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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


The Legends of Table Rock

Table Rock, circa 1910
Table Rock, circa 1910

    . . . how will he explain the circumstances of those three Indian women, who had taken refuge on the top of Table Rock, being shot, and their bodies falling over the cragged rocks, down on the steep precipice below. The sight of these mangled victims as they lay writhing in agony was so shocking that it was reported that they were scared and fell down, but Dr. Ambrose, who lived in the vicinity, informed me that they did not fall until they were fired upon.
John Beeson, letter to the editor of the Oregon Statesman, October 8, 1856, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880, National Archives Microcopy 234, Reel 609, NADP Document D45     In his book A Plea for the Indians Beeson says two women and a man fell off Table Rock.


    Gen John E. Ross claims, in an interview with us, that there was no battle fought by the whites against the Indians on the summit of Table Rock. He says that Capt. Taylor was killed by the Indians back of Table Rock, but no battle was ever fought on the rock. As Mr. Ross was a second lieutenant in the Cayuse war, he ought to know--Courier.
"Brevities," Ashland Tidings, June 25, 1886, page 3


    While Table Rock is an historic landmark in Southern Oregon, and while a painting of it would serve better than one of any other object in the state as a memorial of the struggles and dangers of pioneer times heroically borne by the settlers of Oregon, it should not be placed on exhibition at Chicago or elsewhere with a fishy legend attached. The generation that fought the Indians of Southern Oregon has not yet passed away, nor are the original records and reports lost. While some of the veterans may become fictitiously reminiscent in their narratives, as veterans are wont to do, sufficient time has not yet elapsed for legendary tales to pass current as history. There are yet too many survivors and too much written record to permit the legend-makers to invest such striking objects at Table Rock with fictitious romances unquestioned. There were battles with the Indians near Table Rock in 1851-2 and 3, and it was the scene of a treaty made by General Lane in September, 1853, but nowhere is it recorded that defeated Indians "fled to the highest point of the rock and dashed madly over the precipice," nor is it probable that even the most reminiscent veteran will deliberately assert that such an incident ever occurred. Let us leave legend-making to our children, and confine ourselves to facts in narrating the incidents connected with the intercourse between the whites and Indians, at least to such of them as are creditable to us as putative representatives of a higher civilization.
Oregonian, Portland, March 20, 1892, page 4

