Street Scene sculpture: Who are these people?

Name of each person who modeled for Street Scene.
Life and work of sculptor Marion Young.
Complete with 35 photos!

Marion Young flanked by her clay models of Robert Barnett and Kate Sullivan.
Marion Young flanked by her clay models of Robert Barnett and Kate Sullivan.
(photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Robyn Jones)
sculptor Marion Young as a child
Marion Young, the future sculptor of Street Scene, as a child with her dog Bruce.
(photo by Olivia Young, photo courtesy of Robyn Jones)

Street Scene: the sculpture today

This engaging 14-foot-high bronze sculpture is located downtown on East Main Street near Pioneer Street, next to the Ashland Chamber of Commerce office and old Black Swan Theater. So far, this is my favorite sculpture in Ashland, primarily because it is filled with vibrant, life-like people. They are so life-like both because of artist Marion Young’s talent, and also because she found vibrant locals to model for her. She came to Ashland in 1988 to sculpt an earlier version of Street Scene, and lived here until her death in 2019.  

Street Scene sculpture by Marion Young, on East Main Street in Ashland, Oregon
Street Scene sculpture by Marion Young, on East Main Street in Ashland, Oregon. (photo by Tom Woosnam)

In this article, I will tell you how the sculpture Street Scene came to be, a little about each person who modeled for the sculpture, and give an introduction to Marion Young’s life and body of work.

Street Scene: how it came to be

Marion Young moved from Los Angeles to Ashland in order to sculpt the Street Scene commission. She was literally surrounded and inspired by the cauldron of creativity at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). For four years, her studio was located within the Old Scene Shop at OSF. Therefore, it is not surprising that many of the live models Young used for Street Scene were associated with OSF, most of them in the acting corps.

Marion Young working on Street Scene, at her studio in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival scene shop.
Marion Young working on Street Scene, at her studio in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival scene shop. (photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Matthew Haines)

Marion Young created two versions of Street Scene. The first was commissioned by Atherton Place, an elegant retirement center in Marietta, Georgia. It was 4’ wide by 9’ tall, done in white resin, and included nine people in the sculpture.

This first version of Street Scene was created for the retirement center in Atlanta, Georgia
This first version of Street Scene was created for a retirement center in Atlanta, Georgia. (photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Matthew Haines)

Inspired by Ashland culture, she decided to stay and sculpt a larger version of Street Scene. The larger Street Scene sculpted for Ashland is done in bronze, contains twelve people (plus three Shakespeare characters) and stands 14’ tall.

Young always used live models in her sculpting. Her “work,” however, began even before choosing the models. A lifelong student of Carl Jung’s psychology, Young thought in terms of archetypes (universal themes that influence our personalities). She began each sculpture with these themes in mind. As she envisioned Ashland’s Street Scene piece, she created specific universal characters to represent in the sculpture, she thought about relationships between the characters, and she tried to capture the spirit of Ashland.

Street Scene: Young is “discovered”

As I mentioned above, Young sculpted Street Scene in the old scene shop at OSF. “Word spread of her work as her life-size figures slowly emerged above the beams of this building’s massive interior.” The city of Ashland was at the time creating a new Downtown Development Plan. Planning Director John Fregonese appreciated the value of public art. It was Fregonese who spearheaded the 1987 renovation of the lovely Butler-Perozzi Fountain, which had deteriorated badly since its installation in Lithia Park in 1916.

Fregonese thought Street Scene would be a wonderful addition to Ashland’s downtown, and the Ashland City Council agreed. The city provided $5,000 seed money for acquiring the sculpture, but the rest of the funds had to be raised through private donations.

Street Scene: the funding challenge

The overall budget for Street Scene was $125,000, which did not leave much for Marion Young’s years of work. She was able to sell bronze casts of individual busts from the sculpture to help provide income. 

