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Jacksonville's Daisy Creek name not original

JACKSONVILLE — A revision in 1871 changed the name of Dairy Creek to Daisy Creek. Research on the switch revealed the story of the Dairy family, who lived in town before three children were orphaned by 1854.

Medford historian Ben Truwe, who had seen Dairy Creek listed on early town maps, dug into the change after he came across an 1853 obituary for Cynthia Dairy of Jacksonville, Oregon Territory. Truwe’s research found a map prepared by Rogue Valley Abstract and Title Company with the “r” in Dairy clearly converted into an “s.”

A plat of the town from September 1852, when it was not even a year old, shows Dairy Creek. The seasonal creek runs past the spot where gold was discovered, then heads northeast. A portion of the creek is visible in Doc Griffin Park, but some sections are underground.

Published obituaries and other records from the time show the Dairy family resided in the town at the time of the gold rush, moving there four months before the Dairy Creek name appeared on the 1852 plat.

Cynthia Dairy, wife of Phillip Dairy, died of consumption — now called tuberculosis — in October 1853. She left three children: daughter Edna, 3, and sons Basil, 2 months old, and Jacob, 6.

In a 1939 interview, then 90-year-old Edna said the family first moved from Illinois to Oregon City. Phillip ran a boarding house in Jacksonville, but on March 29, 1854, he lost his life in Salem while operating a pack train.

The two older children were raised in the Willamette Valley, but Basil was raised in the area of current Kings Highway by the William Wright family, who had taken him in when his mother died. The next mention of Basil is in a mining claims record from 1871.

Presence of a dairy along the creek or in Jacksonville at the time would have been unlikely, said Truwe. There would have been little demand for milk in a mining boom town populated largely by young males seeking fortunes.

Truwe made the discovery as part of a long-term project to fill in gaps in the history of the 1850s. Truwe peruses old publications, and then backs up those reports by checking other sources. For Dairy Creek, he checked mining claim records, county commission journals, water master records and the county clerk’s records.

“There’s a lot of information that hasn’t been found and collated. I’m putting it together on my website. Anyone can look at that,” said Truwe. The website address is http://id.mind.net/~truwe/tina/s.o.history.html

Change of the creek name back to its original might occur. Truwe plans to ask the Oregon Geographic Name Board for a change. That board makes recommendations to the United States Board on Geographic Names, which would make a decision.

“One would hope there will be a corrected one on future maps,” said Truwe.

However, the national board’s website states, “changing a name merely to correct or re-establish historical usage is not in and of itself a reason to change a name. Names evolve, and even through cartographic recording, errors become established in local vernacular.”

Before submitting documentation to the Oregon board, Truwe will present his findings to the Jacksonville City Council. A date has yet to be set pending a meeting with City Administrator Jeff Alvis. The Oregon board recommends contacting local landowners to determine whether there is opposition to a change.

Truwe also reached out to Dairy family relatives.

“I am delighted that Ben contacted me about this creek, which had been previously unknown to me,” Joan Brown Derry of Havre de Grace, Maryland, wrote in an email. She said the family that moved to Oregon had changed the spelling from Derry to Dairy.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com

A September 1852 town plat of Jacksonville shows Daisy Creek labeled as “Dairy Creek.” Photo courtesy of Ben Truwe.