Grants Pass was named in honor of General U.S. Grant’s 1863 victory at Vicksburg, Originally Grant’s Pass, the apostrophe was dropped after 1900.

Grants Pass was a stagecoach stop in the 1860s. It became a railhead when the Oregon-California Railroad (now Southern Pacific) was completed in 1884.

It is the Josephine County seat. The county is named for Josephine Rollins Ort, who came to the Illinois Valley with her father in 1851.

  1. Early 1800's
  2. Late 1800's

1825 - 1843

Hudson Bay Trappers were the first white people to travel through the Rogue Valley. The Rogue Valley got its name from what settlers and trappers called local native tribes. The natives were called "the rogues," because they fought for their rights.

1843 - 1846 the Applegate Party

The brothers Jesse and Lindsay Applegate were part of a band of settlers traveling the Oregon Trail from Missouri. At the Columbia River crossing, they tragically lost their young sons and the raft carrying all their belongings. They vowed to backtrack and discover a safer route that would avoid the deadly river.

Beginning at Fort Hall, Idaho, the brothers forged a new trail through Nevada, California, and eventually through the Rogue Valley. The trail was on the south side of the Rogue River and crossed at Fort Vannoy about 5 miles west of present Grants Pass.

The Applegate wagon train of emigrants made the first wagon tracks through the Rogue River Valley, heading toward the Willamette Valley.


A party of emigrants discovered gold in the Jacksonville area. Their find drew a large number of prospectors seeking their fortunes. Traveling with the party was Josephine Rollins Ort, the namesake of Josephine County.

Josephine County Historical Society