There was gold, but on which hill?
I drive past Gold Hill regularly and occasionally swing into town. But I've never really known where its name came from. I assume there must have been gold discovered there on a hill. Can you fill in the blanks?
— J.T., by email
We can fill in some of the blanks, J.T., but not all of them definitively, since some details remain in dispute.
But there was indeed gold discovered in the vicinity of what is now called Gold Hill. The dispute, however, centers over which hill.
The Oregon Geographic Names book author says that "it is quite certain that the original Gold Hill was actually on the south side of the Rogue River, opposite the current town of Gold Hill. It goes on to say, "The hill to the north is somewhat more imposing than the original Gold Hill to the south, and this may be the reason that some local residents tried to move the name."
The city of Gold Hill's own website backs up the notion that gold was first discovered on the south side of the river, referencing "the rich 'Gold Hill' pocket mine discovered earlier that year (1860) in the hills on the south side of the river by a farmhand of local land baron, Thomas Chavner."
Before the gold rush played out, there were numerous mines in the area, including along Sardine Creek northwest of the city.
Chavner founded the first community in that immediate area, calling it Dardanelles after the famed narrow strait in Turkey. He later sold rights of way through his land to the railroad, and in 1884 platted the city of Gold Hill on the opposite bank of the river, becoming its first developer by selling off lots in the new city.
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