Jacksonville’s first school stood on the hill known as Bigham’s Knoll, named after Jacksonville pioneer John Bigham. It opened in 1868, only to burn down twice in the early 1900s.
Any school was a plus for the rowdy mining town of Jacksonville. Students rarely went beyond the eighth grade and teachers were only required to have two years of high school. George Wendt remembered unruly students were punished with a rawhide whip. An old farm pump served as a drinking fountain, and students used schoolground outhouses.
George was in the third grade when the school burned for the first time. He went to a temporary school in town until a new one was built. After the second fire, students were housed in an old church. By the late 1950s, the third schoolhouse on Bigham’s Knoll had fallen into disrepair, so students attended Medford High School and a new elementary school in Jacksonville.
Mel and Brooke Ashland purchased Bigham’s Knoll in 2007. Use of the restored schoolhouse ranges from business meetings to bridal showers. It has a German restaurant, gardens and the original 1890 engine from the Rogue River Valley Railroad.
Sources: “John Bigham of Bigham Knoll.” Jacksonville Heritage Society, 2014, www.jvilleheritage.org/PDFlinks/BKposter.pdf. Accessed 29 Mar. 2017; Smith, Larry, “History of Bigham’s Knoll – Jacksonville’s ‘School House Hill’.” The Jacksonville Heritage Society, Dec. 2005, www.jvilleheritage.org. Accessed 29 Mar. 2017; “Jacksonville’s original steam engine #1 sits on its original tracks.” Jacksonville Oregon, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, www.jacksonvilleoregon.com/articles. Accessed 29 Mar. 2017; Wendt, George. “Recollections of George Wendt.” Memoir, 1970, p.2-5, Southern Oregon Historical Society Research Library. Medford, Oregon. 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.