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Southern Oregon Sugar Factory Lacks Beets in 1918

Factory equipment left over from an unprofitable Rogue Valley sugar factory in the mid-1900's ended up in the South American country of Uruguay.

In 1915, investors with ties to the Mormon Church in Utah contacted Grants Pass businessman George Sanders to form the Oregon-Utah Sugar Co. and build a sugar-beet processing plant in the Southern Oregon town.  Sanders, a Mormon bishop and owner of the Rogue River Public Service Co., the Southern Oregon Construction Co. and the Utah-Idaho Realty Co., backed a $500,000 bond for the sugar company.  Before merging into the Utah-Idaho Co., the investors had removed Sanders from the board of directors for alleged embezzlement.

The Grants Pass factory opened in 1916, but closed two years later due to labor shortages and insufficient beet production by area farmers.

Starting in 1937, the company moved the plant’s equipment back and forth between Toppenish and Bellingham, Wash.  In 1941, the company sold the processing equipment to a sugar company in Montes, Uruguay.

The Medford Mail Tribune recently wrote, “We can’t imagine (that) any of that century-old (sugar) equipment remains in use, but it’s a sweet thought.”

Sources: "Since You Asked: GP sugar beet enterprise was short-lived." Mail Tribune, 16 Nov. 2016 [Medford, Ore.] , p. A3; "Utah-Idaho Sugar Co." Wikipedia the Free Encyclopeida, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 14 Nov. 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah-Idaho_Sugar_Company. Accessed 26 Jan. 2017.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.