Jacksonville, Oregon: A Gold Rush Kind of Town

Historic buildings in Jacksonville, Oregon

The gold rush era buildings in Jacksonville, Oregon have been preserved by the community.

Peggy and I discovered Jacksonville in 2010 when we were doing genealogical research. My great grandparents are buried in the cemetery above the town. In fact, I have ancestors scattered throughout Southern Oregon. We were happily jumping from graveyard to graveyard  looking for dead people. It’s like going a treasure hunt.

We were also searching for a place to live after our three years of wandering around North America. Peggy was ready to settle. Our daughter Tasha was lobbying for us to move to Tennessee and live close to her family.  But I am a Western-type guy and the Rockies were about as far east as I was willing to travel. I had developed an affinity for New Mexico and both Peggy and I enjoyed the mountainous/less populated areas of Northern California.

We ended up falling in love with Jacksonville and the Siskiyou Mountains, which is why I am sitting here this morning in my home 25 miles outside of Jacksonville looking out at the Red Buttes and listening to the Applegate River while I write this blog.

Red Buttes in the Siskiyou Mountains.

A sunset view of the Red Buttes from our patio.

Jacksonville got its start in the 1850s. Southern Oregon, like Northern California, was part of the great gold rush that sent the 49ers scurrying west to seek their fortunes. Soon the town was booming. With the addition of a railroad, it became the county seat for Jackson County and one of the largest cities in Oregon. Eventually the gold was mined out. When the railroad bypassed the town in 1884, Jacksonville started on a gradual decline.

The good news here is that the historic buildings in town were preserved instead of being torn down in the name of progress. In 1966, the threat of bulldozers turning the town into a freeway encouraged the residents to apply for and become a National Historic District. Today the small community of 3000 has a substantial tourist trade based on its historic ambience. A growing wine industry in the region helps assure its future.

You know you are in an Old West town when you find the Wells Fargo Express building.  The town i grew up in the foothills of California, Diamond Springs, also had an old Wells Fargo building.

You know you are in an Old West town when you find the Wells Fargo Express (stage-coach stop) building. The gold rush town I grew up in the foothills of California, Diamond Springs, also had an old Wells Fargo building.

Street scene in downtown Jacksonville, Oregon.

A view on the opposite side of Jacksonville’s main street. The white building on the end is the Masonic Lodge. Fraternal organizations played an important role in communities during the 1800s.

Redmen's Hall Jacksonville, Oregon

Another historical fraternal organization of Jacksonville is the Improved Order of Redmen, which traces its history back to the Revolutionary War and the Boston Tea Party.

Redmen's Hall Jacksonville, Oregon.

Redmen’s Hall is one of my favorite buildings in Jacksonville. Built in 1884, it housed the local chapter of Redmen, the Oregonian Pocahontas Tribe #1. Hard to beat being #1.

5 cent Owl cigar billboard on the side of Redmen's Hall in Jacksonville Oregon.

There was a time when any blank building wall was an opportunity waiting for a billboard. This old billboard on the side of Redmen’s Hall, features five cent Owl Cigars and Levi Strauss overalls.

Redmen's Hall in Jacksonville, Oregon.

A shot looking upward at Redmen’s Hall.

Window reflection photo in Jacksonville, Oregon.

I thought this was a rather classic window reflection shot.

A window reflection photo in Jacksonville, Oregon.

A closeup of the window reflection photo shown above.

Bozo the Clown's boyhood home in Jacksonville, Oregon.

Many older homes have also been preserved in Jacksonville. This was the house of Judge Colvig. His son Pinto inspired the creation of Goofy and went on to become known worldwide as Bozo the Clown. My grandfather’s sister married Pinto’s older brother, which I guess, in a way, makes me related to both Goofy and Bozo.

Peggy and I were immediately impressed with the flower boxes and baskets lining the streets of Jacksonville. Flowers are changed regularly to reflect what is in season. All maintenance is done by volunteers.

Peggy and I were immediately impressed with the flower boxes and baskets lining the streets of Jacksonville. Flowers are changed regularly to reflect what is in season. All maintenance is done by volunteers.

Pansies in jacksonville, Florida.

More Jacksonville pansies.

Flower in Jacksonville, Oregon.

I liked the delicate, crinkled paper look of the flower.

Raindrops on flowers in Jacksonville, Oregon.

