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As It Was: Railroad Baron Throws Axe at Medford Mayor

By 1908 W.S. Barnum, president of the Rogue River Valley Railroad, had made a fortune providing public transportation in the valley.

One day State Railroad Commissioner Oswald West came to Medford, Ore., to continue a survey of Southern Pacific train service, and requested a tour of the local railroad. Mayor J.F. Reddy took West to visit Barnum’s yards. Barnum told him he planned to build a new depot across the railroad tracks, a project that would conflict with the city’s recently passed fire ordinance. When the mayor pointed this out, Barnum angrily began berating him in the presence of Commissioner West.

Incensed when Mayor Reddy seemed unfazed by the insults, Barnum’s son, J.C. Barnum, tried to strike the mayor. Barnum, the father, picked up a nearby axe and charged the mayor, who fled outside to the street. Barnum threw the axe at the mayor and narrowly missed hitting him.

Barnum was restrained and charged by the district attorney with assault with a deadly weapon.

The railroad commissioner got more than he bargained for from his tour of Southern Oregon.

Source: "Barnum vs. Reddy vs. Putnam A Friendly Salute in Medford." Southern Oregon History, Revised. Ed. Ben Truwe. Medford (Ore.) Daily Tribune, 11 Dec. 1907. Web. 21 Mar. 2014. <https://id.mind.net/~truwe/tina/barnum-reddy-putnam.html>.

Dmitri Shockey is a high school junior attending Logos Public Charter School. Dmitri also attends Rogue Community College part time and after high school hopes to start a career as a foreign correspondent. Volunteering with As It Was has given Dmitri a unique opportunity to glimpse what a career in journalism will be like.