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Two Years in Oregon By Wallis Nash Characters: 13279

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Southern Oregon-?Its boundaries-?The western counties-?Population-?Ports -?Rogue River-?Coos Bay-?Coal-?Lumber-?Practicable railroad routes-?The harbor-?Shifting and blowing sands-?A quoted description-?Cost of transportation-?Harbor improvements-?Their progress and results-?The Umpqua-?Douglas County-?Jackson County-?The lake-country-?Linkville -?Water-powers-?Indian reservations-?The great mountains-?Southeastern Oregon-?General description-?Industries.

Southern Oregon is defined generally as bounded on the west by the Pacific, and starting from its western boundary is bounded on the north by the Calapooya Mountains, shutting in the Umpqua Valley, and then running eastward, taking in the lake country. In this division are included the western counties of Douglas, Coos, Curry, Josephine, Jackson, Lake, and the southern half of Grant and Baker. A great portion of the last-named counties is yet unsurveyed.

The western counties already possess, according to the census of 1880, a population of 29,081 souls.

The portions of Grant and Baker Counties properly belonging to Southern Oregon have only about two thousand people, the reason being that this country is truly inaccessible, being so far distant from the seaboard, and hardly traversed by a road.

Southern Oregon possesses several rivers and their attendant seaports. The most southerly is the Rogue River, which has a course of about one hundred miles, running through a very fertile but secluded valley. The bar at the entrance is shifting, and the channel very variable; but it is entered by both small steamers and by the coasting schooners which ply along the coast, with San Francisco as their port of delivery.

Coos Bay, some sixty miles to the north of the Rogue River, needs a fuller description, as it is the headquarters of the coal and lumber business of Southern Oregon. Detailed reports of the coal-basin give not less than seventy-five thousand acres of coal-bearing land, estimated to produce from the one vein at present worked not less than four hundred and fifty million tons of coal. As many as six workable seams are, however, known to exist, including one which has been prospected to eleven feet in thickness. Five coal-mines have been opened, which are capable of producing about two thousand tons of coal daily. The working of these mines is of an inexpensive character, much of the mineral being accessible from adits or galleries delivering their produce on the hill-sides.

The lumber shipped at Coos Bay is yielded by four large steam saw-mills, with an aggregate capacity of about one hundred and fifteen thousand feet per day.

There are also four ship-yards, from which between forty and fifty vessels have been launched, even up to two thousand tons burden.

The value of coal and lumber exported from Coos Bay was upward of $445,000 in the year 1877, according to the statistics collected by a committee of residents, when application was about to be made to Congress for an appropriation for the improvement of the harbor. It was then reported that a railroad was found to be practicable from Coos Bay along the Coquille Valley across the Coast Mountains. Such a line would then pass through the Umpqua Valley to Roseburg, with a practicable extension up the North Fork of the Umpqua River and through the Cascade Mountains into Eastern Oregon.

SHIFTING AND BLOWING SANDS.It was ascertained that the chief difficulty in improving the entrance to the port lay in the enormous quantity of movable and shifting sand, driven along the coast southward by the prevalent summer northwest winds, and then returned by the winter southwest gales.

So violent is this action that it is thus described: "Large tracts to the north of Coos Bay and along the rock separating its lower part from the sea, where once stood farms and pine-forests, are now buried to the tops of the highest trees. Immense quantities of this wind-borne sand are constantly going into the bay, and by its swift currents are carried out to form the bar, or be deposited in the bight to the east and north of the cape."

Let me quote a short description of this section of the country, on which before many years the tide of immigration must roll in. The writer is the Hon. B. Hermann, who is doing all in his power to draw public attention to his district:

"Ten-mile and Camas Valleys, being respectively ten and fifteen to twenty-five miles from the terminus of the Oregon and California Railroad at Roseburg, are without any other outlet. The cost of teaming to this point, added to the present exorbitant rates of railway freights, discourages the farmers of those sections in the cultivation of the soil. And yet some of the best and most extensive wheat-fields of the country are within those circuits, while a vast area is left annually to grow brush and weeds, and to remain of comparatively little value, which should otherwise contribute to the harvest of thousands of bushels of the finest grain.

"From Camas Valley, and along the Middle Fork of the Coquille River, until its junction with the main stream is reached, a distance of twenty-eight miles by survey, three fourths of the route is without even a wagon-road communication, travel being by trail, with ox and sled, saddle and pack horse. And yet there is found a goodly population, having substantial improvements, some very good farms in cultivation, with flouring-mills for the local accommodation.

"The land is very fertile, and capable of growing the usual cereals and esculents to perfection, but, owing to the great difficulty of transporting the productions to market, a very small portion only is cultivated, and much remains vacant, subject to homestead and pre?mption....

"From the junction with the main river, and following the latter to near Beaver Slough, or Coquille City, the point of diversion of the route toward Coos Bay, an enterprising community is found, owning bottom-lands of rich alluvial soil, a great portion of which is now being cleared of timber, annually placed under cultivation, and large crops of grain garnered. This same remark applies to all the remaining portion of the main Coquille Valley, a distance of forty miles or more to the sea, and also along the North and South Forks, as well as the smaller tributaries. For a distance of seventy-five miles inland the Coquille Valley is capable of extensive agricultural development. Already this distance is closely peopled, all lands on the main stream settled, and improvements slowly made. Much grain is now grown here, a large proportion manufactured into flour by the various

mills for home consumption and shipment to Coos Bay, while a considerable quantity of the grain is exported to San Francisco through the mouth of the river.

