Atlantis Arisen/Chapter 14
WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT THE MINERALOGY OF OREGON.
The valuable minerals which have been worked in Oregon are: first, the precious metals, gold and silver; and, second, copper, lead, iron, coal, marble, and salt.
Concerning the formation of the metals, more especially of gold, there are many theories. The age of the rocks associated with gold must serve as an indication of some value in pointing out its origin,—the most probable theory of which seems to be that, at a period when great changes were going on in the shape of the earth, the upheaval of mountains and overflow of volcanoes, certain vapors contained in the earth being forced by heat and pressure into the fissures of rock already hardened, or even into the substance of rock not yet solidified, became precipitated in the form of gold upon the walls of the cavities which shut them in. Much of this gold was subsequently set free by the action of the water, and is found mixed with sand and gravel or earthy matter in old river-beds or valleys between high mountains. Much of it still remains in its original position, and has to be got out of the rock by blasting and crushing.
The gold-fields of Oregon lie along the bases of, or in close neighborhood to, its mountain ranges; and there is no mountain chain which has not somewhere along it a gold-field, more or less productive ; but in West Oregon their rugged nature and impenetrable covering of timber have prevented their being much prospected. It is only in the placer diggings of the southern counties and the beach diggings of the coast counties that mining for gold has been carried on to any extent.
After the rush of ’49 to the gold-bars of the California rivers had made miners and experts of a hitherto purely agricultural population in Oregon, they began to find indications on their own soil of the existence of the precious metal. Travelling overland to and from California gave them opportunities of observing the nature of the country, and it was not long before the gold- hunters stopped north of the California line. As early as 1852
good placer diggings began to be discovered, and for a number of years were worked with profit. They still yield moderately, but are chiefly abandoned to the Chinese miners, who content themselves with smaller profits than our own people.
Jackson County was formerly divided into several mining districts, the gold being placer and coarse gold. Formerly nuggets were found not far from Jacksonville worth from ten dollars to forty dollars, one hundred dollars, and even nine hundred dollars; but such discoveries are rare of late. I note, however, the recent discovery of a three-hundred-dollar nugget in Jack- son County. From first to last Jackson County has contributed thirty million dollars to the gold market of the world.
Without going into mining geology, it is sufficient to remark that the rocks of Rogue River Valley, where gold placers were discovered on Jackson Creek in 1852, are of the Cretaceous period mainly, instead of the earlier Jurassic. All the auriferous rocks are metamorphic, and tilted up at high angles. It is not among rocks of this formation that large or continuous veins are to be looked for, while small gold-bearing veins of quartz are numerous and often misleading. The annual production of gold in Jackson County had dwindled in 1870 to two hundred thousand dollars per annum, which was mined by Chinamen.
At Wagner Creek, in Rogue River Valley, are some quartz mines that have yielded fairly well. Gold Hill, discovered in 1860, and located at the extreme western limit of the valley, is regarded by geologists and miners with a curious interest,—by the former because it is in the midst of a tract of eruptive granite unlike anything else in this region, and by the latter on account of its wonderful promise and pitiable failure. A pocket yielded one thousand ounces per week at the first, which was expended in mining machinery, and it was then discovered that the claim was exhausted. The most recent discovery in Rogue River Valley is of a reputed silver-bearing ledge on Evans’s Creek, assaying ninety dollars per ton in silver and two dollars in gold.
There was scarcely a stream in Southern Oregon which would not pay to work, and all were tested. The well paying were Jackson, Althouse, Applegate, and Illinois Rivers; and the best of those were the streams tributary to Applegate, Il linois, and
middle Rogue Rivers, where mining is still carried on by the hydraulic process, and where large sums have been expended in the construction of mining ditches. The Stirling Mine, southwest of Jacksonville, is the most important hydraulic mine in the State, and is owned in Portland. Near Waldo, in Josephine County, there is another well-equipped and paying gravel mine. The water is conveyed to it by a ditch twenty-three miles long, capable of delivering one million two hundred and fifty thousand gallons per hour. Its width is eight feet at top and four at bottom, and it is three feet deep. The hydraulic mean pressure employed is three hundred feet, with three nozzles of six inches aperture. The slope of this ditch is thirteen feet to the mile. Near Uniontown is a hydraulic claim owned and worked by a Chinaman, who employs his countrj^men. Water is brought to it by a ditch seven miles long, carrying one million four hundred thousand gallons per hour during the season. The cost of these ditches was ten thousand and twelve thousand dollars respectively. The Applegate ditch, which furnishes water to several claims, is five miles long, with a width at top of six feet, at bottom of three feet, and a depth of three feet. The slope is twenty-two feet. Squaw Lake ditch, twelve and a half miles long, cost, with the dam at the foot of the lake, twenty-six thousand dollars. These ditches render available a large extent of auriferous ground whose working would otherwise be debarred by elevation. Squaw Lake, situated on the Oregon and California line, is a considerable body of water, with an altitude of five thousand feet. A new hydraulic mine has recently been opened in Southern Oregon, at a cost of twenty- two thousand dollars, which promises to return double or treble that amount per annum. It yields twelve and a half cents per yard, which is considered rich dirt. Some nuggets have been picked up in this claim valued at from three hundred and fifty to five hundred dollars. This is a Blue G-ravel mine, situated on the Klamath, and there are other claims on this deposit.
