The Josephine County Courthouse is located at 500 NW 6th Street, Grants Pass, OR 97526; phone: 541-74-5221.
Josephine County was organized in January, 1856 from part of Jackson County. The county seat at first was Waldo, originally and most frequently called Sailor Diggings, because of the discovery by a party of sea-faring men of rich placers in that vicinity. The reason for setting Josephine off as a distinct county was that the people of a portion of Jackson County were inconvenienced by being obliged to travel so difficult a road to the county seat. The county derives its name directly from Josephine Creek, and indirectly from Miss Josephine Rawlins or Rollins, at one time the only white female in the county. Her arrival took place in 1851, her father being, for a short time at least, a miner on Josephine Creek, just below the confluence with Canyon Creek.
The earliest visitors to what is now Josephine County undoubtedly were the trappers employed by the Hudson's Bay Company, who came through this region, traversing the northern part of it in the vicinity of the Oregon Trail, and probably exploring in a casual way the valleys of the principal stream. The history of the county really begins with the discovery and working of the placers in Canyon and Josephine creeks. In 1851, several prospectors came north from the Klamath river, and passing over the divide into the valley of the Illinois, found gold to the west of that stream, in the sands of a creek which flows into the Illinois a few miles below Kirbyville. People immediately began moving North from California to the new diggings in considerable numbers.