The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


A Great Bargain.
157 ACRES OF LAND, 75 acres of it good grain land, 8 tons timothy hay, 25 acres of good grain, 12 head of cattle, 65 head of sheep, 20 head of hogs, all for 15 Hundred Dollars. Liberal terms. Call soon or miss a bargain. Situated at the mouth of Camp Creek, 9 miles east of Springfield, Lane County, Oregon.
Eugene City Guard, December 29, 1877, page 4

    In the case of the United States vs. Geo. R. Hammersley, charged with cutting timber on government lands, the jury in the U.S. circuit court yesterday returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff for $1,509.90. The defendant acknowledged having taken timber worth that amount and the jury found accordingly. Owing to the scarcity of lumber in the section of Lake County where these depredations were committed and the poor quality of the timber the jury seemed inclined to deal leniently with the depredators. In the case of O. L. Stanley and Joseph R. Hammersley, against whom the jury decided in favor of the government for $3500 each, on the same charge, judgments for the respective amounts with costs were entered by the court.
"Judges, Juries and Attorneys," Morning Oregonian, Portland, October 24, 1889, page 26

    The Hammersley mine contest has been settled and the receiver discharged. Hammersley pays Drew & Co. $2,500 for their interest, and takes possession of the mine. Kingley & Bull, who claimed an interest in the mine, are left in the cold, and George R. and Riley Hammersley get full possession of one of the best mines in Southern Oregon. This property was bonded by Hammersley Bros. to Eastern parties, and a failure to meet the payments caused the suit, the outcome of which has been watched by mining men all over the state. The mine will be running to the full capacity of the mills within a week. This ends one of the worst muddles in the annals of Southern Oregon mines.
"Northwest News: Oregon," Hood River Glacier, March 31, 1894, page 1

    Jas. Hammersley is in Alsea visiting his brother, Henry, and his sister, Mrs. Geo. Tharp.
"Alsea Jottings," Corvallis Gazette, September 3, 1896, page 1

   F. H. Osgood, the Seattle mining and railroad man who recently purchased the old Hammersley mine, of Jumpoff Joe district, is meeting with good success in clearing out the old mine and getting it in shape for business. If Mr. Osgood meets with the same good fortune in this that he has in other Southern Oregon mining ventures, it may be readily surmised that the Hammersley, so long abandoned, will eventually become one of the big producers of this mineral zone. Two big pumps, discharging 8,000 gallons of water an hour, are fast lowering the flood that has inundated the tunnels, drifts and stopes for several years. The timberings are found to be in good condition, so that when the water is cleared all will be in readiness for mining. The Hammersley produced many tons of rich ore in its time, and closed down merely on account of an entanglement of its owners. The mine is equipped with a good hoist, five-stamp mill and concentrator, all in excellent condition. There are three boilers. The ledge of the Hammersley is from one to three feet in width, and the values are practically all free milling. The vein lies at the same angle, and on the same zone, as the Greenback, three miles farther north.
Dennis H. Stovall, "Osgood Buys the Old Hammersley," Salt Lake Mining Review, February 29, 1904, page 14

    The board of directors of the new Gold Hill bank organized last week by the election of the following officers: President, J. E. Enyart; vice president, Horace Pelton; cashier, J. L. Hammersley. Its doors will be opened for business about October 15.
Roseburg Plaindealer, October 6, 1904, page 3

