Tales of Pioneers
RETURNED.--Mr. S. J. Day, M.W.G.M. of the order of Odd Fellows in Oregon, has returned after an absence of several months on official business of the order. Silas has kept well and is in a splendid state of preservation, and we are sorry to say is still, matrimonially speaking, an odd fellow.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, December 12, 1868, page 3
Silas J. Day, the Grand Master of the Odd Fellows order of Oregon, was at Salem the other day, and will remain in the Willamette Valley till June. During this stay, he will visit the lodges in this part of the jurisdiction.
"Oregon," Morning Oregonian, Portland, April 29, 1869, page
CALLED.--Silas J. Day, Esq., of Jacksonville, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Order of Odd Fellows in Oregon, made a brief call at our sanctum yesterday. We understand that he will not return home until after the session of the Grand Lodge, which is to convene at Salem on the 18th inst.Morning Oregonian, Portland, May 6, 1869, page 3
Mr. Beeson continued at some length, upholding the action of Judge Day, who he said was an honest man, a faithful official, and a pioneer who came to the rescue of our young country when it was in peril. He said that, moreover, he had been elected six years ago with the express understanding that he was in favor of a new courthouse, but had yielded to his colleagues in office (who thought the old one could be repaired), and that he had repeatedly been censured for not carrying out the wishes of those who placed him in office.
"The Mass Meeting," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, September 29, 1882, page 2
A. G. Walling, History of Southern Oregon, 1884, page 525
S. E. Day, the 13-year-old son of ex-County Judge Silas J. Day of Jacksonville, committed suicide by blowing the top of his head off with an old musket at Jacksonville, Oregon, Friday morning.
"Pacific Coast Items," Woodland Daily Democrat, Woodland, California, October 1, 1892, page 3
SILAS JOHNSON DAY. Perhaps no man in Southern Oregon is more conversant with the early conditions of the Northwest or with the steps that have led up to the early development of its resources than Silas J. Day, for many years a prominent resident of Jackson County, as a citizen and as a soldier giving the best part of his life toward the upbuilding of this western commonwealth. It would be difficult to say in what line of activity Judge Day has excelled, for his talents are versatile, one of his greatest being his ability to adapt himself to circumstances, with the true pioneer instinct turning his hand to whatever came in his way--as a soldier in the Mexican War finding his way to the West as early as 1849, where he worked as miner, agriculturist and exponent of the law, being eminently successful in the greater part of his labor.
Judge Day was born in Anne Arundel County, Md., not far from Harper's Ferry, Va., April 3, 1826. He was of Irish ancestry, his great-grandfather having been one of the five brothers who came to the United States in the early history of the country, three of whom located in Maryland, while two went west. His grandfather, Edward Day, was also a native of Maryland, and lived in Baltimore County for the greater part of his life, serving as county clerk for many years. He owned two hundred acres of fine woodland, in the center of which was situated his home, and also owned some slaves. His death occurred in his native state. Ishmael Day, the father of Judge Day, was born in Maryland, March 20, 1792. He removed from Anne Arundel County to Baltimore County about 1830 and after the Civil War was appointed inspector in the custom house, which position he maintained until his death in 1874. Before his removal to Baltimore County he had acted as manager of an iron furnace in Anne Arundel County. In the War of 1812 he served as captain of a company known as the Long Green Rangers, giving his country service to the best of the ability of a citizen well grounded in the principles of patriotism and the duty which man owes to man. In his political convictions he had always cast his vote with the Whig Party until it ceased to exist, when he followed the principles into the Republican ranks, always active in the promotion of the doctrines which he endorsed. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and for many years was a teacher in the Sunday school. He was married three times but only had children by his first wife, she being Charity Johnson, who was born and died in Maryland. She was the daughter of Matthew Johnson, a native of Pennsylvania, who came to Maryland and farmed in Baltimore County, his death occurring at the age of fifty-six years, after a very successful and active career in his chosen work. To Mr. and Mrs. Day were born thirteen children, four sons and nine daughters, namely: Edward, who was drowned; Amanda; Silas J., of this review; Mary; Louisa; Adeline; Emily; Cecelia; Rose; Abigail; Clara; Edward; and William, who died young. Mr. Day was also an educator and surveyor in addition to his many other attainments, as well as a horticulturist, owning a fine orchard, in the successful cultivation of which he took great pleasure.
