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MailTribune.com
  • A view of Roxy Ann Peak

  • One question that never dies around here is how that steep peak east of Medford got its name.
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    • If you go
      Although most of the Blue and Bowen land claims are covered with houses now, the largest remaining open area is the Hillcrest Orchards. From Interstate 5, Exit 30, follow the signs to Biddle Road. ...
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      If you go
      Although most of the Blue and Bowen land claims are covered with houses now, the largest remaining open area is the Hillcrest Orchards. From Interstate 5, Exit 30, follow the signs to Biddle Road. Drive south on Biddle to East McAndrews Road and turn left. In about 3.5 miles you will be on a hill that overlooks Hillcrest Orchards and much of the valley to the south. To the north you will see Roxy Ann's view of her mountain namesake.
  • One question that never dies around here is how that steep peak east of Medford got its name.
    A pimpled remnant of volcanic ebb and flow, washed away by a millennium or two of winter rains, Roxy Ann has stood its ground against nature, watching animals and the human race scamper past.
    For thousands of years, the Takelma tribe chased black-tailed deer through a maze of oak on the slopes of the mountain they called "Al-wiya."
    The Indians are gone, but the animals remain. Even within the last few years, we sometimes see a deer, or hear of a bear, and cringe when there are reports that cougars may be nearby.
    Medford chose the mountain to celebrate the town's first Independence Day, precisely at sunrise in 1884. It was a cannon blast from the pinnacle of its 3,571-foot elevation, which instantly woke the whole town.
    In the early 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan burned a few crosses and held some sheeted rituals there. Then a decade later, the Civilian Conservation Corps boys were building roads, picnic grounds and scratching out hiking trails.
    By then the peak was finally called Roxy Ann, although some people insisted it had been Skinner's Butte long before.
    A popular story of the time said Roxy Ann was an infamous woman of questionable character who was a favorite of the hardworking prospector crowd.
    It took recent genealogy to finally reveal the truth, which also led to one of those incredible coincidences.
    After 28 years of living in the valley, Janice Evans gradually discovered her relationship with the history of the mountain.
    "My grandmother was a Blue and I found a Blue genealogical society known as the Blue Genes," she said. "We had our reunion in Medford last June."
    Evans traces her family tree back to Amos Blue, who settled on a land claim at the foot of Roxy Ann in 1851.
    "I think he was about 22 when he took off from Ohio and came to Oregon," she said.
    "Once they settled on their farm, things got tough. The adobe was so thick that it was sticking to the chicken's feet and pulling them over."
    In 1853, John Bowen and his son Samuel arrived from Missouri and took up land claims next to Blue. John's daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Bowen-Smith, was a widow who apparently caught Amos Blue's eye. They married a year later.
    Roxy Ann Bowen was Sarah's stepmother and John Bowen's second wife. He named the peak in Roxy's honor.
    No one knows where or when Roxy Ann died, except that it was before John remarried in 1869.
    She gave her name to the peak, but there's still one more controversy left. Where is she buried?
    Some relatives say her body rests in Missouri, while others believe she's buried in an unmarked grave near her husband in the Log Town Cemetery, between Jacksonville and Ruch.
    It's just another one of those mysterious controversies, and it's likely to take a long, long time to sort out.
    Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.
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