HOME




The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Discovery of Gold in Josephine County

See also Jackson County News, 1850 through 1852. and Rich Gulch.


    Gov. Lane, of Oregon, has resigned his office as Governor, and is contemplating a trip to the Illinois River, in search of the gold region.
"Items from Oregon," Burlington Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, September 5, 1850, page 2


    The San Francisco Whig has the following letter from Port Orford, dated December 1st:
    The trail leading from this place to the Oregon trail is now open and ready for business. A small party came through from Scott's River a few days since, and we learn by them that the miners are doing exceedingly well in the vicinity of Rogue River, and also at a place called "Sailors' Dry Diggings," which is located some forty miles south and west from Rogue's Ferry. Provisions and breadstuffs have advanced at an unusual rate during a few weeks past.
Daily Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, January 10, 1853, page 2



STORY OF THE FINDING OF GOLD AND NAMING
OF ALTHOUSE CREEK IS TOLD BY ALBANY MAN

    The romantic early-day history of a country is elusive, and without the effort of interested parties is lost before we know it. There are many interesting details connected with the discovery and mining of gold in Josephine County, and Geo. H. Parker has assembled much interesting data in this connection. Recently in getting the facts regarding the naming of Althouse Creek, Mr. Parker wrote to C. H. Stewart, of Albany, and received the following letter regarding the Althouse brothers, with whom Mr. Stewart had been acquainted:
    "This is in answer to your letter of yesterday in relation to the Althouse brothers, with whom I was well acquainted.
    "In the spring of 1849 Philip and John Althouse, the former being 21 years old and the latter 19, started from Illinois for the gold fields of California. There were ten men in the party, and they had four wagons. They crossed the plains safely, and when they arrived in the Sacramento Valley the party broke up. The Althouse brothers finally concluded to visit their brother Samuel, who had crossed the plains in 1847, and located at Albany, Oregon, so they sold their team for sufficient money to pay their way by steamer to Portland. Arriving there, they footed it up the valley to Albany, where they worked for some time at anything they could find to do.
    "In the spring of 1851 the two young men went out to Southern Oregon and commenced prospecting for gold. In company with three other men they took the first wagon from the Rogue River Valley into the Illinois River country.
    "In the fall of 1852 the two brothers with a few others discovered gold on a creek flowing into the east fork of the Illinois River, not far from Sucker Creek. These diggings proved to be very rich, and as Philip Althouse was the first one of the prospectors to wash out a pan of the dirt, the creek was named after him--Althouse Creek. The gold was rather coarse, and a great many nuggets were found, one of them in particular being valued at $1200.
    "The two brothers mined in that locality successfully for several years. Philip finally died and was buried there, and John joined his brother Samuel at Albany and passed the remainder of his days at this place. He married a Mrs. N. H. Cranor, and died in June 1916, leaving no children.
    "Capt. Althouse, who has recently been appointed governor of the island of Guam, and is now visiting at Albany, is a son of Wm. Althouse, the only one of the four brothers who did not remove from Illinois to this coast."
    Adding further details to the interesting story, Sheriff George W. Lewis says that while placer mining on Althouse Creek at Browntown the mining operations formed a gravel bar on a tributary of Althouse Creek, and when the high water came the current of the creek was changed enough to cut into one bank of the creek and expose the bones of two men who had been buried at that place. Jesse Randall, an old pioneer who had been mining on Althouse for many years, told them that one was the skeleton of Philip Althouse. The bones were placed in a box and reburied further up the bank.
    Sheriff Lewis says the nugget mentioned in the letter was found by Wm. Saunders, who had been very unsuccessful as a miner, and when he found the nugget he nearly went crazy. Saunders was afterward county assessor for two terms.
    About 1900 Jacob Klippel found a nugget on Boulder Creek, just across the divide from Althouse Creek. This nugget weighed $560.
Unattributed newspaper clipping, W. W. Fidler scrapbook, MS208 box 2, SOHS


