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.
* * * * * * * * * *
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.
(1) Ashland’s Famous Faith Healer
(2) Daffodil Paradise
541 Holly Street: Former home of Ashland’s Famous Faith Healer
541 Holly Street was the home of nationally renowned faith healer Susie Jessel. She and her family moved to Ashland in 1932, and she lived here until her death in 1966. Her daughter wrote that Susie Jessel treated as many as 300 people a day at times, people who came from all over the country, as well as Canada and Mexico. She treated babies, the elderly, those with tumors, people who were crippled and many more.
The photo above stimulated a memory for my friend Terry Skibby. He told me: “My folks would tour Ashland by car and see the sights when company came. One location was the Susie Jessel place with the large crowds of people. They were in the trailer park and street at the corner of Holly and Idaho Streets. This was in the 1950’s.”
How did she become a healer? Here are Susie Jessel’s own words.
“On April 2, 1891, I arrived. I was born with what they then called a veil or caul over my face. This was to indicate a special gift in a child. I believe now it is just termed a membrane. Mother noticed my gift immediately. She had trouble with her breasts, and she noticed that when my hands would touch them, the pain would leave and before long all pain and fever was gone.
“During the war Daddy’s eye had been injured and had a whitish scum over it. Before I was two years old I started noticing that eye and I would reach up and touch it. Soon the scum started disappearing and the sight returned to that eye. From that time on Daddy called me his ‘little bundle of magic.’
“I can’t remember when I wasn’t carried at all hours of the night to the ailing. Mother would place my hands on the person, and before long they would get relief from pain. And so my healing career started before I was out of the cradle.” (Jessel, no date, page 8)
“After all my research, I’m convinced she was the real thing, a true spiritual healer….” That quote is from author, lawyer and retired SOU business professor Dennis Powers, who researched Jessel and was quoted in John Darling’s 2014 Mail Tribune article. Powers said that she healed by laying on of hands and prayer. She did not ask for payment, but some people would leave money in her apron pocket. She insisted that she did not “do” the healing, that it was entirely God working through her.
Time Magazine 1953
Time Magazine even featured Susie Jessel in a 1953 article. It said: “‘Susie,’ as her patients called her, moved to Ashland 23 years ago, and she has brought a boom to the town. Thousands of hopeful patients keep the cash registers ringing in motels, hotels, restaurants, drug stores and movie houses.”
Unlike Dennis Powers, the author of the Time article was very cynical when it came Susie’s healing powers, as shown by this line from the article. “Says Clarence Litwiller, a local undertaker who claims that last year he buried 18 of Susie’s patients: ‘She’s the biggest business in town for everybody.”
Here is another way to look at Litwiller’s statement. If Susie Jessel treated thousands of people in a year, many of whom their doctors said were near death, and only 18 of them died in Ashland, that could be seen as quite amazing.
Mrs. Jessel did not say that she could heal everyone who came to her. She made no promises. However, she stated that there was “a big improvement in at least 80% of them.” (Jessel, no date, page 49)
Was the healing only psychological?
Skeptics said that healings, if anything happened at all, were only psychological. Mrs. Jessel addressed this attitude:
“Some may feel that the healing is merely in the minds of the patients; however, when one thinks of the skeptical and the tiny babies and animals who with no knowledge of psychology receive so much and in some cases more help faster than adults, I don’t believe this theory applies.” (Jessel, no date, page 66)
Susie Jessel had a fascinating life story, but I can’t tell all of it here. If you want to read more, you can find many of my references for this article in the Ashland Library.
I will end this part of my Holly Street article with the emotional closing lines from H.K. Ellis’ 1943 magazine article about Susie Jessel.
I was packing things away in the car, getting ready to leave Ashland, when I was told that a patient wished to speak to me. He was pointed out, a short, stocky figure laboring in the nearby truck garden.
I went over, walking across soft red loam. The young fellow wore grimy dungarees, a faded blue shirt and a ragged straw hat pulled low over his eyes. I did not offer to shake hands with him for he seemed desirous of overlooking any sympathy.
‘How’s the de luxe gardener?’ I asked.
‘Just swell!’ he exclaimed. ‘Look!’
