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As It Was: Old Houses Sometimes Yield Historical Treasures

People who remodel old houses often find surprises.  For example, John Derrickson bought the old Samuel Williams house in Grants Pass, Ore., in 2010.  While cleaning the upstairs, he came upon old papers, booklets, and more -- a treasure trove of Williams family history.

Samuel Williams visited the Rogue Valley in 1895 and came back to stay in Grants Pass around 1900.  By 1909 he had established a bicycle shop. He co-owned the first automobile in town and soon added auto parts to his store.  The business, which lasted into the 1950s and involved three generations of family, also carried ammunition, tires and locks.

Among the papers Derrickson found in Williams’ house was a 1922 copy of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan constitution and bylaws. The Klan had been active in Grants Pass for several years by then. In 1915, two-hundred-seventy-eight Klansman from all over the region marched through town to a Riverside Park concert.  Whether Williams was a participant or only curious is not known.

But the findings in the old house shed some light on the life of a small businessman 100 years ago.

Source: Stumbo, Stacy D. "Home Renovation Turns up Relics." Daily Courier, 2010 [Grants Pass Oregon] . Found in SOHS Research Library Vertical File for “Williams”

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.