The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Legrand J. C. Duncan

Southern Oregon
L. J. C. Duncan

Jacksonville, Oregon July 1st, 1878.
    L. J. C. Duncan, born in Tennessee in 1818, came to California in 1849. Was at the Mariposa mines in November, engaged in placer mining, rocker mining exclusively, packed goods on mules through the mud from Stockton. Heard of Fremont and of his claims. There was a ledge there then called the Fremont Ledge but no attention was paid to any claims of his by the miners.
    Leaving Mariposa the fall of 1850, Judge Duncan proceeded to San Francisco and thence to Portland.
    A party of emigrants leaving Salt Lake in Sept. 1849 turned off from the Mojave Trail and struck west for the Walker's Pass. Arriving at Death's Valley, east of Walker's Pass, a low, hot, melancholy spot, they were certain of misfortune. They had had no water for a long way; their food had given out. They dried the meat of the cattle that died or were killed after having given out, and abandoning everything save children, tin cups and a little dried meat they pressed forward to save themselves. The case of one woman in particular is worthy [of] notice. With some dried meat strapped to her waist carrying one child, leading another and assisting her disheartened husband, leaving in her tracks the dead bodies of those who succumbed she pressed forward and finally reached Los Angeles in safety where with her family she established herself in a hotel and became comfortable for the remainder of her life. Once while in the Death Valley she was abandoned to die, yes, several times, but she would persist in making up at night the lost ground of the day and so she kept up with them. Finally the last time they abandoned her she could come only within hearing distance. There through the night her wails fell on the ears of those who were encamped a short distance before her, so that their rapidly departing manhood sent them back to her rescue & they never left her after that.
    Working in water at Mariposa above the waist, sickness drove Judge Duncan from the mines. He went to Oregon to spend the winter, thinking it more like home there where were stayed settlers and plenty of milk and butter and quiet life.
    After spending the summer of 1851 in the Willamette Valley, with health somewhat recruited, Judge Duncan determined to try the mines again and hearing of the Yreka gold discoveries proceeded in that direction, but with the determination to secure a half section of land in Rogue River Valley before mining anywhere. The gold mines at Josephine Creek, discovered in 1851, he also had heard of before leaving the Willamette, but as those who first went there soon after left the place having failed to discover rich placers, the place was thought to be of not much value. It subsequently proved rich, that is Josephine Cañon Creek, lying south of Josephine Creek.
    Arriving at Rogue River Valley he found Long's ferry, established in 1851 by Mr. Long during the excitement at Josephine Creek. At this ferry was built the first house in Rogue River Valley, and this was the first settlement. It is now known as Vannoy's ferry, Vannoy having bought out Mr. Long.
    The next man found on the road was likewise at a ferry, namely at the crossing of Rogue River at the mouth of Evans Creek, so called from Davis Evans who was a trader, packer &c., and became notorious as a bad man.
    The next settler, proceeding along the road or trail southward, was Mr. Bills, who was driven away by the settlers. He had been accused of exciting Indian troubles.
    Then there was N. C. Dean, who located a farm at Willow Springs five miles north of Jackson. Mining and farming were conducted right there together. The Indian agent, Judge A. A. Skinner, was the next man met by Judge Duncan. Skinner had reached the valley in Sept. or Oct. 1851 when he took up a claim and built a house. Mr. Sykes, who worked for Judge Skinner, was one of the 2 or 3 who first found the diggings on Jackson Creek.
    Clugage and Pool were packers. Many think they were the discoverers of gold on Jackson Creek. But this is not so. It was a beautiful valley, that of Rogue River, and the paradise of packers, the tall grass affording the best of pasturage for mules. Stopping at Skinner's for a day or two about the first of February 1852 Clugage and Pool heard of the discovery made by Sykes and co. They then drove their mules from Skinner's, situated on Bear Creek six miles northeast from Jacksonville, on to the present site of Jacksonville, where they turned them loose & began prospecting. They soon discovered rich diggings which soon took the name of Rich Gulch.
    Sykes' discovery on Jackson Creek was close to where they west line of the present incorporated town of Jacksonville now runs, and about half a mile north of where Clugage and Pool made their discovery on Rich Gulch. Pool was a natural miner and prospector. Clugage was a packer and happened to be partner of Pool. It was not in 1851 that C. & P. discovered Rich Gulch, nor was Rich Gulch the place where gold was first discovered in the Rogue River Valley, but the Sykes discovery before mentioned was first.
    The next settlement on the road to Yreka after Skinner's at the time of Judge Duncan's arrival was those of Stone and Points on Wagner Creek, and next at the head of Rogue River Valley 25 miles south of where Jacksonville now stands, were Dunn, Smith, Russell, Barron and others who had taken up claims within a few miles of each other in the fall of 1851. Besides the settlers herein named there were no others prior to the 1st day of January 1852.
    Judge Duncan on his arrival located a claim on Bear Creek near Wagner Creek. Bear Creek was first called Stuart Creek in honor of Capt. Stuart, who was killed by the Indians in 1851 while in discharge of his duty. He was buried on the banks of this stream and there the body remained for several years when it was removed to the East by his friends. The name of the stream never should have been changed, though it is now fixed as Bear Creek. Wagner Creek was called after Jacob Wagner, now a resident of Ashland, Oregon. He settled on the creek in 1852, buying out Stone and Points. Judge Duncan's claim was southeast from Jacksonville twelve miles.
    After taking up this claim Judge Duncan proceeded to the mines at Jacksonville. This was the 1st of March 1852. He found several hundred men in the neighborhood. The news spread and people rushed in from Yreka and from the Umpqua Valley, and this so lately wilderness began to roar as a mining camp. For two or three weeks Judge Duncan paid little attention to the reports of various men which passed his place, some saying that that the mines were rich and others that they did not amount to much, but when he had planted his potatoes he concluded to go and see for himself.
    Judge Duncan then mined from 1852 to 1858, selling his land claim. He had to live on his claim in order to hold it & could not do that and at the same time work his mining claim.
    During this time there were two Indian wars, one in 1853 and one in 1855. There were beside these wars many Indian wars. The Indians were badly treated by the bad miners. The Indians were disposed to be friendly. But being imposed upon by bad whites they retaliated and the whites in return slaughtered indiscriminately. It was the old story.
    The war of 1853 began as follows. About Ashland sixteen miles south from Jacksonville lived a tribe of bad Indians ruled by Tipsu Tyee, or the hairy or bearded chief. (Thomas?) Wills, a merchant of Jacksonville, returning from his farm near Wagner Creek one day was fired upon by some of this band. Wills rode into town or was brought into town and shortly afterward died. Of course the excitement was intense, and the enraged populace began to slaughter right and left.
    The pioneers of Southern Oregon are turning their attention to gathering incidents of these wars and will be printed as addresses or in newspapers. J. M. Sutton of Ashland, editor of the Tidings, has a fancy that way.
    Beginning with Josephine Creek the gold discoveries of this region were as follows.
    Josephine Creek in 1851, Big Bar on Rogue River in 1851, Jacksonville diggings in Jany. 1852, Applegate diggings on the south side of Jackson Co. in 1852. Applegate Creek has been mined for 30 miles together with its various branches. On Foots Creek, 15 miles west of Jacksonville, gold was found in the autumn of 1852, and owing to the scarcity of water there are good diggings there yet. Willow Springs 5 miles north of Jacksonville gold was discovered there in the fall of 1852. They proved to be good and are rich today, the scarcity of water having prevented their being worked out.
    Jackson Creek running into Applegate Creek, having its source four miles west of Jacksonville, was mined for eight miles from its source, and offers good digging yet for Chinamen.
    In the northern part of the county is Pleasant Creek, running into Rogue River where were good mines. Dry Diggings near Grants Pass proved good, but water scarce. Then Sterling on the headwaters of Applegate has been one of the richest camps in the county. These diggings have been lately improved by ditches and hydraulics, latest improvements. One ditch, Thompson Ankeny & Co., proprietors, cost about $75,000. It is 23 miles long. Ditches and hydraulic machinery are being applied to the mines on Applegate Creek. The Chinese have dug a ditch & put up hydraulic machinery there at a cost of $25,000. Klippel, Hanna & Co. have put in a ditch and hydraulics at a cost of $2,500. At a little camp called Forty Nine Diggings, about 8 miles southeast from Jacksonville, two hydraulics are at work.
Bancroft Library MSS P-A 27

