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DailyTidings.com
  • 'BREAD BASKET'

    Ashland's roots found in wheat, flour, loaves that helped it prosper
  • A sweep of grocery shelves showcases the breadth of Ashland's bread makers.
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    • Ashland's living room: The Plaza
      About this series
      Clues to Ashland's past as a pioneer settlement, mill town, railroad town and arts city are visible in its buildings. Almost 50 of its structures are listed on the National Par...
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      Ashland's living room: The Plaza
      About this series

      Clues to Ashland's past as a pioneer settlement, mill town, railroad town and arts city are visible in its buildings. Almost 50 of its structures are listed on the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places. See a list at www.nps.gov/nr/travel/ashland/sitelist.htm.

      To launch this historic tour of Ashland, the Daily Tidings will spotlight buildings around the downtown Plaza, a turn-around where the city began. If you would like to suggest a building to be the focus of the next segment, please email jeastman@dailytidings.com.

      Photos for this story came from Terry Skibby's collection. Digital files of historic Ashland photos are available from Skibby for $15 each. To reach him, send an email to terryskibby321@msn.com.
  • A sweep of grocery shelves showcases the breadth of Ashland's bread makers.
    There are crusty sourdoughs from Sunstone Artisan Bakery and La Baguette, and fruit-filled loaves from Village Baker and Apple Cellar Bakery.
    Other bakers work behind the scenes, filling orders for crunchy rolls, breadsticks and ciabatta to be served at local restaurants.
    Each slice contains a mix of flour, water and Ashland history.
    In 1852, before Ashland had a name, gold miners on foot, land seekers on horseback, and pioneering families in wagons came over the mountains and either passed through or stayed.
    The first permanent enterprise here was a water-power sawmill on the banks of Ashland Creek. Its lumber made it possible for cabins, barns and bridges to be built from here to Jacksonville, then called Table Rock City.
    The same early settlers who erected the lumber mill decided a flour mill would also supply a much-needed staple and future prosperity.
    Hauling bags of flour over the Siskiyou Mountains was time consuming and expensive.
    A pound of flour cost $1.25 in 1852, according to Kay Atwood's book, "Mill Creek Journal: Ashland, Oregon 1850-1860."
    In 1854, a grist mill in "Ashland Mills," supposedly named after founding father Abel Helman's hometown of Ashland, Ohio, was constructed on land that is now the entrance to Lithia Park. A new dam upstream from the mill and a millpond guaranteed a steady supply of water.
    Helman and his partners used their nearby sawmill to supply the support beams, plank siding for the floors and walls, and split shakes for the sloping roof of the three-story barn-style building.
    The owners were in a hurry to open the mill ahead of the next season's wheat harvest and before two other flour mills were completed less than eight miles away.
    The Ashland businessmen countered some of the competition's punch by working out a deal with successful wheat farmers, the Anderson brothers, to trade wheat for a quarter interest in the flour mill.
    The mill thrived, the price of flour dropped to 15 cents a pound, and Southern Oregon's first manufacturing facility was established.
    To make the mill even more essential, the owners arranged to have the mail distributed from the building. It took six months to get a letter or package from the East to the Ashland Mills post office in 1855. In 1871, the city's name was shortened.
    Over time, Ashland's commercial district developed in front of the flour mill, filling in the area that even then was called the Plaza.
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