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As It Was: Isaac Boyle Loses Ornery Mules, Finds Paradise

When he came to Southern Oregon in the early 1840s looking for adventure, Isaac Boyle purchased a horse and a string of mules with the idea of entering the fur trade.
Among the mules were two extremely stubborn ones that he named “Ornery” and “Ornery.”  After establishing a camp for a rendezvous with some fur trappers, he awoke the next morning to find the two cranky mules gone.

Boyle tracked the mules where they had trampled through tall grasses, leading east up the South Umpqua Valley near what is now Canyonville.  The grass stretched for miles, with tree-covered mountains in the background and a river to the north.  Emerging from the grassland, Boyle saw the mules standing under a shady oak tree.  It looked to him like paradise, and he vowed to return one day.

Boyle soon left Oregon to prospect for California gold, but returned in 1852 in search of the place he called “paradise.”  He purchased a donation land claim near the small settlement of Canyonville, and soon married another settler, Phoebe Thrush. 

Isaac, Phoebe, and their nine children formed one of the original pioneer families in Canyonville, led there by two ornery mules.

Sources: "How 2 Mules Led Isaac Boyle to Paradise." Pioneer Days in the South Umpqua Valley, vol. 12, Aug. 1979, pp. 4-6; Portrait and Biographical Record of Southern Oregon. Chapman Publishing Company, Chicago, 1904, p. 395, archive.org/stream/portraitbiographwo00inchap#page/394/mode/2up/search/395. Accessed 9 Aug. 2019.   

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.