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Entries Tagged ‘waldo mining district’

Win a Half Pound of Gold

You might not know it, but the Eastern Oregon Mining Association ( EOMA) and the Waldo Mining District have been fighting stifling and unrealistic regulations  by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Those at ODEQ rub elbows with many environmental organizations that want all gold mining to cease permanently. Gold Miners understand that there must be a balance between environment and industry. Some of the regulations created by DEQ are based on myth, rather than science. They (the environmental groups ) even have all the major newspapers in their back pocket to mislead the public to believe that all mining is bad.

The truth is…aside from a few bozo’s, most miners care about the environment more than most of these so-called self proclaimed environmentalists who never even step foot into the great outdoors . They just want to protest and be in the in-crowd, without educating themselves on the subject they protest.

Anyways…the Eastern Oregon Mining Association and the Waldo Mining District have been continually fighting the regulations that these wacko’s keep trying to impose on us. They have a lot of court costs and fee’s. They are doing a fundraiser. There are many great prizes in addition to the half pound of gold that can be found on their websites. I figured with the six hundred plus people visiting Oregon Gold everyday that we should be able to support this cause collectively. It is important and we should all get involved and try to do our part if we are able to do so.

For contest information please visit here… Gold Contest (or click on the image)

Also the  GPAA Gold Show is coming up on April 2-3, 2011 in Salem, Oregon and last minute tickets can be bought there to support this very good cause and to get in on the drawing. That is where I will be buying my tickets.


From Tom Kitchar, Waldo Mining District

BACKGROUND: Back in 2005, right after Oregon DEQ issued their new 700-PM permit for suction dredge mining, a coalition of 3 environmental organizations (NEDC et al.) filed a challenge against the new permit in the Oregon Court of Appeals claiming among other things that the new permit wasn’t restrictive enough. Shortly thereafter, the Eastern Oregon Mining Association (EOMA) filed to intervene in the NEDC challenge, and, filed a challenge of their own against the permit; claiming it was the wrong permit in the first place.

EXPLANATION: DEQ’s suction dredge permits (i.e.; the earlier 700-J and the 700-PM) are issued in part under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pursuant to Section 402 of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and are “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System” (NPDES) permits. These types of CWA permits are required for any discharge from a point source that causes an “addition” of “pollutants” to the “waters of the United States”; and are typically required for such facilities as municipal sewage treatment plants and other large-scale industrial plants that discharge into waters.

However, under the CWA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has jurisdiction over the discharge of “dredged materials” through their Section 404 permitting program. Add to this, the CWA clearly states that if one is permitted by or under the jurisdiction of the USACE, no EPA Section 402 NPDES permit is required (i.e.; one or the other, but not both). This concept was most recently decided in June of 2009 by the U.S. Supreme Court when they ruled in the case of COEUR ALASKA, INC. v. SOUTHEAST ALASKA CONSERVATION COUNCIL (Nos. 07-984 and 07-990) 486 F. 3d 638:

“…a two-permit regime is contrary to the statute and the regulations.”

So which is the legally correct permit? We believe that if the discharge from a suction dredge or other forms of in-stream mining even falls under the CWA (which is doubtful), then it would be under the jurisdiction of the USACE, and not the EPA; for the following reasons:

1. There is no “addition” of anything. 100% of everything being discharged by a suction dredge is already present in the water. The courts have consistently ruled that for a discharge to be an “addition”, it must come from an outside source (such an onshore operation discharging into the water). Nor does the dredge change, in any way, the bottom sediments passed through the dredge (i.e.; the dredge does not cause the turbidity – the turbidity is caused by the movement of the streambed material and is present before the material and water even enter the intake nozzle).

2. Streambed sediments, when returned to the stream they came from, are not “pollutants”.

3. Many if not most all small streams, creeks, gulches, etc. are not “waters of the United States” but instead are waters of the State of Oregon.
THE 2009 COURT OF APPEAL RULING: On December 23, 2009, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled on EOMA’s challenge to the 2005 700-PM permit in EOMA’s favor. The court declared the permit invalid, because it did not specify what discharge was being permitted by the permit. The court stated that the discharge from suction dredges consisted of streambed sediments, and water. The court stated that discharges of streambed sediments were under the jurisdiction of the Army Corp, not the EPA . . .
And then they defied all logic (and the U.S. Supreme Court June 2009 ruling) and said that suction dredges also discharged turbid wastewater, and those discharges were under the jurisdiction of the EPA! The court ended by saying that suction dredging needed both a 402 and a 404 permit!

EOMA promptly filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which was promptly denied. EOMA then filed a petition for review of the Appeals Court decision with the Oregon Supreme Court. On September 17, 2010, the Oregon Supreme Court agreed to hear the EOMA appeal (and, unfortunately, the NEDC appeal too); with briefs due in a matter of weeks, and a hearing scheduled for mid-January 2011.

