Golden was born early in the 1840s when small placer mines established near Coyote Creek in Josephine County turned up small amounts of - you guessed it - gold. The Americans who founded this camp left it to pursue richer gold discoveries in Idaho and on nearby Salmon Creek. As was standard at the time, the old claims were taken up by Chinese miners willing to work for smaller returns. When American miners returned to the region years later, they drove out the Chinese miners and retook possession of Coyote Creek.
Panning the creek was time intensive and rarely lucrative. In the 1880s, however, hydraulic operations were set up to strip the creek beds of gold. In all, these water miners recovered some $1.5 million from the streams and hillsides. By the 1890s Golden considered itself a true town.
Unusual for mining towns, the religious residents had raised two churches but built no saloons. Supposedly, residents left town to visit a placer mine on Grave Creek for “refreshments.” Like so many other Oregon towns, Golden was left abandoned and in disrepair after the 1920s with the creeks mined out and the economy turning south.
Some of its buildings were restored in the 1950s as film sets for the TV show “Bonanza” and a few western movies. Golden’s few remaining structures were designated a state heritage site, drawing in a trickle of visitors to its churches and old creek beds to this day.
More Golden Photos
The interior of a church in Golden. (Oregon State Archives, 2019)
The living space in the back of a store in Golden. (Oregon State Archives, 2019)
The interior of the front of a store in Golden. (Oregon State Archives, 2019) Enlarge Image