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Josephine County Orders All Men to Work Roads

Roads became desperately needed in Southern Oregon in the mid-1800’s as the growth of mining and agriculture required more access to markets.

One road project envisioned linking Jackson and Josephine counties to provide river access and to open trade and travel to Crescent City on the California coast. County courts were in charge of road projects, but Josephine County didn’t always have enough money or the manpower to get the job done. 

In 1860 the County Court solved the problem by passing a law requiring all able-bodied men between the ages of 21 and 50 to work on public roads in their road districts.  Jailed men were exempt.  Citizens assigned to a project at a place appointed by a supervisor had to arrive at 8 a.m. with their own tools and work the whole day “industriously and diligently.” 

The law required men to work two 8-hour days of “faithful labor” on the projects.  Supervisors reported truancy to the court. 

Men could avoid hard labor and meet their obligations by paying their supervisors $2.


Source:  Josephine County Historical Society. "Two Days Road Work Required of Citizens." Grants Pass Centennial Notes (compiled from the Grants Pass Daily Courier).  Edna May Hill. Josephine County Historical Society. Grants Pass OR: Josephine County Historical Society, 2009. 87-88. Print.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.