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Jackson County, Oregon, was created in January 1852. Carved out of the southwestern portion of Lane County and unorganized areas of Douglas and Umpqua Counties, it was named in honor of President Andrew Jackson.

Jackson County's original borders ran west to the Pacific Ocean, east to Lane County, north to Umpqua and Douglas Counties, and south to California. As time passed, however, the boundaries were changed when new counties were formed, including Coos, Curry, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, and Wasco Counties. Today its borders touch California in the south, Josephine County to the west, Klamath County to the east, and Douglas County to the north. It totals 2,801 square miles.

The first recorded gold strike in Oregon was in 1850 on Josephine Creek, near what is today known as Cave Junction. But the bigger strike occurred in December 1851 or January 1852, on Jackson Creek in the Rogue River Valley. Jacksonville, Oregon, first known as Table Rock City, sprang up almost overnight. It began as a makeshift mining camp and tent city, but within weeks, thousands of gold miners crowded the banks of Rich Gulch.

By 1852, the small community was a town of over one thousand. Its first brick buildings were erected in 1853, and it soon became the largest city in Oregon; it was also the site of the first Chinatown in Oregon.

Two early minersEarly miners

This rapid surge of men led to violence against the tribes who had lived in the region for generations. The Takelmas, Shasta, and Rogue River tribes, as well as others, suffered terribly as the miners killed off local game and as successive waves of settlers encroached upon native lands. War continued for many years until the U.S. Army had sufficient forces to mount a major campaign in 1855-56 that vanquished most of the native populations.

Transportation and roads were early issues in Oregon and California. Shasta and Takelma people commonly used a trail that would later become the Siskiyou Trail, or the Oregon-California Trail. Reportedly, Indians guided the earliest Hudson Bay Company fur trapper Peter Skene Ogden over the summit between Oregon and California in 1827; that same trail was enlarged when Ewing Young drove a herd of cattle from California to pioneer settlements in the Willamette Valley in the 1830s.

The trail would later be used by thousands of settlers who came in the wake of the California to Oregon gold rush.

The Applegate Trail was the southern alternative to the Oregon Trail. The trail was named for the Applegate brothers, Charles, Lindsay, and Jesse, who traveled the Oregon Trail in 1843. They looked for a new route by first riding south from the central Willamette Valley into southern Oregon along what today is the Interstate 5 corridor through Douglas County.

They crossed the Umpqua River and made their way to present-day Ashland, Oregon, and then crossed over Greensprings to the Klamath Basin. They passed Klamath Lake, crossed the Tule and Goose Lake valleys to northern California, and crossed Black Rock Desert to the Humboldt River where they picked up the California Trail, which originated at Fort Hall, Idaho. Jesse rode ahead of the main party to Fort Hall to tell people of the new overland route and to get a wagon train together. Thus the Applegate Trail was born. By 1849, the Applegate Trail was the main route for hopeful miners going after gold.

There are a few remnants of the trail visible today. One section is at Tubb Springs State Wayside, 18 miles east of Ashland on Highway 66. Wolf Creek Tavern Inn, 20 miles north of Grants Pass off Interstate 5, is also right on the trail. The trail ran roughly parallel to I-5 through much of Douglas County, including the route along Canyon Creek.

Beginning in 1852, Wells, Fargo and Company became an active participant in both freighting and banking. Throughout 1853 and 1854, the company took over many of the leading express companies in both California and Oregon, and by 1855, maintained offices in Portland, Oregon City, Prairie City, and Jacksonville, Oregon. By 1860, the company maintained one hundred forty-seven express offices in California, and in the 1860s and 1870s expanded its activities in the Pacific Northwest. In 1860, Wells, Fargo and Company took in over $395,000 and showed a net income of $151,128.47 in express business. Eventually Wells, Fargo and Company also took over as the staging and mail business giant.

From 1853-55, Congress allotted $50,000 for the construction of three military roads in the Oregon Territory: from Camp Stuart, near Jacksonville, to Myrtle Creek; from Myrtle Creek to Scottsburg; and from Salem to Astoria. The section of road passing between Grants Pass and Winchester generally followed the route of the Oregon-California Trail.

Freight wagons and mule trains traveled from California to Jacksonville as well as from the Willamette Valley. In fact, during 1851, reportedly one hundred mules left Union in Humboldt Bay, California, every week for the northern California mines (bordering Oregon) and points north or south. They often carried $4000 to $5000 worth of supplies. Jacksonville became the seat of the pack trade. From Trinidad or Crescent City, California, to Jacksonville, pack trains had to travel 120 miles over rugged terrain. The trip took ten days. For the early settlers these trains provided both supplies and news from the outside world. By the 1870s, however, Rogue Valley farmers were exporting products as well as importing supplies, thus these transports provided a ready market for their agricultural goods.

Stage from Redding to WeavervilleBy 1861, a stage road connected California and Oregon, which made it possible for a stage to travel from Sacramento to Portland, or vice versa, in relative safety and comfort.

The route was 710 miles long and necessitated the construction of sixty stage stops/inns along the way. Stages left Sacramento and Portland early each morning and the California Stage Company employed fourteen district agents, seventy-five hostlers, and thirty-five drivers, in addition to twenty-eight coaches, thirty stage wagons, and five hundred head of horses. Stops from south to north included: Sacramento to Nicolaus; Marysville; Oroville; Chico; Tehama; Red Bluff; Cottonwood; Shasta; French Gulch; Trinity Center; Callahan's Ranch; Scottsburg; Yreka; Jacksonville; Canyonville; Roseburg; Oakland; Eugene; Corvallis; Albany; Salem; Dutchtown; Oregon City; and Portland.


The Redding to Weaverville Stage, nearing French Gulch, c. 1905. Courtesy Gail L. Jenner.



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