Dennis M. Powers

As It Was Contributor

Dennis M. Powers was a business law attorney with different real estate and business ventures before teaching as a full professor and later professor emeritus at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado (b.a.), the University of Denver Law School (j.d.), and Harvard Business School (m.b.a.). He loves researching history.  Powers is the author of 18 books, including five about the sea, a long-time interest.  The Raging Sea (2005) is about the crushing 1964 Crescent City tsunami; Treasure Ship (2006): the discovery of a gold-bearing, 1865 paddle-wheeler that sank off Northern California; Sentinel Of The Seas (2007): the most remote, dangerous, and expensive lighthouse in the country; Taking The Sea (2009): the tales of the old ship salvagers; and Tales Of The Seven Seas (2010): the stories of a charismatic, adventurous sea captain. Powers resides in Ashland, Oregon.  


For a time, many transients in the late 1920s headed for the jail house in Gold Hill. The “occasional hobo,” as the homeless were called in that time’s vernacular, jumped from a Southern Pacific freight car as the train slowed to pick up a mail pouch. Pilfering a chicken or a few ears of corn from a backyard garden, a transient was assured of an improvised hobo stew under the bridge south of town, or a free jail-house dinner.


Built in the 1880s, Gold Hill’s suspension bridge crossed the Rogue River from Sixth Street. It had wire-webbed sides and wooden floorboards placed over 2-by-4s.  Cables held the swinging bridge in place by attaching to the Hays home and bedrock on the Gold Hill side and to a tree and the Fleming home on the Echo Mountain side.

An old picture shows the suspension bridge looped low toward the middle of the crossing.  Its planks were wide enough for a light, horse-drawn cart, although no sober person would attempt such a feat.

The high, sandstone Payne Cliffs overlook the Fern Valley across Interstate 5 from Phoenix, Ore.  Named after a pioneer family, the cliffs are part of the sediment deposited by stream erosion for more than 65 million years.  Prehistoric petrified logs and wood are exposed in the south-facing cliffs that reach 2,575 feet above sea level.

American Indians hunted and gathered berries on the higher elevations for about 12,000 years.


After sailors jumped ship in Crescent City, Calif., they discovered gold inland just south of Cave Junction, Ore., and east of O’Brien in the Illinois Valley.  The mining area became known as Sailor’s Diggings until it grew into the large gold-mining settlement of Waldo, named after William Waldo, the Whig Party candidate for governor of California. 


In the late 1980s, three young rafting enthusiasts, Medford financial planner Bill Bednar, Grants Pass banker Dorian Corliss and Medford banker Michael Neyt, were taken by surprise while enjoying a Northern California raft trip.

The trio spotted someone using a crude device resembling a “homemade syringe” that shot a long stream of water.  Seeing the potential for fun, Corliss built a four-foot-long, telescoping “tube within a tube” capable of producing long, strong streams of water.


A veteran of the Spanish-American War, Orin Palmerton, purchased five acres of land in the 1920s near the City of Rogue River, Ore., where he began planting many domestic and exotic trees from around the world.

Evans Creek slices through the property, a five-minute drive from downtown, as the creek flows toward the Rogue River.

Palmerton operated a nursery there for years before deciding to sell the pristine acreage to Jackson County in 1960. The City of Rogue River acquired it in 1994 from the county as part of the city’s park system.


John Javna was a successful writer and his wife, Sharon, was a public defender in Oakland, Calif., when they moved with their two children in 1995 to Ashland, Ore.  John’s self-published book, titled “50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth,” had sold 5 million copies.

They loved the Rogue Valley, but missed taking their children to interactive museums like those in the Bay Area. They started a small science museum in the Ashland Middle School, building exhibits, an experimental lab, and displaying a giant python.

Camp White spread across 77 square miles in the Agate Desert north of Medford, Ore., during the Second World War. Torn down after the war, most of the buildings were sold and hauled away, except for those that became the White City Department of Veterans Affairs Domiciliary.


The man who heads the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensic Laboratory in Ashland, Ore, wears two hats. 

As a fishing guide on the Rogue River, Willie Illingworth knew firsthand that a 20-foot, heavy cedar or plywood boat was tortuous to row and handle and required constant maintenance.  He figured an aluminum driftboat would make more sense.

 Since 1959, the Grants Pass Active Club has held its annual, five-day Boatnik festival along the Rogue River on Memorial Day weekend. 

 Early orchardist Joseph H. Stewart paid pioneer photographer-horticulturalist Peter Britt $5,400 in 1885 for a house and acreage in southwest Medford, Ore. It was a tidy sum at the time.

 The botched train robbery at Tunnel 13 in the Siskiyou Mountains on Oct. 11, 1923, left four people dead and mangled car remains.  To authorities, it was maddening that the crime couldn’t be solved.

  A star football player at Ashland High School, where he graduated in 1991, Chad Cota went on to play 43 consecutive games at the University of Oregon.  He provided defense in the backfield for four years as the U of O’s strong safety, and received the Bill Hayward Award as the state’s top amateur male athlete.

 Built in 1925, the once elegant, nine-story Ashland Springs Hotel had fallen into disrepair and bankruptcy when Doug and Becky Neuman purchased it in 1998.  They spent millions of dollars in restoration and reopened it with a new restaurant and spa.  

 The first year after Walt DeBoer started Lithia Motors in Ashland, Ore., in 1946, he sold 14 cars. Today’s sales are measured in billions of dollars.


Born in 1922 in rural Mississippi, Con Sellers enlisted after high school in the Army, where for 16 years he edited Army newspapers and also served as a combat correspondent during the Korean War.

Marshall Holman’s first bowling score was a 71. He was only 12 and he considered it “mediocre.”  Attending high school in Medford, he began studying the top local players and adopting their best styles. Seeking stronger competition at age 17, he began driving on weekends in the early 1970s to Portland or Seattle.  Despite his father’s protests that Holman was wasting time, he persevered and started winning.

 Reports of a sculptured stone woman began filtering into Crater Lake National Park headquarters during the winter and spring of 1917. Workers located the figure on the lake’s rim, about a mile and a half from the lodge.  The nearly full relief of a nude figure was chiseled out of a lava boulder, its legs bent and one arm over its head as if shielding against danger. The news media reported the discovery with headlines such as “Mummy Woman found in woods” and “Ancient figure of woman discovered.”   

Researchers predicted benefits from removing the 106-year-old Gold Ray Dam in 2010.  Among them were more salmon and steelhead swimming upriver to spawn and more rafters enjoying the scenery along 57 miles of newly opened water. But who anticipated gold fever!