Early Businesses and Industries of Talent

by Carol Malcolm, 1975
inserts by Wilda Schmelzer, 1980

The present day town of Talent with a population of a little over 2,200 was first settled by farmers who took up Donation Land Claims. The first crops grown were chiefly wheat and potatoes, later vegetables. Historian A. G. Walling predicted early that fruit growing, especially apple, pear, and stone fruits would prove more rewarding than attempting to compete with the open plains of the Willamette and California in wheat production. He was correct. Orchards dot the area now and fruit growing remains the chief industry of the Talent vicinity, including the first settled areas along Wagner Creek and Anderson Creek.

Eli K. Anderson, who came to the Rogue Valley in January 1852, took out the first Donation Land Claim in the area on the creek that bears his name. He planted a large orchard, which required employing several men to prune. In March 1852, Jacob Wagner filed his Donation Land Claim, which claim now includes much of the present site of Talent. The town was first known as "Wagner" after Fort Wagner built in 1853 by Jacob Wagner and used by settlers around the area as protection during the Indian Wars of the 50's. As Orson A. Stearns, an old pioneer, recalled the claims of the early settlers, William Alberts and George Rock-fellows claims lay south of the junction of Wagner and Bear Creeks; Jacob Wagner and J. M. McCall next, though McCall sold his part to a James Thornton who, built upon and improved the south quarter section. Up Wagner Creek in order named was John Beeson, John Robison, David Stearns (1853) Lockwood Little, and Granville Naylor. To the west, extending to and embracing Anderson Creek, were James Downing, located on Downing Creek which flows into Wagner Creek and the Anderson brothers, E. K. (Joe) and Firman whose half sections extended from the John Beeson farm westward to the foothills. Other early arrivals in 1853 included D. P. Brittain, John Holton and Samuel M. Robinson, all of whom settled along Wagner Creek. By the end of 1853 all available Donation Land Claims were filed mostly by farmers. G. H. Lynch came to the area on 1869, William Patton in 1874 and George F. Pennebaker in 1879. A. P. Talent arrived in 1875. Talent plated the present townsite in 1880, hence the name Talent. A. P. Talent also had the first post office at his store which was designated as Talent post office. The advent of the railroad in 1884 helped development of the town. The first north and south trains from Eugene to California met at Ashland in 1887.

The first settlers as mentioned above were farmers. Orson Stearns recalls his father trading Jacob Wagner a two horse wagon worth $200 for 100 hills of [end page 1] potatoes which he dug himself upon arrival in 1853. Groceries were scarce that first winter, flour selling for $33 per hundred. Little clothing was available at the merchants. The farmers around the Talent area supplied the miners with wheat for flour, vegetables, and livestock. Their market was chiefly local at first due to lack of transportation. Even after the railroad came, farmers still depended on the local market, since freight rates were too high for shipping. Orson Stearns recalls that Sam Robison set out peach seeds in 1853 and was credited for the first Oregon peach orchard. The Stearn family planted peach seeds in 1854 and two years later some trees bloomed and one peach reached maturity. As Orson recalls, people came from twelve miles or more to see it and his father was offered $5.00 in gold for the peach, but declined the offer. The peach was divided into sevenths and eaten by the family. The Stearns family also planted walnut trees, one is still standing on the Emmett Beeson place and is over 100 years old.

After farming, lumbering was an early occupation of some settlers. Orson Stearns recalls the first sawmill in the valley as the one built by Granville Naylor, Lockwood Little and a doctor on Wagner Creek, but others claim Milton Lindley's mill as Gasburg (Phoenix) or the Emery brothers mill at Ashland was the first. At any rate, all three of these mills were running in 1854.