August 20, 1911 Medford Sun
Joseph Lee Hammersley
    It may be as yet unknown to you that Joe Hammersley is an apostle of peace. If so, you do not know Joe, and have not learned that what you took for a warlike display was really the flapping wings of gentle peace doves that coo on those broad shoulders. Or perhaps you have not seen that bear-like jaw break and the corners drop off as it rounds a big hearty laugh.
    Some wag has suggested that coming from Gold Hill, Joseph Lee Hammersley could not be other than a peaceful, quiet citizen. But then, again, they don't know Ham. For be it here set down that Joseph L. exudes a particular, peculiar brand of peace. He is intensely peaceful--intense, that tells the story. Ham is intense. Not the quiet, calm, folded arms and languid hands kind of peace--but a real, bubbling, ripping brand. He toots this philosophy of peace as seriously as he did brass in the palmier days of Gold Hill when that once-metropolis of the southern Oregon mining world sported a band, and as earnestly as he has pleaded the cause of the Nazarene from the pulpit.
    "Never had a fight nor a row with anybody, nor have I ever taken an insult or backwater. I give 'em reason," which astonishes you when you note the huge frame and deep chest and imagine what a scrapper he must have been when a kid. And this reason is applied with a laugh and the veriest kind of good humor.
    And so we get the first impression of Joseph Lee Hammersley--intensely earnest, intensely peaceful and intensely cheerful. Do you catch them all?
    Ham makes his living in the law. He is office attorney of the Rogue River Electric [Company] and keeps running smoothly the wheels of that and many subsidiary corporations. He drills like the proverbial tarrier, exhumes authorities, formulates, ponders and fights. Yet "the law is a josh" he thunders and then grins and qualifies: "It is a damned josh." Let is be here noted that Ham thinks lawyers are quite necessary. He will not admit that they should be swept into oblivion.
    "The law is a damned josh." Two hard swipes at the air, grinding of teeth, snapping eyes and--"I mean that it is unnecessary. It is something that we should get along without. A lawsuit is the outcome of the combative spirit. Arbitration is the result of higher development of the humane spirit. And in this latter is the spirit of the times. The world gets better as the humane spirit grows.
    "Why don't men settle their differences among themselves--arbitrate--let their neighbors determine the right. They do not invoke the law anyhow. They put their case up to a jury not one member of which knows the law."
    Ham first burrowed into the law with his handsome proboscis twenty-five years ago, but despite all his intensity he has not kept [up] his intake of knowledge between the wormy leaves a quarter century. No sir-ee! He has done many things in that time--played every instrument in a brass band, got married, ran a mine, managed a bank, sold postage stamps, occupied a pulpit, conducted campaigns, orated, read the D. of I. on the Fourth of July, preached and practiced peace, but then 'tis easier to enumerate omissions than commissions in Ham's case--he never taught school.
    Other parts of the world have known Joseph Lee besides Gold Hill. So let's start at the beginning. His father is George R. Hammersley, a Tennesseean by birth and rebel by heritage, who to this day has eluded reconstruction and denounces the "greatest outrage ever perpetrated, etc." Probably the sire's grievance is vivified by a slip which landed him in the Union army for three months. J. L.'s mother came from Iowa, her father being a congressman of distinction, James B. Horrough. From his mother comes the gentleness of peace which J. L. hammers into all comers with his pile drivers of fists, the latter the heritage of his mechanically turned paternal ancestry.
    After that three months' service in the Union army, to this day unaccountable, George R. and Martha Hammersley crossed the hills and plains to Oregon. Joseph L. is a native-born Oregonian. He opened his peepers in Lane County, August 4, 1871. By clever figuring one can deduce that he has just turned forty, with hardly a gray hair and all sound teeth. He would have started immediately to the Rogue, but his family prescribed the nursery and the Lakeview academy. He escaped at sixteen and came to Jacksonville, entering the office of Judge P. P. Prim to absorb the law.