Table Rock, July 1942
Table Rock, July 1942

TABLE ROCK LEGEND.
Not Much Foundation, in Fact, for the Picturesque Tale
of a Band of Indians Committing Suicide There.
    The editorial comment of the Oregonian of March 20 on the Table Rock legend has called out such varied and earnest discussion since among Southern Oregon pioneers, [that] an Oregonian reporter interviewed a number of the most prominent Southern Oregon pioneers on the subject, with the following result:
    Col. Wm. J. Martin said: "I first saw the Table Rocks in 1849, as I passed through this valley with a band of beef cattle, en route to Fort Hall to relieve the starving emigrants. I was under escort of Lieut. Hawkins of the United States Army. We camped at the Willow Springs, near the Table Rocks, and that night fifteen of our soldiers deserted us and fled to California. We did not take time to study the beauties of nature, for the Indians were thick all around us, and they stampeded our cattle during the night, and some of them were never found.
    "The legend of Table Rock has some foundation in fact, and the circumstance connected therewith happened in 1851. There was a little skirmish with the Indians, who were all hostile, and General Lane, who was then a candidate for Congress, came out. As I then heard it, one squaw was crippled in their fight from the rock. I was actively engaged in the Cayuse war and the Rogue River war of 1853-5-6. I am glad the war is over. They are all 'good Injuns' now."
GENERAL TOLMAN'S STORY.
    Gen. J. C. Tolman said: "I am not in a condition of health to give a satisfactory account of my pioneer experience; have been confined to my room for several days past, the result of an accidental fall. I came to this valley with a party of emigrants, men, women and children, September 1, 1852, the first arrival of emigrants that year. I was here during all of the Indian wars. I never enlisted, but spent my time guarding families and running an ambulance wagon. I heard of the fight with the Indians near the Table Rocks in 1851, but I never heard of the Indians jumping off the rock. I think that must have happened at 'Jump-off-Joe.' [The origin of the name of Jump-off Joe Creek is under dispute, but no accounts of its naming have anything to do with Indians committing suicide.] I have often heard the legend you speak of and have seen it in print, but I think it is a canard."
THERE WAS NO JUMPING.
    E. K. Anderson said: "I crossed the plains in 1849 to California, and came to Jackson County in 1852. I brought the first wheat to this valley, and raised the first crop of wheat and oats ever raised in Rogue River Valley. I sold one bushel of the wheat I brought here with me for $16 per bushel, and I sold all I raised the next year for $8 per bushel. There was lots of Indian fighting around the Table Rocks, but I don't think any Indians ever jumped off the rock. Were I to give in detail my pioneer experience I don't think you would find any paper that would publish it, unless it was a story paper, but I think it would make interesting reading for some."
DOUBTFUL LEGEND UNNECESSARY.
    Hon. C. C. Beekman said: "I came to Rogue River Valley in the year 1853. I was employed by Wells, Fargo & Co., and my business kept me closely confined in my office. I was not at any time engaged in Indian fighting. I do not remember hearing of the incident of which you speak of in early days; have often heard of it since, but never thought it authentic. Table Rock needs no such doubtful legend to make it preeminently the historic spot of Southern Oregon."
    Capt. A. D. Helman said: "I never was on the Table Rocks; have often heard the legend of which you speak, but know of the facts only from hearsay, and I presume you have plenty of that."
JUDGE PRIM'S TESTIMONY.
    Judge P. P. Prim said: "I came to Jackson County in March 1852. I came here to practice law, but got caught in the gold excitement and became an honest miner. We had an alcalde court in those days, and I helped to try one case. A miner had his leg broken, and while he was unable to work his claim was jumped by a newcomer. The case was decided [by the alcalde] against the miner. This so enraged the miners that a mass meeting was called; an appellate court was instituted, the decision of the lower court reversed and the case remanded back for trial. Of course it was decided in favor of the miner. I have often heard the legend of which you speak, but never supposed there was any foundation for the story."
PEACE PREFERABLE.
    James McDonough said: "I came to Jackson County in March 1852, and have lived here ever since. I was in the thickest of the pioneer settlers' struggles. Helped to build Fort Lane. I own a large stock farm just across Rogue River, opposite the Table Rocks. When the battle was fought between the Table Rocks, we could hear the guns firing. Major Lupton was killed in that fight. [The Lupton massacre took place at the mouth of Little Butte Creek, not at the Table Rocks.] I always tried to help and protect the women and children. I like stock farming much better than Indian fighting. I have always heard of the legend of Table Rock; the point where it is said to have happened can plainly be seen from my place. None suppose there was much foundation for the story.
ORIGIN OF THE LEGEND.
    Gen. T. G. Reames said: "I have been a resident of Jackson County, Oregon, since the spring of 1853, and I have heard the story of the skirmish between the early settlers of the valley and the Indians on the Table Rock and the retreat or flight of the latter in 1851, and to satisfy myself of the truthfulness of it I inquired of Gen. John E. Ross, who was one of the earliest pioneers of the county, and was engaged in nearly if not all of the battles and skirmishes between the whites and Indians, and was here at the time this should have taken place. His statement is as follows: During the fall of 1851 a small party of whites had some trouble with the Indians at or near the base of Table Rock, and three or four Indians, who were on the Rock at the time, became frightened and ran down on the west side of the Rock, and one of them, a squaw, he heard was crippled in this flight. He said the story about the battle fought on Table Rock and the jumping off same by the Indians in their flight was wholly without foundation."
A RENDEZVOUS OF THE RED MEN.
    Col. J. N. T. Miller, on being interviewed, said in regard to the early Indian wars and the battles around Table Rock: "I first saw the Rogue River Valley in June 1849, while on my way to the gold fields of California. While our party was passing Rock Point we were attacked by Indians in ambush, but no one was injured. Passed through the valley again in August 1850 on my way to Sauvies Island; we were not molested by the Rogue River Indians, but had trouble with the Pitt River and Cow Creek Indians; was in the fight which occurred at Big Bend under Table Rock in the year 1852, and acted as interpreter for Agent Skinner before the battle began. After the skirmish, in which several Indians were killed, I went with Lamerick's company and took part in the fight at Evans' place on Rogue River and at Chief Joe's place on Evans Creek. Returned with Capt. Lamerick's party, and was present when the  Indians surrendered at the base of Table Rock. I was in the fight which occurred at the mouth of Little Butte Creek, and the one at Hailey's ferry during the fall of 1855. Major Lupton was fatally wounded at the latter place. [Other sources place Hailey's ferry on the Rogue River at the Bybee place, site of today's TouVelle State Park.] The next day after these two battles were fought a reconnoitering party went up on Table Rock and ran some Indians off of the bluff near the south side of the rock, and it was reported that a squaw was killed, and several Indians were injured in trying to elude the party. I do not know as to the truth of this statement, but it was told me by one who said he was present when the Indians fell or jumped off of the rock. Gen Lane is usually credited with having made the Indians jump from Table Rock, but the statement is doubtless not in accordance with the facts.
    "But it is a fact that the Table Rocks were the principal rendezvous of the  Indians during the early wars, and is one of the most interesting historical features of Southern Oregon."
THE STORY OF THE SQUAW.
    Hon. W. J. Plymale said: "I came to Jackson County in the fall of 1852; have resided here ever since. Have often heard the story embraced in your question, and believe it to be simply an exaggerated historical fact. The truth seems to be that in 1851 a skirmish took place between the whites and Indians near Table Rock, and some squaws and children, stationed as sentinels on the rock, took flight and ran down a narrow crevice, formed by a pinnacle standing out from the southmost corner of the rock, and in the flight one squaw had a leg broken and several more were more or less hurt. This is all there ever really was of the 'mad rush' over the precipice. I have been on the rock several times, and a rush over the wall, which is from 75 to 100 feet, with half a mile tumbling, would result in instant death."
    Hon J. M. McCall said: "I am a Southern Oregon pioneer, and of the legend of which you speak, I never heard of it until recently, and there is no foundation for it."
    P. Dunn said: "I have lived in Southern Oregon for many years; have heard the legend of Table Rock but don't think there is any foundation for the story."
    J. H. Russell said: "I am a pioneer, but I have no recollection of the event of which you speak."
    Captain Thomas Smith said: "I heard the story in pioneer days and investigated it. I learned that there was a skirmish with the Indians near Table Rock in 1851, that the squaws and children who were stationed on the rocks took fright, and scrambled down the crevices at the south end of the rock, and one squaw was crippled by the fall. The legend as we usually hear it I think is a myth."
WILLIAM KAHLER'S OPINION.
    Hon. William Kahler said: "I came to Jackson County in 1852; took up a donation claim at the mouth of Bear Creek, opposite the Table Rocks, in 1855. I lived there with my family for thirty-two years; had grandchildren and great-grandchildren when I moved away in 1887. Old Fort Lane is on land adjoining the farm I owned. I know something of the dangers and privations of pioneer life, but the most of us old pioneers are nearing a better country. The trials and vicissitudes of other days have mellowed down by the hand of time until the lengthening shadows of eventide but herald for us the dawning of an endless day. I heard from Mr. Albert Bethel the story of the Indians jumping off the Table Rocks in 1851, and one squaw was crippled by the fall. My pioneer home was three-fourths of a mile from the Table Rocks."
STORY OF THE BATTLE.
    Mrs. J. M. McCully said: "I came to Jacksonville in the spring of 1852. In June of that year the Chiefs Sam and Joe congregated their braves on the top of Table Rock to pow-wow and hold councils of war. [All other accounts, along with Miller's above, place their redoubt at the base of the escarpment, not on top.] The flashes of their signal fires could be seen all over the valley, and in a few hours not a straggling Indian was to be seen. Table Rock was not their battle ground, it was their undisturbed rendezvous. The Indians did not fight on the defensive then as they did later. The old war chief, Indian Sam, looked down from this grand old rock with hatred in his 'klose tum-tum' for the handful of whites scattered over the valley, and who were afraid to build cabins and sow their seed, not knowing how soon they would be cut off by the savages, who were so bold. The Indians came down from Table Rock to battle on Big Bar of Rogue River, near the base of Table Rock. Captain Lamerick enlisted a company of volunteers, principally miners and a few men from Jacksonville. One memorable morning they started off to protect the helpless settlers, and a braver company never went forth to battle in any cause. They fought and whipped the Indians, scattered them in all directions. That first fight on Big Bar taught the Indians a lesson they never forgot. As for the volunteers or soldiers driving the Indians off Table Rock to their death below--that was certainly only a legend."
FIRST WHITE WOMAN ON THE ROCK.
    Mrs. Elizabeth Kenney said: "I came to this valley with my father, Colonel W. G. T'Vault, in 1852. My parents took up a donation claim on Rogue River, opposite Table Rocks, now known as the Dardanelles, near Gold Hill. I was the first white woman ever on Table Rock. I went up with my parents in June, 1852. While we lived on the farm our lives were terrorized by the Indian fighting all around us. We heard the guns fired at the battle between General Lamerick and the Indians at Big Bar. One time, when my father was gone to Jacksonville, there were four of our neighbors' cabins burning at once in sight of us. We never expected to see another day alive. I have heard of the Indians jumping off Table Rock ever since I first came here. There are so many of the most important events of pioneer history that have come down to us by tradition that I think this story was never questioned, until the Oregonian commented upon it."
THE PAINTING.
    Mrs. P. P. Prim said: "I am president of the Jacksonville Woman's World's Fair Club. We have contracted with Mrs. Rowena Nichols to paint the Table Rocks for our exhibit at the world's fair. The lady is a native of this county, who has studied abroad, and although her home is now in Washington, she expects to exhibit a collection from historic landmarks in this valley with us. We never contemplated attaching any fishy legends to our picture when it is placed on exhibition; neither do we take it as a compliment that the brave men who defended our homes in pioneer days should be styled 'fictitiously reminiscent.'"
Ashland Tidings, April 22, 1892, page 1


