Excerpts From a Speech Written and Given by Mary Elizabeth (Anderson) McCall
I was a child of Indiana. After four sons, I was the first daughter born to Daniel and Hannah Anderson. I enjoyed a very special place in my family until the birth of my sister Nancy required my sharing certain feminine privileges with my baby sister.
When I was twelve word from the California gold fields lured my brother Eli to head west. Life in the mines was not at all to his liking and within three years he had shifted his sights to the Rogue River Valley, buying land to the north of the new town of Ashland Mills. His letters East were encouraging and my brother James decided to join Eli in his new venture and headed for Oregon Territory.
It was to be a difficult time at home. My father died and my mother, brave soul she was, decided that we too should head West. It was an arduous, dirty journey, taking 6 months. We were a family of four by then-- Mother, brother Marion, Nancy and myself. We took the southern Applegate Trail, and how heart-warming it was to be met by brother James at Soda Springs by Emigrant Creek. And as our provisions were exhausted, it was a double blessing to see James--not just his dear face, but the sustenance he provided as well.
We understood that Ashland Mills was not too far distant, so Nancy and I (along with some of the men) rode into town. Girlish enthusiasm was not to be daunted by fatigue! You can imagine how excited I was to actually see for the first time that little settlement which was to become my home. It was rather primitive, I should say. There was a Flour Mill which Abel Helman had recently built. My brother Eli had invested in it, and he and James had brought the first wheat in to be processed.
But not to digress, besides the mill there was a blacksmith shop, a small hotel called the Ashland House and one store. A very simple beginning for this Ashland community which would one day boast of many stores, a library and a normal school as well as churches, lodges and home of refinement and culture. and the railroad!
I didn't tarry in Ashland Mills, but went on to Eli's homestead in the area you now call Talent. As I helped prepare the meal that night, I thought how difficult it was to be cooking in a house again after our six months of living out-of-doors. I must say, it was a most pleasant experience. And that was our first Oregon home, there with Eli. I was able to go back to school at Eden Precinct and then to the Umpqua Academy in Wilber where I graduated.
While on vacation from school I had gone into town to have a visit with my friend, Martha Helman. As we were walking along Ashland Creek, talking as women friends do, we were startled to see Martha's husband Abel running toward us with the limp body of of little toddler, John Helman, in his arms. It was an agonizing sight, let me assure you. Mr. Helman was crying out in anguish that the child had fallen from the third story window of the Flour Mill and was dead. Martha and I were both stunned. I don't know what possessed me, but I remember taking the little body from the Father's arms and plunging into the creek.
I started pouring water over the child's face. I wasn't thinking, I was just doing. And what a blessed moment it was when I felt life flowing back into his body. His eyes opened and his limbs were working and between the creek water and our tears we made a soggy group. Martha and Mr. Helman always made much of my part in this little drama, but although I was relieved that it had a happy ending, I don't feel that I can rightfully take credit for something that happened so impulsively. I make no claims for heroism. I simply did what popped into my head. And it worked.
Now little John Helman, bless his heart, repaid me in a very interesting way. Several families wanted a school to be taught right in Ashland and I was to be the first teacher. Mr. Clark was teaching school to the East a short way, but I would be the first teacher right in Ashland if thirteen students could be found. There were only twelve until little John, only three years old, was recruited to be the thirteenth. Class was held in the Eber Emery home and I boarded with the Helmans. It must have been difficult for such a little child to sit quietly on a rough plank seat for long hours with nothing to do buy draw pictures of questionable clarity and watch the other students. but that is how the Ashland School District No. 5 had its beginning.
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