Originally printed in the Sept. 3, 2003 edition of the Illinois Valley News
In 1853 William Waldo was the Whig Party candidate for governor of California. He received a majority of votes in the county of San Francisco, but in the city of San Francisco, and in the rest of the state, another man by the name of Bigler received a majority of the votes and won the election. Waldo also received most of the votes in the area known as Sailor’ Diggings, in what was thought to be northern California. Jackson County Oregon, which included all of Josephine County of today, also had an election in 1853. William Galley received the most votes, but Moses G. Kennedy won the election and became the first sheriff of Jackson County. Kennedy won because all of the votes from Sailors’ Diggings, which had supported Galley, were not counted. Their votes were thrown out because Kennedy’s staff was able to show that the town was actually in California. By Sept. 4, 1856, surveys proved that Sailors’ Diggings was really in Oregon and on that day a post office was created in the town of Waldo, Oregon, Waldo being the dominant town in the area. The town was named for William Waldo and became the first county seat for Josephine County in 1856, although the legislative act creating the county named Sailors’ Diggings as the county seat. Generally Sailors’ Diggings referred to all the small gold mining communities which had formed in the southern end of Illinois Valley in the region known as Holland Loop today. The town of Waldo was located near the end of Rockydale Rd. If coming from Cave Junction, tum right at the end ofRockydale onto Waldo Rd. and in about a half mile there is a historical marker where Waldo was located. There are still remnants of the cemetery and the foundation of an old hotel. There are also many piles of rocks and potholes that were left behind when the whole town and nearby area was destroyed by hydraulic mining in the 1920’s. Water rights and canals were a vital part of hydraulic mining and the first water rights issued in Oregon were in the Waldo Mining District. In its heyday, Waldo was a bustling mining town with hotels, saloons, bowling alley, livery stables, and even a skating rink. A small book, Sailors’ Diggings by Willard and Elsie Street, itemizes the buildings and their location within the town. A log courthouse was the county headquarters until 1857, when Kerby was voted in as the new county seat. The Waldo post office continued in operation until 1920 when some of the mailboxes, counters, and entry facade were moved to the Kerby post office. Those same structures are now on a display in the Kerbyville Museum, labeled Kerby Post Office. Other items from Waldo are also at the museum, including copper ore samples. The Queen of Bronze copper mine was part of the Waldo Mining District and old maps of the mining district are at the museum. Another item is one of the large iron doors from the old Waldo Store. Three iron doors and matching shutters were made in 1863. Ruth Pfefferle, in her book Golden Days and Pioneer Ways, tells the story of gypsies arriving at the Waldo Store in 1910. George Elder, the owner, quickly locked all the doors and shutters in order to keep the gypsies from entering the store. One gypsy lady tried to crawl in a basement window but was pushed out by George Elder who was inside. William Waldo had a brother Daniel who came to Oregon in 1843 with the Applegate wagon train. He became an important figure in Oregon politics and Waldo Lake, in the Cascades east of Eugene, was named for Daniel. I was not able to determine when William Waldo arrived in the west, but in 1853 the citizens of Waldo, Oregon tried to elect him as governor of California. I wonder if any California candidates today are interested in Oregon votes to become governor of California.