Josephine County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oregon. 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 2010, its population was 82,713. Grants Pass is the county seat.
The discovery of rich placers at Sailor Diggings (later known as Waldo) 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 the Rogue 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 Oregon. In this group was Floyd Rollins and his daughter, Josephine Rollins Ort, after whom the county is named. On January 22, 1856, a bill was passed by the territorial legislature separating what is now Josephine County from Jackson County. The bill made Sailor Diggings (later known as Waldo) 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 Kerby, where the county's first jail was built In 1885, the Oregon Legislature adjusted the boundary between Jackson and Josephine County, making Grants Pass 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 Bridge (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, Oregon arrived in Grants Pass on 1883's Christmas Eve. Due to delays in completing a railroad through the Siskiyou Mountains, 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 Americans lived in the area from which Josephine County was created, most of their members had been moved to the reservation at Grand Ronde 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 May 2007, all libraries in Josephine County were closed due to lack of county government funding. In September 2007, committed community members formed Josephine Community Libraries, Inc., a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization. On December 20, 2008, the Grants Pass library opened again. On September 5, 2009, the Illinois Valley library was reopened. On November 7, 2009, the Williams library was reopened. With the reopening of the Wolf Creek branch on December 19, 2009, all four library branches in Josephine County were restored. Josephine Community Libraries, Inc. (JCLI) is a nonprofit, nongovernmental library system serving the 82,000 residents of Josephine County. It is a privately run, public library that relies on membership contributions for funding and a large and varied volunteer force to staff operations and support functions.