|Golden General Store|
Later known as the Applegate Trail, the new route was meant to bypass many of the hazards of the northern trail, but the going was slow and fraught with difficulty. Travelers complained bitterly of the hardships suffered along the way. In spite of later improvements, the new trail had no great advantage over the more northerly route. And that could have been the end of it.
|Jacksonville City Hall|
But in the late 1840s, gold was discovered in northern California. Hopeful prospectors hurried westward over the Applegate Trail; the Gold Rush was on. In 1851, gold was found in a modest creekbed in a small, fertile valley in the hills of southern Oregon. Campsites erected by gold-seekers grew into the town of Jacksonville, which became the county seat and, at one time, the largest city in Oregon. Settlers farmed and ranched in the surrounding hills. Businesses flourished in the busy downtown area. Then, in 1884, the railroad came, but not to Jacksonville. Nearby Medford received that honor and all of the business traffic that came with it. Meanwhile, gold supplies were dwindling. Jacksonville declined, and in 1927 the county seat was moved to Medford. Over the years, more and more residents moved away. And that could have been the end of it.
|Wolf Creek Inn|
Today only a few of Golden's buildings remain. Visit on a sunny day and even the laughter of children seems to be swallowed by the palpable silence that hangs over the town site; visit alone in the Oregon drizzle and you may believe the rumors of hauntings that inevitably hang over all abandoned places. Golden now belongs to Oregon State Parks and is maintained as a heritage site, and it has even been used as a movie set. The buildings are in varying states of repair; the remaining church has been restored and appears ready for parishioners to gather. At the other end of the scale, two privies sag under the influence of gravity and time. There is also a schoolhouse and a tattered store. A barn at the back of the property appears to be newer than some of the other buildings. Until recently, the one remaining residence had lost its entire back wall so that it stood cut away like a life-sized dollhouse. Now the back has been enclosed with panels, likely in the interest of safety.
|Golden Coyote Wetlands|
Valley of the Rogue State Park, a riverside retreat conveniently located near I-5 between the two gold towns. Stroll beneath oak and cottonwood trees beside the Rogue River and you will truly know you are in southwestern Oregon.
Once upon a time the lure of gold led thousands of people across a continent to a remote place where it seemed that land was infinite and resources were inexhaustible. They were drawn by the idea that fortunes could be made by simply washing the dirt in a creek. Boom towns grew wherever gold was found, and they were as quickly abandoned once the supply gave out. Most of these communities are long forgotten; perhaps a place name remains, or traces of a crumpled building beneath the trees, or an abandoned graveyard grown over by brush. Every day thousands of motorists travel the asphalt of Interstate 5, unaware that they are following the route taken by weary emigrants struggling to reach their new home before the cruel winter set in. Oregon's history is all around us. It hums among the businesses in Jacksonville and it whispers in silent Golden, two towns built by the promise of a bright future and linked by the Applegates' route into a rich new land.
This article is lovingly dedicated to our dear friend Kelley Rametes and her family.
|A tour of Jacksonville|
|United States Hotel, Jacksonville|
|Stone foundation on a Jacksonville building|
|This brick-lined public well, one of two in Jacksonville, was rediscovered when California Street was rebuilt in 2004|
|Jacksonville Train Depot, now a public restroom (unfortunately closed when needed most!)|
|Nunan house, Jacksonville|
|A final view of Jacksonville before we head off to Golden|
|Buildings in Golden|
|Inside a Golden store|
|Inside the schoolhouse|
|Golden Coyote Wetlands. The cliff seen behind the wetlands, now reclaimed by nature, was formed by the mining operations that took place here.|
|One final view, a cart used in the mining operations sits broken and sinking into the soil, yet another ghost of Golden's past.|