Illinois Valley Mining Camp Boy Pesters Chinese Cook


Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Lynda Demsher


3 170

A boy growing up in the mining country of Southern Oregon’s Illinois Valley had plenty of opportunity to get into mischief.  Orval Robertson was no exception.  While his father was busy trying to strike it rich, Robertson, born in 1891, had the run of the mining camps.

In his memoir, Robertson told of pestering a Chinese cook who carried a load of garden vegetables in baskets balanced on a short pole across his shoulders. 

“I would throw a rock into one of his baskets, upset the balance, and spill his load,” Robertson recounted. 

Another time, he dug around a boulder on a steep hillside and sent it rolling downhill toward the Chinese village.  It splintered the Chinese cook’s house, which he’d carefully constructed of wood scraps from a nearby mill. 

The cook had enough of Robertson’s mean pranks and ran screaming after the boy with a large butcher knife.  Robertson ran home, and hid behind his parents until the man calmed down.  Even though he couldn’t speak English, it was obvious he was upset at something the boy had done.

“I didn’t get a whipping, though I sure had one coming,” Robertson recalled.


Source: Robertson, Orval, and James Magmer. "Part I." Rogue River Gold: The Life and Times of Southern Oregon Gold Miner/River Guide Orval Robertson, 1 Dec. 2010, p. 29 (Josephine County Historical Society).


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