Ashland's rich past on display

Ashland history may go back 150 years, but the thread of life in the place where this city now thrives dates back thousands of years.

Shasta, Athapaskan and Penutian-speaking American Indians lived in the Rogue Valley long before white settlers arrived, said Southern Oregon University Professor Mark Tveskov, the director of the campus Laboratory of Anthropology.

A Shasta village stood on what is now the downtown Plaza. When workers began digging for the construction of the Community Development and Engineering Services Building on Winburn Way, they unearthed a variety of American Indian artifacts, Tveskov said.

"There were hearths from fireplaces, arrowheads, debris from making stone tools and acorns they were eating," he said.

Many of those items will be on display Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Community Development building lobby as Ashland celebrates "Historic Preservation Week."

Various events run from this Sunday through Saturday, May 19.

Early settlers had varying attitudes toward the American Indians who were already here. Some advocated extermination, while others &

including a Quaker in Talent, John Beeson ""&

argued they should be converted to Christianity, Tveskov said.

"No one questioned that they were trespassing on Indian land," he said.

Ultimately, most of the Rogue Valley's American Indians were forced up to northern Oregon on five "Trails of Tears" 151 years ago. A wooden sculpture by Talent resident Russell Beebe, dedicated to the first residents of the Rogue Valley, was erected at the intersection of East Main Street and Lithia Way in 2006.

Artifacts from settlers and later Ashland residents will also be on display in the Community Development building.

After the 1997 New Year's Day Flood, the City of Ashland and Ashland Parks and Recreation Department rebuilt the Calle Guanajuato, a pedestrian walkway behind the Plaza. A new amphitheater across Ashland Creek from the walkway was also built.

That work revealed bottles, ceramics and other items in trash pits that had been used by Granite Street residents, Tveskov said.

The display of artifacts is just one of a host of opportunities to learn more about the history of the area.

Ashland Historic Commission members, city officials and others have arranged a variety of events, including a downtown walking tour and an Ashland Historic Preservation Awards ceremony.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or

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