Jackson County was created by Territorial Legislature on January 12, 1852, from the southwestern portion of Lane County and the unorganized area south of Douglas and Umpqua Counties. The county was named after President Andrew Jackson.
Jackson County's borders originally ran south to California, west to the Pacific Ocean, east to Lane County, and north to Umpqua and Douglas Counties. Over the years, the boundaries of the county were changed reflecting the creation of Coos, Curry, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, and Wasco Counties. Currently, Jackson County includes 2,801 square miles and its boundaries extend to California in the south, Josephine County in the west, Douglas County in the north, and Klamath County in the east.
Modoc, Shasta, Rogue River, and Umpqua Indian tribes lived within the present boundaries of Jackson County. Moreover, in the early 1850s, both the Klickitats from the north and the Deschutes from the south raided and settled the area. Gold discoveries in the Rogue and Illinois River valleys in the 1850s and completion of a wagon road connecting the county with California to the south and Douglas County to the north led to an influx of non-native settlers. Conflict between the Americans and Indians led to war in 1856 resulting in hundreds of casualties and the removal of the Rogue River tribe to the Siletz Reservation. During the next two years, several small bands of Indians were transferred to the Grande Ronde Reservation west of Salem.
Jacksonville was designated as the first county seat in 1853. However, the city declined due to diminishing returns in the local goldfields and the construction in the 1880s of the Oregon and California Railroad, which bypassed the city. Medford, located five miles east of Jacksonville, benefited from the location of the railroad and the accompanying commerce and development. Jacksonville fended off suggestions to move the county seat until 1927 when Medford was finally selected as the county seat.
The first county courthouse was a white two story frame structure built in 1854 in Jacksonville. In 1883 a two-story red brick building was built and served as the courthouse until the county government moved to Medford in 1927. A new courthouse was dedicated in 1932 and continues to house county offices in Medford. In 1978 the current three-story courthouse was constructed.
The first county officials were appointed in March, 1853. These officers included three county commissioners, a county clerk, a sheriff, a prosecuting attorney, and a treasurer. An assessor and surveyor were added later.
The voters of Jackson County approved a home rule charter at the general election, November 7, 1978. The primary organizational change was a governing body consisting of a board of three commissioners, which continues to constitute the legislative and principal policy making agency of the county. The board of commissioners also oversees the administration of the affairs of the county. The elected officials included the county commissioners, the sheriff, the assessor, the treasurer, the clerk and the surveyor. The treasurer's duties were assumed by the finance director as a result of a 1999 charter amendment.
Jackson County's 2000 population of 181,269 represented a 23.83% increase over 1990.
The county's principal industries are lumber, agriculture, manufacturing, and recreation. Its major points of interest include the Shakespearean Festival, Historic Jacksonville, Southern Oregon State College, the Peter Britt Music Festival, the Rogue River, Lithia Park, and the Crater Lake Highway.
Did You Know?
The Upper and Lower Table Rocks are familiar landmarks in the Rogue Valley of Jackson County. Formed nearly 10 million years ago by volcanic activity, the two basalt capped rocks rise 800 feet above the valley floor. Along with panoramic vistas, hikers can see a profusion of more than 75 types of wildflowers bordering trails leading to the tops of these two mesas.
The trails to each of the summits measure less than two miles. But amazingly, in this short distance visitors experience four distinct natural communities--White Oak Savanna, Mixed Woodlands, Rogue Valley Chaparral, and Mounded Prairie. The Table Rocks are truly a concentrated educational experience disguised as a beautiful hike.