William Abbot had two sawmills on Wagner Creek at various times. One was located about five miles from Talent. It was steam powered and used only pine logs, since they were softer and easier to cut. It was begun about 1885 and operated at least til 1894. Ormy Goddard, a grandson of B.C. Goddard, an early Wagner Creek Pioneer, has an excellent picture of the sawmill. The Talent News of March 1, 1892 records the Abbott and Hanson sawmill partnership was dissolved leaving Hanson as sole proprietor. Later it reports on July 1 that William Abbott bought the Wagner Creek sawmill from John Hanson. Welborn Beeson in an article for the Talent News, April 15, 1893, tells a story about a man who came to Wagner Creek flat broke a number of years ago. He stopped at a farmer's for sustenance and chopped wood to repay the hospitality. He chopped so well that the farmer asked him to work for a week cutting boards for $2.00 a day plus board. The wood-chopping stranger was offered a job at the end of the week at a sawmill on the place where George H. Lynch now resides (in 1893). The log cutter soon had a job to both cut and [end page 2] haul logs, purchased the sawmill, logging team, and all possessions at the end of the third week to be paid for in lumber. Before three months had passed, he had cornered the lumber trade of the entire county. For ten months, he worked hard at the business and all at once it became known that he was missing. Investigations proved that he had gone to Crescent City. When his creditors settled the business, it was found that his assets were $10,000 short of his indebtedness. However, no laboring man or small trader lost a dollar to this man, only capitalists and rich merchants. He had begun to leave, getting as far as Rock Point, when he remembered he owed a poor man at Phoenix $100, so finding a wealthy man that had three yoke of cattle, he bought them on credit. He drove them to Jacob Ishes' whom he owed several hundred dollars, offered him the cattle for three hundred dollars, two hundred to be applied on his debt to Ish and a hundred in cash. He then went to Phoenix, paid the poor man, and started on his way again, telling a confidential friend that he could now leave with a clear conscience for he had not wronged a laboring man of a dollar and had been the means of distributing a large amount of capital held by rich misers and they could fight it out over the old sawmills and work cattle he left behind. He left with a sum of forty dollars and his saddle horse which was more than he had had ten months earlier. His name was Wilber Louis.

The Talent News reports that Settlers as late as 1893 still believed gold abounded in the hills and the quest for gold occupied many minds. Dr. Lewis Beeson recalls that his grandfather, Welborn Sr., panned for gold in Wagner Creek.

Quartz mining was also popular in the region. Walling states that a battery from a Jackson Creek quartz mill at forks of the creek run by Henry Paper was later used on Wagner Creek where Anderson and Rockfellow worked a quartz lead. Wagner Creek was also a gravel mining locality. The Talent News reported on March 15, 1892, that J. B. Dyer and Sam Carlyle bonded the Hope Mine in Bear Gulch near Wagner Creek and will work rock in E. K. Anderson's quartz mill. On January 15, 1893, it was recorded that Jack Garvin had a contract to sink a 100 foot shaft on, the Wagner Creek Ledge owned by D. R. Mills and E. V. Carter near the Lynch placer mine. [end page 3]

In mentioning early businesses, one cannot forget the passenger pony-express run by William Rockefeller sometime after 1854 as recounted by Welborn Beeson.

The Talent News, a bi-weekly newspaper edited by Edward Robison who had the press at his home on Wagner Creek just outside of present day Talent, was published from January 1892-July 1894. It makes delightful reading and contains a good deal of historical date. Included within its pages were matrimonial ads, political reporting of the two major parties and the Populist Party, news of alliance meetings, literary society meetings, school news, articles on science, religion and on the conflict between the two, poetry, and much more. Some news, Ormy Goddard states, was exaggerated, such as his father running for county Superintendent of Schools and the running correspondence with Grover Cleveland. Bound copies of the Talent News (henceforth called the News) may be found at the Talent Library or the Library at Southern Oregon College. The News advertised for other printing jobs besides the paper, such as, bill heads, letter heads, mining notices, dance tickets, etc.

