Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society
BACKGROUND INTO THESE TIMES
From the Golden Anniversary Edition-----Mining Stories Section
GOLD FOUND FIRST IN 1851 NEAR ILLINOIS
By Wm. Mackey, page 1
Gold was first discovered in Josephine county in the year 1851 at the mouth of Josephine creek, close to where that stream empties into the Illinois river, near the foot of Eight Dollar mountain, which stands on the north side of the river west of the stage road and rears heavenward like a gigantic pyramid built by nature that overlooks the beautiful little valley extending south. Through this valley runs the Illinois river and in it is situated the town of Kerby, three miles distant from the above named mountain.
Eight Dollar mountain is somewhat of a striking landmark. When viewed from the south from Kerby or other points on the stage road it seems like a great perpendicular high wall standing out in a bold red outline against the sky.
The mountain is said to have received its name from the fact that a man wore out a pair of new eight dollar boots walking over it in one day. Josephine creek, and also Josephine county were named in honor of a girl, Virginia Josephine Rollins, who was the first white woman born in Josephine county, in the year 1851.
The townsite of Kerby, which was formerly called Kerbyville, was laid off in the year 1855 and was named after an old man named Kerby, a well-known pioneer. Kerbyville was the county seat of Josephine county from 1857 until 1886. The county seat was then removed to Grants Pass.
Kerbyville was the chief center of Josephine county for two or three years in the beginning and was frequented by thousands of miners and prospectors who flocked there from California and elsewhere, and thousands of dollars poured into the coffers of Kerby from the surrounding country.
Fast Going Places
In Kerby there were hotels and stores, dance halls and saloons and fast going places in the middle 50s. But the nearby mining camps of Josephine and Canyon creeks, although yielding good returns, were not as extensive and lasting as those of Waldo and Althouse. Kerby was, after a short time, overshadowed and outdone by the flourishing mining camps of Althouse and Sailor Diggings. However, Kerby continued to be a place of considerable importance for many years on account of the circuit court which was held there twice each year.
The noted criminal lawyer, James D. Fay had a law office in Kerbyville and pleaded his first case in that town, as did Dick Williams, who was, in the 80s a law partner of Governor Thayer in Portland.
The late B. F. Mulkey, who was the prosecuting attorney and law partner of Judge Caples in Portland 50 years ago, said that Mulkey ran a pack train in and out of Kerby in his younger days, earning money to pay his way while going to school.
The writer, when a small boy, went to school in Kerby in the year 1869 and knew many of the old pioneers who were living there at that time. Tom Regan, the teacher, had mined on Althouse in early days. He was from South Carolina, a rebel at heart, and sympathized strongly with the south. Tom Regan had a southern temper and when not teaching school often carried a big bowie knife.
In this year, 1869, William Chapman, an early miner on Althouse creek, lived in Kerby and herded 3000 sheep in the vicinity of Eight Dollar mountain. He was sheriff of Josephine county.
The writer knew Dave Kendal, who kept a saloon in Kerby at that time, and also John Bolt, the pioneer merchant. Sam Sawyer, who had a store at the time in Kerby, Bill Linn, who ran the Union hotel in 1869 and Charles Hughes, who was county clerk during that period and held that office during seven successive terms were also his acquaintances. The writer was intimately acquainted with Jack Hendershot, the old California miner and Mexican war veteran, and his wife, who was known as Aunt Jenny. They lived on a ranch by the side of the stage road on the first high flat one half mile south of Kerby in 1869. He often saw said Hendershot, who resided at Kerby in the above mentioned year, and whose brother, Jim Hendershot, was sheriff of Josephine county in the year 1859.
From the Golden Anniversary Edition-----Mining Stories Section
SAILOR DIGGINGS PIONEER TOWN OF GOLD PRODUCTION
By Wm. Mackey, page 7
Nine miles west of Althouse on the old stage road to Crescent City lies the old mining town of Waldo, or Sailor Diggings, as it was formerly called. The facts connected with the history of Waldo are so interwoven with those of Browntown, on Althouse creek, as to make each place in many respects identical with the other. Miners and gamblers went back and forth from Waldo to Althouse. Hundreds of thousands of dollars changed hands, and even with a mixture of rough happenings there were rounds of pleasure and enjoyment in those prosperous times when money seemed within the reach of everyone who was industrious.
The town of Waldo was situated in a small hollow between low hills, through which the old stage road runs. Here in early mining days there were good buildings where neat and cozy homes were made, saloons and dance halls, hotels and stores, and the hollow where the center of the little town stood and the side hills around were carpeted with a mantel of green grass, studded with peach and apple trees and grape vines.
