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There was gold in them thar hills of Jacksonville

I know Jacksonville was originally a gold town but don't really know what started the local "gold rush," if there was such a thing. Can you shed light on the subject?

— Robin, by email

Indeed we can, Robin, thanks to a journey back in time, or at least back in our archives.

In those archives we found a 1989 Mail Tribune publication called "Chronicle — Tales from Our Valley's Past." And in that publication we found a story titled "Gold! Discovered at Rich Gulch."

But wait, you say, you want to know about Jacksonville, not some obscure place called Rich Gulch. We would not lead you astray, Robin, for Rich Gulch eventually became Jacksonville.

As the story goes, a quartet of packers — strangely enough all with the first name of Jim or James — were passing through the area in January 1852 when they decided to camp in the vicinity of Sterling Creek. During the night, a couple of mules strayed and were found the next morning alongside the creek. In a hoof print near the water's edge, one of the packers noticed a sparkle of gold.

The foursome got out their shovels and pans and soon discovered they were onto something big. They named the spot Rich Gulch, and so it proved to be, turning out more than $30 million for miners in the area.

Jacksonville became known as Table Rock City, and within the year had ballooned to a population approaching 1,500. It had a few streets — Oregon and California streets among them — and, according to the Chronicle story, "looked like a typical boom town."

An Oregonian newspaper correspondent wrote that the settlement was "composed of tents, sheds, shanties and frail houses of split lumber. One respectable two-story house was being built."

Jacksonville was incorporated in 1860 and became the county seat, a position it held until 1927, when Medford (which had secured the rail line) took over the title.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.