Pioneer Profiles – April 2016

Jacksonville Pioneer George Francis Schumpf was the most successful and longest established barber, operating his barber shop at 157 West California Street from the time he purchased the original building in 1873 until his death in 1897. The site itself appears to have housed a Jacksonville barber from the early 1850s until the present day.

Schumpf was the first town barber “with training.” As a youth, he had apprenticed for four years in France. He may have even trained as a barber-surgeon, since up until the 19th Century, barbers, not doctors, were the ones who treated and extracted teeth, cut out gallstones and hangnails, set fractures, gave enemas, lanced abscesses, and let blood. Many continued in this role into the late 1800s, particularly in rural communities.

A tall man with striking features, dark eyes and hair, and a “somewhat Slavic look,” Schumpf was born August 20, 1839, in Laubach, Alsace, the French/German border province that was disputed territory between the two nations from the 1700s well into the 20th Century. He grew up fluent in both French and German.

Schumpf immigrated with his family to the United States in 1851, possibly settling in Pennsylvania. By the late 1850s he was living in Cincinnati, Ohio, working as a barber. When the Civil War broke-out, Schumpf joined the 70th Ohio Infantry. Family lore says he was also a barber in the service. He chose to re-up in 1864, and at the end of the war was honorably discharged in Little Rock, Arkansas.

In 1867, after 16 years residency and four years of military service, Schumpf petitioned to become a U.S. citizen. A year later, he married Maria Dillon.

It’s unclear whether Schumpf had met Maria during his early years in Pennsylvania where the Dillon family had settled after emigrating from Ireland or if at some point fellow soldier and friend Matthew Dillon introduced George to his sister. Either way, Matthew appears to have been a significant influence on George.

In 1871, Matthew convinced George and Maria to come West with him to make their fortunes. They chose the faster but harder sea route around Cape Horn rather than the trudge across the Oregon Trail. After initially settling in Kerby, they moved to Jacksonville, possibly induced by Schumpf’s older brother John who had already settled here.

John Schumpf appears to have been an early settler, supposedly fighting in the Indian Wars of 1855. He certainly preceded George to the area since the 1870 census lists him as a “teamster” living in Jackson County. Another brother, Sebastian, and his family may have come with George or followed him. Sebastian was a carpenter who worked for the Sugar Pine Door & Lumber Company in Grants Pass. He built the interior of Grants Pass Methodist Church, and he may have also created the gingerbread work on the Nunan house.

By 1873, George Schumpf had purchased an existing barber shop run by a Mr. Blockwell. A November 22, 1873, announcement in the Democratic Times proclaimed: “New Barber Shop, California Street, George Schumpf, Proprietor. Having purchased Blockwell’s barber shop in Jacksonville, I am fully prepared to do all kinds of work in my line in the best manner at reasonable prices. Razors carefully put in order.”

A second ad in that same newspaper issue announced, “haircutting, shaving, shampooing, and ladies’ haircutting done to first class style” as well as “Dandruff Lotion. An entirely new discovery for cleansing the scalp and restoring the hair to its satisfactory vigor, price $1.00 per bottle.”

However, early on the morning of April 14, 1874, less than six months after Schumpf opened for business, “the dreaded alarm for fire was given.” It was scarcely one year after the eastern portion of the town had been engulfed in flames. This fire probably originated in the adjacent building, the notorious El Dorado Saloon, but it rapidly consumed not only Schumpf’s shop, but also the entire block of frame buildings, some of the town’s earliest structures by then “dry as tinder.”

Schumpf immediately rebuilt, replacing the original wooden structure with the current one-story brick edifice “fitted up [with] neat bathing rooms and bath tubs where you can obtain a bath, hot or cold, and a boot black stand will give you a shine in Sam’s most artistic style.” At some point Schumpf also shared the space with his brother-in-law Matt Dillon, who operated the Hole-in-the-Wall Saloon. An historian later noted that, “this must have been one of Jacksonville’s most decadent establishments of the day!”

George and Maria seem to have settled into Jacksonville town life. By 1877 Schumpf had purchased a lot at the corner of South Oregon and Fir streets, and constructed the Classic Revival home that we now know as the Colvig or “Bozo the Clown” house.

They celebrated their “tin anniversary” in 1878 with a large number of friends each bringing articles of tinware, “some of which were useful as well as ornamental,” according to the Oregon Sentinel. The celebrants wished the couple long life and happiness and hoped “to meet again on similar occasions to celebrate their silver and golden weddings.”

Those wishes did not come to pass. Maria died of “consumption of the bowels” four years later.

In the interim, Schumpf had gone “mine crazy,” according to a grandson, and purchased the “Schumpf Ledge” in the Willow Springs mining district. A November 1880 Oregon Sentinel article noted: “This quartz mine, the property of George Schumpf,…has recently been visited by…two California mining experts, who pronounce it among the best, if not the best mining property in Southern Oregon…. We have no doubt that the energetic proprietor has a bonanza of the first magnitude and that his tenacious labors will be rewarded.” That did not prove to be the case, and by 1885 Schumpf had to sell the mine and apparently his house. His grandson said that Schumpf lost his home “through dealing in mines.”

Perhaps a brighter spot for Schumpf was his marriage to Ellen Barry that same year. She had been a boarder at his residence and had helped care for his wife. At the time of their marriage, George was 45 and Ellen was 18.

Although George and Maria’s marriage had been childless, George and Ellen had four children, the youngest born after George’s death. And while Schumpf may have forfeited ownership of his shop and his home, he continued to be the very popular town barber until he died from tuberculosis on June 20, 1897, just short of his 57th birthday. A devout Catholic, Schumpf had a Grand Army of the Republic, Civil War veterans’ burial service in the Catholic section of the Jacksonville Cemetery.

Today, Schumpf’s great, great granddaughter and her husband, Emily and Dave Grimes, are Jacksonville residents who continue to honor the history of the region. They operate Rogue Jet Boat Adventures, offering history tours of the upper Rogue where they share the Valley’s rich heritage, much of it relating to Jacksonville. In recognition of their efforts, Rogue Jet Boat Adventures has been chosen as the Grand Marshal of the April 9th Pear Blossom Parade. They will be joined by Jacksonville’s own Belles and Beaus, who will be portraying characters from Jacksonville’s and the Valley’s history.

Pioneer Profiles is a project of Historic Jacksonville, Inc. Visit us at www.historicjacksonville.org and follow us on Facebook (historicjville) for upcoming events and more Jacksonville history.