by Rodney Coleman, regular contributor to Southern Oregon Heritage Today.
Originally published in: Southern Oregon Heritage Today, Nov, 2002; 4:11
James Sullivan Howard, dubbed "the Father of Medford" when he did on November 13, 1919, was born April 21, 1932, to Sullivan and Elizabeth Howard in Mason, New Hampshire. Educated in Illinois, Howard married Margaret E. Snuggs in 1855. In 1860, the couple and their three children moved to Jacksonville, where Howard became a successful surveyor and civil engineer.
In addition to advancing regional development by conducting a preliminary survey for the Southern Pacific Railroad and engineering the COPCO COndor Dam, Howard examined surveys for the U.S. Office in Oregon and Arizona until 1898, and opened a bakery and butcher hsop in Jacksonville's historic Kubli Building in 1875.
After fire destroyed Howard's business in 1884, he built a general store near modern-day Front Street between Eight and Main streets in Medford. Howard later recalled that contemporaries criticized his choice of location, at first, calling in it the townsite of "Mudville,", "Rabbitville," and "caparral", but suggested he "laughed last" after he "got in right" with railroad officiallys and witnessed Medford's growth and incorporation two years later.
A familiar presence at the Nash Hotel in Medford's early days, Howard became president of the Town Board of Trustees and Medford's first mayor in 1885, postmaster, and Wells Fargo agent. As one of Medford's founders, Howard had followed in the footsteps of his father, who co-founded Wethersfield and Kewanee, Illinois, in 1837 and 1854. However, the "rags to riches" lore associated with his arrival in Jacksonville with "only fifty cents in his pocket" also distinguishes J.S. Howard from other proud and resourceful pioneers of his day.