The third child of his father's family, Judge Day secured his education in the private schools conducted by his father and his uncle, learning many lessons which proved of practical value later in life. In 1846 he enlisted in Company E, Second United States Infantry, for service in the Mexican War. While in Tampico he entered the quartermaster's department and was employed in breaking mules. In 1849 he came to California as a soldier and was stationed at Sugarville for the first year, after which he was sent to Camp Far West for duty throughout the second year. When his enlistment had almost expired he was granted a furlough, and in 1850 he went to the mines of California, remaining until 1851. In that year he went back to Sacramento for a short time, and from that location to Scotts Bar, during the gold excitement, and a little later was engaged in mining at Yreka. While on a trip to Scottsburg for supplies, with the Garfield brothers, he met Captain Crouch, who informed him that supplies were scarce at Scottsburg and advised him to go to Oregon City or Portland, so he continued north by way of Salem and Oregon City, arriving in Portland April 15, 1851. No town then, however, occupied the present site of Portland, and Judge Day was offered ten acres of the land if he would cut the timber. He obtained flour from Colonel Nesbitt, at Rickreall and various other provisions from the farmers, paying fifty cents per pound for butter and a like amount for bacon. He loaded his mules and packed these supplies to Yreka, where he sold the entire outfit. He immediately returned to Canyon Creek, Josephine County, Ore., where he engaged in mining for only a short time, when he returned to Sacramento, where he engaged in brick manufacture until the fall of 1852. In that year he once more visited the mines, remaining until the spring of 1853, when he was joined by his brother Edward, from Baltimore, with whom he came to Oregon, and they took up a claim of one hundred and sixty acres each, located on Butte Creek. This property remained his home for four years, during which time he served as a soldier in the Rogue River Indian War, enlisting October 10, 1855, in Company G, commanded by Capt. Miles F. Alcorn, his term of service expiring May 13, 1856. He had been twice promoted, first becoming orderly sergeant and later commissioned first lieutenant. Upon the return to peace of the southern county Judge Day became a miner on Jackson Creek, where he remained until 1861, for a time thereafter working as an employee in the butcher business in Jacksonville. Later he again became identified with the mining interests, continuing in this occupation until 1870, when he was elected county clerk of Jackson County for a term of two years, so well maintaining the interests of the people that he was chosen in 1874 as county judge. Four years later he was re-elected, his incumbency being in every way satisfactory, during which he was associated with Robert A. Cook in the erection of the court house, the entire cost being but $38,796.53, a wise expenditure bringing about happy results, as the building is one of the best of its kind in the state. In 1874 he was appointed by the state legislature a member of the board of commissioners appointed to lay out the Southern Oregon wagon road. He was elected president of the commission, and together they laid out the road which traversed a distance of three hundred and forty-three miles, terminating in what is now Malheur County. In the execution of his duties he fulfilled the expectations of those who had chosen him to represent their interests. In 1877 Judge Day was chosen by the Grangers of Phoenix to conduct a flour mill, which duty he performed for one year. On retiring from the bench Judge Day took up, in 1882, an abstract and real estate business, which has since engrossed his entire attention.
Judge Day was married in Portland, Ore., in 1871, to Miss Mary McGhee, who was born in Boone County, Mo., in 1841, and four children have blessed this union, of whom Mary Louisa resides in Jacksonville; Edward Melville is located in Siskiyou County, Cal., in the employ of a sawmill company; Silas Elmer was killed at the age of sixteen years; and Elsie Cordelia is also deceased. In his fraternal relations Judge Day is identified with the Odd Fellows, being a member of Jacksonville Lodge, No. 10, I.O.O.F.; Table Rock Encampment, No. 10, and Rebekah Lodge, No. 4, both of Jacksonville. In 1868 Judge Day was elected grand master of the grand lodge of Oregon, which included what is now Oregon, Washington and Idaho. On his retirement in 1869 he was presented by the officers and members of the grand lodge over which he presided, with a solid gold watch and chain, suitably inscribed, as a testimonial of their appreciation of his services. In 1870 he was elected by the grand lodge as a delegate to the sovereign grand lodge which met at Baltimore, Md. In his political convictions he is a staunch adherent of the principles of the Prohibition Party. Since 1861 he has belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church South, in which he has officiated as trustee for many years. In memory of the early days in which he first came to the state of Oregon Judge Day is a member of the Pioneer Society, of which he was elected secretary June 2, 1881, and has continued in office for the twenty-two years since. No man holds the esteem and affection of the people of this community to a greater degree than this well-known pioneer, and by a long life of patient, earnest effort and generous self-sacrifice he is entitled to the honorable position which he occupies.
Portrait and Biographical Record of Western Oregon, Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904, pages 873-875
Jacksonville, OregonMr. Geo. H. Parker
September 12, 1908
Grants Pass, Josephine Co., Oregon
Replying to yours of yesterday relative to the origin of the name Josephine for your county, I can't state positively that I know. I was at Yreka, California at the time the gold diggings were found there. Myself and two brothers by name of Garfield from Mass. concluded that we would go overland to Scottsburg and load our animals with provisions for the miners at Yreka. We started on that journey the 1st day of April, 1851. We crossed the Siskiyou Mountains on the anniversary of my birthday April 3rd. I was 25 years old that day. To show you how we traveled, on that day and the day following we made the distance from Cole's on the south side of the Siskiyou Mountains and landed at what is now Canyonville in Douglas County in two days' and one night's travel. We were not hunting for Indians either. We passed the Grave Creek location about 2 or 3 o'clock of the second day. We had been told about an emigrant girl dying and was buried; as near as I could guess now, she had been buried at the root or near it of a white oak tree about ⅓ of the distance from the Twogood and Harkness house to where the stage stable for the overland train stood when we traveled by stage. Afterwards, sometime in June of that year, there was great excitement about rich gold diggings being found on Canyon Creek, a tributary of Illinois River. That news spread through the camp at Yreka like wildfire. Every man in the camp owned at least one horse. These animals were kept in charge of herders during the day and corralled at night. Nearly every man in Yreka went on that expedition. I was one of the lot, and when we got near to where Kerbyville now is, at the crossing of the Illinois River close to where Hon. John Seyferth afterwards built a flouring mill, there was camped [at] that ford a man who was reported to be a widower. He had a daughter. I judged her to be about 15 or 16 years of age, and her name was Josephine, and we were informed that she was the first white woman that ever came to Josephine County. As to whether those parties' names were Rollins I am not able to say, but I saw the girl and the father near that ford of the Illinois River. Like other wild goose chases, the larger portion of our gang started back to Yreka, and when we got to where Medford is now located we came upon Major Kearny with about 40 dragoons. He was on his way to Benicia in California carrying dispatches of some kind from Vancouver to Brigadier General Riley, who was the military governor of California at that time. They did not go through Cow Creek Canyon but went up the south fork of the Umpqua River and came across the divide between Umpqua and Rogue River, and the command got into a skirmish with the Indians, and in that fight Captain Stuart was killed. When we struck Major Kearny's camp he said he wanted volunteers. He wanted to give those Indians a thrashing; there was quite a number of our men, as many as 50, all mounted and well armed, and the expedition cleaned out about all the males that were in sight. They were 2 or 3 weeks doing the job up, but it was a good job done. Those 40 dragoons took each of them a squaw upon his horse and came through Yreka in the night and went down to Strawberry Valley and struck camp there. Gen. Joseph Lane at that time was mining on a bar of Scott River, had a lot of Klickitat Indians, peaceable fellows, in his employ. Major Kearny sent a messenger with an extra horse and a guide to Gen. Lane's camp, and Gen. Lane went to Major Kearny's camp. They had a hyas close wawa about the propriety of taking those Indian squaws down to Benicia in California, and Gen. Lane counseled that the squaws be taken back to Rogue River, and as Gen. Lane started for his home in Douglas County with his Klickitat braves with him, he took charge of those squaws and brought them to the T'Vault ranch, known as such after the settlement of the country, just opposite where Gold Hill is now. I have been working, writing hard all day, and it is getting dark. I will have to stop now. I have stated what I know to be facts, and that I suppose is all you wanted to know.
