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The old, the new, the restored

Building restoration, newly discovered artifacts and new infrastructure have all come to Hanley Farm, Southern Oregon Historical Society’s site for preserving local farming heritage, in recent months.

Much-needed repair and maintenance work was done on three buildings over the winter, a new irrigation pump was installed by the farm operator, electrical services were put underground, and relics from both Native American and pioneer occupations were uncovered during the work.

“What it means is that the historic farmstead is going to be in good shape for a number of years to come,” said Tam Moore, SOHS farm project coordinator.

The cupolas on top of the large barn were restored with wood that came from an old barn that was donated for the project. The old barn at the farm — a smaller structure — had roofing problems that were addressed, said Moore. The wooden water tower got a new coat of white paint.

“Because a lot of it was winter work, it was tough on HamCon, the general contractor,” said Moore. “They were working on the 20th century barn when we had freezing weather and they were even up on the barn roof at the cupolas in pretty nasty conditions.”

A new irrigation pump was installed by the Family Nurturing Center’s Farm and Food Program, which leases land from SOHS to run sheep and grow vegetables.

“We will be able to water more total acreage and spend a lot less time to get it working at a basic level,” said Isaiah Webb, who oversees farm operations for the family program. The old pump would lose its prime regularly and require 15 minutes of attention, he said. Now irrigation should come at the flip of switch.

The organization leases about 23 acres of pasture land from the society. With more water available, pasture that hasn’t been used will be restored, said Webb. Much of the pasture is covered in wild oats, which is not an ideal crop for grazing, he said.

Extra water will also allow Food and Farm to add a half-acre of new garden area to the acre it is already working. On Tuesday, Webb was on a tractor preparing the soil in the new garden site.

“The electrical distribution system was all overhead and had kind of grown like topsy. It’s all underground now,” said Moore. Falling tree branches posed a safety hazard with the overhead line, he said. A new electrical control panel was put in for the pump setup.

Archaeologist Jeff LaLande was present when underground trenching work was undertaken for the electrical service. Historical preservation laws require monitoring of such sites. The area was used by Native Americans, likely Takelmas, for base camps or seasonal habitation along Jackson Creek.

Dirt removed from creation of two-foot-deep trenches for electrical conduit, primarily along the main road into the farm, was screened, said LaLande.

“We found a well-used hammer stone from Native Americans using it to knock off big chunks of jasper and agate to turn into arrow points and knives,” said LaLande. “I love hammer stones because those tended to be long-used tools of a particular individual.”

A Native American pestle that was uncovered would have been used to crack acorns and grind them. Flakes from arrow points and knife-making were also found.

A “very crudely made” bottle top might date from the earliest settlers in the 1850s, a Mr. Clinton and a Mr. Welton, said LaLande. They sold the farm to Michael Hanley in 1857.

Two pieces of Chinese brown glassware discovered were probably from a food container, said LaLande. Food from China was shipped to the West Coast in brown pottery during the 19th century, and a Chinese cook employed by the Hanleys might have used it in his diet. Fragments of British and American dishware were also found, along with both square and round nails.

A $40,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation and donations from a concert held at the farm provided the bulk of the renovation budget. The society used its own reserves to pay for most of the $51,000 in electrical work.

A campaign is underway to obtain $48,000 for other restoration work at the farm. That will include renovation of a glass greenhouse that was reassembled in 1945, said Moore. A potting shed created in the 1940s from salvage lumber when work was done on the water tower would also receive attention, along with a chicken coup. So far $5,000 in grants has been received.

Located at 1053 Hanley Road, the farm was willed to SOHS by Mary Hanley in 1982. A schedule of farm events can be found at www.sohs.org/event-list.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gamil.com.

Hanley farmhouse