As It Was

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Colorful vignettes dedicated to the regional history of Southern Oregon and Northern California. As It Was is an all volunteer effort -- produced by Raymond Scully and narrated by Shirley Patton in partnership with writers from the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

If you have a writing background and would like to submit an As It Was essay for consideration, email your written piece to

A collection of As It Was essays is available in a high-quality paperback book at the JPR Online Store.  Each episode is also available below.

In 1971, internationally known, realist painter Geoffrey Lewis his wife and four children moved from San Francisco to Ashland Ore.

The builders of the Ashland, Ore., historic armory between 1912 and 1913 had more in mind than training Oregon National Guardsmen.  They equipped it with a stage that could be rented to provide money for military social gatherings.  More than 100 years later, it remains a popular venue for Ashland entertainment, ranging from rock concerts to Martin Luther King Day celebrations.

Although the Great Depression hit Southern Oregon hard despite the active mining and agriculture that dominated the region, Dust Bowl migrants headed there, looking for work.

In 1903, the Little Nanny ship was in service transporting goods between Eureka and Klamath, Calif., when a couple of unusual passengers were brought aboard.

Located near the gold fields of Siskiyou, Klamath, Del Norte, and Trinity counties, the Scott and Shasta valleys became early Northern California areas to be developed agriculturally.

In spring of 1936, the Reliance Production Corp. chose two locations in Del Norte County, Calif., as settings for the film “The Last of the Mohicans,” based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper.

In 1912, Gold Beach erected a new courthouse, which turned out to be the finest place in town for pasturing sheep, because the front square was enclosed with a fence.

The first public school district in Southern Oregon, School District No. 1, opened in Jacksonville on  Aug. 11, 1854.

In Siskiyou County, the gold mining settlements of Yreka, Hawkinsville, and Greenhorn held more than 5,000 people in 1856-1857, who were starved for entertainment and welcomed any troupe that passed through the region.  Yreka boasted two theaters at the time, the Colton and the Arcade, packed on Saturday nights with people with gold in their pockets.

Three special rail cars brought people to Ashland when, as the local newspaper described it, “Helen Keller Took Ashland by Storm.”

The Camp White Army training base and prisoner-of-war camp east of Medford during the Second World War had a population of 35,000 desperately in need of a newspaper.

By the mid-1860s, lack of gold reduced the raucous mining camps and towns enough to attract a different kind of adventurer to the wilderness.  One such man was William Henry Brewer, of the California State Geological Survey.

Present-day residents of Ashland, Ore., are accustomed to weekly garbage collection.  There was a time when it was an annual event.

In 1936, the gold miner Slim Damon accidently shot himself while prospecting in Curry County’s Mule Creek Canyon in Southern Oregon.

More than 160 years ago, 19-year-old Francis Carr of Ireland and his younger brother, James, landed in New York City, where Francis taught school for 15 years and studied law.  He also lost a wife and one son in childbirth and three children to smallpox.

In 1920, the journal of the Oregon Growers Co-operative Association reported (in these words), “What was perhaps the oldest apple tree in the state died the past winter near the site of old Fort Umpqua just across the river from Elkton.  This tree was probably planted about 1845 and continued bearing until last year.”

What is now known as the Elk Camp Ridge Trail, a steep, rocky 8-mile hike out of Gasquet, began as an indigenous trade route to the coast called the Cold Spring Mountain Trail.  After gold was discovered at Sailor’s Diggings in the Illinois Valley west of Grants Pass, the trail became a supply route to Paragon Bay, present-day Crescent City.

A graduate of the Atlanta Medical College, Charles Wilber Nutting, became an eminent doctor in Etna, Calif., in the 1880s.  Nutting had not only graduated from medical school in two years, but also remained another two years to teach anatomy, dissection and other surgical procedures.

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.

The American Red Cross played a significant role providing services to military men and their families during World War I.