    One of the earliest pioneers of Southern Oregon, and a gentleman who has been closely identified with the history of Jackson County, was born in Blount County, Tennessee, in 1818. His father descended from an old Scotch family, removed to Georgia in 1834, where he hewed a home out of the timber lands in Walker County. From the date of his arrival in Georgia until 1848 Mr. Duncan's time was spent in assisting his father to clear the farm and in teaching school, having spent two years of his time in Alabama and two in Mississippi in the latter occupation. On the breaking out of the California fever in 1849 Mr. Duncan joined an expedition fitted out at Little Rock. and started across the plains [toward the Pacific] coast, coming to Santa Fe, Salt Lake and Los Angeles, a distance of 3200 miles, arriving in December. Mr. Duncan at once went into the mines working at Agua Fria and Burns' Diggings in Mariposa County, and afterwards assisting to turn the Tuolumne River, in the summer of 1850. The latter enterprise taxing his health severely, Mr. Duncan started for Oregon in the schooner Elizabeth, arriving at Portland during the month of November, in '50, and taking a land claim in Washington County, teaching school and remaining there nearly a year. In the fall of 1851, accidentally hearing of the beauty and fertility of Rogue River Valley, Mr. Duncan came south, locating what is now known as the Woolen claim near the Eagle Mills. At that time there were not more than a dozen settlers between the mouth of Evans Creek and the foot of the Siskiyou Mountains, a distance of about forty-five miles; and being alone Mr. D. was much annoyed by pilfering Indians, who frequently appropriated his entire outfit. In the spring of 1852 he spent some time prospecting in Josephine County, subsequently mining on Jackson Creek, and following that business until 1857. In 1853, after the Indian outbreak, Mr. Duncan and a number of miners were camped at Spencer's, now Drake's, ranch on Applegate, when an attack was made in which two men lying to the right of Mr. Duncan were killed, and he severely wounded. He was subsequently in the fight at Battle Bar. In 1857 Mr. Duncan was in the convention that framed the State Constitution of Oregon. In the same year he seems to have been tired of single life and was happily married to Mrs. Permelia Thompson, the widow of Wm. Thompson. Mr. Duncan was elected Sheriff of Jackson County in 1858, reelected in 1860, but was forced from ill health to resign in 1861, being succeeded by Mr. Hyde, who was appointed to fill the vacancy. In 1866 he was elected County Judge on the Democratic ticket, holding the position for four years, not being a candidate for renomination. Upon the death of Judge Shipley, in 1871, Judge Duncan was appointed by Governor Grover to fill the vacancy until the election in 1872. The public career of Judge Duncan has been characterized by fairness and an energetic discharge of duty, and his administration of six years as County Judge was marked by a careful regard for the public's interest. The Judge has always been a Democrat, but is very moderate and conservative in his opinions, never an extremist, but according the right of private judgment to all others. Retired from public life he still, at the age of 60, enjoys tolerable good health and is taking life as easy as may be after a long career of private and public usefulness. The high character of Judge Duncan needs no mention. It will live when he has followed the other pioneers.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, February 12, 1879, page 2