Respectfully yours,George Riddle Papers, Oregon Historical Society Research Library MS 1388. Transcribed from typescript.
Silas J. Day.
Dies with Old Year
MEDFORD, Dec. 31.--With the passing of the old year, Silas J. Day, the oldest pioneer of Jackson County, Oregon, passed out into the night. He died early this morning at his home in Jacksonville, Oregon, where he has resided since 1849 [sic], being one of the first to reach that place after the discovery of gold. Judge Day was perhaps the best known of the Southern Oregon pioneers. He was 84 years old.
Evening Statesman, Walla Walla, Washington, December 31, 1909, page 1
SILAS J. DAY IS DEAD
JACKSON PIONEER, FORMER COUNTY JUDGE, PASSES.
Courthouse Built by Him in 1863. Decedent Oddfellow for 47 Years.
JACKSONVILLE, Or., Jan. 3.--(Special.)--Silas J. Day, 84 years old, died at his home in Jacksonville December 31. He was born in Maryland in 1826. He came to California in 1850, moving then to Oregon and Jackson County, where he lived until his death. Judge Day served Jackson County as County Clerk and as County Judge, building the present courthouse when magistrate in .
In 1862 Judge Day was initiated into the Independent Order of Oddfellows by Jacksonville Lodge, No. 10, and for 47 years was active in Oddfellowship, being treasurer of Lodge No. 10 at the time of his death. In 1868 Mr. Day was elected grand master of the Oregon jurisdiction, and in 1890 was grand representative from Oregon to the Sovereign Grand Lodge. Last year he represented his lodge in the Grand Lodge of Oregon.
Judge Day was also secretary of the Jackson County Pioneers' Association. In 1871 Judge Day married Miss Mary McGhee. He is survived by his wife and son, Edward, who live at Jacksonville, and his daughter, Mrs. Mayme Dox, of Williston, N.D.
The funeral will be conducted under the auspices of the Independent Order of Oddfellows, members of the Grand Lodge presiding.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, January 4, 1910, page 6
Jacksonville Man Drowns at Alaskan Fish Cannery.A telegram to E. B. Manley and F. H. Maddon received in Medford Monday gives the information that Edward Day, who had been placed in charge of their cannery near Fort Wrangle, Alaska, last spring, was found dead in the water nearby, evidently having been drowned not long before.
Mr. Day was the eldest son of the late Judge Silas J. Day of Jacksonville, aged about 36 years, and a native of the pioneer town. He is survived by his mother and a sister, Mrs. O. N. Nelson.
Ashland Tidings, July 24, 1913, page 2
Early History of Silas J. Day,Jacksonville Post, June 19, 1920, page 1
One of the First-Comers to Southern Oregon.
The Trip West via the Isthmus of Panama in the '50s
Had its Hardships As Well As the Overland Route.
There were few in the ranks of the pioneers of Southern Oregon more public-spirited and far-seeing than the late Silas J. Day, who for many years played an active part in state and county affairs. He was responsible for many permanent improvements during his official career and transacted the public business entrusted to him in a manner that won the confidence and lasting esteem of the early settlers in this part of the state.
Mr. Day was born in Ann Arundel County, Maryland, April 3rd, 1826. He arrived at San Francisco, Calif. in the month of April 1849, and in 1851 made his first trip into Oregon, returning to California the same year. A couple of years later he decided to make his home in Oregon, and on July 13, 1853 located a Donation Land Claim on Little Butte Creek. Mr. Day was residing on his claim when the Indian war of 1855 broke out. He immediately enlisted and was elected orderly sergeant in Captain Miles F. Alcorn's Company G, Ninth Regiment, Oregon Militia, organized "to serve against the Yakima and other Indians," and, upon the resignation of Lieut. James H. Matney in 1856, was promoted to a lieutenancy in the company. He, together with the rest of the company, was mustered out of service on June 13, 1856.
Silas J. Day and Mary E. McGhee, a native of Boone County, Missouri, whose family is also numbered among the pioneers of Oregon, were married at Portland, Oregon, on May 22, 1871, and four children were born to them, Mary L., Elsie C., Silas E. and Edward M. Day.
By an act of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon, approved October 23, 1872, a Board of Commissioners was appointed to lay out and construct a wagon road through Jackson, Grant and Baker counties. It was known as the Southern Oregon Wagon Road and was 313½ miles in length. At the organization of this board Mr. Day was elected chairman and continued in office until July 1874 when, its labors being completed, the board was dissolved.
He was elected county clerk of Jackson County at the June election of 1874 and in 1876 was elected county judge, holding the latter office continuously for a period of eight years. It was during his administration as county judge that the present Jackson County courthouse was erected.
