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On a bend of the Rogue River

Now that 100-plus temperatures seem more and more to be burning up our Southern Oregon summers, the best we can hope for is no wildfires and a shady place to beat the heat.

With the Rogue River flowing through it, the town of Shady Cove sounds like it just might fit the bill. Even though there aren’t any swimming beaches, there are plenty of fir trees in the county park and lots of grass just waiting for an afternoon snooze on a blanket.

Decades before it was incorporated as a city (1972), Shady Cove was just another sparsely populated part of the Upper Rogue. Except for a post office named Etna that was set up in 1882, it was a quiet place where farmers and ranchers picked up their mail, gathered to celebrate Fourth of July and went shopping in a smattering of small businesses nearby. When the post office was discontinued and moved to Trail in 1896, the Etna area returned to just another pleasant place on the bend of a river.

By the 1920s, automobiles and tourists heading up to Crater Lake, and passing though Etna, either had a long drive beginning in Central Point that followed north along the western side of the Rogue River, or they drove the road though Eagle Point that ended when it reached the Rogue River. There, drivers waited their turns for a ferry crossing.

At the end of 1920, Jackson County had approved construction of a bridge across the river that would eliminate the need for a ferry. Initial construction was delayed by heavy January rains, but by May 1921, the ground was dry enough to allow eight miles of road improvements leading to the bridge site.

Without fanfare, the bridge opened to traffic in October 1921. “This will mean,” said a reporter, “a big saving in distance for the people going to and from Medford.”

Infrastructure improvements have a way of boosting business interest in an area, and the new concrete bridge quickly inspired real estate developer and minister of First Christian Church of Medford, D.E. Milard, to offer a housing development on the south side of the river.

Milard offered Edgewood Park: “Beautiful Summer Home Lots … Select Yours Now Before They Are Gone.” Each “heavily wooded” lot was 100 by 300 feet and sold for $100. The development, fronted on the south side of the river, downstream from the bridge and not far from an area local residents had always called The Cove. Milard even promised a suspension bridge where buyers could cross the river.

Five years later, a group of four businessmen, headed by S.S. Montgomery, a Los Angeles investor, incorporated as the Shady Cove Country Club and quietly began building cabins and cottages on 35 acres along a bathing beach fronting the river upstream from the concrete bridge — The Cove.

Opening the club in July 1927, with a community park for children, a tennis court, miniature golf course and the promise of a future real golf course and clubhouse, the partners were swamped with inquires from excited area residents.

That’s when the public learned Shady Cove Country Club was private and not open to the public. Exclusive membership would require a vote by members and only by invitation.

It was, as they say, the kiss of death. Perhaps there had been brief success, but in January 1930 the club had not paid state license fees and taxes for over two years. In 1936, the property was offered for sale for just $1,600.

All that remained was a name that stuck — Shady Cove. It became official when the town’s first post office opened in September 1939.

Writer Bill Miller is the author of five books, including “History Snoopin,” a collection of his previous columns. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.