Provisional and Territorial Records Guide

Josephine County History and Records

Josephine County was created by the territorial legislature on January 22, 1856 from the western half of Jackson County. It was the nineteenth, and last county created before statehood. Josephine County was named for Josephine Rollins. the first white woman to settle in southern Oregon.

The county is bordered on the south by California, on the north by Douglas County, on the west by Curry County (at the Coast Range summit), and on the east by Jackson County. Josephine County is predominantly mountainous, but has two major valleys cut by the Rogue and Illinois Rivers.

Sailor Diggings was named the first county seat of Josephine County in 1856, and six election precincts were established: Althouse Creek, Sailor Diggings, Kerby's Ranch, Kenyon Creek, Fort Vanois, and Fort Leland. County officers were elected in June, 1856 and included three county commissioners, a sheriff, an auditor, a treasurer, a probate judge, and a coroner. Constables and justices of the peace who had served under Jackson County continued to serve in the new county government. The US district court held its first session at Sailor Diggings in 1856.

During the next year, the population center shifted north to the Illinois valley. By election, Kerbyville was made the new county seat on July 7, 1857. Kerbyville had been founded earlier that year by James Kerby. In 1858, the territorial legislature changed its name to Napoleon, but Kerbyville (and later, Kerby) remained the favored usage in the county.

Most of the commercial activity during the territorial period centered on gold mining and the supply of provisions to miners. Miners had been active in the Rogue and Illinois valleys since 1851. By the late 1850s, however, gold mining was beginning to decline and population dwindled as well. In 1859, gold was discovered along the Fraser River in British Columbia and an exodus from Josephine County occurred.

Although several Indian tribes lived in the area from which Josephine County was created, most of their members had been moved to reservations by 1856. In late 1856, all Indians in southwest Oregon (with the exception of a few tiny bands) were moved to the Siletz reservation in Polk County.

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, had to pay a tax to mine gold, and were relegated to inferior claims, the Chinese made up a significant portion of the county's population for several years.

Series Descriptions for Josephine County

Assessment Rolls
Census Rolls
Declarations of Intention
Probate Court Case Index
Probate Court Case Records
Probate Court Journal
US District Court Journal

QUICK LINK to the records inventories!

121. Assessment Rolls (JOSCOUN006)

.1 cubic feet
Calendar Microfilm

Series used to assess real and personal property in order to determine tax liabilities. Assessment rolls show tax year, taxpayer's name, real and personal property values, taxes assessed, and assessor's name. Items assessed include gold dust, scrip, land, livestock, boats, and wagons. Series is not arranged.


122. Census Rolls (JOSCOUN007)

.1 cubic feet
Calendar Microfilm

Series used to document county population and to report statistics to the territorial government. Census rolls show resident's name; number of legal voters, adult males and females, males aged 10 to 21, females aged 10 to 18, and males and females under age 10; totals; census date; and census taker's certification. Series is not arranged.


123. Declarations of Intention (JOSCOUN003)

.1 cubic feet
Microfilm Reel 9

Series documents the first step in US naturalization proceedings. Declarations show declarant's name, former nationality, renunciation of allegiance to foreign rulers and nations, declarant's signature, date of declaration, and court clerks certification. Also includes supporting affidavits. Series is arranged alphabetically by declarant's name.


124. Probate Court Case Index (JOSCOUN004)

.1 cubic feet

Series is used to provide direct access to county probate case records. Index entries show case name, case number, date closed, and notations for minor or insanity guardianships. Series is arranged alphabetically by case name.


125. Probate Court Case Records (JOSCOUN005)

.5 cubic feet

Series documents the probate of estates, and the administration of insanity and juveniles' guardianships. Records include administrator's bonds, vouchers, petitions, estate inventories, property appraisals, receipts, correspondence, estate account ledgers, letters of administration, and bills of sale. Series is arranged alpha numerically by case number.


126. Probate Court Journal (JOSCOUN001)

.1 cubic feet
Microfilm Reel 9

Series documents actions taken in causes heard by the probate court. Journal entries show term of court, location of court, judge's and officers' names, date of action, and description of action. Actions include estate inventory validation, appointments of administrators and guardians, bonds, estate claim hearings, and appraisal reports. Series is arranged chronologically by date of action.


127. US District Court Journal (JOSCOUN002)

.1 cubic feet
Microfilm Reel 9

Series documents actions taken in cases heard by the US District Court. Journal entries show term of court, location of court, justices' and officers' names, date of action, and description of action. Actions include jury selections, admission of attorneys to the court bar, declarations of intention, and case dispositions. Causes of action include selling liquor without a license, keeping gambling houses, and violating Sabbath laws. Series is arranged chronologically by session date.

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