However, on September 27, 2010, the State filed a Motion to Dismiss the EOMA & NEDC appeals on the grounds that the 2005 700-PM permit had expired and had been replaced, making all appeals moot. EOMA then filed arguments against the State’s motion to dismiss. At this time, we are waiting to hear from the court to see if they will dismiss the case, or not.

MINERS CHALLENGE THE NEW 2010 700-PM PERMIT: On September 27, 2010, the Waldo Mining District (WMD) et al. filed a petition in the Oregon Court of Appeals challenging the new 700-PM permit on the grounds that it too is another NPDES permit. On the same day, EOMA et al. filed a petition in the Circuit Court of Baker County challenging the new 700-PM permit on the grounds that it is a NPDES permit; that DEQ failed to properly consult with the affected parties while drafting the permit as required by state law; that DEQ failed to recognize the use of water for mining is both a beneficial use and a public necessity, and that such use is “granted” (under state law); plus several other reasons.

*** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Folks, the WMD and EOMA need the financial support of every suction dredge miner in Oregon. We are fighting for YOUR RIGHTS to mine… not just ours! DEQ says there are (or were) approximately 2,000 permitted suction dredge miners in Oregon. If each of you donated just 2 dwt of gold, or $100.00, we would have more than enough funds to see us through this litigation. WE (WMD & EOMA) are actively fighting to keep what happened in California from happening in Oregon (i.e.; a prohibition on dredging).



Waldo Mining District
P.O. Box 1574
Cave Junction, OR 97523

Eastern Oregon Mining Association
P.O. Box 932
Baker City, OR 97814

Help us win…. Or forget dredging in Oregon!

Browntown and Hogtown

Browntown Oregon

The site where Browntown once stood.

Today nothing remains of the early Southern Oregon mining camp once known as Browntown, but in its time, this early town, which along with its suburb of Hogtown, once sat along the banks of Althouse Creek and was described as “the most colorful mining camp in the West”.

Recently, I was able to finally tour the site of this once booming and important mining camp in the Althouse Country, due only to the generosity of local miner Tom Kitchar. In addition to being the President of the Waldo Mining District and possessing a wealth of knowledge about the early mining history of Althouse Creek, this historic mining location also happens to be located within Mr. Kitchar’s network of mining claims in that area.

Located roughly two miles south of the old community of Holland, Browntown was first established in 1853, almost immediately after the discovery of gold in the area by the Althouse Brothers, to serve the needs of miners who were working the rich placers which had been located along this creek, as well as nearby Sucker Creek and Bolan Creek.

The camp itself was named for “Webfoot” Brown, an early miner in the area, who established a store near the mouth of Walker Gulch. Some sources suggest that Webfoot also owned a butcher shop at this location. Though little is actually known of Brown’s background, his nickname “Webfoot” indicates that he had been in Oregon from an early date, as the term “webfoot” was a slang name used by early Californians to refer to Oregonians in a somewhat derogatory fashion. It is however known, that by 1858, Brown had relocated to Yreka, California, where along with J. Tyson, he became the publisher of the Yreka Weekly Union. One of his associates, Herman F. Reinhart, writing in his memoirs, “The Golden Frontier”, remarked that Brown was: “one of the spiciest, most sentimental and humorous writers we ever picked type for”.

In his manuscript, Reinhart mistakenly refers to Browntown as “Brownsville”, only adding to the routine confusion between Browntown, the old settlement of Brown City (which was due south of Takilma, located on the Illinois River somewhat upstream the mouth of Page Creek) and Brownsboro (near Eagle Point, in Jackson County).

There appears to also be some confusion about Webfoot’s background. Reinhart refers to him as Henry H. “Webfoot” Brown. The Library of Congress, in reporting on the early publication of the Yreka Weekly Union, lists the editors and publishers as H.H. Brown and J. Tyson in 1858. However, in his monumental work, “The Centennial History of Oregon: 1811-1912”, Joseph Gaston gives a detailed history of a Brown family living in Jackson County who had been in Oregon since 1852. In particular, Gaston details two brothers, J. Frank and R. Henry Brown, who immigrated to Southern Oregon from England via Wisconsin, as well as several of Frank’s sons. Gaston writes that this R. Henry Brown came to Jacksonville in 1853, which certainly puts him in the area when Browntown was established. It’s also important to mention that Frank Brown, who came to the area in 1860, like Webfoot, was a merchant and butcher by trade and co-owned a store with his brother R. H. Brown at Eagle Point and a butcher shop at Jacksonville. Meanwhile, Frank’s son, Royal H. Brown, later worked as the editor of the Yreka Union, just as Webfoot had once done. Gaston goes on to remark that the community of Brownsboro, Oregon (near Eagle Point) was named for R. Henry Brown. Obviously, the similarities between R. Henry Brown and Henry H. “Webfoot” Brown are relatively startling, especially when one considers the relatively small population of Southern Oregon in those days. It seems likely that if Webfoot and R. Henry were not one and the same, that there was likely to be a relation in some way.