Bronze contributors to Street Scene, plus hundreds more who contributed with lesser amounts.
Bronze contributors to Street Scene, plus hundreds more who contributed with lesser amounts.
(photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Over 800 individuals, businesses and foundations contributed money toward the project. Many donated their services at no charge, or for a very low fee. For example, since bronze casting for the 2,000 pound statue was done at Artworks Foundry in Berkeley, California, Medford Fabrication and the Thorndike family donated all the transportation costs between Ashland and Berkeley, then helped install the sculpture.

recognition sign by Street Scene sculpture.
Recognition on the wall next to the Street Scene sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Local attorney, businessman and art lover Lloyd Matthew Haines was Chairman of the funding committee. He was, and still is, a strong proponent of public art in Ashland. He was also a friend and strong supporter of Marion Young and her work. When funding for Street Scene fell short even after hundreds of donations, Haines contributed the balance that was needed. 

Lloyd Matthew Haines and Marion Young recognized, Street Scene sculpture
Recognition on the wall next to the Street Scene sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Street Scene: dedication on July 6, 1994

Creating and putting up the massive concrete wall that Street Scene is attached to was a huge project in itself. 

Installation of the concrete wall that Street Scene is attached to.
Installation of the concrete wall that Street Scene is attached to.
(photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Matthew Haines)

Once that was done, the sculpture was attached. A community dedication took place on July 6, 1994. “As Ashland gallery owner and artist Judy Howard said at the dedication, ‘Art tells a story of a particular culture and reflects the life of those in that culture. This sculpture reflects the spirit of our community and will tell the Ashland story for generations to come.’”

Marion Young speaks at the dedication of Street Scene. Ashland Mayor Cathy Shaw looks on.
Marion Young speaks at the dedication of Street Scene. Ashland Mayor Cathy Shaw looks on. (photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Robyn Jones)

Street Scene: who are these people?

If you have looked closely at the Street Scene sculpture, you may have already identified one or more of the local actors and residents who modeled for Young. When I decided to write about the sculpture, I thought it would be simple to find a list of the twelve people who modeled for Young. No…not simple. In fact, it has been a surprisingly long and frustrating journey. 

Fortunately, I had fellow Ashlander Tom Woosnam on the journey with me. He became intrigued with Street Scene when he noticed that his good friend Lee Carrau was one of the twelve people in the statue. Woosnam and Carrau had acted together with The Palo Alto Players when they lived in California. Woosnam also recognized Rex Rabold and Shirley and Bill Patton as models for the statue, and wondered who the other eight people were. That put him on a parallel track to mine, and then we began to cooperate.

We researched on the internet and through newspaper articles. I tracked down Marion Young’s niece Robyn Jones, who helped fill in some blanks and kindly shared photos with me. Jones introduced me to Matthew Haines, the driving force behind fundraising for Street Scene. Haines was kind enough to fill in more blanks and share his collection of information and photos with me. 

Getting the correct names for the two children was the most difficult part. Each time Woosnam and I thought we had the correct names, another possible name would come up. Does this article provide the definitive list? I think so. However, if we learn something new in the future, I will update the article.

Here are the names of the models for Street Scene, with a brief note about each of them, starting from the bottom of the statue:             

Smaller than the humans above, the three whimsical figures at the bottom left are characters in Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” 

Marion Young speaks at the dedication of Street Scene. Ashland Mayor Cathy Shaw looks on.
The three characters from Midsummer Night’s Dream are at the lower left.
(photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Matthew Haines)

 *The Fairy Queen was modeled by Seva Anthony, aerialist and Green Show dancer for OSF.

Fairy Queen Titania in Street Scene sculpture
Seva Anthony as the Fairy Queen in Midsummer Night’s Dream. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

*Bottom was a weaver who was given a donkey’s head by the mischievous fairy Puck. Anthony de Fonte, who played Bottom in the Festival’s 1993 production of “Midsummer,” was the model.

 *Peaseblossom was one of Fairy Queen Titania’s fairies who waited upon Bottom. Liz Wood (now Liz Finnegan), a Green Show dancer at OSF, modeled for Peaseblossom.

Bottom and Peaseblossom, Street Scene sculpture
Bottom (modeled by Anthony de Fonte) and Peaseblossom (modeled by Liz Wood).
(photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Kate Sullivan in Street scene sculpture

*Kate Sullivan, OSF actor — (The inviting spirit) With her arm extended and hand open, actor Sullivan portrays the pivotal figure who draws us in. “She is the spirit who invites us into the piece, into the magic of living.”