He raised his face to mine. His eyes were two circles of blotchy white. ‘Look!’ he repeated. ‘These cataracts are thinning. For five years I’ve seen nothing farther than a yard away. But now, for instance, look at that robin over on the cowshed fence. It’s about 50 feet, I’d say.’
‘You’re right,’ I agreed, following his gaze. ‘But somehow, it’s hard to believe.’
‘Not when you’re behind the eight ball,’ he said grinning. ‘Things Mrs. Jessel once told me are beginning to come true. I know. Why, only last night I caught a glimpse of the moon!’
541 Holly Street is still called the Jessel House, though it is now a vacation rental.
Do any of the readers of this article know someone who was treated by Susie Jessel?
Now let’s walk the rest of Holly Street until it ends at Liberty Street.
500 Holly Street: Artistic Fieldstone
I always appreciate creative stone wall building, especially natural fieldstone walls like this one. I look at a stone wall like this and I think of words like patience, right-brain, strong visual sense, trust and nature.
558 Holly Street: Lush Wisteria vine
This is not the longest stretching Wisteria vine I have ever seen, but it is close. I think this is the largest Wisteria trunk I have ever seen. As shown in the photo above, from the trunk at the corner of the front porch the vine has been trained to grow towards the street.
There it takes off along the front fence line, all the way to the property line in both directions (as shown in the photo below). I look forward to coming back in the spring to enjoy this Wisteria’s magnificent blooms.
Mrs. Susie Jessel lived here at 558 Holly Street for about two years before settling at 541 Holly Street.
645 Holly Street: Artistic Facade
My artistic eye likes this stone-facade garage with upstairs studio. The beautiful wood garage door adds to the charm and a little design help from afternoon sun and tree shadows completes the artistic package.
750 Holly Street: Magical Japanese Maple
750 Holly Street: This was my attempt to capture the magical afternoon light through Autumn-color Japanese Maple leaves.This house has a lovely front yard, but the afternoon sunlight shining through these Japanese Maple leaves really got my attention. This little tree was absolutely stunning. I captured a bit of the magic, but no matter how many photos I took, I couldn’t capture all of it.
826 Holly Street: Daffodil Paradise
Here at the Liberty Street end of Holly Street is one of the most spectacular Spring gardens in Ashland. If you love daffodils, you must walk or drive to 826 Holly Street in March or April. I had the pleasure of walking by in March of 2018, so here are two photos I took then of the daffodils (and lavender) in all their glory.
I met Carol, the owner of 826 Holly Street, as I was walking in the springtime. She explained to me that she started planting daffodil bulbs 24 years ago. She liked them so much that she has continued to plant more every year since then, as well as separating the clumps of bulbs.
Carol told me her secret was to dead-head the flowers as soon as they stop blooming. She told me: “I want all the goodness to go back into the bulb.” I think you’ll agree that she has plenty of “goodness” to show for her 24 years of hard work and loving care.
Two Dramatic Trees on Holly Street
I will close the Holly Street walk and article with a look at two trees that stand out.
Trail Marker Tree?
When I spoke with Gary Pool, who lives on Holly Street, he pointed out this dramatic Ponderosa pine on Holly Street as a possible Native American trail marker tree. I had never heard of the term “trail marker tree” and I did some research. I found this interesting insight and explanation online.
“Trees have been used as signs for centuries. Between 2002 and 2005 I had the privilege of being involved with the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. During that time period, I worked with several native Americans, including a Native American ethnobotanist who taught me many interesting things about Native American Culture including the practice of using Marker Trees to show the way. Native Americans used to use trees to tell in which direction they should travel. These were called Marker Trees.
“Favorite tree selection for these trees were oaks, maples and elms. These species were selected for their flexibility in youth, but hardwood in maturity. Marker trees were bent in the direction of a frequently visited destination such as a water source, campsite, or a safe river crossing.” (Ronda Roemmelt 2015)
The photo below shows a tree identified by experts as a Native American trail marker tree.
After my research, I have concluded that the Ponderosa Pine on Holly Street is not a trail marker tree, though it would be romantic to call it one. Here is my reasoning. Nearly every trail marker tree photo I saw online shows the bent branch that “points the way” only 3′ to 6′ above the ground (like the photo above). The lowest bent branch on the Holly Street pine is more than 10′ above the ground. I think it is a case of unusual artwork by Mother Nature.