Douglas County has several mining localities, the best of which are on the affluents of the South Umpqua River. Of these the chief is Cow Creek, where the placers are extensive and have been worked for thirty years. Quartz mines are also found in the lateral canons. Two, the Lucky Queen and the Esther, have
enjoyed some notoriety. They are just over the line in Josephine County, the Queen being a few miles only from Grant’s Pass. The company expended twenty-five thousand dollars on it, but abandoned it in 1879, since which it has been re-located. The Esther was also abandoned and its machinery sold, the company having expended as much as the mine produced.
The mines of the southern part of Josephine County yield annually about seventy thousand dollars. The pocket mines of Jackson County have furnished a total of about seven hundred thousand dollars, nearly all of which was yielded in the years from 1860 to 1865. The failure of quartz mining in Southern Oregon seems to be owing to a lack of skill and persistence quite as much as to the quality of the rock, which yields assays that should warrant the necessary expenditure to work them.
Coos and Curry Counties, being of the same geological formation as those immediately east of them, have mines of the same character, quartz, gravel, and placer, but not to so great an extent as Josephine. They have besides the black sand of gold beaches, which has been mined quite steadily ever since its discovery in 1852 by some half-breed Indians, at a place a few miles north of the Coquille River. In 1853 they sold their claim to McNamara Brothers for twenty thousand dollars. Pans of black sand taken from their claim yielded from eight to ten dollars. Over one hundred thousand dollars were taken from this claim, which led, as might be expected, to a rush from the valleys to the sea-shore. But few locations paid like the first one, and, although the sand continues to be worked, no one makes more than fair wages.
An ancient sea-beach, three miles inland, was discovered by Mr. Hinch, who took up a claim there which he sold for ten thousand dollars to John Pershbaker & Co., who sold it again for thirty thousand dollars. Like the first location on the lower beach, it was better than any afterwards taken.
The beach sands are black in color because they are composed chiefly of magnetic iron, or oxide of iron, called magnetite. It is hard, strongly magnetic, and infusible. The particles of gold accompanying the sand are extremely small, and so flaky that often they will float upon water, nor can they be brought to unite with quicksilver. This latter quality has caused miners to con
tend that each particle is coated with a film of iron sulphide which prevents amalgamation, but the microscope reveals nothing to confirm this theory. It is easy to see that, with the sand so heavy and the gold so light, it must be difficult to capture a fortune from beach mining, the sand of the ancient beaches yielding an average of three dollars per ton. There are more than a hundred of these auriferous beaches, extending from Gray’s Harbor on the north to Gold Bluff in California. Twenty- seven of them have been worked. The most important of these are at Yaquina, Alseya, Cape Lookout, Umpqua, Coquille, Ellens- burg, and Chetco. The production varies. The estimate for 1883 in Curry County was twenty thousand dollars. On the other hand, one mine in Coos County yielded eighteen thousand dollars in twelve months.
Quartz and gravel mining are now on a better basis in Southern Oregon than formerly. There are more mills, more mining ditches, and altogether better facilities for extracting the gold of the country, handled undoubtedly with a better knowledge. What the farmer gets out of the earth in one shape the miner extracts in another, and the exchange of products results in a benefit to the agriculturist; hence it is desirable to have a mining population for consumers, a happy combination which exists in Southern Oregon.
The mines of Lane County lie high up on the Middle Fork and McKenzie Fork of the Wallamet Eiver in the foot-hills of the Cascade Eange. The Bohemia mining district, on the Middle Fork, is about thirty-five miles southeast from Cottage Grove, on the Southern Pacific. The rock of this district is slate and granite, the veins cropping strongly and carding free gold at the surface. In general the quartz is rose-colored, containing gold and silver, with galena, pyrites, zinc blende, and occasionally antimony. A small stamp-mill is at work in this district, and some rich gold discoveries have been made within the present year.
