Gold Placers in Oregon and History

    The Gold Rush that started in the Sierra foothills of California in 1848 soon extended over to other sites in northern California and southern Oregon. Big gold mines were worked on in southern Oregon in 1849. The placer mines of the Rogue River had surrendered millions of dollars worth in the precious metals, and a great number of them were advantageously worked on.

    Josephine County, Oregon
    Gold was first discovered in Josephine County in May 2nd of 1851 on the Josephine Creek. Gold was then found on Canyon Creek during the same year as well and these two streams are tributaries of the Illinois River. Whenever sailors used to cross over land from the coast and they were able to find gold in Waldo, which is located along the Illinois River. When these findings were heard and they set up some of the famous camps we have heard about like Sailors Diggings, Browntown amongst others.

    Some pockets were fabulously rich. The best known pocket digging was the Briggs Mine near the California line where masses of gold totaling 2,000 ounces were taken out in 1904. Slabs of gold up to 3 feet in length were reportedly recovered.

    A good amount of nuggets have been found in placer gravels and pocket deposits in this area, some nuggets were so big as a matter a fact, they were the size of eggs. The biggest recorded nugget to have been found in this area was in 1859 on the East Fork of Althouse Creek under the Briggs Pocket. This nugget had the weight of seventeen pounds. Another nugget was found in gravels close to the Esterly hydraulic cut in the early 1860s and it weighed fifteen pounds.

    Gold Production in Dollars
    Gold production in dollars records of the U.S. Mint has demonstrated production in dollars of $16,816,275.39 for the whole state of Oregon during the years 1848 to 1882. It is probable that just about half of that quantity was mined in the south of Oregon. It would not be possible to make certain the total real value seeing that a lot of of the miners put aside their gold and a lot of that gold that was then mined by the Chinese and it was then shipped back to China.

    From 1906 to 1934 there was a stable decline in the production of gold in southwestern Oregon apart from a little bit of an increase after World War I.

    Then in January of 1934 the value of gold was increased from $29 per fine ounce to $35. This was most definitely a gain to the mining fortunes that this county had. With enhanced quartz mining techniques as well as more proficient dredges in addition to the increase on the price of gold, the gold production of southwestern Oregon little by little improved until it was finally able to reach a very high amount of $1,053,395 for one single year in 1940.