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As It Was: Settlers’ House Doubles as Fortified Fort Hay near Selma, Ore.

In the 1850s, a fortified ranch house doubled as a fort near Selma in Josephine County, Ore.

Settlers William and Elizabeth Hay had built a rough log home on their land grant in 1854, but they soon discovered the Indians nearby weren’t friendly.  The Hays reinforced their expanding home by putting gun-rests through the walls and building a stockade next to the house for their horses and cattle. 

The fortified ranch house was a life-saver in 1856 for some members of a pack train attacked by Indians as it was climbing up Hays Hill.  Some of the men were killed, but the remainder fled to the Hays ranch, where a messenger was sent to seek help from an Army camp near Eight Dollar Mountain.

The men kept watch inside the fort while Elizabeth and her daughter cooked for their unexpected guests.  By morning, help had arrived and the Indians were gone.

The incident left everyone so shaken they enlarged the house into the headquarters for six companies of soldiers.  Later the place became a stage stop, known locally as Fort Hay.

Source: Pfefferle, Ruth. "Fort Hay - Anderson Stage Station." Illinois Valley News, 3 Nov. 1978, p. 2;  Sunday Oregonian, 17 Aug. 1930 [Portland Oregon] , p. 12.

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Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.