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George Dunn Essay

Ref: Southern Oregon News Review
Sept. 14, 1950
From Dunn Family History
Courtesy - George Dunn

    In early Oregon pioneer life there were many things which were hard and unpleasant, but mother and we girls took our places side by side with husband, father, and brothers and fought the good fight in making a home there in the wilderness.  Cicero and La Grande went out to Yreka to work in the mines and that left the rest of us plenty to do.  Father had an immense garden that year, and we milked forty cows and made butter & cheese which we sold to packers going over to the mines.  Butter brought us $1.00 a pound and cheese 75 cents.

    Our staple foods - coffee, sugar, flour and bacon, were shipped from S. America to Crescent City, then inland by pack train.  Flour cost from forty to sixty cents a lb.  At Jacksonville we once witnessed a memorable transaction wherein fifty-two gold nuggets were weighed on one side of the scale and salt in the other.

    When we arrived, there were few men located in the upper valley.  Fred Alberding, Thomas Smith, and Patrick Dunn, had taken donation claims on what are now known as the Houch Homes and Dunn Places.  Mr. Gibbs, James Russell and H.F. Barron, had located at what is now the Barron ranch.  The later was called the Mountain House, because it was at the Siskiyour Mountains where the road starts up the steep grade.  Dick Evan's place joins fathers on the north, or what is known as the Kincaid places.

    Just after crossing the Rogue River we came to the T-Vaultes cabin.  Merrimans next, next came Dr. Coffenes, Emerys and Hargadines were all in Ashland.  The fall of '53 quite an immigration came in, the Myers, Walkers, Wells, Myron Stearns took up a claim near the Lithia Springs, John Murphy had a claim nearby.

    Mother and we three girls were the only women in the upper part of the valley and were asked to help with the sewing for the mountain house.  We made bed ticks, sheets and pillow slips, and then we were asked to keep them in condition.  The "Boys" as we called them, had one white shirt among them, and it was in the wash often.  Our first summer was a busy one, as there were many demands upon our time and strength aside from the really hard work we were doing.  Mother was a nurse and counselor for all who needed care and sympathy.  As the valley began to fill up with other homeseekers she was called on to help welcome the little strangers in there new homes, or to close the eyes of loved ones gone still farther west.

    Yet there were jolly times mingled with the more somber duties.  Our few neighbors, all men, did not neglect their social duties and on many Sunday mornings, we would awake to find the fence in front of the cabin lined with those who had come, some of them many miles, to see "the Hill Girls," as we were called.  Father would invite them all in, and we would spend the day cooking a substantial meal for them.  Many of the men were miners who had been away from civilization a long time.  The site of the little home with "women folks" appealed to them mightily.

    One day Mr. Gibbs brought some potatoes and three eggs from the Mountain House and said, "Mary make me a little cake, I'm going to eat with you today."  We made the cake,mother made the biscuits and we had a wonderful meal.  The potatoes were about the size of hens eggs, but they were potatoes, -- the first we had since leaving Salem.

    Another time Mr. Gibbs brought us a cat that had come from Crescent City with the pack train of Mr. Russell.  That cat was the first one in Southern Oregon.  A little later, Mr. Russell brought some chickens to mother, and she was most happy to get them.

    Some young men who ran a pack train to Yreka invited us girls to attend the fourth of July celebration that year.

    Our Aunt Kelly who lived there wrote that this would be such a crowd of miners at that time that we had better wait a few days.  A little later the men came with horses for us to ride and we started on our pleasure trip of forty miles.

    We rode Spanish sidesaddle covered with rawhide.  There was only a trail over the Siskiyous, and in some places it was so steep that we had trouble sticking on our horses.  We reached Yreka just as the sun was setting.  The streets were filled with miners who were anxious to see some girls.  I believe that Lou, Has and I were the first girls to cross the Siskiyous.  Aunt Kelly invited some friends in to spend the evening with us.  Some of them were fine musicians and entertained us delightfully.  One man, a jewler, made all kinds of jewlry out of pure gold taken from the mines at Yreka.  He asked Aunt for permission to give us something he had made.  He gave Lou a gold ring and Has and me a set of earrings.  He brought these over to Aunt's and put them in for us.  I have worn mine since and have never had them out.  While we were there we visited the Print shop the day after the 1st paper was printed in Yreka.  I remember I got some printers ink on my dress.  It was pretty taffeta, made with lots of ruffles on the skirt.

Last updated by William P. Russell onSaturday, 25-Jun-2005 16:18:14 MDT