Photo of Modern Day Wilderville Store in Wilderville, Oregon was provided by E Clampus Vitus.
In 2009 when I was Humbug of the Yreka Chapter of E Clampus Vitus, our Oregon Umpqua Joe Outpost was searching for a site to plaque. Glenn Hearrell, the founder of Umpqua Joe had recruited John “Dick” Tracey, owner of the Wilderville general store. After talking to John and his wife they hatched a plan to plaque the store. With all the approvals in place, Glenn and John made a first cut at the plaque wording. With the usual wifely support, John’s Widder refined the wording. With final language in hand, Outpost Wagon Master Keith Long obtained the granite from a local tile company and had Recognition Specialties chisel the lettering into the granite.
Next, a Clampsite needed to be secured. Umpqua Joe officers selected Lake Selmac and the last weekend of April for the ECV Doin’s, historical monument erection and dedication. With all of us camped out at Lake Selmac, Glenn rounded up volunteers. Friday morning a number of us drove into beautiful downtown Wilderville, installed and taped the plaque, prepared the footing, set the monument forms, and poured the concrete. By early Friday afternoon the Wilderville plaque was ready to go, covered up pending the next day’s dedication ceremony.
Saturday, April 25th was another beautiful spring day in sunny southern Oregon. The sun and sleepy eyed Clampers rose at Lake Selmac that morning. As Joaquin Miller so eloquently might have put it about the Clampers that morning “stretched themselves in the sweet, frosty air, shouted to each other in a sort of savage banter, washed their hands and faces in the gold-pan like utensil that stood by the door of their tent, and partook of the eternal beans and bacon and coffee, and coffee and bacon and beans.”
Once fed, Umpqua Joe member Ken Kudrna, who owned a bus touring company, pulled up in the sleekest eight wheeler ya ever saw. Forty Clampers boarded the bus and off we went to the plaque dedication with nary another vehicle. Once in beautiful downtown Wilderville, the party started. Dan Weimers from Humbug Chapter 73 did a history presentation for attending Redshirts and civilians. When the plaque was unveiled a hearty cry was sounded, “What say the Brethren?” The response from all was a hearty “Satisfactory.”
Little information can be found about Wilderville’s early days. An 1869 narrative furnished by long time county resident Dr. Watkins mentions the town of Slate Creek. We do know the “Slate Creek Post Office” was established September 30, 1858, and later changed to Wilderville August 12, 1878. Some believe the post office was renamed after its postmaster, Joseph Wilder.
Historic Wilderville Plaque image provided by E Clampus Vitus.
Long ago one of the greatest marble mines in the United States looked down on this community. Nearby Slate Creek runs behind Wilderville and is a tributary of the Applegate River which held tremendous reserves of placer gold. An 1870 recollection from the Kerby Jackson archives includes a colorful illustration.
“Decades ago, when my grandmother first came to Oregon and wished to live a solitary existence, she lived on an old mining claim high up on Slate Creek and made her way with nothing but a gold pan and a rifle.”
To view this historical monument and enjoy a day in beautiful Applegate River Valley, drive north on Interstate 5 to southern Oregon. Use Exit 55 and take the Highway 199 route to Crescent City. Twenty seven miles from your freeway exit Wilderville can be found by taking the turn, off 199, to Wilderville. Enjoy the plaque, and a sandwich or snacks behind the general store in their lovely garden overlooking Slate Creek.