The quiet legacy of Elisha Larson

A walk or jog along Medfordís Larson Creek is a good way to remember Elisha Larson, the man who gave the creek its name.

The surest way to be forgotten is to not stick around the old neighborhood and just quietly get out of town.

That's exactly what happened to Elisha Larson, the man who gave Larson Creek in Medford its name.

If you go

Larson Creek is lined with the shaded pathways that give hikers and bikers a chance to experience nature in the middle of the city.

You'll find access to the pathways just beyond the parking lots to the south of East Barnett Road in Medford.

If you'd like to see Larson's property and the small, plowed field on the 1854 survey map, see www.blm.gov/or/landrecords/survey/ySrvy1.php. You'll be searching for Township 37 South, Range 1 West, Section 35. Click on the 1885 "Cadastral Survey" and enjoy a look at our valley circa 1854.

Eventually flowing into Bear Creek, Larson Creek is in southeast Medford, nearly paralleling Barnett Road.

Elisha Larson was born in Norway in about 1820, when Norway was still a part of the Swedish Kingdom. He emigrated to the United States in 1838, from Stavanger on the west coast of Norway, and moved to Wisconsin, where he farmed. The Portage County, Wis., historical society believes Larson was the first Norwegian to settle in that portion of the state. He applied for citizenship in April 1846 and two years later married Margaret, also a native of Norway.

In the fall of 1853, Larson staked his Donation Land Claim near the source of the creek that now bears his name, on the slopes of Mount Baldy, east of today's North Phoenix Road. A drawing representing his plowed field appears on the 1854 survey map of Jackson County.

Larson and his wife and child arrived at a very inconvenient time, almost in the middle of the first Rogue River Indian War. Even though they were somewhat isolated from most of the settlers who were scattered throughout the area, the Larsons suffered no injury.

For 13 years, he farmed in the valley and his family grew to seven children. Beyond farming, nothing else is known of the family's stay here.

In April 1866, Elisha Larson sold his land claim to an S.C. Taylor for $700, packed up and headed for Southern California.

In Ventura County, near Santa Paula, Larson purchased at least two parcels of land. One of them was a 150-acre parcel on the old Mexican Rancho Santa Paula y Saticoy. He built a house and barn on the land, planted some corn and barley, and raised hogs and dairy cattle. He also planted trees, including a large almond orchard.

A year after they settled in, another son was born, a birth that may have taken Margaret's life. By the 1870 census, she's gone.

In 1879, Larson sold his Santa Paula property for $6,000. He had remarried to a native of Sweden and had fathered another son. He and his family moved south to San Jacinto, a new town in northern San Diego County.

His second marriage ended in divorce in 1888, and Larson died three years later.

One of the sad things about local history is that most of the credit always goes to those who stay put and establish long family lines in an area. Too often, those who choose to move on, people such as Elisha Larson, are quickly forgotten; and no matter how much or how little they did for an area, nobody seems to care.

Whether he knew it or not, Elisha Larson was here early and long enough to leave his name on the local map. That should mean something — shouldn't it?

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.


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