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As It Was: 1855: Travel Writer Disparages Southern Oregon Roads

Travel writer James Mason Hutchings, known as the “Father of Yosemite,” complained about Southern Oregon roads when he visited in 1855.

He wrote in his diary, “The road is very heavy and clayey mud.  The horse’s feet when drawn out, go off like corks from large bottles, such is the suction of the mud." 

About the Siskiyou Summit, he wrote, “When you get a distant view of the Rogue River Valley, you are struck with the beautiful green slopes and clumps of oaks and pines on a rounding knoll here or there with the smoke curling up from one of those woody dwelling places." 

Hutchings stayed for a time at a tavern in Talent, Ore., for $3 a night for him and his horse.  At the leaking Sterlingville Hotel, he wrote, “It rained for about three-quarters of an hour, and as I felt it pattering on my head I didn't approve...There is moreover two women to cook, yet nothing fit to eat." 

He took the stage to California in the rain on what he described as “the worst road I ever traveled." 

Source: Fattig, Paul.  “The Road to Sterlingville.” Sunday Mail Tribune, 3 Nov. 2013 [Medford, Ore.]; 

Ibid. “Hutchings, the “Father of Yosemite,” set out to record the West.” Ibid.

Maryann Mason has taught history and English in the U.S. Midwest and Northwest, and Bolivia. She has written history spots for local public radio, interviewed mystery writers for RVTV Noir, and edited personal and family histories.  Her poetry has appeared in Sweet Annie & Sweet Pea Review (1999), Rain Magazine (2007), and The Third Reader, an online Journal of Literary Fiction and Poetry. In 2008 she published her first chapbook, Ravelings.  She organized a History Day for Southern Oregon.