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As It Was: Rogue River Ranch Once Fed and Housed Travelers

Rafters and hikers going down the wild and scenic portion of the Rogue River near the old mining town of Marial pass by a bright red farmhouse with a green lawn and gardens.

The Bureau of Land Management manages the property today as a park, but once it was owned for three generations by the Billings family.

Built in 1903, the main farmhouse also served as a trading post and boarding house for travelers.  Dances and church services were held in a barn called The Tabernacle.

Although the present-day ranch presents an idyllic picture of country life, it wasn’t always easy living in the early 1900s.  One traveler wrote in his diary: “…I arrived … after walking all day over the trail and sat down…to a supper of cold boiled squash, stale bread and poor coffee.”

In season, there was venison and salmon in abundance, with vegetables and fruit from the gardens. Third generation Ivin Billings recalled filling two 10-gallon salted whiskey kegs with “fish caught with a willow pole, hook and line...”

The U.S. Government purchased the ranch in 1970 under the newly established National Wild and Scenic Rivers program.


Sources: "Rogue River Ranch: National Historic Site." U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management, Aug. 2010. "Rogue River Ranch." Oh Ranger, www.ohranger.com/rogue-river-ranch. Accessed 19 June 2017.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.