FOTL > Local History > Historic Context Statement

Pacific Highway [Talent Avenue], looking south, February 1916   SOHS Negative 14585

excerpted from

Historic Context Statement


The City of Talent, Oregon

Prepared By

George Kramer, M.S., HP

Historic Preservation Consultant

Ashland, Oregon

June 1994

This study was funded in part by a grant from the State of Oregon Historic Preservation Office and the National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, under provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act, 1966.

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"Tallent" is the modern name of the locality formerly called Wagner Creek, from Wagner, the earliest settler. It is a station on the Oregon and California Railway, and a place of some importance in the history of Jackson County, inasmuch as near by was formed in very early times a well-known settlement. In the time of Indian Wars of 1853 the Wagner House was a resort of the surrounding settlers who came there for protection from the savages. It is now a thriving and busy locality. [Walling 1884:380]

1.3.1. Initial Settlement Period 1852-1860

Initial settlement in the southern extension of the Rogue River Valley lining either side of Bear Creek was almost universally focused at the confluence of the various year-round streams that feed into the larger Rogue River system. Wagner Creek, fed by the snows of the Siskiyou Mountains to the south, thus provided a logical focus for early settlement in this portion of the valley, offering both irrigation and, as the dominate motive power required for any potential industrial development, the promise of future growth. As a result, in 1851, as Euro-Americans were making their first attempts at settling the Rogue River Valley, two individuals, named Stone and Poynetz, filed claims near the creek, in the area that would become Talent.

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In December 1851, Stone and Poynetz took up their land claims at the crossing of Wagner creek and resided there for a short time, returning to their families in the East in 1852. An old man named Lewis took a claim adjoining theirs, but going to the Willamette valley, his claim was "jumped" and he failed to recover it. A little later than Stone, Poynetz and Lewis, L.J.C. Duncan, now of Jacksonville, located a claim at Wagner Creek, sometime in December l851. (Walling 1884:337)

These early attempts at settlement along Wagner Creek were quickly forgotten or abandoned, likely over-run by the rush that resulted from the discovery of gold in Jacksonville in February 1852. 1 The first Euro-American to actually settle, build and remain in the study area was Jacob Wagner [1820-1900] who in Spring 1852 filed a 160 acre Donation Land Claim along the banks of the creek that would soon bear his name. 2 "On this tract of land, lying about five miles north Ashland, near the site of the present village of Talent, he was successfully engaged in farming and stock raising for ten years."(Chapman 1904:616-18)

In 1853, with the help of Captain Alden and his men from Yreka, Wagner built a log stockade, that became known as "Fort Wagner." Intended as a rendezvous for use during the various Indian uprisings that characterized much of the settlement period, the "fort" was essentially a palisade within which the region's scattered settlers could take refuge and provide for their common defense. 3

The walls around this fort covered about an acre of ground and were two feet thick and twelve feet high, with port-holes every few feet all around. Inside the wall was a large blockhouse where the Wagner family lived, and the men told all the women and children that in case of an attack to all run into this house and leave the ground to the full sweep of the men. At each corner of the wall was a high observation station, where a look-out was kept day and night. (Gillette 1917:65)

1 It was this discovery that almost assuredly provides the motive behind L.J.C. Duncan's relocation from the study area to Jacksonville. There he went on to become a prominent civic and political figure, playing an important role in southern Oregon's early history.

2 As late as March 1852 Wagner was still plying the mines of northern California and had not yet determined to settle in the Talent area. See "Letter 60 Years Old" as published in the Ashland Record, 1912 [Atkinson Scrapbook, p. 70].

3 The exact location of Fort Wagner is apparently a matter of some dispute. Historical evidence, however, corroborated by the personal recollections of W.H. Breese as related to the author, indicate that the fort was located to the rear of what is now 226 Talent Ave, long known as the "Van Dyke" place. The Breese family home was directly south of the Van Dyke/Wagner Fort site. [See also Betty Miller, "His Digging into History Pins the location of old Fort Wagner," Medford Mail Tribune [MMT], 20-Jun-1967,2C:1-4.]

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Figure 1.1 Jacob Wagner DLC, from 1855 GLO Survey Map of Township 38S-1W (Jackson County Surveyors Office)

During the Rogue River Indian Wars of 1853 and 1855, Fort Wagner provided a safe haven for settlers throughout the southern end of the Bear Creek Valley. In August 1853 a group of emigrants arrived in the valley, including Welborn Beeson. 4

We passed several houses and farms but they were all deserted, [people] having fled to the Fort for protection from the Indians. The fort is just across the little creek from Albert's [Rockefellow] owned by Mr. Jacob Wagner. All the citizens of this part of the valley are collected in it. It is not safe to go away from it. (Beeson, 30-August-1853)

A second important settler in the Talent vicinity was Eli Knighton Anderson, who established his own donation land claim along Anderson Creek at approximately the same time Wagner was establishing a claim to the southeast. Anderson, who would remain on the ranch until 1909, was one of the first individuals to recognize the agricultural potential of the Talent region and is generally credited with planting some of the first commercial crops grown in the area.

4 Then 15 years old, Beeson had begun a daily diary at the start of the family's trek toward Oregon. He would continue to record his thoughts, impressions, and various local events for the remainder of his life. These diaries, most of which are held by the University of Oregon Special Collection, form an invaluable resource in the history of the Talent and Wagner Creek areas. [see UO Spec Coll. "Welborn Beeson Papers, Ax 779, Boxes 1-4]

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I crossed the plains in forty-nine to California and mined in various places with varied results until January '52 when I settled in this valley ... I believe that I brought the first wheat to this valley and oats that was [sic] raised in the valley. I sold one bushel of the wheat that I brought out for $16 dollars [and] this first crop that I raised I sold for $8 per bushel. 5

Development in the Wagner creek vicinity continued throughout the 1850s and the region remained modestly attractive for settlement. In 1857 Welborn Beeson documented a total population of 42 in the area including ten males over 25 years of age and six females over 25, living in seven household units. (Beeson 31-December-1857)

1.3.2. Trails and Transportation

Much of the first emigration into the Rogue River Valley followed a roughly north-south trail that ran parallel to Bear Creek. 6 That road, the Southern Emigrant Route, or "Applegate Trail," was first blazed in 1846 as an extension of the famed Oregon Trail. Branching off of the main road at Fort Hall, the Applegate Trail was intended as an alternative route that would eliminate the dangerous crossing of the Columbia River. 7

Running west from Klamath County along the modem-day Greensprings Highway, the route descended out of the mountains east of Ashland, past the homesteads of Hugh Barron and Patrick Dunn, and entered into the valley floor, heading north, along the bottomlands that line Bear Creek. Soon, the original trail evolved into a the more formalized "Road to Yreka," as it was called in the 1855 General Land Office survey of Jackson County. 8 By 1856 the California Stage Company was offering service three times each week between Yreka and Jacksonville over this road. (Scott 1976:21) As stage travel expanded, this basic route, running through the Talent area, remained the primary avenue of transport for the next three decades.

5 E.K. Anderson, letter to M.J. Plymale, 4-April-1892. [As reprinted in Dorothy Vore, Cherished Memories: The Anderson Story, (Talent, Oregon: Dorothy Vore, 1977), 8.

