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Josephine County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oregonmarker. According to Oregon Geographic Names, the county is probably named after a stream in the area called Josephine Creek, which in turn is probably named after Virginia Josephine Rollins Ort. In 2000, its population was 75,726. The seat of the county is Grants Passmarker.


Most of the commercial activity during the territorial period centered on gold mining and the supply of provisions to miners. Miners had been active in the Rogue and Illinois valleys since 1851. By the late 1850s, however, gold mining was beginning to decline and population dwindled as well. In 1859, gold was discovered along the Fraser River in British Columbiamarker and numerous people left Josephine County to search for valuable claims there.

Josephine County shares the Rogue Valley and Applegate Valleymarker wine appellations with Jackson Countymarker. The U.S. government owns the majority of the land within the county boundaries, with the Bureau of Land Management owning 28% of the lands within the county boundaries, most of which are Oregon and California Railroad lands, and the Forest Service owning 39%.

Grants Pass is now the departure point for most Rogue River scenic waterway guided fishing and boat trips. The Illinois River, one of the Rogue's tributaries, has also been designated a scenic waterway.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of ; of which, of it is land and of it (0.12%) is water.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas


As of the census of 2000, there were 75,726 people, 31,000 households, and 21,359 families residing in the county. The population density was 46 people per square mile (18/km²). There were 33,239 housing units at an average density of 20 per square mile (8/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 93.90% White, 0.27% Black or African American, 1.25% Native American, 0.63% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 1.17% from other races, and 2.68% from two or more races. 4.26% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 18.5% were of German, 14.3% English, 10.4% Irish and 9.3% United Statesmarker or American ancestry according to Census 2000. 95.6% spoke English and 2.8% Spanish as their first language.

There were 31,000 households out of which 26.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.40% were married couples living together, 10.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.10% were non-families. 25.40% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 2.85.

In the county, the population was spread out with 23.10% under the age of 18, 6.50% from 18 to 24, 23.20% from 25 to 44, 27.20% from 45 to 64, and 20.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 94.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $31,229, and the median income for a family was $36,894. Males had a median income of $30,798 versus $22,734 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,234. About 11.30% of families and 15.00% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.10% of those under age 18 and 6.80% of those age 65 or over.


The discovery of rich placers at Sailor Diggings (later known as Waldomarker) in 1852 and the resulting gold rush brought the first settlers to this region. Several U.S. Army forts were maintained in the county and many engagements during theRogue River Indian War (1855-1858) took place within its boundaries.In 1851, a group of prospectors moved to the Illinois Valley and made the first discovery of gold in Southern Oregonmarker. In this group was Floyd Rollins and his daughter, Josephine Rollins Ort, after who the county is named. On January 22, 1856, a bill was passed by the territorial legislature separating what is now Josephine County from Jackson Countymarker. The bill made Sailor Diggings (later known as Waldomarker the county seat. It was the nineteenth, and last, county created before statehood.

In 1883, the Oregon and California Railroad first made it to Grants Pass, in Jackson County at the time.

In 1885, the county seat was relocated to Kerbymarker, where the county's first jail was built In 1885, the Oregon Legislature adjusted the boundary between Jackson and Josephine County, making Grants Passmarker a part of Josephine County. This was done primarily to have a railroad head within the new county. In June 1886 the voters of Josephine County considered three towns for the new county seat. These were: Kerby, Wilderville and Grants Pass. Grants Pass won with 116 votes out of the 716 ballots cast.

In the 1920s, the county improved its tourist facilities. In 1922, the Grants Pass Cavemen booster club was created, where members dressed in furs and wielded clubs at events. Events organized by the club ranged from simply blocking traffic, to bidding on the construction of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridgemarker (at a cost of 23,756,000 deer hides), to initiating politicians into their club including Mark Hatfield and Thomas E. Dewey during his 1948 presidential campaign. Russian newspapers used images of the Grants Pass Cavemen to show how 'how the rich "cavort" in America.'Although bridges had been built across the Rogue River by the 1920s, ferries were still used to convey people and cars across. The first Grants Pass bridge was destroyed by a flood in 1890. The first newspaper in Josephine County was the Argus, which began publication on March 13, 1885. It lasted only a few months, but the Grants Pass Courier began three weeks later. In 1897, the first legal hanging took place in JC. L. W. Nelson confessed to the murder of Charles Perry while the noose was around his neck.

Initially, freight was brought into JC by pack train. As the trails improved, freight wagons were used. Stage coaches were the primary mode of transportation until 1914, when auto stages took over, halving the time from Crescent City to Grants Pass from 24 to 12 hours.

The first through train from Portland, Oregonmarker arrived in Grants Pass on 1883's Christmas Eve. Due to delays in completing a railroad through the Siskiyou Mountainsmarker, the first train from California didn't arrive until 1887. JC was served by the Oregon and California Railroad. In 1923, commercial flight in Josephine County began when airplanes began taking off from the American Legion Air Field. The airfield has since been replaced by an industrial park.


Although several tribes of Native American lived in the area from which Josephine County was created, most of their members had been moved to the reservation at Grand Rondemarker by the end of the Rogue River Indian War. Soon afterwards all Indians in southwest Oregon, with the exception of a few tiny bands, were moved to the Coast reservation (later known as the Siletz Reservation)

Josephine County was also the home to a large Chinese population. Most had come to the area to work gold claims purchased from whites no longer interested in working them. Even though they could not own land, they had to pay a tax to mine gold, and were relegated to inferior claims.


In November 2006, voters rejected a library levy causing the libraries in Josephine County to shut down.

Presidential elections

Josephine County has been among the most consistently Republican counties in Oregon with regard to Presidential elections. In 1964, it was one of two Oregon counties to give a majority to Barry Goldwater. The last Democratic candidate to win the county was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. Although shifting Democratic in the last 12 years John McCain received 55.2% of the county's vote in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.


Incorporated cities

Unincorporated communities and CDPs


  1. Sutton, p. 6.
  2. Sutton, p. 10.
  3. Sutton, p. 201.
  4. Sutton, pp. 15–17.
  5. Sutton, p. 18.
  6. Sutton, p. 65.
  7. Sutton, pp. 59–61.
  8. Sutton, pp. 59–74.
  9. Sutton, pp. 59–76–78.
  10. Sutton, pp. 59–79.
  11. Sutton, pp. 86.
  12. Sutton, pp. 92–94.
  13. Sutton, pp. 99.
  14. David Leip Presidential Election Atlas
  15. Geographie Electorale
  16. The New York Times electoral map


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