The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1857

    This half mining, half agricultural settlement is situated in one of the most beautiful and fertile valleys in the world--a valley that is about thirty-five miles in length, by from one to twenty miles in width--and from whatever point obtained, the view is peculiarly diversified and picturesque; its evergreen slopes and timbered knolls, its cultivated farms, rich with the black soil just turned up by the plow, the fresh, light green of the wheat just peeping above it, and the stock quietly feeding, give it a pastoral appearance that speaks of industry, beauty and contentment: while from the high mountains that stand near you small brooks run babbling on, laughing and leaping as they pass through the oak openings and across the farm lots. And by these streams nearly the whole southwestern side of the valley can be irrigated--though the perpetual green that covers every portion of the valley, even to the slopes and summits of the hills during the long summer drought would indicate a climate more moist and congenial to the production of all the finer grasses and clovers than that of California.
    In the midst of this amphitheater of loveliness stands the flourishing town of Jacksonville, being a very important town to the whole section around, from whence the inhabitants of the valley, and the surrounding settlements, obtain their supplies. The principal business of Crescent City, on the sea coast, is with this place. The Indians have been very troublesome throughout the valley ever since its first settlement.
    Within a circuit of twelve miles of Jacksonville there are about one hundred and twenty families, and what is very important to the male members of the genus homo
, there are about fifty marriageable ladies. All of them young and good-looking(!) [sic]
    About eight miles southwest of this is another very prosperous mining locality named Sterlingville, and which bids fair to be one of the best in the state. All they want is plenty of water.
    In February 1851, two men, one named Clugage and the other Poole, were out on a prospecting expedition for gold, and near the site of the present town found their labors rewarded by a "good prospect" of the precious metal, and immediately pitched their camp. At that time there were but three log cabins in the valley.
    As men began to gather in, a little town sprang into existence, and from a singular rock at the lower end of the valley, about nine miles below the town, resembling a huge table, this little village was first named Table Rock City, but as the valley became settled it became the county town of Jackson County, Oregon, and was then changed to its present name.
    There is a population of about 700 persons here, and it seemed to us that not less than about half that number were called "Doctor!" although it is considered a very healthy place.
James Mason Hutchings in Hutchings' California Magazine, January 1857, page 295

    SOUTHERN OREGON.--In the Table Rock Sentinel, of a recent date, we find the following, in regard to the mineral and other resources of Jackson County:
    "We have taken some trouble to ascertain the number of persons mining on Jackson Creek and its branches, and from the best information we can obtain, there are about three hundred men. It is estimated that they will make, at least, an average of $3.33 per day to the hand, which will amount in the aggregate to $1,000 per day, $26,000 per month, and an annual yield of $312,000.
    "The Sterling diggings will yield as much if not a greater amount of gold. Applegate, Rogue River and Evans Creek will yield as much as Sterling or Jackson Creek. Therefore we may safely calculate that, within the limits of Jackson County, there is annually produced from the mines alone about $1,000,000.
    "Besides this, our agricultural population produce all the breadstuff and vegetables necessary for the support of the mining population of Jackson County, supply Josephine, and furnish a large amount to Siskiyou County, Cal. Beef and pork are now cheap and being extensively raised. Flour is retailing at three, potatoes at four, and beef at twelve and fifteen cents per pound. Industry is rewarded as abundantly as in any part of the world. All the great variety of merchandise necessary for a farming and mining community can be obtained at the stores of Maury & Davis, J. A. Brunner & Bro., John Anderson, Pat Ryan, J. P. Stearns, Fisher & Bro., Baker and others, Jacksonville, at prices in proportion to the transportation, as low as in any of the towns in the Territory.
Sacramento Daily Union, January 27, 1857, page 3

    Jacksonville contains eleven stores, two hotels, two private boarding houses, one printing office, four blacksmith shops, one tin shop, one boot and shoe store, four drug stores, two wagon shops, one cigar and tobacco store, two cabinet shops, two livery stables, one painter, two tailors, two barbers, one dentist, one daguerrean artist, two jewelers, one bag factory, one express office, a post office, two billiard saloons, six physicians, four lawyers, ten carpenters, one barber, several speculators, two meat markets, two bakeries, one brewery, one saddlery and harness shop, and six drinking saloons.--Sentinel.
Weekly Oregonian,
Portland, February 21, 1857, page 2