6 This creek was originally named "Stuart" or "Stewart" Creek after Captain James Stuart, who was killed near its banks during the Rogue Indian uprising in 1853.

7 Jesse Applegate, arriving in Oregon over the Oregon Trail in 1843 had tragically watched as his son perished in the waters of the Columbia, only miles from the journey's end. (See Rucker 1930:289)

8 The 1855 Ives and Hyde Survey of Township 38S-1W, identifies this route as "The Road Up the Valley" but most other histories use the Yreka designation.

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1.3.3. Settling In -- 1860-1883

With the end of the Indian uprisings and the close of the initial settlement period in the Rogue River Valley, development quickly concentrated in the region's two major cities, Ashland and Jacksonville. Smaller cities such as Phoenix, and unincorporated rural service regions such as Eagle Mills or Wagner creek saw little growth or activity outside of agriculture. 9 Some time prior to 1858 Jacob Wagner moved from his donation land claim to Ashland and there became involved in various business pursuits. 10 In 1865, Wagner sold the majority of the eventual townsite area to Horace Root for $3500.(JCD 4-186)

E.K. Anderson, although continuing to reside on and improve his claim north of the study area, also became involved in other interests, developing various mining claims in the hills.

Throughout the 1860s and 1870s, the Wagner creek vicinity, including what would become Talent, continued as a region devoted to farming and agriculture. Scattered mining and timber uses, including Granville Naylor's early sawmill, were present further up into the hillsides. Early arrivals such as the Beeson and Stearns families, among others, continued to develop their lands, planting wheat or orchards. Thus, virtually all the construction in the region consisted of barns, outbuildings or dwellings related to the agriculture. Much of this construction likely consisted of early log structures being rebuilt or replaced by "real frame houses" or newer, larger barns as farmers in the area prospered.

[Wagner Creek] is one of the richest portions of the Rogue River Valley and has long been noted for its melons, peaches, corn and tall timothy. (Ashland Tidings, 4-January-1878) 11

Eagle Mills, Phoenix, and to a greater extent Ashland and Jacksonville, provided most services to the study area and there is little indication of any commercial or mercantile hub in the immediate Wagner creek area prior to the 1880s. 12 Stage lines and other travelers continued to pass through on their way north and south but, as best as can be determined, the townsite area itself remained primarily agricultural land with little, if any, development. The old Fort Wagner site, the focus of pioneer days, continued to decay. An early resident, returning to the vicinity after a 25-year absence, commented in October 1883:

9 Eagle Mills, centered around the Eagle Flour Mill, was located south of the Talent area near the modern-day intersection of the Pacific Highway and Jackson Street, just south of Valley View.

10 Various other histories report Wagner moving to Ashland as late as 1862. Beeson reports the John Wrisley family, later of the Central Point area, living on the Wagner Farm four years earlier. (Beeson, 31-December-1858)

11 Subsequent references to the Ashland Tidings are cited as "AT"

12 Various timber mills were located further up Wagner creek as early as the 1850s and likely continued to operate throughout the 19th century in some capacity. School buildings were also present in the Wagner creek area, serving as a community focus, from 1854 onward. In 1871 a Baptist Church was formed in Wagner Creek and soon built a meeting house for its members, also providing a community focus in the area. See Margaret Neshiem, One Hundred Twenty-Three Year's Search for Community (Gandee Printing Center: Medford, 1976), 20-21.

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I went to try find the exact place where the picket of the Fort stood. The only sign left was the mound where the old fire place of Jacob Wagner's hospitable log cabin used to stand. 13

With the close of the 1870s, growing prosperity, and population, helped drive an increased interest in the study area. Larger markets for agricultural products were developing locally and the bountiful fields and orchards of the Wagner Creek drainage were in full production.

The Wagner creek arm of the Rogue River Valley is one of the most fertile, most valuable, and most attractive nooks in the valley and will soon have a larger population in proportion to the number of acres of farming land than any other portion of the county. It will be the truck garden of the valley. (AT 14-December-1883)

Although stage routes and county roads to neighboring towns had eased access for major commercial services, the growing local population and agricultural developments near Wagner and Anderson creeks increased the viability of the development of a local service center. In 1877 a forty-one year old carpenter from Tennessee purchased an eleven acre portion of the original Wagner claim. Three years later he bought an adjoining tract of 95 acres and began to subdivide it into lots and blocks. 14 His name was Aaron P. Talent. 15

A.P. Talent, as he was generally referred to, reportedly arrived in the Rogue River Valley in 1875 and settled in the Wagner Creek area. He likely lived in the study area, renting or leasing land, and supporting his wife and six children through his reputedly considerable carpentry skills. 16

13 "Reminiscences of Old Days," Ashland Tidings, 31-October-1884, 1:3-4. Written in letter form, dated 21-October-1884 and signed "Prodigal Son." This valuable description of the Talent area was written by an unidentified resident who had returned to the valley for the first time since 1859 and was impressed by the dramatic changes he witnessed.

14 JCD 7:702 and 9:106. The latter transaction, purchased from Horace Root, concerned the same 95+ acres Root purchased from Wagner in 1865 less the lands Root had donated to the Wagner Creek Baptist Church in 1871 as detailed in JCD 5:493-4.

15 Early citations often spell this surname "Tallent." This was not a misspelling as genealogical information on the Talent family indicate the family had earlier used the double-L format.

16 Beeson reports Talent contracted for the construction of various structures, as well as steady casket-making business throughout the early 1880s. By mid decade Talent became involved in farming, having leased the Maria Colver Farm near Phoenix from 1885 to 1888. See AT, 28-September-1888, 3:1.

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By the early 1880s, Talent had opened a general store in the area north of the old fort site, likely the first retail venture between Phoenix and Ashland. "Mr. Talent seems to be a real live business man. Such a resident is a benefit to any neighborhood." (AT 31-October-1884). Following Talent's example, other businesses and residents soon purchased lots or larger tracts and in a short time a "town" began to take shape.

... across [Wagner creek] it is all divided up now and is being covered with housing, forming quite a village. I crossed the bridge and found new buildings in every direction. (AT 31-October-1884)

A.P. Talent saw early what others either did not, or had chosen not to act upon. The old Wagner homestead site, situated on bottom land, had witnessed each of the series of transportation routes that connected the valley floor with the larger world. With the coming of the railroad, slowly trudging south from Roseburg, the Wagner homestead would almost assuredly be upon the main line and would logically become a service center for the vast agricultural lands that surrounded it. The railroad would mean new markets, new population, and growth unseen since the county was first settled. The coming boom era was obvious to all:

The Rogue River Valley is a most beautiful section of country with a delightful climate ... It is a fine fruit country, peach and grapes growing to perfection here as well as all the other fruits of northern Oregon. In the past the farmer has labored under the disadvantage of having no market for his products [but] in the future this will be obviated as the railroad will soon pass directly through the valley, bringing both the large markets of Portland on the north and San Francisco on the south right at his door. This building of the railroad will advance the interests of this part of the state very materially and make it one of the most desirable places in Oregon in which to reside. (The Rev. R.W. Selwood, AT 28-Sept-1883)

The collection of buildings that developed around Talent's first store continued to grow. In January 1883, Welborn Beeson wrote in his diary "I walked down to Tallent, to fill [out] a blank for a new post office to be located at his store." (Beeson, 16-January-1883). Within a month, on 5-February 1883 Charlie M. Harvey was appointed the first postmaster of the new community. (Helbock 1968:21) Likely a political appointment, he was quickly replaced by A.P. Talent, who continued as postmaster for the next seven years.

