Talent historian brings past to life in book

As historian Jan Wright compiled hundreds of images for a pictorial history book about Talent, she solved a long-standing mystery: the location of a 1912 fire.

Her picture book, simply called "Talent," is scheduled to be released July 20 and features 209 images chronicling the town's development from the 1860s to the 1950s.

In her research, Wright, director of the Talent Historical Society, discovered the Hanscom Building, now a one-story art gallery and framing shop on the National Register of Historic Places, had a second story before the fire.

"A man brought in pictures of it when it was two stories. It showed the building was on fire at the time," Wright said. "We had come across references (to the fire) but we didn't know what they were talking about. They said the confectionery store caught fire once."

Comparing photos with the present building at 201 Talent Ave., Wright determined that the picture shows the 1906 structure referred to in accounts that lacked a location.

Other historical details emerged or were clarified as Wright pored over photos, many from private collections that have not been seen publicly, for the 128-page volume in celebration of Talent's 100th birthday next year.

"I had wanted to do a book because of the centennial celebration," Wright said. "(Arcadia Publishers) approached me about a different project as they were looking for authors, so I said, 'Well, I'm looking for a publisher.' "

Arcadia has an "Images of America" series that documents small towns and likes to tie in to anniversary events, she said.

At least 10 people brought in albums or photo postcards after Wright put a notice in the historical society's newsletter, talked to people and called those whose names were on the backs of photos copied earlier.

"I think it was the first time that some people have gotten out these photos in at least 50 years," Wright said. "They were pulling albums out of trunks. Some of them didn't know who the people were in the photographs. I was able to help them out with identification."

Photos selected for the book are organized under topic headings that include schools, occupations, housing, the downtown area, recreation, people, landscapes and orchards. Arrangement within sections is chronological.

Picture donor Jerry Kime of Grants Pass learned that his great-grandparents' house was located on Rapp Road just below the railroad tracks. The house is now gone. Kime has digitized more than 15,000 historic Rogue Valley photos, but learned that the publisher needed ones for the book in larger digital sizes.

"Some of them I didn't have in my possession," said Kime. "I needed to reborrow them to scan them."

All photos were scanned even if they weren't going to be published. The originals were returned to their owners. Wright put some of the larger collections onto CDs for families.

"It was nice to have someplace to get these photos copied and recorded and kept for history," said Bud Gleim, who lives on Wagner Creek Road. "People have boxes of photos that stay around for generations and nobody sees them but the family."

Keith Henty of Jefferson Public Radio will interview Wright at 9 a.m. July 9. A book signing is planned Aug. 20 at the Ashland library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

Pre-orders for the book will be accepted through July 15. Cost of the edition is $21.99 and checks can be sent to the Talent Historical Society, P.O. Box 582, Talent, OR 97540. The museum is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays at 105 N. Market St. The organization's Web site is www.talenthistory.org.

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

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