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Illinois Valley Miners Write Oregon’s first Mining Code


After sailors jumped ship in Crescent City, Calif., they discovered gold inland just south of Cave Junction, Ore., and east of O’Brien in the Illinois Valley.  The mining area became known as Sailor’s Diggings until it grew into the large gold-mining settlement of Waldo, named after William Waldo, the Whig Party candidate for governor of California. 

These Illinois Valley miners wrote the first mining code in the Oregon Territory in the spring of 1852.  Short and to the point, it said, “We, the miners of Waldo and Althouse in the Oregon Territory…do hereby ordain and adopt the following rules and regulations to govern this camp: 

“•That 50 cubic yards shall constitute a claim on the bed of the creek extending to high water on each side;

“•That 40 feet shall constitute a bank or bar claim on the face extending back to the hill or mountain;

“•That all claims not worked when workable, after five days, be forfeited or jumpable;

“•That all disputes arising from mining claims shall be settled by arbitration, and the decision shall be final.”

Although these were the rules, fists, knives, and guns sometimes resolved claim disputes.

Sources: Fattig, Paul. "The lure . gold." Mail Tribune 22 Dec. 2008 [Medford, Ore.] . Web. 30 Sept. 2014. http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081222/NEWS/812220308/-1/rss01; Walter, Greg. "Waldo (the City)." The Oregon Encyclopedia.. Portland State University and Oregon Historical Society, 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. .

Dennis M. Powers was a business law attorney with various real estate and business ventures before teaching as a full professor and later professor emeritus at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado (b.a.), the University of Denver Law School (j.d.), and Harvard Business School (m.b.a.).