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Photo 1.2: Talent Commercial District, c. 1900 (City of Talent Collection)


Commentaries on how the new community was named generally indicate that Mr. Talent had intended for it to be known as "Wagner Creek." 17 As early as 1881 diarist Beeson referred to a family of emigrants arriving at "Tallent's" and continually refers to walking to "Talent" for supplies or other errands. 18 As the proprietor of the local store, and its postmaster, area residents naturally received their mail "at Talent's" and, for whatever reason, the name stuck, being applied to the area in local newspapers as early as September 1883. 19 Despite Mr. Talent's wishes, the village around his store appears to have been generally known and referred to as "Talent" long before his application for a post office was filed.

17 See "Aaron P. Talent Dead," AT, 29-May-1913, 3:5. It should be noted that these same histories also universally indicate that Talent was the town's first postmaster, ignoring Mr. Harvey's short tenure.

18 The first such reference located occurs on 18-March-1881. Earlier comments related Mr. Tallent's activities.

19 Richard Helbock's history of Jackson County post offices indicates that the formal name "Talent" dates from the February 1883 appointment of the town's first postmaster.

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Various histories further confuse the issue of Talent's naming by indicating that this was a new name applied to an area previously known as Wagner Creek, or even earlier as Fort Wagner. 20 This is not entirely accurate. Historical accounts make it clear that the term "Fort Wagner" universally referred to that specific structure, not a general location, during the mid-1850s period of its actual existence and use. The homestead, site of the building known as "Fort Wagner" was at the extreme northern head of the region understood to be "Wagner creek" in 1883. 21 Beeson's diaries are explicit in portraying "Tallent" as somewhere he traveled to, not somewhere he lived. 22 The area that becomes Talent, although often lumped into the larger "Wagner creek" vicinity, was more specifically known as "Wagner's Farm" or simply as the tract near the creek's crossing of the stage road.

It is critical to any discussion of the naming of Talent to recognize that "Wagner Creek" had referred to a specific location (i.e. the valley that lines that stream) prior to the founding of Talent, and is still used to describe that unincorporated portion of Jackson County today. By 1883, the name of "Wagner creek" had long-standing recognition as the name of the extended community of farms and ranches that followed the creek's drainage, a far larger area than Talent's newly platted lots and blocks on the valley floor. This larger area had been formally recognized with the creation the Wagner Creek School District in 1862 and it was not until 1888, five years after the opening of the post office in the new community, that a separate Talent school district would be formed. Up toward the hillside, the community of Wagner Creek retained its own identity as District 56, and would remain staunchly independent from its younger neighbor until merging with Phoenix in 1951. 23

20 See for example, the comments of 19th century historian A.G. Walling, reprinted at the beginning of Section 1.3 of this document, or Lewis McArthur, Oregon Geographic Names, (Portland: Western Imprints/OHS, 5th Edition, 1982, 717.

21 E.K. Anderson's farm, for example, located northwest of the Talent townsite, is beyond the Wagner Creek vicinity, being dubbed "outside Phoenix" in Wailing's 1883 history.

22 Beeson uses the term "Tallent" or the possessive "Tallent's" consistently for entries prior to that of 24-June 1883. This may indicate the town, or more specifically the store itself Later entries use both the single and double "l" forms until late Fall 1883, after which he apparently recognized "Talent" as the standard name.

23 The new Talent District retained the #22 designation when the original Wagner Creek District was divided. The Wagner Creek area's sense of community as distinct from Talent would remain strong well into the 20th century. Rural reports from "Wagner Creek" were a common feature of the Mail Tribune and Tidings, providing folksy news of the area through the 1940s. For a discussion of the efforts District #56 went to stave off annexation or consolidation with Talent see Kramer. Wagner Creek School, NR Nomination Forms, 1992.

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A.P. Talent's interest in naming his new town "Wagner Creek" had a certain logic, as it was a term generally understood to include this area between Eagle Mills and Phoenix. However, the new town was only a small portion of a much larger region, a region which thrived before and after the founding of the new town at the head of the creek. Further, "Tallent" was understood prior to 1883 to refer to the village, as separate from Wagner creek, at least according to the Beeson Diaries. Talent's request for designation as "Wagner Creek" was likely not acted upon by the Postmaster General simply out of a concern that doing so would be confusing, running counter to both the historic and then current use of that name. 24

1.3.4. Arrival of the Southern Pacific, 1884-1900

By 1872 the rails had moved down the Willamette Valley and extended service to Roseburg, 100 miles north of Jacksonville, then one of the Oregon's largest cities. The trials and tribulations of the attempts to extend the Oregon and California rail line into the Rogue Valley are well documented. 25 In short, various circumstances stalled the southerly progress of the railroad at Roseburg for over a decade and correspondingly limited the growth of Jackson and Josephine counties to a substantial degree. Finally, in December 1883, the long awaited connection of the Rogue River Valley achieved reality when the first locomotive from the north dropped down over Sexton Mountain and pulled into the newly built station at Grants Pass.

About 400 people assembled at Grant's Pass to welcome the first passenger train. Many of those present had never before seen such a sight. (Jacksonville Democratic Times, 14-Dec-1883)

All the communities of Jackson County awaited with eager excitement as the railroad drew near. Some, such as Medford, which the Ashland Tidings referred to as "the new city on the valley floor," owned their very existence to the railroad. The established communities, and even some burgeoning ones, were each equally excited with the prospect of the long-awaited rails. In one of the earliest references to the study area as distinct from Wagner creek, the Ashland Tidings noted:

24 Although it seems clear that Mr. Talent's request was not acted up for the reasons given, it must also be noted that a "Wagner" post office was established in Wheeler County, Oregon in March 1882, almost a year prior to Talent's request and may well have played a role in the denial. (See McArthur 1982:765)

25 See, among the many discussions of the wranglings of the competing interests in expanding Oregon's transportation system, David Lavender, Land of the Giants: The Drive to the Pacific Northwest 1750-1950, (Doubleday: Garden City, New York, 1958), 356-387.

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Times are lively in Phoenix, and the stir seems to have reached Talent also. A general spirit of improvement is noticeable in many places in the valley. (AT, 9-Nov-1883 [emphasis added])

The rail line continued to inch southward, despite the bad weather of winter and a chronic shortage of railroad ties. 26 By January 1884 the line had reached Wagner creek and work on the trestle across the swale was approaching.

