STORY OF THE OLD FLOUR MILL
With "The Passing of a Landmark, Held Almost Sacred in Memory of Many Pioneers: The Old Mill" as his theme, Judge C. B. Watson read a very interesting paper before the assemblage of pioneers at the Chautauqua tabernacle this afternoon. He said:
"To the observant, tragedy is seen stalking hand in hand with celebration, merry-making and progress. Each meeting of the pioneers discloses vacant seats. In fact, in the evolutionary course of things, it is difficult to tell just what is tragic and what is dramatic. They are mingled everywhere and on most occasions are leavened with comedy. The universal tendency is to greater refinement, and the grandest culmination's of either individual, or collective effort, we reckon as marking an epoch in the stirring progress of the times. Fifty or sixty years in the ordinary course of events is considered but a small span when being recorded on the pages of history. And yet, in the growth of the great western civilization there has been a greater advance, in the past sixty years than in the earlier stages of history making it was possible to accomplish in centuries. We are all actors, and the things we do as individuals count for little, except in the aggregate results of many acting together. Man and woman are working out a grand destiny, the culmination of which is in the dim and misty prospect of ages upon ages hence, while men and women live but a small span and go hence leaving only a composite impression, only the spirit of which shall be felt in the centuries to come. While on the stage our greater efforts seem to be directed to material acquisition which can be enjoyed by using our material senses along. We construct great institutions, buildings, cities and governments, which, like the human ants that in sweet j heat and eager effort are engaged in their apparently self-imposed tasks, must, too, be gathered into the darkness that closes~in behind it all. The pioneers are passing, one by one, and so, too, are the material structures of their handiwork. Buildings and institutions which were a necessity to the pioneer in the early, troublous times, and in the construction, use and contemplation of which they took much pride, are now, in these more rapidly progressing days, made to give way to the wants and necessities of a new spirit that has added lightning and wings to more ambitious flight.
On the occasion of these pioneer meetings the mind runs in retrospection, and the past passes in review. In the spring of 1851, 58 years ago, there was perhaps not a settler in Rogue River Valley; though white men had passed through between the
older settlements of California and Oregon and the possibilities of this wonderfully beautiful region came as after-dreams to the less phlegmatic of these sturdy travelers. In 1850 Isaac Hill passed through from the mouth of the Columbia where he had arrived in 1849. In 1853 he returned here with his family and settled on the place now known as the Kingsbury farm seven miles above the present site of Ashland, and the marriages of his daughters have given us the families of Patrick Ours, A. V. Gillette and James H. Russell. In 1851 E. K. Anderson passed through the valley and its possibilities and beauty haunted him until he became a resident at his old farm near what is now Talent, in 1852. In the fall of 1851, Major H. F. Barron, James H. Russell, John Gibbs and Thos. Horn located the "Mountain House," since known as the "Toll House." There were no wagon roads then, but these pioneers saw the future importance of the pass, then a trail, afterwards a rude wagon road, then a toll road and stage line and destined later to become the pass to be sought and occupied by one of the greatest railroads in the world. Such appropriations marked the genius of early settlements. Prior to the "Mountain House" there was not a settler in this valley above Wagner creek. The late Thomas Smith also settled near the Dunn place in 1851. In the early days of 1852 "Bally" Dean settled at Willow Springs, Tom Cavanaugh near Rock Point on Rogue River, Ed. Stone where Talent now is, and in the fall of 1851 Cluggage and Poole came from the neighborhood of Yreka with a band of horses and mules and settled on Jackson creek, and in the spring of 1852 Poole discovered gold on Rich gulch. The news of the gold discovery spread north and south and inspired that flood of immigration that soon built up settlements in the most eligible spots of the valley.
In February of 1852, E. K. Anderson went to the Willamette valley for seed and brought from what is now Yamhill county the first wheat that was sown in Rogue River Valley. About the same time James H. Russell went to the Willamette and brought out the first seed potatoes.
During the summer of 1852, A. D. Helman, Jake Emery, Eber Emery and James Cardwell settled on Ashland creek, within what is now the corporate limits of the city of Ashland and built the first saw-mill in Jackson county. Many of us remember the old saw-mill.