    J. L. studied, dozed, orated and grew languid by turns in the county seat until 1893, when he migrated to the turbulent scenes of the mining world at Gold Hill. His father wanted him to be secretary of the famous Hammersley mine in the Jump-Off Joe district, and the son acquiesced and proceeded to run the mine.
    From that eventful year of '93 J. L. has lived in Gold Hill. Into the eighteen years he has crowded more living than most men could get away with in a couple of lifetimes. He is a living, breathing dynamo--voltage of many ciphers and speed unknown. He has done more things than six biographers could enumerate--and he has done them all with his best energies, mixing laughs with his troubles to keep himself young.
    While there may be no authority for the statement, it hardly will be gainsaid that the word "versatile" was coined for Ham's benefit. Versatile he surely is. Only three months ago he occupied the Gold Hill pulpit on "Tuberculosis Day," and not many hours previously he had filled in for a contest of "seven-up." Not long before that he wiped the dust from his tuba to be fifth man in a "brass" orchestra to play all night for a dance in the hills. He has tooted every band instrument from the sliphorn to the bass grunter, has led the procession and beat the drum. He sings tenor quite as resonantly as he groans bass, and never has failed to substitute for the first soprano when called.
    But J. L. is not a disciple of Bach. He is a lawyer, and to its ramifications has he given the best of his energies. The surplus and byproduct have not been allowed to waste. After fighting a dozen lawsuits, mystifying jurors with logic and legal lore crammed unceremoniously down their throats, J. L. would say: "I am getting lethargic; need a little exercise." And therefore he would go out and run a political campaign, or a bank, or whatever first came within his vision.
    Gold Hill is not a very large city, so J. L. could not afford to let slip many opportunities to rid himself of unused energy. And not many got away. For ten years he was city attorney, for a decade he has been postmaster, sometime in years long since flown he was made a member of the school board. He was the first president of the chamber of commerce and held down two jobs in the Gold Hill bank from April 1904 until April 1911--manager and cashier. He has held first call to the pulpit in the absence of the pastor for all these years, has passed the collection plate and kept up the fire.
    But with all these offices and vocations and avocations, Gold Hill has been unable to consume the energy of this peace-loving human dynamo. So he has played politics. He has been head and heels in every national, state, county and town campaign in twenty years and his clarion enunciations have startled and then absorbed voters from Portland to San Francisco, and then some. In fourteen years he has only twice missed the opportunity of jerking tail feathers from the noble American bird on Independence Day. He never missed a convention--political, religious or just social--and he nearly always is a delegate and a speaker of the day.
    He is a Republican--black--stand-patter--every inch of him. He chooses his spot and there he stands, conjuring forth many worlds to budge him one inch. J. L. belongs to the jolly band of antlered Elks, is an Odd Fellow and has journeyed York Rite Masonry to the Shrine. He is intensely fraternal just as he is intensely political and intensely religious, although he belongs to no church.
    J. L. knows everybody in Jackson County and most everybody in the state of Oregon, and they know "Jovial Joe." And they who don't should take the first opportunity to get acquainted. And they who already are acquainted should get even better acquainted. Beneath the "Jovial Joe" is a big peace-loving, kindhearted, gentle man who is intensely earnest about being good. It must not be overlooked that J. L. is married and proud, you bet! Mrs. Hammersley was Miss Mathilda Carter of Tennessee, and she is a proud wife and happy mother of three.
    The Hammersleys are coming to Medford in November. All the seats of honor at Gold Hill have been occupied. J. L. will stir up here what he thinks should be stirred. And there will be stirring aplenty.
"Medford's Hall of Fame," Medford Sun, August 20, 1911, page 13

