© 2023 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
KSOR Header background image 1
a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Speed Phillips Tells Tall Tales about His Prospecting Days

Speed Phillips never made much money, but prospected for gold all his life. Both his grandfathers were “forty-niners” in California, one seeking his fortune as a dairy farmer and the other as a builder.

Speed lived in a cabin up Foot’s Creek in Jackson County, Ore., when he wasn’t chasing gold in Nevada. When money ran out, he worked his Foot’s Creek claim, and once found a huge nugget. To finance his prospecting, Speed sometimes choked logs and patrolled power lines.
There was a story at the time about a lost vein of gold in the Applegate. Speed said he found it, marked the location and took a sample to his cabin to assay it.  It was hot!  But Speed said he never could relocate the elusive vein.
In 1965, Speed, accompanied by his white burro, Jack, won a blue ribbon at the Britt Festival parade in Jacksonville as the best-dressed Western man. Speed said he always dressed like that.
Speed enjoyed the attention he and his mule received in parades and at home, where for years neighbors visited regularly to listen to his endless supply of tall tales.

Source: Fitzgerald, Arlene J. "Prospector Roamed Oregon, Nevada for Ores." Rogue River Times 8 Oct. 1965: 4+. 

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.