The Southern Oregon Historical Society takes pride in its ownership of Hanley Farm, which was given to the Society by Mary Hanley in 1982. She lived there until her death in 1986. The Farm had been in the Hanley Family since 1857, when Michael and Martha Hanley purchased 636 acres. Today, 37 acres remain as Hanley Farm.
The Earliest Inhabitants
Long before Europeans arrived in the Rogue Valley Native Americans camped at what is now Hanley Farm to harvest and process acorns from the oaks that grew in the prairie all around. They periodically burned the brush on the valley floor to encourage acorn production and lure the deer and elk where hunting was easier. Spear points and grinding bowls have been found at Hanley Farm.
The 1st Owners, David Clinton & Archibald Welton
On August 23, 1852, David Clinton and his son-in-law, Archibald Welton each filed a donation land claim for adjoining parcels of land. The two men built a double log cabin to house their families and a barn on the property. In April 1857, they sold the land and structures to Michael Hanley for a combined price of $6,000. It is presumed that the Hanley family lived in the log cabin until the farmhouse was built.
The Hanley Parents
Michael and Martha purchased the Clinton and Welton Donation Land Claims of 636 acres in Jackson County, and raised nine children (six survived into adulthood – John, Alice, William, Ed, Ella, & Michael II). Michael Hanley continued to purchase land and pursue multiple business opportunities until he became an invalid and, after being pronounced legally insane, died on June 14, 1889. On October 15,1887, Martha Mortimere Burnett Hanley died of tuberculosis. Hanley Farm was inherited by their children. The family home and its surrounding acreage went to Alice Hanley, the eldest surviving child and her parents’ caregiver during their illnesses.
Alice Hanley, 1859-1940
Alice Hanley spent her life in the Hanley home. She cared for her parents until their deaths, and raised her niece Claire from the age of six, in addition to managing a farm of over 100 acres. Alice also helped establish the Oregon Home Extension Service in Southern Oregon in 1919 and served on its Board for the rest of her life.
Although Alice did not inherit all of the original Hanley home furnishings, she retained what she could and purchased pioneer family furnishings at auctions. We are fortunate today that Alice kept so much of the home intact.
Martha, Mary & Claire Hanley
Martha, Mary and Claire (nieces to Alice Hanley, daughters of John Hanley) were orphaned in 1904. Martha spent some time in Chile with her Aunt Ella, then lived in Eastern Oregon with her uncle Bill. Mary moved to Butte Creek Ranch with Michael Hanley II, and Claire was raised by Alice in the Hanley home. When Alice died she left the property to the three sisters, and eventually all of them lived there together. None of them married. Mary was the last Hanley to live in the house, which she donated to the Southern Oregon Historical Society prior to her death in 1986. She wished the Farm to serve as an agricultural museum for future generations.
Hanley Farm’s Oldest Building
Hanley Farm’s “old barn” is one of the oldest in Oregon that is still standing. The center portion was built in 1854 out by Hanley Road. Alice Hanley had it moved near to the creek and rebuilt, larger than before. It is made of huge hand-hewn beams with pegs rather than nails. This barn was built as a stock and threshing barn, and still has several animal stalls. The original second-story hay loft and center threshing floor are now missing. A hay fork system similar to that in the other barn was installed and the loft was removed so hay could fill the entire center bay. In the days before mechanical threshing was done at this farm, wagons were driven into the barn and grains (still on their stalks) were spread on the floor. The heads were knocked from the stalks by beating with a flail.
The masonry springhouse was probably the first structure Michael Hanley built after he bought the farm. It dates back to the 1850s. By 1857 surface water in the area was probably well polluted as a result of a massive influx in population, minimal sanitation facilities, cattle and pigs roaming loose and mining camps all about. Spring houses were built to protect pure, fresh spring water from contamination by animals and people. They also provided a clean, cool place where perishable foods could be kept.
The Hanley Home
The front section of the Hanley home was built in 1875, when Michael Hanley was a successful businessman and rancher with mules, cattle, sheep, hogs, grain, hay and alfalfa. The older part of the two-story home was built in the 1860s. The one-story additions to the back were added as a back porch and woodshed in later years. The front portion of the house has a full cellar.
Tours of the Hanley house are given during many of the events that occur on the Farm.
The Windmill & Water Tower
This Aermotor windmill replaced an older windmill in 1933. The water storage tank and tower were replaced at the same time. We can infer that the Hanleys were using wind power somewhere as early as 1883, because Alice asks in an Oct. 2, 1883 letter to her sister-in-law, Mame, “How did the windmill do or has it been set up yet?”
The 20th Century Farm
The larger hay barn by Hanley Road was built for Alice Hanley in 1900 by bridge builder Jason Hartman. It represents significant changes in farming that began in the later part of the 19th century and continued on in the 20th. With the introduction of large, steam-powered, and later, gasoline-powered farm equipment, taller structures were required for machine storage. As the Hanley family acquired more land and raised thousands of head of stock (beef cattle, mules, horses, hogs, sheep), the need to raise animal feed also increased as did the need for feed storage facilities. A large barn like this one would meet both needs. Loose hay was lifted up to the top door and pulled into the barn with pulleys and ropes. Today the barn holds many pieces of early farm equipment. Two large barn owls often make their home in the ‘crows nest’. The new Hanley Farm Stand is on the road side of the barn.
The Hanley family referred to their farm as the “Willows,” named for the willow tree they planted by the springhouse in the 1860s. The original tree fell over in 1940 and fell again in 1986, but, thanks to new growth, the tree still survives. Other wonderful trees on the Farm include a Dawn Redwood, the tallest tree near the water tower. These were thought to be extinct until a living grove was found in China around 1940. Seeds were obtained by a local grower who gave a seedling to the Hanleys. It is deciduous and loses its needles in the winter.
For more historical information, visit: Southern Oregon Historical Society