Gold Hill Postmaster Quits.
    GOLD HILL, Or., Oct. 8.--(Special.)--The removal of J. L. Hammersley to Portland creates a vacancy in the Gold Hill post office, and there are said to be a flock of candidates for the position. The most prominent contenders for the privilege of defacing Uncle Sam's stamps are E. B. Hammond and J. B. Hammersley, the latter being a brother of the late postmaster. Mr. Hammond has sent a petition to Representative Hawley bearing the names of nearly all the business men in town. Mr. Hammersley is relying on a campaign promise made to him by the congressman.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, October 9, 1911, page 9

Gold Hill Postmaster Opens Pouch Where Floor Varnish Runs.

    GOLD HILL, Or., Jan. 8.--(Special.)--The woes of other postmasters since the establishment of the parcel post are lost upon Postmaster Hammersley, of this city, who declines to admit that even a dozen scrambled eggs in a mail sack can compete for official discomfort with three quarts of very "gooey" varnish mixed thoroughly throughout a sack of second-class mail.
    The sack in question arrived from the south yesterday, and the first dip into its recesses brought forth a sticky fistful of a certain famous brand of floor varnish. Three one-quart cans, unboxed, had lost their lids in transit and mixed freely with the contents of the sack, in direct defiance of the regulations. Patrons of the office received their mail an hour later than usual, and with a fine shellac finish.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, January 9, 1913, page 12

    The Republican State Central Committee has added several speakers to the list of those who have volunteered to speak through the state during the last week of the campaign. Among the additions are: J. L. Hammersley, who spoke at Oswego last night. . . .
"Women Distribute Hughes Pictures," Morning Oregonian, Portland, October 31, 1916, page 14

Bones, Rifle and Carcasses of Three Beasts of Prey Tell of Gold Hill Tragedy.
Search for Missing Government Hunter Has Been Under Way for Some Time
and No Other Trace Has Been Found.
    GOLD HILL, Or., Jan. 29.--When a man's scattered bones, his empty rifle and bodies of three lean timber wolves were found Friday on Evans Creek, Jackson County, a grim story was revealed of a fatal struggle, in which John Hammersley, a missing government hunter, was believed to have been torn to shreds by a pack of hungry wolves, but only after he had killed three of the animals. News of the discovery, which was made about a mile from Mr. Hammersley's camp by timbermen, reached here today.
    In the clearing in the willows where the bones were found, the ground was torn up, giving evidence of a terrific struggle. The hunter's clothes were ripped to shreds and his bones were licked clean. Indications were that the fight occurred not long ago.
    A posse which has been searching for Mr. Hammersley believes the bones are his, as no other trace of him or his pack of hounds has been found. It is believed the hounds fled when the wolves set upon their master. Attempts to identify the rifle will be made.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, January 30, 1917, page 5

Party Being Sent to Gold Hill for Purpose of Identification.
    GRANTS PASS, Or., Jan. 29.--(Special.)--That the bones found in the foothills of the Cascades, on Upper Evans Creek, in Jackson County, are those of her husband, is the belief of Mrs. John Hammersley, of this city. A party to determine the identity of the unfortunate victim will go to the scene tomorrow morning from Wimer, on Evans Creek, on behalf of Mrs. Hammersley.
    John Hammersley, who was a government hunter, employed to hunt and destroy predatory animals, left his home in this city on January 2 to hunt a pack of giant timber wolves that he knew were killing many deer on the headwaters of Evans Creek. He took with him four trained hounds and three pack horses, and was to establish camp at Willow Flat, in a district where the Hammersleys had lived for years, he having homesteaded the flat and later sold it to a timber company. He was thoroughly acquainted with the country, and left with the determination to exterminate the pack of wolves that had ranged through there for years. Since leaving here on the second no word had come from him, and Mrs. Hammersley had determined to send a party in after him even before she heard today of the finding of the bones of a man a mile from the Hammersley camp. The rifle and the cartridges found are believed to have been those used by Hammersley. It is expected that identity can be established by the remnants of clothing and by the rifle.
    Mr. Hammersley had been employed as a government hunter for several years, and had killed numerous cougars and other animals that prey upon the deer. Last winter he hunted on Grayback Mountain in Josephine County to assemble a number of animals for a moving picture company and roped a number of cougars and wild cats after his dogs had treed them. He was one of the most successful hunters in Western Oregon, and has killed scores of predatory animals while in the employ of the government.
Oregonian, Portland, January 30, 1917, page 5