Went to John Van Dyke's and there met the construction train and saw them laying track in Van Dyke's field. At the rate they are laying they will be at Wagner Creek by next Sunday. (Beeson 20-January-1884)
Afternoon, I went to see them laying track. Fight up to the trestle work on Wagner Creek. The engine will run in sight tomorrow morning. Hurrah for the RR train! (Beeson 7-February-1884)

Although the growing village was likely hopeful that it would have a depot, from the start that appeared doubtful. "It is understood now that the railroad will locate a depot and side track at Central Point. This makes four stations between Ashland and [the] Rogue River--Phoenix, Medford, Central Point and Gold Hill. Whether a station will be established at Tallent is not yet stated." (AT 14-Dec-18 83)

The first train arrived in Phoenix, to the north, in February 1884, "...bringing a heavy load of merriment into town." (AT 1-Feb-1884) Finally, after a difficult construction effort, a passenger train pulled into the new Ashland station on 18-April-1884. There, hampered by the continued engineering difficulties presented by the Siskiyou Mountains, travelers and freight would be off-loaded and taken over the summit into California by stagecoach. By Summer 1887 traffic on this line was considerable. Almost 2000 passengers disembarked in Ashland and took the stage over the Siskiyou Mountains to the northern terminus, moving forward from the new city of Redding. (Scott 1976:137) The much anticipated through connection was finally completed on 17-December-1887 with Southern Pacific vice-president Charles Crocker driving a golden spike in the Ashland railroad yards.

In 1884, despite its hopes of securing status as a formal stop on the main line, Talent was initially served, at best, by an informal stopping point. The growth of the village, of course, would require a more formalized link to the main line. "He [Talent] seems to think that eventually the railroad will see the necessity of a side track at this point and will put one in." (AT 31-October-1884) Three years later, with the completion of the through line imminent, Talent was still waiting for a station, not to mention a depot. "C.K. Klum, who was up from Talent Monday, says the people of that place would like a depot established there and hope the railroad management will be able to accommodate them after the completion of the line." (AT 13-August-1887, 2:5) By early 1888, with the rise in train traffic through the valley following the connection with California, the agitation for a depot in Talent reached full swing. "The side track right-of-way-subject is again being agitated around the street comers and will ... soon take tangible form."(AT 10-Feb-1888, 3:5)

26 Period sources indicate that it required some 3000 ties per mile of road. A.P. Talent, among others, contracted to provide ties for use between Phoenix and Ashland at 33 1/3 cents each. (See AT, 30-Nov-1883)

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A public meeting held was held on 19-March-1888 for the express purpose of developing a strategy to "obtain a depot." Welborn Beeson was made chairman and S. Sherman and David Payne served as secretaries.

Mr. Sherman got the ball rolling in his characteristic and pointed style [by] showing the advantages which might accrue to Talent and vicinity by liberal donations of land to the railroad company, also stating the fact that instead of doing something ourselves, we are engaged in building up Ashland on the south and Phoenix and Medford on the north of Talent, thus being tributary to all other places, whereas by throwing out inducements to men of enterprise to settle here we might build up our own beautiful place with all its natural advantages over other places, as are conceded by all parties. (AT 23-March-1888)

Negotiations with the railroad continued and an offer of land was apparently forwarded to the Southern Pacific for review. Buoyed by the optimism that Talent would finally secure a rail link, 1888 was a year of incredible building activity.

Our people are in high spirits now with a depot and shipping prospects, as the [proposal] has been acknowledged and forwarded to the railroad headquarters we are assured by the authorities that we shall have passenger and freight facilities immediately. So we expect a boom for our place this season. Many are now building and many more are anticipating to do so soon.(AT, 8-June-1888, 3:5)

In June 1888 grading for the long awaited side-track began and the local newspaper announced "Talent now a R.R. Station." Welborn Beeson recorded that "The train now stops at Talent for passengers. "(Beeson 18-June-1888) As it looked as though Talent had finally secured a depot, the community's leaders took the initial step toward establishing a formal town. In August 1888 the various property owners of the land, including Horace Root, E.K. Anderson and the Wagner Creek Baptist Church, as well as A.P. Talent and others, declared "...that we have located thereon a town to be known and designated as the Town of Talent and have caused said real estate to be surveyed and subdivided into Lots, Blocks, Streets and Alleys..." The plat was witnessed and filed in July 1889, the first true map of Talent as a distinct geographic area. 27

27 In March 1889 A.P. Talent and others petitioned the County Commissioners to adopt a revised townsite plat, basically eliminating alleys in Blocks G through J, citing "...oversight, and mistakes" in the original. Thus the final plat was not recorded until July 1889. See Commissioners Journal Vol. 8: 105 and JCD 16:328:31 and 19:230. The original survey of Talent was done by Welborn Beeson, assisted by a man named Kelly. (Beeson 18- and 19-June-1888)

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The plat of the town has been made out [and] the streets dedicated to the public so that we may correctly call Talent a "town" now...the next thing you hear of Talent, town lots will be selling like "hot cakes." (AT 31 August-1888, 3:6)

In September 1888, A.P. Talent held a public auction offering building lots in the new town. "These lots promise to be a good investment, as Talent is making a fine showing of progress and improvement." (AT, 28-September-1888, 3:1) Apparently the lots did sell briskly and construction of various structures was soon underway throughout the community.

We have no boom in the sense and manner of mushroom growth, but enjoy a vigorous healthy growth. Our place needs no flourish of trumpets to attract attention because to see is to believe and be satisfied. Nature has furnished this place with great natural advantages. Wagner creek, a stream heading from Wagner Butte and running 10 miles through sand furnishes plenty of water for irrigating and washing purposes... We have here, in a four mile radius of Talent, the largest number of acres of rich garden land that can be found on the coast, if anywhere... Everything grows to perfection, whether cereals, vegetables, or fruit. (AT, 5 -October-1888, 2:3)

Despite its growth, positive self-assessment, and the on-going negotiations with the railroad, Talent was still hampered by the lack of a depot. How negotiations broke down remains a mystery but the fact the town was unable to secure a depot was a cause of great local consternation. In February 1890, following a huge flood that complicated travel, "F. Sharp," the new Talent correspondent to the Ashland Tidings opened a column with the following: 28

28 Local correspondents often used pseudonyms. "F. Sharp" followed "Vita" as the Tidings reporter in the area.

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Tho' the trains pass Talent regularly twice a day, yet we neither receive any mail, nor have a chance to send any. It seems they have no mail messenger or mail car aboard. I think the R.R. Co. is treating this inoffensive place meaner that the d------! (AT, 21-February-1890, 2:3)

Photo 1.3 Talent Railroad Depot. c. 1910 (City of Talent Collection)

Talent's lack of success in securing a depot likely stemmed, at least in part, from the disparity between the town's development and that of the other communities in the valley. Whereas Ashland was the largest city in the county, and thus merited a depot on potential volume alone, other valley cities, notably Medford, offered substantial "inducements" to the railroad in exchange for the prosperity a depot could bring. 29 Talent alone of the communities along the main line was neither an established commercial locale, nor willing to "buy" a depot with grants of land. So, although Talent is often considered a "railroad" town, it actually was not until 1900, almost thirteen years after the line to California was completed, and more than seventeen years since A.P. Talent had first laid out lots on the site, that Talent was given a railroad depot. 30 In 1899, Medford had outgrown its old depot building and the city's increased volume demanded a new structure. Talent seized the opportunity for a "ready-made" building and Medford's old depot was simply shipped south by the Southern Pacific. A Medford paper reported:

29 Medford, for example, was selected as the main railroad station, almost entirely due to the generous lands offered the line by Messrs. Beekman, Phipps, Broback and Mingus, who stood to make huge profits by turning farmland into city lots surrounding the new depot.