A brief rain left behind rain drops.

Giant grapevine in Jacksonville, Oregon.

This may be the Mother of All grapevines. I found it covering the sides of one of the buildings.

Woodland scene near Jacksonville, Oregon.

The size of Jacksonville is demonstrated by the fact that this scene is found five minutes from the main street.

NEXT BLOG: I return to one of my favorite hobbies, exploring the world of Native American rock art found in remote locations throughout the southwestern United States.

21 comments on “Jacksonville, Oregon: A Gold Rush Kind of Town

  1. Curt, these pics are beautiful! It sounds as if you and Peggy have found your “home” sweet home. After wandering, that’s nice to go to a place and feel, “This is it!” That way, you have home base and get to wander, still, huh? Oregon is a beautiful state!

  2. Now I see why you love “home” so much.. The small town scene of Jacksonville is wonderful and those old buildings are what adds to it’s character & charm. I say you and Peggy made a wise choice and I hope it continues to fill you both with wonderful moments..
    tell the flower committee they do one helluva good job tending those flowers 🙂

    • These “Old West” towns have a unique charm. I grew up three miles outside of Placerville in the California foothills. In it’s early days it was known as Hangtown. It still promotes itself that way. (grin) A gold rush era jail was right across from my house in Diamond Springs. Sadly, it was taken down. Jacksonville has done an incredible job of protecting its heritage. As for the flowers, both Peggy and I have been continuously impressed. –Curt

  3. Apparently fashion is fashion, even in architecture and no matter the century. The shot of the trim on the Redmen’s Hall, the green and cream complementing the red brick, is so evocative of one of my favorite buildings in Galveston. The Trueheart-Adriance building dates from 1881.

    The Masonic building’s a fine one, too. In Newton, Iowa, Friday family nights at the Masonic Lodge were a tradition in the 50s and 60s. We’d go for supper (steak for the big people and hamburgers for the kids) and then dance to a live band. That’s where I learned swing, with my dad as partner. He taught me well. In 1960, my partner and I won the Homecoming Dance swing contest. We were good, but whether we were this good isn’t certain.

    You’ve a wonderful town. Bless its people for preserving it.

    • The Galveston building is impressive. As for swing dancing, I confess to having two left feet. I can guarantee my body would not have cooperated with the type of moves shown in the video. I was in Demolay, however, which meant a once a week trip to the Masonic Bldg. in Placerville.
      My dad was raised in Redding, Iowa so I grew up listening to tales about the state. –Curt

  4. Ah, what a beautiful town! How wonderful that they’ve done such an exemplary job in preserving these amazing structures. Quaint doesn’t cover it. Another must-see, sigh!! 🙂

    • It just makes sense, FeyGirl, to preserve our cultural heritage like we do our wilderness treasures. And it is always a battle between short term gain and long term interests. –Curt

  5. Curt, what a charming place you and Peggy call home. I’m always so impressed when a town preserves its cultural heritage. And the fact that you’re related to both Goofy and Bozo is icing on the cake! 🙂 ~Terri

  6. I stumbled upon this blog while rummaging through some southern Oregon sites. I was carried away by your easy writing style and photos. I just went through your blog for the 3rd straight time and I still want to go back over it, again. What an amazing town and people. I’ve been looking for a place to move to in the Ashland to Grants Pass area. I hope I end up close to Jacksonville. Thanks.
    p.s. – I don’t know if anybody maintains this site; but, I felt the need to write something for such a great page..

  7. Hello. You mentioned that you discovered Jacksonville while doing geneology research of your family ancestors. My ancestors lived in Jacksonville as well sometime between 1870 and 1900. The family name was Ivory and two of their children, Patrick Henry and Anna Rebecca are buried in Jacksonville Cemetery. They both died very young, about ages 2 and 3. The parents names were Martha and James Ivory. James died in 1901 and after that the entire family moved to Nome, Alaska in search of riches in the gold fields. If you have found any references to the Ivory name in your own family research could you please contact me. We have hundreds of letters the family wrote to each other and if I have any references to any of your family I will of course contact you. Thank you very much.

    • Hi Michael. The Marshall’s and Mekemsons didn’t arrive until the early 1900’s, after your family had already left for Nome. I haven’t seen any connections but if I do, I will certainly keep you in mind. –Curt

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