Virginia Kooiman, "the child," in Street scene sculpture

*Virginia Kooiman, local child — (The child) She was in kindergarten at Briscoe School. “A crack Old Maid player at age 5, she was the sculptor’s most eternally figity [sic] model and became the child of this young family. She holds a ball covered with stars.”

Marco Barricelli in Street Scene sculpture

*Marco Barricelli, OSF actor — (The hero-father) A “leading man of prodigious presence and talent,” Barricelli’s role in the sculpture is the hero-father. He was described as having “a 2000-year-old classic Roman head.” 

Marie Baxter

*Marie Baxter, Hanson Howard gallery co-owner — (The ethereal young mother) Young discovered Marie Baxter at Ashland Food Coop. After they got to know each other, the gallery started to represent Young’s sculptures in Southern Oregon, and Baxter agreed to model for Street Scene.

Phyllis Courtney in Street Scene sculpture

*Phyllis Courtney, OSF actor — (The charming middle-aged aunt) Courtney renovated John and Lizzie McCall’s beautiful 1883 historic home on Oak Street and opened McCall House B&B there in 1981. Also a long-time actress, she portrays half of the charming middle-aged couple, everyone’s favorite aunt.

Lee Carrau in Street Scene sculpture

*Lee Carrau, writer-producer — (The charming middle-aged uncle) As a career, Carrau produced industrial and scientific films. He also loved acting for the fun of it. Young chose him to model as the other half of the charming middle-aged couple, everyone’s favorite uncle.

BlackStar in Street Scene sculpture

*BlackStar, Native American healer — (The healer, and connection to the land) Young felt called to include a Native American female elder in the sculpture. She found BlackStar (Eunice E. Rotz), born 1918 in Texas and trained as a Comanche traditional healer. BlackStar lived the last decades of her life in Southern Oregon, creating silver jewelry and providing healing, before she passed away in 2007.

BlackStar modeling for Street Scene sculpture
This photo shows BlackStar modeling for Marion Young, with the partially completed clay bust beside her. (photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Robyn Jones)
Robert Barnett in the Street Scene sculpture

*Robert Barnett, OSF actor — (The story teller) When Young saw Barnett perform in an OSF play, she thought “his Norman Rockwell face and Harold Lloyd smile were irresistible…filled with warmth and friendliness.” Barnett is signing “I love you” to the viewer.

Elijah Apilada in Street Scene sculpture

*Elijah Apilada, local child — (The typical kid) Young found an Ashland Middle School boy with a feisty but smart attitude.

Rex Rabold in Street Scene sculpture

*Rex Rabold, OSF actor — (The wisdom of Shakespeare) With so much of Ashland’s creative and economic life intertwined with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Young introduced these elements in her figures at the top of the sculpture. A beloved OSF actor, Rabold died in 1990 at the age of 39. In Street Scene, he modeled for Young in his role as Shakespeare’s Richard II. 

At the top of Street Scene are Shirley and Bill Patton. “As the magical figure at the bottom of ‘Street Scene’ draws us into the spirit of Ashland, the sculptor wanted an elegant dancing couple at the top to take us on into life, to remind us that life has more potential than we ever dreamed possible.”

Shirley and Bill Patton in Street Scene sculpture

*Shirley Patton, OSF actor — (The elegant dancing couple) Shirley Patton has touched thousands of lives through her 75 years of acting (30 years of it at OSF), her vivacity, her kindness and her lifetime of service. Many people know Shirley as the voice of Jefferson Public Radio’s “As It Was” history spots, which she has narrated five days a week since 2005, almost 4,000 in all!

Bill Patton in Street Scene sculpture

*Bill Patton, long-time OSF Executive Director (The elegant dancing couple) Bill Patton worked at OSF from 1948 to 1995, including 42 years as General Manager and then Executive Director, helping to guide OSF. After Bill died in 2011, Paul Nicholson, who followed Bill as Executive Director, said of him: “Under his astute guidance the Festival grew from 29 performances and an audience of 15,000 to 752 performances and 359,000 in attendance the year he retired. He was a gentleman in every way, kind, thoughtful and caring.” Haines recalls Young holding the intention of having Bill Patton “walk into the sunset” at the top of the sculpture, since he was only a few years from leaving his post at OSF when she sculpted him. 

