Jacksonville sesquicentennial

JACKSONVILLE — Reconstruction of historic arches across California Street and reacquisition of a fire engine and cannon are on a long list of items needed for celebration of the town's 150th birthday next year.

Jacksonville was incorporated Oct. 19, 1860.

"The arches look like they were kind of made out of wrought iron," said City Councilman John Dodero. "One of our biggest problems is that we hang banners in town. It just looks so hokey. We were thinking of something to hang banners from that would look a lot more attractive."

Dodero has photos of arches located at Oregon and Third streets during the later part of the 19th century. The arches bore the words "Charity" and "Friendship," and were displayed in what appears to have been a temporary arrangement. City Council Tuesday asked Dodero to come back with more information.

Council members heard from City Administrator Paul Wyntergreen about sesquicentennial plans that also include securing artifacts, restoration of the Britt Gardens and creation of a bike path and walking trail on the old railroad right of way from Jacksonville to Medford. There's also a series of events that begin this year in honor of Oregon's 150th anniversary of statehood. Civic clubs will coordinate many of the efforts.

"Things are coming together. It's been sort of a brain-storming list up to now," said Wyntergreen. "We're whittling it down to what we can really do."

The cannon is in the Oregon Military Museum in Clackamas, said Medford City Councilman Ben Truwe, a history buff who has tried to get it returned to Jacksonville.

The cannon was one of four sent to Oregon by the federal government in 1861. The governor sent one of the cannons to Jacksonville, where it was used only for ceremonial purposes.

"It's a model 1841 six-pounder, the exact same type used in the Mexican War," said Truwe. "It could be disassembled and carried on the backs of three mules."

Fourth of July firings were a regular part of the cannon's service. According to legend, the cannon was stolen early one morning and fired on California Street, breaking a number of storefront windows. It sat at the courthouse until 1894, when it was assigned to an Ashland militia.

Photos show it located near the Ashland Chautauqua building in 1909 and by the historic armory in the 1930s. Hauled to Portland for a World War II scrap drive, it was diverted and later resurfaced in the 1950s, with the Oregon Historical Society claiming ownership.

"The museum in Clackamas has two on carriages, one is beat up," said Truwe. "The other one, the details correspond with details of the Jacksonville cannon. It's pristine."

A couple of years ago the curator of the museum said she would turn over the cannon, said Truwe, with the requirement that it be housed in a climate-controlled facility. Ownership issues with the historical society also would need to be clarified.

Relocation of the 1925 Stutz Hall fire engine would require a similar facility. The engine originally belonged to Medford, but was obtained by Jacksonville around 1960 and used for several years.

Restored in the early 1980s, the engine was displayed inside the Southern Oregon Historical Society museum until administration space needs displaced it in 2005. It is currently stored at the historical society's collection warehouse.

"It is in beautiful condition," said Brian Steller, president of Jacksonville Engine Company No. 1, a nonprofit organization that assists the town's fire department. "(We) and the historical society are working together right now to bring it back to Jacksonville," he said.

Plans for a new display building near the museum are being drawn up. The society and the company are devising fundraising plans, said Steller.

"We'd like to ensure that the thing is running again and in full operational order. There's a few parts that need to be reinstalled on it," said Steller. "We plan to have it back for the anniversary."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.

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