John Hammersley Leaves Widow and Child at Grants Pass.
    John B. Hammersley was the brother of Deputy District Attorney Joseph L. Hammersley and Police Detective Thomas Hammersley, of Portland, and a brother-in-law of G. A. Cobb, a local attorney. He was a native Oregonian and well known throughout the state.
    As a hunter, Mr. Hammersley attracted much praise and for the past two years had been in the employ of the federal authorities concerned with the stamping out of mountain lions and wolves which infest the wilds of Josephine County. Last March an exploit related in the Oregonian was the roping of a cougar by Mr. Hammersley, in company with two other woodsmen. The animal was turned loose and recaptured before the lens of a moving picture camera.
    Mr. Hammersley was well-to-do, leaving considerable property in Grants Pass and Gold Hill. He leaves a widow and 10-year-old son, Dale Hammersley, in Grants Pass. His hunting this last year had been from cabin headquarters 30 miles from a railroad, and he had seen his family only at intervals of months.
    In a recent letter received by Thomas Hammersley, his brother said that he had his supplies in for the winter, but that he did not think he would continue the work for another year, for several reasons, chief being the enforced separation from his family.
    Mr. Hammersley was 53 years old and was born in Baker County. He spent his early days in Lane and Lake counties. He went to Gold Hill when a young man and for several years edited the Gold Hill News. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War he enlisted and went to the Philippines in 1898. He was there three years and returned a sergeant, but with his health broken.
    The open life attracted Mr. Hammersley and was a means for his regaining his health. He was postmaster of Gold Hill up to about three years ago, when he went into the government service. He was a crack shot and his pack of five bloodhounds was noted.
    H. D. Reed, postmaster at Gold Hill, telegraphed Joseph Hammersley yesterday afternoon that nothing definite was known of his brother's fate, but that search for him was being made.
    Besides the Portland brothers, Mr. Hammersley has two other brothers, Riley Hammersley, of Alaska, and Luther Hammersley, of North Dakota.
    The band of timber wolves that apparently killed Mr. Hammersley has been notorious in that section for several years.
    Two years ago "Mut" Brown and his partner from Weed, Cal., cougar hunters, camped at the Hammersley cabin. They went hunting one day and wounded a bear. The leader of their dog pack was reputed to be one of the gamest dogs that section had ever seen. The dog ventured too far away from the others and the hunters and was torn to pieces by the wolves, but not before he had offered a game fight, as the blood trails indicated.
    The wolf pack has been reported on the Willow Flat, about 28 miles north of Gold Beach, on several occasions and residents of that vicinity have been fearful of it for some time.
Oregonian, Portland, January 30, 1917, page 5

Government Hunter Reaches Wimer and
Telephones to Family at Grants Pass.
Victim of Wolves Is Reported to Have Been John Dorando, Prospector--
Portland Relatives of Mr. Hammersley Notified.

    Fears that John Hammersley, of Grants Pass, missing government hunter, had been killed by wolves in Jackson County were set at rest yesterday when he reached Wimer, Jackson County, after having been for days away from his cabin on Willow Flat, near the Green Mountains, and after having covered miles of territory in pursuit of predatory animals.
    It was reported here at a late hour last night that the Gold Hill victim of wolves was John Dorando, a prospector.
    News that Mr. Hammersley was safe was telephoned to his brother, T. E. Hammersley, Portland detective, from Gold Hill yesterday afternoon.
    The belief that Hammersley had been killed by wolves resulted from the discovery of human bones on Evans Creek near the missing hunter's cabin by two timbermen last Friday. Nearby were the bodies of three wolves which apparently had been shot by the man in the death struggle.
    John Hammersley, for whom searching parties had been hunting several days, reached Wimer yesterday, and it was not until then that he discovered the anxiety that his long absence had caused. When he learned of the report that he had been killed by wolves he immediately telephoned to his brother-in-law, Dr. W. P. Chisholm, of Gold Hill, announcing his safety. He told his brother-in-law that he would reach Grants Pass, where his wife is, sometime last night.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, January 31, 1917, page 8