After the expiration of his term as county judge, Mr. Day opened a real estate and insurance office in this city. He was also an abstractor of land titles and notary public and maintained an office here until the time of his death some few years ago.
Mr. Day was a prominent member of the I.O.O.F. In 1868 he was elected Grand Master of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows of Oregon, and in the following year was Grand Representative to the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the order in the United States.
Mrs. Day arrived in Oregon in 1854, coming by way of the Isthmus of Panama and, though but a child, retains a vivid recollection of the hardships connected with the trip. The party of emigrants with whom Mrs. Day crossed the isthmus was compelled to voyage up the Chagres River in open boats for a day and a night with absolutely no shelter from the driving rain, which fell continuously. The remainder of the distance was made on muleback. As a result of this exposure Mrs. Day's mother died and was buried at sea on the voyage between the isthmus and San Francisco. During this voyage the ship's supply of drinking water turned bad, and for three days the emigrants suffered severely from thirst.
Mrs. Day's father, J. W. McGhee, first preceded his family to the western El Dorado, crossing the plains in 1851. He was a minister of the Gospel and conducted the first religious services held in Yreka, California. In 1852 he came to Oregon and located a Donation Land Claim near where Bybee Bridge now stands. He was known to the Indians as a "Bible man," and as such held in great respect by them. Before the Indian outbreak of the '50s, Old Sam and Old Joe, chiefs of the Rogue River Indians, warned Mr. McGhee that trouble was brewing and advised him to leave the country for a time. Mr. McGhee followed this advice and returned after the uprising was quelled, only to find that his claim had been "jumped," whereupon he moved to the Willamette Valley, where his family made their home.
In 1855-56 Mrs. Day attended the Tualatin Academy at Forest Grove, of which institution Dr. Marsh was president. Among her schoolmates were a number of Walker, Owens and Spaulding children, survivors of the Marcus Whitman party massacred by the Cayuse Indians at Waiilatpu in 1847. Two of Dr. J. W. Robinson's sisters, Jane and Ellen Robinson, attended the same academy.
Since 1871, the date of her marriage, Mrs. Day has resided in Jacksonville. She shows few traces of the hardships she was called upon to endure and possesses a wealth of reminiscences of early days in Southern Oregon, when flour was sometimes an almost unknown quantity and an ounce of salt was placed in the scales and traded for an equal quantity of gold dust.
OBSERVATIONS AND IMPRESSIONSMary E. Day lives at Jacksonville. She has lived there more than half a century. Her husband, Silas J. Day, who died many years ago, served two terms as county judge and one term as county clerk of Jackson County.
OF THE JOURNAL MAN
By Fred Lockley
"My maiden name was Mary McGhee," said Mrs. Day, when I visited her recently at her home at peaceful, picturesque and historic old Jacksonville. "My father, Rev. John Wesley McGhee, was born in Virginia, April 29, 1821, and was of the fourth generation of McGhees born in Virginia. My mother, whose maiden name was Cordelia Miller, was also a Southerner. Her mother was a native of South Carolina and her father of Kentucky, while she was born in Missouri.
"Father and Mother were married in Missouri, December 10, 1840. The stories of opportunity and adventure in California were too much for my father, so in 1850 he went to the California gold diggings. In 1851 and 1852 he preached at Yreka and at other mining camps in Northern California. The discovery of rich diggings here at Jacksonville and the removal of most of his congregation from Northern California to Southern Oregon caused him to come to Southern Oregon. In 1852 he took a claim in Sams Valley. He had not been there long when Chief Sam came to him and said, 'You are a Bible man; I don't want you to be killed. Go away for a little while. My young men are going on the warpath. The white men insult our women and kill our men. I cannot hold the young men of our tribe in check.' A little later the first Rogue River war, that of 1853, was raging.
"Father went to Salem and took up a donation land claim, six miles southeast of Salem, next to the claim of Sam A. Clark, the editor, historian and author. He went back to the Rogue River country to serve in the war, but before he went he wrote to Mother to come to Oregon.
"I was born in Missouri, November 22, 1841, so I was 12 years old at the time we came to Oregon. There were three of us children. We came by way of the Isthmus of Panama. Mother took the Panama fever while at the Isthmus. She died about 300 miles south of the Golden Gate. We three chlldren had to see her dropped over the side of the boat and buried at sea.
"I had seen St. Louis and New Orleans, so when we landed at Portland it seemed to me a very insignificant little village and I doubted if it would ever amount to much. At Oregon City we met a man who knew my father. He took us to Salem with him on the boat and had his son drive us out to Father's place. Father didn't know which boat we were coming on, for Mother had no way of letting him know. He said to me, 'Where is your mother, Mary?' I said, 'She was buried at sea three days before we got to San Francisco.'
"Father was married when he was 18. I was born before he was 21. He was 23 when Mother died.
"Among the early pioneers who settled in Polk County were the Hydes. Aaron Hyde was one of the early-day teachers in Portland. He married Rachel Whiteaker. My father met his widow, Mrs. Rachel Hyde, and married her.
"In 1855-56 Father served on the staff of Governor I. I. Stevens of Washington Territory in the war against the confederated tribes of Eastern Oregon.
"Mother being dead, Father had no way of caring for us, so he arranged with Tabitha Brown of Forest Grove for us to stay at her boarding school. Mrs. Brown was a Vermonter, the widow of an Episcopal clergyman. She was well educated, badly crippled, a good manager and very strict. The girls who stayed with her had no opportunity to be vamps or flappers.
"Professor Marsh was president of Tualatin academy. Judge Shattuck was one of my teachers. The older students taught the primary grades. My brother Melville and Henry Spalding were the only boys in Mrs. Brown's school. They were both small. Martha Spalding, who was the daughter of Rev. H. H. Spalding, the associate of Dr. Marcus Whitman, looked after her brother Henry, while I cared for my brother Melville.