PIONEER ON ALTHOUSE TELLS
OF EARLY HISTORY OF COUNTY

    Mr. A. J. Howell, of Grants Pass, who is hale and hearty at 80 years of age, in the following communication to the Courier relates vital facts regarding the early history of Josephine County. Mr. Howell sets the record straight as to the origin of the name for the county, tells who found the first gold in Sailor Gulch and otherwise writes entertaining history. Mr. Howell broke from his bachelor miner companions at Browntown in 1858, going to Douglas County in this state, where he married Emily Martin, who honors his present home on East B Street in this city. He returned with his bride to Browntown on a Sunday, at this early day the town being full of expectant miners eager to see the bride. When the fourth woman appeared among them they went wild, throwing their hats in the hair and yelling so long and loud that the young bride expressed fear that Indians had again broken out.
    Mr. and Mrs. Howell celebrated their golden wedding on their farm in Curry County this state July 1, 1908. Mr. Howell will soon write another article, more in detail, of the early golden days of Josephine County.
(BY A. J. HOWELL)
    Many times in the past I have read and listened to erroneous statements concerning the early history of Josephine County. With your permission I will offer some corrections and historical data coming under my personal observations.
    I arrived on Althouse Creek April 1st, 1853; mined on Althouse and Canyon creeks until 1857, when I went to Waldo. I mined at Waldo until 1864, when I took charge of an eating house and feed station at the foot of McGrew Mountain, four miles west of Waldo. This station was built and first opened by a man named Hazeltine.
    Gold was first discovered in what is now called "Sailors' Gulch," one mile east of Waldo, by a group of sailors from a schooner wrecked on the beach at Crescent City, California. Leaving the wrecked vessel, the sailors came across the Coast Range of mountains to what is now Waldo, where they camped in the gulch in which they discovered the gold. This was in 1851, not '52, has been supposed and chronicled. I know whereof I speak, because my brother-in-law, Joseph Allred, was a passenger on the wrecked schooner and came over the mountains with the sailors to the gulch where the gold was found.
    The schooner laid on the Crescent City beach half covered with sand for several years. I saw much of it chopped away for the copper bolts in the hull.
    I have on many occasions talked this over with my brother-in-law, his experience in the wreck, his trip over the mountains with the sailors, their finding the gold and their departure for Jacksonville, because of having no provisions with which to remain in the gulch where they found the metal.
    Next came the discovery of gold on Althouse, in 1852, by the two Althouse brothers, John and, I think, Philip, but I am not sure of this. John lies buried on the creek above Browntown.
    Two brothers, named Fry, also found gold on Sucker Creek. The men being from Illinois, the creek was named for their state.
    Next came the finding of gold on Canyon Creek and Josephine Creek. A German named Charles Hook lived on Josephine Creek, where a daughter was born and named Josephine, after whom the creek and county were subsequently named. [Most accounts credit Virginia Josephine Rollins Ort as the source of the name.] Hook, Dave Kendall and the writer were members of a lodge called the "Chosen Friends." This was in 1881. I was well acquainted with Mr. Hook, and for many years we talked over those early-day events in Josephine County.
    Mr. Hook went to California in 1864 and bought a hotel in Arcata. Later he bought property in Eureka, where his daughter Josephine married and lives, or did live the last I knew of her.
    George E. Briggs (commonly called Governor), Peter Peveler, so long county clerk of Del Norte County, California, and Robert Worthington were among the earliest packers to deliver supplies on pack animals to the new mines. A Mr. Cochran was the first, coming in '52. Mr. Warwick, Bill Mitchell, Dave Kendall, Mr. Kerby and Sam Johnson were also of the packers' caravan in 1853. The packers were the first to build a trail to tide water at Crescent City.
    Jim Riley and George Cornwall were the first express riders in the early days, often carrying great loads of gold dust from Sailor Diggings to Crescent City. This was from '53 to '55. John Mann began carrying dust in 1855. In 1858 Mann was reported lost with a fortune in gold dust, but the second or third day he arrived at Moffit's Station, now Gasquet, having followed the rugged north fork of Smith River to its confluence with the middle fork at Moffit's.
    In the early days one dollar was paid for carrying letters and fifty cents for newspapers. I have paid fifty dollars for a sack of flour on the Althouse, twenty-five for a pair of rubber boots and sixteen dollars for a pick, pan and shovel.
    On Althouse, William Sanders, afterwards surveyor of Josephine County, dug out a nugget weighing eleven hundred dollars. William Muns, who later was my partner, had mined around a large fir stump, leaving it standing. Mr. Sanders reworked the ground, removed the stump and found the big nugget under it. Muns vehemently declared war on all stumps in his mine after that.
    The next big nugget was found by Pat Murphy a half mile above upper Browntown, weighed fifteen hundred dollars. The Sanders nugget was found fifty yards below upper Browntown. Warwick and Cochran started the lower Browntown store. A Mr. Guthrie was first at Waldo with merchandise, followed by Logan & Thompson; Coyle in Allen's Gulch and then McIlwain at Waldo with a two-story fireproof building, which still stands, and is 32x72, the lower story stone walls two feet thick, the upper story concrete of patent brick with iron doors and shutters, "city style."
    The then-famous Lotta Crabtree, of San Francisco, gave the miners their first show at Browntown in 1855. The enthusiastic miners were so carried away by her dancing that they threw handfuls of coin at her feet so thick that the pretty performer stood amazed and looked at it.
    In 1855 a large log building was erected at Browntown as a fort and storehouse--a protection against the hostile Indians. Later this was converted into a gambling saloon. One Sunday when the saloon was full of miners, and games of faro, monte, roulette and billiards were going full tilt, a gentleman with a tall hat and Prince Albert coat walked in. Once in the very midst of the men and melee, he removed the tall hat and spoke softly to the boys, announcing that he was a minister of the Gospel--would they listen a half hour to him? Instantly every hat was off, and the first religious services publicly held in that camp were on. when the minister said "Amen," Dr. Sykes, a miner, grabbed a hat, "staking" the preacher, as the miners called it. When the minister was "clean gone" the games were resumed as if nothing had happened.
    The writer was a mail carrier and express rider from Waldo to Crescent City in 1866 and 1867, and carried much gold dust across the mountains. On one trip I carried big sacks of dust for Work & Crandall, A. B. McIlwain, Mr. Coyle and Logan & Thompson. I usually gave out the impression in camp that a substitute messenger had already gone. Then I made my exit under the cover of darkness.
    It is remarkable that so much gold was carried over that mountain by lone messengers for years, and not one of them was ever robbed. One robbery of a civilian occurred, however, and that was a Jew merchant of Crescent City in 1855. his name was Rottenham.
A. J. HOWELL.               
Rogue River Courier, Grants Pass, March 8, 1912, page 3  A handwritten note on a clipping of this article on the first reel of microfilm of the Courier credits its authorship to W. J. Wimer.
Luther Hasbrouck, August 24, 1902 Oregonian
DISCOVERY OF GOLD IN SOUTHERN OREGON
Prospector Who Was in the Party Relates His Experiences
& Inside History of Cause of Rogue River Indian War.

