About the Galice Mining District

Placer Gold from the Galice District
Galice Gold
Kerby Jackson

“So to Galice I came where the desire for gold burned in us like a fever
and there was always the dream of hitting the rich pocket and sudden wealth.” 

- Orval Robertson, early 20th Century Galice miner

Historical Marker at Galice CreekEvery summer, thousands of tourists flock to Galice, which is today little more than a small resort located along the southern banks of the Rogue River some twelve miles west of Merlin. Considered to be very remote in the old days, even with the advent of good paved roads, Galice is still regarded as being “a ways out there”. The people come mainly for the river, which has long been renowned worldwide for sport fishing and boating due in part to western novelist Zane Grey who wrote lavishly about his fishing trips to the area in the 1920's.

Still, despite this area's oft promoted reputation as “wild”, “pristine” and “untouched”, long before the tourists showed up, Galice was a community of miners and even today, it is a little known fact that the majority of “the full time residents” are still miners.

Placer gold was first discovered in the gravels of Galice Creek in February of 1852 by a small group of prospectors. The group was a who's who of prominent early settlers in Southern Oregon and included James Tuffs, Ebenezer Dimmick, Jimmie Twogood, Hardy Eliff and Joseph Knotts. At the mouth of what came to be known as Galice Creek, the party discovered rich diggings that rivaled those at Sailor Diggings (Waldo) and Josephine Creek, but soon fled the area due to the hostile nature of the local Indians.

In the Fall of 1852, Louis Galleis, who had recently reached Southern Oregon by way of Yreka, had heard of the discovery of the Tuffs Party. Galleis was about 32 years old, a carpenter by trade and had reached Yreka in 1851 from his native Canada. Despite warnings about the danger involved, Louis Galleis and six other men blazed their way into the area, promising to return around December. Louis Galleis and his partners were never seen again, but in January of 1853, Chief Taylor of the Grave Creeks and three of his men went to Vannoy's Ferry (near today's Lower River Road) wishing to trade gold dust for guns and ammunition. Believing this suspicious, Taylor and his men were taken into custody and put on trial. Even though there was no evidence against them, Taylor boasted of murdering and robbing the Galleis Party and he and his men were promptly found guilty and hung on the spot. Ever since, the name Galleis came to be attached to the creek, gradually evolving into “Galice”.

The famous Old Channel Mine around 1900. Old Channel was the largest hydraulic minie in the State of Oregon and one of the largest on the West Coast.

As time went on, despite the murder of Louis Galleis, miners moved into the area and established a busy camp at Skull Bar at the mouth of Galice Creek. In 1855, the miners received a crushing blow during the Siege of Galice Creek and left the area, finally returning in the Fall of 1856. 

By the Spring of 1857, a small town called Galleisburg was established at the mouth of Galice Creek and was often reffered to as “Upper Town”. Meanwhile, at Skull Bar, “Lower Town” could be accessed by walking across a log. The placers were so rich that a man with a pick, shovel and a few sluice boxes could average about two ounces of gold each day. Quartz mining in Galice got its start the next year with the discovery of the famous Sugar Pine Mine in 1858. Galice promptly entered a boom and began attracting settlers who had interests in putting roots down in the area. After the discovery of the famous Yank Lead, another community popped up: Yankville.

As time went on, the mines in Galice evolved from mostly family diggings into full blown commercial operations. Even though many of the mines remained in local hands, millions of dollars flowed into the area from investors from around the world. Mines such as the Galice Consolidated, the Old Channel, Golden Wedge, Almeda, Sugar Pine, Hansen, Howland, Old Glory, Oriole, Benton, Black Bear, Rocky Bar and the Bunker Hill Mine, all received huge influxes of capital that put hundreds of people to work. In turn, millions of dollars in gold (even at the prices in those days!) flowed out of Galice and into not only the rest of the Rogue Valley, but to Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Boston and elsewhere, helping with the development of American infrastructure. Best estimates suggest that the Galice District yielded somewhere in the neighborhood of five million dollars worth of gold at the old price of $17.50 an ounce.

Today, when tourists and locals alike drive up the road into Galice or raft down the Rogue River to take the area in, they have very little clue of what went on there or of the amount of gold that was taken out of the area. But if you know what to look for and can see it through a miner's eyes, hidden amongst the trees and lush undergrowth, you can still see the piles of cobbles that extend for miles up Galice Creek, the pieces of old hydraulic pipe, the remnants of cabins, shacks, flumes and ancient mills. There are also old fruit trees, rose bushes and assorted flowers planted on old homesteads which have otherwise been taken back by the ravages of dozens of winters and government sanctioned arson. Most of these places had names and stories attached to them, the memory
of which are uttered only by the lips of a few today.

Copyright 2010, by Kerby Jackson.

Pack train prepares to leave for the mines from the Barlow Store at Galice.Re-organization: The Galice Mining District, which was first organized near the mouth of Galice Creek in 1853, was re-organized by a concerned committee of miners on September 2nd, 2012 who felt that many needs of the miners were not currently being met by any existing organization or mining district. The committee met at Sutherlin in Douglas County, Oregon for the purpose of re-organizing the Galice Mining District and declared in part:

“that an existing mining district must be activated to achieve the goals of the miners, to wit: to provide guards for their mining rights, their properties and the yields thereof and therefore. It was agreed that the re-organization of the Galice Mining District was necessary to the achievement of said goal. The Galice Mining District is hereby reorganized.”
It was further motioned and unanimously passed that:

“All officers have the duty to diligently execute their offices within the parameters of the Constitution for the United States of America, the Mining Law and the Common Law of the Miners.”