The Table Rock Legend.
    Deputy Revenue Collector A. J. Barlow, a nephew of Gen. Joseph Lane, has been investigating the truth about the famous historical fight made by Gen. Lane and his troops against the Rogue River Indians at Table Rock and concludes that it is a myth. Mr. Barlow writes to the Grants Pass Courier as follows:
    Some years ago General Gibbon, so famous in our civil war, and a great admirer of General Joseph Lane, stopped at my place in Gold Hill, and requested me to ascertain and furnish him all the facts about General Lane in one of his famous raids against the Rogue River Indians, having driven the Indians, after a hard and stubborn resistance on their part, over the frowning precipice of Table Rock. General Gibbon furnished me his address and promised that when he got all the data that it should be written up and go into the literature of the nation. I myself, always proud of the achievements, the daredevil bravery and lightning-like movements of General Lane, had come to believe that it was a fact, though I never heard General Lane, with whom I lived for several years, ever mention having a fight on Table Rock with the Indians. I remember he used to relate his experience when ratifying the treaty of peace, after he had surprised and chastised the Indians on Evans Creek. The treaty took place under the precipice on the south side of the table, overlooking Rogue River. It was at that place that General Lane and his party of friends, who accompanied the General to act as witnesses to the treaty, came so near being massacred by the Indians, the facts of which are familiar to most of your readers. In compliance with General Gibbon's request, I set about in quest of information, and after diligent research I found that the Table Rock fight was a myth. It existed only in the fevered imagination of sensational minds.
Ashland Tidings, November 18, 1895


