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As It Was: Researcher Uncovers History of Ghost Mill Town

All that remains of many early Southern Oregon and Northern California boom towns are charcoal, rotting timbers or dust.  One of them was Ayers, also known as Ayers Spur or Mistletoe, home during the early 20th century to the Ashland Box & Lumber Manufacturing Co.

The company town was located about six miles southeast of Ashland near the present-day railroad crossing on Neil Creek Road.

At first, logs skidded to the mill by mule team, and later floated down a wooden trough, or flume, on elevated trestles.  Sawed lumber passed through a planing mill to railroad cars headed for the Oak Street Lumber Co., the predecessor of the present-day Ashland Lumber Co.

Ayers had bunkhouses, dwellings, toolsheds, a section house, a wigwam waste burner, and more.

History researcher Tom Sayre of the Rogue Valley Genealogical Society uncovered newspaper and public records indicating the company employed more than 100 millworkers and scores of other support or service people, including Chinese who worked as cooks “for mill owner John Christiansen’s wife in support of the lumbermen.”

When Sayre visited the site in 2014, only discarded railroad ties and a rusted wigwam burner remained.

Source: Sayre, Tom. "Have you ever heard of Ayers, Jackson County, Oregon?" The Rogue Digger, vol. 49, no. 1, Mar. 2014, pp. 1-8, www.rvgsociety.org/RD/RD1403.pdf. Accessed 19 May 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.