Marion Young’s life story and key sculptures

Sculptor Marion Young was born in California November 25, 1934 and died in Ashland April 12, 2019. She had happy years as a child living on a farm in the Oakland hills. Her niece Robyn Jones remembers Young speaking fondly of hours exploring redwood forests near her home with her collie dog Bruce at her side. 

Marion Young as a child, with her dog Bruce.
Marion Young as a child, with her dog Bruce. (photo by Olivia Young, photo courtesy of Robyn Jones)

Young grew up in a very artistic family. Her mother was a poet and musician, her father a painter and musician. She attended San Francisco State University, with a major in biology and a minor in art. Her plan was to become a medical illustrator. Instead, she became an actor. After a few years, she transitioned to co-owning a bronze artworks foundry and then an art gallery in Los Angeles with Thomas Holland, her romantic as well as business partner for a time. 

Marion Young in 1956.
Marion Young in 1956. (photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Robyn Jones)

Her artistic and life journey finally brought her to creating sculpture, where she was able to express all of her skills. Holland was her first sculpture teacher. She continued to study on her own, including spending months absorbing every nuance she could of Auguste Rodin’s genius through the Rodin sculpture collection at Stanford University. Young sculpted primarily in clay from live models. 

Her biography notes that she was “an ardent student of the writing and thought of [Carl] Jung.” This quote from Carl Jung, a favorite of Marion Young, expresses in very philosophical language what Young tried to capture in the physicality of her sculptures.

“Whoever speaks in primordial images speaks in a thousand voices: he enthralls and overpowers, while at the same time he lifts the idea he is seeking to express out of the occasional and the transitory into the realm of the ever-enduring. He transmutes our personal destiny into the destiny of mankind, and evokes in us all those beneficent forces that ever and anon have enabled humanity to find refuge from every peril and to outlive the longest night.”    Carl Gustav Jung

I had to read Jung’s quote at least three times to understand it! And then three more times to understand how it could apply to Marion Young’s Street Scene sculpture. The depth of her study of human nature helps take the feeling of the sculpture out of “the occasional and the transitory” and out of the “personal” into a universal feeling.

How did she achieve that depth of understanding human nature? From what I have learned of her, it was a combination of factors. As with most of us, it began with the role models provided by her parents, who were artists in multiple mediums of expression and creativity. It expanded as Young took dance lessons beginning at age four. Later, as an actor after graduation from college, she explored the emotional and psychological aspects of human nature from the inside of multiple roles. After beginning to sculpt, she took a deep dive into exploring the physical aspects of what it means to be human. How deep? How about not only taking anatomy, but also dissecting human bodies at UCLA School of Medicine? As her biography put it: “In order to obtain the kind of knowledge necessary for her work, Marion found that she had ultimately to perform her own dissections on the human body.”

That experience led to the creation of her sculpture called Essentia, which is now at the Columbia University School of Medicine (in the anatomy department). The sculpture accurately portrays the anatomy of a young woman, both muscles and fascia without the covering of skin. It captures the beauty of the essential, beneath the surface. Young went on to capture the beauty of essential aspects of human nature in Street Scene, but in a different way.

Essential sculpture by Marion Young
Essentia sculpture by Marion Young, front and back views.
(photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Robyn Jones)

How Marion worked: insights from the Van Gogh bust

If you visit the Ashland Library, you have surely noticed another one of Marion Young’s sculptures. Just within the library front doors is a life size bust of Vincent Van Gogh. Henry Woronicz, former OSF actor and Artistic Director, served as the model. But he didn’t just “sit there,” nor did she “just sculpt.” This sculpture provides a good example of her deep preparation for a piece, combining her Jungian studies, her theater background, and her desire to capture universal rather than superficial feelings.

First, Woronicz and Young created a half-hour script edited from Van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo. Then, studying Van Gogh’s paintings, Young reproduced his bedroom in her studio, using OSF props. Only after all this preparation did Woronicz get into his “role,” sit on the “set,” and model for Young!

