The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

The Rhotens
More on pocket hunting here.

Notice to hold one quartz mining claim.
    Notice is hereby given that the undersigned claims and intends to hold one quartz mining claim situated on a quartz lead near the Mammoth lead, commencing 20 yards N.W. of the Mammoth lead and running in a N.W. direction 50 yards on a lead discovered by S. Babcock & J. Rhoten,
 including all the dips, angles and outcroppings belonging to the same, taken under the provisions of the act of the Legislature regulating quartz mining.
    April 12th, 1860.
J. P. Burns
    Filed & recorded April 12th, 1860 at 5½ o'clock p.m.
Wm. Hoffman
Recorder, Jackson Co., Oregon.
Jackson County Mining Claims

Notice to hold one quartz mining claim.
    Notice is hereby given that the undersigned claims and intends to hold one quartz mining claim situated on the Mammoth lead in the Blackwell Diggings, commencing at the southwesterly termination of John Rhoten's claim and running from thence in a southwesterly direction 50 yards,
 including all the dips, angles and outcroppings belonging to the same, taken under the provisions of the act of the Legislature regulating quartz mining.
    April 20th, 1860.
Wm. K. Rolls
    Filed and recorded May 3rd, 1860.
Wm. Hoffman
Recorder, Jackson Co., Oregon.

Jackson County Mining Claims

    $112.50. It was ordered by the Board that the Bill of John Rhoten for hewing 900 feet of Timbers for Repairs on Rock Point bridge at 12½ cents per foot, amounting to $112.50, be allowed.
Jackson County Commissioners' Journals, November 9, 1871

    $3.00. It was ordered by the Board that John Rhoten be allowed the sum of $3.00 for 1½ days work done on Rock Point Bridge.

Jackson County Commissioners' Journals, November 10, 1871

    Rhoten & Co. have their arrastra in the Willow Springs district in operation and are crushing fair rock. 
"Oregon," Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, July 31, 1880, page 69

    Enoch Rhoten, of Willow Springs, picked up a piece of quartz in his diggings the other day, from which he realized two ounces of gold. 
Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, April 30, 1881, page 277

    KANE CREEK.--Democratic Times, May 14: Rhoten Bros. of Kane Creek are down 20 ft. on their ledge. The rich pay was struck at a depth of 15 ft., where the quartz is much decomposed, and full of free gold. A comparatively small amount has been crushed in an arrastra, but considerable panning out has been done, with extraordinary results. Some panfuls have yielded considerably over $100 each, one bringing $104 and another $140. 

Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, May 21, 1881, page 325

    WILLOW SPRINGS.--We learn that the ore of the Rhoten ledge, in Willow Springs district, is not as rich as formerly, though still of a good quality. The company evidently struck a pocket, which seems to be worked out.

Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, May 28, 1881, page 341

    Rhoten Bros., of Willow Springs, have their arrastra in operation and are crushing some rich quartz.… Hayes & Magruder will soon commence getting their mines on Rogue River ready for winter.
Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, June 24, 1882, page 413

    NOTES.--Jacksonville Times, April 28: John Barkdull and E. Rhoten have commenced work at the big bar of Rogue River. 
Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, May 5, 1883, page 309

    Rich rock is being taken out of the old John Rhoten ledge on Kane Creek. T. B. Hueston, of Thompson Creek, says the miners of that region still have plenty of water. The miners have made no extraordinary reports as yet.
Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, May 26, 1883, page 357

    About three tons of rock from the John Rhoten ledge on Kane Creek was crushed and prospected even better than anticipated.
Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, June 23, 1883, page 421

    R. Cook, who has been putting the Rhoten ledge in Willow Springs precinct in shape for Ross, Dolsen & Co., says there is a well-defined vein of quartz. 
Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, September 22, 1883, page 181

    Ross & Co. have sent specimens of ore from the Rhoten ledge, in Willow Springs district, below for assay, and if the report is favorable active operations will be resumed at once.
Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, October 20, 1883, page 245

    Rhoten Bros., of Harris Gulch, in Willow Springs precinct, are cleaning up and expect to do fairly. They have picked up some neat pieces of gold already. 
"Oregon," Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, April 12, 1884, page 261

    A. L. Rhoten returned from the Coeur d'Alene mines last week. He says there is no reason for this great excitement, which seems to have been gotten up in the interest of speculators. 
"Oregon," Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, May 17, 1884, page 341