30 It does appear possible that prior to the actual depot development that Talent had been served by some type of less formal station, apparently installed in the mid-1890s if not earlier.

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The old Southern Pacific depot at this place is now only a memory. It was placed on three flat cars Sunday and Monday and yesterday [and] was taken to Talent where it will resume its work as a station house. (Medford Mail, 15-June-1900, 5:3) 31

13.5. A Growing Community, 1900-1912

As mentioned earlier, orchard development in the Talent vicinity dates from the initial settlement period of the mid-1850s. E.K. Anderson's orchard, located northwest of the study area, was one of the first attempts at orchard production in the Rogue River Valley. "Grandfather had foresight, planting fields of grain and orchards of apples, peaches, and pears, also nut trees, 65 acres in all! For many years this was the largest orchard in Southern Oregon." (Vore 1977:22)

By the late 1880s, a box factory had been established in Talent, providing the surrounding agricultural producers with packaging for their output. Other industries, including lumber and mining, continued to located in the surrounding areas, especially up Wagner Creek, enabling the service and retail businesses of Talent to prosper. Blacksmiths, general merchandise, shoemakers, and hardware companies were all apparently in operation in Talent by the early 1890s.

Throughout the 1890s, with the continued growth of the orchard industry in the valley, the fertile land surrounding Talent increasingly was shifted to orchard production. Land that in early years had produced wheat was now converted to more profitable fruit and vegetables as the new transportation opportunity of the railroad provided area farmers with access to larger markets. Melons, tomatoes, and truck vegetables such as celery and lettuce were all grown in commercial quantities in the Talent vicinity. This expanding economy naturally increased Talent's position as the local service center, a position considerably strengthened after 1900 with the arrival of the depot building.

31 Lest there be any confusion for the modern reader by the term "station house," an article published in the Ashland Tidings, 13-June-1899 reported "Talent's people are hopeful of getting a side track and depot facilities from the S.P. Co. soon, a report being in circulation that [the] Medford Depot building ...will be moved to Talent." This clearly indicates the lack of a depot facility in Talent. Other articles relate Talent's interest in obtaining the obsolete Medford depot to solve its long-standing need.

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Photo 1.4 Orchard View v. Talent (SOHS #9340)

While peaches, cherries, prunes and other crops were present in the area, it was the apple and pear that proved the most viable market. "...Since 1902 there have been about 109,500 pear trees set out in [Jackson] county, that being about 77 percent of the total number of pear trees in the valley." In 1908, pears accounted for 2189 acres in Jackson County. Apples, however, still dominated with almost 6000 acres in production. (Lewis et al, 1908:5) After the turn of the century, at least one packing plant was operating in Talent, preparing the region's output for transportation.

M.L. Pellet's packing house is now teeming with life and incidentally, with eighteen beautiful girls who are packing Oregon pears for eastern markets. (Medford Mail, 28-August-1903, 6:4)
M.L. Pellet, the Talent orchardist, finished his apple picking Thursday of this week. He has employed in picking 27 men and will have fully 13 carloads of fruit. This amount of fruit at the prices paid this season will bring him over $11, 000. (Medford Mail, 23-Oct-1903, 4:4)

Orchard development continued to spur the valley, and Talent's growth throughout the early years of the 20th century. The industry's dominance reached a fever pitch during the period of 1909-1912, long dubbed the Rogue Valley's "Orchard Boom." These years were an era of unparalleled growth in population with newcomers, as numerous wealthy easterners streamed into the valley and entered the orchard industry. Talent, like other valley communities, saw dramatically increased development in the orchard industry, as well as the construction of new housing and commercial buildings to accommodate the new arrivals. hasn't been in the minds of the majority that the smaller towns would figure much in the advancement of the valley, but such is not the case. Talent's fruits have been sent all over the world, helping to gain prestige for the valley. Talent berries and peaches bring the highest market prices in Portland; the apples and pears bring the fancy prices in New York and London; Talent took the prize at the world's fair in Seattle last year...(AT, 23-June-1910, 1:7)

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In the middle of the orchard boom, Talent began the process of incorporation and formally organizing itself into a self-governing community. In September 1910 a group of local citizens petitioned the Jackson County Court for recognition. At the Court's direction, an election was held on 5-October-1910 for qualified voters within the boundaries of the proposed city and, by a vote of 46 for and 24 against, the "Town of Talent" was formally established. V.A. Dunlap was the first mayor with Marion Tryor, A. Alford, Dr. D. Forbes, T.J. Bell, John Lacy, and C.W. Wolters elected as Aldermen. The population of the community was estimated at 250 people.

These were heady years in the Rogue River Valley, with construction,_ population and wealth at all-time highs.32 Record prices were paid for agricultural land as wealthy individuals sought to acquire or assemble large orchard tracts. County-wide, farm land increased in value over 475% in the first decade of the century. (Chapman 1915:23). Talent was no exception to this trend, as new houses and business structures were rapidly developed throughout the community, especially in the business district that ran along what are now Talent and Wagner streets. It was in this vicinity that a major fire broke out in late January 1911, destroying much of the town's core commercial area. The newly incorporated city, however was undaunted. Under the headline "Talent Rises From Its Ashes," one local paper reported:

Showing the same spirit that caused San Francisco to rise out it ashes and present to the world a city more beautiful and substantial because of its devastation, the little city of rapidly rehabilitating itself and within the next few months will have implanted itself more firmly on the map that it ever was before...(MMT, 28-February-1911, 6:2)

The combination of prosperity, increased population, and the need created by the fire resulted in the immediate re-building of the downtown. With the prosperity engendered by the Orchard boom, and looking toward a bright future, many of the new structures that were constructed of fire-proof materials, either brick or concrete. As far as can be determined, neither material had been used in Talent previously. Construction of a new Talent State Bank, burned in the blaze, began almost immediately after the fire. New buildings for both the Methodist and Christian churches, as well as frame residences and small business structures were all constructed in Talent in the year following the fire. At the same time, the massive brick high school, planned before the fire, was beginning to take shape.

32 An oft-cited statistic documents that Medford, with a 392% percent increase in population, was the second fastest growing incorporated city in the United States between 1900 and 1910. Talent, whose population was estimated at 500 in 1912 had thus doubled in size in the two years since incorporation.

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... the erection of this fine edifice will be the climax of building operations at Talent [for] the present year. (AT, 16-March-1911, 1:2)

In January 1912, Talent looked forward to a prosperous year. In a booster-type description published in the special New Years' Day magazine of a Medford paper, the town proclaimed itself "the Garden Spot of the Valley" and boasted of its progress and opportunity. 33 Unfortunately, the rapid increase in orchard production, coupled with the highly variable availability of water, combined to dampen the valley's "boom" by 1913.

Photo 1.5 Talent Fire, 31-January-1911 (SOHS #12933)

Following its incorporation the Town of Talent embarked on an era of civic improvement. A reliable municipal water supply was a top priority and the town had contracted for the construction of reservoirs and a distribution system in early 1912. New distribution systems for both gas and electricity, provided by private enterprise, were also constructed and available to Talent residents shortly after incorporation.