Bronze bust on the left and clay model on the right, of “Henry Woronicz as Vincent Van Gogh,” by Marion Young. (photographers unknown, photo on left courtesy of Robyn Jones, photo on right courtesy of Matthew Haines)

How Marion worked: insights from Shirley Patton

As mentioned above, Shirley and Bill Patton both modeled for Young’s Street Scene sculpture. Shirley shared these memories with me that illuminate Young’s internal and external process.

I was an accidental model.  Marion had chosen her models, I believe, in a number of ways.  She had a cast of characters in mind and found the people through conversations with friends and townspeople, and she was influenced by the Festival’s plays.  It was in the OSF souvenir program that she discovered Bill. She was attracted to Bill’s face and bone structure.  She’d had in mind a couple out on the town, enjoying the area’s nightlife. Dressed up with a tux and top hat!  (Not our usual dress for an evening in town, is it?)

I think I was introduced to Marion after the work had begun.  I came by where they were working to pick him up one afternoon, and she looked at me and said, “Oh, you can be Bill’s dancing partner!”  So I was added to her “cast.”  And I must confess that I’m glad it is me up there rather than another model.

 I remember the time Marion asked me to stop by her makeshift studio in the old scene shop building.  She was almost done with Bill’s likeness but she wasn’t satisfied.  It was missing a certain “spark.”  She said she had noticed that when I’d stop by the studio during his sittings that his eyes lit up, so she wanted me to come to his appointments so she could watch us interact.

She was looking for an elusive quality that would bring animation to a static piece of clay.  It’s a mystery to me but Marion kept at it until there was life in Bill’s eyes.   There was a difference.  She said it was the spark she was looking for.  She’d noticed that it came when we were laughing and talking together.  Now that was a dear thing for her to say.

Shirley Patton

The Hero’s Journey

Marion Young’s major unfinished work is called The Hero’s Journey. She described it as “about 60 inches tall with a walnut base. Each of the 12 characters that circle this sculpture is a representation of one of the archetypes of the journey of life.” As in Street Scene, Young used OSF actors as models. Sadly, Young developed mental health problems and early dementia at a relatively young age, and quit sculpting shortly before she completed The Hero’s Journey.

Matthew Haines learned of The Hero’s Journey from Young’s niece Robyn Jones. Jones told Haines it was still in clay form, and was in the basement at a friend’s house. Haines retrieved the unfinished sculpture and brought it to local sculptor Jack Langford to repair. Now, in May 2020, Langford is casting it in bronze at his Talent studio.

Closing Words

Ashland enriched Marion Young’s later years, and she continues to enrich Ashland beyond her time on earth. Each year, thousands of people see and are moved by her Street Scene sculpture on East Main Street and her Van Gogh bust at the Ashland Library.

Marion Young's signature on Street Scene sculpture
Marion Young’s signature on the Street Scene sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Label at bottom of Street Scene sculpture.
Sign below the sculpture: “Street Scene, a portrait of Ashland.” (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“Stay tuned” for more articles about public art in Ashland.

References:

Quotes not credited are from unsigned written information about Street Scene and about Marion Young, provided to me by Robyn Jones and Matthew Haines.

Darling, John. “‘Street Scene’ sculptor dies,” Ashland Tidings, June 21, 2019.

Haines, Lloyd Matthew. Personal communications, photographs, written documents.

Jones, Robyn Michele. Marion Young’s obituary, CaringBridge website, accessed April 2020.
https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/marionlenoreyoung

Jones, Robyn Michele. Personal communications, photographs, written documents.

Patton, Shirley. Personal communication.

Shippen, Julie. “City primes bronze art project,” Medford Mail Tribune, April 14, 1989

TJT. “Erecting public art is a monumental task,” Ashland Daily Tidings, July 14, 1994. 

Ashland History “Firsts” — Part 1

Before the city of Ashland existed

In the centuries before European and American settlers began arriving in the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon, the Shasta and Takelma people lived in this valley. In the summer, small family groups spread out at higher elevations and in river valleys to hunt deer, fish for salmon and gather acorns and other wild plants. 

