Editor’s note: This story appeared in the Eagle Point Independent week of Oct. 26-Nov. 1, 1977
By Anna Zander
Memories of the past, and the people who lived there, echo down from Chimney Rock.
Looking back across the years one can see the fiddlers and hear their music as a group of people-young and old- dance gaily in the living room of a farm home.
The sight of a solitary grave in a field brings to the eye a solemn young couple. Sorrow shows deeply on their faces as they commit their stillborn twins to the earth.
Neighbors can be seen good-naturedly joshing N.P. Hanson about his hay
crop. "Well, it’s only September, N.P., if it doesn’t snow, you’ll get
your hay in yet."
"Meda" Charley, a local lady who serves as
a mid-wife comes into view. She is enjoying a smoke on her corncob pipe
after helping with the birth of a baby in a neighboring home.
young girl is seen. She smiles radiantly and is happy in her new found
love. Sadness realms her face as her fiancé leaves the area to seek
work. Guilt engulfs her when loneliness drivers her to a few stolen
moments with her betrothed’s brother. Heartsickness fills her as she
knows she carries within her a new life as the result of her
promiscuous behavior. Her loved one returns, and in despair he escapes
by a self-inflicted bullet. Overcome by the pain she has wrought, the
once radiant girl takes her own life. The two new graves side by side
in the cemetery are soon followed by a third, when the brother tries to
make atonement to those who preceded him by joining them in death.
memories of tragedy, joy, sadness and joviality could belong to any
community, but these are unique to one community-Climax, Oregon.
Holmans, Rummels, Thompsons, Hansons, Charleys, Hamlins and Herrins
were some of the names of the people,who migrated from different places
to make their home on Antelope Creek at the foot of Grizzley Mountain.
Warlows took up water rights on their place at Climax in the year 1873.
Possibly they were in the area long before that. Mrs. Warlow
established the first post office there in 1886. The office was in her
home and she was the post-mistress.
Records show that the first
school was started there in 1875. Alfred Rummel built what was probably
the first school building in that area. Logs and some bricks still
remain as a reminder of where the building stood.
and Andromeda Charley moved to Climax in 1886. Some of their five
children accompanied them. Originally from Indiana, the Charleys also
had homesteads in Nebraska and Iowa.
William and his son,
Himrod, built a mill on Antelope Creek. This was the first of several
mills built by the Charleys in Climax and other areas in southern
Many of the Charleys attended school in the
one-room school at Climax. Although they were a part of the history of
the area, their place no longer belongs to the family and where their
homes once stood are fields.
In 1898, Nelson Peter Hanson
and his wife, Hilda, settled in Climax. Unknown to each other in
Sweden, they both emigrated to Iowa where they met and married.
the time they left Iowa, Oregon did not figure into their plans. They
first settled in Nebraska, but Hilda did not like the wide open spaces,
and Nelson wanted a place with ample water.
Nebraska they spent some time in Montana. Nelson was employed by the
Northern Pacific Railroad as a machinist and he became known as N.P.,
after the railroad and his own initials.
On his quest for
water, N.P. brought his family to Oregon and Climax. The abundance of
natural springs throughout the area seem to be to his satisfaction and
he purchased the Warlow place.
Along with the purchase of
the home, N.P. also inherited the job of postmaster. His pay for this
job was meager and although his daughter, Mabel, says he was not a good
farmer, that is how he provided for his family.
only three-years-old when her parents came to Climax. She and her
husband, Lester Wertz, still live in the house her parents bought. She
is the only one from the original families to still live at Climax and
their home is the only one from that era that is still standing.
she was in the fourth grade she attended the school at Climax. From the
fourth grade on she was boarded out and went to school in Ashland.
summer vacations and weekends she came back to her home at Climax. She
talked of riding a horse over the mountain from Ashland, dancing all
night at a get together of neighbors and then riding back to Ashland
the next day.
By 1910 the mail was coming ten miles across
the mountain from Ashland, the post office no longer remained at one
place but was moved to whatever ranch home could handle it. At
different times it was housed by both the Charleys and the Holmans.
was no longer the postmaster, but he was now the mail carrier. He
earned $39 a month for carrying the mail between Ashland and Climax
three times a week.
Mabel, who well knew the
three-and-a-half hour ride to Ashland, took over the carrying duties in
the summer months. The mail was locked in a pouch with the opening keys
left at both ends of the run.
Climax teemed with wildlife.
Bears, bobcats, racoons and deer were frequently seen and often
glimpses were caught of the elusive cougar. On one of Mabel’s trips
across the mountain she chanced to see a cougar, but the animal gave
her as wide a berth as she gave it. Another time she happened on a deer
that was caught in a fence. Following the mail carrier’s dauntless
code, she dismounted and untangled the trapped animal.
her graduation from high school, Mabel went into teaching. She taught
in Jacksonville and Applegate. It was in Applegate that she met Lester.
Lester saw also from a pioneer family. His grandparents
crossed the plans from Pennsylvania in 1864 when Lester’s father was
just four years old. They settled in Bonanza where Lester was born many
When Lester was just a young boy, his family
moved to the Applegate region. His grandfather was a carpenter and
built many houses around the valley out of sugar pine. Some of these
homes are still standing today.
Following their marriage,
Lester and Mabel lived for a few years in Hilt, California before
moving to Climax and buying the Hanson family home.
raised two daughters, Roberta and Norma. The two girls started
education in the local school but went on to graduate in Central Point.
The school was moved to the Hanson property in 1920 so it
would be more centrally located. N.P. gave an acre of his property for
the new location. The schoolhouse still stands there today.
bell was acquired for the school, when Lost Creek School in the Lake
Creek area closed. In 1942, the Climax School closed and Mabel took the
bell to her home when she noticed evidence that someone had been trying
to remove it from the belfry. The bell now hangs from a tower in the
Wertz’s yard. It rings with a beautiful tone that resounds back from
the surrounding hills.
Although the Wertzs have added onto
their home, it is basically the same home Mabel shared with her family
as a girl. Perhaps one major change is the unique facility in their
Several years ago Lester decided he was tired of
taking a bath in the washtub; however, bathtubs were still considered
quite a luxury. Feeling they were unable to afford a "store boughten"
tub, Lester set out to improvise.
With the help of Mabel on
one end of a crosscut saw he felled a very large cedar tree. He
hollowed and sanded on the trunk of the tree until he had fashioned a
quite adequate bathtub.
At the top of the tub where the
faucets extend over it a knot is still visible. The other end is
slanted and Mabel said when the kids were little they would soap it up
and have great fun sliding down into the water.
The tub is now painted pink, but when they get tired of the color Mabel just repaints it.
spring the Wertzs will celebrate 60 years of marriage. Most of those 60
years have been spent in the serene meadows and hills of Climax.
Mrs. Warlow applied for the post office, she debated on calling it
Chimney Rock or Climax. Possibly she called it Climax because it was
the end of the road, but to the Wertzs it has been more like the end of