Massive Oak Tree
This oak tree is not quite as dramatic as the Ponderosa pine, but it has a massive and beautiful presence on Holly Street.
If you have thoughts about this article, or if you have a Holly Street story to add, feel free to leave a comment below.
References I consulted while writing about Holly Street:
Anon. “Medicine: Straw for the Drowning,” Time Magazine, September 7, 1953.
Darling, John. “A History of Healing,” Medford Mail Tribune, July 1, 2014. (link here)
Ellis, H.K. “The Story of Mrs. Susie Jessel,” TRUE magazine, Country Press Inc., 1943
Jessel, Mary Jane. The Story of Mrs. Susie Jessel, 1950.
O’Harra, Marjorie. Ashland: the first 130 years, 1986
Roemmelt, Ronda. “The History of Marker Trees,” Deeproot.com, October 5, 2015
Sanderson, Mary Jessel. Healing Hands: The Story of Susie Jessel, as told to her daughter Mary Jessel Sanderson, no date.
Article highlights: 101-year-old Mrs. Fader tells me stories, plus… The Pool’s bought a pool with help from Poole
Holly Street starts at Terrace Street just a few blocks from downtown, and goes downhill about nine blocks to end at Liberty Street. When I start walking a street, taking photos and talking with people, I never know what I will find. I found so many fascinating stories (including history) as I walked Holly Street, that I decided to divide my article into two parts. This is Part 1.
101-year-old, 75-year Holly Street resident Mrs. Fader tells me stories
I met 101-year-old Mrs. Clara Fader at 338 Holly Street. She told me that she and her husband Joseph bought the house (photo below) in 1943 or 1944. Though her husband passed away in 1980, she and her daughters Louise and Mary still live there.
Mrs. Fader impressed on me that she and Joseph were in education for 84 years between the two of them! She taught school for 40 years and he was a teacher and principal for 44 years.
She attended Southern Oregon Normal School (now SOU), where one of her teachers was Angus Bowmer, who founded the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1935. I couldn’t coax any Angus Bowmer stories out of her, just the statement: “He was really a character.”
Lincoln Elementary School was purposely built next to Southern Oregon Normal School to make it easy for student teachers to walk back and forth. Mrs. Fader taught for a while at Lincoln School, and then for many years she was a First Grade teacher at Walker Elementary School. This led to a good story.
The boy with the “big worm”
She described one of her students as a “bashful young boy” who came to her toward the end of lunch recess one day. He told her: “I hope it’s okay that I went in the classroom and found an empty jar, because I caught a big worm and need something to put it in.”
Mrs. Fader had her teacher-intuition working, so she asked the boy to bring her the jar with the “big worm.” When he did, she looked in the jar and saw a baby rattlesnake!
Baby Pacific rattlesnake (photo by Kristen Lalumiere)
Mrs. Fader told the boy: “Recess is almost over so go out and play for a few minutes, and I will keep the big worm.” She found another teacher in the hallway, who offered to take the rattlesnake to the College science department a few blocks away. After the science department did some investigation of the rattler, they reported back to Mrs. Fader that it had enough venom in its glands to potentially kill a child.
Another under-the-radar super-hero teacher at work!
Mrs. Fader remembers that day as one of three times that the children found rattlesnakes on the Walker School playground during her time teaching there.
The Fader house
The house was built in the 1880’s, according to Mrs. Fader. She and her family have made very few changes to the house, so it retains its historic character.
She recalls that after she and her husband bought the house, they started paying the City for utilities: water, electrical, sewer and more. Well, it took about seven years before they realized that the house had its own septic system and they weren’t even connected with the city sewer system. At that time, their house was still a bit “in the country” and the City had to install sewer pipes ¼ mile or more to connect with the City lines. This was quite expensive.
It seemed logical to Mr. and Mrs. Fader (and to me as I was listening to her story) that they would get credit from the city for seven or so years of sewer payments for service they didn’t even use…makes sense, right? Then that credit would be applied to the cost of linking their house with the city system. Who knows the bureaucratic reasons, but according to Mrs. Fader the credit was not given, and it’s a sore spot with her to this day.
Mrs. Fader’s barn at 338 Holly Street (with a visitor in the photo that is not a family pet)
The Fader family pets
When the children were young, the Fader’s had a number of pets, including rabbits, goats and dogs. Here are two pet stories Mrs. Fader told me.
