Atlantis Arisen/Chapter 15
A GLIMPSE OF THE MINES OF EAST OREGON.
Wherever in East Oregon the irregular range of the Blue Mountains has lifted itself above the high table-lands and the sedimentary rocks, there are seen the metamorphic or mineralbearing rocks in which mines may be looked for. These eruptive heights are divided by local nomenclature into Owyhee, Powder Biver, Pine Creek, John Day, Malheur, Cedar, and Steen Mountains. The mining districts, so far as discovered, are situated on the John Day, Powder, Malheur, and Burnt Bivers and their branches, as they come out of these mountains.
The John Day placer mines were discovered in 1862 by a party of Californians en route to Salmon Biver, in Idaho. These placers were on Granite, Elk, Dixie, and Canon Creeks, and very productive, as many as five thousand miners being at work there for several seasons. These placers are now given over to a few miners, most of whom are Chinese; but there are others on the numerous creeks upon the head-waters of John Day which are yielding good wages to white men.
The second discovery of any note was in 1863, at Humboldt or Mormon Basin, which lies on the flat top of a ridge between Burnt Biver and Willow Creek, a fork of the Malheur. Along the sides of this ridge and at its feet were the camps of Bye Valley, Malheur City, Amelia, El Dorado, and Clarksville. Mormon Basin was destitute of water, except that furnished by two small streams, and the melting of the winter snows, which give from twenty to eighty days of a mining stage, according to the season. The first year one hundred miners made an ounce a day to the hand as long as there was water. Later their claims were abandoned, and eventually fell into the hands of companies who worked the deep gravel mines by hydraulic machinery, of which there are several plants in operation. One firm employs twenty six men, and uses two sets of sixteen-inch sluices, emptying into a thirty-inch flume two thousand feet long. Their hydraulic apparatus consists of seven-inch pipe,
supplying two grants with two-inch nozzles, working under one hundred to two hundred feet head. Their pay-dirt is from five to twenty feet deep, and contains a great proportion of quartz boulders, some weighing a ton or more, and many showing free gold. Several thousand dollars’ worth of fine gold quartz specimens have been found in the sluices, which leads to the belief that a valuable quartz mine will yet be discovered. The claim yields from eight thousand to twenty thousand dollars, according to the season. The other firms in Mormon Basin clear up in a season about fourteen thousand four hundred and fifty-six dollars. The total product in 1883 was thirty-five thousand dollars, and at the present rate of working the mines are likely to last for twenty years longer.
El Dorado district, west of Mormon Basin, is furnished with water by the great ninety-mile ditch of Burnt Biver, and is one of the most important in the State. The Weatherby placers, on Burnt Biver, produce ten thousand dollars a year by hydraulic process; and the Clarkeville mines, owned in Chicago, with forty miles of ditches and extensive water-rights, carry on a large mining business.
The product of the Granite Creek district, in the John Day Valley, is about twenty thousand dollars per annum—a part of this being from the silver-mines Cabell and Beagle. The Cabell is named after a Nevada miner of that name, who, in searching for smelting ores on the South Fork of Powder Biver, discovered a number carrying lead, gold, and silver in paying amount. The Cabell ships its ore to Omaha to be smelted, at a cost of fifty-eight dollars per ton, and still makes a profit.
Dixie Creek district, always a productive one, still pays about forty thousand dollars a year from placer mining. There are a good many quartz locations, a dozen or more of which have been worked, in this district, with unknown results. But the annual output of the placers of East Oregon has been estimated to be about three hundred thousand dollars, but, possibly, not over two hundred and seventy-one thousand dollars.
The Nelson Mine, seven miles west of Baker City, is a deep gravel property producing forty thousand dollars per season. It consists of seventy acres of patented land with a deposit of gravel one hundred and seventeen feet in depth, and lies high
enough to afford room for dumping. It is owned by Californians, who bought it for three hundred thousand dollars in 1887, and put in sixty thousand dollars’ worth of improvements. There are other valuable gravel mines at Sumpter and Deer Creek, besides man}’ yet to he developed. A railroad is being constructed from Baker City to Sumpter.
Quartz mining had not been profitably carried on formerly for several reasons, mainly the lack of capital and transportation. The first mine discovered and w T orked was the Virtue, near Baker City. This famous property comprises three thou sand feet on a strong vein from two to six feet wide. It has been prospected for one thousand feet to a depth of two hundred and fifty feet. The quartz is free milling costing only seven dollars and fifty cents, while the ore is worth forty dollars. It is estimated that it has yielded two million dollars.
Another valuable free-gold quartz mine is the Conner Creek Mine, on Conner Creek, in Baker County, three miles from Snake River. Although not a high-grade ore, it is so cheaply milled as to yield very large profits. It is partly owned in Portland, and partly in Baker County. The Gold Ridge Mine, four miles from Burnt River, is a similar property, which pays ten dollars per ton, but is now lying idle. It is owned in California.