Our sister town of Talent is certainly forging to the front in the way of public works ... some time ago $20,000 in bonds was voted for a municipal waterworks system. A well has been put down and cemented and the work of laying the mains ... is now in progress. The village is also putting in a street-lighting system. They have contracted with the Oregon-California Power Company [sic] for the installation of 16 40-candlepower [street] lamps. (AT 25-November-1912, 8:3-7) 34

33 See MMT 1-January-1912, Special Section, 4:1-8.

34 The power utility is correctly known as the California-Oregon Power Company, universally referred to as "Copco."

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The street lights were installed as part of a city beautification effort that also included sidewalks and the paving of selected streets. Private initiative in Talent also was on the rise as new organizations such as the Talent Athletic Club and the Talent Commercial Club were established by mid-1913. 35

Photo 1. 6 Birdseye View from School Tower, Looking NE, c. 1912-3, (from Richard Lohr Collection

Talent's long-standing reputation as a progressive area, expounding concepts that today would be considered "liberal" or even "New Age," continued to be in evidence in the 36 years immediately following incorporation. In early 1912, W.H. Breese, serving as chair of the Town Council, was elevated to the position of mayor, an office he was re-elected to later that year.

35 See Ashland Tidings. 1-January-1913 3:2 and 6-March-1913, 3:3. During this period the Tidings published a special section devoted exclusively to its "sister" town under the banner "Talent Tidings."

36 Examples of Talent's distinctive views include John Beeson's notable stand on the treatment of Indians, and the various spiritual movements that characterized the area. This trend is particularly evident in the Diary of W.J. Dean and the discussions held at the Universal Mental Liberty Hall. (See Atwood: 1976:107:113). Of note architecturally, is the fact that Welborn Beeson built what is arguably the only Octagon House ever constructed in southern Oregon. Octagon houses, as promoted by "Squire" Orson Fowler in his widely published A Home for All, (1853) were considered the most naturally satisfying dwelling form and promoted for their medicinal and spiritual properties as well as their aesthetic and structural features. That Welborn Beeson elected to build in this rather revolutionary form, may be viewed as a telling commentary on his philosophy of life.

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[Talent] claims the distinction of being one of the few towns in the state with a socialist mayor, William H. Breese getting all but one of the votes cast. (5-December-1912, 8:2)

Talent's progressive views were also evident in the election of Miss Leta Luke as the city's recorder, reportedly the "...first woman in the state to be officially elected to a municipal position since suffrage [was] obtained..."(AT, 5-December-1912, 8:2) 37 In 1913, Talent reinforced its progressive image by appointing Mrs. Minnie Vogeli to serve on its city council.

Talent, as one of the most progressive towns of progress Oregon, could be no less that up to the times. It was the first town in Oregon to elect a woman for recorder and it kept its lead by choosing Mrs. Minnie Vogeli as councilman[sic].(AT, 6-February-1913, 3:4)

In 1914, the Talent School District, having vacated the frame building at the corner of I and Main streets for the modern brick school constructed in 1912-13, sold the older structure to the city for use as a city hall and community center. The wood frame building used by organizations as diverse as the Grange, the Good Government Congress, and the Boy Scouts, served as the focal point of the area, a role it continues in to this day.

Commercial expansion in Talent kept pace with the growing civic building program during the 1912-1913 period. Local concerns such as the Wagner Creek Nursery Co., located just north of Talent, and the model development at the Suncrest Orchard, east of the town, were major employers in the area both during and after the orchard "boom" 38 Other ventures aimed at diversifying the economy included continued mining and lumber projects, which although located up Wagner Creek or further west, engaged Talent's interest and the speculative capital of its business community. The Talent Coal Company, incorporated in 1913 was considered a potentially major industry in the vicinity. Spurred by the discovery of a vein "back of the Van Dyke place, equidistant from Ashland and Talent," coal was viewed with high, if unwarranted optimism. 39 In-town commercial efforts of note include J.H. Lacy's efforts to establish a quality hotel, the establishment of a cooperative creamery and the continued operation of the box factory and saw mill.

37 This article erroneously referred to Miss Luke being elected to the position of "post mistress," an political appointment which at that time was held by her father, R.J. Luke.

38 See "Nursery a Busy Place," (AT, 27-January-1913) and "Suncrest is a Fine Orchard," (AT, 10-February-1913)

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The commercial effort in Talent in the years following incorporation were dominated by the establishment of what would become known as the Bagley Canning Company. Located on a large open parcel north of the railroad depot, the company was opened in the summer of 1912 by Dr. W.R. Bagley, formerly of Duluth, Minnesota.

The plant, which cost nearly $10,000 in addition the site, which was donated by the citizens of Talent, . . is an outgrowth of a small plant started last year by Dr. Bagley at his ranch, northwest of Talent. (AT, 26-September-1912, 3:3)

Photo 1.7 Bagley Canning Company, Talent, c. 1915 (Bagley Family Collection)

With the end of the orchard boom, a downturn that would dramatically impact development in the larger communities of Medford and Ashland during the middle years of the 1910-1920 decade, Talent apparently continued to develop, albeit in a modest way. In 1915 a state almanac succinctly characterized the community with the following:

Talent -- Altitude 1,657 feet. Population 500. On Bear Creek. On main line of Southern Pacific railroad, midway between Ashland and Medford. Fruit growing and farming. Peaches, apples and berries. Dairying being developed. Creamery. Cannery. Box Factory. Saw mill. Municipal water works. Paved streets. Sulfur mineral springs near. Jackson County Farm and Southern Oregon Experimental Station one mile. High and graded public school. Baptist, Christian, Dunkard and Methodist churches. I.O.O.F., Rebekah, Woodmen and Royal Neighbors lodges. Band, 24 pieces. Commercial Club. Bank; capital and surplus, $21,000, deposits $58.000. (Chapman 1915:166)

39 See "The Talent Coal Company," (AT, 23-January-1913). Attempts to mine coal in the Talent area were also mentioned as early as 1893 in various issues of the Talent News.

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1.3.6. The Pacific Highway

By 1913, the Rogue River valley's primary north-south transportation corridor, so integral a part of the Talent area's development since the days of the Applegate Trail, provided the basic route for the Rogue Valley's first modern road: The Pacific Highway. "The Pacific Highway is the most ambitious road in the history of the continent and already the roadway has been traversed by automobiles for a continuous length of more than 6,000 miles from Hazelton, in Central British Columbia, south to the city of Mexico." (Jackson County 1913:36) In 1911 county voters passed a $1.5 million dollar bond to fund the construction of "good roads" and eventually Jackson became the first county along the Pacific Highway to offer continuous paved surface for its entire length. Throughout the 1910-1920 period, the county remained at the forefront of the "good roads" movement as local business and political leaders were quick to recognize both the financial benefits of improving accessibility to the surrounding regions as well as the necessity of connecting the rural communities with the larger cities of Medford and Ashland

Photo 1.8 Pacific Highway, South of Talent c. 1920 (SOHS #9348)

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With growing popularity and increased affordability, automobile ownership grew dramatically in the years following 1910. 40 Accordingly, as use of the Pacific Highway rose, its presence again demonstrated Talent's advantageous location. Originally, settlers, or "colonists" as they were called during the period, provided the major focus of marketing efforts on the part of Rogue Valley communities and the railroad. Soon, however, the automobile opened an entirely new class of potential income; tourists.
Talent is situated about half-way between Medford and Ashland on the Pacific Highway and the Southern Pacific railway, and all tourists or others passing through [the] Rogue River Valley must pass through it.(MMT 1-January-1912)

"Automobiling" in the early years of this century was fun and adventuresome, often to a point that overwhelmed the practical advantages of the machines in the popular mind. Families and young people took to "motoring" along the newly laid out highways both for short day trips as well as extended vacations.