Goats: The baby goats grew up with her children and would follow them around the acres of orchards and gardens around the house. During the school year, the goats knew what time the kids were due to walk home up Holly Street. They would wait in the street keeping an eye out for the Fader children walking home from Lincoln School. When they spotted the children several blocks away, they flew down the street to meet them. Then they would accompany the children for the rest of their uphill walk home. Mrs. Fader told me her neighbor down the street loved to go out in her front yard after school let out just to see this sight.
The Black Lab: Among the dogs they had as pets, the college-educated black lab whom she adopted later in his life was the most memorable to Mrs. Fader. Yes, I do mean college-educated.
The black lab, named Christopher, made a home for himself at Southern Oregon College (now SOU). Students would take care of the dog, and so he thrived from year to year. Christopher had a habit of trying to visit classrooms during the day. Most of the teachers closed their classroom doors or kicked him out, but one professor had an “open door policy” when it came to Christopher.
This was Professor Arthur Taylor, one of the most distinguished professors on campus. He taught Social Science at Southern Oregon College from 1926 until 1963, and was Chair of the Department for many years. He was so respected that the social science building Taylor Hall is named after him.
Taylor Hall at Southern Oregon University
Now…back to the dog named Christopher. According to Mrs. Fader, Professor Taylor left his classroom door open so that Christopher could sit with the students, as he often did. When Christopher was forced to leave his “home” at the college, and Mrs. Fader adopted him, Professor Taylor had words of high praise for the dog. He told Mrs. Fader (with tongue firmly in cheek): You won’t find a better educated dog than this. Christopher has attended college for six to eight years, sitting in class with my students.
Mrs. Fader confirmed to me that he was the smartest dog she ever had!
* * * * *
Let’s mosey on down Holly Street for more photos and stories.
357 Holly Street
I call this photo: “The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, and it looks like it’s climbing clear up to the sky.” Do you recognize the song these lyrics are from? Hint: It was an Oregon Shakespeare Festival musical in the 2018 season. Yes, the song is from one of my favorite musicals of all time…Oklahoma.
384 Holly Street
I enjoy finding beautiful and unusual yard art, and this house number sign qualifies as both beautiful and unusual.
Purple door and colorful art makes a welcoming entrance, in my book.
* * * * *
The Pool’s bought a pool with help from Poole
Got it? No? Let me translate.
Life brought Gary and Debbie Pool a surprise, as Debbie explained to me: “When Gary and I got engaged, we thought we would sell my house and live in his, but we saw a flyer for the pool house [at 414 Holly Street] with a huge photo of the pool area with all the light and we had to see it!”
Realtor Eric Poole was Debbie’s neighbor, so they asked him to arrange a tour of the house for them. They went, toured the house, made an offer the same day…and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.”
So in summary, the Pool’s bought a pool with help from Poole. Crazy, fun and true.
414 Holly Street, Gary and Debbie Pool’s entry recently rebuilt by Gary
Gary is just putting the finishing touches on an attractive new front entrance (above) and a front yard deck (where I took the photo below of Gary and Debbie).
Gary received his Bachelor’s degree at Utah State University in Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning. That skill set took his career in a variety of directions, including doing city planning in the 1980’s.
Today he has a small landscape design and architecture business (GWPool & Assoc). He told me that he finds his work creative and fulfilling when he is able to design and build “personal parks.” These are designs that turn a client’s yard into a delightful, relaxing oasis.
I have known Gary and Debbie for many years, and they graciously allowed me to share some photos (and a video) showing the inside of their dramatic home.
The afternoon brings garden reflections to the water and water reflections to the interior walls of the two-story house.
Enjoy the 13 second video of water reflecting on the walls at the Pool’s pool house
This is only Part 1 of the Holly Street story.
In Part 2, I will introduce you to Ashland’s famous faith healer, who in her day brought as many people to Ashland as did the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Then we will meet Carol, who has created what I call “daffodil heaven,” one of the most spectacular springtime gardens in Ashland. Finally, we will learn about two dramatic Holly Street trees.
