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MailTribune.com
  • Following the Crowfoot Road

  • You readers ask the greatest questions.
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    • If you go
      Crowfoot Road is still narrow and winds its way uphill to Lost Creek Reservoir. The town of Derby and the railroad disappeared long ago.
      From Medford, drive 13 miles north on Highway 62 to the B...
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      If you go
      Crowfoot Road is still narrow and winds its way uphill to Lost Creek Reservoir. The town of Derby and the railroad disappeared long ago.

      From Medford, drive 13 miles north on Highway 62 to the Butte Falls Highway. Turn right, continue 7.5 miles and turn left onto Crowfoot Road. In less than eight miles you'll reach the Crater Lake Highway and Lost Creek Lake.
  • You readers ask the greatest questions.
    "I'm looking for information on what family the Crowfoot Road was named after," asked Flo in a recent email.
    A lot of us had wondered the same thing for a very long time, and Flo's welcome query was just the thing to kick off another investigation.
    Opened for business in the summer of 1912, Crowfoot Road was a shortcut on the west side of Big Butte Creek, between what we now call the Butte Falls Highway and today's Lost Creek Lake. It served the small community of Derby, which sat about eight miles east of the Crater Lake Highway. The road replaced an old, inadequate, pieced-together wagon trail through the same area.
    Earlier, the primary route had been McNeil Creek Road. It followed along the east bank of Big Butte Creek and was steep to climb and difficult to travel, particularly in winter.
    With the coming of the Pacific & Eastern Railroad and its new depot in Derby, Upper Rogue farmers, ranchers and timber men realized that a better road to the railroad would save them at least 20 miles of wagon hauling to Medford and beyond.
    A petition asking the county to make a new road caught the eyes of railroad executives who thought that one day they might run a spur line from Derby north to the Rogue River.
    William Harmon, Jackson County road master and civil engineer for the railroad, said he had already run a survey though the area and had platted "a very practical route."
    He said he had found an easy grade, and in his opinion it was the most feasible route for a road that he knew of, as he had surveyed most of the area.
    In May 1911, the Mail Tribune's Eagle Point correspondent, Alfred Howlett, said that a large band of horses and mules had been driven through town and "they were at work on the road between Derby and the Rogue River, the Crowfoot route."
    The 20-foot-wide road was cut through stone and cost nearly $24,000, with an additional $2,000 spent for simple bridges.
    Although it was rough and covered in sharp, broken rock, an optimistic reporter said it had "easy curves, slight grades and bids fair to become one of the finest roads in the county."
    At the time, they named it the Derby Road, so where does Crowfoot Road come from?
    It wasn't a family. Census and property records show no Crowfoots living in the area before or after 1910.
    What seems to be the most logical explanation is suggested by Howlett's description of the road as the "Crowfoot route."
    The term "crowfoot" is sometimes attributed to roads that intersect in a pattern that suggests tracks of a crow.
    Early maps of the area show a network of farmer's roads, suggesting many "crow's feet" connecting in a branching pattern to that old, pieced-together wagon trail.
    So maybe that's the answer, or maybe not. History at best is an imperfect art and definitely not a science. Sometimes all you can do is give it your best shot and hope you're following the right bird's track.
    Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.
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