    Rhoten & Sons are taking some quartz from their ledge in Willow Springs precinct, which shows considerable free gold.
"Oregon," Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, June 28, 1884, page 437

    J. Rhoten of Willow Springs precinct showed us some fine specimens of quartz, which he had taken out of his mine last week. 
Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, February 28, 1885, page 145

    An old gentleman by the name of Rhoten was seriously kicked in the abdomen last Sunday, near Gold Hill.
"Local and Personal," Rogue River Courier, Grants Pass, May 27, 1887, page 3

    W. G. Kenney has purchased a fourth interest in Klippel & Rhoten's ledge in Willow Springs precinct.
Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, June 9, 1888, page 369

    Rhoten & Morris, who discovered an enormously rich deposit of ore in Blackwell district, have brought about $3000 worth of gold dust to town, all of which they crushed out of a small quantity of quartz in a hand mortar. The ledge is limited and is supposed to be only a pocket. Others are of the same opinion that it may prove of permanence, however, in which event it will prove a second Gold Hill. This is the richest quartz discovery made on this coast in a long time. It has occasioned considerable excitement, and prospecting has been renewed with vigor.
Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, June 2, 1888, page 345

    E. Rhoten has discovered a new ledge in Willow Springs precinct, which shows considerable free gold. 
Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, April 16, 1887, page 257

    John Rhoten, of Willow Springs, Jackson County, who was recently kicked by a horse, died from his injury.
"Oregon News," The Eye, Snohomish City, Washington, June 18, 1887, page 2

    Among the many attorneys who have been admitted to practice lately none are making more progress than W. H. Parker. His address to the jury in the Rhoten case this week was an excellent effort and is highly complimented by all who heard it. Many were visibly affected by his remarks in behalf of the defendant.

"Here and There,"
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, December 12, 1889, page 3

    The discovery of ore at the Rhoten ledge in Blackwell district, last week assaying about $800 to the ton, caused quite a breeze in mining circles.

"Mining News," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, October 16, 1891, page 3

    Enoch Rhoten has also made another of his pocket finds, from which he took about $250 in one day, and two other prospectors in the same neighborhood, whose names we failed to learn, also struck a pocket from which about several hundred dollars were extracted before it was milked out.
"Mining News," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, March 18, 1892, page 3

    Medford Mail: W. H. Rhoten and A. W. Sturgis are placer mining up on Jackass Creek, and are meeting with success in big chunks. Last week they took out 68 ounces of clear gold from their flume, as the result of a two months' run. They have not made their cleanup yet, nor will they do so as long as the water supply holds out, but when they do rich returns are expected.

Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, April 28, 1894, page 270

    Perry Knotts and Ed. Rhoten will leave Monday for Josephine County on a prospecting expedition, and expect to be gone all summer.

"Kanes Creek Items," Medford Mail, June 21, 1901, page 5

    Perry Knotts and Ed. Rhoten have returned home from Del Norte County, Calif., where they have been engaged in prospecting for Dr. C. R. Ray.
"Kanes Creek Items," Medford Mail, August 2, 1901, page 3

    Ed Rhoten and Ed. Swinden are prospecting on Blackwell hill and are meeting with good success.
"Kanes Creek Items," Medford Mail, September 27, 1901, page 5

    Mrs. Al. Boggs and children, of Hornbrook, Calif., came over last week to visit her mother, Mrs. Rhoten, and other relatives.

"Kanes Creek Items," Medford Mail, November 22, 1901, page 5

    Ed. Rhoten, who has been prospecting on Applegate, came home to spend the holidays.

"Kanes Creek Items," Medford Mail, January 3, 1902, page 5

    Mrs. E. Rhoten, who has been ill, is improving, we are glad to say.