“The ‘Ashland peach’ was known all over the Pacific Coast and marketed in the Eastern states and in Canada. (The Max Pracht orchards on Ashland Street took World’s Fair premiums in Chicago.) From a few hundred boxes of peaches shipped prior to 1890, the industry grew until the 1899 output was 75,000 boxes, more than 60 railroad boxcar loads.” (O’Hara page 64)
Max Pracht peach box label, likely late 1800s
“Pear Paradise” or “Peach Paradise?”
Today we know the Rogue Valley as a “pear paradise.” I had no idea peaches were such a huge part of Ashland’s economy in the late 1800’s until I started researching Pracht Street for this article.
“60 railroad boxcar loads” of peaches shipped out in 1899 alone! That is amazing.
Max Pracht owned the premium peach orchard in Ashland. Indeed, you could say his was the premium peach orchard in the country!
Take a look at this excerpt from an 1897 essay extolling Oregon fruit: “In this connection the fact may be noted that the largest apple, the largest pear and the largest cherries, exhibited at the Columbian Exposition [1893 Chicago World’s Fair] were grown in Oregon, and that a special gold medal was awarded to Max Pracht of Ashland for the largest and best flavored peaches.” (The Overland Monthly, June 1987) (emphasis added)
Max Pracht’s House in 1900
Here is what his home and surrounding orchard looked like during the pruning season in 1900.
Max Pracht’s house and orchard in 1900 (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)
It stands to reason that Pracht Street, where his home and orchard were located, was named after Max Pracht.
According to a July 25, 2013 Facebook post by the Ashland Historic Railroad Museum:
“Do you know that if you live around Pracht Street you are probably living on the old Peachblow Fantasy Orchard land? It was 120 acres of peaches right here in central Ashland. The largest peach orchard in the entire state of Oregon. The peaches were enormous. 20 ounce peaches were common with some as large as 26 ounces.”
Walking Pracht Street
Pracht Street is only two blocks long, with its two ends at Liberty Street and Euclid Avenue. If you like alleys, you can find one that heads south to Ashland Street and another that goes north to Pennsylvania Avenue.
There is a small one story apartment complex at 800 Pracht Street, and from there to Euclid it’s all single family homes.
Apartments at 800 Pracht Street
As I walked from Liberty uphill to Euclid Avenue, I searched to see if Max Pracht’s house was still standing. First, let me tell you about the yard art, chickens and skunk that I spotted along the way.
Chickens and Skunk
Ashland allows backyard chickens, and these are among the first I have seen in my walks around town. Then I spotted an unusual afternoon visitor…a young skunk.
First, I was surprised to see it just three feet from the chickens. Is that normal? Second, I was surprised to see it out and about in the mid-afternoon. Pet skunk? That seems unlikely, considering their potent aroma. Maybe it was just excited about exploring the trash area.
Beauty on Pracht Street
I enjoy finding yard art and other man-made beauty, as well as nature’s beauty. As I walked the two blocks of Pracht Street, I found both.
Artistic door at 710 Pracht Street
Yard art next to 715 Pracht Street
Lovely, rhododendron filled garden at 640 Pracht Street. I’d like to come back here in April or May when the flowers are in bloom.
My favorite tree on Pracht Street (at the corner of Pracht and Morton)
Max Pracht’s house?
I will finish the article with more about Max Pracht, who was an amazing man and a great booster of early Ashland. I think I found his house toward the top of Pracht at 660 Pracht Street. Take a look at the two photos below. The large yellow house at 660 Pracht is much larger than the Pracht house shown in the 1900 photo, but it is not unusual for houses to be expanded over the years.
To me, these two clues give it away:
The shape of the two windows facing the street on the third floor attic is identical in the current house to the shape of the same windows in the 1900 photo.
The triangular wall section between the two attic windows and the roof is identical in the current house with the shape in the 1900 photo.
What do you think? Am I right or is this just coincidence?
660 Pracht Street…formerly Max Pracht’s house?
Max Pracht’s house and orchard in 1900 (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)
Max Pracht’s Life
Max Pracht was “a Republican of irrepressible enthusiasm,” back when the Republican party was the party of Lincoln, the party that had the courage to hold our country together and outlaw slavery.
He was born in Palatinate, Germany in 1846. There was unrest and revolution in Germany in 1848, which caused his father to immigrate to America with the family, including two-year-old Max.
According to the Republican League Register of Oregon: “He served in the navy during the Rebellion, and is a comrade of Burnside Post No. 23, G. A. R.”