    PENDLETON, Or., Aug. 22.--(Special.)--After an absence of 28 years from the state of Oregon, I find, on my return, many changes have taken place in the cities and country, also many old pioneers of the Golden West have passed away, and soon there will be no one to tell the early history and hardships that were passed through by the pioneers of the West.
    The little early history I shall relate may be of but little interest to the young man or woman of Oregon, but there are still a few old settlers of the Willamette Valley that will read this article and call to mind the name of the writer.
    The writer left New York City in May, 1849, with Captain Pike, for California. We arrived at the Isthmus in June, 1849, crossed on foot, and took a schooner for San Francisco, where we arrived in July, 1849. From San Francisco I went to Sacramento, thence to the American River, in California. At this time, placer mining was good. In the fall of 1849 I went to Shasta City, thence to Redding Springs, where I spent the winter. In the spring of 1850, I prospected as far north as Yreka and had considerable trouble with the Shasta Indians. Soon afterward I crossed the Siskiyou Mountains into Oregon, and went down on Rogue River. The prospecting party consisted of Luther Hasbrouck, Nathan Giles, Moses Dusenberry, George Wells, Henry Lawrence, John Collins, John Twentyman and Captain Jennings.
First Mining in Oregon.
    The first mining in Oregon was at Big Bar, near Rock Point, on Rogue River, in Jackson County, in 1850. This was in the middle of May, and the first placer mining in Southern Oregon. The diggings did not prove good, and the prospectors went down Rogue River until they came to a small stream since called Applegate Creek. Not finding gold in paying quantities on this creek, they followed the creek to its head, crossed the Siskiyou Range into California, and came down to what at that time was called the Big Bar, on Klamath River. At this point they worked for two weeks. Not being satisfied here with the diggings, which paid one-half of an ounce per day, the party went down Klamath River until it came to a small stream which was named Indian Creek, many Indians camping there. We prospected this creek to its head; but not finding sufficient gold to pay, we crossed the Siskiyou Mountains again into Oregon, and what is known now as Josephine County. We discovered a river which we followed down until it went into a canyon. We named this river Illinois, it running through Illinois Valley.
    We first camped on the north side of the Illinois River, then crossed to the south side, and went down the river until we came to a small stream putting into what is now called Illinois River, which was afterward named Josephine Creek, after a daughter of Mrs. McGruder, who came in that same summer, 1850.
First Gold Washed Out.
    Josephine Creek was found to be very rich, paying one to two ounces per day. Luther Hasbrouck washed the first pan of dirt on this creek; and it averaged 50¢ to the pan, and washed 16 pans. It was in July, 1850, and was the first discovery of gold in Josephine County, and our party composed the first white men in the Illinois Valley.
    It may be of interest to those that are reading this article to describe the conditions and surroundings that a new country presents to eight men in a country filled with wild animals, and above all the savage red man of the forest. It was necessary at this time to frame some laws that would be applicable to a new Eldorado, and name the streams and valleys for the first time found by man. Luther Hasbrouck was elected captain of our small company and was designated to draw up the bylaws of the party. The first thing that was done was to name the rivers, which was done by ballot. The first ballot was for the name of the valley. There being five men from the state of Illinois, they voted to call it Illinois Valley, and it was so named. The next was the naming of the river, which was also by ballot, and was named Illinois River. Althouse Creek was named after a man by that name from Linn County, Or., later on. Sailor Diggings was named after John Twentyman, he being a seafaring man or sailor.
    On the way down the valley, we mined on Sucker Creek. At this place, we caught a mess of suckers, and we called it Sucker Creek. The size of the mining claims agreed to by the company on Josephine Creek and the number of claims allowed were as follows: It was agreed that the discoverer should have two claims, and all others coming in afterward one claim, with a frontage of 20 feet.