By 1858, over 500 miners were said to live in or near Browntown, while another smaller population lived at nearby Hogtown, which was located somewhat upstream of this location. At the time, hundreds of miners traversed the famous Althouse Trail which once connected this area to Happy Camp, California. As these men roamed the area in search of golden prospects, they frequented the varying mining camps which were located along the trail, including Browntown, Althouse, Grass Flat, Frenchtown Bar, California Bar, Allentown, All Hours and others, not to mention others on the California side. Of these camps, Browntown was likely the largest.

As early as 1853, Browntown was said to include “ten to twelve stores, several saloons, and a good hotel”. By the following year, it had grown to “two bakeries, ten stores, four hotels, a bowling alley, seven saloons, three blacksmith shops and two dance or fancy houses”. One of these two “fancy houses”, may very well have been Browntown’s “Opera House” which was considered a rarity in such a place. Browntown was also home to Belt Lodge #26 of the Order of Free Masons, which was later consolidated with the Western Star Lodge #18 in 1864 to create the current lodge still standing in Kerby, Oregon today. Over a hundred cabins existed up and down the creek nearby, signs of which, very little to anything remains today.

It is also known that some sort of fort was constructed at Browntown following an Indian attack on several miners who were prospecting what is now known as Deadman Gulch. The miners (some say two, others say, there were three of them) had set their guns down while they worked the creek. Several Indians silently crept up behind the group, stole their weapons and shot and killed the group of miners with their own guns. As this gulch is located close to Browntown, the miners felt it necessary to establish some type of fortifications in their community to repel a major attack, which during the mid 1850’s was a very real threat.

It is possible that the majority of Browntown may have been constructed in a way that was somewhat less than permanent and may have been little more than a tent or shanty town, for even as late November of 1858, a Father Croke wrote of his journey through the area in an effort to raise money for a Catholic church. He said little of Browntown, merely mentioning that he left his horse there and went on to Grass Flat on foot. While he describes Grass Flat as a “trading post”, he uses the word “town” in regards to Browntown rather loosely, as if to indicate that it had very little resemblance to a civilization.

In addition to many Euro-American miners, quite a large number of Chinese also made their way into Browntown. Living in terrible, cramped cabins and existing frugally on mainly tea, rice, Skunk Cabbage and Miner’s Lettuce, the Chinese were very patient, methodical miners who often uncovered large deposits on claims previously thought to have been worked out.

If there were ever any peaceful times at Browntown, they have long been over shadowed by its rougher element, which often punctuated the dullness of day to day life with drunken brawls, shootings, less than harmless practical jokes and other types of skull-duggery. Located miles from county government, the miners themselves were their own law and though they tolerated the likes of brawls, pistol duels and things of that nature, one thing they did not tolerate much was high-grading. Theft of gold from unattended sluice boxes was a particular problem in the vicinity of Browntown and did much to raise the ire of miner’s courts in the area, though there is no clear indication if they ever located the perpetrators or how they were dealt with if they did catch up to them.

Among its many establishments, Browntown had one of the only “Opera Houses” in Oregon at that time, which occasionally hosted traveling stage acts. Among those who performed at Browntown was child starlet Lotta Crabtree who starting in 1853 began touring the mining camps of the Siskiyous. This tiny, six year old girl with red hair had been professionally trained to dance, sing and play music in San Francisco and was as famous during her time as Shirley Temple would be decades later. At Browntown, the girl sang and danced jigs as the miners clapped and stomped out a beat for her. The men were so appreciative that they promptly showered Lotta with gold coins and nuggets, which her mother Mary Ann would pick up off the stage and tuck into her apron. A decade later, at the age of sixteen, Lotta played Browntown for a second time in 1863, and was not so well received when she began to belt out patriotic songs declaring her loyalty to the Union. Giving some insight into the political mood of the camp during the Civil War, the crowd of local miners hissed at her and treated her in such a way, that even years later, her manager remarked that Browntown had been “cold and relentless” and that not a single person there had clapped for her.

On another occasion, a local miner left Browntown and married a mail order bride who he had picked up in San Francisco. So woman starved was the camp in its early days, that when their compatriot returned to Browntown, miners from miles away decided to honor the bride’s arrival by amassing at the stage station where they greeted her by firing their revolvers into the air and hooting and hollering like Indians. Terrified, the woman hid inside of the stagecoach, not realizing that the miners were paying tribute to her.

Even the Chinese, who were so noted for their patience, tended to run on the ornery side at Browntown. Webfoot Brown kept the largest store in town and often made deliveries to the more distant camps by way of pack train along the Althouse Trail. On one occasion, he had a delivery so large that he was forced to leave the store in the care of his young daughter for the day. As the day wore on, the store began to grow so busy that the girl became so tired from waiting on customers that she decided to close the store and take a rest. Soon, a large group of Chinese miners looking to purchase supplies appeared at the door and began to mill about while they waited for the store to open. Several hours went by and now the ordinary patient Celestials, began to grow agitated. When one of them peered through a window and saw the girl inside, they began to bang on the doors and the windows for her to open the store. Now terror-stricken, the girl’s unwillingness to open the front door only made the Chinese grow even more irate and well into dark, the group continued to mill about, shouting and swearing, until they finally dispersed and returned to their diggings well after dark.