Jacob Wagner, A. G. Rockfellow and J. M. McCall came in about May, 1852, and settled at Wagner creek and Wagner bought out Ed. Stone. Mt. Wagner (Wagner Butte) was named for Jacob Wagner who, during his long and eventful life here proved himself to be one of nature's noble men and left his manly impress on the institutions now characteristic of this beautiful valley. He was a man to whose memory such a monument as Mount Wagner is a fitting tribute. May it forever so remain!
In 1852 E. K. Anderson raised wheat enough to supply his neighbors of the valley, who gladly paid him eight dollars a bushel for it, and with the potatoes brought in by James Russell faces brightened in the thought of a more luxurious living. Early in 1853 Eber Emery built the first hotel on the present site of the Ashland House, their new mill furnishing the lumber. It was then that plans for a flouring mill were arranged and its constructions planned and commenced by A. D. Helman, Jake Emery, Eber Emery, and ----- Morris. This mill was completed in 1854 and is the real subject of this paper, for upon its site less than two weeks ago a bonfire was made of the rubbish after tearing the old mill away. In the fall of 1854 the first flour was made there, from wheat raised by E. K. Anderson and J. F. Anderson on their homestead, the first flour ever ground in Oregon south of Roseburg.
It was a great event. A ball was given in the mill and wheat ground for the banquet and celebration. The wheat sold for $5.00 per bushel and the flour for fifteen cents a pound; but what joy and rejoicing spread throughout the valley from Rocky Point to the "Mountain House."
Why should it be wondered at that these hardy, yet weary, travel-stained men, women and children, a little band surrounded by Indians, sometimes friendly and sometimes hostile, an uncertain and horrible danger always menacing them, should now, after fifty-five years have rolled by, with the friendly portals of the old mill smiling welcome and plenty, shed honest tears and make protest of the destruction of this old landmark? Here they ground their first wheat and the ate their first biscuit. Here they sought its friendly walls for shelter from an Indian outbreak in 1855. It was the first manufacturing institution erected in Southern Oregon, and from it by pack-train and wagon, hundreds of tons of flour were shipped east, west, north and south. It was the nucleus around which clustered the little granite city that has grown in beauty and importance to the Ashland of today. Built in the wilderness on the banks of a beautiful stream, in the edge of a virgin forest that was filled with savage animals and more savage men, it, next to the pioneer's log castle was the most sacred spot. While its wheels and burrs slowly turned they knew they should not suffer from hunger. All men were charitable in those days; every heart beat with generosity and mercy was a ruling passion. No man nor woman should feel ashamed of the sentiment that cases the tear to drop silently as the old mill passes. Yet it seems a fit and proper thing that it, like the pioneers themselves, should be laid away awhile yet there are tears in the fountain. I would that a beautiful monument should be erected on its site, to the pioneers of Oregon; not of Rogue River, nor Southern Oregon alone, but to the memory of all pioneers between the Columbia and Northern California. Its site is being made into a beautiful park, almost in the center of a city that is destined to be one of the most beautiful resort cities in the world, and a proper memorial built from the granite taken from the mountains at the foot of which the old mill stood would mark an important epoch in the history of this great state. But I must tell something more of its history.
In those days and among these people, there were no millionaires. The fact of common poverty was a bond of friendship and unity. Money was scarce and running the mill was expensive. People rapidly flocked to the mines, and located farms, and the demands for flour increased until this old mill was the busiest place in the valleys of Southern Oregon.
During the year of 1854, E. K. Anderson and J. F. Anderson traded wheat for a one-fourth interest in the mill which now became the property of A. D. Helman and the Anderson Brothers. The power was not sufficient and various devices in the way of wheels were resorted to. These were not satisfactory and E. K. Anderson went to San Francisco for the irons to build an overshot wheel, which when built, gave the necessary power. While at San Francisco, he bought a pair of French burrs and had the irons for the wheel and the burrs shipped by schooner to Scottsburg on the Umpqua river and returning, he on horseback and two young men with an ox team went to Scottsburg for the machinery and burrs. Anderson reached Ashland on his return ahead of the team, which after reaching the north bank of Rogue River went into camp. That night the Indians attacked them, run off the oxen and scattered the two men. Notice of the incident reached Ashland and Anderson at once went to the rescue. He found the cattle on Evans creek, recovered the wagon and freight and brought it on here. The over-shot wheel was constructed and was a success, still operating the old mill within the memory of many of us who came later, in fact until the mill was purchased by W. J. Virgin in 1891.
