Grave Creek Bridge
Thursday June 23, 2005
By Dawna Curler
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
Driving along Interstate 5, north of Grants Pass, Oregon, a white covered bridge, nestled in delightful Sunny Valley catches the eye. The Grave Creek Bridge is tied more to modern Oregon history than to the pioneer past, but the site does have a significant background.
The picturesque bridge dates only to 1920 when the Pacific Highway created a paved autoroute between Mexico and Canada. In 1846 when the first wagon train party passed through the area over what is called the Applegate Trail, a girl died and was buried in the valley, hence the name Grave Creek.
A ranch and wayside inn was established in 1851. The little settlement of Leland (LEE-lund), named for the girl in the grave, bustled with activity as mule packers, then freight wagons, and later stagecoaches stopped for food, rest, and supplies. During the 1855 Indian War, soldiers were quartered within a stockade near the creek. In1880 President Hayes made a stopover.
Over time, the original inn was replaced with larger buildings, but all are gone now.
Today's travelers enjoy exhibits about Applegate Trail pioneers and Leland's history at a rustic looking, two-story interpretive center built near the bridge. There, one might also ponder what events are yet to unfold on this spot in this new century.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Dawna Curler, 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
McLane, Larry. "Along the Applegate Trail: Grave Creek Covered Bridge, Sunny Valley, Oregon," Southren Oregon Heritage Today, March 1999, Vol. 1, No. 3; Kerr, Molly Walker. "Applegate Trail, More Than A Museum," Southern Oregon Heritage Today, September 2000, Vol. 2, No. 9; McLane, Larry. First There Was Twogood: A Pictorial History of Northern Josephine County, Sexton Enterprises, Sunny Valley, OR, 1995.