The Hood River County Sun, Hood River, OR., August 18, 1937, page
"Pioneers of the Hood River Valley "
When the gallant Captain Francis M. Jackson arrived in
the Hood River Valley with his wife and two children in the winter of the
'71, he came to a life far removed from the one with which he was familiar.
His father had been a professor of mathematics of Monticello Academy in Kentucky.
Young Jackson left the cloistered life of his home at an early age and traveled
to California by ox team to mine gold.
Upon his father's death, he returned east, but was about to set out for California when the Civil War broke out. In June of 1861 the enlisted as a private in the Tennessee Cavalry. When the war ended he had achieved the rank of captain, and held an acting colonelcy. Jackson had served in the battles of the Vicksburg, Fisher Creek, Black River, and many others, and spent 18 months in the Union prison on Johnson's Island, near Sandusky, Ohio.
In 1859 he had married Miss Elizameth L. Thurman, the daughter a distinguished Morristown, Tenn., family who was related to Captain Meriwether Lewis. Returning from the war, Jackson found the Reconstructed South too changed from its old ways, and as soon as he had paid his debts, including some owed for slaves he had bought, he brought his family out to Oregon, of traveling by train to San Francisco, and by boat to Portland and The Dalles.
After a few months at The Dalles, Jackson took out a homestead about six miles south of Hood River, and east of what is Odell today, and set out to become a farmer. Jackson did what is called truck farming today, growing vegetables of every variety, and shipping them fresh to The Dalles.
John Bascom Jackson does not remember his arrival here, for he was less than a year old, having been born June 26, 1870. In fact, there is only one person living in the Valley today who was here to greet him. That was an eight-year-old boy named Milt Odell. The Jackson's only neighbors at first were the families of D.A. Turner, Pete "Grandpa" Neal, Harrison Corum, and William Odell.
John's youth was spent in typical farm boy fashion. He plowed fields, hoed the corn, and milked the cows. Some winters he went to school, but for most of them, he didn't. For entertainment there were picnics, dances, hunting, fishing, hunting, fishing, and baseball.
Fishing, for example. It was nothing at all to pull 75 big speckled trout out of Neal Creek in a single evening. As for hunting, a frequent sight was that of 12 of 15 deer foraging on your own land.
The single form of athletic sport played in the valley in those days was baseball. There were two teams, the "regulars," composed of the older boys, and a second team of younger fellows. The stars of the regulars were the Odell bothers - Jim -- catcher; Pete, pitcher; and Milt, first baseman. Being younger, John Jackson played with the less experienced boys, but team often won.
The games were played on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. During Pine Grove Church services, nearly a score of boys would swarm impatiently on their seats until the last notes of the concluding hymn had died away, then dash out the doors and across the road to the ball diamond. Incidentally, the boys had little interest in who won of the game -- they played simply for the fun of playing.
The first church was built at Pine Grove 45 years ago, and it is still standing. But years before that, the first schoolhouse had been used for services. The best known preachers in those days were Troy Shelley and Frank Spaulding. The beloved Reverend Spaulding is living in Hood River today.
The first outside job John Jackson ever had was working as a farm hand on a nearby ranch. For 12 hours of work a day, he was given his dinners and $3.50 a week, a sum that seemed princely then. Later he worked on the roads, receiving $1.25 for each 10-hour day.
Years of Jackson's young manhood were spent as a cow boy on the Central Oregon cattle ranges. The free outdoor free outdoor life, the companionship of "jolly, good-natured men," had a strong appeal for him. For periods running up to 11 months in length, he would never have a roof over his head.
There was melodrama in those days, action aplenty caused by cattle rustling, land disputes, and pure ornreyness. In Harney City, he was standing one day beside Billy McKinney, brother of the Harney County Sheriff, when of stranger walked up and fired three shots into McKinney's body point blank. J.B. caught him as he felt. The murderer was sought by several posses, and although he was never officially "found," Jackson doesn't doubt but that one of the posses caught up with him.
Another time he was standing beside Pete French, a popular and well-to-do land owner, when French was shot four times in the back by a hostile "nester" named Oliver.
Between the years 1893 and 1899, Jackson operated a large farm in Sherman County for another party.
On August 16, 1905, he was married at The Dalles to Miss May Perry. Miss Perry had been born in Kansas 18 years before, and brought here by parents in 1902. Her father had had been a stock raiser in the Middle West, but became a fruit grower here. For the first two years of their married life, the young couple lived with the elder Jacksons.
J.B. had acquired a homestead in 1898, which was located on Fir Road in the hills a mile east of his father's place. It cost him $45, the amount spent in improvement by its former owner, Warren Wells. The government demanded that the homesteader set foot on his land at least once every six months. Jackson was earning his living by riding range in Central Oregon at that time, but he managed to overcome that obstacle by making a special trip twice a year. He would usually spend a single night on the land, then hurry back by train the next morning.
In 1907, the Jacksons moved onto the homestead. A small house was built there in 1910, was later enlarged, and they are living in it today. All told, they own 350 acres, which contain a thousand apple and cherry trees, and a stock ranch with about 25 head of cattle.
Between the years 1908 and 1919, Jackson served as Road Supervisor for the 25 miles of road in his district, doing that work in addition to taking care of his properties. Although under the rules of his appointment, he was not required to do more than direct operation, J.B. always pitched in and worked with the rest.
Jackson's mother passed away in 1886, and Captain Jackson died in 1914. Both are buried in the family cemetery on the old homestead. Mrs. Jackson's mother is living today in Hood River.
J.B. had four brothers and two sisters, of which three brothers are still living. William, an older brother, is employed in the land office at The Dalles. Of the younger ones, David is supervisor of a Portland public park, and Francis is a fruit ranch in the Valley. Francis is also a Methodist minister, and still preaches occasionally at Pine Grove and Odell. One of the sisters was well known in the Valley until her death 17 years ago -- Mrs. John H. Gerdes.
Mr. and Mr. Jackson have three daughters, Mrs. Keith Lage (Edna) of Pine Grove, Mrs. Vernon Bushnell (Frances) of Corvallis, and Bernice Jackson. The last-named teaches school near La Grande, but is spending the summer with her parents.
Of the Valley resident in the early days, Jackson says: "The pioneers always got along fine. It was like one big family, and we'd have gladly fought for one another. I don't believe that the single one of we old-timers would say a mean word about another. We may have disagreed on a few things, but that was at the extent of it."
J.B. should know. With one exception, he has resided within the boundaries of Hood River County longer than any other living person.
© Jeffrey L. Elmer