Indians Are Troublesome.
    The Illinois Valley Indians at that time being troublesome, it was necessary to build a fort for protection, and consequently a fort was built of logs on Josephine Creek and called Fort Gidney. It was so named after Nat Giles, whose nickname was Gidney. As soon as the fort was completed we found it necessary to go out after provisions. It was agreed that lots should be drawn to see who should go out. The men who went out were Luther Hasbrouck, Moses Dusenberry, Henry Lawrence and Captain Jennings. They went north until they found the trail from Oregon to California, which they followed to Shasta City. There they purchased supplies and returned, being gone 21 days. The men expected that they would have independent "diggings" on Josephine Creek, but on their return they found a thriving mining town. Probably 2000 people were in Illinois Valley at this time.
    It seems that our company of men was known in Northern California as first-class prospectors, and were followed for two months by a company of 10 men, who, as soon as they found that the first company had found good diggings on Josephine Creek, returned and reported to all miners in northern California. This caused a grand rush to the new Eldorado on Josephine Creek, and from this time all Southern Oregon was alive with busy miners. Althouse Creek, Sailor Diggings, Sucker Creek and Galice Creek were in full bloom.
    On the return of our party that went out to Shasta City for provisions, they found that the other four partners had taken out $2200, besides hunting their own game and living entirely on deer meat for 12 days.
    I presume there are some of the old settlers still living in Oregon that have a remembrance of the Rogue River Indian War, but probably few know the cause of this war, that led many brave pioneers of the Golden West to shed their blood for home, family and protection. In the fall of 1850 Luther Hasbrouck went into partnership with Samuel Grubbe, John Twist and Ad Miller in the general merchandise and butchering business. The partnership continued for nearly two years, and the business was sold out to Mr. Derbysheer, who continued it. Just before selling out to Derbysheer the company had some cattle stolen by the Illinois Valley Indians, and they were caught with the meat in baskets, going to Deer Creek. On being overtaken, the Indians left their baskets and ran. Sam Grubbe went over to Deer Creek the next day and saw old Chief John, of the Illinois Valley Indians, and tried to arrange a settlement. Chief John and the braves promised to come over the next day to the store and get their baskets and make things right. The next day 16 bucks came over on the ridge near the store. Sam Grubbe undertook to approach them and give them some blankets that were left with the baskets containing the stolen meat, when all at once the 16 Indians turned loose and shot at Grubbe. They shot through his clothes and blankets, but did not wound him.
    The Indians then fled back to Deer Creek. Sam Grubbe was a very angry man after this occurrence, and swore he would have revenge. The next morning he insisted that four of the party should go over to Deer Creek and have a talk with Chief John. The rest of the company said no, as it was a dangerous trip and refused, and he went alone. Old John, the chief, promised to come over and make peace. Next morning the Indians came over and prepared for a fight and, discovering they were on the war path with guns and bows and arrows all drawn ready to shoot, "Ad" Miller and Sam Grubbe shot two Indians. The rest of the band retreated to Deer Creek. This was in the fall of 1852, the time of the killing the first Indians by whites in the Illinois Valley. This trouble was the commencement and cause of the Rogue River Indian War.
LUTHER HASBROUCK.               
Sunday Oregonian, Portland, August 24, 1902, page 21  While I consider Hasbrouck a very credible witness, it should be noted that no known letter or newspaper mentions Sailors Diggings or Althouse Creek before November 1852--several months after numerous mentions of the Jacksonville diggings begin. It's remotely possible that the many reference to "Klamath mines" in 1851 sources are due to confusion of the Illinois River mines--which were thought to be in Klamath County, California--with those on the Klamath River.


