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Fairs have been popular throughout Josephine County’s history and were hosted by many organizations. Fairs boosted industrial and irrigation interests and mining. Some fairs touted Southern Oregon’s superior climate and farm products. Some featured farmers and their fat stock with horse racing contests, quilt displays and baked goods competitions.

1907-1912: Grants Pass hosted an Irrigation and Industrial Fair. In 1909 farmers held a Grange Fair in Williams at the Woodman Hall. The Williams Grange Fair moved to town in 1912 and was held at the Paddock Building and on “I” Street.

1913: The State of Oregon outlined how County Fair Boards would be governed and that each county would have one fair covering all interests for the whole county.

1914: The name Josephine County Fair was selected as the official name for the fair.

1913-1915: The Grange Fair moved to Murphy Grange Hall and was renamed "The Josephine County Fair."

1916: The Josephine County Fair once again moved closer to town and settled at the Ball Park [aka City Park, and now Riverside Park] and was held there until 1926 except when interrupted by WWI.

1927: The talk about finding a permanent home for The Josephine County Fair had come to fruition. Approval was given and land was purchased on Redwood Highway—todays location. So later that same year, the Fair was no longer under canvas but had 3 permanent buildings which are still standing today along with the many vendors that come to the Fair. Josephine County Fair has been held at this permanent location continuously except during WWII [1942-1945] when the Fairgrounds was requisitioned to assist in the war effort.

1921-1975:The Fair included Horse Racing, music concerts, 4-H, FFA, carnival rides, cotton candy, candy apples and everything you could imagine to have a great family time at a county fair.

1976 to Present: Once Southern Oregon Horse Racing Association (SOHRA) starting Horse Racing earlier in the year and were no longer part of the fair, that opened the doors for other entertainment out at the grandstands.

Today we have a five-day fair usually held in August with Fair entries from all over the county and adjoining counties as well. Some of the events and entries include 4-H, FFA, preserved foods, baked goods, quilting, photography, arts & crafts, flowers, agriculture and horticulture, granges, carnival rides, clowns, jugglers and many other grounds acts, music entertainment, rodeos, motorsports, vendors from all over and of course some the best Fair Food in the state! So make it an annual family event and come on out and join us for some County Fair Fun!




Josephine County is located in southwestern Oregon and was once part of Jackson County, to the east. It was created on January 22, 1856. It was the nineteenth, and last, county created before statehood. Josephine County was named for Josephine Rollins, the first white woman to settle in southern Oregon.

The county is bordered on the south by the State of California, on the north by Douglas County, on the west by Curry County, and on the east by Jackson County. Josephine County is predominantly mountainous, but has two major valleys cut by the popular Rogue and Illinois Rivers.

Sailor Diggings was named the first county seat of Josephine County in 1856. Sailor Diggings was later renamed Waldo. Over the next year the population center shifted north to the Illinois Valley and to Kerbyville, a small town which had been founded earlier that year by James Kerby. Kerbyville was chosen by the electorate as the new county seat in 1857. In 1858 the Territorial Legislature changed its name to Napoleon, but Kerbyville, and later, Kerby, remained the favored usage in the county. In 1886, the county seat was relocated to its current location, Grants Pass, a new town built along the recently completed railroad which traversed the state.

Most of the commercial activity during the territorial period centered on gold mining and the supply of provisions to miners. Miners had been active in the Rogue and Illinois Valleys since 1851. By the late 1850s, however, gold mining was beginning to decline and the population dwindled as well.

Population in Josephine County has steadily increased except in the 1910s when there was a 20% decrease. In 2015 the population was 84,745. The principal industries are lumber, tourism, and agriculture.


The Oregon Caves Cavemen began in 1922 when a group of businessmen in Grants Pass, Oregon came up with a novel way of promoting tourism in Josephine County. They did this by dressing up as cavemen, pretending to be descendants of the Neanderthals. (The Neanderthals became extinct in Europe thousands of years ago and had no descendants). With their unusual attire, and zany antics they promoted Oregon Caves and Josephine County by bringing thousands of additional tourist to visit Oregon Caves.

Grants Pass, the Josephine County seat, is guarded by a towering 18-foot tall caveman, complete with a club. The fiberglass statue was erected by the city's ‘Caveman Club’ in 1971.

While the Grants Pass High School sports teams continue to compete as Cavemen and Lady Cavers, the city prefers other forms of promotion. More popular now is the slogan ‘Where the Rogue River Runs’, a reference to the local wild and scenic river with white-water, fishing, and jet boat recreational opportunities.

Compiled by the Josephine County Community Development Department

Josephine County Trivia - - Did you know????

  • Josephine was a County before Oregon was a State? Josephine County was formed by the Territorial Legislature in 1856. Oregon was not admitted to the Union until 3 years later.
  • Waldo was the first County seat. The County seat then moved to Kerbyville, (now Kerby). Grants Pass was named the County seat in 1886.
  • Hayes Hill was named after the William B. Hay Ranch near Anderson Creek and Clear Creek Valley, and is about 18 miles south of Grants Pass. The term Hayes Hill is believed to be derived from common usages, as in ‘that hill just before you get to Hay’s place’. Eventually, the spelling evolved into ‘Hayes Hill’.
  • Galice is a small town was originally called Galiceburg. It’s also the name of a local creek. Both were named for French miner, Louis Galice, one of the first prospectors on the stream.
  • Williams is another small town, originally called Williamsburg, and was named after the creek, which was named after Captain Robert Williams of the Oregon Volunteers, a militia group that fought in the Indian Wars.
  • The largest gold nugget ever found in Oregon was discovered on the East Fork of Althouse Creek in the Illinois Valley in 1859. Its discover, a small Irish miner by the name of Mattie Collins found the whopper in the face of the stream bank under a large stump located about twelve feet above the normal waterline. Dubbed the “Collins Nugget”, it weighed in at a whopping seventeen pounds!
  • The famous Grants Pass Caveman Statue was erected in 1971 during the Boatnik celebration Memorial Day Weekend by the Grants Pass Cavemen in 1971. The 18-foot fiberglass sculpture cost approximately $10,000.
Compiled by the Josephine County Community Development Department
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