Jacksonville: The Historic Small Town That Never Gets Old

Gold fever, wagon trains, Indian uprisings, epidemics, and the settlement of a new frontier are all part of Jacksonville’s heritage.

The historical small town of Jacksonville is located about seven miles west of Medford and fifteen miles north of Ashland, Oregon. Jacksonville is one of the most historically significant communities in the western United States.

Filled with historical landmarks Jacksonville offers visitors experience of a bygone era. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Filled with historical landmarks Jacksonville offers visitors experience of a bygone era. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Filled with historical landmarks this town offers visitors experience of a bygone era. Jacksonville is filled with antique stores, galleries, book stores, boutiques, specialty shops, cozy inns, fine restaurants, and other historic attractions.

More than 100 buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1966, the entire town of Jacksonville was designated a National Register of Historic landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

After a wild start as a gold rush town, the Jacksonville story began to quiet down as folks moved to the area to focus on agriculture, banking, and shop-keeping along with raising their families.

Jacksonville is filled with antique stores, galleries, book stores, boutiques, specialty shops, cozy inns, fine restaurants, and other historic attractions. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacksonville is filled with antique stores, galleries, book stores, boutiques, specialty shops, cozy inns, fine restaurants, and other historic attractions. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacksonville got its start as a gold rush town. Gold was first discovered at Rich Gulch in 1851.

As the news spread the area was inundated by gold miners seeking their fortunes. Within months, thousands were scouring the hills hoping to stake a claim. A thriving mining camp emerged along the gold-lined creekbeds and before long, the bustling camp was transformed into a town named Jacksonville.

The gold rush fever soon brought prosperity to Jacksonville and by the winter of 1852, saloons and gambling halls were springing up to coax the gold from the hands of the eager prospectors. Makeshift shops, supply stores, a bank, and an array of other enterprising businesses suddenly began to appear on the scene.

More than 100 buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More than 100 buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Previously, the area was populated by the Upland Takelmas native American tribe. The influx of white settlers caused increased friction and eventually the native populations were removed from the area.

Originally named Table Rock City because of the view of two mesa about 10 miles away, Jacksonville emerged from the mining campsites and thrived to become the county seat and the largest city in Oregon.

Settlers coming west on wagon trains found the Rogue Valley to be a desirable place to establish land claims and earn a living as farmers and ranchers.

Throughout the year, Jacksonville offers a wide range of events and activities for all ages. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Throughout the year, Jacksonville offers a wide range of events and activities for all ages. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Among those drawn to the area was Peter Britt. His search of gold eventually gave way to a passion to chronicle the times through his talents as a photographer. Fortunately for us, the lives, the landscapes and the legends of the day were captured through his lens. His former estate is now home to the Britt Festival—a summer long concert series, including 3-weekend Classical Festival.

When the railroad bypassed Jacksonville in 1884, the town remained as the county seat and the prominent town in Southern Oregon, however the boom was over and businesses and residents moved away over the next 50 years. Most relocated to Medford as it took Jacksonville’s place with its railroad stop.

Jacksonville is one of the most historically significant communities in the western United States. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacksonville is one of the most historically significant communities in the western United States. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most of Jacksonville is now a National Historic Landmark due to the preservation of so many of these buildings. At first it was preservation by neglect due to lack of economic incentive. Then, in the 1960s folks who appreciated what Jacksonville was banded together to prevent the interstate from coming through town and started focusing on preservation efforts, leading to the National Historic Landmark designation.

A handful of wineries make it really easy to enjoy the bounty of Southern Oregon wine. There are three tasting rooms in town and two wineries within a mile of town comprising the Jacksonville Wineries Association. Each tasting rooms presents a different perspectives on wine.

Gold was discovered in the Oregon territory at Rich Gulch in 1851. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gold was discovered in the Oregon territory at Rich Gulch in 1851. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With a choice of 18 wineries, the nearby Applegate Wine Trail offers many options in planning a wine tasting itinerary in the area.

Worth Pondering…

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends to do otherwise.

—Henry David Thoreau

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