"I spent two years at Tualatin academy, meeting the Walkers, Eells, Smith, Griffin and other missionary families.
"In 1859, when I was 18, I entered Willamette University. The following year I taught school to earn money to continue my work at college. In 1861 I resumed my work at Willamette and graduated in 1863 in the class with Lucy Ann Lee, daughter of Jason Lee. I took up teaching as my life work. I taught my first school in Moores Valley, in the foothills near North Yamhill. I taught in a log cabin owned by Governor Woods. He and my mother were cousins.
"Silas J. Day was a miner and lived at Jacksonville. He was appointed a delegate to the Odd Fellows grand lodge at Salem. The ladies of the Methodist church of Salem gave a strawberry festival to the delegates. President T. M. Gatch of Willamette University was an Odd Fellow. He came to me and said, 'Mary, I want you to meet a friend of mine from Southern Oregon.' He introduced to me Mr. Day. A little later Rev. C. C. Stratton, a graduate of Willamette University, said to me, 'Mary, I want you to meet a friend of mine from Southern Oregon,' and he also introduced to me Mr. Day. Later in the evening Sam May said. 'Mary, I want you to meet--' I said, 'I know him already. His name is Silas Day. He is a miner and lives at Jacksonville.' Mr. Day called on me the next day. We did our courting by letter. Rev. C. C. Stratton performed our marriage ceremony.
"I forgot to tell you that before I was married I taught at the select school at Albany under Judge Flinn. When Albany College was founded Dr. Monteith, Professor H. K. Warren and I were the first teachers.
"I have lived at Jacksonville since 1871. When I came here Jacksonville was the metropolis of Southern Oregon. Medford was undreamed of, and Ashland was a little sawmill and gristmill town. Today there is a larger population in our graveyard than in the city itself. Most of the old pioneers are asleep on the hillside."
Oregon Journal, Portland, July 10, 1922, page 6
IMPRESSIONS AND OBSERVATIONS"The state capitol at Baltimore is built on what was formerly a tobacco field belonging to Ishmael Day, my grandfather," said Mamie Day Nelson, when I interviewed her recently at her home in Jacksonville. "The Days emigrated from England to Virginia. Ishmael Day, on whose tobacco field the state capitol was built, served in the War of 1812. He had eight children, my father, Silas J. Day, being the oldest. My father served in the Mexican War. He was sent to California, where he served under Fremont. He was stationed at Camp Far West at the time Marshall and Bennett discovered gold in the mill race near Sutter's Fort. When news came of the discovery of gold all the soldiers except the captain and my father immediately left for the gold fields. Father's time was nearly out, as was the case with most of the other soldiers, so he later went prospecting on the Feather River and American River. Later, he ran a pack train from Sacramento to Yreka.
OF THE JOURNAL MAN
By Fred Lockley
"He was running a pack train from Oregon City to Yreka when gold was discovered at Jacksonville, Or. They used to bring flour, bacon and other supplies from Oregon City to the mines. My father's pack train was the first to arrive in Jacksonville from Oregon City after the big strike. His supplies were intended for Yreka, but he found an immediate sale for them at Jacksonville, so, after selling them, he started back for Oregon City to get more supplies. Jerry, his partner, had flaming red hair. Jerry took up claims for both of them on Jackson Creek while Father ran the pack train. In the winter of 1852 salt was so scarce that they sold it on gold scales, an ounce of gold for an ounce of salt.
"The first gold found in Jacksonville was discovered in January, 1852, on what was known as Rich Gulch. Some gold had been panned from Jackson Creek before this, but when James Clugage and J. R. Poole made the strike on Rich Gulch, within a month the whole gulch was staked out. W. W. Fowler built the first log cabin in Jacksonville, and, by the way, W. W. Fowler was appointed the first judge at the first miners' court held in Jacksonville. This was when a miner names Potts was shot and killed by a gambler named Brown. The miners selected 12 jurymen, who investigated the case, brought in a verdict that Potts, the miner, was killed without provocation and in a cowardly manner by Brown and recommended that Brown be hanged. He was at once taken to the oak grove nearby, where he was hanged and buried.
"Henry Klippel laid out Oregon and California streets in the summer of 1852. I told you that Father sold salt ounce for ounce with gold dust in the winter of '52. Tobacco sold for a dollar an ounce. Flour was a dollar a pound. There was no danger of starving, of course, because there was plenty of game in the hills, and deer meat could be eaten without salt.
"In the spring of 1853 a miner named Rogers was appointed alcalde, to settle all disputes. Two miners had a dispute as to the ownership of a claim. Their names were Sims and Sprenger. Sims had wintered in the Willamette Valley, while Sprenger had held the claim. Sprenger broke his leg, and because he was unable to help work the claim, Sims arbitrarily claimed the entire property. They presented their case to Alcalde Rogers, who decided against Sprenger, awarding the claim to Sims. Sprenger appealed to the higher court of the justice of the miners. A meeting was called and more than 1000 miners attended. Rogers refused to change his decision, even when he was threatened with violence. Jerry, my father's partner, solved the difficulty by suggesting that if Rogers was judge the miners could appoint a supreme judge to overrule his decisions, so they elected U. S. Hayden of Connecticut superior alcalde, or chief justice. Jerry, my father's partner, wrote a book in which he gave the full particulars of this trial. I had this book for years, but I loaned it to a preacher and he claimed that he lost it, so I never got it back. In any event, after the miners had elected U. S. Hayden superior alcalde they appointed a bailiff, selected a jury and tried the case. P. P. Prim, later supreme [court] judge, and Daniel Kinney represented Sprenger, while Orange Jacobs, who later became a supreme [court] judge in Washington Territory, represented Sims. The jury restored Sprenger's right to one-half the claim.
