Its Gold!” What began as a whispered discovery between two packers traveling though the Oregon Territory soon became a cry heard throughout the West. The year was 1851 and within months thousands of miners were lining the creeks of Rich Gulch seeking their fortune. The rush was on and the boomtown, which came to be known as Jacksonville, emerged.
By the winter of 1852 Jacksonville, then known as Table Rock City, had grown from a makeshift mining camp to a bustling town of over 2000 complete with saloons, gambling halls, shops businesses and a bank. Among those drawn to the area was Peter Britt. His search of gold eventually gave way to a passion to chronicle the times through his talents as a photographer. Fortunately for us, the lives, the landscapes and the legends of the day were captured through his lens.
For decades Jacksonville, which had become the county seat, flourished as the commercial and cultural center of Southern Oregon. It wasn’t until 1884, when the railroad was routed through the neighboring town of Medford, did the prestige of Jacksonville begin to wane. As residents and businesses moved away to those communities along the rail lines, Jacksonville settled into a new role-that of an agricultural center.
The combination of the County Seat being moved to Medford in 1927, the Great Depression and World War II had serious economic impact on Jacksonville. But never a community to give in, residents and business leaders sought to preserve the heritage of Southern Oregon’s first town. Jacksonville although no longer a boomtown, discovered a new way to lure those with the pioneer spirit, capturing it’s colorful past and inviting a new generation of explorers to experience it.
In 1966, Jacksonville was designated a National Historic Landmark. Over 100 buildings in Jacksonville are on the National Register of Historic Places. With a dynamic vision of the future that simultaneously incorporates its glorious past, Jacksonville is booming once again.
Ask someone who’s recently visited Jacksonville what they think, and you may hear a very familiar phrase…..”It’s Gold!”
Courtesy of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.