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
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
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
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
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
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
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.