Amy Couture

As It Was Contributor

Amy Couture is originally from Loomis, California and Astoria, Oregon.  She has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Oregon, a master’s in teacher education from Eastern Oregon University, and a master’s in history from Minnesota State University, Mankato.  In graduate school, she focused on 19th-century social and labor history.  Her master’s thesis examined the origins of the labor union movement among Cornish hard rock miners in California’s gold country in the 1860s.  Before moving to Ashland in 2010, Amy taught fifth grade and coached cross country in Stebbins, Alaska.  She also taught history and education classes at Clatsop Community College and Treasure Valley Community College.  She is the author of 14 historical vignettes in the book, Astorians: Eccentric and Extraordinary.  Her husband, Patrick, is the assistant principal of Talent Middle School and they live in Ashland with their two young sons.

In the fall of 1853, the Empire City Hotel was part of the only white settlement in what would become Coos County.  It was a round, log house with just one room that contained the entire hotel, including its kitchen, parlor, dining room, and sleeping quarters.  But for a group of travelers led by Daniel Giles, the hotel was an oasis on the Oregon Coast.


In 1895, when Frances Pearson was a 10-year-old girl living in Prospect, Ore., her favorite time of year was August, when huckleberries ripened on Huckleberry Mountain, near the old Crater Lake Wagon Road.  Every year, her family camped on the mountain and picked gallons of huckleberries each day.

In a 1978 oral history interview, 80-year-old Addie Brant of Yoncalla, Ore., recalled a special friendship between her grandfather and a former slave named Williams Eads.  Brant’s grandfather, William Wilson, and Eads were Yoncalla pioneers.

Woodruff  Meadow is a rare flat spot in a mountainous area of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, about 10 miles southwest of Prospect, Ore.  The meadow took its name from a family that settled there before 1900.


The Greensprings Highway, officially State Route 66, heads east into the mountains from Ashland on a historic route in use for at least 160 years.

In the late 1800's, the self-proclaimed “Poet of the Sierras,” Joaquin Miller, was known for his colorful  dress, restless travels, and flamboyant writing about the West.  But like many artists, Miller struggled with his personal relationships with women.


The community of Brownsboro east of Eagle Point, Ore., takes its name from an early settler, Henry Brown, who received a Donation Land Claim on Little Butte Creek in the early 1850s.  He hunted and raised cattle in the Brownsboro area and sold the meat to Jacksonville miners. 

Today only a Forest Service wooden shelter from the 1930s remains at the Dead Indian Soda Springs historic site along Little Butte Creek east of Eagle Point, Ore.

Robinson Butte rises southwest of Mount McLoughlin in Southern Oregon’s Cascades.  It once was part of the summer hunting grounds of the Takelma Indians, but was named for an unspecified early settler. Several Robinsons lived in the 19th century near Little Butte Creek, below Robinson Butte.

The Little Butte Creek watershed in Jackson County, Ore., has undergone many changes due to human settlement since the 1850s. The watershed extends from Howard Prairie, on the high plateau east of Ashland, down to today’s city of Eagle Point. 

A popular nickname for new settlements in the 19th century was Stringtown.  The name referred to communities that were strung along a creek, river, stage road, or railroad line. Sometimes the towns grew and received permanent names, but more often they were abandoned and forgotten.

The territory of the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians once extended from Crater Lake to the Willamette Valley, and south to the Rogue River watershed.  But in an 1853 treaty, the Cow Creek Band ceded 800 square miles of land for less than three cents an acre in return for protection, housing, and education.

The U.S. General Land Office hired Daniel Major in 1868 to survey the Oregon-California Line. 

Major used a sextant and a crew of 19 to locate the intersection of Nevada, California and Oregon, which he marked by placing three large black bottles and a cottonwood stake surrounded by rocks.  He also erected a sandstone monument with the states’ names engraved on the sides.

Continuing west, Major tracked the 42nd parallel all the way to the Pacific.  Near today’s I-5, the surveyors marked the intersection of the “Emigrant Road to Jacksonville.”


Talent, Ore., farmer Welborn Beeson’s journal in 1860 mentioned that the valley was cold and foggy, but that it was clear up on the mountain top.

Beckie’s Café, in Union Creek, Ore., is a popular stop for visitors going or returning from Crater Lake on Oregon Route 62.

Edmond and Nettie Beckelhymer, relocating to Southern Oregon from Imperial, Calif., established a restaurant in 1926 at Union Creek on the road to Crater Lake. Ed Beckelhymer, nicknamed “Beckie,” was an auto mechanic and built a service station next door to the restaurant.  His wife, Nettie, cooked at what became known as “Beckie’s Place.”


Hersey Street in Ashland, Ore., is named for a Michigan family that liked Ashland so much they never left.  They even convinced their grandparents to move across the country to live there too.

James Hersey was born in Michigan in 1876.  At 21, he married Carrie and they had a daughter, Violet.  The young farm family stayed in Michigan for another 10 years before moving West.


Jump Off Joe Creek, 11 miles north of Grants Pass, Ore., refers to an accident involving 29-year-old Joseph McLoughlin, son of Dr. John McLoughlin, officially designated “the Father of Oregon.”  The creek’s name dates to the 1830s, when the only non-native people in Southern Oregon were transient fur trappers and explorers.

McLoughlin’s father was the powerful chief of the Hudson’s Bay Company operations in the Oregon Territory.  The son’s mother was a Chippewa Indian woman from eastern Canada.


The tallest peak in Josephine County, Ore., is Grayback Mountain at 7,050 feet.

Historians are unsure about the origin of the name, which dates from the mid-19th century.  Some believe Grayback refers to the exposed granite outcroppings near the summit.  Others say that Grayback was a derogatory name for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, a term that appeared often in Jacksonville’s newspapers in the 1860s.  There is some consensus that miners named the mountain after the fleas in their clothing and bedding, which they called graybacks.


Williams, Ore., started as a mining community in 1859.  It was first known as Williamsburg, after nearby Williams Creek.

The creek’s name refers to Captain Robert Williams, who was commander of the Althouse Mounted Volunteers during the Rogue River Indian Wars. The Volunteers was a group of 30 miners and settlers based in rural Josephine County near today’s Cave Junction who joined up on Aug. 24, 1853, with Williams as captain.

 Dutchman Peak, west of Mount Ashland, was named for a German immigrant who died on the mountain in about 1870.  A ranger in the Applegate District, Lee Port, recorded his oral history in 1945 of the story.