An effort to preserve stories from her own family history put Gold Hill native Linda Morehouse Genaw on the road to becoming a writer and local historian.

An effort to preserve stories from her own family history put Gold Hill native Linda Morehouse Genaw on the road to becoming a writer and local historian.

Indeed, it was the stories passed down from her ancestors that nudged Genaw into researching her own family background and the history of the communities where she grew up.

Writer of a dozen historical volumes on local towns, cemeteries and schools, Genaw got hooked on history at a young age after hearing pioneer tales about her great-great-grandmother walking alongside a wagon train from Missouri to Oregon in 1853.

Genaw says pride in her Oregonian roots and the desire to leave something for her children prompted her to record the things she learned.

"By the time I had my first child in 1976, my family had been in Oregon 123 years, and Oregon had only been a state for 117 of those years," she points out.

Finding very little history about her hometown, where she lived for 38 years, she decided to track down and record the information herself.

"I lived on part of the ranch that Tom Chavner had. He donated the land that became the city of Gold Hill, so I started there," Genaw says.

"That was strange because I had always felt connected to the land and old homestead house that is still on the old property."

In the early 1980s, Genaw visited with Thomas Chavner's grandson, Chavner Thompson, who lived on what remained of the once massive ranch. A sucker for historical tales, Genaw would talk to Chavner whenever the opportunity arose.

"He was a funny guy. I would stop by and talk to him when I would see him in the yard, and we would chat about whatever was on his mind," she says.

"This went on for a few years, until one day he invited me in his yard to have a sit and talk. He was a funny guy, and when he was done talking to you, he would just walk away, no matter if you were in midsentence."

After about six years of casual conversation, Chavner invited Genaw to see his home, the Chavner family house along Blackwell Road, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In a twist of fate, Genaw was permitted into the attic and found an old journal from 1856 for Union Mills, Butte Creek, detailing information about the community, the Chavners, the formation of Jackson County and even about Genaw's own family during the Rogue Indian Wars.

"I started reading through the journal, and — lo, and behold — there was the connection: My great-great-great-grandmother was Thomas Chavner's washerwoman!" Genaw exclaims.

"Isn't it crazy how relationships cross again through the ages?"

Genaw's first publishing venture was in 1988, with "Gold Hill and its Neighbors Along the River," a historical account of her hometown and surrounding, rural communities, including Rock Point, Dardanelles and Tolo.

Soon after, the now Central Point resident was commissioned by the Centennial Committee of Central Point to create a historical volume, dubbed "At the Crossroads: A History of Central Point, 1850-1900." Copies of that project are buried at Pfaff Park in a time capsule set to be opened in 2089, a notion that brings a smile to Genaw's face as she thinks of her stories being preserved in one of the parks where she played as a child.

Over the years, Genaw has contributed to getting three sites on the National Register: Hanby Middle School (Gold Hill High), the Cornerstones House in Gold Hill and the Merritt Building in Central Point.

Other works by Genaw include several compilations of the Gold Hill News, from 1910 to 1927, booklets about rural cemeteries in the area and even one about the Chavner property, titled "The Chavner Homeplace."

Anne Billeter, director of the Jackson County Genealogy Library, says work done by Genaw is an important part of how the region's history has been preserved for future generations.

"The thing about Linda is that she pulls together lots of interesting information and does such good research and is enthusiastic about areas of the county that we wouldn't otherwise have a lot of information about," Billeter says.

"She's truly become part of this group of local historians who are saving those stories and the information about the history of where we all live."

For her part, Genaw feels like her projects, in some way, might encourage someone else to preserve their past for future generations.

A police dispatcher for Veterans Affairs' Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City, Genaw says she looks forward to retirement, when her real work will begin, tracking down old tales and searching for ghosts of the past.

"I can't wait until when I retire," she says. "I have so much work to do — so many stories I want to work on."