Like other mining camps, Browntown also had more than its fair share of viscous brawls and killings.

A miner by the name of Tom Ryan was considered to be the terror of Browntown in that he was somewhat famous throughout Southern Oregon for his sour attitude and his enjoyment of brawling. On one evening, an Irish miner by the name of Maxwell was entertaining “the boys” with song as they drank at the bar. This was something that Maxwell often did and having little other entertainment, his singing was much revered by the miners of Browntown. While Maxwell was entertaining those who had bellied up to the bar, Tom Ryan soon grew moody. Awash with drink, the bully picked up a bar stool and then smashed a young miner over the head with it for reason’s still unknown. Seeing this injustice, Maxwell intervened on the teenager’s behalf and he and Tom Ryan took to fighting, proceeding to beat each other bloody until the miners in the room decided to separate them. Seizing this opportunity, Ryan bolted for the door and as he reached it, he looked back over his shoulder and said something particularly tasteless to Maxwell. In a rage, the Irishman promptly picked up a hot lid off the wood-stove that he was standing next to and despite the heat, threw it at Ryan’s head. The hot disc gashed Tom Ryan’s face rather badly and split the man’s lip, nearly killing him. Once again, the miners intervened, taking both away to tend to their injuries – in separate cabins, of course.

On another occasion, a Waldo gambler by the name of Bill Nicholas was challenged to a duel by a gambler from Browntown who’s name has now been lost to antiquity. The two men promptly met in the middle of the street carrying their weapons of choice. The gambler from Browntown carried a revolver, while Bill Nicholas chose a Bowie knife. At that, the two men each grabbed one end of a handkerchief or small scarf with their left hands and with their weapons in their right hands, the duel began. The gambler from Browntown promptly leveled his pistol and fired, only for Bill Nicholas to somehow dodge the pistol ball and to then drive his knife into the shoulder of his opponent. Those who had gathered to watch, promptly separated the two men and declared that the duel was over.

However, the Browntown gambler, the much larger of the two men, was not satisfied with the outcome of the duel and promptly announced that he would beat the living hell out Bill Nicholas the next time he saw him and then turned to leave. Soon after, the Browntown man watched Nicholas walk into a store, where upon he followed him and attempted to pick a fight with the smaller man. Calmly, Bill Nicholas grabbed up a ten pound weight off the store counter and flung it at the man’s head. Dodging the weight, the larger of the two continued to taunt Nicholas, only to be pelted in the stomach by a second weight, which temporarily incapacitated him. Needless to say, he did not bother Bill Nicholas again.

Despite the fact that Browntown was large, its population did fluctuate dramatically. In particular, the number of miners working the area plummeted during late 1857 when word of the discovery of gold on the Fraser River in British Columbia had reached the area. Hundreds of miners working in Southern Oregon left during “the Fraser River Excitement” as it was often referred to. A large number of miners from the vicinity of Browntown ventured to British Columbia only to return to the Althouse broke. As Father Croke noted during his visit to the Althouse in November of 1858, “There are a great deal more miners here than in Allen Gulch (near Waldo), but very many of them are just returned from Fraser River, and are scarcely making their board.”

Still, despite their poverty, they were certainly better off than the many thousands of miners who stayed in the Fraser that winter, many of whom perished from the abject poverty and poor conditions.

As was often done with other mining camps, when a location “played out”, the miners disassembled their camp and moved on to the next rich area they could find. Typically, gulches were mined out for about the first half a mile above their mouth, a process that was sped up with the growing popularity of hydraulic mining in the 1860’s. Browntown was no different, in that by 1876, Walker Gulch had been so thoroughly mined that Browntown was moved upstream to the mouth of Number Seven Gulch, where the new camp was sometimes referred to as “Tigertown”. At this location, hydraulic mining resulted in the construction of eight miles worth of ditch and eighteen miles worth of trails, most of which were built by the Chinese. These improvements allowed for the mining of fourteen “stream miles” worth of ground and even today, contrary to the popular idea that this area is “a pristine wilderness”, extensive tailing piles are very much in evidence throughout the area to illustrate just how much work was done in the vicinity. Having visited most of Southern Oregon’s historic gold mining districts, I must say that of all the areas I have had the opportunity to explore, the signs of past mining in the vicinity of Browntown are the most extensive and much of the ground appears to have been re-worked by several generations of miners since the early days.

Over time, most of the easy gold was mined out of the area and as such, Browntown gradually fell into decline. Though still in existence after 1900, by 1915, the population of Browntown and its surrounding area (possibly including the community of Holland) had dropped to less than 75 people. A few operations continued to mine in the area. In particular, a large drag line dredge was brought in during the 1930’s and worked out a 20 acre bench into the 1940’s. According to local legend, this bench included the town site of Browntown and it is generally believed that any remains of the settlement literally went down the sluice and were gone forever.