    JACKSONVILLE, O.T.--On a recent visit to this flourishing little place, we were somewhat surprised to see the many changes and improvements which have taken place in the short place of one year. Several commodious fireproof buildings have lately been erected, and preparations are now being made for the erection of others during the coming summer.
    Situated as it is, in the center of one of the most beautiful and fertile valleys of the Territory, surrounded on all sides by a vast extent of rich mining country, Jacksonville bids fair, at no very distant day, to rank foremost among the towns of Oregon. The snows and rains of the past winter have furnished the miners in that vicinity with an abundance of water, and enabled them to prospect many rich gulches hitherto untouched. Extensive mining operations are now going on in the immediate vicinity of the town. One company, having obtained rich prospects in that locality, are now engaged in running a tunnel, which, if successful, may be the means of undermining many of the principal buildings in the place.
    The miners of Sterlingville and Applegate Creek have also done well during the past winter. Our enterprising friend W. W. Fowler is now engaged in a large ditching operation in Applegate, by which he purposes to drain that stream for several miles. The greater portion of the ditch is already finished, and the whole work will be completed in a few weeks, thereby furnishing employment for hundreds of miners who will probably work on the bars the coming summer.--Siskiyou Chronicle.
Red Bluff Beacon,
April 15, 1857, page 2

    "Those who love scenery cannot but be delighted by visiting that portion of Jacksonville situated on the eminence of an evening. The valley shows the beautiful plain interspersed with groves and dotted with scattering timber still further on the mountains forming the eastern rim of the great valley of an evening at this season of the year, the clouds hanging in the horizon over the summit of the hills, the sun as at this moment reflecting its golden rays, with occasional shades in the background formed by indentations in the mountain," &c.--Jacksonville Sentinel.

Oregon Argus, Oregon City, July 18, 1857, page 2

Evansville, Jackson Co., O.T.               
September 19th, 1857.               
    This portion of our fast-growing country seems to have been overlooked by your numerous correspondents, and having some little feeling of pride from the rapidly increasing prosperity of Southern Oregon, I have ventured to address you with a few items that may be of interest to your readers.
    To assure you that no selfish motive governs me in so doing, I will say that I am a miner and have no interest whatever in the improvements now going on, other than what benefits the hard-working industrious miner, by placing within his reach the means of social and intellectual enjoyment.
    This county, as well as that of Josephine, has been the field from which many a prospector has gone home with his "pile," and yet many claims remain that will pay good wages for thousands more, who may hereafter come to work them. Besides the mining operations on Rogue River, and a great many wing-dams have been put in, this season; there are "old Sams," "Galls" and "Sardine" creeks. The last, the one on which I have been located for six months, and therefore can speak more truthfully of the chances for newcomers, will accommodate seven hundred more men than are at present at work. The prospects are good, and sufficient to warrant good pay, that is three or four dollars a day. The others, I am told, prospect equally as well. Thus while the golden dust remains in bank from the want of the labor to get it out, your city ought not to complain of idle laborers seeking employment. Let them leave, come up to this section, and I assure them they can either take claims for themselves or hire out to those who may already have located.
    A daily line of stages are now running form Jacksonville through this village to Illinois Valley, a distance of 68 miles, where it connects with a passenger train of animals for Crescent City. A tri-weekly line also runs from Jacksonville to Yreka, thus giving ample opportunity for all to get here who may desire it.
    New towns are almost daily springing into existence, where but as yesterday, there was but a solitary cabin. Kerbyville, in Illinois Valley, last fall was but a simple trading post, is now a large and flourishing town. This village, named after Mr. Davis Evans, was located but about four weeks since, and at that time had but the farm cabin of Dr. Ambrose upon it, and now it can boast of a fine two-story hotel, a wholesale and retail grocery store, a lawyer and a doctor's office, a large and commodious stable, a blacksmith's shop, and a number of other private buildings. The liberal policy pursued by the proprietor, Mr. Evans, of bestowing a lot of ground, 30 by 70, to anyone who will build, has the effect of bringing enterprising men from all quarters, and will undoubtedly soon place Evansville second only to Jacksonville for a lively business town in Southern Oregon.
    The streets are laid out at right angles, sixty feet wide; the main street running direct from the road to Jacksonville to the ferry known as "Evans' Ferry," placed across Rogue River, immediately north of the town. Heretofore, the miners and settlers of this section have been obliged to depend upon Jacksonville for their supplies, Now, everything is brought right to their door, at the same prices.
    The well-known enterprising and business habits of Mr. Evans foretells the success of the town which now bears his name.
    At present, everything seems to be quiet. During the summer, various rumors of the Indians being out, have been in circulation, and caused all to keep a more strict watch of their property and of themselves than otherwise.
    It is now so late in the season that little is to be feared from the Indians who are upon the Reservation, and those that may be out are of such a peaceful nature, that no trouble is anticipated.
        Yours, respectfully,
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, October 8, 1957, page 1

