Soon after the discovery and subsequent mining of gold in California, gold-dust became the most important medium of exchange in Oregon Territory. Almost simultaneously with their neighbors to the south, the settlers in Oregon developed a need for gold coin to replace the hard to handle dust. Petitions were made to the provincial legislature, and early in 1849, an Act was passed establishing a mint in Oregon City, the largest town. At about the same time, Oregon was formally brought into the Union as a Territory. When the new territorial governor arrived on the scene, he prudently declared the coinage act unconstitutional. Following this set-back, a private organization was formed called the Oregon Exchange Company, which promptly made arrangements to strike five and ten dollar coins, as originally contemplated. This company was formed of eight prominent citizens, named William K. Kilburne, Theophilus Magruder, James Taylor, George Abernethy, William H. Wilson, William H. Rector, H. Campbell and Noys Smith. The private mint was erected at Oregon City, a blacksmith, Thomas Powell, making the necessary coining apparatus from scratch. Partner Hamilton Campbell engraved the dies for the five dollar denomination, which were crudely executed, containing minor errors upon both obverse and reverse. A different engraver, Victor Wallace, was employed to make the ten dollar dies, which were of clearly superior quality, resulting in coins of more finished appearance. Both Oregon gold coins portrayed a beaver upon the obverse, and have long been designated “Beaver coins of Oregon” for this reason. The private Oregon mint coinage was issued in limited quantity, and a considerable number were bought up and remelted, undoubtedly because of their high intrinsic value
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