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It Was: Runaway Horses Frighten Pedestrians in Medford, Ore.

Before the arrival in 1903 of the first automobile in Medford, Ore., pedestrians crossing the city’s dirt, and sometimes muddy, streets, had to dodge riders on horseback and horse-drawn wagons.  Runaways were frequent.

In 1893 alone, newspapers reported nearly a dozen equestrian accidents on city streets.

In one incident, a man on horseback escaped with a sprained ankle and badly bruised leg when his steed slipped and fell on him while rounding the corner of Seventh and C streets. 

A week later, a runaway team of horses hitched to a wagon struck the sidewalk at the corner of Front and Seventh streets and continued down the walk before being caught at the Sears’ millinery store.  The wagon was demolished.

In another incident, a circus elephant spooked a horse, throwing a man from his buggy.

The Medford Mail described a “lively runaway” of frightened horses flying down Seventh Street pulling a wagon loaded with wood.  The wagon snagged awning posts and ended up in a heap with the horses. The wagon was badly damaged, but the team uninjured.

Just like in the movies, brave men sometimes jumped aboard runaway wagons and reined in the horses.

Sources: "Medford News: 1893." Southern Oregon History, Revised, edited by Ben Truwe, Talky Tiny Press, 15 May 2015, id.mind.net/~truwe/tina/s.o.history.html. Accessed 26 Apr. 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.