COST OF TRANSPORTATION."Owing, however, to the condition of the Coquille entrance, only small ships venture in, and even they are often delayed in the river for months at a time, with the shippers' cargo on board....

"Thus the hopeful people of this extensive and unrivaled valley for its soil, its productions, its coals, timber, and other abundant natural resources, are virtually left without an exit to the markets of the world....

"The cost on each bushel of wheat for transportation to Portland from any point in the Umpqua Valley is twenty-three cents, to say nothing of the added expense of one hundred and ten miles to Astoria, thence by sea to San Francisco and elsewhere. From Roseburg to San Francisco by way of Portland and Astoria is about eight hundred and seventy-five miles, and from Roseburg to San Francisco by the way of Coos Bay is only four hundred and sixty-five miles.

"Mr. James Dillard, as we are credibly informed, produced last year on his farm in Douglas County about six thousand bushels of grain. To have transported this only to Portland on its way to market would have cost him $1,380. The saving in transportation to Coos Bay by eighty-five miles of narrow-gauge road would be to this one farmer on one year's crop $780."

No wonder that in this district, as in all others in the State, the transportation question should be the burning one of the day.

The Coos Bay people succeeded in gaining the ear of Congress, and two years ago an appropriation of $60,000 was made for the improvement of the harbor.

The problem was a very difficult one for the engineers to solve, from the conditions above stated of the driven and shifting sand. It would not have been strange if the works first planned had needed alterations as they progressed.

But the success of the breakwater constructed by the United States engineers from cheap material, available on the spot, has been sufficiently marked to encourage the requests for further appropriations until the plans are executed in their entirety, and the opening of the harbor carried still farther out to sea.

It is reported now (in the spring of 1881) that the north sand-spit is being cut through by the current in the direction indicated by the lines of the breakwater, and that deeper and more constant water is found than heretofore-a good augury of success for similar works where the obstructions are not so shifting as sand alone, and where they are free from the influence of the sand tracts to the north, whence so much of the obstruction to Coos Bay entrance came. And this is our happy case at Yaquina.

The Umpqua River is the largest river that, rising in the Cascades, and draining a large and fertile valley in its course, flows directly into the Pacific, after cutting its channel through the Coast Range. There is a wide and very shifting bar at its mouth, through which the usual channel gives twelve or thirteen feet at low water. The river is navigable for all vessels which can cross the bar as far as Gardner City, five miles from the mouth, while smaller vessels can get as far as Scottsburg, twenty-five miles up.

Douglas County, now possessing a population of 9,596, is capable of sustaining a vastly increased number. It lies almost surrounded by mountains, but with a good outlet to the north along the valley lands through which the Oregon and California Railroad runs. It is well watered throughout by the Umpqua and its tributaries, while the northern portion of the county forms the head of the great Willamette, the aggregate of many creeks and streams having here their rise.

The climate of Jackson County is a good deal warmer than its mere geographical relations to the counties on the north and east of it would account for. Indian corn is a staple crop, and peaches and vines flourish exceedingly. The sun seems to have more power; and I have a vivid remembrance of heat and dust along its roads.

THE LAKE COUNTRY.Lake County is well named. Huge depressions in the land are filled with the Upper and Lower Klamath Lakes, the latter crossing the California boundary-line.

North of the Upper Klamath Lake, again, some twenty miles, is the Klamath Marsh, doubtless not long since another lake-now, in summer, the feeding-ground for cattle, in winter the home of innumerable flocks of migratory birds. Between the Upper and Lower Klamath Lakes runs a rapid water-course. The town of Linkville stands on its banks. I am told that there is water-power enough here to drive as many mills as are found at Lowell, Massachusetts. At Linkville is the land-office for Southern Oregon.

It has been proposed to run the California extension of the Oregon and California Railroad through the gap between Upper and Lower Klamath Lakes. Should that long-talked-of project ever be realized, the manufacturing facilities of this splendid water-power will no longer be suffered to lie dead.

Passing eastward, the great Klamath Indian reservation is reached-a tract I only know by hearsay as a land of hills and streams, of gullies and water-courses, of lava-beds and barrenness intermixed with quiet vales and dells of wondrous beauty-a land where Indian superstitions cluster thickly. The Indians are few and scattered, and this country, no doubt, ere long will be thrown open to the white traveler and hunter, to be quickly followed by the herdsman and the settler.

The great snowy pyramids of the Southern Cascades stand on guard. Mount Scott (8,500 feet), Mount Pitt (9,250), and Mount Thielsen (9,250) are placed there, thirty miles apart, forbidding passage between the warm valleys of Jackson County and the open plains east of the mountains.

But here, too, the hardy pioneers have found their way. I have talked with several men who are herding sheep and cattle on these plains. The merino thrives here even better than in Northeastern Oregon, and many thousand pounds of wool are raised. They describe the country as one of open plain and rocky hillside, of scarce water and abundant sage-brush; resembling in general features the tract fifty miles to the north, but, alas! containing scarcely any of the creeks \and streams which give life and fertility to Middle Oregon.

THE IDAHO BOUNDARY.Eastward again of Stein's Mountains you strike the head-waters of the Owyhee, an important tributary of the Snake, and at once recur the common features of fertility and consequent settlement. And thus the Idaho boundary is reached.

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