Oregon's First Mining Law

Writing in 1895, E.J Northcutt, one of the co-founders of the mining town of Althouse in what later became Josephine County, Oregon and an early miner of Southern Oregon, recalled the day that the first mining code in Oregon Territory was laid down. He recalls:

"I claim the honor of being one of Oregon's early pioneers, having landed in Portland, Oregon on the 17th day of September, 1851, having made the journey across the plains from Springfield, Illinois, with ox-teams that year. After a rest of four days at the Skidmore house, in company with three others, I started to the gold mines. We went in a boat up the Willamette river, through Umpqua valley to the gold mines of northern California. Met Aaron Rose and stayed with him over night at the first camp that he made where Roseburg now stands. Fell in with a pack train going to the mines, and landed on Josephine Creek the 10th of October, 1851. This was the only mining camp in Oregon Territory at that time, which included all of the country from the southern line of Oregon to the British line and east to the Rocky Mountains, where there are thousands of mining camps today.

I thought perhaps you would be glad to learn where the first written mining law was made in this vast empire. This was on Canyon creek, a tributary of fosephine, on the 1st day of April, 1852, in a camp of forty miners, the meeting being held under a large fir tree. As there has been many laws made since then, I send you a copy of the first mining law that was ever put on paper in this great empire:

The Mining Law of the Miners of Althouse and Waldo Districts

"Know all men by these Presents: That we, the miners of Waldo and Althouse in Oregon Territrory, being in convention assembled for the purpose of making rules to regulate our rights as miners, do hereby on the first day of April, A.D. 1852, do ordain and adopt the following rules and regulations to govern this camp.

Resolved, 1st. That 50 cubic yards shall constitute a claim on the bed of the creek extending to high water on each side.

Resolved, 2nd. That forty feet shall constitute a bank or bar claim on the face extending back to the hill or mountain.

Resolved, 3rd. That all claims not worked when workable, after five days, be forfeited or jumpable.

Resolved, 4th. That all disputes arising from mining claims shall be settled by arbitration, and the decision shall be final."

Signed: E.J. Northcutt, Chairman
Attest: Philip Althouse, Clerk

April 1st, 1852.


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