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MailTribune.com
  • The birth of Medford

    New township chosen over Central Point
  • On Christmas Day in 1883, four property owners in Jackson County had reason to toast the future.
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    • Sunday: Oregon Sentinel editor's dream of build...
      Monday: Ben Holladay's power lust and domineering personality earned him the nickname "Napoleon of the West"
      Today: Four men bring the railroad to Medford with an offer it can't refuse; Jacksonv...
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      Sunday: Oregon Sentinel editor's dream of building a railroad is dashed by shipping tycoon Ben Holladay in a backroom deal
      Monday: Ben Holladay's power lust and domineering personality earned him the nickname "Napoleon of the West"

      Today: Four men bring the railroad to Medford with an offer it can't refuse; Jacksonville residents feel betrayed

      Wednesday: Chinese workers who helped build the railroad into Ashland are paid in gold

      Thursday: The coming of the railroad brings Southern Oregon out of its isolation
  • On Christmas Day in 1883, four property owners in Jackson County had reason to toast the future.
    After all, land investors Cornelius Beekman, C.W. Broback, Conrad Mingus and I.J. Phipps, who had collectively donated 260 acres to the railroad in late October of that year, knew their donated land had just been platted for a new township called Medford.
    And 20 acres of that land was to be used to house a central depot and a rail yard.
    "Central Point was the first thought by the railroad for the central depot," says Medford historian Ben Truwe. "But the residents in Central Point, which was the crossroads in the valley, weren't very keen on donating any land to the railroad.
    "There really wasn't much of a town at Central Point at the time," he adds. "Back then, there was just a store, a hotel and few houses." And a post office, established in 1872.
    The problem, he says, was that most of the farmers didn't want to lose land to the railroad.
    "The farmers weren't very cooperative," he says. "A lot of them took the railroad to court to get additional fees for selling the railroad company a right of way."
    On Truwe's Medford history pages at www.medfordhistory.com, there are numerous newspaper accounts back in the day that told of the battle between the railroad and the farmers.
    "A number of the substantial farmers in the center of the valley will fight the railroad company for the right of way asked, and the company has entered suit against them, to be tried at the special term of court next month," reported the Oregon Sentinel newspaper in Jacksonville on July 28, 1883.
    "Some of them have already got more railroad than they want," the paper noted.
    But some farmers worked out a deal with the railroad, the Democratic Times newspaper in Jacksonville reported on Aug. 17, 1883.
    "Haskell Amy compromised with the railroad company this week and the suit against him has been withdrawn," according to the paper that day. "We learn that he got about $1,000."
    Not all were opposed to having a railroad depot in Central Point.
    "We learn that a petition, requesting the railroad authorities to locate a depot close to Central Point, was forwarded to Portland not long since. It was signed by several hundred persons," the Democratic Times reported on Oct. 12, 1883.
    It also contemplated that day on where the valley's central depot would be built.
    "There are three or four candidates for the central depot of this valley, but whether it will be put close to Central Point or on either of the Beall, Mingus or Phipps places remains to be seen," it observed. "As far as the people of Jacksonville and vicinity are concerned, they have no objections to going to the Dardanelles (now Gold Hill) or Phoenix for railroad facilities."
    The paper was referring to the very same Phipps who contributed land to creating the Medford town site, Truwe says.
    "Phipps was one of those people who had farmland and settled with the railroad," he says. "But he went a step further. He got together with three neighbors and presented the railroad with a proposition.
    "That proposition was to not put the central depot on an existing town site but on land they would donate to the railroad," he says. "As far as I know, it didn't cost the railroad anything."
    Save for homes owned by Phipps and Broback, there was no improvements at the future town site, he says.
    "There were the two houses and chaparral and oak trees," Truwe says. "There was no bridge, no ford. There was nothing."
    Jacksonville residents, disappointed that the main railroad did not pass by their town, disparagingly referred to the new town as Chaparral City and Mudville.
    But by the following spring, a town was taking root. Two hotels, several saloons, a livery stable and a dozen other businesses had popped up, including a railroad depot.
    The depot would be replaced in 1900, and again in 1910 with the brick building that now houses Porters Restaurant and Bar at Sixth and Front streets. It cost the railroad $50,000 to build the last depot.
    Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.
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