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As It Was-Packers Keep Rogue River Canyon Dwellers Supplied

Residents and miners in the Rogue River Canyon in the early 1900s, couldn’t have survived without men like John Billings.

Billings was a packer who took supplies into the Mule Creek, Blossom Bar and Douglas Bar mines.  He and other packers used rugged trails improved by the Forest Service with help from canyon residents who paid for their upkeep.  Billings and his hired helpers would get lists from miners and fill them to the best of their ability.  They could pack a ton of flour, potatoes and other supplies on the backs of a string of mules.  The list of supplies included all kinds of machinery and sometimes even pianos and organs.

A single mule could carry a piano packed properly on a special saddle.  The packers would first load boxes filled with light supplies on the pack animal and then strap the piano across them.  They’d stop every five or six miles to rest the pack animal by raising the piano off its back with a block and tackle, also known as a come-along.

Mules were better than horses, which were more likely to spook and fall down the canyon.

Source: Atwood, Kay. Illahe, The Story of Settlement in the Rogue River Canyon. Medford Oregon, Gandee Printing, 1978, pp. 122-24.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.