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Gas Plant Lights Up Jacksonville in 1903

Medford and Ashland, Ore., had electricity before 1900 because they had enough water power to run generators, but Jacksonville residents and businesses still used kerosene.

Things changed in 1903 when A.E. Reames bought a recent invention called a Parrot gas maker and provided the town with a safe supply of gas for lights and stoves. The gas maker used a small amount of water from a storage tank to turn a worm-gear motor that turned a fan. The fan blew air past gasoline until it was saturated.  This gas-laden air was stored in a tank connected to pipes running down Third and Fifth streets and California and Oregon streets, providing fuel for 10 street lamps and 13 businesses. 

Reames was able to supply gas at a rate cheaper than kerosene, and residents began signing up as fast as they could. He installed a gas stove, as well as lights, in his own house.

But gaslights were short lived in Jacksonville. That very year, the Condor Power and Water Company built Gold Ray Dam and in 1904 began providing cleaner, safer electricity all over the valley.

Sources: "A well lighted little city." Medford Success 6 Feb. Print.  Powers, Dennis. "Gold Ray Dam." Oregon Encylopedia. Oregon Historical Society,Web. 21 Jan. 2015. .

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.