John McCall's obituary is steeped in praise, portraying a charitable, gentle man who was well-known throughout the Ashland community.

John McCall's obituary is steeped in praise, portraying a charitable, gentle man who was well-known throughout the Ashland community.

"He possessed a habit of goodness directed by right reason, and was most compassionate toward the afflictions of others," his November 1895 obituary in the Ashland Tidings states. "He was fond of his home, a dutiful husband, a kind and affectionate father, and agreeable neighbor, a most useful citizen."

But a study of McCall's life shows that obituary touched just the tip of the iceberg.

In addition to his work as an Oregon legislator, mayor of Ashland and military man, he owned the Ashland Flour Mill, the Ashland Woolen Mill and the McCall Mercantile on the Ashland Plaza, ran the Ashland Tidings and helped build the school that would become Southern Oregon University.

"When the history of the city of Ashland shall have been written, the name of John M. McCall will be indissolubly connected with it, and it will be a history which his relations and friends can read with pride," reads a passage in "From Southern Oregon Pioneer Association Records."

McCall was born in Washington County, Pa., in 1825 and moved to Louisa County, Iowa, in 1842. Eight years later, he crossed the country, settling in Jackson County in 1852 on a mining claim along Jackson Creek.

"Here he spent the memorable winter of 1852 and 1853, subsisting a good portion of the time on venison alone," says a passage from Southern Oregon Pioneer Association Records.

In 1859, he purchased interest in the Ashland Flour Mills, and two years later the Civil War began. McCall joined Company D of the 1st Oregon Cavalry in December of that year. He served through 1866 and was promoted to captain. He also served as a quartermaster at Fort Klamath.

McCall married his first wife, Teresa Applegate, in 1868. She died six years later, leaving McCall and three children behind.

McCall was elected to the state legislature in 1876, the same year McCall married his second wife, Mary Anderson, who had an adopted daughter. He was re-elected in 1890, four years after becoming Ashland's mayor.

During those busy years, McCall oversaw the construction of the woolen mills, Ashland Bank and the Ashland College and Normal School. In 1883, John and Mary completed their two-story Victorian home on Oak Street in Ashland, the same year Gov. John L. Moody commissioned McCall to serve as brigadier general in the Oregon State Militia.

Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the John McCall House functions as a bed and breakfast. A magnolia tree, planted on the grounds by Mary McCall in 1890, still stands.

Innkeeper Nola O'Hara says McCall's attention to craftsmanship and detail is evident in the home's construction.

"I've had so many comments from different guests who have been builders or contractors (say) it's absolutely incredible," she says. "The way it was built and the pride and the workmanship. It's a well-built home."

McCall died in 1895 at 70 years of age.

"Peace to his soul, and the warmest and most sincere sympathy for the bereft widow, and family, is the prayer of the Tidings, which the deceased was instrumental in funding," his obituary reads.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or