However, it is important to point out, that although the site of Browntown today is little more than a long grassy flat dotted with some tailing piles, there are no signs of a drag line dredge having worked this site. When Muriel Wolle, the author of numerous books on early mining camps and ghost towns in the West, most notably her famous work, “The Bonanza Trail”, visited this area in 1950 or 1951 and attempted to locate the site of Browntown, she indicated that she had “noticed a mine dump … on a gravelly meadow” which she believed was the town site. Based on her descriptions, the actual site appears to have changed very little during the last 60 years and she makes no reference to signs of a large dredge working the location. It therefore seems more likely that the ravages of time, not a drag line dredge, had eliminated any signs of Browntown.

By the 1960’s, for a nominal fee, local booster, Elwood Hussey offered gold mining excursions to the site of Browntown. Hussey would provide a pick and a pan and several local old timers would teach the customers how to pan. These excursions were so popular that they were mentioned in many travel and auto club books of the period. Elwood Hussey is perhaps best known for once being the owner of the tract of land which is now Cave Junction, Oregon which he donated to the local community. He was, more or less, the founding father of the above mentioned town.

It is is generally acknowledged that even into the early 1960’s, although nothing remained of Browntown proper, there were extensive remnants of old mining cabins and mining relics scattered throughout the surrounding area. In 1967, a “hippie” commune known as Sunny Ridge was established on an old mining claim on Blind Sam Gulch, which is somewhat near Browntown. At one time, nearly 100 people were said to have lived on the commune (enough so that about half of the native population of the Illinois Valley claims to have been born at Sunny Ridge – a few of them probably were) until they were evicted from the claim by BLM in the late 1970’s or so. It is generally believed that during that decade, many of the original mining structures and relics in the vicinity were recycled by the residents of Sunny Ridge in an effort to put “junk” to some sort of practical use for their social experiment.

Today, nothing much remains of Browntown but a few piles of loose cobbles which appear to have been turned over by successive generations of miners again and again and again in an ever-continuing search for gold. Unlike other areas, apart from the tailing piles, there are no real signs that hundreds of miners once lived there. There are no old tin cans, square nails, rusty hinges, broken pieces of colored glass bottles or other such more-than-a-century-old-garbage lying around in plain site to indicate that anything remotely resembling civilization ever existed in the area. There are no real signs of the amount of wealth that was gleaned from the gravels of this area – an estimated quarter of a million ounces of placer gold alone between 1852 and 1959, roughly equaling better than a quarter of a billion dollars at today’s current spot price. But there is something that remains left from those days and that is the sensation or feeling that something did once go on in that place and that it was something extraordinary.

~ Kerby Jackson, Josephine County, Oregon

Oregon Suction Dredge Update

From Tom Kitchar of the Waldo Mining District

Dear Friends,

Oregon DEQ is currently rewriting the 700-PM Suction Dredge Mining Permit for
Oregon. They expect to release the Final Draft for public comment on April 22,
2010. There will be a 35 day comment period, three public meetings (Pendleton,
Portland, and Medford), and they plan to have the new permit approved and adopted by
the end of June, 2010.

Below please find attached (click to open):

1. 700PM GP PREDraft (proposed permit)

2. BMP CrossRef (comparison between present permit and proposed)


Note that a meeting was held at DEQ Portland on April 13, 2010, to discuss this
proposed terrible permit. At that meeting, approx. 60 or so miners attended from
all over Oregon (plus greenies, and other interested parties). Google “Oregon DEQ”,
and then look for instream mining permits, and somewhere you should find a link to a
recording of that meeting, plus other info on the new permit.

At the meeting, DEQ was not prepared to answer any real questions. Oregon miners
are getting screwed!!!!!!

Currently, we are trying to arrange a consultation meeting (as required by law)
between miners and DEQ. This meeting will hopefully be held in Salem, OR, sometime
after April 22. Space may be limited, so we are looking for representatives from
mining orgs to attend this meeting. If you are interested, please contact me and
let me know.

Tom Kitchar
Waldo Mining District

Gold in Josephine County – 1870

From the archives of Kerby Jackson

Extract from -
Mines & Mining in the States and Territories West of the Rockies
U.S. Commision of mining statistics, 1870


Josephine County in 1895

Josephine County in 1895

This county is situated in the southwestern part of the State, and contains about two thousand five hundred square miles. It is bounded north by the Rogue River Mountains, separating it from Douglas County, east by Jackson County, south by California, and west by Curry County. There are about fifteen hundred inhabitants, and five or six thousand acres of land under cultivation. Kerbyville, Leland, Slate Creek, and Waldo are the principal towns. The condition of the placer mining in the county during the past year has been substantially the same as in Jackson County. Josephine suffers somewhat from lack of regular communications. It is perhaps on this account that I have failed to receive the detailed reports promised by letter from Sailor Diggings and other noted localities. The following description, furnished to a committee of the State Agricultural Society in 1869 by Dr. Watkins, a physician long resident in the county, may be relied upon.

