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Jump Off Joe Creek Gets Name from Trapper’s Fall


Jump Off Joe Creek, 11 miles north of Grants Pass, Ore., refers to an accident involving 29-year-old Joseph McLoughlin, son of Dr. John McLoughlin, officially designated “the Father of Oregon.”  The creek’s name dates to the 1830s, when the only non-native people in Southern Oregon were transient fur trappers and explorers.

McLoughlin’s father was the powerful chief of the Hudson’s Bay Company operations in the Oregon Territory.  The son’s mother was a Chippewa Indian woman from eastern Canada.

In 1839, young Joe McLoughlin joined a trapping expedition from the Willamette Valley to Mexican-controlled Northern California.  One night, the party of 35 trappers and several Indians camped along a creek near the Rogue River.  Returning to camp one night, McLoughlin fell in the dark from a rocky bluff.   He survived, but was seriously injured with blood gushing from his mouth, and the expedition sent word to his father that his son had suffered a “pulmonary attack.”  McLoughlin returned to Fort Vancouver, but never completely recovered from his injuries, dying in 1848 at age 38.

For awhile, the spot was known as “The Jump off where Joe Fell,” which was shortened eventually to Jump Off Joe Creek.

Sources: "Biographical Note." Guide to the McLoughlin-Fraser Family Papers. Northwest Digital Archives: Orbis Cascade Alliance, Web. 11 Sept. 2014. Hugo Emigrant Trails Committee, . "Naming of Jump Off Joe Creek: ca., 1839." Hugo Neighborhood Association and Historical Society, 25 May 2008. Web. 11 Sept. 2014. .

Amy Couture has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Oregon, a master’s in teacher education from Eastern Oregon University, and a master’s in history from Minnesota State University, Mankato.  A former teacher and cross-country coach, she is the author of 14 historical vignettes in the book, Astorians: Eccentric and Extraordinary.