Ghost town of Waldo Oregon
Name: Waldo (Sailor’s Diggings)
GPS: 42.06203, -123.64831
From Cave Junction, drive south on Highway 199 towards Crescent City, California. At 6.6 miles turn left onto Waldo Road. At 2.7 miles there is a dirt embankment topped with large rocks and a metal gate.
In 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill, California. As the news of this discovery spread across the west coast, men of all ages and job descriptions left their occupations and struck out to get rich. A group of sailors jumped ship in Crescent City, California about 1851 and ended up in a place south of Cave Junction near what is now the community of Takilma. They discovered gold here and the area became known as Sailor Diggings as it exploded in population.
The influx of settlers caused tensions with the local indians called the Takelma. A treaty had been signed with the tribe in 1850, but they were forcibly moved to a reservation at Table Rock. Settlers from Jacksonville attracted the reservation in 1855, sparking the Rogue Indian Wars.
When Josephine County was established in the Oregon Territory on January 22, 1856, Sailor Diggings was designated the County Seat until the next election. But when a Post Office was established on September 4th, 1856, it was named Waldo. Lyman H. Guthrie was Waldo’s first postmaster.
This is where the confusion of the name comes into place. It is possible that there was two communities here, one called Sailor Diggings and another called Waldo, but it is also possible that Sailor Diggings was the locality and Waldo was a city within it. The murkiness extended past the name though.
In 1853, William Waldo, Whig Party nomination for the Governor of California, campaigned here. It is said that he was under the mistaken impression that the town was in California as the border was only five miles away. But, if the entire area was known as Sailor Diggings, this would make sense and he was not mistaken. Those who settled south of the border would be eligible to vote for him and since the town center was north of the border, it would make sense for him to give his speech there, five miles north of the state border.
To add more confusion, the Waldo Mining District was established in 1852. This group still exists and fights for mining rights in Oregon. So Waldo was being used in the area sometime before that date!
Of course being a “Wild West town,” a number of outlaws passed through Waldo. Oregon Gold.net has several interesting stories about outlaws who passed through, including Ferd Patterson, Boone Helm, and the Triskett Gang.
Prominent Oregon Photographer Ben Maxwell visited the remains of the town in 1941 and again in 1954. He found a ghost town with only a few buildings left, but took some great photos.Note that the building above looks like it may have been in the 1890 picture at the top of this page! The design is really similar.
Unfortunately sometime between then and my visit in 2011, it was discovered that Waldo was on a rich gravel bench. A local mining company purchased the town for the gravel. It is reported that all that remains is the Cemetery.