May 11, 2012

During my research and efforts to collect the Stories of Highway 99, I discovered the treasure trove of information stored in the small local museums.  Each is different from the others, some are crowded in small buildings also used for other purposes and some located in a donated house but there are others.  The very special Cottage Grove museum is located in an octagonal building, a former Catholic Church. They have added an annex to increase their displays.

Not only are the kinds of buildings different but so are the themes and character of the museums themselves, with what they display and how the displays are presented.  

The Cottage Grove Museum has a display from a survivor of the Titanic, gorgeous dresses from the past and some beautifully restored leather goods. A pair of chaps so remarable they belong in a parade, or a movie. That’s only the beginning: trunks, a cooling board, so much more. It’s understandable, the town itself has a preserved historic district, a museum just for the Bohemia Gold Mine District, and an exceptional genealogy library. 

My visit did add more to the stories I’m working on, filling in some of the gaps. It also let me see how the town developed, in more than one phase.  The original wagon road was built on the west side of the river but the railroad came through on the east side.  Like a few other Oregon towns, the railroad caused a major move of business.  In Cottage Grove, it wasn’t peaceful, a feud developed with stories that included kidnapping a post office, jailing a sheriff– and others.  For anyone interested in Oregon history, it’s a good place to visit.   


April 17, 2012

Jo Brew's Blog

Learning something new seems to change my perspective almost faster than I can grasp.  With the desire to see some sunshine after a very wet and gloomy spring, we headed to the Rogue River Valley to spend a few days. Not a new area for us, we were living in the Central Point , Gold Hill vicinity in the early 1960s and occasional visitors since.

This time was different-I knew more. Last year, while we visited we made a wrong turn following another car or two, and ended up on a narrow dead end road were several other people were parked to watch the activity as a heavy duty machine breached  the Gold Ray Dam. We didn’t stay for the finish but made our way back to the highway.

Until that day, I’d heard a few mentions of the dam in the news but it wasn’t a big situation or…

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April 17, 2012

Learning something new seems to change my perspective almost faster than I can grasp.  With the desire to see some sunshine after a very wet and gloomy spring, we headed to the Rogue River Valley to spend a few days. Not a new area for us, we were living in the Central Point , Gold Hill vicinity in the early 1960s and occasional visitors since.

This time was different-I knew more. Last year, while we visited we made a wrong turn following another car or two, and ended up on a narrow dead end road were several other people were parked to watch the activity as a heavy duty machine breached  the Gold Ray Dam. We didn’t stay for the finish but made our way back to the highway.

Until that day, I’d heard a few mentions of the dam in the news but it wasn’t a big situation or event in the Willamette Valley.

During the most recent visit, besides hiking along the river and general sight seeing, we visited the Gold Hill Museum. We were able tp wander and linger on our own, the displays were all explained and well presented.  A really wonderful museum maintained by people who love their town and its history.

I found the story of the God Ray Dam. That it had been conceived to deliver electricity to the gold mines but also provided light and energy to Ashland, Medford, Gold Hill, Grants Pass, Jacksonville and all the places between. A major achievement for the whole Rogue River Valley.  It had long been replaced and out of use so the decision for removal pleased many valley residents and friends of the river, coming about through a long effort. It wasn’t the most thrilling discovery I found in the museum but it certainly increased my understanding of the little discussed benefits of all the old gold mines. 

As we left Gold Hill with new material for research, we drove by both Rock Point Cemeteries and the Del Rio Winery.  That is a place where I’ll go back.  I am reading Knights of the Whip, Stagecoach Days In Oregon by Gary and Gloria Meier so I know the winery is where the Rock Point Hotel and Stage Stop was a big attraction at one time.  The Rock Point Hotel was also known as a social center for the area with dances and other special events. 


An Almost Ordinary Sunday Drive

March 7, 2012

On a pretty spring day, unusual this year, we left our home in north Eugene, near River Road for a drive to a concert in Corvallis.  With grandchildren there, it’s a frequent excursion at all times of day and in all weather.

Still we choose to drive Highway 99 every time.  It has more interesting scenery all the way and doesn’t take any longer than the freeway.  On this Sunday we did make a slight detour to drive the original Highway 99, River Road, into Junction City.  

  Recent interviews and stories of living along that stretch of road stimulated a desire to drive it again.  We go that way often enough there isn’t much new to see between visits, maybe a few changes, mainly seasonal, along the way.  The planted fields all look green right now but the ground for truck crops is still too wet for the equipment to be out and in use. 