    In the fall of 1852 Philip Althouse, his brother John, and some others were prospecting on an unnamed creek that rose in the Siskiyou Mountains and emptied in the east fork of the Illinois River not far from the mouth of Sucker Creek. Philip Althouse was the first man to wash a pan of dirt on the creek. The first pan showed that the diggings were rich, so the creek was named for its discoverer--Althouse Creek. By next spring, the spring of '53, not a claim was to be staked for a distance of over 10 miles on Althouse Creek, and more than a thousand miners were washing out from an ounce to several ounces of gold dust a day. The gold was coarse and of good quality. Much of it was in the form of water-worn, flattened nuggets or slugs. "Webfoot" Brown was honored by having the principal settlement on Althouse Creek named Browntown. Hogtown was a suburb of Browntown. Many large nuggets were found on Althouse Creek, the largest one, weighing over $1200, being found on the creek a short distance above Browntown.
    In speaking of his early life in Oregon, Mr. [John W.] Althouse said: "My father, Henry Althouse, was born in Germany. My mother, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Kline, was born in Virginia. I was born in Ohio on April 17, 1830. When I was nearly 19 word came to us of the discovery of gold in California. Ten of us, with four wagons, started for the gold fields. We followed the old Oregon trail as far as Soda Springs and there we took the old Sublette trail for California.
*  *  *
    "In the spring of 1851 we went prospecting in Southern Oregon. Occasional trappers had been through the country around the Illinois River, but it had not been prospected. I took the first wagon through from the Rogue River country to the Illinois River. There were five in our party. Miners were scattered all through the hills of Northern California and Southern Oregon, prospecting on the tributaries of the Trinity, Shasta, Pit, Sacramento, Umpqua and Rogue rivers. While we were on Applegate Creek, Chief John, who had about 50 warriors of the Ech-ka-taw-a tribe, came to us and told us he knew where a creek was where there was much coarse gold. We offered him a pair of blankets to show us the place. He took two of our men there. They came back and reported the creek rich, so we went there. This was on a tributary of the Illinois, where Limpy and his band of Haw-quo-e-have-took Indians were very troublesome."
Fred Lockley, "Oregon: In Early Days," Oregon Journal, Portland, May 18, 1915, page 4


