognized as a health hazard. The last wigwam burners (also called beehive burners or teepee burners) were shut down in Oregon in the 1980’s for health and environmental reasons.
Some Family Stories
When I interviewed Sharon (Morris) Laskos and her husband Ed for this article, she shared with me some family stories and old newspaper articles the family has kept.
Gene Morris (Sharon’s father) started welding at the company when he was 13 years old and later ran the company for decades.
Gayle Morris (Sharon’s aunt) started working at the old Oak Street Garage when she was 15 years old. She said: “I did anything they needed done. I would meet with customers or run to the post office.” After her high school graduation in 1946, she ran the office for the next 50 years! That is dedication to a family business.
Sharon told me that as children, she and her four siblings would separate scrap metal at the company or help out in the office to make some spending money.
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How many more years, and how many more generations, can Oak Street Tank stay in business? Based on their history, I think we would have to live a long, long time to find out!
Interview with Sharon (Morris) Laskos and Ed Laskos, September 24, 2018.
Interview with Sharon (Morris) Laskos and Ed Laskos, September 24, 2018.
Interview with Chris (Morris) Decker, December 10, 2018.
Kaltenbach, Jacob. “Oak Street Tank & Steel,” Lithiagraph, October 1993.
Nishball, Shirley Bender. “Firm has long history in Ashland,” Ashland Daily Tidings, June 15, 1989.