Wednesday August 10, 2005
By Alice Mullaly
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
America's second-worst depression began early in 1893. Unemployment went from 3% to 11% in months. The Northwest was particularly hard hit and thousands of men, laid off from mines, mills, and farms, took to the rails in hopes of finding work somewhere else.
On the evening of October 8, 1893, the southbound freight brought 125 unemployed men to Ashland, Oregon. The town was ready. The city marshal sought donations and soon had enough meat, vegetables, and bread to feed them all. The men lighted fires in the rail yards and cooked their stew in coal oil cans.
Unfortunately, some of the men were talked into breaking into Chinese homes and stealing from them. The instigators were apparently locals trying to eliminate business competition. But the authorities stopped the toughs after the first house was robbed. Five vagrants were arrested, though the money and pistols that had been stolen were not recovered. They were released in time to join the others continuing south on the 4:00 a.m. freight.
A few dishonest men made people more suspicious of all hoboes and less willing to help. But the mass of the unemployed kept moving in search of work.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Alice Mullaly, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org