"Kanes Creek Items," Medford Mail, January 24, 1902, page 5

    Misses Nora and May Gale, who have been attending the Medford public school this winter, are home on a visit to their mother, Mrs. E. Rhoten.
"Kanes Creek Items," Medford Mail, 
June 27, 1902, page 5

    A center of interest at the present time is the Alice mine on Kanes Creek (see map). This property was found about twenty years ago by Enoch Rhoten, who took out a lot of free gold by means of an arrastra. The property was bought from the Rhoten estate by Morton Lindley in 1893 and four years later it was bonded to John R. Mitchell, a prominent Colorado man, interested with an English company known as the Gold Key Syndicate. This company had plans formulated and contracts ready for the construction of a big electric power plant on Rogue River about opposite Gold Hill when the South African war broke out and so affected interests of the company elsewhere that the plans had to be given up. A carload shipment of seventeen tons to Selby made by Mitchell in 1898 gave returns of one ounce six pennyweights gold per ton.
    It is a large ledge. Taken through its total width it will constitute a forty-foot body of low-grade ore, with the values occasionally running quite high. A crosscut at the bottom of the winze and representing the lowest point in the mine will average better than seven dollars for a width of thirteen and one-half feet. This winze is from the ninety-foot level and is itself forty feet deep. The tunneling on the property totals over five hundred feet.
    A quartet of Eastern Oregon men last fall took hold of the property. Their experience with Eastern Oregon ore enabled them to see an opportunity in the Alice that was going unappreciated by other men, and they are today adding a mill and cyanide plant of fifteen or twenty tons daily capacity. The mill, which is of the new Ideal type, is an experiment with them, but since they are not men of a hidebound, non-progressive type, and, moreover, since this particular experiment happens to be costing them nothing, as they merely removed the mill from a neighboring property, they are quite willing to find out what the Ideal can do for itself on this particular ore. C. R. Townsend, an experienced assayer and cyanide man, is the managing partner, and Mr. M. J. Roelsma will have charge of the mill.
Mineral Wealth, Redding, August 1, 1904, pages 28-29

    R. F. Swinden & Son and J. E. Rhoten, who have a lease on the North and South mines belonging to the Condor Water & Power Company, recently erected a 5-stamp mill for handling the ores of those mines. Three men are kept at work on the vein, which averages 14 inches in width, carrying good values.
"Southern Oregon Mintes, Mineral Wealth, Redding, February 1, 1905, page 9

    Perry Knotts and Ed Rhoten left on Saturday for Prospect, where they will hunt and prospect for a week or ten days.
    Mrs. John Rhoten was the guest of Mrs. Higinbotham several days of last week.
"Kanes Creek Items," Medford Mail, August 24, 1906, page 3

    Mountainside and river bed surrendered to him vast sums of gold during his 60 years of mining, but death yesterday robbed him of little in material wealth. For Enos M. Rhoten, 79, known to the Southern Oregon mining world as the father of pocket hunters, was a very generous man.
    He died Saturday morning at his home on Kane Creek from apoplexy, ending one of the most romantic careers growing out of the gold days in Jackson County.
    He found his first gold in the amount of $150, when he was just seven years old. He continued to find it for the next 60 years, and in his findings were some of the richest mines in Southern Oregon, one of them producing $150,000.
    His gold went as easily as it came. At one time, he is said to have owned three saloons in Jackson County. Over each bar free whiskey was passed to good drinkers, but never to be taken through the doors of the saloon.
    Mr. Rhoten was born in Appanoose County, Iowa. And came from his birthplace to Southern Oregon. He became, when but a youth, identified with mining activities of this region. When mining history was to be made, he was there to make it.
    He was also a veteran of the Indian war, playing an equally colorful role in that phase of the early development of the country.
    As a veteran, he was pensioned until his death.
    Mr. Rhoten leaves his wife, Nancy Ellen Rhoten, and one daughter, Ida LeClair of Gold Hill. Also three brothers and one sister, Abraham and Albert Rhoten and Mrs. Al Boggis of Gold Hill and William Rhoten of Yreka.
    Funeral services will be conducted by Rev. W. H. Eaton at the Conger Chapel at 1:30 Tuesday afternoon. Interment in Gold Hill cemetery.
Medford Mail Tribune, December 13, 1931, page 1

Rhoten Brothers Found Much of Rogue's Gold
(By Eva Nealon)

