The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Paine Page Prim

Judicial Affairs
Southern Oregon
P. P. Prim

    Paine P. Prim, district judge of the first judicial district of Oregon, born in Tennessee in 1822, came to the Willamette Valley in 1851 and to Jacksonville, Oregon in the spring of 1852. Engaged in mining that year. It was the mines that brought him here from the Willamette Valley.
    The first discovery of gold in the Rogue River Valley was that of Rich Gulch within the now corporate limits of the town of Jacksonville. This discovery was made by James Clugage and James R. Poole. These men had been mining at Scotts Bar and Yreka and came this way prospecting. The mine was very rich, men taking out $100 a day each, and almost immediately a large camp arose. It was placer mining, very coarse, smooth gold. In the spring of 1852 there were 1000 or 1500 men in this vicinity engaged in mining, and for twenty-five or thirty years it was continued with greater or less success.
    After Rich Gulch Jackson Creek mines were struck about two miles from the first discovery, then gold discoveries followed rapidly--Willow Springs, Applegate, Sterling, Jackson Creek, Poorman's Creek, and in other neighboring streams and gulches. All these diggings were in what is now Jackson County and within distance of ten or twelve miles.
    At this time there were no county organizations where now are Josephine, Jackson and Lake counties. In 1852, in the autumn, this whole country was organized in one county and called Jackson County; afterwards Josephine and Lake counties were set off from Jackson County.
    About the same time that gold was found in what is now Jackson, or if anything a little before, discoveries were made on Cañon Creek and Josephine Creek in what is now Josephine County.
    The man who first found gold there was named Rollins, and he had a daughter named Josephine. As good-looking young girls were scarce in those days the creek was called Josephine, and afterward the county took the same name.
    The town of Jacksonville was first called Table Rock, but the rock being as some thought too far away, some 12 miles, distant north from the diggings, a meeting of the miners was held which resulted eventually in adopting the name Jacksonville for the town and Jackson for the county from Gen. Jackson.
    Gold was also discovered in 1852-3 at Althouse Creek, Sucker Creek, Sailor Diggings, Waldo and Democratic Gulch. The mines at Althouse were shortly after their discovery abandoned as worthless, but subsequently proved very rich. A lot of sailors came over from Crescent City and discovered Sailor Diggings in 1852 and gave the name to the place.
    The county seat of Josephine County is Kirbyville, named after Jada Kirby, who took up a land claim covering what is now the town site. Kirbyville is situated in a valley on Illinois River, a branch of Rogue River, and being centrally located not far distant became the trading place for all the mines in Josephine County more or less.
    The first county seat of Lake County was Linkville, situated on Link River between Big and Little Klamath lakes. The river which links the two lakes was called Link River and so the town was settled and so named by George Nourse. The claim was taken up by Nourse, who built a hotel and a bridge over Link River which made a point on the river, all people traveling in that direction having to cross this bridge. Then followed the town, laid out by Nourse.
    In 1876 the legislature passed an act authorizing the locating of the county seat by vote of the people, and in 1877 it was removed to Lakeview, north of Goose Lake and west of the Sierra Nevada. A little north of Goose Lake, say ten miles, the Sierra Nevada range ends in what is known as Warner Cañon, so called cañon and valley from a man by the name of Warner who was killed there by the Indians.
    Bullard located the land claim on which Lakeview is situated. It is on a small creek called Bullard's Creek, and from this point there is a fine view of Goose Lake, so called by the emigrants, who found there myriads of geese when first seen by them.
    Clugage and Poole, after they had found gold, took up a land claim covering a part of what is now the town site of Jacksonville. Gold was found on this claim, and although they were threatened by the miners they managed to hold the claim. The miners mined wherever they pleased, paying no attention to the claimants, but the land was kept by the original locators, who laid out a town and sold and gave away lots and finally obtained a patent for the claim, Clugage getting the town site and Poole the better part of the agricultural land, 160 acres each.
    Each being entitled to a quarter section under act of Congress and each being obliged to live on their respective claims in order to perfect their titles to their claims, they built their cabin so that the line dividing their claims should pass through the cabin, in which one lived in one end and one in the other. This was frequently done in Oregon. In reality they were in partnership at first, that loose kind of partnership common in this country at the time. Later their respective rights were more closely defined.