Archeology digs and pioneer writings suggest that during the winter they lived in villages of semi-permanent plank or bark-covered structures. Captain Thomas Smith and James Cardwell both arrived in the winter of 1851-1852. Both described an Indian village of perhaps 100 people along Ashland Creek, located in the area that is now Lithia Park and the Plaza.

Between 1852 and 1856, there were a series of battles in Southern Oregon between settlers and the Native Americans who were defending their ancestral land. Suffering from diseases, hunger and deaths from the fighting, in 1856 the remaining Shasta and Takelma were forcibly marched to the Siletz Indian Reservation, 150 miles north along the Oregon coast.

This illustration is titled “Winter lodge of the Umpqua Indians,” from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, April 24, 1858. The Shasta Indian winter lodges in Ashland may have been similar to this one. (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

First known Euro-Americans in the Rogue Valley

In February 1827, Hudson’s Bay Company fur trapper Peter Skene Ogden led a party of 28 men and 100 horses northward over the Siskiyou Pass into the now-Ashland area. Ogden documented the area with the help of the local Shasta tribe. His group trapped as many as 500 beavers and other fur-bearing mammals along Bear Creek before continuing north to the Rogue River and beyond.

Photo of Peter Skene Ogden, taken approximately 1854. 
(photo from Wikimedia Commons)

First American settlers in Ashland

On January 6, 1852, Robert Hargadine and Sylvester Pease made a donation land claim for 160 acres in what is now the Railroad District. Two days later, Abel Helman came over the Siskiyou Pass from Yreka and made his donation land claim for 160 acres along the creek. His land claim now includes the entrance to Lithia Park, the Plaza area and land to the south. On January 11th, Helman was joined by Eber Emery, Jacob Emery and James Cardwell, who planned to develop the land and build a saw mill with him. Cardwell reported that the four of them made small payments to the local Indians and reached an agreement that the group could build on this land.

Photo of James Cardwell, taken by Peter Britt in the mid-1800s.
(This photograph is part of the Peter Britt Photograph Collection at Southern Oregon University and made available courtesy of Southern Oregon University Hannon Library Special Collections.)

First house in Ashland

When Abel Helman entered the valley on January 8, 1852, he saw Hargadine and Pease cutting timber to build a cabin. Theirs was the first house built, before there was even a town. (For those of you who are Ashland history experts, I acknowledge Hugh Barron had built a cabin nearby in 1851, but his land and his “Mountain House” stage coach stop were located four miles south of Ashland.) 

First commercial building in Ashland

Within a month after arriving in the valley, Abel Helman, Eber Emery, Jacob Emery and James Cardwell started to build a sawmill. After multiple failures at gold mining in Northern California, they were ready for a change. All skilled carpenters, they realized they could make a lot of money providing wood to miners and local settlers, since gold had been discovered in Southern Oregon in January 1852. The mill was completed on June 16, 1852.

Cardwell wrote, “We finished our work on the mill as fast as we could. The mines in Jacksonville began to attract considerable attention. A great many miners came in…we had our mill in operation…and the demand for lumber was good. We could sell all we could make at $80 per thousand.” [Atwood 1987, page 22]

Note: $80 per thousand board feet in 1852 is equivalent to about $2,580 per thousand board feet today. Today’s Ashland price for good quality building lumber (standard no. 2 and better Douglas Fir) is about $750 per thousand board feet. That means the Ashland saw mill, with little competition in 1852, was able to charge about three times what a mill could charge today. [My thanks to Dale Shostrom for helping me with the lumber calculations.]

First town name — Ashland Mills

This story about the naming of Ashland was told by Abel Helman’s granddaughter, Almeda Helman Coder. “This doesn’t appear in any of the history books, but this is the story that is in my family, the Helman family.  There were these men that came over from the mines down in California.  The seven of them that came together, and some of them, as I said, went on, and the two Emerys that came from Ashland, Ohio Territory, and my grandfather, and a man by the name of Cardwell stayed for a while.  They began to wonder what they would call the little settlement. It wasn’t much of a settlement, so to settle the argument, they drew straws.  They wanted to call it after Ashland, Kentucky.  Well, Mr. Cardwell did.  Grandfather and Mr. Emery wanted to call it after Ashland, Ohio.  So, they drew these straws.  Grandfather held the straws, and Mr. Emery drew the long straw, which was to be Ashland, Ohio.”  [Atwood 1975]

The town was first named Ashland Mills because of the 1852 lumber mill and the 1854 flour mill, both built along Mill Creek (now Ashland Creek). When the town was formally incorporated with the State of Oregon October 13, 1874, the name was shortened to Ashland. 

