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As It Was: Investors Buy Nearly Deserted Southern Oregon Town

In September 2018, anonymous investors bought the isolated Southern Oregon mountain community of Tiller, reportedly to create a river resort along the South Umpqua River.  Tiller was listed for sale at $3.85 million, but the purchase price was not revealed immediately.

The purchase consisted of 23 city lots on 257 contiguous acres knitted together over three decades by Medford commercial realtor Richard Caswell Sr., who died in 2014.  Separately, the town’s vacant 16,500-square-foot school sold for $350,000.

Family trustee Richard “Rick” Caswell Jr. said the package included everything except the post office building, community church, volunteer fire station and a retired school teacher’s house.

Donation land claims and gold attracted early settlers to the town, some 23 miles east of present-day Canyonville.  The town and post office were named for early pioneer Aaron J. Tiller, who settled in 1853 with his wife and five sons. 

Several sawmills brought modest prosperity and increased Tiller’s population beginning in the 1950s, but the subsequent timber industry decline reduced it to a near ghost town by the time of the sale.


Sources: Eastman, Karen. "Sold! The entire town of Tiller to turn into a resort." The Oregonian/Oregon Live, 12 Sept. 2018 [Portland, Ore.] , www.oregonlive.com/trending/2018/09/entire_tiny_town_tiller_oregon.html. Accessed 19 Sept. 2018; Manolescu, Kathleen. An Abstract of Master's Thesis. 1976, file:///C:/Users/Kernan/Downloads/ManolescuKathleen1977%20(1).pdf. Accessed 19 Sept. 2018.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.