There was the charm of novelty, the tang of danger, the irresistible attraction of uncertainty, the tempting call of the open road, and, if you got there and back--the supreme reward of accomplishment. (Partridge 1952:IX)

The attraction of motoring in the Talent area is well-documented in the diaries of W.J. Dean, a 65-year old pioneer resident of the Wagner creek drainage. Dean, after much debate, "joined the great Ford army" in late September 1915. After constructing an "auto stable," he busied himself with daily trips to Phoenix, Ashland, Medford and "T." [Talent] for both supplies and recreation. A typical entry from the period is this one, dated October 5, 1915:

Took an auto ride to Bybee bridge ...picnicked at bridge. Nice ride. Car cranked all right this morning. Am getting myself broke in little by little. Lots of things about a car to learn and then put in practice. Simply guiding or driving the car under favorable condition is the simplest part. 41

In Talent, the Pacific Highway essentially followed the traditional route from Ashland north to Talent, and then on to Phoenix and Medford. The renewed importance of the old stage route helped shift the focus of the town's central business area away from Wagner street, and the railroad, toward what is now Talent Avenue. 42 Older businesses along this route gradually shifted their emphasis toward the automobile traffic soon streaming outside their front doors. Blacksmiths, always plentiful in Talent to service the surrounding agricultural areas, here as elsewhere added the repair of the new mechanical contraptions to their offerings. And, while it is not documented when the first gasoline became available it Talent, it may be assumed that some enterprising merchant soon installed a pump at curbside to meet the new demand.

40 The automobile's rapid acceptance is demonstrated by the fact that in 1910 Oregon had 2,493 registered automobiles. Five years later there were 23,585, an increase of over 800%, and by the end of the decade [1920] registration topped 103,000.

41 All quotations are taken from page 16 of the Diary of W.J. Dean, 1912-1919, as transcribed by Ben Truwe and in the collection of the Talent Historical Society.

42 Commercial ventures, to some degree, had long been present on the old route however the town, platted in anticipation of a depot, originally developed commercial areas more oriented toward the railroad than the old stage road.

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Following the growth associated with the orchard boom, the presence of the Pacific Highway and the new business that it brought likely helped Talent to maintain a comparatively stable economy during the late 1910s and early 1920s. In 1919, Talent remained confidant in its future. "...People passing thru do not see all that is going on in and around Talent ... There is no boom reported ... but a steady growth."(AT, 9-May1919, 1:1) Despite that assessment, Talent's population dropped almost 50% during the decade, from an estimated 500 in 1912 to 278 eight years later.

1.3.8. The Talent Irrigation District

The dramatic growth of the orchard industry, and its equally dramatic decline, convinced many localities in the Rogue River valley of the need for stable water for Irrigation. Numerous water districts were formed in the 1910s with the goal of harnessing and collecting the run-off of mountain streams to irrigate the lands of the valley floor.

Irrigation in the Talent vicinity, one of the region's first agricultural areas, dated to the earliest pioneer settlers. Jacob Wagner is generally credited as one of the first to irrigate land for agricultural purposes in the Rogue River Valley and other Talent area farmers enjoy water claims dating to the early 1850s. 43 As early as 1904 farmers in the vicinity were planning for an extensive irrigation project to supply their farms and orchards. Led by M.L. Pellet, the $80,000 estimated cost of the project apparently was more than the farmers could afford and thus it was never built. 44

In 1911, a second effort, lead by a group of San Francisco investors, also looked at the formation of an irrigation district to supply the Talent area. This project also apparently came to naught. Finally, in May 1916, local landowners voted 105 to 11 to form the Ashland-Talent Irrigation district, described at the time as "one of the most important actions which has been recorded by voters of this part of the country and means the beginning of a project which will treble the productive power of acreage in the district." (AT, 22-May-1916) In 1917 land owners voted for a $600,000 bond to finance the project and in 1919 construction began on what had become known as the Talent Irrigation District, or TID.

43 See Yvonne Keith, A History of the Original Talent Irrigation District, August 1960. A monument to Wagner's efforts is located at the intersection of Rapp and Wagner Creek roads.

44 See "New Irrigation Project," Medford Mail, 15-January- 1904, 1:1.

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Dams were built on Emigrant Creek and at Hyatt Prairie Lake, both in the mountains east of Ashland and an extensive system of laterals and canals was developed to supply the district's holdings. "With the completion of the laterals for the water season of 1928, the majority of the construction by the Talent Irrigation District was completed." (Keith 1960:10)

The construction of the project and the formation of TID strengthened the role of agriculture in the areas surrounding Talent. While the District struggled financially through its early years, and required substantial reorganization in 1933, the availability of a stable, and eventually affordable, water supply remains a major factor in the still prominent role of agriculture in the region.

1.3.9. Between the Wars

The decade of the 1920s in Talent, as in all of Jackson County, was one of little building activity. Like most of the cities in the valley, Talent was faced with a declining population. Business and residential needs were easily accommodated by the over- development of the previous decade. And, despite the efforts at irrigation and the continuing progress of TID to enhance the viability of the surrounding agricultural communities, Talent was more and more relegated to secondary status from a commercial standpoint as local stores and services were closed, supplanted by those Medford and Ashland.

Exacerbating Talent's commercial decline, automobile and transportation connections continued to improve. By 1927, the Pacific Highway was almost entirely paved for a distance of over 3000 miles, making it the longest paved roadway in the world according to one report. "Soon after leaving Jackson Hot Springs, the highway winds past farms and orchards until Talent, a thriving community, is reached." (MMT, 2-January-1927)

Despite this claim, little documentation exists to support a description of Talent as "thriving" to any degree in the late 1920s. Numerous events, however, would logically lead to a contrary conclusion. In 1924, the Bagley Canning Company relocated to Ashland. Opened in 1912, on land supplied by the town, the canning company had provided both an important service for local orchardists and seasonal jobs for the community. Its closure, and move to Ashland, dramatically reduced what today would be called Talent's "industrial base." 45 Another blow occurred in 1927 when the assets of the local financial institution, the Talent State Bank, were purchased by the First National Bank of Ashland and Talent's only bank closed its doors.

45 Mary and Bill Bagley, personal communication with the Author, 24-March-1994. See also Bonnie Delsman, "Dr. Bagley Built the First Cannery," Ashland Daily Tidings[ADT], 3-June-1967, 7:1-8.