Josephine County attracted attention as early as 1852, as a locality for placer gold-mining. The first mining of any importance was on Josephine Creek, which derived its name from a daughter of one of the miners, and afterward gave name to the county. In the spring of 1853 there was a great rush to the mines on Althouse Creek, which rises in the Siskiyou range, and runs in a northerly direction, uniting with other tributaries, forming Illinois River. The diggings on Althouse were very rich, the bed of the stream paying not only heavily but quite uniformly. At one time Adams & Co.’s books had a thousand names to obtain letters for in the different localities, where miners had previously resided. Sailor Diggings was then a famous locality; a ditch was dug some fifteen miles long at a cost of some $75,000 or $80,000 to bring water to the rich placers of this vicinity, and when fairly under way paid for itself the first year. It paid heavy dividends to its stockholders for ten or twelve years, and many parties who live sumptuously every day owe their fortune to their connection with the Sailor Diggings Ditch Company.

Sucker Creek, a tributary of Illinois River, a large turbulent mountain stream, was extensively mined from 1854 to 1860, but the diggings are deep, the boulders are large and unwieldy, the stream an unmanageable one, and, I think, never made an adequate return for the labor expended; but Sucker Creek has not yet had its day, and, with cheaper labor and better facilities, it will yet yield a golden harvest to the hand of adventure.

Canon Creek, Illinois River, and Galice Creek, were mined during these years, and generally with an adequate return for labor expended.

Williams Creek, a tributary of Applegate Creek, has had for the last few years a hardy mining population, who have met with a moderate return. Josephine is a mining county, and has had all the vicissitudes of such a county. Her citizens leading a roving life, and having little to bind them to the soil, mostly left during the Indian war of 1855-’56. Her rich minerals brought back to her a renewed population, however, but the great Fraser River excitement nearly depopulated her, and now she is only the shadow of her former self. But her rich placers are far from being exhausted. There are rich veins of copper running into her hills. The most noticeable one, some eight or tea feet in thickness, is situated in the hills betweeu Waldo and Althouse; but for some reason attempts to work it have failed, although it appears to be of great purity and inexhaustible in quantity. But the copper mines down Illinois River will yet make this locality famous; the copper is found in well defined lodes, and practically inexhaustible. The question is one of transportation.

Platter & Beach have been running a tunnel for the last three years through a heavy divide, to turn the waters of Althouse, so as entirely to drain the bed of Althouse Creek. Hanson & Co. have done the same at another point, and are now ” striking it rich.” These two operations have opened a district of great mineral wealth, which will awaken the old times in placer-gold mining on Althouse. The returns of the Malachi quartz lode have been very heavy ; and it is reported that this property has been purchased by a San Francisco house, who are pursuing the enterprise with vigor.

The county is dependent for supplies upon a slow, laborious and costly transportation over the Coast range.


Strangely enough, despite the passing of 140 years, a lot of things have not changed here in Josephine County since 1870. Most of the creeks and rivers which were mentioned by Dr. Watkins are still the centers of what little gold mining still goes on this county. The limited activity is not for the lack of gold, but due to the evergrowing problem of environmentalism all in the name of saving “virgin” waterways that contrary to common knowledge, are not so virgin. Sucker Creek, in particular, has had a lot of exposure in the news due to the prosecution of Cliff Tracey for his challenge against the authority of the USFS. But Sucker Creek, named for the large number of Illinois miners who once worked that creek (so named because Illinois is called “The Sucker State” and they also leant the name of their home state to the nearby river and surrounding valley), was worked so heavily in the old days that every boulder and every piece of gravel was probably overturned by the hands of early miners. Later on, around 1910, dragline dredges worked this waterway. Despite this, Sucker Creek is beautiful and supports a great deal of aquatic life. As Mr. Tracey’s tenacity indicates, there is undoubtedly still a lot of gold in the Sucker Creek watershed. It is reported that even down low in the grassy plain valley where the bedrock runs to depth of seventy five or more feet, that good quantities of course flakes can be recovered by simple panning of this creek’s gravels. Quite a lot of mining claims are still located on the upper end of this creek and its tributaries, mostly worked by individual miners.

Althouse Creek is a neighbor of Sucker Creek, and though it is more famous than the aforementioned waterway, both bring their gold from the same sources, which are largely concentrated in the hills between the East Fork of Althouse and the East Fork of Sucker. The gold in these two creeks originates from both lode deposits, as well as ancient channel gravels which still remain mostly unworked on the Oregon side of the Siskiyous. These two creeks have produced the largest gold nuggets ever located in Oregon history, including the famous Collins Nugget from the East Fork Althouse, as well as several nearly that size from Sucker Creek that were all recovered prior to 1900. Though the gravels of Althouse Creek itself have been heavily worked and the upper reaches are so wild that it is like you’ve stepped back into time, a large amount of activity still takes place in this area, most of which by small suction dredge.

