An enduring symbol of true love

The fountain has long been disconnected, but a statue remains outside the Ashland library, a symbol of love between Michael Mickelson and Victoria Mickelson-Chapman.

While taking photos recently in Ashland, a passerby asked, "Do you know anything about that statue?" Well, yes we do. It goes something like this.

Just nine days short of his fourth wedding anniversary, at age 63, Michael Mickelson died.

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Michael Mickelson's poem "Dearest Love, Believe Me!" was written by Scottish poet Thomas Pringle, prior to 1834.

Victoria Mickelson-Chapman died April 11, 1928, at age 84.

The fountain cost $3,826 and was finished in 1929. It conforms to the requirements set down in Victoria's will, reported three days after her death in the Ashland Tidings.

"Ö a neat and substantial stone, cold-water fountain with appropriate appointments for men and animals to quench their thirst. Only Oregon stone is to be used in fitting up the fountain. A suitable sized statue is to be placed at the top Ö the name Mickelson-Chapman is to be cut in the corner of said fountain."

The woman in the statue holds a torch to the ground, its flames being extinguished. It's an ancient symbol of death. A contemporary description in the Oregon Historical Quarterly said the woman is a representation of Rebekah, perhaps referring to the biblical Rebekah, wife of Isaac. No one knows for sure.

The fountain was disconnected years ago, but the statue still stands in front of the Carnegie portion of the Ashland library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd.

Born near Oslo, Norway, in 1831, Michael crossed the Atlantic in 1849 with his family and settled in Wisconsin. His father had died a year earlier and Michael, 17, took on the duty of supporting five sisters, a younger brother and his mother.

By 1854, the family was secure enough for Michael to cross the plains to Oregon, where he first settled in Jacksonville and a year later moved to Ashland. There he established one of the earliest, if not the first, blacksmith shops in town.

In 1860, with his business prospering, he returned to Wisconsin to keep a promise he had made to his mother when he left. His mother, younger brother and two of his sisters returned with him to Ashland.

With his family settled in a large house he built on Main Street between First Avenue and Oak Street, he rented out his business and took off for a few years, rambling through the mines of Washington, Idaho, Nevada and Eastern Oregon.

By the mid 1880s, Michael had returned to his Ashland business and was investing in cattle and ranch property. He met Victoria Chapman, 12 years his junior, and they married Oct. 14, 1890.

Victoria was born in Kentucky in 1843, the daughter of an English father and mother, Samuel Chapman and Sarah Smead, who had come to New York in 1831. Samuel had been trying to get away from the cattle business, having spent most of his youth as a clerk and superintendant in his father's European cattle brokerage.

When Samuel's bakery and subsequent telescope/microscope shop faltered in New York, he moved the family to Kentucky, where he returned to operating a stock and butchering business.

When Victoria was barely a year old, the family moved on to Iowa. There she would stay until 1879, when her older brother, Henry, convinced the 36-year-old woman to accompany him on a cattle drive to Trinidad, Colo.

Henry had gone gold mining in California and Oregon in the early 1850s, and the land claim he registered near Emigrant Creek, east of Ashland in 1854, was still his. Retracing his earlier travels over the Applegate Trail in the summer of 1880, he left Colorado and brought Victoria to his rundown Oregon ranch. It didn't take him long to become a successful rancher.

Although the marriage of Michael Mickelson and Victoria Chapman was brief and marred by sickness, it must have been a happy one. Michael contracted cancer of the mouth and died Oct. 5, 1894. Victoria would survive another 33 years and leave a will, directing that her property be sold and the proceeds be used to construct a fountain to be "placed on a suitable lot in the city of Ashland."

It was a symbol of her love — of a love Michael had expressed to her in a few lines from one of his favorite verses:

"Dreams of fame and grandeur

End in bitter tears.

True love grows the fonder

By the lapse of years."

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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