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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Jackson County 1850

Gold in Oregon--Umpqua and Rogue River Valleys.
    The Pacific News of June 17 says:
    Since our last, the discovery of large gold deposits in Oregon has awakened considerable attention here. The accounts are very authentic, and we think may probably have an influence to direct part of the current of emigration which is now on the plains.
    In connection with this paragraph, the following extract from a letter to the editor of the Alton Telegraph, from B. C. Cleaver, Esq., late of Madison County, dated at Oregon City on the 4th March last, will be found interesting, as it describes a part of Oregon hitherto but little known.
    Some time in last April, myself, one son and two sons-in-law were seized with the yellow or gold fever, the effect of which carried us all off towards California..We took the land route with wagon and team, and traveled up the Willamette Valley, over a fine farming country, for a distance of 150 miles. Here we ascend the Calapooya Mountains, so called. These mountains are very fertile in many places, and are not of great elevation, having fine springs, good timber &c. In one day's drive from the Willamette Valley, we reach the Umpqua Valley. Here se see mounds of various sizes, covering from 50 to 500 acres of land. The valleys between those mounds are of various widths, say from a quarter of a mile to ten miles wide. the soil is generally of excellent quality, and the valleys are especially fertile. These mounds are generally covered with a fine coat of grass, and various kinds of timber--some black and white oak, some pine, and a large species of laurel &c.--some of which were three feet in diameter. The timber that grows on these mounds is generally of a short scrubby nature. There are also many fine springs bursting from the sides of these mounds. Much excellent timber is found in many parts of this valley, though in several places it is not convenient to the prairie.
    I am not prepared to state, at this moment, the width of this valley of mounds, but I judge it to be about 50 miles. In about the center of this valley, we cross the north fork of the Umpqua, and at the south side we cross the south fork of the Umpqua. These forks are pretty much the same size--each about 125 paces wide. There are several families residing in this valley, and a ferry is kept on the North Umpqua. Fort Umpqua is situated some twenty miles below this road, on the main Umpqua River. After crossing the South Umpqua, we enter the Umpqua Mountain, and pass through what is called a "canyan." We enter this canyan at the mouth of a small river, and travel up this mountain-bound stream, crossing it some 25 times, and lastly, traveling in its bed a short distance, when we fall in upon the head of another small river, leading south. Following this stream down a few miles brings us into a handsome little valley. It is a hard day's drive through this canyan. From this little valley, it is a hard day's drive over a hilly section of country to the Rogue River Valley. Here we find some good little prairies, and for 20 or 30 miles up the river we occasionally find good little valleys. But here the valley becomes large--say some 30 miles in width, and probably 40 in length. Some parts of this Rogue River Valley are very fertile, but much of it is not good, having too much gravel in the soil, which injures a great many valleys in this western world.
    I should have stated that, whilst we were traveling through the Umpqua and Rogue River valleys, we made it strictly our business to look for gold in every likely-looking place. This gave us a chance also to examine other qualities of this country, and in our investigations we found considerable gold, both on the Umpqua and Rogue rivers. I should also state that, from the prospects of gold above mentioned, the people of Oregon are at this time all on tiptoe, and making great preparations to open those mines this spring. The climate of the Umpqua and Rogue River valleys is like that of the Willamette Valley, being mild and pleasant, both in winter and summer. From the Rogue River Valley we enter the Siskiyou Mountains. These mountains are not very rough nor of any great elevation. After traveling some 50 miles through these mountains, we arrived at the Klamath Lake--out of which this stream flows. This river is a fine stream, some 150 paces wide, and for about half the year it cannot be forded. We forded it by propping up wagon beds, and in about 10 miles' travel we came to the Klamath Lakes. Here are truly some of the great wonders of the western world, presented in the form of these mighty lakes. These lakes--also Mount Shasta, which stands near them--are situated upon a very elevated country, probably the most elevated section of country west of Rocky Mountains, for several hundred miles north and south. Many of the great rivers of the West have their source from these lakes, or their immediate vicinity. Here is the fine Klamath River, which flows immediately from the lake's side, besides several others of considerable note that have their sources in this vicinity, say, the great Sacramento, Deschutes, John Day, Rogue River, the Umpqua, and the McKenzie Fork of the Willamette. All these streams take their rise in and near those great lakes.
    It is impossible for me, with my limited knowledge of this section of country, to do the subject strict justice. We were rambling, however, through this section of country for about four weeks, during which time I gave strict attention to those many curiosities that presented themselves to view. Those lakes, and the mounds and ridges that divide them, cover a large tract of country. Many of those lakes, by wash and other causes, are fast filling in. A few of them have already filled up and formed rich little valleys. From this place we made our course to the Sacramento Valley. The road is circuitous, and in many places very rough. We finally descended into the Sacramento Valley, and after chasing around for a time, we made our way to the Redding's diggings, for health, the most northerly mines in California [sic]. Here we commenced mining with fair success, but had [not] been long in fair business before we witnessed the awful spectacle of a very sick camp. The sickness increased and many deaths took place, and the people, as soon as they were able to travel, set out for Oregon. My company recovered in part, and we left the mines on the 24th of July. California is truly one of the sickliest, poorest in soil, and hottest countries your unworthy writer ever visited. I hope this will be warning enough to my friends about California.
    Respectfully yours,
        BENJAMIN CLEAVER.
Illinois Daily Journal, Springfield, August 1, 1850, page 2



Last revised October 5, 2015