By Paul Fattig
As a veteran land surveyor, Roger Roberts can normally find his way with any map.
But the Central Point resident freely admits to becoming lost in his maze of old maps.
“I don’t know what I have yet because I have more than 3,000 maps and I’m still working my way through them,” says Roberts, 68, a local surveyor for about four decades, including 14 years as the Jackson County surveyor.
“But when I pick up one of these maps, I get interested in it and don’t make any progress with the rest of them.”
The lion’s share of Roberts’ collection came from the Boyden family, whose patriarch, C.Z. Boyden, began surveying in Jackson County in 1923.
Dating back to the late 1800s, with most from 1900 to 1925, the maps depict everything that could be mapped in the early days — diversion dams, farms, irrigation ditches, orchards, property boundaries, mines, railroads, ranches, roads and town plats.
There are 250 of his maps on the walls and another 350 on the tables in the former Rogue Valley Genealogical Society building at 95 Houston Road, Phoenix. An open house will be held there from 5 to 8 p.m. today and from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
That doesn’t include the 2,500 more he estimates are stored in map drawers. Society member and former surveyor Chuck Eccleston helped Roberts sort the maps to put them into categories for display.
“I want the information to go to the right people,” Roberts says, adding he wants to make sure the old maps with their treasure of historic information are preserved for posterity.
“My ultimate goal is to get everything scanned so I would just have the digital file,” he adds. “I’d like to give the originals to the Southern Oregon Historical Society or someone like that. But it will take years to scan everything.”
Many of the Medford area maps were created by C.S. Howard, a surveyor and one of the first mayors of Medford, Roberts says as he takes a tour of the maps on display.
“This map shows (surveyor) J.S. Howard’s notes on the very first highway built over the Siskiyous,” he says of a map that is more than a century old. “Howard has some handwritten calculations and notations on the best route.”
One 1874 map shows the survey of the wagon road from Emigrant Lake east into Klamath County and beyond.
Another 1894 map depicts the Enoch Walker farm on the Medford plat in what is now the Table Rock Road area.
“And this map shows the design of the first county fairgrounds over on the south end of town where Walmart is now,” he says.
There are many local maps displaying property ownership back in the day.
“This one on Butte Creek upstream from Eagle Point shows land owned by C.C. Beekman, J.S. Howard — Peter Britt is here somewhere,” he observes of the early-day movers and shakers of Jackson County.
One map, marked “RESTRICTED,” is of the Army’s Camp White during World War II.
“I like this one because it shows the different units stationed there,” he says. “You have the 381st Infantry Regiment, the 383rd Infantry Regiment, the 382nd Infantry Regiment and so forth.”
There is even one map of a town that never existed.
“This is a town that never developed out in the Eagle Point area,” he says of a 1910 map of Mountainview.
“It was to be on both sides of the Pacific & Eastern Railroad that ran up to Butte Falls,” he adds. “It was designed but never developed.”
There are maps of several ghost towns, including Buncom in the Little Applegate drainage and Waldo in neighboring Josephine County.
“This little map of Buncom doesn’t show much detail but it is unique in showing where the post office was,” he notes. “But the date is unknown.”
The ancient map of Waldo has more detail.
“I have no idea of the date but it refers to a lot of the mines and refers to trails to the mines,” he says. “And you can see the wagon road between Waldo and Kerby. It also shows a proposed railroad to run through Waldo.”
He has a 1909 map depicting the Sterling Mine, all 6.6 miles of it from Buncom to the mine’s northern end.
There also is a 1904 map of most mines in Southern Oregon, including one called “Mind in the Mist Mine.”
“I have a lot of mining maps that show details,” he says. “This one for the Sunnyside Mine shows the miner’s residence, a bunkhouse, another bunkhouse and so on.
“That mine was three miles northeast of Phoenix,” he adds. “I’m thinking it was one of the coal mines.”
But some mines, such as the “None Such Mine,” reveals little information as to its location.
“I have no clue where that was,” he says.
One 1910 map is of the “Kelly Island Club” parcel on the Rogue River.
“It shows the property owned by the club,” he says. “Evidently it was an island near what is now Dodge Bridge near Eagle Point. It was a popular area for fishermen.”
An orchard map drawn in 1923 depicts the Hillcrest Orchard in such detail it shows a cypress tree standing on the property. Other orchard maps more than a century old show each fruit tree on the land.
And don’t forget to check out the map of the 1936 boat race course on Emigrant Lake.
As Roberts surveys the vast amount of old maps, he concedes another open house may be in order.
“I might have to have another open house or two late in May,” he says.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.