Sharon Bywater

As It Was Contributor

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management. Her husband, Peter Krasilovsky, is a media analyst. Sharon plays the recorder and volunteers for the Southern Oregon Historical Society. She enjoys the wonderful Oregon outdoors, as well as theater, and musical concerts.

In 1897, Henry Clay Tison and his sons used axes, picks and shovels to build a road to their home on Elk Creek near Crater Lake.  During the winter months, their rustic road was impassable except on foot or horseback, so Tison had to bring a supply of staple goods to last the winter.  The family lived mainly on venison, bread and blackberry pie.

Conscientious objectors staffed one of Oregon’s first smokejumper firefighting bases during World War II in the Redwood Forest Ranger District in Cave Junction.

Ashland, Ore., once produced championship peaches, especially on the “Peachblow Paradise” orchard at Liberty and Pracht Streets, home to owner Max Pracht who came to Ashland in 1886.  His peaches sold for above market value and won a gold medal at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

In 1985, a member of the Klamath Indian tribe, Edison Chiloquin, achieved his dream of gaining title to his ancestral home in Southern Oregon.

In the 1850s, most Southern Oregon men were miners seeking their fortunes in rough mining camps, while a few farmers planted crops on donation land claims.

Before he was a Civil War hero and President, Ulysses S. Grant spent a miserable assignment in 1854 at Fort Humboldt near Eureka, Calif.  Fresh from the battlefields of the Mexican War, the young Army captain often joined the remote outpost’s other bored officers in drinking whiskey and playing poker.

In 1871, authorities found the body of a man floating in shallow water near a railroad bridge in Vallejo, Calif.  He was dressed like a gentleman, with a diamond ring on his finger and money in his pockets.  He was later identified as Butler Ives, a surveyor of the Oregon Territory during its rough-and-tumble, early days.

Hailstorms frequently threatened Southern Oregon orchards in the early 1900s, damaging fruit every year but one between 1910 and 1948.  By 1951, farmers decided to do something about it.

Many of the beautiful hills and rivers in Oregon have devilish names, among them “Hellgate Canyon” on the Rogue River and the “Devil’s Backbone” at Crater Lake.  The idea proved upsetting to one early Oregon minister, the Right Rev. William H. Gross, Archbishop of Oregon from 1885-1898.

During early pioneer days, nearly every small town in Oregon had its own grist mill to grind flour for local farmers. In those days, flour was an important staple, and buying local was the only choice shoppers had.

The original jail of Port Orford, Ore., still stands, though quite the worse for wear.  Built in 1936 during the height of the timber industry, it was condemned in 1965.  Since then, its window grills have rusted, turning its white walls a rusty brown on either side of its weather-beaten front door.

When major U.S. cities were connected to telephone service in the late 1800s, small towns like those in Southern Oregon were left on the sidelines.  Most of them did not have power plants or sewer lines, let alone the money to build a phone network and pay royalties to Alexander Graham Bell.

Poltergeists are said to be mischievous ghosts with a variety of tricks, ranging from making loud noises, moving furniture, and knocking on doors to pinching, biting, hitting and tripping people.

The approach of Halloween is often accompanied by stories of ghosts and otherworldly spirits.

When major U.S. cities were connected to telephone service in the late 1800s, small towns in Southern Oregon were left on the sidelines.  They didn’t have electric power plants or sewer lines, and couldn’t afford to build phone networks and pay royalties to Alexander Graham Bell.

In 1879, famed science-fiction writer Jules Verne wrote a book about a utopian city called Ville-France, run by a French doctor, and a German city run by an evil scientist.  The book was called “The Begum’s Fortune,” after an East Indian widow who bequeathed her riches to the two men.

Since 1953, the town of Rogue River, Ore., has held a rooster crowing contest every June.  Shade Combs got the idea from an article he read about rooster competitions among Welsh miners.

In March 1965, the owner of Novelcraft Plastics in Gold Hill, Ore., Lew Trickey, ordered 3,500 pounds of coconuts from San Francisco said to be “fresh from the tropics.”  Trickey wanted the coconut husks for his craft business.

Does natural mineral water cure rheumatism?  Early southern Oregonians believed it did.  At one point, the Ashland area had five spring-water spas, one of them on Ashland pioneer Abel Helman’s property near today’s Lithia Park.

A year before the United States entered World War I, cars were already making an impact on the country.  It was 1916 and the three-day Fourth of July celebration in Ashland drew 60,000 visitors.