    L. J. C. Duncan, born in Blunt County, Tenn., Nov. 1, 1818, and emigrated from Georgia to Cal. in 1849, to Ogn., in 1850, and to Rogue River Valley in Dec. 1851.
"Southern Oregon Pioneers," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, July 8, 1882, page 3

    Morris Mensor, Judge Duncan and Wm. M. Turner are all confined to their beds with serious complaints.
"Local Items," Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, October 23, 1886, page 3

Death of Judge Duncan.
    Judge L. J. C. Duncan, one of the old residents and honored pioneers of Jackson County, died at his home in Jacksonville on Tuesday evening last, Oct. 26th, and was laid to rest in the cemetery near that place yesterday afternoon. Judge Duncan was a prominent citizen of the county, was a member of the convention which framed the Oregon state constitution, was County Judge and also held the office of sheriff for two terms. He was a man of sterling integrity, honorable, industrious and universally respected and esteemed. He leaves a wife, but no children.--Tidings.
Roseburg Review,
October 29, 1886, page 4

    Died, at Grants Pass, Oregon, at the residence of Dr. Will Jackson, Sunday, Nov. 24, of heart failure, Mrs. Permelia Duncan, relict of the late L. J. C. Duncan. Her age was 76 years and 11 months. Deceased was brought up in Newark and lived here till forty years ago when she went west. She leaves two brothers in Newark, Chilon B. Lusk and C. C. Lusk, and one in Rochester, A. D. Lusk. These three brothers are now the survivors of a family of ten, all well known in former years in this town.
"Local Paragraphs," Arcadian Weekly Gazette, Newark, New York, December 11, 1895, page 11

Last revised May 8, 2022