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Mules Transport Gold Mine Supplies in 1851

George W. Riddle came to Oregon by covered wagon in April of 1851, settling with his family south of Roseburg.  He was 11 years old.

Some 65 years later he wrote a series of articles for the Riddle Enterprise that were published as a book titled History of Early Days in Oregon.  In his words, they were “written in the plain language of one whose school education would not amount to a fourth grade in our public schools of today.”

Here’s an excerpt describing the mule trains they encountered near Ashland that were carrying supplies to Northern California gold mines.  The trains ranged from 10 to more than 100 mules carrying average loads of 250 pounds each. 

Riddle wrote, “All mule trains had one horse … called the ‘bell mare’ that was ridden by a ‘boy.’ The mules would follow the bell. When strung out on the mountain trails, they seemed … to step in the same places until the earth on hill trails was pressed down or dug out to resemble stairs.”

He added, “We met many trains as we continued our journey through the beautiful Rogue River Valley.”


Source: Riddle, George W. History of Early Days in Oregon. Riddle, Ore.: Reprinted from the Oregon Enterprise, 1920.  Digitalized by Google from original at University of Michigan. Web. 18 May 2016.


Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.