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As It Was: Trail Monument Partially Reveals Woman’s Sad Story

A solitary grave-marker stands at Clay Hill Rapids, a few yards uphill from the Rogue River Trail.  The marker only hints at a woman’s sad story.

The square, two-tiered stone is carved front and back with the name “Ethel.”  The sides display her birth and a death date, indicating she died at 18 in 1910.  The heavy, manufactured monument must have required great effort to haul it from somewhere.

It is known that Ethel’s family homesteaded Clay Hill at a time when miners rushed to the Rogue Canyon.  Her father had a blacksmith shop and sawmill, where he received gold nuggets in payment for supplies and repairs to miners’ machinery.

A young man working a claim upriver at Solitude Bar began showing Ethel some attention, but he took off when Ethel became pregnant.  His name remains unknown.

Having a child out of wedlock was frowned upon in those days, so Ethel quickly married an 80-year-old man, who later shunned her when he learned of the pregnancy.

Ethel did not survive the birth of her baby.  Nothing is known of the infant’s fate.

Sources: Van Leer, Betty/Molly. "A Solitary Grave." Rogue Coast - Supplement to Curry County Reporter, 24 May 1973, p. 11; Atwood, Kay. Illahe - The Story of Settlement in the Rogue River Canyon. Kay Atwood, Ashland, OR, 1978, p. 34-37.

Arman, Florence, and Glen Wooldridge. The Rogue - A River to Run. Wildwood Press, 1982, p. 118.

Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. Laurel is the author of "Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery", a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.