of Gold Hill
According to the locals, a gold assay
office built in the area in 1904 slid from its foundation
in the early teens, coming to rest at an odd angle.
Odd angles seem to create an illusion of objects seemingly
rolling uphill. The same optical illusion can be seen
in Pennsylvania's Laurel Caverns and at Santa Cruz,
California's Mystery Spot which are copies of the
The House of Mystery at The Oregon Vortex. Oregon
Vortex is also famous for "height change" as the relative
height of the two people changes varying on where
Most people believe this effect happens due to
a distorted background which results in a forced perspective,
as with an Ames room.
It should be noted, that photographs published at
the official website of the attraction appear to demonstrate
the same apparent height anomaly even when the potentially
confusing perspectives of the background are removed,
and can be done so with any pictures taken.
Watch 'Mystic Corridor
- The Gold of Gold Hill' video!
The Area History
According to the legend, the Native Americans in
the area considered the area of land as "The Forbidden
Ground." Their horses would refuse to enter the area
and, as result, neither would they. In fact, it is
said that the area is void of most animals of all
shapes and sizes who refuse to go anywhere near it.
A geologist by the name of John Lister reportedly
came to the area in the 1920s and was so baffled by
what he saw, he stayed there the rest of his life
performing all sorts of tests and developing theories.
He opened the grounds to the general public in 1930
and continued to probe its mysteries until he died
Geology and Nature Around Us
The Rogue River begins in a volcanic area high in
the Cascade Mountains, just inside Crater Lake National
Park. The Rogue enters the Bear Creek Valley
in the Agate Desert, an arid region covered by massive
deposits of river gravel. Below Table Rocks
at the Gold Ray Dam, the Rogue officially enters the
Klamath-Siskiyou mountain system. This area
contains a variety of formations representing several
periods of uplift and erosion, as well as intrusions
of granitic rock. In places, the rock formations
contain greenstone, partially metamorphosed basaltic
lava from 150 million years ago. Cracks and
fissures of this rock are often filled with white
quartz. These veins may contain flakes of gold
and silver. Other rock types in the area contain
gold-bearing quartz. Sedimentary limestone is
located downriver from Gold Hill, as are rock formations
metamorphosed into marble.
The river directly above Gold Ray Dam is placid.
Below the dam, however, the river offers Nugget Falls
and Powerhouse Rapids that challenge world-class kayakers.
With the removal of Gold Ray Dam and the old power
house in August of 2010, the Rogue River runs unimpeded
by man-made obstacles.
Hardwoods abound in the surrounding hills. Conifers,
California Black Oak, Oregon White Oak, and Pacific
Madrone are dominant. Red Alder, Black Cottonwood
and willow are found along the riverbanks. Shrubbery
includes Manzanita, Oregon grape, blackberry, and
Birds such as wegions, mergansers, kingfishers and
Osprey in season, as well as many brush-loving birds
can be viewed at the Gold Nugget Wayside upriver from
the Gold Hill Sports Park and walking trails.
Muskrat, porcupine, skunk, raccoon, several squirrel
species, rabbit, deer, turkeys, fox and an occasional
cougar are among the animal population. Every
year those who enjoy fishing are lured to the Rogue
River because of the vast runs of salmon and
During the 100 nearly perfect days between Memorial
Day and Labor Day, visitors, families, and friends
take advantage of a variety of “floats”
in everything from guide led drift boats to rented
rafts, Tahiti's, kayaks and inner tubes.
People and Livelihoods
Euroamerican newcomers referred to all Native American
tribes living the in valley as Rogue River Indians.
It was the Takelma who lived along the river, usually
in small villages. In 1827, Peter Ogden reported
seeing six large houses on the north bank of
the Rogue River, This was probably Dilomi located
near the falls the Takelma named Tilomikh, upriver
from Gold Hill. The houses may have been occupied
by as many as 20 people and used as a winter community.
There was abundant material for shelters and the river
provided salmon, trout, and crawfish, which were caught
by hook or net. Local oaks provided acorns that
could be processed and ground into mush. Acorns
and camas bulbs were dietary staples.
Most Takelma that survived the Indian Wars of 1851-1856
were removed to reservations at the conclusion of
the hostilities. Lady Oscharwashna was identified
as the last of the Rogue River tribes. When
Jenny died in 1893, she was said to be about 65 years
of age. She was laid to rest in the traditional,
elaborately decorated buckskin robe. It was
reported that efforts had been made to purchase the
beautiful garment to exhibit at the World Fair in
Chicago, but Jenny refused all offers.
