Abandoned structures were for orchard crews

At Foothill and Vilas roads, there is a cluster of boarded-up and decaying houses and outbuildings, all of the same style and vintage. What's the history there?

— John M., via email

There's history aplenty, John. Pull up a chair.

That property's origins stretch back to the late 19th century, when Isaac Goodman Skeeters first built a two-story, wood-frame house at the site. Skeeters came to Jackson County in 1852 and opened a general store in Jacksonville. He was part of the original party to "discover" Crater Lake while looking for gold in 1853.

The orchard near the house is called the 401 Orchard. It was once a wheat farm, but in 1907, a man named E.B. Pickel would repurpose it and give it the 401 name. He then sold it to the 401 Orchard and Land Company for $110,000 in 1908, according to area historian George Kramer.

In 1909, 125 acres worth of apple and pear trees went in. Those other old buildings you see at the site are long-vacant equipment sheds, a packing house and cabins for orchard workers. There might be a machine shop in there somewhere, too.

Bear Creek Corp. — now Harry & David — purchased the orchard in 1997.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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