    Miss Mae McIntyre spent Saturday with Medford relatives and was accompanied home by her sister. On Sunday Clarence Meeker came out and with Mr. Sandals and Miss Grace Dickison made a party to climb the lower Table Rock. They ate lunch by a blazing bonfire and report a good time in spite of fog and clouds.

"Table Rock Items," Medford Mail, November 22, 1901, page 3


    We are informed that the wagon road from the valley to the top of Lower Table Rock, being made by Messrs. Pankey and Strickland, is about completed, which will be good news to the many people who would like to view this lovely little valley from those rugged cliffs, but who have been prevented from doing so by the arduous ascent.
"Table Rock Items," Medford Mail, March 14, 1902, page 3


    Mr. Meeker and family, of Medford, the Misses McIntire, of Colorado, Mr. Sandles, of Ohio, and the Dickison family, of this place, made the trip to Lower Table Rock Sunday afternoon and enjoyed it and the view very much. Several other parties from different parts of the valley were also there and found many wildflowers on top, also about twenty acres of plowed ground, which looked strange to old visitors.
"Table Rock Items," Medford Mail, April 18, 1902, page 3


    Sunday being a very pleasant day, people from all parts of the valley came to enjoy the sights from the top of Table Rock. One wagon loaded with eighteen people and drawn by four horses was piloted to the top of the rock, which proves that the builders of the road have worked wonders for sightseers.
"Table Rock Items," Medford Mail, May 16, 1902, page 3


    L. B. Brown and family, E. E. Morrison and family, of Medford, and J. J. Brown and children, of Central Point, spent last Sunday at Table Rock. They relate that someone has planted beans and corn on the top of Table Rock and that the crop is a fairly good one.