 It was established, that the boundaries of the reorganized Galice Mining District shall consist of Josephine, Jackson and Douglas Counties, Oregon.

 On September 16th, 2012, the committee re-convened at the property of George Backes of Grants Pass, Oregon for the purpose of  re-establishing the local rules, regulations and customs of the Galice Mining District. In particular, it was discussed how the 1866 and 1872 Mining Acts granted the miners with the right of self government and the right to self regulate through the implementation of local rules and regulations, as well as the observance of local mining customs. Chief Executive Officer Jackson spoke to some degree about how over the years, the counties, states and federal agencies have usurped the powers and functions of the mining districts.

 Chief Executive Officer Jackson, then proposed to the committee, a body of  local rules and regulations drawn from the Laws of the following previously organized Mining Districts within Oregon: John Day, Campbell, Louse Creek, Kane Creek, Coyote Creek, Johnson Creek, Union Town, Boulder, South Fork, West Cow Creek, Humbug Creek, Steamboat, Poorman's Creek and JackAss (Forest) Creek, Boardman's Diggings, Wines Camp, Galice Creek, Sterling Creek and the Althouse Creek and Waldo Districts. Also presented were a body of proposed local rules and regulations drawn from important case law and the 1872 Mining Act, as well as two examples of locally used mining customs. After a careful review and discussion, twenty-two of the proposed pre-existing local regulations were unanimously accepted to form the basis of the local rules, regulations and customs of the Galice Mining District (reorganized).

 The committee then discussed how to best make said regulations available to the Miners of the Galice Mining District and how said miners could best use them for their protection of their rights and property. A motion was made and unanimously passed to publish an official book handbook that would contain not only all the local rules, regulations, customs and protocol of this district, but that would also contain important reference material that miners could use while exercising their rights in the field. It was decided that the book would be entitled “Regulations, Customs and Traditions of the Galice Mining District: A compilation of laws pertinent to the miners of the Galice Mining District of South Western Oregon.” The book itself would be in a paperback format and could be professionally printed for a very reasonable fee. An example of what could done was shown to the committee.

 It was also motioned and passed that each member of this mining district receive an official membership card, which he or she will wear at meetings to show that they are a bonafide member and miner of the Galice Mining District.

 It was motioned and unanimously passed that there would be a one-time $20 initiation fee for membership, in the Galice Mining District to offset the cost of membership cards and the Galice District Book and further that any:

“Applicants are to be vetted by all four officers. Those accepted as members are required to pledge their support of the Constitution, the Mining Law, the Galice Mining District and the decisions thereof.”

 It was motioned and passed that meetings of the Galice Mining District shall be held on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month, at 5 PM and that notices announcing the date and location of the first public meeting of this district shall be posted in conspicuous places throughout this mining district.

Recorder's Book of the Galice Mining District, 1874Proceedings of a Miner's Meeting held at Galis Creek
Galis Creek, Josephine County, Oregon
Saturday, November 28th, A.D. 1874

On the date given, the Miners of Galis Creek and other parties interested, met at the “Star”, owned by Charles Sanders, on Rogue River near the mouth of Galis Creek for the purpose of making claim regulations in regard to Quartz and other mining interests in the District.

The meeting was called to order, and on motion, Martin Peterson was called to the Chair, and H. Lembert, chosen Secretary. The Chair appointed the following gentlemen, a Committee on Resolutions: James Neely,  William Fanning and Nicholas Thoss.

The Committee presented the following Preamble and Resolutions, which were adopted:

We the Committee appointed to draft resolutions, hereby present this meeting, the following resolutions concerning the Quartz Ledge discovered some three miles below the mouth of Galis Creek on the 8th day of August, A.D. 1874, by Yank & McNair Co.

Resolved 1st, This Quartz Ledge Shall be known as Yank Ledge.

2 - That this meeting elect a Recorder whose duty it shall be to record all claims in Quartz and Placer Diggings and Water Rights and Mill Sites.

3 – That the Recorder shall receive One Dollar for each claim he records and One Dollar for each claim to to pay the County Clerk for for his record. The Recorder must furnish the County Clerk with all necessary records.

4 – That the Recorder shall keep a book to show all interested parties how the claims are taken.

5 – That the Recorder shall turn over all Books, Papers, etc. in his possession belonging to the office to his successor in office.

6 – That we act in all our mining interests in conformity with the United States Mining Laws.

7 – That no person be allowed to take a claim for another unless authorized so by duly said individual.

    W. Thoss
    James Neely   Committee
    Wm. Fanning

It was moved and carried that all persons their names on claims on the Old Yank Ledge shall represent said claims in person or by a duly authorized agent within thirty days from this date.

It was moved and carried that Charles Sanders be the Recorder of this district for one year from this date.

Moved and carried that this mining district be known as the Yank Mining District and shall comprise all the territory embraced the present day Rand District.

Moved and carried that the proceedings of this meeting be published in the Jacksonville papers.

On motion, meeting was adjourned.

Martin Peterson, Chair
H. Lambert, Sec.