"My father gave up his pack train in the late fall of 1852 and for the next few years mined in and around Jacksonville. Father served two terms as assessor and was then appointed deputy county clerk under Henry Klippel. He served two terms there as deputy and was then elected county clerk. He appointed Henry Klippel his deputy, who served two terms under Father. Father was then elected county judge and served two terms. The courthouse was built while he was county judge. I have all of the original figures for it here. It was 92x60 feet, built of stone and brick. The basement walls were eight feet through and of solid stone. Through the center there were other supporting walls which were six feet through. The total cost of the courthouse was $38,796.53.
"Father was born in Maryland, April 3, 1826. He arrived in San Francisco in 1849, and in the spring of 1851 came to Oregon. He was married in Portland on May 22, 1871, to Mary A. McGhee of Boone County, Missouri. In 1872 my father was appointed one of the commissioners for the surveying and construction of the Southern Oregon wagon road. He was appointed chairman of the board. This board was created to build the wagon road eastward through Jacksonville to Baker County. He served as chairman of the board till the summer of 1874.
"My father and his brother, Dr. Edward W. Day, took up a donation land claim on Butte Creek, at what is now Eagle Point. Mr. Neucom [Newcomb?] had a claim next to my father's. During the Rogue River Indian war, Chief Sam nailed a beaver skin on the front of Neucom's house and also on Colonel T'Vault's house, and the Indians never bothered either of these settlers. Chief Sam said it was a sort of Indian flag that would protect them, as the Indians would recognize them as friends."
Oregon Journal, Portland, August 19, 1927, page 10
IMPRESSIONS AND OBSERVATIONS"My father, Silas J. Day, came to California in 1849 and was one of the first settlers at Jacksonville, Or.," said Mrs. Mamie Day Nelson of Jacksonville. "In the Rogue River Indian war Father enlisted as a private, but he was elected first lieutenant of Company G, 2nd Regiment, Oregon Mounted Volunteers. The captain of the company was Miles Alcorn. Father served as orderly sergeant before being elected lieutenant. He was orderly sergeant from October 11, 1855, and was elected first lieutenant on March 20, 1856. Here are the original muster rolls of the company. You will notice by these old documents that it says this volunteer's horse and equipment was captured by the Indians. Here is a note showing where a volunteer's horse was drowned. Here is a notation saying one of the horses was lost in a forced march from the Meadows on December 6, 1855. You will find these old orders and muster rolls interesting. Glance through them while I am hunting up some other old documents to show you."
OF THE JOURNAL MAN
By Fred Lockley
Taking the documents she handed me, I glanced over them and found much unrecorded history of the Rogue River war. One of the reports was dated "Headquarters Fort Vannoy, February 7, 1856--J. B. Wadsworth, Sir: I beg leave to report the loss of 230 pounds of flour. We had no place to store it. Also 200 pounds of flour fed to our animals on our forced march from the Meadows to headquarters." On December 6 the report showed that they lost 60 pounds of coffee through the stampede of a pack mule, and 40 pounds of sugar and 25 pounds of salt, which, in a heavy rain, melted and ran together, while marching from the Meadows. On January 24, 1856, they lost 25 pounds of sugar, while marching from Applegate Creek to Illinois Valley, on account of having no tarpaulins or pack covers. Captain Miles F. Alcorn also reported the loss of 300 pounds of beef, which they abandoned on Applegate Creek on January 20, 1856. In December, 1855, he wrote a report from the camp on Deep Creek [Deer Creek?] in which he says that on Christmas Day they attacked the Butte Creek Indians early in the morning, killing eight bucks and capturing 13 squaws and seven children.
"After Mother graduated from Willamette University, in 1863, she taught school for two or three years on the John Day, in Eastern Oregon. From there she came to Portland and taught French in the Portland academy. After a year she took a position in Albany college, where she taught until she was 30. Rev. Frambes told Mother he wanted her to meet Silas J. Day. My father, Silas J. Day, was grand master of the I.O.O.F. In fact, he was the oldest grand master west of the Rocky Mountains at the time of his death. He was elected grand master in 1869 and died December 31, 1909, at the age of 83. After he was elected grand master, in 1869, he spent a year visiting the various lodges in Oregon, Northern California, Washington, Idaho and Montana. The lodge met at Albany. Ike Miller of Astoria came to Mother, and said, 'I want you to meet Silas J. Day.' A little later Billy Twedale also urged Mother to meet his friend Silas J. Day. Mother consented, and Mr. Twedale introduced them at the grand lodge. They were married at the grand lodge in Portland the following year.
"My father started the first abstract office in Southern Oregon. He always headed every petition or subscription paper for improvement. Here, for example, is the subscription paper in which money was being raised to build a fence around the Methodist church in Jacksonville. It is dated December 14, 1867, and, as you will notice, Father's is the first name on the list. Following Father's name are the signatures of William Hoffman, Tom B. Thompson, Orange Jacobs, U. S. Hayden, George P. Funk, L. J. C. Duncan, F. Grube, Enoch Walker, D. C. DeWitt, Max Muller, D. Hopkins, C. C. Beekman, John Bilger and Fisher brothers.
"Late in the fall of 1868 smallpox broke out in Jacksonville. Some Indians were camped near town. They had what the doctors pronounced chickenpox, but it was really black smallpox. Jacksonville was quarantined, the schools and churches dismissed and all public gatherings discontinued. Those who had the smallpox were taken to the pesthouse, but the disease spread. Father was sleeping with George Funk. During the night he complained, so Father lit a candle and found his face was broken out with smallpox. Mr. Funk died, and so did Dr. Overbeck, and also Colonel T'Vault. [Overbeck died three years later, in 1872.] Colonel T'Vault was buried at midnight by the priest here. They had pitch pine fires going all the time, to counteract the smallpox, but they did no good. During the two months the smallpox lasted over 40 people died.
