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Fort Lane plaque returned

An antique bronze plaque missing from the historic Fort Lane site near Central Point has been recovered.

After the Mail Tribune published an article late last month about the site being considered as a state park, a Medford resident contacted the paper to report he had the plaque. The story indicated the plaque, erected in 1929 by the Crater Lake chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to commemorate the fort, had been stolen years ago.

The plaque was in the attic of a shop on rental property he had purchased in Medford, according to the man who asked to remain anonymous.

"I took it down, dusted it off and put it in the window as a conversation piece," he told the paper, noting he didn't know where Fort Lane was until he read the article. "I'd like to give it to whomever is doing the work on it," he added.

Mark Tveskov, director of the Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology who had led archaeological digs at the site in recent years, received the plaque Wednesday afternoon.

"We thought it was lost forever — this is fantastic," said Yvonne Earnest, historian for the local DAR chapter, upon hearing the news Wednesday afternoon.

"It's important as a piece of the Fort Lane story," Tveskov explained. "Fort Lane has been important to local history since it was built (in 1853)."

The plaque, which weighs about 20 pounds, is now 78 years old. It's unknown when it was taken, Tveskov said.

If the old fort site does become a state park, the DAR would like to recommission the original marker made of stones taken from the fort's foundations, Earnest said.

"We would put the plaque back on the marker," she said, noting the DAR is in the process of recovering its plaques that have gone missing over the years.

The 19-acre parcel which includes Fort Lane is now owned by Jackson County. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission recently agreed to accept the property from the county and create a plan to protect the site and make it more accessible to the public.

It could take several months before the arrangements are concluded, according to Karen Smith, Jackson County's Bear Creek Greenway coordinator.

The state will develop a management plan for the property that will include interpretive signs and panels, walking trails, a parking lot and possibly rest- rooms, said Cliff Houck, property and resources manager for the state parks department. One of the primary goals would be to build fences and create other protective barriers around the area, he added.

Built in 1853 by the U.S. Army's First Dragoons based in Benicia, Calif., the short-lived fort represented the Rogue Valley's only civil authority when it was established. Shaped like a giant horseshoe, the originally fort had more than a dozen buildings, including infantry quarters, officer quarters, kitchens, a small medical building, guard house, blacksmith shop and store.

But nothing remains above ground now, save for the stone monument built by the DAR in 1929.

For more details on the fort and archeological information go to www.sou.edu/SOCIOL/arch/ and click on "Current Projects" and then choose "Fort Lane Archeology Project."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or at pfattig@mailtribune.com

Mark Tveskov, director of the Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology, holds a plaque that has been missing from the site of Fort Lane for years. It was returned by an anonymous caller to the Mail Tribune. - Jim Craven