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PO Box 1360
110 E Main Street
Ashland, OR 97520
Phone: (541) 482-3486
Fax: (541) 482-2350
Contact: Dana Welsh
Hours: Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm
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Ashland Oregon Chamber of Commerce / Your Life / RELOCATION INFORMATION / ASHLAND HISTORY

Ashland History

It is clear that the land we call home has long, varied and fascinating roots. Much of what we know is not written — it is lore passed on by people who have passed on beliefs, traditions and a value system, through storytelling and legends. Much of their message resonates today. Estimates based on carbon dating show that various tribes lived in our region as far back as 6,000 BC. The early Southwestern Oregon Native Americans were highly mobile hunters and traders. Many of their food resources, such as salmon, acorns, seeds, and berries were seasonal. Other species, such as shellfish, elk, deer and smaller ground animals, were available year-round. The original Native American hunting and trading trails became the fur trading routes of early trappers and explorers, and later the wagon train routes that would lead eventually to our current system of roads, such as I-5 freeway. In the pioneer settlement of the area, as in much of the nation, there were intense conflicts and battles with the Native Americans. Many members of the tribes that existed in the Rogue Valley were taken to reservations to live. Even though many who came to Southern Oregon and specifically Ashland to strike it rich on gold (in the 1850’s) found out that it wasn’t as easy as it sounded to find it here. Two of those men, Abel Helman and Eber Emery, both from Ashland County Ohio, had tried their hands unsuccessfully. Helman, having crossed the Siskiyou Mountains remembered a creek that ran strong, sheltered by the mountains, in what looked to be a fertile valley. Upon his recommendation the two men decided to stake claims in that place. They decided that supplying miners would be far more lucrative than actually mining itself. They built a lumber mill first. They did so well that they started a flour mill in 1854. Thus the town of Ashland Mills was born. The fledgling settlement gained some stability in 1855 when Helman donated twelve building sites around the mill to create a central business district. Wooden structures sprung up including a blacksmith, meat market, cabinet shop and livery. This gathering place soon became known as the Plaza. It is still called that today. The Plaza has always been an intersection and arena for civic activities and social gatherings. It was also a sought after meeting place for Ashland seniors, who gathered daily to soak the sun, swap stories and sip the town’s healing elixir, Lithia Water. Prior to the immigration of settlers, Native Americans used the mineral waters surrounding Ashland in the care of the sick and the aged. At one time, in the 1930’s, there was hope that Ashland would become a renowned and profitable spa similar to those found in Europe. When the pipeline maintenance costs became prohibitive and with the advent of World War II, interest and enthusiasm waned.

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PO Box 1360 - 110 East Main Street - Ashland, OR 97520 - Phone: (541) 482-3486 - Fax: (541) 482-2350