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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.