Two brothers, Col. Frank and Dr. C.R. Ray, needed a power plant for their nearby gold mine.

The brothers chose the Tolo area for the power plant's site, about four miles above the city of Gold Hill. Work started on the original Gold Ray Dam in 1902 by first diverting the rushing Rogue around the site so that large timbers could be jammed into the bedrock and create a dam to hold back water.

By 1904, the impounded river lifted the Rogue's surface enough to divert it through a powerhouse, where rope-driven turbines created the first hydroelectric power throughout the Rogue Valley, from Medford and Jacksonville to Ashland. When completed, the dam was 17 feet tall and 350 feet long.

In 1921, the dam became part of the California-Oregon Power Co., which later became Pacific Power. The utility in 1941 replaced the timber dam with today's concrete one, and added a fish ladder and fish-counting station.

The rope-drive turbines operated for almost 70 years until the utility closed the facility and deeded it and 27 acres to Jackson County.

The old dam and powerhouse were removed in 2010 to help boost annual salmon migrations.

Source: Coldwell, O.B. “Beginnings of Electrical Power in Oregon,” The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, March 1930, Vol. XXXI, No. 1.

— As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.