"Purely Personal," Medford Mail, July 11, 1902, page 6


    . . . permit me to state, for the benefit of the younger generation, that there never was a battle on Table Rock, nor an Indian fight of any kind there. I do not want to appear as an iconoclast, but such mistakes, no matter how romantic, should not be allowed to go down in history as facts. My mother-in-law, Mrs. Clara Birdseye, who died a few weeks ago, was living in Rogue River Valley at the time this battle was supposed to have taken place; she had a remarkable memory for pioneer events, and I have heard her discredit this myth many times.
William M. Colvig, "Colvig Explains Origin of Name of Mount Pitt," Medford Mail Tribune, May 17, 1915, page 5


Table Rock Battle Myth
Based on Old Newspaper Story, Says Mrs. Sargent
By Alice Applegate Sargent
    We feel that the time has come when truth should triumph over fiction, and right here we state most positively and emphatically that no battle was ever fought ON THE TOP of Table Rock.
    Long years ago, when Jacksonville had a splendid paper of its own, a Mrs. Plymale wrote a thrilling and interesting tale of a battle on the top of Table Rock. This article was simply a romance, but it has been handed down to the present day, and accepted by the mass of the people as authentic history. We give here the true story of the battle and the circumstances which led up to it:
    On the 17th of June, 1851, a fight took place between a small body of soldiers and the Rogue River Indians on the banks of the stream, which is now known as Bear Creek, near where it flows into Rogue River. In this fight Captain James Stuart of the regular army was shot through the body with a poisoned arrow and died of the wound.
    Major Phil Kearny was in command of this small detachment of soldiers.
    After the fight which resulted in the death of Captain Stuart, the Indians fled into their stronghold at the base of Table Rock, and Major Kearny had to wait for reinforcements before making an attack on the savages.
    The attack was made on the 23rd of June, 1851. The Indians, who fought behind stone fortifications, were under the command of Chief John, the great war chief of the Rogue Rivers.
    The attack was renewed on the 24th. This fight was a desperate one, and the Indians suffered severely. Major Kearny offered to treat with them, but they scorned his offer. He prepared to attack early on the morning of the 25th, but the Indians fled from their stronghold during the night. Although they were pursued, they escaped to the timbered mountains, and only 30 women with their children were captured. These were held as hostages.
    The battle was fought at the base of Table Rock where, for ages, fragments of rock had rolled down the slope, forming stone breastworks. These the Indians had reinforced by placing logs on top of the boulders. A famous soldier of the Civil War, then-Gen. George B. McClellan, tells us in his memoirs of being in this fight with the Indians when Captain Stuart was killed; he, a young subaltern, was a devoted friend and comrade of Captain Stuart. The body of the brave young soldier was buried at the foot of a large oak tree, and the initials of Stuart's name were cut deeply into the bark.
    The stream we now know as Ber Creek was named Stuart River in memory of this young soldier, and should be so called.
    Captain Stuart's last words were an expression of regret that his life had been sacrificed for a land that would never be anything but a wilderness.
    Dwellers in the Rogue River Valley today, and thousands of tourists from all parts of the United States, will realize that Captain Stuart did not give his life in vain, for the wilderness in which he died has developed into one of the most beautiful and fruitful valleys of the world.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 22, 1931, page 5


VALLEY FOLKS TO VIEW LAUNCHING S.S. "TABLE ROCK"
Mrs. Atlanta P. Naffziger, John Ross, A. E. Powell to Represent County.