Town in Oasis
All this was brought about by water from mining ditches. The verdure of the little nook where the old town stood was remarkable from the fact that the low hills around the town and the surrounding country are for the most past barren, resembling in many places a desert in the midst of which the small town with its carpet of green seemed a beautiful oasis. As the writer passes over the old townsite of Waldo where only two or three of the former buildings remain and sees the dead orchard trees, the faded carpets of grass, where everything shows abandonment and decay, he is reminded of what the traveler says about Palestine and the Holy Land, where according to the Bible, the land once flowed with milk and honey, but is now a barren waste in which he can hardly realize that he is where those great scenes which have long since passed away were enacted.
The town was called Sailor Diggings, from the fact that gold was discovered in that locality by sailors who came from the coast to Waldo in the year 1852. A store and wooden dwelling house, and a large timeworn livery stable, which served in later days also as a barn, constituted the three links which connect the faded Waldo of the present with the Golden Waldo of the past.
Store of Concrete
The store is a good sized building, made of concrete brick manufactured by hand, the whole covered with plaster or stucco, the building resting on a stone wall foundation. It was built by A. B. McIlwain in the year 1863. This date is marked above the recessed front entrance. Heavy iron doors and shutters were provided for further protection when needed. Under the store is a stone basement or cellar seven to eight feet deep. Over the front entrance near the date marking the buildings erection there is a noticeable crack about three feet in length. This was caused by a violent earthquake in the year 1873. About 80 feet east of the store is the house built by Mr. McIlwain in 1853, in which he and his family lived. It is a wooden structure consisting of four or five rooms, and is still in a fair state of preservation. The old barn in the west end of town dates so far back that it is impossible to fix with any degree of certainty the time of its erection. It was originally papered with a brilliant wall paper of the period previous to the Civil war, but was done over with sheets of the less brilliant newspaper. These were all of the period of the Civil war, and one was disclosed to be the "Weekly National Republican, a Washington, D. C., organ dated January 29, 1864. This relic of bygone days contains many pertinent references to events of the civil conflict. An item tells of the gunship Kennebec capturing a vessel laden with 10,000 rifles from Europe-supposedly for the rebels. Another item makes the people aware that France sympathizes with the cause of the North.
McIlwain was a large man and was very passionate and hot tempered. There were many Chinese miners in the country in the later days and those Chinamen as customers sorely tried the patience of storekeepers. When purchasing goods they would, even for small amounts, try everlastingly to jew the storekeeper down to the cheapest prices and when buying an article of any kind they would require everything of a like sort in the store shown for their examination. These Chinamen used to buy a great many pairs of gum boots, and sometimes when they would make McIlwain put every gum boot in the store up on the counter to be examined before they would buy, McIlwain would lose all self control and taking a gum boot by the leg with both hands he would strike the Chinamen with the boot over the heads as hard as he was able to hit. McIlwain occupied this brick store until about 1877, when he sold out and left the country, and the store passes into the hand of the Wimer Brothers who occupied it until 1888, when Charles Decker became the owner. With his son-in-law, Thomas Gilmore, Decker conducted the store business for several years, and after his death it came into the hands of the late George Elder. McIlwain was justice of the peace while keeping store at Waldo.
On the site of the present hotel at Waldo there stood the former Waldo hotel, which was burned about 22 years ago, while under the proprietorship of Mrs. Mary Peacock. This hotel which was burned was a truly historical monument. It was built in early mining days. The building had been used as a hotel at times and then at other dates as a store. In this older hotel, Judge H. K. Hanna, the self-made judge of Jackson county, washed dishes in his younger days. He also hauled wood and mined in the vicinity of Waldo before he rose to distinction as a lawyer and judge in Jacksonville, and later as circuit judge, holding court in Jacksonville and Grants Pass. In this old hotel building Messrs. Logan & Thompson kept a store and did a large mercantile business with the people of the entire country in the early 60s.
A man named Crandal and another named Guthrie also kept stores in Waldo in the early mining days. Long pack trains of mules laden with merchandise wended their course over the mountains from Crescent City to Waldo and Happy Camp. In the later 50s a packer named Sam Brannan drove a pack train along the above named route and there was a Chinese packer on the same road who owed Brannan a sum of money. The latter repeatedly asked the Chinaman to pay what he owed, but the Chinaman laughed and mockingly refused. Brannan drew a knife and seizing the Chinaman by the queue he cut of the appendage. The Chinaman then pulled out a pistol and shot Brannan dead in his tracks. In court the act was termed self defense and the Chinaman was acquitted.
