In 1883, a group of railroad surveyors headed by S. L. Dolson and David Loring arrived in Rock Point, near present-day Gold Hill. They were charged with finding the best route through the Rogue Valley for the Oregon and California Railroad. Citizens of neighboring Jacksonville hoped that it would pass between their town and Hanley Butte, near the present day Claire Hanley Arboretum. Such a move would have all but guaranteed prosperous growth for Jacksonville, but Dolson decided instead to stake the railroad closer to Bear Creek. The response from Jacksonville was mixed, but the decision was final. By November 1883, a depot site had been chosen and a surveying team led by Charles J. Howard was hard at work platting the new town. They completed their work in early December 1883, laying out 82 blocks for development.
James Sullivan Howard, a merchant and surveyor, claimed to have built the town’s first building in January 1884, though blacksmith Emil Piel was advertising for business at the ”central depot” in the middle of December 1883. Others point out the farms of town founders Iradell Judson Phipps and Charles Wesley Broback, which were present before the town was platted. Regardless, on February 6, 1884 (less than a month after it was built), J. S. Howard’s store became Medford’s first post office, with Howard serving as postmaster. The establishment of the post office led to the incorporation of Medford as a town by the Oregon Legislative Assembly on February 24, 1885, and again as a city in 1905. Howard held the position of postmaster for Medford’s first ten years, and again held the post upon his death on November 13, 1919.