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It was pointed out by officers of both banks that comparative ease in reaching the larger centers had done much to take away from the small communities a major portion of the business that had been theirs by right of location in the past. (AT, 15 -December-1927, 1:8)

By the early 1930s the Depression had apparently hit Talent hard. The Rev. Joseph Pope, who served as the minister of the Talent Methodist Church from 1931-1932 would later comment that times were so bad that when local fruit growers sent car loads of fruit to market, the railroad company would often write them after they were sold to say that growers still owed on the freight costs. 46 In such an economy, the irrigation district, completed only a few years prior, teetered on financial ruin.

In the midst of this continued decline, Talent was presented with its most serious threat to date when the Oregon State Highway Department proposed a realignment that would move the Pacific Highway from the center of the business community, effectively stranding Talent off the main road. While in support of the much-needed infusion of Federal dollars and jobs road work might provide, Talent was vocal in its opposition to the realignment plan.

Talent would be left off the direct route by a little more than a city block and a protest signed by practically every citizen of [the town] was filed at the meeting this morning. (AT, 12-January-1934, 1:2)

Talent was successful in gaining the support of both Ashland and the Jackson County Court for a resolution presented to the State that encouraged the "straightening" of the existing route through the town. This resolution stated, in part, opposition to any route that would " the Pacific Highway outside of the business area of Talent [and] would unquestionably ruin the business interests of Talent." (AT, 16-January-1933, 1:2.) This effort partially succeeded as the decision on the downtown Talent segment was delayed "for several years."

Although temporarily retaining its connection to the Pacific Highway, the new prominence of the automobile had reduced Talent's need for a local rail connection. With the Bagley Canning Company having closed, as well as the assumed reduced production of the local saw mills, the long-sought depot had become expendable. As early as 1924 the Depot

46 as quoted in Foster, A History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Talent, 1961.

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was operated only seasonally, presumably in conjunction with the growing season. In June of that year a proposal to abandon the depot permanently was dropped, much to Talent's relief. 47 The opening of the Natron Cut-off in 1927, which shifted the main route of the Southern Pacific to Klamath Falls, thereby avoiding the steep grade of the Siskiyous, severely impacted the rail volume through the Rogue Valley. By 1935 the need for a depot at Talent had clearly ended and the building was razed by D.G. Newland of Medford for scrap.
Today residents regret the razing of the landmark, which although it has been some time since it was used as a shipping or ticket office, has made a good place for the town's idle to loaf in the sunshine and for small boys to play marbles. 48

Various civic improvements, funded by P.W.A. or S.E.R.A. grants from the Federal government, provided some high spots for Talent during the 1930s. In May 1931, the city sought to ease its continuing water shortage through the acquisition of a second municipal well on land owned by Fred Rapp. 49 With the help of a $20,000 PWA grant, Talent also began the construction of its first municipal sewer line in early 1936. Despite this progress, however, perhaps the best indication of Talent's economy in the 1930s was a resolution passed by the Town Council in March 1933 that authorized the posting of signs to keep children from destroying property at the many vacant houses in the community. 50

The move to relocate the Pacific Highway outside of the central business district was again raised in June 1936. Once again Talent merchants and civic leaders, supported by Ashland and the Jackson County Commissioners, opposed the move and presented various options to straighten the existing route. 51 This time, however, the State Highway Commission had adopted a policy that looked at the advantages to the general pubic rather than any particular locality and the Talent's opposition went for naught. Ray Schumacher, president of the Talent Chamber of Commerce and publisher of a small dispatch called Ray's News Flashes reported;

Talent, no doubt, will feel the effect of this decision, but still we will not be extinct in a few years as many people suspect. Talent may be better off in time to come as this may serve to help this community think of the natural resources and start now to develop into the community we should be. (ADT 3-August-1936, 1:5)

47 See MMT 30-May-1924 2nd, 7:6 and 6-June-1924, 6:4

48 Unidentified Newspaper Clipping, "Talent, Or. to Miss Old Depot," 31-March-1935, W.A. Thomas Collection, Southern Oregon Historical Society Collection, Medford.

49 Talent Council Minutes, 15-May-193 1.

50 Talent Council Minutes, 7-March-1933.

51 See, for example, "Ashland to Aid Talent in Highway Appeal," ADT, 16-June-1936, 1:1.

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Construction of the bypass, located approximately one block east of "The Old Highway" was apparently completed by early 1938, leaving Talent's commercial district off the main north-south route through the Rogue River Valley for the first time since the 1850s. New businesses, predominately those relating to the highway trade such as tourist cabins, and later motels, developed along the new corridor. The north entrance to town, where the old and new route joined, became known as "Talent Junction," a location that has been the site of a series of gas stations for over sixty years.

1.3.10. A "City" -- Talent in the Post-WWII Era

In 1941, Talent likely benefited from the wave of pre-war spending that swept Jackson County as war in Europe became eminent. The military decision to build a huge Army cantonment in the Agate Desert, east of Medford, resulted in a huge influx of first construction, and then uniformed, personnel that quickly overwhelmed any lingering effects of the depression in southern Oregon. Talent's vacant houses, as virtually every structure in the valley, were all soon rented. The feared move of the Pacific Highway had not had dire impact on the commercial district. While reduced in scope and variety, the small businesses on Talent Avenue continued to provide basic services for the community and surrounding areas.

As the end of World War II approached, Talent looked toward its future. In 1944, the continual need for a larger water supply was again discussed and plans were made for construction of a "reserve storage system to supply adequate water for the growing population of the town." (Council Minutes, 4-January-1944) In June, Talent joined the League of Oregon Cities. With the war's end, new developments and additions greatly expanded the community's size and the economy gradually shifted away from the agriculture that had so dominated the first half of the century. Talent's population swelled by 90%, reaching 739 in the 1950 census.

By 1958 the original town charter had become dated. City attorneys Neff and Frohnmayer of Medford, drafted a new charter that was accepted by vote that same year. Primarily designed to clarify city functions and organization, Chapter 1, Section 2 of the new charter declared:

The city in Jackson County, Oregon now known as the "Town of Talent" shall continue to be a municipal corporation but after this charter takes effect shall be known as the "City of Talent."

Prosperity and growth continued throughout the 1960s. New, larger scale, commercial ventures replaced earlier structures and uses. The trend toward subdivision development, multiple residential tracts built by a single entity, that had begun after the war accelerated. A new housing type, mobile home parks, grew in popularity, creating over 100 spaces in Talent during the 1960s and another 270 in the 1970s. 52 Talent's population passed the 1000 mark in 1963 and the city again looked toward improving its water supply to meet demands. 53

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By 1970, Talent's population rose to 2620, an increase of over 300% in the decade. "The real growth came to the area after the completion of Interstate 5 in 1963." (Doerter, 1978:5) The freeway, the most recent in the series of north-south corridors, again provided Talent with improved access to Medford and Ashland. Talent's affordable housing and quality of life provided attractive opportunities for young families, artists, and retirees. Talent's growth, and its attractiveness for residential development, continued throughout the 1980s, as it does at this writing.

Photo 1.9 Wagner Creek & Rapp Road, Looking NE, 1973 (SOHS,# 1082)

52 David Doerter, Historical Element Data, Talent Comprehensive Plan, 1978.

53 "Ashland Salutes Her Neighbor, the City of Talent." AT, 25-October-1963, 16:1-8.

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FOTL > Local History > Historic Context Statement