In other words, he was in the Union Navy during the Civil War. Then, as a veteran, he joined the Ashland (Burnside) post of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union Civil War veterans group.
Max moved with his wife and three children from San Francisco to Ashland in 1887, purchased land, planted an orchard, and harvested his first crop of peaches in 1891. As of 1896, he was still waiting to receive the Gold Medal he won as first prize for his peaches at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
In addition to being a grower and marketer of premium peaches, he also developed some of his land for housing after the opening of the railroad led to a population increase in Ashland starting in 1888. On top of that, this busy businessman owned the huge Hotel Oregon downtown in 1891-1892, and his son Alexander went on to own the Ashland Depot Hotel [see Ashland Depot Hotel article here] after 1901.
Pracht Marketing “Secrets”
The Jacksonville newspaper wrote a detailed article in 1893 explaining in part why Pracht orchard peaches sold for 25% more than the market price for peaches, and why they were shipped all over the country. In addition to growing large, flavorful peaches, Mr. Pracht also took the extra step of communicating their premium nature to customers on each individual peach wrapper. In the process, he was a huge booster for Ashland and Southern Oregon.
“People who are fortunate enough to obtain peaches from the ‘Peachblow Paradise Orchards’ of Max Pracht this year will be fully apprised of the celestial character of the fruit, no matter in how distant a clime it may be unpacked and eaten. Mr. Pracht has just had nearly 100,000 peach wrappers printed, each bearing in blue ink on white paper his orchard trademark designed by himself. It advertises the climate of southern Oregon, the city of Ashland, the orchard business of Mr. Pracht, and there will be no danger of retail dealers in Oregon, Washington, Montana or elsewhere selling his peaches as ‘California fruit.’ Neither will there be any likelihood of any scrubby peaches being shipped in those wrappers. Mr. Pracht’s method of paying the strictest attention to the details of selection, packing and marketing, proves its value from the fact that he is able to ask and receive for his peaches 25 percent above the market price.“ (Democratic Times, page 3)
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, Oregon, August 18, 1893, page 3
Fulton, R.L. article “The Yamhill Country,” pages 498-503 in The Overland Monthly, January – June 1897, Overland Monthly Publishing Company, San Francisco, California.
O’Hara, Marjorie. Ashland: the first 130 years, Northwest Passages Publishing, 1986.
Portrait and Biographical Record of Western Oregon: Containing Original Sketches of many well known Citizens of the Past and Present, Chapman Publishing Company; Chicago, 1904.
Republican League Register of Oregon, The Register Publishing Company, 1896, page 260.
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COLLABORATORS AND FRIENDS
My thanks to Terry Skibby for the historic photograph.
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.
The Railroad District grew and thrived because of the railroad, and the Railroad District struggled and suffered because of the railroad. Let’s start with the Railroad Park, and then in future stories we’ll go on to A Street, B Street, 1stStreet, 2nd Street and more.
See below for stories and photos about:
The first train to arrive in Ashland
The “Golden Spike” of Ashland
Who was the “Apple Cider Man?”
What did kids sell to train passengers to make spending money?
Huge hotel and dining room at the depot, and what is left of it
Why are those mysterious blocks of concrete in Railroad Park?
Railroad Park signRailroad Park memorializes the history of this part of town. Before airplanes and airports, before automobiles and interstate highways, there were railroads and railway stations.
Huge Impact of the Railroad in America
How did Americans get around before the railroads? They walked. Or if they were fortunate, they rode in a simple or fancy cart of some kind pulled by horses or oxen over dirt roads. Whether it was simple or fancy, it was slow – and uncomfortably bumpy – and either dusty or muddy (take your pick).
According to the Northwest Railway Museum site, “The journey west ~ 2,400 miles and 4-8 months ~ was reduced to a mere week or two following the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.” Imagine living at the time when this huge cultural change was happening.
There was fierce competition among cities and towns across the country for a railway stop, because towns thrived when they were awarded a station as the tracks were laid.
First Train in Ashland
That is why May 4, 1884 was such an important day for the small town of Ashland, Oregon. That is the day the first train arrived in Ashland, coming in from Portland. At this time, tracks had not yet been built across the Siskiyou Mountains.