"Here is a letter from J. W. Hillman. He is the discoverer of Crater Lake. I wrote and asked him to tell me something of his early life. As you see, he says he was born in Albany, N.Y., on March 29, 1832. He moved to New Orleans in 1843. In the spring of 1849 his father got a position as saddler with a mounted rifle regiment that was fitting out to cross the plains. J. W. Hillman was 17 years old. He enlisted as an extra man. They left New Orleans in May, 1849, on a steamboat for St. Louis. From there they went to St. Joe. They were five months on their way to Oregon City. Mr. Hillman ran across Captain Kilbourne, who was loading lumber for California. His boat was anchored at the mouth of the Willamette. When Mr. Hillman asked him the price of a ticket to San Francisco he told him $75, but finally put him on as assistant steward. They arrived in San Francisco just before the big fire. With five other young men Mr. Hillman bought a whaleboat and started for Mariposa. Later they sold this, bought a couple of pack horses and started for what was then called Shasta Butte City, but is now known as Yreka. He came to Jacksonville in 1853. His story of the discovery of Crater Lake was not believed at the time. It was rediscovered by some soldiers during the Civil War. William Colvig of Medford can tell you all about the rediscovery of Crater Lake, as he was a soldier at Fort Klamath at the time."
Oregon Journal, Portland, August 20, 1927, page 4
IMPRESSIONS AND OBSERVATIONS"I was born on February 20, 1872, here in Jacksonville," said Mamie Day Nelson, when I interviewed her recently in Jacksonville. "There were two boys and two girls in the family. I was the oldest. My father, Silas J. Day, married my mother, whose maiden name was Mary McGhee, on May 22, 1871. Mother was born near St. Joe, Mo., November 22, 1841. She was 30 and Father 45 when they were married. My mother came with her people by way of New Orleans and the Isthmus. My mother's mother, Cordelia Miller McGhee, died at sea, of Panama fever. In her money belt she had $1200 in gold. She was buried at sea. They never learned whether the money was buried with her or someone took it. My grandmother was coming to join her husband, who was running a mill near Oregon City. This was in 1853. When my grandmother died and was buried at sea, my mother was 12, her brother 10 and her younger sister 6. Word was given out at San Francisco that a boat had arrived with three orphan children, their mother having died and been buried at sea. Over 1500 miners came to learn who the children were, for many of them had left wives and children in the East and thought possibly it might be that the orphan children were theirs.
OF THE JOURNAL MAN
By Fred Lockley
"Mother and her brother and sister came on to Portland, and from there they went by boat to Oregon City. At Oregon City they were taken in a wagon out to their father's mill. He was not expecting them until the next year, so naturally he was very much surprised. The first knowledge of his wife's death was when Mother told him she had died at sea. Mother said that when she and her brother and sister were at the hotel in San Francisco many of the miners who had come in to see who the orphans were gave them nuggets or gold dust. In fact, these generous-hearted miners were so liberal in their gifts that Mother, who took care of the money, said she had a large buckskin pouch full of nuggets and gold dust. She turned this pouch of gold over to her father. Grandfather McGhee sold this gold dust in Oregon City and with the proceeds sent Mother and her brother Melvin to school at Forest Grove. They boarded at Tabitha Brown's home. Grandma Brown was the founder of the school at Forest Grove. Eliza Spalding, the daughter of Rev. H. H. Spalding, who had crossed the plains with Dr. Marcus Whitman, was a classmate of my mother's as was also one of the Sager girls, who, like Eliza Spalding, had survived the Whitman massacre.
"Mother's father, John McGhee, enlisted in the Indian war of 1855 and '56 and went up into Washington Territory.
"Mother went to Salem to attend Willamette University. She worked her way through school by working in the home of Rev. D. Rutledge, pastor of the Methodist church at Salem. Mother attended Willamette University four years. I wish you had known my mother; she would have given you some mighty interesting stories about early days at the Willamette University and in Southern Oregon. She told me about the first picnic the students of Willamette University ever held. Tom Crawford, who later served as city superintendent of schools at Portland for so many years, borrowed a large farm horse. Frank Grubbs borrowed an Indian cayuse. They also borrowed a light wagon, and drove out in the country a few miles to pick strawberries. Lucy Ann Lee, Emily Belt, my mother and a number of the other students went on this picnic. Mother borrowed a tablecloth from Mrs. Rutledge. They hitched their team under a big tree, got out their lunch and spread it in the shade, folding the tablecloth over it, and Margaretta Grubbs, Frank's sister, laid her sunbonnet on top of the tablecloth. When the young folks were out picking strawberries a bull came up to investigate, tipped the cream over, spilled the sugar, chewed up Margaretta's sunbonnet, and also chewed one corner of the tablecloth. Poor Margaretta nearly died of shame. They had to drive back through town with her bareheaded. Mother also felt terrible, because she had to return the damaged tablecloth to Mrs. Rutledge and explain how it had happened.
"Here's the program of the exercises held at Willamette University on July 16, 1863, and here is Mother's graduating essay in her own handwriting. Francis H. Grubbs delivered an oration entitled 'Marching On.' Emily Belt's subject was 'Dreams.' Colin T. Finlayson spoke on 'Robert Burns.' 'The Press' was Alva McWhorter's subject. Nellie Stipp spoke on 'The Lords of Creation.' My mother, Mary McGhee, took for her subject 'Trifles.' T. H. Crawford discussed 'The Two Worlds.' Margaretta Grubbs spoke on 'Alki.' 'New England' was John B. Waldo's subject. Angeline Robb spoke of 'The Past and Future.' J. C. Grubbs' subject was 'Cimmerioi,' while Lucy A. M. Lee, the daughter of Jason Lee, spoke on 'Castles and Fortifications.'