  None of the produce stands are open yet but the hazelnut and walnut trees have been recently pruned and the cuttings not yet picked up.  The big red barn at Thistledown looks so bright, it might have a fresh coat of paint since I saw it last.  There is a new Century Farm sign in that section still fairly close to Eugene.  The old sign showing the mileage to the Lithia Hotel in Ashland looks freshly painted too.  The sign itself looks to be in better shape than the shed it’s painted on.  There is another shed a little farther along with a very faded PRUNES sign.  A reminder of the time when Oregon grown prunes satisfied our country as well as Europe and families picking them brought much needed cash into the area.

The old deserted schoolhouse has been remodeled and is now on the market.  It would be an interesting place to live, or maybe use for a community center or a church.  Very attractive. 

Another building I’m particularly interested in, KATIE”S MARKET is in this area.  Formerly Riverview Market, I’ve been privileged to share the story of one family who ran the store and lived in the apartment in back.  Although it’s for sale right now and maybe empty, I’m seeing it populated with young children visiting their grandparents, being put to sleep by the Lawerence Welk show, and even a one eyed family dog.   

  Not far past that is a family farm where I’ve purchased green beans and peaches but also shared the stories of  boys and girls who came to pick beans to pay for school clothes.  Of families who came with groups to picnic along the banks of the river, even enjoyed a swim. A farm with a history ob belonging to a community.

  Somehow it’s not an ordinary road, it’s a road crowded with stories and populated with people young and old.  No freeway gives you that. 



February 8, 2012


After marveling at how different each town along Highway 99 is from the others, I’ve discovered a common link I hadn’t expected.  Indian Mary.

In the Grants Pass area, Indian Mary was known as the wife of Umpqua Joe who had been a scout for the army.  He built a cabin on a bluff in a beautiful area.  When he passed, Indian Mary applied to the government for the spot and the cabin.  She got it as the smallest reservation in the country.  Now  it’s Indian Mary Park in Josephine County. 

A long way up the road, Cottage Grove had an Indian Mary also.  She was from the Calapooya group of natives and often worked for several of the settler’s wives.  The Mc Farland family and others.  The Mc Farland family thought of her as part of the family and buried her in their family cemetary when she passed.

I am bothered as I read about these women and write about their history.  So often I hear my contemporaries complain that many of our emigrants don’t learn our language right away like they did when they emigrated from Europe.  I don’t believe for one minute that both these women were named Indian Mary at their birth and by their own families.  How degrading that we, emigrants in their land couldn’t even be bothered to learn their names.   I wonder just how far we’ve really come and if I’ll find still more women of the Oregon past who are called Indian Mary.    



January 19, 2012

Pulling together pieces of Oreon history has taken me in directions I didn’t expect nor did I have the right resources to do the research.  One of the most critical has been the right map for each job.

I did gather the road maps I thought I would need.  Highway 99 through Oregon, even after early realignments, was my starting point.  I didn’t realize I would need a map that showed how close the forests came to the road, or the elevations of the mountains.  Then there needed to be one that let me see where the ferries that were replaced by bridges crossed the streams or rivers.  A few stories from  people who lived up a particular creek when the map showed the path of the creek was south, or down, almost making a circle.  Did the creek flow uphill? 

Now I”m looking for a map that shows the plat of the origninal donation land claims.  Difficult in Oregon since some were filed and granted before the territory had been surveyed. 

Even a bigger problem, I’d need help to read many of those maps.  The letters, symbols and strange marks are not easy for a “word” person.  Some become more clear as I study them but I will probably end up trying to locate an interpreter. 

Another I badly need to find and haven’t yet is the map of the original north-south railroad planned by the Oregon and California Railroad.  It’s out there somewhere so my quest continues as my stack of maps grows.


December 19, 2011

Since we just passed the 70th anniversary of the beginning of World War II, a story I discovered while I was doing research on stories of Highway 99 is stuck in my thoughts.
This story began much sooner. Robert Kinoshita was born in Honolula, Hawaii to Japanese parents. He graduated from the University of Nebraska Medical School then interned at Emanuel Hospital in Portland, Oregon. There he met and learned to love a nurse named Evelyn.
Overriding objections to the inter-racial marriage by both their parents and the State of Oregon, they married. Dr. Kinoshita was soon an Army Reserve doctor with the Southern Oregon District Civilian Conservation Corps, the CCC. He, his wife, and son Bobby, moved into a house on the South Umpqua Road, close to the South Umpqua Falls CCC camp, CO 2904 at Tiller, Oregon.
He and his wife looked after the boys of Co 2904, taking care of their medical needs and listening to their problems. He also treated the residents from surrouning communities when he was needed. In 1939, he was appointed District Surgeon and became responsible for the health care of 44 CCC camps working out of Medford.
The beginning of World War II ended the CCC program and Dr. Kimoshita was reassigned to Fort Omaha, Nebraska. While the family was in Portland for a visit before leaving for the new assignment, the mandate was issued for all people of Japanese Descent to report to collection centers for removal to Relocation Camps. The center in Portland was the former Portland Livestock Pavilion. Evelyn, pregnant a second time, gave up her civil rights and the family entered the “stinking” horse stall together.
Dr. Kinoshita and his family were sent to live behind barbed wire in a concentration camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming.
On hearing the news, the people of the South Umpqua Valley prepared and signed a petition asking for their release.
It’s not known if the petition helped but the Dr. and his family were released in March of 1943. Still in the Army he was called to active duty serving in the European war theater. He crawled on his belly, dragging his medical kit to any of our wounded still alive, dragged them to safety and gave them first aid until they could be picked up. He survived time behind the German lines in Holland and the war, returning with a long list of honors for hes bravery and dedication. The family returned to the Portland area where he and Evelyn set up a family medical practice.

