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Ferry Offers Safe Crossing of Rogue River During Gold Rush

Many early Oregon settlers dropped their plows and axes and joined the California gold rush in 1849.  A man named Long established a ferry to avoid a very dangerous crossing of the Rogue River on the way to the gold fields on the old mule packers’ trail through Southern Oregon.

Hames Vannoy bought the ferry in 1851 and earned a living by charging 12 1/2 cents per person or animal and $1.50 for a loaded wagon.  The men returning to Oregon from California tended to pay in gold dust instead of cash.

As hostilities broke out between the settlers and indigenous Americans in 1855, Vannoy and neighbors built a stockade of log cabins and walls near the ferry known as Fort Vannoy.  Settlers took shelter and nursed the wounded and sick there.

Vannoy’s Ferry served for a time as the headquarters of the 1,000-man-strong Southern Volunteer Battalion that operated in the area.

In 1887 Gasquet’s Road to Crescent City crossed the Rogue River at Vannoy’s Ferry on the way to Grants Pass a few miles upriver.

An elementary school still carries the Fort Vannoy name.

Source: Hamilton, Eve. "Vannoy Name Returns to Spotlight in Southern Oregon." Medford Mail Tribune 21 Feb. 1965: B1. Print.

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.