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As It Was: Wildfire Surrounds Three Travelers in Horse-Drawn Hack


To the people in a two-horse hack in August 1902, the forest fire off to their left seemed a safe distance away.

The travelers, Mr. and Mrs. H. D. Jones, Charlie Gay and Cora Bates. were headed up Elk Creek Road in Oregon’s Jackson County when the fire appeared rose directly ahead of them and flames surrounded them on three sides.  The horses bolted, ran into a log, and tore loose from the buggy.

Stranded amid the fire, the women ran down a steep slope through trees and brush and jumped into Elk Creek to save themselves.  The men pushed the hack to a safe place as the fire roared around them, singeing their clothes and hands.

The women's run to the creek through the forest underbrush scraped them. They suffered burns to their lungs from inhaling the hot air and smoke and coughed up blood for two days.

The wildfire scorched one horse, but the group managed to connect both of them to the hack, still hot from the fire, and rode back to camp. 

Everyone felt lucky to be alive.

Source:  "Caught in Forest Fire." Medford Mail, 15 Aug. 1902, b ed., p. 6.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.