Resource–PIONEER DAYS IN THE SOUTH UMPQUA VALLEY Vols 27, p.25 and vol. 34 p. 26 published by the South Umpqua Historical Society


December 3, 2011

So often when I’m doing research, I discover a fascinating story that has nothing to do with Highway 99, just that it happened during that time period or maybe near the highwy.
This time the story that got my attention was from Camp White, out of Medford, Oregon, several miles from Highway 99. I had known that most of the troops had trained and left Camp White fairly early in World War II. I had even been aware that German Prisoners of War were held there toward the end of the war. That was all I knew.
Begun as a secret mission, an elaborate plan was launched to reeducate German prisoners held in the United States. The hope was they might be prepared to take part in a different post war Germany.
Seventy U.S. military officers were sent to New York for twelve intense days of clandestine training in the fall of 1944. They were distributed to the 150 camps with 350,000 German prisoners scattered across the United States. Approximately 2000 at Camp White, Oregon.
English language, American history and civics classes were offered. Not greatly successful early on but Frank Capra’s Hollywood produced series, Why We Fight was translated into German and caught the interest of many.
The prisoners were allowed access to a well stocked library without restrictions, they had radios which were kept repaired and uncensored. A few took correspondence courses through the University of Oregon. Life magazine and others were available and the Oregonian newspaper had 100 personal subscriptions while another 50 copies were made available for general distribution.
Prisoners were allowed to work if they wished as long as it didn’t aid the war effort. The prisoners would be paid 80 cents a day for labor. The pear orchards of Southern Oregon and fields of Northern California were a popular diversion for Camp WhitePOWs.
Longer-range strategies enabled prisoners to print their own uncensored news magazine and freely elect their own spokesman to deal with their American jailers. Some of the classes were taught by the POWs themselves.
Both American and Swiss representatives visited Camp White and filed written reports on prisoner treatment, specifically addressing the “Intellectual Diversion Program.”
The Camp White German prisoners of war, finally repatriated in the spring of 1946, by rail and then by ship back to Germany. “What a far cry from what happens now.” These are excerpts from SOUTHERN OREGON HERITAGE TODAY,The Magazine of the Southern Oregon Historical Society, Vol 8, No.2 Spring 2006 p.18,19


October 15, 2011

Working on a writing project based on a highway obviously needs to involve a map, or more than one. I certainly have a growing file but I hadn’t given any thought as to how they began–a drawing of a line and some kind of symbol — that was about it.
Then a friend told me about a NPR broadcast that featured author Ken Jenning and his book called MAPHEAD.
According to him, in the early days of motoring, the only maps for routes between cities were flip books of text and pictures. One page would say “turn left at the red barn” and there would be a picture of a barn. The next page would say something like “go 3 miles and turn right at the grove of poplars” and there would be a picture of the grove.
The Mc Nally people wanted to sell highway maps but text and pictures weren’t going to work. They sent out crews to paint signs with road numbers and colors and then made maps based on the signs.
The states caught on and began numbering important connecting roads. Later the federal roads were also numbered– but on a shield based on the one used by the railroad.
As I study the maps showing up in my file, how complicated they have become over time, it’s fairly easy to see why we
now need computers in our car to interpret all the symbols and give directions to get us from one place to another.


October 3, 2011

A week with a writing time shortage pushed me toward internet research. This time it paid off, a treasure trove of history. The story of the growth of a city as the Southern Pacific plotted the best route for the tracks through southern Oregon.
Where there was no settlement, not even a house, Medford was formed and grew as an upstart business entity; a place for farmers to ship out products and very rapidly, to buy what they needed. One of the few train stations where there hadn’t even been a stage stop or tavern. With business as it’s base, the city grew differently than other southern Oregon towns, bringing in a core of twenty-five businesses within just a few months. The town was founded in 1883 and called itself a metropolis by 1926. It still draws business from most of the Rogue River Valley.