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First Josephine County Settler Runs a Tavern

Believed to be the first Anglo-American settler in the future Josephine County, Ore., a man named Bates opened the region’s first rustic tavern in 1851 for the occasional traveler at Graves Creek.

Within a year or two, the tavern had become a well-known stage coach station as travel north into Oregon Territory increased.  The Donation Land Act of 1850 encouraged settlement in Oregon as the gold rush waned, and families began claiming their 640 acres on Graves Creek and along the lush river lands bordering the Rogue.  

In January 1856, Josephine County was formed and given the name of a miner’s daughter, who was the first female in the area. The original boundaries along the Rogue River shifted later to squeeze Curry County closer to the coast and to cut into a portion of Jackson County.  If the boundaries had not been changed later, Grants Pass would be in Jackson County today. 

Grants Pass became the county seat, but not until Sailor's Diggings and Kerbyville south of today’s Cave Junction had a turn.  Men who jumped ship in Crescent City and made their way inland to find gold had established Sailor's Diggings.

Sources: Parker, George H. "Early History of Josephine County." George H. Parker's Manuscript, Josephine County Historical Society, pp. 35-42; Walter, Greg. "Waldo (city)." The Oregon Encyclopedia, Oregon Historical Society, https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/waldo/#.WD4MYLIrLDB. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016.

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.