On May 1, 1892 the News recorded that George H. Lynch purchased the J. B. Dyer blacksmith shop. Then, on April 15, 1893, it recorded that Ben Dyer had leased the Lynch blacksmith shop. On October 1, 1893, it reported that J. B. Dyer bought the old planing mill building in Talent, turned it around to face the street and will use it as a blacksmith shop and storeroom.

Pictures, that former mayor of Talent Granvil Brittsan has, pinpoint the location of two blacksmith shops, one facing I Street shows a General Store (Wolter's), a Drug, a blacksmith shop, and Whitmore and Cook Hardware. The picture of Wagner Avenue shows Rock Island Plow Company (blacksmith shop), Drug Store and Furniture, a shoe shop, a barber shop, and a hardware. Bert Bell recalls that Foley (Buck) Manning had the blacksmith shop on Wagner Avenue. The drug store and furniture store on Wagner Avenue must have belonged to Charley Brown, since Katie Estes, Ormy Goddard, and Bert Bell all attested to his having a drug store and furniture facing Wagner Avenue. Charley ran the drug part. His father-in-law, Mr. Cooley, the furniture store. The shoe shop was run by John Conway and the barbershop by John Norman, as interviews with Katie Estes and Bert Bell attest. J.J. Tryer had the hardware. [end page 4]

In January 1911, most of the stores on Wagner Avenue burned, the cause being a matter of conjecture whether by electric lighting wires or the result of incendiarism.

Flames were first noticed in the rear of Tryers hardware store by residents of the adjacent Bell Hotel on I Street. They spread quickly, taking the follwing stores. Wolters, including the State Bank of Talent, Tryer's Hardware, J. F. Norman's barber shop, and Conway's shoe store. Brown and Cooley's Talent Drug and Furniture Company sustained partial damage, but the Talent Volunteer Fire Department, which at that time consisted of a bucket brigade, managed to get the flames under control. They did suffer some loss. in stock though.owing to its quick removal to the blacksmith shop next door, quite a lot of it having been taken. The water used to fight the fire was from family wells. C.W. Wolters owned several of the buildings; however, Conway owned his building. Total damage was about $30,000.

The picture of I Street mentioned above must have been after the fire of 1911, since Polk's Jackson County Directory 1914 lists Elmer Cook as the sole proprietor of Talent Hardware Company, whereas the Directory of 1912 list Whitmore and Cook as proprietors. That would date the picture at 1911 or 1912, since Whitmore and Cook is clearly printed on the hardware store. It also list James T. Baker and James. Coleman as blacksmiths.

The Jacksonville Museum picture file has a picture of Talent real estate, restaurant, and barber shop dated about 1885. Luella May Sherman (mother of Ernel E. Stearns) age 23 or 24 is shown in the picture. She ran the restaurant. I have not been able to discover who had the estate and barber shop yet, although Granvil Brittsan believes it may have been A.P. Talent, who had the real estate.

C. K. Klim had a store in Talent also, evidently a general store as Welborn Beeson recalls buying nails at Klum's in April 1890 when local men were fencing the Stearns Cemetery,on Anderson Creek Road. In addition, the News of September 15, 1893, reports that C.K. Klum's store was broken into and a few articles of clothing, a pair of shoes, several pocket knives, etc, were taken. On March 15, 1894, the News reported that C.K. Klim had traded his store and property to R.S. Barclay of Ashland, with Barclay's son Ted managing the store. On May 15, 1894, the News stated that the new post office with [end page 5] S.G. Netherland as postmaster was located between Dyer's blacksmith shop and Barclay and Son's store. Bert Dell confirmed that a Klum did have a grocery and general store where Rick's is now.

Several advertisements in the Talent News state that S. Sherman kept Central Point flour and feed for sale at reasonable rates in Talent. I am uncertain as to the location of his store.

The July 1, 1893, and July 15, 1893, copies of the News mentions a Talent restaurant as a business in Talent and a few neighbors sipping soda at Colesteins, probably a soda fountain. The restaurant was probably Luella Sherman's, as mentioned above.

