After Elijah Davidson’s dog chased a bear into a cave in Josephine County in 1874, its labyrinth of marble caverns soon became known as the Oregon Caves, a commercial attraction that became a national monument in 1909. Soon a town arose at a highway junction to accommodate visitors to the caves.
In 1925, the Oregon State Highway Commission committed to finishing the Redwood Highway from Grants Pass to the Southern Oregon and Northern California coast. A year later, Elwood Hussey bought an 80-acre parcel that he reckoned would be at the crossroads with Route 46 that leads to the caves. He built cabins and called the place "Caves City." However, state officials disallowed the word "city" because it implied that the small town was incorporated, which didn’t happen until 1948. Elwood later donated the land that would become today’s Cave Junction.
Lumber production dramatically fell in the 1980s, leaving only tourism to support the town. Retirement housing and wineries have taken up the slack, maintaining the crossroads as the prime locale Hussey envisioned.
Source: Decker, Edith. Internet: “Cave Junction, Oregon History,” at http://www.webtrail.com/history/cavejunction.shtml; and at http://www.cavejunction.com/cavejunction/history.shtml.
— As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.