© 2024 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
Listen | Discover | Engage a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hoboes Seek Free Jail-House Dinner


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.

The word soon got around that Gold Hill was a much better train stop than Medford or Grants Pass. And the jailer shared boiled coffee while reading Zane Gray novels.

Things changed when a tough major and constable began sending the jail birds, as they were called, to nearby Rock Point, now the cemetery.  There they broke up limestone boulders for the Beaver Portland Cement plant. Oregon operated the quarry as a work camp for prisoners who had been sentenced to hard labor.

The homeless didn’t like the idea of working off their time next to “hardened criminals,” and besides, the food wasn’t as good. So, Gold Hill lost its hobo appeal.  

Source: Nuggests of News/Gold Hill Historical Society June 1994: 2+. Print.

Dennis M. Powers was a business law attorney with various 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.).