"After Mother graduated, in 1863, she taught school on the John Day River for several years. She boarded with the Boltons, who had a double log house. She taught school in a cabin which was divided, one part being devoted to the school, while in the other half was a Spaniard who made harness, saddles and pack saddles. The second year Mother was there they built a schoolhouse for her. Mother held the first Christmas exercises ever held in a schoolhouse in Eastern Oregon, so far as I know. She sent to Margaretta Grubbs of Salem to buy a doll for the Bolton girl. The students raised money and sent one of their number to Portland to buy a Christmas present for Mother. They bought her a gold belt buckle. Mother taught school in the John Day schoolhouse during the Civil War. Most of the children down the creek were Union children; those up the creek were 'Secesh.' Every day after school the boys used to wage desperate battles over whether Abe Lincoln or Jeff Davis was going to win the war. Mother divided the school so that all who believed in the Confederate cause were in one class, while the Union children were in another class. She dismissed the children with Confederate sympathies an hour before the Union children. The girls fought as hard as the boys. By dividing the school and dismissing the Confederate army first and making them go right home, mother caused a suspension of hostilities."
Oregon Journal, Portland, August 21, 1927, page 8
Yreka diggings was struck in March, 1851. The news of the discovery was published in the Placer Times, at Sacramento, on April 18, 1851, and resulted in a rush of Californians to the diggings. Silas J. Day of Jacksonville and Abraham Thompson, also of Oregon, were the ones who discovered gold on Yreka Flats. In six weeks this camp of the Oregonians had increased in population to over 2000. While Day and the other members of the party of Oregonians who were on the road to the California mines were camped on Yreka Flats, Thompson washed out three panfuls of dirt on Black Gulch, striking coarse gold. Next day the the Oregonians, who had been headed for Ingalls' Gulch, held a miners' meeting, named the camp Thompson's Dry Diggings, and decided to limit the size of the claims to 30 feet in width. Thompson and his partner, Bell, were allowed to stake one claim each, and were then given one extra claim because of their discovery of the diggings. Later, Thompson's Dry Diggings was renamed Shasta, then Butte City, and still later was named Yreka.
Fred Lockley, "Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man," Oregon Journal, Portland, October 20, 1933, page 8
Alex J. Rosborough, who has memories and stories of Northern California, is telling us today that near the creek which runs along the east side of Yreka, now called Yreka Creek, Hudson Bay trappers, in the way earlier times, had found camps of Indians, with whom they bartered in trade for fur pelts, and it was to this locality that J. J. Pool and J. M. C. Jones worked their way up the Klamath River from the coast and made a discovery of gold in 1850. Evidently they were not impressed by what they found, or they were traveling through with some other object in view, for they did not remain and it was not until March, 1851, that a discovery of "gold" was made which precipitated one of California's greatest "rushes." "A man by the name of Thompson, and his partner, Bell, while traveling through in company with two companions, Dr. F. G. Hearn, afterwards a dentist at Yreka (whom I knew very well) and Silas J. Day, who, following his experience at mining was judge for many years at Jacksonville, in Oregon, came into the little valley with mules to carry their outfit and camped at a spring to the west and overlooking the present townsite, on a small flat. There the party was overtaken by a rainstorm which lasted for several days. (This spot is located almost in line with what would be the extension of Yama Street, some half mile from the city limits of Yreka. There is no marker to indicate the place, but I hope the newly organized county historical society will soon take care of that.) Around this spring the surface soil was very shallow and the mules in grazing about had pulled up roots of grass full of dirt, from which small pieces of gold were found, washed out by the heavy rain. Thompson dug up some of the dirt and as the result of three pannings proved it to be so rich with gold that Thompson, Hearn and Day decided to stay right there and go to mining. They staked out four claims, the extra claim being for Bell, who was not just then present. Immediately others came to the place of discovery, and when there were about 12 it was decided to name the place. So in honor of the man who had discovered rich pay dirt they named it 'Thompson's Dry Diggins'--the reason why it was designated 'dry' was because the small spring did not furnish a sufficient amount of water for washing the dirt which had to be taken to the creek below for 'rocking.' As there was only one rocker in the crowd and that needed repair, they chopped down hollow oak trees, split the trunks in half, cleaned out the soft, rotten hearts and used screens made of deer hide, improvised rockers to wash out the gold. News of this find spread like wildfire. Other miners came pouring in, some of them bringing 'long toms,' which were capable of handling more dirt, and these superseded the rockers where there was sufficient water to operate them. Wheels were sawed out and carts made to haul pay dirt to the creek. The mad rush for 'gold' was on. Men came swarming in from Sacramento way, from the coast up the Klamath River and from Oregon; some on horseback, some on foot, some were flat broke and without any grub, and there also came men with pack trains of mules, loaded with provisions and tools and whiskey. Stores were opened. At first a long pole leaned against a tree and covered with canvas, to protect the goods, served as a makeshift store for lively business; logs furnished seats, beds were made of boughs, and stones banked up with dirt made the stoves where meals were cooked. All stores sold whiskey at two bits a drink. In other new camps, springing up in faraway places, it sold for half a dollar and even a dollar. Gaming was 'wide open,' and many a miner gambled away at night or on Sunday all that hard work on his claim had brought him."
"Yreka Gold Rush," Oakland Tribune, March 10, 1946, page 19
Last revised December 4, 2023