The Blue Eiver mining district on McKenzie Fork is in a rough and almost inaccessible region, abounding in the magnificent scenery of this range, well wooded and well watered. The quartz veins in this district are in an amygdaloidal trap rock, or gray wacke, an altered and decomposed form o f igne-
ous rock, which rests upon granite. The veins are large, some of them twelve feet in thickness. The rock is easy to excavate near the surface, but will probably be found harder as it goes down. Free gold is found at the top.
It has been known for twenty-five years that gold existed in this district, and the Treasure mine was worked by arastra for a little time, but abandoned as unprofitable. More recently it has been reopened by other parties, who find it to assay from thirty dollars to forty dollars per ton, and to be free milling. There are several locations on the Blue Fiver ridge dating back no further than 1887. The Eureka, just south of Treasure, is an extension of the same. It has been tested in a small mill, and yields from twenty dollars to thirty dollars per ton. A group of three locations, three-quarters of a mile west of Treasure, are incorporated together under the name of the Blue Fiver Mining Company > and owned in Eugene. The assays of the ore from the Croesus vary from three dollars and seventy-five cents to one hundred and nine dollars per ton, and of the Imperial from five dollars and fifty cents to twelve hundred dollars. This company has a small mill.
The Lane County Mining Company also own three claims in this vicinity, but have worked only one, the Durango, which assays from two dollars and twenty-five cents to eighty-seven dollars per ton. The King-Bee, a large ledge, was worked to a limited extent twenty-five years ago, and abandoned. It assays from three dollars and seventy-five cents to two hundred and eleven dollars per ton, principally gold. Kear the King-Bee is the Buck, owned in Eugene, which assays from four hundred dollars to nine hundred dollars. There are perhaps as many more claims on and immediately about Treasure Hill, which have yet to be heard from. But there seems little doubt that this is a veritable gold-mining district.
Discoveries were also made twenty-five years ago, as well as more recently, at the heads of the Santiam and Molalla Fivers, in the Wallamet Yalley. On the latter, in Clackamas County, is a very thick ledge of bluish-white quartz, carrying free gold and pyrites, which assays twenty-five dollars in gold and two hundred and thirty five dollars in silver to the ton. Specimens from this district are shown which assay seven hun
dred ounces of silver per ton, besides some gold. Other specimens not so rich contain cubic galena, copper, iron pyrites, and zinc blende,—a good smelting ore.
The mines near Wilhoit Springs, on a branch of the Molalla, at an altitude of about twelve hundred feet above sea-level, are found in rocks of a more recent geological era than elsewhere. It is here that a deposit is found, of great extent, which is not rock at all, but a soft, light, silver-bearing earth, in some places sixty feet in depth, with a hardness about that of gypsum. In color it is a gray, varying to red or brown, ‘with a specific gravity of 1.5. The silver contained varies from one to ten ounces per ton, with a small admixture of lead. No practical tests have been made of the value of this remarkable earth.
The most promising mining districts of those bordering the Wallamet Valley are situated on the North and South Forks of the Santiam, and are reached from the Southern Pacific by wagon from Turner, in Marion County. The formations are porphyritic and granitic, similar to the belt along the range, north and south. Some slate, silicious and approaching sandstone, is found. Quartz is abundant, and float carrying gold is frequently found in the water-courses. Greenhorn district was discovered by Dr. E. 0. Smith, of Portland, in 1864. Several locations were made, of which the White Bull became famous for giving to the world the most beautiful specimens of arborescent gold ever seen. The quartz was of the nature called “ rotten,”—that is, crumbling and stained; and in it occurred what were called “eagles’ nests,” which, in fact, they resembled, being cavities as large as the crown of a man’s hat filled with sticks or straws of gold, which, on examination, proved to be skeins of the finest wire-gold, as evenly twisted into threads as if it had passed through a thread-mill. These skeins were attached to the irregular angles of the quartz on the walls of the cavity, and, crossing in every direction, held some bits of quartz in the tangles thej^ made. The effect of the whole was surprising and magnificent. These elegant specimens, worth twice the gold they contained, were simply ground up like common ore. There was another class of quartz in this mine which was hard, white, and stuck full of bits of gold from the size of a pin-head to a bird-shot.
The sight of these treasures naturally caused great excitement, and gave the owners hope of fabulous riches. A quartz- mill and saw-mill were purchased and set up in the district; but, like the Gold Hill mine in southern Oregon, which, indeed, it resembled, it suddenly failed, the pocket being exhausted. Afterwards the mill was burned. A second effort to make something out of this mine by other parties was also a failure, and a second mill was burned. It is believed, however, that with different methods and concentration, this mine might be made to pay, and recent developments go to confirm it.
