Bert Harris built Butte Falls
In 1901, the Dewings Co. of Reed City, Michigan, bought acres of timber near the falls on Big Butte Creek. It was a remote area, with only a few homesteads and stump ranches with names like “Starvation Flat” and “Persist.” However, Bert Harris saw the potential of generating electricity at the 15-foot falls at Big Butte Creek to power a sawmill surrounded by a forest of sugar pines.
When the company became known as the Butte Falls Sugar Pine Lumber Co., Harris was its first boss. Within months, he built a dam across the creek and plotted out a manufacturing town of 55 acres with a 300-foot plaza in its center.
In 1905, Harris recorded the town plat of Butte Falls and began changing it from a tent village to a larger town. Within five years, it had a hotel, two billiard halls, hardware and barber shops, residences, an inn, grocery store and even an athletic club. The Pacific & Eastern railway brought tourists, passengers and mail from the Rogue Valley.
Its fortunes rising and falling with the demand for timber, Butte Falls has settled into a small, quiet town with a population of nearly 450.
As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.