When a man claiming to be a sea captain settles in a small, landlocked, rural community, there's bound to be some talk, especially if the captain's wife speaks with a cockney accent.
"She was kind of a queer old lady," Frances Aiken Pearson told Forest Service Historian Jeff LaLande in a 1983 interview. "They (the children) were afraid of old lady Deskins because she was probably a witch."
Current owners Fred and Karen Wickman bought the Prospect Hotel in 2005. Both are enthusiastic and love to tell you about their hotel. More information can be found at www.prospecthotel.com. From Interstate 5, Exit 30, drive north on Highway 62 until you pass milepost 43 and see the Prospect directional sign. Continue .75 miles to Mill Creek Road and turn right at the stop sign. You'll find the hotel a quarter-mile farther on your left.
Pearson was born in 1885, just a couple of years after Captain Deskins and his wife fell on hard times. They sold out to Pearson's father, Squire Aiken, and quickly left for California. Aiken took over as postmaster and, in 1889, got permission to change the name of the tiny town from Deskins to Prospect.
Inspired by rumors that a railroad would soon arrive that would bring a boom in timber harvests, Pearson said her father was sure the town's prospects were so great that Prospect was the only proper way to name it. Although the boom and railroad rumors soon evaporated, a few hardy souls continued to arrive and settle in.
Albion Boothby brought his wife and three children to Prospect in 1883, but they only stayed for a short time before moving to Ashland. They returned in 1889 and, with a growing family, Boothby put up a small house.
Frances Pearson remembered that Boothby began building a much bigger house, nearer the Crater Lake Wagon Road in about 1892. The road was rugged and the difficult trip from Medford to the lake took three to five days.
Travelers were always passing or camping nearby, so Boothby reasoned that a larger home would not only fit his growing family; he could also rent rooms to traveling tourists who were seeking a more comfortable sleep. Up went the sign: "Boothby House."
By 1898, Boothby realized that almost all of his business came during the summer and, with no railroad or timber boom coming his way, he sold the hotel and property to the Ray brothers, the men who had built the Gold Ray Dam and were supplying electricity to Medford and other Rogue Valley cities.
While the Rays were busy buying and selling timber, they leased out the now "Prospect Hotel" to Martha Hollenbeak, who operated it until the Rays sold it to Jim Grieve in 1912. Almost immediately, Grieve and wife, Mary, began an overhaul of the property.
Beginning with paint and screened porches, the Grieves soon added tent areas and cabins. The grounds were enhanced with fish ponds, beautiful flowers and shrubs.
"Mr. Grieve will also be in a position this summer," said a Mail Tribune reporter, "to supply the needs of guests who may want pack and saddle horses."
For the next 16 years, the hotel was living its golden age, one of the most popular resorts in Southern Oregon. But in 1932, Jim Grieve died. Although Mary continued to run it as long as she could, over the following decades the hotel's popularity and condition began to fade as one owner after another tried to revive it.
A renaissance slowly began to take shape with the hotel's listing on the National Register of Historic Places in February 1980. The aging building was gradually brought back to life, and now the Prospect Hotel is once again offering a comfortable overnight's sleep and good things to eat for historically minded travelers on their way to Crater Lake.
Prospects are still looking up.
Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.