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As It Was: Jackson County Settler Warns Easterners of Scarce Land

Even in 1854, the American Dream was elusive. A Rogue Valley settler warned in a letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Public Ledger that those intending to emigrate to Oregon would find scarce land available for farming.

The writer, who signed his letter with his initials O.J.E., wrote, “Land claims in this valley are all taken up, as indeed are most of the farmable lands in Oregon.” 

He added that the success of the few was being “trumpeted forth in glowing colors … (while the) toil, the hardships and sufferings that thousands daily endure, with the vain hope to amass a fortune… is (sic) never spoken of.”

The settler said newcomers would have to resort to mining instead of farming.  He warned that mining earned barely enough to pay for food, and in his words, “gambling and drinking … (are) … going on as if God had no claim on the inhabitants of this country.”

He lamented the scarcity of women and their gentle influence on men.

The settler said he lived in the boomtown of Sterling in Jackson County, where the Indians were “peaceable,” despite a white man’s earlier slaying of an Indian.

Source: O. J. E. "Letter to the Editor." Public Ledger, Philadelphia, 28 Dec. 1854, p. 1. http://truwe.sohs.org/files/jc1854.html

Pat Harper is the archivist for the Southern Oregon Historical Society, where she digitizes records, manages websites and learns more about regional history from the SOHS volunteers. After receiving her Master’s Degree in library science from the University of Illinois in 1980, Harper worked as a reference librarian, then as a library administrator. From 1994 to 2005, she was the Siskiyou County library director and lived in the country near Hornbrook, California.