4-H summer camp Rand, Josephine County, circa 1940
Head down to the southwest Oregon counties of Jackson and Josephine and you’ll find farming, timber, and a whole lot of history! It’s time for a new Flickr Commons set featuring images called “Extension in the Rogue Valley,” full of fun ones showing life at the bottom part of the state.
May Day with people around the May Pole, 1920
Even before the first European American settlers arrived, “the river valley was inhabited by the Shasta, Takelma, and Rogue River tribes of Native Americans” (Wikipedia Rogue Valley). Highlighting the regional pioneers, the Southern Oregon Visitors Association features the stories of the early settlements (Southern Oregon Visitors Association: History). However, frankly put, the “Oregon Donation Land Law benefited incoming whites and dispossessed Indian tribes,” with the pioneer settlers and native Oregon tribes waging bloody battles between 1836 and 1856 (Oregon History Project, Subtopic: The Great Divide: Resettlement and the New Economy: Oregon Donation Land Law). You can read more about the Oregon Donation Law Act on the Oregon Encyclopedia page.
Home-made crop duster on car, Jackson County, circa 1935
Now the largest communities in the Rogue Valley include Medford, Ashland, and Grants Pass. The region is a popular spot for retirees and home to the famous Shakespeare festival.
Portable Community Cannery, circa 1915
Josephine County, at the very bottom of the state bordering California, was created by the Territorial Legislature in 1856. And the Josephine County Extension has been part of the county since 1916, offering programs in 4-H, Family & Community, Forestry & Natural Resources, Horticulture, Livestock & Forage, and Small Farms. According to the Oregon County Historical Records Guide, it was “named for Josephine Rollins, the first white woman to settle in southern Oregon.” Somewhat ironically, the Josephine County Historical Records Guide reports that “[a]lthough several Indian tribes lived in the area from which Josephine County was created, most of their members had been moved to reservations by 1856.” The county was also the home to a large Chinese population. “Most had come to the area to work gold claims purchased from whites no longer interested in working them” and even though they could not own their own land they had to pay a tax to mine gold and were found themselves downgraded to inferior claims (Oregon County Historical Records Guide). Did the word “gold” spark your interest and make you curious about the economy? “Most of the commercial activity during the territorial period centered on gold mining and the supply of provisions to miners,” and miners had been active in the Rogue and Illinois Valleys since 1851; however, “by the late 1850s, however, gold mining was beginning to decline and population dwindled as well” and then in 1859, “gold was discovered along the Fraser River in British Columbia and an exodus from Josephine County occurred” (Oregon County Historical Records Guide). Ending with a blast from the past from a roadtrip I took ages ago, in researching Josephine County I was reminded of the “Grants Pass Caveman” – anyone seen this? RoadsideAmerica.com gives us this fun description: “North of the Redwood Highway and California, an imposing representation of primitive man has guarded the entrance to Grants Pass since 1971, when the town’s ‘Caveman Club’ erected him. The caveman is 17-ft. tall, on a rock pedestal. He was created by International Fiberglass (Muffler Men makers) to celebrate a strange brand of town boosterism that started in 1922. Local businessmen would don furs and animal skins, marching down Main Street brandishing their ceremonial spiky caveman clubs. The activity was to promote caverns at nearby Cave Junction” (roadsideamerica.com). While you are in the area looking for more history, check out the Josephine Historical Society!
Picking crew, Jackson County, ca. 1918
Just to the east of Josephine you’ll find Jackson County, created in 1852 and named for President Andrew Jackson. Similar to the history of Josephine County, the region was home to the Modoc, Shasta, Rogue River, and Umpqua Indian tribes, but “in the early 1850s, both the Klickitats from the north and the Deschutes from the south raided and settled the area (Oregon County Historical Records Guide). However, the discovery of gold in the 1850s and a completed wagon road that connected the county with California to the south and Douglas County to the north also led to an influx of non-native settlers; “conflict between the Americans and Indians led to war in 1856 resulting in hundreds of casualties and the removal of the Rogue River tribe to the Siletz Reservation” and the transfer of several small bands of Indians to the Grande Ronde Reservation west of Salem (Oregon County Historical Records Guide). To learn more about the history of this region, make a trip (virtually or in person, to theSouthern Oregon Historical Society. Moving from the county history of the 1800s to the county present of the 2011s, we find a place with an economy based on industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, and recreation. If you are travelling there, make sure you hit the major points of interest, including that great Shakespearean Festival, Historic Jacksonville, Southern Oregon University, the Peter Britt Music Festival, the Rogue River, Lithia Park, and the Crater Lake Highway. And moving from seeing sites to celebrating Extension, look to the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center (SOREC) to find services in the county, as it is Jackson County’s partner with OSU for Extension Services. Through SOREC, you can find information on 4-H Youth, Small Farms, Master Gardeners, Family and Community Health, Family Food Educator Volunteers, Forestry, Land Stewardship and Commercial Horticulture.