The first gold rush in Oregon occurred shortly after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in California. Prior to the first documented gold discovery in Southwestern Oregon, the region was basically uninhabited with the exception of Native Americans, a few fur trappers, and prospectors traveling through the region on their way to the famous Mother Lode Country. While reports of gold in Oregon date as early as 1850, it was during the winter if 1852 that rich gold deposits were discovered by a group of sailors originally headed for Crescent City, California. They area came to be known as “Sailor Diggin’s” in the Illinois Valley. Within two years an eleven mile long ditch was constructed to provide water to work the rich placer ground in the area. Soon rich placer deposits were discovered in all three major river drainages of Southwest Oregon; the Rogue, Applegate, and Illinois River all contained rich deposits, along with thousands of miles of creeks that fed the major river systems. Althouse Creek, one of the richest areas in the region, was said to have been prospected by over 10,000 men for the first decade after the initial discovery of gold there. Many of the miners to explore the region were men who had come to Northern California a few years prior, but arrived too late and were unable to find rich ground that had not already been claimed. It was soon realized that the extent of the goldfields in Southwest Oregon was significant. Nearly every drainage from north of the California border inland for over 50 miles contained gold. Even rich beach placers were discovered in the sands along the coast south of Coos Bay, Oregon. Although the area was always best known for the rich placer gold deposits in the creeks and rivers, in the following decades after the initial strike many lode deposits were mined. The gold districts of Southwest Oregon became well known for their extremely rich “pocket-gold” deposits, where many pounds of gold were discovered throughout the region in isolated locations.
Jacksonville got its start as a gold rush town. Gold was first discovered at Rich Gulch in 1851. As the news spread the area was inundated by gold miners seeking their fortunes. Before then, the area was populated by the Upland Takelmas native American tribe. They had previously had limited interactions with white people outside of the occasional trapper. The influx of white settlers caused increased friction and eventually the native populations were removed from the area. Originally named Table Rock City because of the view of two mesa about 10 miles away, Jacksonville emerged from the mining campsites and thrived to become the county seat and the largest city in Oregon. Settlers coming west on wagon trains found the Rogue Valley to be a desirable place to establish land claims and earn a living as farmers and ranchers. acksonville was once the largest town in Oregon Territory, then the 2nd largest in the state. That is until the railroad bypassed the town in 1884. Jacksonville remained as the county seat and as the prominent town in Southern Oregon, however the boom was over and businesses and residents moved away over the next 50 years. Most relocated to Medford as it took Jacksonville’s place with its railroad stop