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As It Was: Jacksonville Gold Miner Divines Ancient City Under UC-Berkeley

When Joseph Voyle died a pauper in Berkeley, Calif., in 1915, his obituary said he was a mystic and philosopher who had studied geology and electricity much of his life.

When he was 20, Voyle came to America in 1860 from England.  The U.S. Census and newspaper records trace him as a photographer in Alabama, a civil engineer in Florida, a placer miner in Jacksonville, Ore., a mineralogist in San Francisco, and a chemist in Berkeley.

During his time in Jacksonville in the 1890s, Voyle and his family, lived in the Union mining district. He appeared financially well off, and had published at least one technical article on how gold-bearing quartz is formed.

After losing his money in a lawsuit and then his possessions in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, Voyle moved to Berkeley and the Pacific Theological Seminary where he became president of a Society of Psychical Research. There, he gathered a group of followers who with their “psychical compasses,” or divining rods, claimed a “city of ancients” lay buried beneath the UC Berkeley campus.

Most UC Berkeley professors considered Voyle’s claims to be fanciful and unsubstantiated.

Sources: "Joseph Voyle, Aged Mystic, Formerly of Jacksonville Dead." Medford Mail Tribune, 10 Apr. 1915, p. 6.

Voyle, Joseph. "A Complex Vein Formation in Porphyry." Mining and Scientific Press, vol. 83-4, 11 Jan. 1902, p. 20.

search.ancestry.com, ancestry.com, search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?_phsrc=Nkf4&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&indiv=1&db=1900usfedcen&gss=angs-d&new=1&rank=1&msT=1&gsfn=Joseph&gsfn_x=NP_NN&gsln=Voyle&gsln_x=NN&msrpn__f. Accessed 19 Sept. 2017;  Schwartz, Richard. “Books: Prof. Joseph Voyle’s Buried Ancient City Under UC Berkeley." The Berkeley Daily Planet, 25 Mar. 2008, daily listing ed., www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-03-25/article/29572. Accessed 20 Oct. 2017.


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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.