Beekman House tours will focus on medical practices

Guided walks inside the historic home will take place on Saturday

JACKSONVILLE — A kitchen sink that is open underneath may seem rustic, but it was a pioneer family's adaptation to the rapidly changing health and medical priorities of the Victorian era.

The sink, open for air circulation to ward off germs, will be just one of the Beekman family artifacts discussed during tours of the family home Saturday that focus on Victorian medical practices. Tours will be offered from noon to 4 p.m. at the home at 470 E. California St.

About the tours

WHAT: Tours of the Beekman House focusing on Victorian medical practices

WHEN: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 12; tours will begin about every 15 to 20 minutes

WHERE: Beekman House, 470 E. California St., Jacksonville

COST: $5 for adults, $3 for children 6 to 12 and seniors 62 and older

When the Beekman family built the house in the 1870s, scientific discoveries and medical practices refined during the Civil War were affecting people's daily lives, said Carolyn Kingsnorth of Historic Jacksonville Inc.

"Dust became a mortal enemy. So they made a lot of changes in household design and furnishings and sanitation," said Kingsnorth. Germs had been discovered, and sanitation efforts rose in response.

Four-poster beds with surrounding curtains were replaced by brass and iron bedsteads. Ornately carved furniture with crevices that could harbor germs also fell out of favor.

Period-costumed docents in seven different rooms will talk about the changes during 45-minute tours. Cornelius Beekman was the town's banker and a leading figure from the gold-rush days in 1853 until his death in 1915. Artifacts all date from Beekman family occupancy, as the home never had another owner.

Docents will describe eyeglasses of the period. Both Julia, Cornelius' wife, and his daughter, Carrie, wore glasses. The effects of corsets on women's bodies also will be explained.

Doctors and medical practices in the town will be discussed. A traveler in 1855 wrote that the town had three medical professionals and 300 who called themselves doctors, Kingsnorth said.

Cascade Civil War Society Capt. Dan Foster, who plays a Union assistant surgeon, will talk about medical advances during the war and display medicines and instruments of the period. Loretta Reeves as a Union nurse will discuss women's entry into the previously all-male occupation during the war.

"We were just beginning to get the idea that infection was from some outside sources," said Foster. Progress was made in sanitation, although older surgeons needed to be convinced to wash hands and instruments and to change bandages regularly.

An exhibit of phrenology, or skull reading, will be included. Both Cornelius and his son, Ben, had their skulls read to predict personality traits.

The Southern Oregon University Archaeology Laboratory will display medical artifacts uncovered in Jacksonville. Kingsnorth expects to see medicine bottles and perhaps Chinese opium pipes.

"Opium was a very popular medicine at the time," said Kingsnorth.

Acupuncturist Owen Jurling will discuss historic Chinese acupuncture and acupressure customs and compare them with contemporary practices. The Beekmans had a Chinese cook and housekeeper, Eni Yan.

Beekman House tours cost $5 for adults, $3 for children 6 to 12 and seniors 62 and older and will begin about every 15 to 20 minutes.

Other historic offerings also are happening in town as part of second-Saturday history celebrations through September.

Tours of the Beekman Bank at California and Third streets will begin at 11:15 a.m. and 12:15, 1:15 and 2:15 p.m. Guests will go behind the counter and can peer into the safe. Tours cost $2.

There's also a tour of the Jacksonville Historic Cemetery beginning at 10 a.m. at the Sexton's Tool House. The tour will highlight food and drink of the Victorian period. Cemetery tours are free but donations are encouraged.

For more information, call 541-245-3650 or email info@historicjacksonville.org.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.


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