Waldo, like Browntown, had its fights and tragedies. A tale is told of an old miner named Collins, who mined on Frenchtown bar on Althouse. Collins was gambling in Waldo and while at the gaming table some players at his table began shooting and two or three were seriously wounded, and fell sprawling on the floor. Collins remained sitting in his chair, unmoved, during the fracas, and laughingly remarked, This is just as good as a Fourth of July celebration. The writer once saw several miners at Waldo, many of whom were drunk, fighting in the street in front of Frank Bryans saloon. Some were destitute of shirts.
Next to Althouse
Next to Althouse in its great yield gold, is the Waldo district with a radius of three miles of the town. It is estimated that 1500 miners here worked in the year 1859. Millions of dollars of the precious metal were taken from the flats, and such streams as Allen gulch, Scotch gulch, Fry gulch, Butcher gulch and Sailor gulch.
A great deal of this original mining around Waldo was done as in other localities by primitive methods, shoveling into sluice boxes, by hand. They merely skimmed in a shallow way over the surface. In many places in the flats and on the hills around Waldo there is a reddish clay intermixed with boulders, which served as a bedrock or a bottom for the workings of the old timers. There seems to have been but little gold found by the pioneer miners in this boulder formation as it was called, but we are informed that this boulder foundation in the Esterly mine has been penetrated with shafts, and that good values have been found underneath in later years.
The writer when only a boy in his teens worked in Scotch gulch for wages in the summers of 1876 and 1877 and well remembers what a hard place it was to work in a deep pit at the mouth of the gulch, the bottom of which was lower than the surface of the Illinois river. The gravel was very hard to pick, something like cement, and was pitched with shovels by hand high up into a flume. Jim Connell and Batheese Decell, a French-Canadian, were the owners of the mine.
The above named gulch lies two miles south of Waldo.
About one mile and a half east of Waldo and looking down on Takilma, is the high mountain in which the Queen of Bronze and the Waldo copper mines are located, which have been worked at intervals for 70 years.
Immediately over the hill south of the Elder store in Waldo is the famous Allen gulch, noted for the great amount of gold it produced. This gulch heads on the south side of the hill and close to the summit, and runs in a southerly direction for about a mile and a quarter until it empties into Illinois river. The hill at the source of the gulch is about 1000 feet in height and from the base of the hill to the mouth of the gulch the grade is not steep, and the form of the ground on the east side of the gulch is in broad flats approaching a level. Here on one of those flats a Catholic church was built in the early 60s, which was a source of much attraction in those days. Connected with the site of this church there is a Catholic cemetery in which several of the old timers men and women- are buried.
The priest who officiated at the church was Father F. X. Blanchard. He was a French-Canadian, and a nephew of the late Bishop Blanchard of Oregon. This pioneer priest resided in Jacksonville and came down at certain dates to officiate and hold services at the Catholic church in Allen gulch.
Priest Carried Liquor
Father Blanchard was a large and jolly, good-natured man and was very popular among the pioneer miners, irrespective of creed or denomination.
When Father Blanchard came down from Jacksonville to Waldo he always carried a large bottle of whisky along with him, and treated the miners when he met them. The roughest miners said that Father Blanchard was a good fellow. They seemed to like him because he never asked any who were not Christians to join his church. He merely told them that the quicker they would identify themselves with some one of the different churches the better it would be. When he came down from Jacksonville the miners came to his church from all parts of the country the same as to a social entertainment and he received bigger donations from miners of other creeds and non-church people than he did from members of his own church.
Blanchard was a well-read man, a good conversationalist, and a good story-teller. He smoked a large pipe when he mingled with the miners and entertained them with his stories. He sometimes took guns away from the miners when they made war on each other.
Father Blanchard died at St. Vincents hospital in Portland. The old Catholic church in Allen gulch has disappeared long ago and the old cemetery is covered with a growth of trees, and a few broken headstones, and moss-covered graves are solemn reminders of a dead past.
Kept in Practice
In those pioneer days an old Irishman named Coyle kept a saloon in Allen guch. He was the stepfather of Mike Ryder, who was afterwards sheriff of Josephine county. Coyless saloon, like Bill Evans store in Browntown was the scene of innumerable combats, and queer antics of wild men. Old Coyle delighted to try his muscle on those inebriated and refractory miners. When a miner who had imbibed too freely was making fierce motions and declaring war on all mankind, Old Coyle would quietly roll up his shirt sleeves and slipping gently around, would watch for an opening and then land a blow with all of his ability to deliver it, which would knock the boisterous disturber topsy-turvy.
© 2012 Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society