Southwest Oregon Gold History

Gold was first discovered in Josephine County in or about 1851 on Josephine Creek. While Wikipedia suggests the initial find occurred in 1852, the Oregon state records indicate significant commerce related to gold mining and supply to mining activities was occurring 1851.

As determined by the investigations of one researcher, he records the following about Josephine County: "Josephine County has been one of the leading producers of gold in Oregon and has yielded significant amounts of the State's chrome and copper output. Gold was found on Josephine Creek as early as 1852, and the following year additional discoveries on Althouse Creek precipitated a rush during which prospectors spread throughout southwestern Oregon. Hydraulic methods were introduced as early as 1856 to mine the placers. As in many other mining camps, the depletion of the placers in Josephine County led to the search for lode deposits. By the early 1860's quartz mines were active in the Grants Pass district, and some-what later, in the Galice, Greenback, and Waldo districts. From 1852 to 1900 the annual production of gold in the county exceeded $450,000, or a total of about $21,600,000 (about 1,048,000 ounces) for those years. From 1901 through 1959 the county produced 187,913 ounces of gold. Total gold production from 1852 through 1959, including Diller's estimate, was about 1,235,000 ounces. The major gold-producing districts in Josephine County are the Galice, Grants Pass, Greenback, Illinois River, Lower Applegate, and Waldo.

Initially the mining was mostly placer, but as the easy pickings were cleaned out, the work turned to lode mining the veins up the hillsides and upstream from the placers. One of the locations rich in lodes or veins was in the Coyote Creek area north of Grants Pass, and close to Wolf Creek. In the Coyote Creek drainage is the location of the historic (ghost) town of Golden, OR. Today, the land immediately around the site is being reclaimed as the Golden National Historic District. However, several miles further upstream, the mines or their ruins exist today. One of these is our subject, the Marshall Mine, which was (and sometimes still is) known as the Dorothea Mine. The Dorothea is mentioned along with the Jim Blain and the Greenback in the The Mineral Resources of Oregon, Volumes 2-3 By Oregon Bureau of Mines and Geology, pg 287.

The area encompassing Coyote Creek, Wolf Creek and Graves Creek is indentified as the Greenback District, named for the Greenback Mine, the most prodigious producing mine in the area. The website http://www.westernmininghistory.com/ provides the following information about the Greenback District. The Greenback district, which includes Graves, Wolf, and Coyote Creeks, is in the northeast corner of Josephine County, between lat 42°37' and 42°43' N. and long 123°16' and 123°28' W. It also provides the following information about the district and the Marshall/Dorothea Mine 'Records of early production in the Greenback district do not exist and estimates are fragmentary. The Dorothea mine produced $50,000 in gold, and the Livingston, $20,000 (Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, 1942, p. 101, 110). Winchell (1914b, p. 184) reported early production of $400,000 from placers along Graves Creek. Total recorded production for the district from 1904 through 1959 was 37,062 ounces; 2,001 ounces from lode mines, 28,853 ounces from placers, and 6,208 ounces undifferentiated. Total gold production through 1959, including Winchell's estimate of early placer production from Grave Creek, must have been at least 55,000 ounces.' This was at the time when gold was fixed at $20 per ounce. $50,000 / $20 per oz = 2500 ounces of production.


Southwest Oregon is fabled for the pocket gold discovered in its hillsides. The article at this link describes 'pocket gold': Great Slabs of Gold. The portion of the article applicable to SW Oregon is reproduced below.
Southwest Oregon is noted for pocket mines. Most of these were located by following the placer leads to the source. As a vein of gold weathers and wears away over the centuries, gold will spill down the hill or mountainside, spreading in a V-shaped pattern as it migrates down to the nearest stream. Some pockets produced only a few ounces of gold. Others, such as the famous Gold Hill Pocket, produced up to a ton of gold.
Some miners specialized in pocket hunting. They developed an inverted V method of searching for pockets. When the placer lead stopped in the stream, they started digging test holes on the hillsides. As the rows of test holes progressed uphill, the inverted V pattern was established by the holes which produced gold. The pocket of gold was found at the point of the inverted V.
Some pocket hunters worked on the theory that pockets always occurred in groups of three. When the surface pocket was worked out and the vein pinched off, they kept digging and sometimes were able to strike a second and third pocket.

This November 14, 1903 NY Times archive article is about a pocket gold find not far from where the Marshall Mine is located, near Wolf Creek, the exit off of I-5 that you would take to reach the Marshall.

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