    Fulfilling his prediction that John Hammersley, government hunter reported killed by wolves in Jackson County, was not dead but would show up today to send his monthly report to Pendleton, E. F. Averill, district inspector of predatory animals, yesterday afternoon received a telegram declaring that there was no truth in the published story of Hammersley's death.
    Hammersley showed up yesterday at Wimer to learn that he was supposed to have been eaten by wolves. He stated that he had been absent from his cabin on Willow Flats for four or five days on a cougar hunt. He at once telephoned the news of his safety to Gold Hill.
    Reports reaching Portland state that the bones found have been identified as those of John Duranda, a prospector of Grants Pass. He probably perished in the mountains and was afterwards discovered by wolves.
East Oregonian, Pendleton, January 31, 1917, page 1

    The War Stamp meeting Friday night was attended by a large crowd that listened with enrapt attention and applauded vigorously every time the speakers dealt the Kaiser an oratorical blow.
    The program began with a song by little Miss Violet Olson, of Woodburn, who played her own ukulele accompaniment. She was recalled by a storm of applause. She was followed by Wendell Kent with a xylophone selection; Mrs. Kent, his mother, accompanied him.
    Chairman Sadler then introduced Joseph Hammersley, deputy county attorney of Multnomah County, who delivered an address straight from a heart overflowing with patriotic sentiment and enthusiasm. Mr. Hammersley has a son at the front and knows what that means to the parents and relatives of our soldiers. He made a splendid address amid repeated outbursts of patriotic applause.
Aurora Observer, Aurora, Oregon, July 4, 1918, page 1

    Joseph L. Hammersley, 71, scion of pioneers, lawyer and past potentate of Al Kader Shrine temple, died Wednesday at his home, 315 N.E. 28th Avenue, of a cardiovascular ailment. He had retired five years ago after a long law practice, during which he was for 17 years chief deputy district attorney in Multnomah County.
    Surviving relatives include the widow, Tessie; two daughters, Mrs. Fred Hesse and Mrs. Alex G. Barry, both of Portland; a son, Joseph Nolan Hammersley, United States Marine Corps, and three grandchildren.
    Funeral arrangements were to be made with J. P. Finley & Son.
Oregonian, Portland, June 18, 1942, page 16

HAMMERSLEY--June 17, Joseph L. Hammersley, of 315 N.E. 28th Ave., husband of Tessie M. Hammersley, father of Thelma Hesse and Helen Barry of Portland, Nolan Hammersley of San Diego, Cal.; brother of Tom Hammersley, Portland, and Luther Hammersley, San Francisco. Funeral services will be held Friday, 2:30 p.m., in Finley's Chapel, S.W. Montgomery at 4th. Friends invited. Commitment Riverview.

Oregonian, Portland, June 19, 1942, page 14

Lawyer Buys Apartments
    Sale of the Weller Apartments at 315 N.E. 28th Avenue by Tessie M. Hammersley to a Portland attorney, Arthur D. Jones, was reported last week by Fred E. Arnold, realtor, who handled the transaction.
    The Weller is a modern two-story and basement brick and frame structure containing 16 units, including 15 of two rooms, one of four rooms and a store space on the ground floor.
    The sale price was reported to be approximately $30,000; Mr. Jones purchased the property as an investment.
    Mr. Arnold reports that well-selected multiple-dwelling properties are at the top of the list as a real estate investment at this time.
Oregonian, Portland, July 19, 1942, page 24.  The building is still standing as of November 2019.

Former Gold Hill Attorney Succumbs
    Portland, Ore., June 19.--(AP)--Joseph L. Hammersley, 71, former deputy district attorney for Multnomah County, died yesterday. He was a native of Eugene and studied law under Judge H. K. Hanna of Jacksonville. He practiced in Gold Hill until 1911, when he came here. His widow, Tessie, and three children by a previous marriage, survive.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 19, 1942, page 12

Last revised April 1, 2020