    A delegation of three Jackson County residents, Atlanta Parker Naffziger, John E. Ross and Arthur Powell, left yesterday afternoon for Portland and today are attending the launching ceremonies of the S.S. Table Rock at the Kaiser Swan Island shipyards as representatives of Jackson County. The S.S. Table Rock is the first of two ships which are being named after historic Southern Oregon spots and is the 41st tanker to be launched at the Swan Island yard.
    Mrs. Naffziger's father, William Parker, gave Table Rock its name. Parker, with Lindsay and Jesse Applegate, blazed a trail through the Rogue River Valley in 1846 in an effort to find a better route from Fort Hall to the Willamette Valley, and Table Rock was named at that time, the pioneers using it as a landmark. Mr. Parker and Jesse Applegate were brothers-in-law. Mrs. Naffziger is the only living first-generation descendant of these three men.
    Mr. Ross is the son of Col. John Ross, who took part in the Indian wars in this locality. Col. John Ross was present when the treaty of peace was signed with Chief Sam on the plain below Table Rock in [1853], and took an active part in the fighting with the Indians following the massacre of [1855].
    Mr. Powell, county commissioner, is attending the ceremonies as representative of the Jackson County Court.
    The launching of the Table Rock is being used to stimulate interest in the Red Cross blood bank, a release from the shipyard states. Capt. William Willoughby, U.S. army, will speak. The captain was wounded during the battle of Attu and has been the recipient of blood plasma transfusions. He is recuperating at the Barnes General Hospital in Vancouver.
    Sponsor of the Table Rock is Mrs. Paul B. McKee, wife of the president of the Portland Gas and Coke Company. She will be attended by Mrs. Roy Matson, matron of honor; her daughter, Miss Joan McKee, maid of honor; and Miss Betty Swigert as flower girl.
    The launching will serve as a "kickoff" for a blood donors drive at the Swan Island yard, and arrangements are being made to enlist all of the Kaiser Company employees on the blood donor roll.
Medford Mail Tribune, November 28, 1943, page 10



Table Rock

Table Rock, the landmark of the valley,
    Stands majestic where the river flows.
A strong formation of splendid beauty,
    The passing of time it never knows.

The sentinel that directs the voyager,
    In silent wonder the passerby
Gazed upon the rock with thoughts sublime,
    As the gorgeous beauty meets the eye.

It told them a story of adventure,
    And made them know they were going right,
That they were nearing their journey's end,
    The Sentinel guards by day and night.

The Rock has seen cruel and awful deeds,
    But a long and silent faith has kept,
While many passing generations grieved,
    Fought and died, and sadly wept.

But today Table Rock has been honored,
    Her namesake will sail the deep blue sea,
With America's stars and stripes unfurled,
    Waving gently on the evening breeze.

May good luck and justice be ever there,
    May God direct the hand at the mast,
May Table Rock help win this awful war,
    Bringing to this world a peace at last.
                                --Atlanta Parker Naffziger

Central Point American, January 20, 1944, page 6
Written on the launching of the T2 tanker Liberty Ship Table Rock.



Jacksonville Leper Left Legend of Gold Discovery
in Vicinity of Table Rock
By Dale Vincent

