A Town Is Born
The History of Medford, Oregon
Destined to become the region’s largest city and a major economic hub, Medford began in 1883 when the railroad came to Southern Oregon. In the fall of 1883, four property owners deeded part of their land to the Oregon and California Railroad for a depot and surrounding town. Before the year was over the unbroken prairie had been surveyed and a town site platted. Houses and commercial buildings rose as quickly as the short supply of lumber and brick allowed, and by early spring two hotels, a few saloons, a livery stable, and a dozen businesses already dotted the muddy streets of this rapidly growing railroad town. By mid-1884, a business district clustered on Front Street facing the depot and spread down 7th Street, known today as Main. Families settled into their newly built homes, women planted flowers in their gardens, and the fledgling town quickly became a community.
During that first year several babies were born, a fatal shoot-out took place, the first of many churches organized, a schoolhouse was built, and trains began shuttling freight and passengers to Portland. As if to say “we have arrived,” Medford’s citizens brashly hosted a Fourth of July gala for the whole Rogue Valley.
Medford incorporated in 1885. As the small town grew into a city, the board of trustees tackled the challenges of providing water and sewer systems, electric streetlights, and police and fire protection. With its central location and railroad connections to national and world markets, young Medford attracted forward-thinking individuals from other parts of the country. They swiftly joined local entrepreneurs in shaping the city’s future as it eagerly embraced the modern world of the 20th century.
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