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HomeSportPioneer movie star – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Pioneer movie star – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Likely one of the first Oregon pioneers to appear in a movie, 84-year-old Artinecia Merriman, dressed in black and sitting in a wicker chair, pretended to tell stories of the early days in Jackson County. Stories she knew so well.

It was April 1915, and orchardist A.C. Allen had begun to film a silent movie that would advertise the Rogue Valley at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Jackson County commissioners authorized $600 to cover Allen’s expenses.

Born in 1830, a few miles north of Cincinnati, Ohio, Artinecia Riddle was barely 6 when the family moved west to Sangamon County, Illinois. When she was 18, she married James Chapman, a 21-year-old farmer from Kentucky. John William, their son, was born June 15, 1850.

By December, the lure of gold and free land in the West caught nearly everyone’s imagination in Sangamon. Families, including the Riddles, began putting their farms up for sale.

Intending to leave early the following spring, the family began preparations for the long journey. A team of oxen trained to pull a wagon was needed, and a long list of supplies had to be gathered.

In the midst of it all, James Chapman suddenly fell deathly sick. He died in March 1851, just a few weeks before the transcontinental journey was to begin.

In the second week of April 1851, men and women walking beside covered wagons, followed by loose cattle herded by the youngest children of the families, all began the long walk to Oregon. Artinecia’s baby was just 10 months old.

At the Missouri River, they joined a wagon train. Nearly six months later, their journey would take them over the Applegate Trail to Canyonville in Douglas County.

Artinecia’s younger brother, George, remembered a moment when the wagon train reached Humboldt County, in California — an area where travelers met with frequent attacks from local Indian tribes. Sent out to watch for trouble ahead, a man was attacked at close range, and a bullet badly shattered a bone in his left arm.

“No one with the train having any surgical skill,” said George, “my oldest sister was called on to dress the wound. Her fingers being slender, she could feel for and extract the shattered bones.

“I witnessed the operation, and it made such an impression. My sister, Artinecia, was a brave girl.”

By November 1851, Artinecia and the family had settled on a land claim west of Canyonville in the Cow Creek Valley. A town called Riddle quickly began to grow.

A year later, William Merriman, an old Illinois acquaintance, arrived in the county. William had lost his wife on the trek west and buried her alongside the Oregon Trail. Three months later, William’s infant son also died after drinking bad milk. This left William alone with daughter Auletta.

William staked a land claim near the Riddle family, and he and Artinecia married Feb. 10, 1853, and began a family. George, their first son, was born the following May.

In 1857, they moved to Jackson County and bought a farm near Central Point. By 1860, five more children joined the family. Eventually, in addition to Auletta and John, Artinecia and William would have 15 children together. Their last baby was born in 1874, three years before William died.

As the years passed, she was often asked about the life of a pioneer and the early days of Jackson County. She was the obvious choice to appear in that 1915 movie, “Gracie’s Visit to the Rogue River Valley.”

Two years after her movie debut, Artinecia joined William and some of her children in the Jacksonville Cemetery.

Writer Bill Miller is the author of six books, including “Silent City on the Hill. Jacksonville Oregon’s Historic Cemetery.” Reach him at

Abdullah Anaman
Abdullah Anaman
I am a highly competent IT professional with a proven track record in designing websites, building apps etc. I have strong technical skills as well as excellent interpersonal skills, enabling me to interact with a wide range of clients.


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