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As It Was: Martin Peterson Preached, Worked Hard, Suffered Painful Losses

His diary records that Martin Peterson preached, worked hard and suffered painful losses during his life.  The Southern Oregon Historical Society has recently added the diary to its research library.

Peterson’s second wife, Elizabeth, helped run the farm with crops and livestock they bought and sold.  She had six children, although it appears only two lived past 19.

Peterson preached regularly and performed weddings and funerals.  He founded the first school in Central Point, Agate School, at his own expense.   Friends frequently had dinner and spent the night at the Peterson home. 

Peterson did not approve of divorce or dances. He despaired that his son Smith stayed out all night sometimes, then slept all day, and was lazy.  Smith died in May 1877 of an accidental, but self-inflicted, gunshot wound, when he was 19.  Peterson said little in his diary until December, when he wrote that “…continual sorrow fills my heart. Smith is gone and Frank has fits, and church does not prosper.”  Frank died in 1881 when he was 19.

Peterson helped found Medford’s first church, called the First Christian Church, in 1884. He continued to preach until he died in 1889.

Sources: Martin Peterson’s Diary, 1877. Transcribed with spelling corrections by Ben Truwe. http://truwe.sohs.org/files/martin%20peterson.html; Mack, Jean (Nicholoson). “Genealogical Notes of Some of the People First Christian Church of Medford,” The Rogue Digger, Fall 1999, v. 34, no. 3 p. 87.

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.