First train to arrive in Ashland (from Portland) on May 4, 1884 (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)
With the arrival of the railroad came the arrival of the Railroad District. It is no coincidence that the early homes in the Railroad District were built in the years 1884 to 1888.
From 1884 to 1887, as Southern Pacific slowly built tracks across the Siskiyou Mountain range, stagecoaches continued to cross the mountains and link Ashland with Northern California for West Coast travelers. The last stagecoach carrying train passengers from Ashland to Northern California crossed the Siskiyou range on December 16 or 17, 1887.
Photo of the last stagecoach carrying train passengers from Ashland to Northern California, in the last day before the first train arrived in Ashland from the south (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)
The Golden Spike in Ashland
The Railroad District got an even bigger boost when California and Oregon were linked by rail on December 17, 1887. Here is the plaque in Railroad Park commemorating that event.
Railroad Park, taken from the Golden Spike marker
The driving of the “Golden Spike” by Southern Pacific executive Charles Crocker brought brief national attention to Ashland, because that day marked the completion of railroad tracks around the perimeter of the continental United States.
More important to the economy and growth of Ashland, the town was now a meal stop on the busy rail service linking San Francisco and Portland. For years, up to four trains a day stopped in Ashland. In addition, Ashland was a good spot for Southern Pacific to locate many of its crew.
“75 company men made their homes here” in the early 20th century, wrote Marjorie O’Hara in Ashland: the first 130 years. I bet you can guess where most of these men lived with their families…yes, in the Railroad District. That was a lot of money flowing into the local Ashland economy.
The Apple Cider Man
Ashland Southern Pacific depot – William Powell with his apple cider cart, early 1900s (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)
Historic photos show bustling scenes filled with travelers and peddlers around the railroad depot. William Powell was one of the most successful Ashlanders at serving the stream of train passengers. He lived at 462 A Street with an apple orchard on his property behind the house. You can still see his apple trees (or descendants of his trees) from the Peerless Hotel parking area in the alley just behind the Peerless.
William Powell had a cider press along the alley just off 2ndStreet and a confectionary shop at the corner of A Street and 4thStreet. For many years, he and his apple cider cart were a fixture near the railroad depot.
Entrepreneurial Ashland Youngsters
Old photos also show Ashland youngsters peddling locally grown fruit to the train passengers. Here is the first person story of Ashlander Albert Meyers describing his days as an entrepreneurial youngster.
Interviewed in 1978*, he stated that he moved to Ashland with his family in 1919. Talking about local fruit, he said: “My brother and I also had a lot of cherries at our old house and we used to bring them in little paper boxes and sell those to the people for 5 cents.”
Ashland Southern Pacific depot – Kids selling fruit at depot, early 1900s (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)
But he and his brother sold a lot more than just fruit. Albert talked about their creative way to make money from the free Lithia Water. At the time, train passengers could sample Lithia water from a fountain located at A Street and 4thStreet. The fountain was enclosed within a gazebo similar to the one currently in Lithia Park near the band shell.
Albert Meyers: “My brother and I had a job delivering newspapers. We delivered down at the train station too. That was where all the activity was. Everything happened at the train station. Whenever a train came in, all the passengers would get off and drink some Lithia water, either liking it very much or not liking it at all.”
“My brother and I had a good business going. They didn’t have any cups down there and the fountain wasn’t fixed like a normal drinking fountain, so it was hard to drink from. My brother and I bought some cups from the five and dime store. Every time a train came in, we’d sell them cups for 5 cents so they could get a drink. We had a great big long board that the passengers were supposed to put their cups on when they got through drinking the water. We would set them there to dry, and then, when the next 100 to 150 people came, we would use the same cups again. We made a good amount of money in several years just using used cups.”
Ashland Southern Pacific depot – Powell’s Famous Apple Cider cart (on left) and Lithia water gazebo (on right), in front of the Ashland Depot Hotel, early 1900s (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)
Ashland Depot Hotel
Ashland Depot Hotel, built in 1888, photo taken 1913 (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)
The hotel, built in 1888 to serve the passengers between San Francisco and Portland, had a huge dining room to accommodate a train full of passengers eating all at once. It also provided rooms to rent and a depot for purchasing train tickets. Sadly, the hotel was torn down in 1937.