    For a distance of twenty-five miles south and east of Winchester, the country is thickly settled. Further up the streams the valleys are smaller, but good farms are located on all of them. Nearly all the settlements south of Winchester were destroyed by the hostile Indians in the winter of 1856--the fine frame houses and barns were laid in ashes, and what few settlers escaped the scalping knife were left destitute of home or shelter, turned out upon the world without refuge or clothing.
    About ninety miles south of Winchester [it's about 30 miles], on the road leading to California, is the Great Cañon spoken of. It is a narrow pass between two large mountains. The road passes up this creek a distance of twelve miles; there has been a vast amount of money expended in making this road, and it is now barely passable for teams; the attempt to make the trip from California to Oregon with wagons was never undertaken until 1854--the travel, and all the produce taken from Oregon to California, overland, previously, had been by means of pack animals.
    This cañon has been the scene of numerous murders. The sides of the mountains are heavily timbered, and the undergrowth is thick chaparral, while the adjacent country is inhabited by the most hostile Indians on the Pacific coast. These are the Indians spoken of that have been treacherous and hostile at all times since they were first discovered by white men. They have been a greater terror, and have committed more murders upon the whites than all other tribes on the coast combined. They never fail to kill the travelers through this cañon, if they observe them, unless there is a sufficiently large party of whites to protect themselves; in that case, they are remarkably friendly, knowing that the white man never attacks--only defends after he is attacked, giving the Indian entirely the advantage. [This is patently false.]

