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Two Cities Resist Evangelist’s Tirades in 1910

An Oregon evangelist with a powerful voice, French E. Oliver, converted thousands of people to local Christian churches during month-long preaching campaigns in 1910. His method backfired in at least two cities.

Visiting Eugene, Ore., he demonized the local school board for not allowing him to talk in the high school. He called the University of Oregon faculty “jugheads,” and suggested the school be either, in his words, “cleaned out or wiped out.” And he railed against President Taft for being a Unitarian, but this only resulted in a doubling of the Eugene Unitarian membership.

Oliver moved on to Ashland, where eight local pastors had signed a contract for him to preach. Very soon, three of the pastors had walked out of his meetings because of his insults to them and others. Christian church pastor Berry wrote a scathing article about Oliver’s methods in the local paper. It seems Oliver refused to apologize for wrongly accusing a local principal of smoking cigarettes. Rev. Berry had also been falsely accused of supporting Medford saloon-keepers in opposing Oliver.

There’s no record of how many people Oliver converted in Ashland.

Sources: "Tirade Aimed at State University." Morning Oregonian. Historic Oregon Newspapers, 26 Feb. 1910. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. http://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn83025138/1910-02-26/ed-1/seq-6/ocr/;

Bingham, Earl S. Pacific Presbyterian, Volume 8 p.44. Free Evangelism Training, Dec. 1910. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/e-s-earl-s-bingham/pacific-presbyterian-volume-8-hci/page-44; Atkinson, Eugenia L. Scrapbook.., 1938. Print. (At SOHS Research Library).

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.