Mail Tribune Feature Writer
    Lost gold and buried treasure has ever been an interesting subject. Half the people have always believed in these stories. The other half have been skeptical, but all have been wishful--for no adventure can have more charm than the finding of a ready-made fortune.
    One fact stands out: Many lost mines and buried treasures actually have been found. Many of them had no more fact than pure "legend."
Many Rich Finds
    The Mine with the Iron Door (a legend) was found, after a five-year search. The Lost Wheelbarrow Mine (another legend) was found by accident, and the ore ran $8,000 to the ton and is still in production.
    There are many, many more. The current newspapers and magazines often carry an account of someone bringing to light a so-called "legendary" lost treasure.
    Experience has proved that wherever there is a little smoke, there was at one time some fire. It is remarkable how, in following the faintest wisp of smoke, you often come upon the ashes of a fire, with a few still-glowing coals in the form of some old diary, yellowed newspaper or forgotten document.
    Lost gold mines are still sought after, but no "treasure" hunter is willing to invest his time, and often large sums of money, in restoring to the world lost treasure that a greedy government claims. Thus "treasure hunting" is not indulged in anymore to the extent it once was.
Government Reasonable
    But the government is still reasonable about lost mines, and every gold country has its stories and legends--and Southern Oregon is particularly rich in the lore of lost mines.
    In the gold rush days of the '50s, Jacksonville was a booming gold town. People had gathered here from every part of the world. There were few countries that were not represented by at least a few of that nationality. There were Swedes, French, Spanish, Irish, English and, of course, the Indian, and ever-present John Chinaman.
    Most of these were rugged, strong characters, but one day there appeared among them--a leper.
    When this was discovered by a few of the good citizens, they were filled with horror and alarm. What should they do with this scourge that had come among them?
    They desired, of course, to be rid of the leper, but the victim was still a human being, and therefore must be dealt with in a sympathetic and humane manner.
    So these few good citizens held a secret meeting--not wanting to spread any alarm--yet determined to safeguard their community.
Taken to Cabin
    At last they hit upon a plan. Appropriations were made for expenses, and a committee of three was elected to escort the leper out of town, across Rogue River, and to the inside bend of the horseshoe that was formed by the Table Rocks. [Both Table Rocks are horseshoe-shaped.]
    At the base of one of the cliffs they built a cabin and stocked it with groceries. The grateful leper promised to live there in isolation.
    The purpose of the committee from then on was to purchase food and clothing and take it to the leper once a month.
    These supplies were delivered in an odd manner. The committee of three, riding horseback and leading a pack mule, would ascend to the top of the Table Rock cliffs, just above the cabin. From that point they would lower down to the waiting leper a wooden bucket filled with supplies on the end of a rope.
    This unique grocery delivery service was kept up regularly every month for a period of more than two years.
Leper Acts Queer
    Then one day in the spring of the third year the bucket was let down laden with groceries as usual, and the committee of three could see the small figure of a man far below come feebly out of his cabin and make his way slowly to the base of the cliff where the bucket rested.
    The leper acted as though he might be unusually sick. But finally the bucket was unloaded of its food and a feeble tug on the rope was given as a signal to raise the bucket.
    But the men at the top found the bucket very heavy and, thinking it was still loaded with food, they waited. The signal came again for them to raise the bucket. The men pulled on the rope once more. It was still heavy.
    What could be wrong?
    Had the leper climbed into the bucket, the men wondered, in hope they would pull him to the top?
    They snubbed the rope to a tree, and one of them peeked over the edge of the cliff. The leper was going back to his cabin, and the bucket looked as empty as ever.
    The committee could not imagine what made the bucket so heavy, but they struggled and lifted and sweat until they got it to the top.
Gold in Bucket
    Their amazement was profound. The bottom of the bucket was filled four inches deep with gold nuggets and dust.
    This then was their reward from the grateful leper, for all the years they had carried him food. But where had he got the gold?
    The men hurried back to Jacksonville and shared the reward with the rest of the few citizens who knew about the leper and who had been contributing to his welfare. All wondered if the leper had discovered a rich mine near his cabin--but no one was willing to go near the leper to look. [It was commonly understood at the time that leprosy was transmitted by contact. If this story were true, miners would have beaten a path to 50 feet from the leper's door. The three benefactors could also have spoken to the leper from the top of Table Rock.]
    On their next trip the committee lowered their provisions as usual, but this time no one came to receive them. The cabin was silent and there was no movement anywhere. Apparently the leper had died.
    To this day no explanation has ever been found as to where that gold came from.
    Did the old man have a rich mine at the base of the Table Rocks? Or had he just cleaned out a pocket?
Old River Channel
    It has been said that no gold to speak of has ever been found around the lava formations of the Table Rocks. But one mining engineer, now living in the valley, thinks it possible that one of the old, prehistoric river channels (that are noted for their heavy gold content) runs quite close to the base of these cliffs and has been covered over by the more recent flow of lava that formed the Table Rocks.
    It could be possible that the old leper somehow tapped this old river channel. We do not know. The above lost mine story cannot be authenticated in any way. [The presence of a leper might have been kept secret in the 1850s, but his support would have been paid by the Jackson County commissioners from county funds, and recorded in the Commissioners' Journals. There are no indigent accounts in the journals resembling this story.] It is a legend that has been handed down by word of mouth from one oldtimer to another. But we do know that "legends" are wisps of smoke that have drifted down through the ages, from some fire that burned long ago.
Medford Mail Tribune, December 7, 1947, page 8





Last revised February 7, 2017