The History of Jacksonville, Oregon

Main Street ~ 1912 / 2012  ~ 100 Years

The Early Years

After gold was first discovered in the Oregon territory's Rich Gulch in 1851, miners from far and wide flocked to the Rogue Valley to seek their fortune. Within months, thousands were scouring the hills, hoping to stake a claim. And before long, the bustling mining camp that emerged along the gold-lined creek beds was transformed into a town named "Jacksonville", and quickly became the largest town in Oregon.

Fortunately, Peter Britt (Oregon's first photographer) arrived by oxen cart in 1852. After briefly trying his hand at gold mining and operating a pack train, Britt returned to his passion for photography. He subsequently captured the flavor of Jacksonville's early history with pictures of people, architecture, events and natural settings that reflected the unusual lives and colorful legends of the day.

Meanwhile, gold rush fever brought prosperity very quickly to Jacksonville, and by the winter of 1852, saloons and gambling halls were springing up to coax gold from the hands of eager prospectors. Makeshift shops, supply stores, a bank, and a variety of enterprising businesses suddenly began to appear on the scene.


Kenny Hardware - Olde Bell Union Saloon
*Historic photos courtesy of the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

City in Transition

During the early boom years, Jacksonville became the hub of commerce in Southern Oregon and the county seat of government. However, in 1884, when the railroad decided to choose the new town of Medford as the primary link between north and south - thereby bypassing Jacksonville entirely - many residents and businesses moved away. On the positive side, a few wealthy, local merchants built lavish mansions, and the new County Court House (now the site of the Jacksonville Museum of Southern Oregon History) was completed. By the 1890s, agriculture had replaced mining as the primary industry in the Rogue Valley.

For the next 50 years, Jacksonville remained relatively unchanged as surrounding communities continued to grow. The county seat was moved to Medford in 1927, while the years of the Great Depression and World War II left a serious economic impact on the community.

Preservation Efforts Commence

Demonstrating great resilience and a new recognition of Jacksonville's valuable heritage, residents and local merchants began to actively preserve the town's 19th century character and charm. Photo archives, writings and artifacts that document the community's history were carefully resurrected and assembled into exhibits and collections.

In 1966, the entire town of Jacksonville was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior. In addition, more than 80 individual buildings are included in the National Register of Historic Places.

Jacksonville Today

Downtown Jacksonville currently offers a tantalizing assortment of businesses, some hidden along the side streets among the houses and trees. A selection of galleries, bookstores, clothing boutiques, gift and antique shops entice visitors and residents alike with high quality merchandise. Intimate restaurants and coffee houses feed appetites of persuasions ranging from Thai to Mexican, Italian and fine California cuisine.

Wherever they wander through Jacksonville's inviting streets, people can savor the beautiful natural settings and historic landmarks that are woven into the scenic landscape that characterizes Jacksonville today.

Jacksonville is perfectly situated to not only visit for a day or two, but to serve as a home base while enjoying the numerous and varied activities that await you in both the Rogue and Applegate Valleys.

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