Slightly to the west of Althouse Creek is a tremendous wealth of native copper. In fact, this is the greatest belt of copper on the West Coast and it runs for about 100 miles through Sothern Oregon and Northern California. One copper mine that did exist in this area was the famous Queen of Bronze Mine which was located near Takilma, Oregon and operated between 1862 and the 1930. Durings its heyday (about 1900), this 160 acre operation located at 40S, 8W, Sec 36, NW was the largest copper mine in the United States, consisting of over 7100 feet of tunnels. The Queen of Bronze also yielded gold as by-product, its total production amounting to about 60,000 ounces of gold and over 5 million pounds of copper. Since 1930, the mine has changed hands a number of times and despite housing tremendous mineral reserves, little work has been done since 1930 beyond some basic evaluation.

Seal of the State of Jefferson

Seal of the State of Jefferson

As was mentioned in the article, transportation issues prevented these reserves from being heavily mined. In fact, this condition was such that as late as 1941, the situation finally came to a head when residents of SW Oregon lobbied the State of Oregon to improve transportation into the copper belt. Instead, the state built campgrounds in the Northern Willamette. Meanwhile, California’s government also failed to support mining interests in Northern California. Leading citizens from the counties located on both sides of the California-Oregon border met in Yreka, California on November 17th, 1941 to discuss this issue and emerged with a plan. Their goal was for these counties to secede from Oregon and California and to form a new central government – the State of Jefferson. The state seal and state flag that they adopted reflected the core of the issue. The seal was a gold pan with two X’s emblazoned over top of it, representing “the double-cross” that had been done to the region by the governments of Oregon and California. Ten days later, those involved mounted an organized revolt. Astride horses and armed with rifles, they blocked Highway 199 (now I-5) near Yreka and handed out proclamations of independence to motorists. These read:

“You are now entering Jefferson, the 49th State of the Union. Jefferson is now in patriotic rebellion against the States of California and Oregon. This State has seceded from California and Oregon this Thursday, November 27, 1941. Patriotic Jeffersonians intend to secede each Thursday until further notice.

For the next hundred miles as you drive along Highway 99, you are traveling parallel to the greatest copper belt in the far West, seventy-five miles west of here. The United States government needs this vital mineral. But gross neglect by California and Oregon deprives us of necessary roads to bring out the copper ore. If you don’t believe this, drive down the Klamath River Highway and see for yourself. Take your chains, shovel and dynamite.

Until California and Oregon build a road into the copper country, Jefferson, as a defense minded state, will be forced to rebel each Thursday and act as a separate State.”

Eventually, an officer of the California Highway Patrol stumbled upon the roadblock. The men handed him a flier and told him to “go back to California”, upon which he promptly stepped back into his car, did a U-turn and left the area.

On December 4th, 1941, Judge John L. Childs of Crescent City was elected as Governor of the State of Jefferson and a torchlight parade was held at its Capital of Yreka. Media was present to record the event, which was to broadcasted on December 8th. It seemed the State of Jefferson was off to a grand start.

On the morning of December 7th, 1941, Japan launched a crushing attack on Pearl Harbor. The newsreels of Jefferson’s establishment as a state never appeared and the rebellion of locals ceased as the people went to work to support the war effort.

Eventually, a proper road was built into the copper country. It is called the State of Jefferson Scenic Highway, but most of the copper is still there awaiting some industrious miners to take it out.

One thing that has changed are the communities which Watkins mentioned in the article. Two of the four communities he mentioned no longer exist at all, namely Waldo and Leland. The other two, Kerbyville and Slate Creek barely exist and they are no longer called called by those names. Today, the only substantial community in Josephine County is Grants Pass, which was just a little hole in the road in Watkin’s days.

Waldo, Oregon in 1890

Waldo, Oregon in 1890

Waldo was one of the the first communities established in Southern Oregon and was originally called Sailor’s Diggings. This area gave rise to the first organized mining district in Oregon – the Waldo Mining District – which was established in 1852. This district still exists (and actually pre-dates creation of the State of Oregon) and is at the forefront of fighting for the rights of miners in this region. The Waldo Mining District, as the first seat of local government in this area, was instrumental in the formation of Josephine County which was established in January of 1856 when it separated from Jackson County. Waldo became its first county seat. Though popular myth has always claimed that the population of Waldo exceeded 30,000 miners during its heyday, in reality, only about 1500 persons (excluding Indians) lived in Josephine County in those days. Two thirds of these were miners working around the vicinity of Waldo, a small number of which were Chinese. Starting out as a tent city and growing into something more permanent, during its boom, Waldo was a wide open town that often attracted a rough element.

