Jacksonville's oldest business still has its hair
Jacksonville Barbershop owner Ed McBee says the inscription on the back of a photo of the shop’s late-1880s proprietor leads him to believe he has the oldest continuously running business in town.
A couple of years ago, Emily Grimes of Jacksonville gave McBee an 1885 photograph of former owner George Francis Schumpf and his bride, Ella, on their wedding day. But it wasn’t until this year that McBee came to realize the significance.
Schumpf had the shop from 1869 to 1898, and pioneer photographer Peter Britt took the picture, according to writing on the back.
“It was a family photo from my grandfather, Fred Coffman. The family had passed it down,” said Grimes, great-great-granddaughter of George and Ella. She figured that the shop, which displays relics from earlier days, would be a good home for the picture. Grimes took her son to Ed to get haircuts and has a picture of him in a barber chair holding the photo.
“I don’t know of any other business that has been the same kind of business ... for longer than the barbershop,” said Carolyn Kingsnorth, who documents town history and heads Historic Jacksonville, Inc., which maintains historic sites and offers tours.
While it may be the oldest business, it has been in several locations.
The current location, 165 E. California St., is on the first floor of the Masonic Lodge building, which was completed in 1877. McBee said he used to have a photo of the building showing the barbershop in that location in the late 1880s. Masonic Warren Lodge No. 10 still owns the building and leases the space to McBee.
Before relocation to the Masonic Lodge, the shop was in a brick building at 157 E. California St., which Schumpf built after a fire destroyed an earlier wood-framed structure at that location.
Later a post office operated in the current location, but the barbershop returned in the 1960s when the post office was moved. McBee is not sure where the shop was located prior to 1960.
Schumpf apprenticed as a barber for four years in the Alsace region, which was disputed territory between France and Germany, where he was born in 1839. The family emigrated to the U.S. in 1851. He worked as a barber in Cincinnati and may have pursued the calling while a member of the 70th Ohio Infantry during the Civil War.
In 1871, Schumpf sailed with his wife, Maria, around Cape Horn to join his brother John in Jacksonville. By 1873 he had purchased an existing barbershop run by a Mr. Blockwell.
In April 1874, a fire destroyed the shop and the rest of the wooden buildings in the block. Schumpf rebuilt right away with the brick building that still stands. An advertisement for the shop reported he offered shaves and haircuts for both men and women, as well as baths (“hot or cold”).
Maria died in 1882. In 1885 he married Ellen Barry, and they had four children, the youngest born after Schumpf’s death. Kingsnorth’s research came up with the name Ellen, although the family refers to her as Ella.
Schumpf became involved in mining, owning sites in the Willow Springs area and the Little Applegate. The mines were not successful. Kingsnorth’s research indicates he may have had to forfeit ownership of the barbershop, although he continued to practice the trade and was very popular until his death June 20, 1897.
“He was kind of an entrepreneur in a lot of things, but didn’t really have any success at business,” said Grimes.
McBee changes the displays in the window from time to time. He purchased the business in 2002.
“I call it ‘the museum of barbering.’ I inherited a bunch of the fixtures that are in the shop. I’ve got boxes of stuff. Some of it goes back to the 1880s,” said McBee. There are also photos of the interior from the 1960s, when it was owned by Carl Paulson.
Two buildings in town claim the longest occupation in Oregon in a couple of categories, but not as businesses, said Kingsnorth. Jacksonville’s Old City Hall is the government building that has been in use the longest in Oregon. It was built in 1880. The Masonic Lodge is the oldest in Oregon with continuous lodge use.
Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at firstname.lastname@example.org.