As It Was: Ashland Tackles Lawlessness in 1874
Ashland’s charter of 1874 provided for the care of vagrants, a town marshal, fire protection, and a jail. Life in Ashland, population 300, had been chaotic with too many drunks, frequent fires, and poor sanitation. Just like today, the town was on a major travel route that attracted homeless outsiders. The nearest lawman was a day’s ride away in Jacksonville, the county seat.
The city hired a cabinet-maker, W. C. Daley, as its first marshal and tax collector and required him to attend all city meetings. But some people still drank too much, fired their guns within the city, allowed their cattle to run the streets, and robbed stores their owners had left unlocked with their windows open. When town shootings continued to cause problems, Ashland banned firing guns in the town.
The city passed 41 laws over the next 11 years. A new marshal noted in October 1876 that the jail had never been occupied and wasn’t very secure.
One inmate had escaped by carving a hole in the inch-thick door and taking his blanket and mattress with him.
Source: Atwood, Kay. The Ashland Police Department: a History. Ashland, Ore.: Southern Oregon University Library, 1998. Print.