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As It Was: Beekman Son Disputes Jacksonville Railroad Story

The usual explanation for why the railroad passes through Medford, Ore., instead of Jacksonville is Jacksonville’s failure in 1884 to pay a $25,000 “bonus” to the railroad toward anticipated construction expenses.

Portland lawyer Benjamin Beekman, son of railroad booster and prominent Jacksonville banker Cornelius C. Beekman, said other factors were at play.

The railroad had made two route surveys, one passing 2 ½ miles from Jacksonville and the other five miles away at present-day Medford. 

Beekman told an interviewer in 1939, “The citizens of Jacksonville saw it was useless to raise the money required, for the difference in distance … was not enough to get fractious about.  Either would have spelled doom to the town of Jacksonville, either by creating a new town, or by moving the business district …two-and-a-half miles to the railroad.”

Furthermore, Beekman said, the railroad chose the Medford route when it decided to make Ashland Oregon’s southernmost terminus.  The Jacksonville route would have followed foothills into rugged highlands and bypassed Ashland’s flatlands, suitable for building a terminus with roundhouses and workshops.

“This is the real reason … the railroad now runs through Medford instead of through Jacksonville,” Beekman said.

Source: "C.C. Beekman, Jacksonville banker." Offbeat Oregon History Presents Stories, Legends, and Lies of Oregon, edited by F D. John, 11 July 1939, offbeatoregon.com/s1301w1-wpa-banister-beekman-jacksonville.html. Accessed 26 Mar. 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.