The Euroamerican history of this area began with
sparse settlement on donation land claims, and was
spurred by the discovery of gold on “Big Bar”
on the Rogue River in the early 1850’s.
In 1852, Colonel William T’Vault and his family
took up a donation and claim on the south side of
the river, opposite the present City of Gold Hill,
and named it Dardanelles. Postal service was
initiated and a small settlement developed.
In 1860, the first steam quartz stamp mill in Southern
Oregon was brought in to replace the mule driven arrastas.
The mill operated day and night to crush ore from
the rich “Gold Hill” pocket mine discovered
earlier that year in the hills on the south side of
the river by a farmhand of local land baron, Thomas
Down the trail in the area of the old power plant
is the site first developed by the Trumble Brothers,
Eugene and Julius, in the early 1880’s for their
gristmill. Local farmers brought corn, wheat,
and barley to be milled. The mill was purchased
in 1890 by Jesse and A.J. Houck, who increased the
capacity of the Rogue River Milling Co. by changing
to rollers. Local farmers continued to be the
primary customers, but reportedly, grain came in from
as far away as Klamath County. Heavily loaded
wagons of grain ere pulled by four and six horse teams,
the led horses wearing bells that could be heard from
afar. The milled goods were a local market product.
A two-stamp quartz mill was added to the property
for reduction of ore from the Ross mine operated
by Jesse Houck. A power plant built back of
the four mills provided electricity for the site,
as well as for the town of Gold Hill beginning in
1902. Mr. Houck had earlier helped to establish
the town's first water supply by building the Houck
Dam. These buildings have not survived.
Gold Hill was incorporated on February 12, 1895.
It was not until the coming of the railroad that
Gold Hill developed. In competition with Rock
Point, three miles downriver, for placement of a station,
Thomas Chavner sold the right of way through his land
to the Oregon and California Railroad in 1883.
The next year, Mr. Chavner hired surveyor J.S. Houck
to plot a town site. Mr. Chavner and his wife
Rosa donated land for the town site giving the streets
and alleys to the public. The railroad built
a station, a large section house for their foreman,
and a tool shed. Most of the odd numbered lots
were sold to the railroad landholding company, while
Mr. Chavner offered the even lots for sale.
The first lot (where the United Methodist Church now
stands) was sold to M.E. Pogue for a store.
He soon added a warehouse for his large inventory
of farm equipment. After incorporation, the
city served as the center of the quartz mining industry
and became an important railroad station for
agricultural and livestock products.
The Beaver Portland Cement Company began operations
of their Gold Hill plant in 1914 and was the largest
single industrial enterprise in Southern Oregon at
the time. The plant operated until 1968. In
the early days, Gold Hill prospered with the influx
of laborers and professionals brought to the City
for construction work. The hotel, rooming houses,
and restaurants enjoyed this surge in business.
A power plant was later built on the Rogue River a
few miles upstream from Gold Hill. The plant
supplied power for the cement company, as well as
providing electricity to light city streets.
However, the three turbines at the power plant wouldn’t
operate when the water was too high or too low.
During the down times, power was purchased from
COPCO, the electric company that also supplied residential
power to town, generated further upriver at Gold Ray
Dam. The deserted cement company power plant
building can be seen along the walking trail behind
the Little League fields.
Here’s some history that goes with some of
our City streets
Dr. George Ambrose – 1853 Indian agent at Dardanelles
Joseph Beeman, property owner and president of the
city council – 1886
Dardanelles settlement to south, site of the first
post office in the county, 1883
Damian Estremado – moved from Spain to
Gold Hill, 1928 – rancher, logging business
Tom Fredenburg – dance teacher, 1896
Gustaf Karawski, shopkeeper – 1883 beside the
Gold Hill Saloon
John Willis Hays, pioneer, head of prominent Galls’
Ideal Cement Plant, originally Beaver Portland Cement
Company, established in Gold Hill in 1885
Max and William Jacoby, established market where the
Gold Hill Market is today, 1885
A.E. Kellogg – City recorder 1900 (also helped
finish water system)
J. W. Marksbury – owned Pioneer Meats in 1898
J. E. Norris – photographer 1907