The silver-mines of Baker County are the Green Discovery and the Monumental, thirty-five miles south of Baker City, in Rye Valley, the Mammoth, thirty miles west of Baker, and the Cabell, already referred to. The first named was found by Green, a prospector, in 1869. The Green vein was large, but only a few inches of it was pay-rock. The total production was twenty-five thousand dollars, but the expenses were twice that amount. The Monumental, belonging to the same company, and only a mile distant, was sold to a Boston firm for fifty-five thousand dollars, which brought the original company out about even. The Mammoth Mine has a vein twenty feet wide, of low- grade rock, in granite. About forty thousand dollars had been taken from this claim in 1888, from face-rock which paid twenty dollars per ton in gold. There are other locations on the same lode. Recent discoveries in the Greenhorn Mountain district are attracting much attention, and this is thought to be one of the richest silver-producing districts in the Northwest.
The Keystone Gold Mine, owned in Portland, is situated seven miles north of Prairie City, in Grant County. It is the most important property in this (Quartzburg) district. It comprises three claims, and has a continuous length of forty-five hundred feet. The quartz carries free gold, metallic silver, iron and copper pyrites, zinc blende, and galena. Assays show one hundred and six dollars per ton in gold, and from one hundred dollars to one thousand dollars in silver. The property is valued at fifty thousand dollars.
The Pine Creek mines, of which one hears a good deal, are situated near the Snake River boundary of Union County, and are geologically interesting, as the stream on which they are situated rises in rugged peaks of greater elevation than any other in the Blue Range. The geology of the district is clearly seen in the canons of Pine Creek, which show that the foundation of this region is granite overlaid by slate, which, when the internal heat of some volcanic period had fused the granite, was lifted up, broken, and thousands of its fissures filled with the molten rock, by which means the eccentric granite dikes of the district were formed. Other fissures were opened, cutting the granite, which gradually filled with mineral solutions carrying quartz, iron pyrites, copper, galena, and, in smaller proportions, gold and silver. At some later period other convulsions followed, during which dikes of lava, trachytic or porphyritic in character, were forced up through the strata, cutting the quartz veins. At a still later period there was an outburst of melted trap rock, which filled deep fissures, and cooled in thick sheets over all. Water and ice wore away this covering forming the soil of East Oregon, as previously noted, and also in carving out the perpendicular dikes left cavernous recesses in the cliff’s, but the lava dikes were left standing like monuments to the dead granite and trap.
It is superfluous to remark that where successive meltings and upheavals have occurred the quartz veins in the older granite are often interrupted and lost, and that no miner is safe from such an ending to his enterprise. Nevertheless, the Pine Creek mines enjoy a high reputation.
About 1862 some Umatilla Indians brought a quantity of gold, which appeared to have been extracted from quartz in an im
perfect manner, to a trader at Walla Walla, who with others attempted, on information given by the Indians, to reach the mines, but, failing, joined the gold-seekers then rushing into Idaho through the Grand Rond Valley, and it was not until 1884 that the locality so long ago sought was discovered. The mines lie in granite, in granite and slate, and sometimes in the plane of contact between the two.
The Contact Silver-Mine, sixty or seventy miles northeast of Baker City, is an example of the latter vein. It is accessible only from Cornucopia, from which place it is distant three miles, and two thousand feet higher. The vein runs along the south side of the mountain, one thousand feet above the stream, and parallel with it. It has an average width of four feet, and lies upon granite, with the slate above,'dipping into the mountain at an angle of forty-five degrees. The rock is easily mined, and said to be rich.
The Whitman Mine has been worked more than any other in the district. It is owned in Louisville, Kentucky, by a company with capital sufficient to develop whatever riches it may contain. They have at least found geological eccentricities enough to confound the scientists.
Several claims opened only by prospect holes are located on the mountain, of which Red Jacket, Robert Emmet, Union, and Companion mines are most prominent. On the middle fork of the Irnnaha River, graphic tellurium has been discovered in Silver Tongue Mine, owned by private parties. The ore assays from two hundred and twenty-five dollars to twenty-one thousand dollars per ton, in gold. A large country remains unprospected in the Pine Creek region, on the Wallowa County side, where argentiferous galena and gold-bearing ores are known to exist.
The ores of this district are base, and smelting will be a necessity. The free gold which appears on the surface is owing simply to the decomposition of sulphurets into oxidized compounds of the other accompanying metals, which, being friable and loose, have been w'ashed away, leaving the gold free; but this, although highly gratifying at first, cannot go below a certain depth.
Metallurgical works have been established at Allent own, for
chlorinating and leaching gold and silver ores. A roasting furnace for desulphurizing concentrations, a two-stamp mill for working test lots, an assay-office, and other conveniences are also to be found in the Pine Creek, or, as it is named, Granite district.
On the stage-road from Baker City to Pine Creek are the Sparta, Eagle, and Hog ’Em districts. The first of these is old placer mining ground, which formerly yielded thirty-five thousand dollars per annum. A gold quartz mine, for which a Salt Lake company paid fifty thousand dollars, is located in the latter district. There is a ten-stamp mill here, and a mill at Sparta. A Salmon pulverizer and an arastra furnish crushing power to the mines hereabouts.