Gold Digging in Oregon Territory.
From the Boston Globe.
Shasta Valley, Friday, June 20, 1851.
    We arrived here after twenty days' travel from Trinidad, each of us four with a mule loaded with provisions, tools &c. Two of the party have gone to Rogue River, five days' further travel. We have a comfortable tent, and enjoy good health. We work hard. Our mode of operation is this: We dig holes about six by ten feet, and six or seven feet deep; the last three feet is in water; it takes one to bail out while the others dig and throw out. The dirt, till you come to the rock, is valueless; there is often a little clay on the rock, and if the rock is soft, an inch or two of the rock will contain gold. This is pecked up with a pickaxe, shoveled out, and washed in a machine. The dust is collected and washed in a pan, and separated from the sand. In other diggings about here, the top of the earth is dug up from one to two feet deep, and carted to the water--some of it a mile. This sand pays from five to six cents a bucket. It is hard digging, being clay and stone. Occasionally one meets with something better. Some of the first comers found something handsome.
    There are about one thousand people in this neighborhood. Many hundreds left for Rogue River a few days since, and some have returned. We pay for pork here 75¢ per lb.; bacon and butter the same; flour 40¢; sugar 50¢ per lb.; milk 50¢ per quart; nails $1.50 per lb.; ink $1; shoes $4; boots $10-$16 per pair; fresh beef only 25¢ per lb. The trouble with the Indians has ceased. It was caused by the whites shooting some of them, many think unjustly. I am now alone, with a good tent, and as comfortable as I can be here. I have never seen worse traveling, nor a rougher part of the world than we came over, but it appears healthy. I attempted to make some minutes of the journey, but owing to circumstances and the kind of people I was with, I had to give it up. Since they left I do much better.
    The position of this country is such that I can only judge that the latitude is about 43°, and about 300 miles distant from Portland, Oregon Territory, and from Trinidad and Sacramento about 325 miles, and not far from the longitude of 120° West. In our route from Trinidad we passed the Salmon River at the Forks, and passed up its middle fork, over what is called the Divi Divi, into Scotts Valley, then into Shasta Valley. There is quite a settlement of tents and log huts, and is called Shasta Plains. The scenery is pleasant, surrounded by high and lofty mountains. The high mountain of Shasta Butte is plainly in sight, bearing S.E. about 25 miles distant. The snow is lying about on the mountains, but the weather is getting warm. Now I am here, I shall try if plowing gold is better than plowing the sea.
New York Times, October 1, 1851, page 3


    Very rich diggings were lately discovered upon Althouse Creek, a tributary of Rogue River, distant about 60 miles to the northward of Yreka. The miners are rushing thither in great numbers. The diggings about Jacksonville are also very good, and have been so all winter.
'The Mines," New York Times, April 26, 1853, page 1




Last revised May 12, 2017