Dedicated in 1961, the Rogue Valley Manor sits on the top of Barneburg Hill in Medford. - Bill Miller

The 'enviable view' young Mollie knew

Harriet Barneburg whimpered in protest. Her tiny 7-year-old legs were worn out and her arms were aching as sister Mollie yanked her up the hill.

Her mittens were wet and her wool coat was spotted with mud. Worst of all, they weren't supposed to be here, and when they got down, Mother would surely give them a terrible scolding.

"Come on Harriet," said Mollie, "we're almost at the top!"

Mollie was only two years older than her sister, but that was enough. She was always in command.

Her father's hill was her favorite playground. In summer she would lie in the grass, drawing imaginary faces in the clouds. People "looked like tiny mice" from the summit, 300 feet above the valley floor, and Mollie liked to watch them scurry about.

She seldom came in winter, when it was too wet and too cold, but this year she was curious. Something was going on down there.

The girls were panting, their breath puffing clouds of steam into the January air.

"There they are!" said Mollie, pointing at a pack of "mice" and "machinery."

"They're Chinese," she said. "They're building the railroad."

It was a memory of 1884, but even 80 years later, Mollie could still see her misty breath and feel her sister's hand.

"That was Papa's hill," she told a reporter.

Papa was Frederick Barneburg. He owned the hill and nearly 2,000 surrounding acres. He was just a baby when his parents brought him from Bavaria to Iowa and only 17 when he and his brother joined a wagon train headed for Oregon in 1853. Before he could settle on a claim and do much prospecting, his father died, leaving his mother deep in debt.

Fred returned home to Iowa, where it took six years to pay off his father's creditors. He returned to the Rogue Valley in 1860.

Even before he died in 1907, Barneburg had begun to sell parts of his property. In 1890 the Medford Odd Fellows lodge bought 20 acres for the Eastwood Cemetery.

By 1960, most of his land had been sold, and his old house was a radio station — "The KBOY Radio Ranch."

Up on Mollie's hill, where hawks had drifted over silent oak trees for centuries, there was a racket heard all over the valley. The 10-story, steel-framed Rogue Valley Manor began to rise.

Featured speakers at the formal dedication, Nov. 4, 1961, included nationally known columnist and radio personality Paul Harvey and Gov. Mark Hatfield.

Melvin Hogan, president of the Manor's board of trustees, proudly said 350 people from 25 states now had a new home, each with "an enviable view of the fields, orchards and communities of the beautiful Rogue River Valley."

Sitting in the back of the crowd, 87-year-old Mollie Barneburg Keene smiled.

"Enviable view indeed," she thought.

Three generations of Barneburgs had climbed this hill and seen this Valley grow. She guessed it probably was time to share the view.

"Come on Harriet," she said, "we're almost at the top!"

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

Share This Story