"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
Would that Bill Shakespeare had been a Southern Oregon pioneer. Perhaps then there wouldn't have been so much fussin' and feudin' over whose name came first.
It's hard to say how long folks in our parts have been arguing about who was the first white boy or white girl to be born in the Rogue Valley, but it seems to have heated up quite a bit in the 1880s, when a few old pioneers, or perhaps their offspring, began arguing the point in the talk radio of its day — the newspaper.
With apologies to our friends of American Indian heritage, return with us now to those feisty days of yesteryear.
"The statement, made at the pioneer reunion, of Basil Dairy being the first white boy born in Jackson County is all a mistake," wrote an obvious expert who signed his or her name as "pioneer." "He was not born in Jackson County, but his parents came to Jacksonville in 1852 when he was a baby."
So, we're apparently not lookin' for any pioneer immigrant babies, we want the ones who first got their bottoms spanked right here in Jackson County.
An "old pioneer" told the Ashland paper he thought the first boy was either Frank Rogers, Walter Gore or James McCully.
"McCully was the first born in Jacksonville," said a reader, dating his birthday from August 1853, "and we all think he is entitled to the cake until otherwise proven."
Could it be the younger Martin Angel, son of the Indian-hating county commissioner?
Gwyn Butler said no way! Butler was born in Jackson County, he said, and was five years older than Angel. He was pretty sure he was the first, although he admitted that Jim Birdsey was born about the same time.
A few people thought it was probably Bruce Evans, son of Napoleon Evans, who settled in 1852 on land that would become Medford 30 years later.
Of course, the Evans family didn't stay around much longer, so it's impossible to say for sure.
The list of candidates continued to grow, and by 1915 there were so many "first-borns" being bandied about that one Ashland resident said you just couldn't count them all.
Turns out the first-born white girl is a little easier to pin down. The opinions are fairly evenly split between Alice Wrisley, a teacher, and Molly Ross, daughter of a colonel.
Everyone seems to agree that the Deans were the first couple to marry in the county.
It's enough to give you a headache. Before you know it, someone's going to claim a Mail Tribune editor was the first to discover the Rogue River Valley. Oh — wait a minute. They already did that in 1912.
We think it was a joke, but James Sullivan, the self-proclaimed father of Medford, apparently took the rumor very seriously.
"Great Scott! Man Alive!" said the cantankerous old fellow.
Gadzooks, Jimmy. That's just what we were a-thinkin'.
Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.