The Mobil Service station on the corner of Wagner Avenue and I Street purchased by Frank C. Pineau in January, 1975 from F. W. (Luckey) Gilbreath is the oldest station in Talent. Mr. Gilbreath guesses that it was built around 1900. He purchased it in 1945 from a Mr. Bates who had it for at least 20 years before he purchased it. He cannot recall the gas company that supplied it before Mobil began supplied it before Mobil began supplying it 30-35 years ago. He said it had a lion as a symbol.

Steve's was the feed store on Old Pacific Higway across from Main Street, It was owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Stabler in the 1950's. It is now a billiards and pool storeroom. A livery stable was also on Old Pacific Highway across from the present Talent Club.

At one time, there was a candy and ice cream store across from Frank's Molbil garage. Mrs. Mary Withrow had the confectionary once. A Mr. Simmons and, also George Garder had a cafe there at one time according to Katie Estes and Bert Bell. George Gardner also had the post office there. The Talent Cafe was also in the building Lloyd and Delphis Schmelzer purchased the business from a Mr. Hamphill in late 1945 to summer, 1946. Lila Parker and Marie Long purchased the building and ran the Cafe until her death in It took you back in time as all the old furniture and Soda Fountain was still there. Marie.Long was cashier and if you did not finish your dinner ... you were served no dessert.

The present Rick's store on the corner of Wagner Avenue and I Street was built by Charley Wolters in 1911. Rich Allen purchased it from Granvil Brittsan in 1972. Between Wolters and Brittsan a Mr. Tom White had it. He installed the cold storage. Mr. White leased it to Duke and Bartlett for a while before he sold it to [end page 6] to Pellets. (Mrs. Pellets was a Wolters) Then Mr. White acquired it. Mr. Brittsan tore out the old lockers and put in new ones. The locker portion of Rick's was at one time Talent State Bank. Rick Allen showed me the old bank vaults and beam ceiling. Joshua Patterson was President, R.E. Robison, Vice President, and E.B. Adamson, cashier in 1914. Mr. Brittsan remembers Charley Holdridge as being President of the bank once. The Post Office was housed in this building at one time before the new one was built on I Street.Some of the postmasters were Jay Terrill, Lyle Tame, Roger Smoot, Alice Thoreson (mother of Gayle Mullins). Maude Bailey and Ina Beckdahl worked in the post office for a number of years. The storeroom portion of Rick's was at one time an Assembly of God church and then the Evangelical Non-Denominational church, which was moved to the former Baptist church on the corner of Main and I Street. The picture of Wagner Avenue that Mr. Brittsan has (Ormy Goddard also has a print) shows an old pitcher pump, which was the city's water supply in front of Wolters.

Ormy Goddard showed me a clipping from the Ashland Daily Tidings of June 3, 1967 which wrote up the Bagley Canning Company, which Ormy said was along the railroad tracks just before Colver Road. Dr. Bagley came from Minnesota to Oregon in 1910 for health reasons and purchased 60 acres from Stearns on Anderson Creek where he had an orchard and started a small cannery. The cannery grew and by 1912 moved from the ranch to Talent, because of lack of space, onto land where the Talent mill once was. The city of Talent donated the land. In 1913 Bagley's apple juice won a gold medal in San Francisco. Inspectors always rated the cannery products highly. In 1914 A.C. Randall was President, R. H. Parsons, Vice President, of the company. In 1915 Dr. Bagley returned to Duluth his health having been restored, leaving Ralph Koozer in charge. In 1924, the cannery moved to Ashland.