    When in the spring of 1852 Judge Prim came to Jacksonville everybody were engaged in mining, packing and trading. There being no wagon roads leading into Rogue River Valley except the old emigrant road, which at that time was very rough, indeed so rough the wonder is how they ever got through such places as the Big Cañon running from the Cow Creek country to the Umpqua Valley--all goods were brought to Jacksonville on pack mules, principally from Scottsburg, on the coast, afterward from Crescent City, flour, butter and bacon and groceries from the Willamette Valley and Portland. To Yreka pack animals brought goods from the Sacramento Valley, but even Yreka obtained some goods by way of Oregon and the coast (Crescent City and Scottsburg).
    Not much attention was paid to farming until 1856, though gardens were cultivated a year or two earlier. Prices in 1852-3 were high, flour 50¢ to $1.00 a pound (and other things in proportion), the latter price being in consequence of a heavy fall of snow that winter which cut off communication for several weeks from all points. Freight was as high as 25¢ a pound from Scottsburg and elsewhere. These prices were not long maintained, however.
    The first courts held were by justices of the peace, called alcaldes as in California, chosen by the miners informally. The first on Jackson was named Rogers, and afterward Hiram Abbott officiated in the town of Jacksonville. Before the election of alcaldes the miners met and selected officers and judges to act for special occasions only, in short to administer arbitrary justice.
    One Springer had a mining claim on the left fork of Jackson Creek who was wounded by an accidental shot so that he was not able to work his claim for several months. So one Simms jumped his claim. A contest following the case was brought before alcalde Rogers, who decided it in favor of Simms, the jumper. The miners, thinking the decision unjust, held a meeting of all the miners on both branches of Jackson Creek to see what should be done about it. At this time Mr. Prim, who had kept secret the fact that he was a lawyer, not wishing to be troubled with the petty quarrels of the miners, was at work mining on the left fork of Jackson Creek. Springer in some way came to think Prim knew something about law or practice in courts, [and] went to him in great trouble, for it was a rich claim and the miners had been supporting him while recovering from his illness in order that he might go on with it afterward--went to him and begged him to help him. Prim asked him what he could do, but Springer begged so hard that Prim finally wrote a notice calling a meeting and told Springer to go to all the miners on both forks of the river and call them together.
    Prim would not undertake the case himself, but told Springer to employ Daniel Kenney, a brazen-faced pettifogging lawyer, to conduct the case, with Prim behind him to direct things. The people convened, Kenney, following directions, mounted a stump and proposed U. S. Hayden should be elected supreme judge to organize a court of appeals, which was done, Kenney appearing for Springer and O. Jacobs for Simms. Jacobs was afterward chief justice of Washington Territory. Springer won the case and [was] reinstated in his claim.
    Before this there had been an arbitrary trial and execution. It was in the spring of 1852. One Brown killed another man, shot him in Jacksonville, was arrested by the miners. A court was organized by the people, W.W . Fowler elected judge, and the trial went on with counsel on both sides, and the man was hung.
    The first courts held in this district were under territorial jurisdiction, Deady being first, that is U.S. district judge, for the territory, having about the same jurisdiction as district judges now. What in California are called district judges in Oregon are called circuit judges. In both states district or circuit judges go on circuits and hold court in different places, the only difference being in the name, when the circuit judges of Oregon meet as a supreme court so that they are commonly or popularly called supreme judges when they meet together and circuit judges when they are on their circuit.
    Judge Prim was the first judge of the first judicial district of the state of Oregon. When the territory was made a state an election was held for all state officers including judges. At this election four judges were elected for the four judicial districts of Oregon. (Since then another judicial district has been added, making five, the last being for that part of the state lying east of the Cascades.)
    Of the first judicial district, comprising at that time the counties of Douglas, Umpqua and Jackson, Deady was elected judge, but before acting under that election he was, through the influence of Gen. Lane, then in Congress, appointed U.S. district judge. Prim was then appointed by the governor to fill this vacancy, which then had one year to run, and has been elected to the office and served every term since.
Bancroft Library.   The Springer-Sims case was dramatized, with considerable artistic license, in 1962 on "Death Valley Days" in "Justice at Jackson Creek."

Last revised February 8, 2014