Ferd Patterson

Ferd Patterson

One fella who was attracted to the wealth of the diggings in the area was a young gambler by the name of Ferd Patterson who thought himself as not only a bit of a dandy, but he also thought of himself as a bit of a gunslick. Several years before he made a big name for himself by killing Sumner Pinkham in Idaho and ultimately bit the dust in Eastern Washington, Ferd wound up in an arguement with two local miners in Waldo over a card game and promptly gunned them both down. With the locals hot on his heels, Ferd beat feet for Portland, where he soon got himself into a bunch of trouble when he scalped his mistress and killed a well known riverboat captain whom he thought was shacking up with his girl. Another individual who got himself into trouble in Waldo was the notorious outlaw Boone Helm who later made a name for himself with the Henry Plummer gang, not to mention with his partaking of the flesh of one of his unfortunate partners somewhere in Idaho. In 1858, Boone was on the run from California and headed to The Dalles which widely reputed as a safe haven for criminals. During his stay in Oregon, Boone got himself in all kinds of trouble and killed several other men. One man he didn’t manage to kill was an old farmer living near Waldo. When Helm begged food off the farmer, the old man took pity on him and invited him into his home, where he provided him with food and rest. Illustrating that no good deed should go un-punished, Boone decided that he would kill the old man and steal whatever food and valueables that he had. Upon his attempt to sneak up to the old man while he lay asleep in his bed, instead of an easy victim, Boone soon found himself face to face with the barrel of Fowling shotgun. Upon escaping from the cabin, like Patterson, Boone Helm was chased out of the county. However, like other boom towns, Waldo would not last. By the 1880’s, many miners had left the vicinity and headed to nearby Kerbyville which eventually replaced Waldo as the seat of power in this county. A good many others went to the new strikes on the Frasier River. In December of 1928, Waldo lost its post office. During the 1930’s, it was discovered that Waldo had been built upon a rich gravel bench and the townsite was soon purchased by a local mining company. As also happened with the townsite of nearby Browntown on Althouse Creek, during that decade, the monitors took care of Waldo once and for all as they mined the site out. Today, nothing remains of Waldo but a cemetery.

Fort Leland

Grave Creek House at Leland

Like Waldo, Leland also now no longer exists. This community was located on LeLand Road somewhat past the present community of Sunny Valley, Oregon. Though this was originally the site of Fort LeLand during the 1850’s and the surrounding land was patented in 1859 by James Twogood who operated a stage station nearby called Grave Creek House, the small community that grew up in this area was known by a number of names, namely Maloneyville and Altamont. The town received its first post office in 1884 and served as a supply center for nearby mines, namely that of Criteser and Tast (1/4 mile west of town) which was established in 1878, the Goff Mine that was established a half mile north of town in 1886 and yet another large mine about one mile west of town that was eventually owned by the Lewis Company of Portland. By 1890, a few miles south of Leland, another town also grew up in the form of Placer. Like Leland, that town too no longer exists, both of them going into decline around World War One. By the 1940’s, the name of this area was changed to Sunny Valley. Quite a lot of mining is still done by individual prospectors in this gold rich area, mainly along Grave Creek.

Watkins also mentions the town of Slate Creek. Though now a shadow of its former self, this town still exists only today we call it Wilderville and consists of little more than an old store and a community church. At one time, one of the greatest marble mines in the United States looked down on this community. Nearby Slate Creek runs behind Wilderville and is a tributary of the Applegate River with tremendous reserves of placer gold. Decades ago, when my grandmother first came to Oregon and wished to live a solitary existence, she lived on an old mining claim high up on Slate Creek and made her way with nothing but a gold pan and a rifle.

Kerbyville in 1885

Kerbyville in 1885

As mentioned earlier, Kerbyville replaced Waldo as our local county seat. It still exists today and though little of it remains, it is a great old town with a lot of gold history and a nice musuem. Like Waldo, Kerbyville was a rough place during its heyday where miners often doled out justice at the old hanging tree. According to local legend, Kerbyville was established when a packer by the name of “Tig” Martinez was transporting a pool table from Crescent City, California which he had consigned to a man named Jake Cohen who was a saloonkeeper at Althouse. Tig had the table on the back of his favorite mule, who he called Anita. Suddenly, Anita collapsed from the strain and promptly died. It was believed that there was not another mule in the whole of the valley which could carry the table on to Althouse, so Tig left it atop the mule and went to see Cohen and explained to him that the table was near the farm of James Kerby and that he would have to transport it the rest of the way to Althouse. Tig then asked for his pay, which Cohen refused to give to him for lack of delivery. The end result was that Tig was now the proud owner of one pool table which was currently lying atop the carcass of his favorite mule in the middle of the trail. Not wanting to lose the money that he had invested, Tig soon came up with an idea. After removing his mule from beneath it, Tig erected a tent around the table, set up a bar and advertised the grand opening of a brand new saloon. As it was the only pool table in the area, he soon had a roaring trade and a town grew up around it. At its height, about 500 people lived in Kerby, mostly miners who worked the neighboring creeks and gulches. In the surrounding hillsides, a lot of gold can still be found. As you might have guessed, this writer was named for that town.

~ Kerby Jackson, Josephine County, Oregon

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