The Ames building was the first brick building in Talent built in 1914 or 1915 by Albert and Lena Ames. It housed an I.O.O.F. (International Order of Odd Fellows) lodge upstairs, two apartments upstaris front and back and six rental rooms and downstairs. Louis Brown's and James Coleman's Talent Mercantile Company, a grocery and general store, and Charlie Brown's Drug and Furniture Store. Dr. John Hart, physician and surgeon also had an office there and the post office with Robert J. Luke as postmaster and Leta Luke as clerk was located in back of Talent Mercantile. The Ames building stood on the [end page 7] corner of John Street and Main Street. It was torn down some time after 1936 as Mrs. Mary Withrow remembers the CCC having its headquarters there.

Katie Estes clerked at Billy Brown's hardware store on the corner of Valley View and Highway 99, which building presently houses Inland Electric. She says Tom Hill built the building about 1.924 or 1925. She believes Mr. Hill sold it to Mr. Brown, who later sold it to J. J. Tryon who changed it to a general mercantile Store. Kathie then worked sixteen years for Tryon.

Katie Estes also remembers a depot being transported about 1900 from Medford on a flatcar. Several people came to see it moved. The depot was located on the corner of Main and Front Street, which is now a vacant lot. There used to be a grocery near the depot also. Katie Estes clerked there for a while when Geingier & Peterson Mercantile could offer her $7.00 a week as compared to the $4.00 she could earn at Wolters.

The town also had a Talent Orchard Company on Colvers Road as Ormy Goddard remembers. Polk's Jackson Co. Directory 1914 listed it as a business so it existed then. Ormy says there used to be a bakery called LaBelle on Wagner Avenue near the blacksmith shop.

Talent also has had several hotels and boarding houses at various times. The Ellis Beeson place (white with green.trim) on the corner of Front and Main Street was built in 1898 by A.P. Talent who owned the entire block. A Mr. & Mrs. Orville Works had a hotel there from about 1906-1910. A Mr. and Mrs. Budgem, also ran it once. Mr. Beeson still rents rooms upstairs.

Mr. Brittsan & Ormy Goddard have pictures of a Valley Hotel on I Street across from where Rick's is now. Ormy remembers it having a dance hall on the top floor, which fairly shook with all the dancers. Ormy also remembers a place called the Talent Hotel west of the railroad tracks on Wagner Avenue, John Hearing was the proprietor.

There also used to be a boarding house run by T. Jefferson called "The Bell". It was located on I Street where the Roy Estes house now stands. Katie Estes remembers grinding coffee for "The Dell."

Polk's Jackson County Directory 1914 lists an Aaron Carpenter as owner of a Talent Realty Company. I have not been able to find where the office was yet.

Skeeters & Skeeters Inc. on the corner of Highway 99 and Valley [end page 8] View has served the Talent Community continuously since 1938. It consists of a logging firm and a companion Phillips service station. It was owned by Charles Skeeters and son, Richard. Skeeters sold the the land where the Tally Ho Club now stands and where the Talent Irrigation District has its office.

Opposite the present Shell Station in the triangle formed by Highway 99 and Old Pacific Highway, there used to be a fruit market made of sticks called the Pumpkin Center. It was burned in the 1960's by the fire department.

At one time there was a two story school house on the Holdridge property. Grades 1-4 were on the 1st floor and 5-8 were upstairs, the stairs were on the outside of the building according to Mae Lowe.

The News Flash was published in 1934 by Harry and Mae Lowe. It was a weekly publication and now it is monthly. They did all their own printing and mimeographing.

On the corner of Main and Talent Avenue where the Standard Station stands was a Chevron station owned by a Mr. Bullen, Joe Spitzer bought it from him and then sold it to Mr. Tweedell and Grady Coldwell. It was operated by Grady. In 1961 Rudy E. Connor purchased the station and it was operated by his son, Ralph (Jiggs) and Leola Connor. They purchased it in 1967. In 1971, they had a new station built and in 1980 it was purchased by Jerry and Beth Stark who had previous bought the Mobil Station.

In a work of this magnitude, errors and omissions may occur.

Jackson County Oregon Library System #000499786, location Talent Branch.

[Photocopy of typescript.]