    While a cold December rain splashed the roof and porch of his little frame cabin, adding to the darkness of the Kane Creek canyon below, Al Rhoten paused, a few nights ago, in the preparation of supper to review for inquisitive reporters a few incidents in the life of his brother, Enos, king of pocket hunters, who died last week a poor man in a cabin just over the hill.
    Bending his giant form over the little stove in the corner of the kitchen, he placed a skillet of pan bread back on the lid, then turned with tear-dimmed eyes to answer questions.
    "Yes, Enic and I mined a lot together. Right in these very hills," he leaned forward a trifle to accommodate a weakness in hearing, his head still failing by only a hand's breadth to touch the smoke-stained ceiling. "We took gold from Kane creek, Galls Creek, Sardine Creek, Foots Creek, following it up the hill."
    "The amount, oh, I couldn't say exactly. It was up in the thousands. The richest pocket yielded anyway $100,000. We found that on Kanes Creek in 1905." Where the money went the tall blond man failed to mention, apparently unmindful of the obvious lack of it in the open cabin.
    "Enic found his richest pocket before that on Gold Hill. He got about $17,000 out. He always panned until he got the biggest."
    In a cloud of smoke the smell of burned bacon suddenly permeated the cabin. The old miner turned back to the stove for a second.
    "Your meal will be spoiled," the reporter apologized.
    "If it is, we'll cook another. There's plenty," a kindly smile spread over his large upper jaw, slightly shortened by a blond mustache. The miner pushed aside a dish of boiled potatoes, obviously prepared for frying.
    "We used to start out, oh, just any time of the day we felt like it with pan, pick and shovel," he continued, "we'd go where we had seen color, dig a little hole, then follow it up the hill 'til we came to the pocket," he described the system originated by his brother and copied by practically every miner in Southern Oregon.
    "Did anybody ever high grade your gold?" he was asked.
    "If they did, we didn't miss it," he answered, refusing to give credit to the many stories told by early settlers of thefts from the Rhoten pockets.
    "There's lots more gold in the ground," he added, "and I'm going to get it, after while." His gray eyes clouded again, as he gazed out into the rain. The voice of his 16-year-old son could be heard, rambling on with another story of "Enos" to the good listener, leaning on the porch railing, "built to keep the goat out."
    Questioned about Enos Rhoten''s first find. when he was seven years old, Al took up his story again.
    "Yes, he was going for the cows, when he found that pocket. It was on Blackwell Hill. He saw color and went back to dig. He took out about $150. That was before my time. I'm still in my sixties. Enic was past 79.
    "He never complained before he died. He was sick three years. Just couldn't get out of bed. Old age. I guess. He lived right over there." He pointed from the cabin toward the dim light, shining out on the neighboring hill.
    "Yes, he liked to play cards," he admitted when questioned, making no mention, however, of the days in Toney Olson's saloon, or the purchase of the Grants Pass bar for $50,000, told by fellow miners. "No, never played baseball, except when a kid at school. He got his education in Iowa, before he came here with our folks. They crossed the plains by ox team in '59."
    Asked if his father mined too, Mr. Rhoten replied: "After he came to Southern Oregon. We all did. We've taken lots of gold from these hills."
    Telling of the part his brother, Enos, played in the Indian wars. he said: "He got shot once, right here," he lifted his hand to his great chest. "The bullet lodged in a rib. It was still there when he died. I felt it. He was only 18 when the war came. I was too young. If I hadn't been, I sure would have gone."
    "He lived on Kane Creek 50 years. His widow's still over there, and his daughter, Ida. It's a pretty bad trip though, at night. You'd better wait 'til daylight," he objected, as the group left the cabin to begin the steep descent down the slippery road to the car waiting a half-mile below. No "color" could be seen in the deep mud of the dooryard, nor one object to reflect passage of the Rhoten brothers' gold.
Medford Mail Tribune, December 21, 1931, page 2

