Grants Pass, Oregon History
by Joan Momsen

Grants Pass may be the largest community in Josephine County, but it is by no means the oldest. People living in the area prior to 1865 had to go to Rock Point to get their mail. There was a stage station several miles north of present day Grants Pass, located on what we now call Granite Hill Road on the Oregon-California Road. Called the Louse Creek Station, it was run by Ebenezer Dimmick. Dimmick, Thomas, Croxton (who was Dimmick's brother-in-law), and John Wheeler wanted a post office so that residents of the area would not have to go 17 miles to pick up their mail. The three men petitioned the Post Office Department for the establishment of a local post office. They did not thing the name of Louse Creek would draw people to the area, so they decided to name it "Grant" in honor of Union General U.S. Grant. Croxton received his appointment as postmaster, but was told to select a new name because a Grant, Oregon already existed.

About this same time, a new road was being built over the hill into the valley where Grants Pass is located today. The new road was eventually known as the old Merlin Road and generally ran the route of I-5 (ie. Northwest Vine and Highland Avenues connecting with Monument Drive). As originally told by George Parker, and early local historian, one day while the road crew was eating their lunch after a hard morning of carving the road over the pass of Merlin Hill, one guy suggested they call the pass "Grant's Pass". Another said that would probably be a good name for the old Louse Creek Station's new post office. So Grant's Pass got its name, apostrophe and all. Over the years, the apostrophe fell out of use by the locals and now we see it only if someone is unfamiliar with our city.

The settlement moved down into the valley along the Rogue River after C.J. Howard surveyed the new site. In 1883 the Southern Pacific Railroad Terminus arrived and Grants Pass began to grow. A railroad depot was built along the tracks right in the center of what is now called 6th Street. Southern Oregonians from the Medford-Jacksonville area had to come to Grants Pass to catch the train or ship goods.

The first building went up on the corner of 6th and G Streets. A ferry was opened in 1884 in the location where Caveman Bridge is today. In 1885 the Grants Pass Courier was established (April 3), the city was incorporated and the county borders adjusted, moving Grants Pass from Jackson County to Josephine County. Grants Pass was made the county seat of Josephine County. In 1886 the first bridge was built across the Rogue River at Grants Pass.

One very consistent thing about Grants Pass is its citizens' dedication toward education. A post office, a name and a school were all established the first year. The first teacher was an Englishman named Captain Todd. He had a short tenure due to his fondness for alcohol. The second teacher was a young lady from Roseburg. Over the years small, one-room schoolhouses came and went throughout the area. After incorporation, the city got serious about establishing a school system which included studies for primary, grammar, and secondary students.

Return to
Josephine County: The Golden Beginnings

Related Links:

Josephine County Historical Society
RogueWeb - Grants Pass page