In 1855 E. K. Anderson traded his interest in the mill to his brother Firman, for his brother's interest in the farm. Firman Anderson sold to A.D. Helman. There have been many changes in the ownership of the mill and its record is not free from judgments, sheriff's deeds, mortgages, etc. In 1857 James H. Russell came into part ownership by purchase from Helman. John T. Savery and Jacob Wagner became owners in the mill in 1858. One W. W. Fouler came into part ownership through a sheriff '5 deed in 1858 and sold his interest to J. M. McCall in 1859. Jacob Wagner sold and interest to J. M. McCall in December, 1859.In July, 186O, James H. Russell sold to Jacob Wagner and W. W. Fouler, certain interests. In 1861 John McCall sold a one-fourth interest to Jacob Wagner, and in 1865 a further interest to C. K. Klum. In 1867 Jacob Wagner and C. K. Klum sold an interest to A. G. Rockfellow. In 1868 C. K. Klum sold to J. M. McCall. In 1873 McCall sold to E. K. Anderson. In 1874 A. G. Rockfellow sold a one-third interest to Heaton Fox and W. H. Atkinson. In 1876 Fox and Atkinson sold to Jacob Wagner and E. K. Anderson. In 1879 Jacob Wagner and E. K. Anderson sold an interest to W. H. Atkinson. In 1881 Atkinson sold back to Anderson and in 1883 Anderson sold a two-thirds interest to Jacob Wagner. In 1884 Jacob Wagner sold to Fordyce Roper and then for the first time in its history no pioneer was interested in the mill as an owner. From 1858 to 1884 Jacob Wagner was continuously an owner in the mill and at times sole owner. In 1891 Fordyce Roper sold to W. E. Jacobs and W. J. Virgin. In 1895 W. E. Jacobs sold his interest to J. E. Pelton and R. P. Neil and in 1898 Pelton sold his interest to Neil and in 1899 Neil sold his interest to W. J. Virgin. This gave the whole title to Virgin. On June 27, 1906, Virgin deeded the mill, the land on which it stood, the water rights and all appurtenances to the city of Ashland and on the 17th day of December, 1908, the people of Ashland by a vote of more than five to one dedicated the old mill site forever for a city park.
In this rapid review of ownership, it has not been expedient to give the history leading up to the transfers, not to make mention of matters of litigation which at times involved the property. The earlier litigation was carried on at Roseburg as there was no court nearer. (The first court held in this county was by Judge Deady, September 5, 1853.) It is interesting to note that the rates of interest sometimes ran as high as 7 per cent per month (84 per cent per annum). The records recited ''Oregon Territory."
Mr. E. K. Anderson tells me that at one time in 1855 Mr. C. C. Beekman, then carrying express between Jacksonville and Yreka, stopped at the mill and said he was authorized on behalf of Rogers Bros. of Yreka to offer 13 cents a pound for 75,009 pound of flour. He and A. O. Helman then owned the mill and were in great distress for money, but after considering the matter refused to take less than 15 cents. Rogers Bros. declined to pay so much. Helman and Anderson then paid four cents a pound to have the flour packed over to Yreka; they paid storage all winter and sold for eight cents the next summer. It was not an unusual thing to see fifty or a hundred Indians around the old mill with their pack ponies taking cargo for the Klamath country.
But this paper has reached sufficient length. The purpose was to give as a memorial the history of the old mill that until a few weeks ago has remained the most familiar object from pioneer days to the present, and to emphasize the important part it has played in the building up of Southern Oregon.
Monuments are built to the memories of loved ones that pass. Why not build, on the site of the old mill, a monument dedicated to the pioneers as suggested above? Such a monument would have an appropriate beauty in the beautiful park and would always commemorate the events which you are now here to celebrate. In times to come, long after the pioneers are all gone and several succeeding generations have passed, this beautiful monument would stand guard over this historic spot with its unparalleled environment and hand out its fragment of history through the centuries to come.
Ashland Tidings, Ashland,OR Thursday, August 26, 1909
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