Another mine in this district,—the Canal Fork,—carries free gold at the surface only. By working-test it yields from nineteen dollars to thirty dollars per ton. Lower down the ore becomes very base with galena, and assays from two hundred dollars to five hundred ounces per ton of silver. There is a mill on this mine which produced from two hundred tons five thousand dollars, or twenty-five dollars per ‘ton. The cost of the mill and other expenses were twenty thousand dollars. Even at this amount the mine could be made, with good management, to
Other mines in the adjoining district of Galena assay w T ell, and quartz leads charged with lead; copper, iron, and zinc sulphides, the galena carrying silver, are frequent. One galena lode, four feet in width, assays forty ounces of silver to the ton, with no minerals prejudicial to smelting accompanying it.
The Bonanza mine, owned by the Albany Mining and Milling Company, is in the Quartzville district of the Santiam. The ore is free gold in- decomposed quartz, and resembles the product of the White Bull mine, assaying, in some instances, twenty-six thousand dollars to the ton. At present this mine promises to hold out for a year or more of milling, in which case the company will secure an ample fortune for all.
Why these mines are not more developed may be owing to several causes. Primarily, a heavy expense attends quartz- mining anywhere, and in a country so difficult of access it is increased. Again, these locations have not been made by practical miners, but by merchants and farmers, who have an assured living out of other pursuits, and who have neither the knowledge nor the capital to make a success of mining, b ut who
hold their discoveries by patent away from improvement by others.
West Oregon has never had a mining population, except so far as they became such temporarily through efforts to mend their fortunes in occasional rushes to placer diggings* The nearly impenetrable character of the forest on the western slope of the Cascades, hiding from observation by travellers, and even explorers, the character of the rocks, is also a potential reason why so little is known of the mining possibilities of the Wal- lam et Valley.
Quartz veins are found in rock—sandstone running into a smooth whetstone rock, with limestone and soapstone suggestions of a cretaceous origin—in Tillamook County. A few thousand dollars were spent in exploiting a claim on Trask River, which exhibited some good top rock that soon gave out. A working result of sixty-six dollars per ton was obtained from one location, but no development further has ever been made.
The most interesting recent discovery in mining is of a deposit of nickel near Riddle, in Douglas County. It is owned by a California company who purchased it from the Oregon owners for three hundred thousand dollars, and eastern capitalists are negotiating for it. It is claimed that the ore can be worked and refined at a profit of twenty-two dollars and fifty cents per ton.
Natural gas is a recent discovery, made in Linn and other counties, which is regarded as of great importance. The indications are confirmed by the very general presence of coal underlying the foot-hills in almost any part of West Oregon, especially along the lower Columbia and in the Coast Range. Iron most frequently is found near the coal-beds, a feature which promises well for the future manufacturing interests of the State. Columbia County, which faces on the Columbia River, possesses these features in a striking degree, and combined with
- An example of mining by unprofessional miners is this : William Ruble,
of Salem, a farmer, and well advanced in life, has been working a mine in Josephine County for the past seven years. His claim consists of three hundred and fifty acres of gravel, out of which, without much capital, he has managed to obtain twenty-five thousand dollars, and to get his ground into good working shape. He could sell it now for ten thousand dollars per acre, but it is worth more to hold an abundance of timber. Clatsop County has similar resources, though less accessible.
Coal was discovered in Oregon before Washington was separated from it, or about 1852. The first coal, and so far the only coal, mined in this State has been at Coos Bay. A vessel named the "Chauncey" in 1854 was loaded with a cargo taken from a drift in a claim a mile and a half from Coal Bank Slough, and carried in wagons to that place, where it was transferred to scows and taken to Empire City to be put aboard the vessel. After all this labor, the vessel and cargo were lost on the bar. Another cargo was soon afterwards shipped in the same manner, which reached San Francisco, where it brought forty dollars per ton, the freight on it being thirteen dollars.
The following year the Newport and Eastport mines were opened, and commenced shipment in 1856, since which time they have continued to furnish fuel to the California market. The shipments amount to about five thousand tons monthly. The mines opened, after the Newport and Eastport, were the Hardy, in 1871; the Utter, in 1874; the Henryville, the same year; and the Southport, in 1875. Recent reported discoveries of a superior hard coal in the mountains about Coos Bay are interesting capitalists.
Other coal-beds exist in different parts of Oregon, chiefly in the region of the Coast Range. The United States Geological Survey for 1887 gives the following analysis:
|Water.||Volatile matter.||Fixed Carbon.||Ash.||Coke.|
|Blue Mountain||1.08||24.40||34.71||39.81||Very good.|