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Josephine County, Oregon facts for kids

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Josephine County
Josephine County Courthouse in Grants Pass
Josephine County Courthouse in Grants Pass
Map of Oregon highlighting Josephine County
Location within the U.S. state of Oregon
Map of the United States highlighting Oregon
Oregon's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Oregon
Founded January 22, 1856
Seat Grants Pass
Largest city Grants Pass
 • Total 1,642 sq mi (4,250 km2)
 • Land 1,640 sq mi (4,200 km2)
 • Water 2.2 sq mi (6 km2)  0.1%%
 • Total 88,090
 • Estimate 
88,346 Increase
 • Density 50/sq mi (20/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
Congressional districts 2nd, 4th

Josephine County is one of the 36 counties in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2020 census, the population was 88,090. The county seat is Grants Pass. 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. Josephine County comprises the Grants Pass, OR Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Medford-Grants Pass, OR Combined Statistical Area.


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 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 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.

Ethnic history

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 small 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 usually relegated to inferior claims.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,642 square miles (4,250 km2), of which 1,640 square miles (4,200 km2) is land and 2.2 square miles (5.7 km2) (0.1%) is water.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 1,623
1870 1,204 −25.8%
1880 2,485 106.4%
1890 4,878 96.3%
1900 7,517 54.1%
1910 9,567 27.3%
1920 7,655 −20.0%
1930 11,498 50.2%
1940 16,301 41.8%
1950 26,542 62.8%
1960 29,917 12.7%
1970 35,746 19.5%
1980 58,855 64.6%
1990 62,649 6.4%
2000 75,726 20.9%
2010 82,713 9.2%
2020 88,090 6.5%
2021 (est.) 88,346 6.8%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2020

2010 census

As of the 2010 census, there were 82,713 people, 34,646 households, and 22,498 families residing in the county. The population density was 50.4 inhabitants per square mile (19.5/km2). There were 38,001 housing units at an average density of 23.2 per square mile (9.0/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 92.4% white, 1.4% American Indian, 0.8% Asian, 0.4% black or African American, 0.2% Pacific islander, 1.5% from other races, and 3.2% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 6.3% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 26.3% were German, 15.6% were Irish, 15.5% were English, 5.5% were Italian, and 5.5% were American.

Of the 34,646 households, 25.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.2% were married couples living together, 11.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 35.1% were non-families, and 28.3% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.82. The median age was 47.3 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $38,035 and the median income for a family was $48,180. Males had a median income of $38,675 versus $27,926 for females. The per capita income for the county was $21,539. About 13.5% of families and 17.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.3% of those under age 18 and 9.1% of those age 65 or over.


Initially, freight was brought into Josephine County 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.

In 1883, the Oregon and California Railroad reached Grants Pass, in Jackson County at the time. The first through train from Portland, Oregon arrived in Grants Pass on Christmas Eve of 1883. Due to delays in completing a railroad through the Siskiyou Mountains, the first train from California didn't arrive until 1887. Josephine County 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.


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.



Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities


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 numerous people left Josephine County to search for valuable claims there.

Josephine County shares the Rogue Valley and Applegate Valley wine appellations with Jackson County. The U.S. government owns the majority of the land within the county boundaries, with the Bureau of Land Management owning 28% of the lands within the county boundaries, most of which are Oregon and California Railroad lands, and the Forest Service owning 39%.

Grants Pass is now the departure point for most Rogue River scenic waterway guided fishing and boat trips, one of the destinations being Hellgate canyon. The Illinois River, one of the Rogue's tributaries, has also been designated a scenic waterway.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Josephine para niños

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