I am not aware of any photos or drawings of the 1852 saw mill, but here is a photo of the Ashland Flour Mill after renovation in 1878. The photo also shows part of the Plaza. Photo taken in 1895. 
(This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.)

First American child born in Ashland

On January 7, 1854, Abel and Martha Helman’s son John Kanagy Helman was born. Abel and Martha’s other children were named Almeda Lizette, Mary Elizabeth, Martha Jane, Abe Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Ulysses Grant and Otis Orange. You can tell that Abel and Martha were strong supporters of the Union during the Civil War.

Abel Helman in 1887 with his son Grant and two of Grant’s children, in front of Abel Helman’s house at 101 Orange Street 
(This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.)

First hotel/lodging house in Ashland

In 1854 Abel Helman and Eber Emery saw a new opportunity. The busy Jacksonville-to-Yreka road ran through the tiny settlement, right in front of the flour mill. Helman persuaded Emery to build a lodging house on his land, about 100 yards north of the Ashland Flour Mill. Called Ashland House, it opened for business in early 1855. Only a year later, Emery sold the lodging house to Morris Howell, but Howell was not happy being an innkeeper. 

On August 22, 1856, Dr. David Sisson and his young wife Celeste arrived in Ashland after crossing the Siskiyou Mountains from California. They lodged at the Ashland House and left their pack animals at the livery. When there are only a few dozen residents, news travels fast. The very next morning, Abel Helman walked across the Plaza from his flour mill to the boarding house and greeted Dr. Sisson. He told Sisson there was no doctor within many miles, and implored him to consider staying in Ashland Mills. Surprisingly, just nine days later, David and Celeste Sisson purchased the Ashland House from Morris Howell and made it their new home! They ran the lodging business, and it was also where Dr. Sisson saw patients.

Sadly, Dr. Sisson was murdered in 1858 and the Ashland House burned to the ground in 1859. During the fire, renters in the second-floor rooms threw their possessions out the windows and then got out safely. Due to the blaze, Ashland lost not only the lodging house, but also the town post office on the ground floor and local records that were kept there. 

Two weeks after the fire, Eber Emery started construction of a new Ashland House at the same site. 

This is the rebuilt Ashland House in 1875 
(This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University. Hannon Library.)

First school class in Ashland

October 3, 1854, formal schooling in Ashland began with a handful of children in the home of Eber Emery. The teacher was Miss Lizzie Anderson. As a side note, in 1876 Lizzie became the wife of Captain John McCall, who built the McCall House on Oak Street in 1883. 

Two weeks later, there were millions at the school! How was this possible? It happened when Bennett and Armilda Million bought a land claim and moved to Ashland Mills with their five school-age children.

This story of early Ashland “firsts” will be continued with Part 2.

References:

Ashland Daily Tidings, February 26, 1927.
Atwood, Kay.  Jackson County Conversations, Jackson County Intermediate Education District, 1975.
Atwood, Kay. Mill Creek Journal: Ashland, Oregon 1850 – 1860, self-published 1987.
Green, Giles. A Heritage of Loyalty: The History of the Ashland, Oregon, Public Schools, School District No. 5, 1966.
LaLande, Jeff. The Ashland Plaza: Report on Findings 2012-2013 Sub-Surface Archeological Survey of the Ashland Plaza Project Area Jackson County, Oregon, 2013. 
Lewis, Raymond (possibly), “Abel D. Helman, Founder of Ashland,” Table Rock Sentinel, October 1981 (Southern Oregon Historical Society).
O’Harra, Marjorie. Ashland: the first 130 years, Northwest Passages Publishing Inc. 1986.
Olmo, Rich and Hannon, Nan. “Archeology in the Park,” Table Rock Sentinel, January 1988 (Southern Oregon Historical Society).