Derived from a portion of Jackson County, Josephine County was established on January 22, 1856 and named after the daughter (Josephine Rollins Ort) of a local prospector (Floyd Rollins) who was one of a group of prospectors who first discovered gold in the Illinois Valley. The original bill that was passed to create Josephine County, named Sailor Diggins (later known as Waldo) the county seat. In 1885 the county seat was relocated to Kerby and finally, in 1886, Grants Pass was named the county seat and has been since. Josephine County was the nineteenth, and last county created before Oregon was named a state.
In 1922 the Grants Pass Cavemen Booster Club was created. Its members would dress in furs and wield clubs at local events. The events that the club organized ranged from simply impeding traffic, to bidding on the construction of the San Francisco Bridge. Their bid was made at the cost of 23,756,000 deer hides! News papers in Russia used pictures of the Grants Pass Cavemen to show 'how the rich cavort in America'. Since 1971 a 17 foot fiberglass caveman greets visitors from atop a stone pedestal as they enter Grants Pass from Interstate 5.
As with Jackson County, the Rogue River in Josephine County provides a variety of water activities including the Hells Gate Canyon jet boat rides. Host to Boatnik in the summer and a parade of bear statues who make their debut each year, Grants Pass offers a variety of summer activities for young and old alike. Visitors can explore the surrounding area on local hiking trails, stop at the Lavender Fields at the Applegate Lavender farm or explore the nearby Oregon Caves. As with most of southern Oregon, there are many historical stops and sights all over Josephine County where one can learn of the history of the Applegate trail and the early settlers of the area.