Pocket Hunter, Once Rich, Dies as Penniless Old Man
    Dan Bowerman, of Medford, Oregon, former fellow-sufferer with Cad on one of that city's morning dailies, has written interestingly of a gold hunter in his locality. We pass it on to you.
    By his peculiar sort of genius, Enos Rhoten won--and spent--fortune after fortune.
    But he never thought that the gold of Jackson County would all be found, and he died in poverty the other day.
    When he was 7 years old--that was 77 years ago--Enos Rhoten found a rock with a hole in it. He thrust his hand into the hole. He pulled out several pieces of blackish yellow rock. They were gold nuggets worth $150, and Rhoten had found his life's work.
    He became the peer of pocket hunters.
    There are more ways of finding gold than there are of skinning the proverbial cat. The secret way that Enos Rhoten brought to high perfection is the most peculiar of all.
    Not for him, or for the other "pocket hunters," was the labor of panning, of cradling, or of following ore veins with tunnels. Rhoten didn't even look into rock fissures in creek beds at low water, to scoop out the gold dust that had settled there during high water.
    He took his fortunes out of pockets. How he found them was his secret.
    By some uncanny sense, he would trek the hills until he found nuggets or rich gold in rotting quartz, hidden in "pockets" in rock, or under the surface of the ground. The gold was in the "pocket." He took it out. That's all there was to it.
    How the gold got there was something that bothered Enos not at all. His private theory was that it "just grew."
    Most pocket hunters, in the days when millions were being taken at Gold Hill, at Eight-Dollar Mountain, at Sailor Diggins and on Jackass Creek, carefully panned "color" until they traced the pocket from which rains had washed minute quantities of gold down to the creeks. Rhoten followed that method and others.
    From 1851 until the rich stakes were exhausted, Enos Rhoten followed his queer profession.
    He uncovered the richest pocket ever found in Jackson County, and took out $150,000 in 20 minutes. That was only one of his finds. He was credited with finding more than any other one man of the creeks.
    But the money went like his find. He bought three saloons and served all drinks on the house, old-timers recall. Of all the free-spending miners in those riotous days, Enos Rhoten was the most liberal.
    He outlived his profession. Gold is taken in Jackson County now only by corporations with massive machinery able to dredge and bore, and extract wealth from low-paying ore. All the surface wealth, all the pockets, are gone. Rhoten spent his last years in circumstances that were far from comfortable.
    "I never dreamed the gold would run out," he used to say.

The Rustler, King City, California, January 19, 1932, page 4

    THE 4 RHOTEN BROTHERS – Prospectors Extraordinary: ALL 6 ft. 7 in. tall. Shoulder-length hair. Long black beards. Cowhide boots. Passing our house toward the southern mountains. All on foot, and each carrying a 30-30 rifle. Their string of pack mules laden with tobacco, bacon, salt pork, rice, beans, coffee, sugar, salt, flour, baking powder and gallons of whiskey. When followed by anyone they would stop, level their rifles and warn: "Nobody ever follows a Rhoten and returns to tell it!" Annually they'd return. Wild, grizzly, dirty, weatherbeaten, gnarled and hoary-eyed – with bags and bags of gold dust and nuggets. Local merchants, saloon keepers, gamblers, madams and
gals all happy to welcome them back. First they'd go to Old Beek's bank, cash in their gold – deposit their mules at the livery stable (pay in advance)give Jerry Nunan and Jim Cronemiller general stores money in advance (grub stake) for supplies when they would be hitting for the hills again. After a shave, haircut, and bath at Billy Poole's barber shop, then off to the saloons, gambling joints and "cat house" for a rip-snortin' good time. And how the old bar flies loved 'em. Free drinks galore! Their names were Al, Bill, Jim and Een [Enos]. On one occasion Een decided not to return to the hills with his brothers. Instead, he went down to Gold Hill – got drunk – and bought a saloon for cash. Too many drinks on the house soon depleted his roll. He got into a brawl with some logger and Constable Joe Hammersley locked him in the town jug (which was slowly crumbling to pieces). Next noon when Joe H. went to the jail with breakfast, all that he found inside was a hole in the rotten cement floor with dirt piled all around. Joe looked all over outside but could find no hole in the ground for possible escape. So, from his home nearby Joe brought out a chair and a double-barrelled shotgun and sat down and waited. Soon, gopher-like, the ground in front of him began to move – and up through the hole popped Een's head – eye to eye with the end of Joe's gun. "DON'T MOVE, EEN," Joe shouted. "OR I'LL BLOW YOUR HEAD OFF! YOU'RE ALREADY UP TO YOUR NECK IN YOUR GRAVE, SO YOU'D BETTER COME OUT WITH HANDS UP!" Een emerges, grinning, brushes himself off, and (with the jail being ruined) he and Joe go over to Een's saloon and finish up what was left of the stock. Joe and the boys took up a collection – grub staked Een with food and a mule and headed him toward the southern mountains to join his brothers. (But with a gentleman's agreement that when he returns in the spring he'll buy the town a new jail.)
Pinto Colvig, Clowns Is People, 1935, Southern Oregon Historical Society Research Library, MS9

Last revised February 4, 2024