Help save our history

In 1948, the citizens of Jackson County made a bold decision: They passed a permanent tax levy to fund the preservation of our history. They knew that without active historical societies, the artifacts and buildings of our past would disappear and be forgotten.

As a result of that tax levy, first the Southern Oregon Historical Society and later 13 other local historical societies and organizations have preserved the original Jackson County Courthouse and jail, the Beekman House, Hanley Farm and other small houses in the valley. These groups have rebuilt railroad engines and cars, transcribed the diaries of early Talent resident Welborn Beeson and archived thousands of photographs, clothes, farm implements and everyday household objects that tell the stories of how we lived from the time Native Americans camped along Jackson Creek to the recent flooding of Ashland Creek.

These artifacts have helped create a sense of community and a connection with the past, necessities for a thriving community. A preservation of our history has greatly enhanced the quality of life in Jackson County, making it a great place to live and to retire. History has created jobs and brought economic benefits.

But now, we have a big problem. The 2007 loss of public funding for history threatens more than 60 years of historic preservation. Yet the need to preserve history, to create jobs and to stimulate the economy is still urgent.

Those of us who are members of the local historical societies and organizations are working hard to form a countywide Rogue Valley Heritage District in an effort to keep history alive in Jackson County. We need the support of the citizens of Jackson County.

We have just one week left before the May 5 deadline to collect 20,000 signatures to put a measure on the November ballot. We want you to join us in signing a petition, learning more about the district, having a guest speaker or offering your support.

Visit one of the many museums in our county to see what great work we've been doing. While you're there, sign a petition.

You can find a list of local museums on the society's Web site, For phone numbers of the sites operated by the 15 members of the Jackson County History Museum Association, click the link to JCHMA.

The museums also have a speakers bureau with a number of presentations available on the theme of Our Heritage Matters. Schedule one for your group.

You can also find volunteers at information tables at Barnes and Noble each day from noon to 4 p.m. and at the Master Gardener's Fair today and Sunday. If you want more information or wish to schedule a speaker, phone 773-3606 or e-mail us at

Judi Drais is a retired middle school teacher active in the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

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