It will be readily seen from the foregoing that quartz mining is in its infancy in Oregon, yet that its mineral resources are considerable. Just what amount of gold and silver is produced cannot be shown, owing to the fact that ores are often milled or smelted away from the producing locality, and the results coined in the several mints of the United States, where the locale of the precious metals is not always known. Perhaps an average of half a million of gold is obtained from the mines of this State annually. The silver-production is much less, this metal never being found in placers, and requiring mills and smelters to dislodge it from its matrix.
The mineral belt of East Oregon is but a continuation of the Idaho metal-bearing mountains, as, for instance, the Seven Devils country, north of the Weiser River, and directly east of Union County. This region has an elevation little above that of the Pine Mountains, and derives its Satanic appellation from a group of seven peaks which overshadow one of the greatest copper- mines in the world. This district covers a scope of country fifteen by twenty-four miles, and contains vertical veins from thirty to one hundred and fifty feet wide and thousands of feet deep.
This district was discovered twenty-five years ago by one Levi Allen, who located the Old Peacock, the phenomenal surface mine of the world. He held it by doing one hundred dollars’ worth of work on it annually until 1888, when he was forced to take in Montana parties, who now own thirteen-sixt eenths.
The mine is valued at several millions. The ground has been sluiced off for half a mile for the free gold it contained, exposing twelve acres of copper running from thirty to eighty per cent., of a value of between five and six millions.
There are several other mines as rich in the Seven Devils country. The Peacock group contains the South Peacock, with one hundred yards square of copper, of unknown depth; the Bodie, Standard, Little Peacock (assaying fifty-seven per cent, copper, thirty dollars gold and silver), Copper Key, Confidence, and Side Issue. Then there is the Lockwood group of three mines. Four tons of this ore make one ton of copper matte, with thirty-two dollars per ton of matte in gold. It carries its own flux, as it has sufficient iron in and near it to make it the best smelting ore in the country.
The Kiver Queen, near Snake Kiver, is promising to merge into silver and gold, assaying fifty-six per cent, copper, ten dollars and eighty cents silver, and five dollars in gold. It carries its own flux also. The Decora has an extensive deposit of low-grade ore and a fine mill-site. There are ten or a dozen other mines and one hundred and twenty-five locations in this region. Some capitalists of Montana have expended one hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars in development. The possibilities of Seven Devils mineral belt arc beyond computation.
The nearness of this wealth to the eastern counties of Oregon is of great significance to this part of Oregon. The difficulty hitherto has been the inaccessibility of these mines, which were reached by two hundred miles of exceedingly rough and dangerous travel. But capital, which smooths all our ways, will find a means of making travel to these mines as easy as to any others, and the scenery of the route is magnificent.
As I have endeavored to classify the other productions of the State somewhat by counties, it may not be without interest to present the following table of mineral productions by counties, which I borrow chiefly from statistics published by the State Board of Agriculture.
Baker .—Gold in quartz and placers, silver in lodes, copper (native), coal(?), building-stones, nickel ore, limestone and marble, cinnabar.
Benton. —Coal, building-stones, gold in beach sands, iron pyrites
Clackamas. —Iron ore and ochres, gold in quartz lodes, copper ores, building-stones, galena, coal.
Clatsop. —Coal, potters’ clay, iron ore, and jet.
Columbia. —Iron ore, coal, salt springs, manganese ore.
Coos. —Coal, gold in beach sand, stream placers, and quartz lodes, platinum and iridosmine, brick-clays, chrome iron, magnetic sands (auriferous).
Crook. —Gold in placers and ledges, opal, building-stones, coal, mica, chalk, moss-agate, iron and copper ores. 1
Curry. —Iron ore, gold in stream placers and beach sands, platinum and iridosmine, chrome iron ore, silver(?), coal(?), borate of lime, building- stones.
Douglas. —Gold in lodes and placers, nickel ores, quicksilver, building- stones, copper, native and ore, coal, salt springs, natural cement, chrome iron ore, platinum, and iridosmine.
Gilliam.— Coal (?).
Grant. —Gold in lodes and placers, silver in lodes, coal, iron ore.
Jackson. —Gold in lodes and placers, iron ore, quicksilver, mineral waters, graphite, building-stones, coal, limestone, infusorial earth.
Josephine. —Gold in lodes and placers, copper ores, heavy spar, limestone, and marble.
Klamath. —Mineral waters.
Lake. —Mineral waters.
Lane. —Gold in quartz and placers, zinc ores, coal(?), magnetic iron ore.
Linn. —Gold in quartz and placers, copper ores, galena, zinc blende.
Malheur. —Nitrate beds, alkaline salts.
Marion. —Gold and silver in quartz, limestone, bog iron ore.
Multnomah. —Iron ore, building-stones.
Polk. —Building-stones, salt springs, mineral waters, iron pyrites, limestone.
Tillamook. —Gold in beach sands, coal, rock-salt, iron ores, building-stones, iron pyrites.
Umatilla. —Gold in lodes on head-waters of Umatilla River, placers on Columbia River, coal and iron ore.
Union. —Gold in lodes and placers, silver in lodes, hessite, ochre.
Wallowa. —Gold in lodes, silver in lodes, copper, building-stones.
Wasco. —Mineral waters.
Yamhill. —Mineral springs