Monument to valley's first postmaster moves to new home

GOLD HILL — Since being erected some 50 years ago, a large granite monument commemorating southern Oregon's first postmaster has been relocated to the very community he named so long ago.

A tribute to William G. T'Vault will be unveiled and rededicated on a new site at Dardanelles Community Store, at 11 a.m. today.

Resembling a large, towering headstone with a brass plaque, T'Vault's monument was first erected in the 1950s by a now-defunct Siskiyou Sites group and discovered by the local Clampers, of the Umpqua Joe 1859 Outpost (E Clampus Vitus) in recent years.

Known for their laid back nature and colorful appearances during Gold Dust Days, the group's more serious focus is to find, research and dedicate historic sites that might otherwise be overlooked, explained local spokesman and Grants Pass resident Keith Long.

Feeling T'Vault was worth his tribute, Long said the group spent recent months working to prepare and move the monument to a safer location so residents and visitors can pay tribute to the early pioneer.

First erected along Interstate 5, Long said the monument had become inaccessible because of widening lanes and a relocated on-ramp.

"When they put it in, there was a waterfall and whatnot, and they'd planned to put a park there," Long said.

"But it was basically on the side of the freeway and, to be honest, no one really knew it was there and you couldn't get to it safely."

While T'Vault is best known as the area's first postmaster, his accomplishments were wide ranging, from helping lead a 66-wagon group along the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s to his appointment in 1868 as prosecuting attorney for the 1st Judicial District.

To his credit, he also served as editor for three Oregon newspapers and worked as a lawyer, politician and land agent. More colorful historic accounts also talk of T'Vault's lack of book education and common sense and a tendency towards foolish mishaps, such as nearly smothering after donning a kettle as a "chef's hat."

While Gold Hill is one of the valley's smaller communities today, Dardanelles was far smaller when it was officially named, allegedly after the Dardanelles Strait between the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea, and T'Vault became its first official postmaster in 1852.

Commissioned and decommissioned three times, Dardanelles eventually gave way to it's larger neighbor to the north, Gold Hill, which opened its own post office along with the railroad in 1882. After a long career in politics and journalism, T'Vault died in 1869 during a smallpox epidemic in Jacksonville.

Dardanelles Community Store co-owner Dawni Hall said she was glad the community would have a chance to enjoy a piece of Dardanelles' history.

"They offered to move it here and I jumped on it because where it was had been very dangerous for tourists to go down there and look at it," said Hall.

Though the town of Dardanelles is no longer a recognized city, Hall said the "spirit" of Dardanelles, and at least one colorful pioneer named T'Vault, would be long remembered.

The Clampers group plans a short ceremony at 11 a.m. to talk about T'Vault's contributions to the area followed by a barbecue lunch, available at Dardanelle's store, just west of the I-5 on ramp.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at

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