All we have left of the impressive Ashland Depot Hotel is the small, historic depot building at the corner of A Street and 5thStreet. To give you a sense of the scale of the original Ashland Depot Hotel, the surviving building (below) was originally a kitchen connected to the hotel. It is now across the street from its original location, a bit lonely without the huge hotel seen with it in the photo above.
Along with the coveted paying train passengers who would pay to eat or stay in Ashland, the railroad brought with it hordes of unwanted, non-paying train passengers – the tramps or hobos.
The havoc they caused in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was regularly described by our local papers. I will write about the hobos in another article.
What are these hunks of concrete?
Only a few concrete piers (now holding benches) remain of the dozens that used to fill this space
This small area of Railroad Park was once filled with these sturdy, square concrete piers. Most were removed when the park was created, but a few were left as bench supports and for historical interest. The photo below gives a hint of their original purpose.
Aerial view of Southern Pacific depot with water towers circled, 1940s (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)
The numerous concrete piers served as the base for two large water towers built next to the tracks. These water towers served the Southern Pacific trains, as did the maintenance sheds and the huge engine turntable that can be seen in the photos above and below.
Ashland Southern Pacific depot – Roundhouse and turntable, early 1900s (photo courtesy of Terry Skibby)
The “Glory Days” are Gone
Those glory days for the Railroad District took a beating when Southern Pacific re-routed most railroad traffic away from Ashland over to Klamath Falls in 1927. The railway across the Siskiyou Pass was always very steep, slow and dangerous.
When Southern Pacific built a faster, safer route that bypassed Ashland, the Railroad District fell into decline. First, Ashland lost trains full of passengers stopping to stretch their legs and have a bite to eat – or to stay for a few days. Second, Southern Pacific relocated most of their crew members who lived in Ashland to other cities, so the economy and liveliness of the Railroad District took a beating with that loss as well.
Limited passenger service continued until 1955, when passenger trains to Ashland were discontinued. Since then, many have dreamed of reviving passenger train service, but so far it’s just a dream.
As we know, the Railroad District has bounced back big-time in the last 20 years, but that is another story for another day.
You might still hear a train whistle, and see the train come through Ashland once a day with some lumber or empty train cars. I happened to be at the Railroad Park one Friday morning with Terry Skibby when this Central Oregon Pacific train rolled by.
Enjoy your walking in Ashland, and sign up for the email list if you haven’t already done so.
To learn more of the fascinating history of Ashland's early years, and the Railroad District in particular, come to Railroad Park at 10:00 am on Friday mornings during the summer for a 1 1/2 hour Terry Skibby walking tour of the area.
Walking tours have not started yet for 2019.
My thanks to Terry Skibby for historical information and historical photos, the book Ashland: the first 130 years by Marjorie O’Hara, the book As It Was by Carol Barrett and the Ashland Public Library.
*The interview with Albert Meyers was conducted by 8th grade student Laura Howser, and printed in the 1978 book A Bit of Old Ashland, page 67. This book and other Ashland history books are available at the Ashland Public Library.
Photos not otherwise credited are by Peter Finkle. 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.
Independence Day (the 4th of July) is the biggest community holiday of the year in Ashland, Oregon. The parade brings together more people than any other event of the year. I was happily surprised that Ashland Mayor John Stromberg, during his speech at the Lithia Park bandshell this July 4th, recognized and thanked the thousands of people from all over Southern Oregon who attend the Ashland parade.
Community excitement for Independence Day is not new. The 4th of July parade has been a big event in Ashland for more than 100 years. Let’s take “a walk down memory lane” and look at parade photos from more than 100 years ago.
The oldest parade photo I have been able to find is from the late 1890’s, probably from the 1898 parade when America was in the middle of the short Spanish-American War that lasted from April 21 to August 13, 1898. It was primarily a naval war, and the parade float in the shape of a battle-ship gives the hint for 1898.
Here are a number of photos from the 1911 4th of July parade.
Ashland got creative for the 1912 parade. Do you think Briggs was a shoe store?
The 1915 parade photos focus on people of Ashland.
Does anyone know which community group’s Ladies Auxiliary is represented in this 1916 parade float?
Two photos with dates unknown
I like Ashland being known as “The City Noted for Lady Equestrians.”
My thanks to the Ashland Library for access to their historical photo collection.