    We now continue on the road to California, and, crossing a small mountain, arrive in ROGUE RIVER VALLEY.
    Rogue River rises in the Cascade Mountains and runs almost due west to the Pacific, in the north latitude 42° 30'. Its length is about one hundred and sixty miles. There is no entrance for ships at the mouth; it has no harbor; and it is not navigable for steamboats as it passes through a very mountainous country. There are some good farming locations near the mouth, and some scattering farms for some distance up the river. About thirty miles from the mouth, a stream called Tooloose River empties into Rogue River; but little is known of this river, however, as it heads in the Siskiyou Mountains. Considerable gold has bean discovered on this stream, and valuable gold diggings have been worked to some extent from this place to the mouth of Rogue River. But, owing to the number of hostile Indians prowling continually about this region, it has never been satisfactorily "prospected," from the fact that very few persons were willing to risk their scalps, even in the search for gold. Whenever a rich spot did or does happen to be "struck," a crowd rushes to that point whose numbers act as a shield for their defense by intimidating the bloodthirsty savages; but, in prospecting, the parties are necessarily small, and are, consequently, much exposed to danger.
    As you ascend Rogue River, seventy miles from the mouth, Grave Creek empties in on the north side; this stream affords some good gold diggings. A short distance below this stream are the "Big Meadows," the retreat, spoken of, of the Indians. Eight miles above Grave Creek is Galice Creek; ten miles above this, Jump-off Joe Creek; on both of which streams there is some good land for farming purposes, while on both gold has been discovered near their mouths. Six miles above Jump-off Joe, a creek runs in, on the south side of Rogue River, called Applegate; it is thirty miles in length, has some good farming country near the mouth, and rich gold mines have been successfully worked on the headwaters, at the base of the Siskiyou Mountains. Four miles above the mouth of Applegate Creek, the Oregon and California road crosses Rogue River, at which place a good ferry is kept. The valley now spreads out and affords a large scope of fine farming country. It was settled by industrious and intelligent farmers, and was in a high state of cultivation, as the proximity of the mines gave a ready market for every article of surplus produce, at high prices. But the Indian war of 1856 laid all this fine country waste, and its once wealthy inhabitants are now in poverty, or their bones bleaching on the hills!
    JACKSONVILLE, the county seat of Jackson County, is situated in this valley, on the south side of a rich and fertile section, and in the heart of a rich mining district. It is the most flourishing village in Southern Oregon. It is about one hundred and thirty miles from the Pacific coast, and is supplied with goods and groceries from Port Orford and Crescent City--the latter being a ship landing within the boundary of California. The goods are transported over very rough mountain trails on pack mules. The road from Oregon to California passes east of Jacksonville, but a branch passing through the town has been constructed and has become the main traveled road. Yreka, the great mining town of California, is about eighty miles south of Jacksonville.
    Near Jacksonville is the Indian agency for the Indians in all Southern Oregon.
    Near this, and about twenty miles north of Jacksonville, is the well known Table Rock, where the great battle was fought in 1853 [it was actually fought on Evans Creek] between Gen. Jos. Lane and his command and the Rogue River Indians. It was at this place that Lane received his severe wound in the shoulder; it was here that Capt. Ogden was killed; here Capt. P. M. Armstrong (brother of the writer) was killed--Capt. Alden wounded and disabled for life--and many other valuable lives were lost. Those who were slain were all decently buried, but no sooner had the soldiers left the place than the brutal savages returned, dug them from their graves and cut them to pieces, leaving their mangled bodies to be devoured and their bones gnawed by the wolves.
    The following "items" of "mining intelligence" were extracted from publications made in 1856, and will serve to give a pretty good idea of the Rogue River mines:
    "Jackson Creek.--The miners on Jackson Creek and vicinity are doing well, many of them taking out from two to three ounces a day to the hand. Those who have sunk shafts and drifted on the bedrock, as a general thing, find gold in considerable quantities.
    "Sterling.--Where water can be had to wash with, at Sterling, the miners are doing very well. Many are drifting and stacking up the dirt until the water comes. As soon as it rains, gold will be washed out in great abundance at Sterling.
    "We have seen and conversed with some of the returned party who have been down Rogue River, and in the vicinity of the coast, they report that on Galice Creek the miners are doing well, perhaps better than any former period since the mines have been worked on that creek.
    "Whisky Creek, we understand, is all claimed, also the gulches making into the creek; but our informant could not say how well they were doing, but from the extent of the claims, the natural inference would be that it paid well.
    "John Mule Creek.--The gold is coarse, and those having experience say that the prospects are good, yet the prospecting party only prospected near the surface and but temporarily.
    "Meadows.--Gold was found and justifies the party in saying that in some places it will pay ten dollars a day to the hand--generally found on the bars in the river, the gold heavy, and of the best quality.
    "Big Bend of Rogue River.--The prospects good, and coarse gold. The impression of those prospecting is that good diggings will be found in the vicinity of the Big Bend.
    "Illinois.--At the mouth of Illinois River, but slightly prospected. A few miles up the river the miners are doing well when they can work. Many good claims are lying without being worked on account of the Indians, as there are quite a number of hostile Indians in that neighborhood of Old John's band, who have not made peace.
    "Pistol River could not be prospected on account of the Indians. The appearance of the country and every indication goes to warrant the conclusion that gold is plenty on this river.
    "Chetco was but slightly prospected; the prospect was good, the gold coarse; but little doubt of rich diggings at this place. The prospectors were prevented from thoroughly prospecting the country on account of the Indians. It is reported that there are at least one hundred warriors roving over the Coast Range of mountains in the neighborhood of Rogue River."
    The Siskiyou Mountains appear to be nature's geographical boundary line between Oregon and California, as it is a regular chain, or solid mountain, from the Pacific coast east to the Cascade Range. But it is from twelve to twenty-five miles north of the true boundary line, which is established on latitude 42" north. There is only one small stream south of these mountains, within the limits of Oregon--Smith's river, which has been but little explored, except by a few gold hunters, who report an abundance of gold, and likewise a numerous horde of hostile Indians.
    The distance from Salem, the present seat of government, to the southern boundary of Oregon, measured on the meridian line, is two hundred and four miles, but, by the traveled road, it is more than three hundred miles.
    In the extreme southern portions of the Territory, the grizzly bear is a great annoyance to the  farmers in killing and carrying off their stock. They seldom attack a man, unless when wounded or have been come upon suddenly and have no chance for retreat, when they willingly engage in a battle for death or victory. The description and habits of this ferocious animal have been so often given to the public, that I will not here repeat the same.
    Elk, black-tailed deer, and antelope, abound plentifully in this region of country. It is amusing to sit on some high butte and look over a beautiful valley and see the deer and antelope skipping about over the plain below.
    A small species of wolf, called by the natives, coyote--(pronounced ki-o-ta)--annoys the antelope very much in the months of June and July. They will never attack a full-grown antelope, but when the fawns begin to travel they manifest a great anxiety to get hold of them, and at the same time they stand in mortal dread of the keen eyes and sharp hoofs of the old antelopes; you will see them skulking and hiding about where the antelopes are feeding, watching every movement of a fawn as it plays about, until finally, tired out, it lies down to rest or sleep, its mother carelessly cropping the grass some distance off. The coyote improves the opportunity by suddenly leaping from the chaparral and pouncing upon its victim. As soon as the old antelope discovers the situation of her young, she utters a keen whistle and darts after the coyote, followed by the whole flock. If the wolf has miscalculated the distance, and fails to reach the shelter of a chaparral thicket before being overtaken, he is instantly stamped to death for his impudence. And if, as he is prowling about, the coyote happens to be espied by the antelopes, the latter all gather in a crowd, forming a ring, in the center of which their young are placed, while a portion of the flock will leave the ring and take after the offender; as soon as he perceives them coming, knowing that his life is in danger, the coyote "breaks" for the chaparral--but if he is overtaken, the foremost antelope springs high in the air and alights on the coyote, which knocks him over, and then the entire flock in pursuit alight on him, successively, in the same manner, so fast that he cannot regain his feet. The antelope's hoof being sharp, every leap cuts, and the coyote is soon trampled to death. The antelope is smaller than the common deer; their meat is the most delicious of wild game--being much finer grained than the common venison.
    The common black bear is abundant in this region, and, being easily killed, affords the miners excellent food.

A. N. Armstrong, Oregon, 1857, pages 49-57

Last revised January 25, 2017