Submitted by Rob Stone
Rob Stone has lived in and around the area of Nighthawk most of his life. I found him to be very knowledgeable about the past history of this intriguing region and Rob offered to share the following information with me.
Mining in the Nighthawk District has many of the oldest claims to fame and the first ever registered hard rock claims in the state of Washington. In a journal entry by J.M. Haggerty, the man that took over Hiram F. "Okanogan" Smith's mining property's after Mr. Smith's death in 1893 writes: "That by 1865 there were some 3,000 miners that flocked to a spot on the Similkameen River known as Rich Bar. In his writings he says that Okanogan Smith acting as agent for Wells Fargo & Company ships $600,000 in the first 60 days of the rush from Rich Bar, all taken from a stretch not exceeding 4 acres in extent."
It's unknown how much gold was really taken from the Similkameen River, places like, Shankers Bend, Miners Bend, Rich Bar, and many others to numerous to name. The entire river was very rich with deposits. Even today one can go to the river and pan, get lucky, and find gold flakes and black sand, and come home with a nice large gold nugget. The gold rush on the Similkameen was brought to a halt when the river suddenly came up and washed out all wing dams built by miners. Tales of gold in places like Rock Creek, Trail Creek and the city of Roseland lured the miners to what they hoped would be richer, easier bonanza finds than that of Similkameen River. The camps are said to have disappeared over night.
At the time of the gold rush no one paid much attention to large outcroppings of quarts vein material that was scattered around Little Chopaka Mountain. Okanogan Smith kept his eye on them though, and in April of 1873 Mr. Smith and a few friends made the first locations in the Territory of Washington.
In the following order they were Number One, Eagle, Cabba, Chopaka, and Oswego. Mr. Smith and friends also staked claim to many other mining locations on Little Chopaka, Ellemeham, and Chopaka Mountains. Names such as: the Summit, Silver Quartz, The State of Maine, Julia, Shamrock, Mary, The San Francisco, and many others.
At that time it was too far to ship the ore and President Hayes, by presidential proclamation, made everything north and west of the Columbia River an Indian reservation. It was not until 1883, after exhaustive work by Mr. Smith and others that President Arthur what is known as the 15-mile strip open for claim. It ran from the British line to the West Bank of the Okanogan River 15 miles and to the summit of the Cascade Mountains. But, the mines still could not be worked as "The Fifteen Mile Strip" was enclosed by Indian reservation for 100 miles around it.
Then in 1886 the rest of the north half of the Moses Reservation was opened to claim and the rush was on. Mines began to pop up all over the country. The big producing mines in the Nighthawk District were, Four Metals, Cabba, Nighthawk, Six Eagles, Number One, Summit Silver, Wyandotte, Peerless, Chopaka, Ruby Silver Mine, Golden Zone, Mt. Sheep Mine, and many others that time has forgotten the names of.
US Mineral Monument # 1 was established on the Summit Silver claim as the Nighthawk District had not been surveyed as to Township, ranges or sections at that time. It was used as a marker to survey off of so those claims could be added on a map, it was established in 1884. Many of these mines had there own concentration mills of various makes and models, which supported a refinery about 5 miles north east of Nighthawk. There were at least 6 concentration mills in this area all operating at the same time. For various reasons the mines and mills closed down, mainly due to the drop and demand of precious metals. The mines were never played out as far as gold, silver, lead, copper, and zinc. It was because of the drop in price of these precious metals, which made mining not profitable to work the mines any longer. The last mill to shut down was the Kabba Texas Mine in 1951 (same claim as the Cabba), but went through a name change in 1936.
The Nighthawk Mine tunnel is approximately 1,750 feet in length and the Six Eagles is approximately 2,750 feet in the main tunnel. Both were driven to intersect quartz veins that were worked above where the current mines are today. Neither one of these mines ever found the quartz they were looking for. The adits were rich enough that they paid a little, but never as well as what was hoped for. The Kaaba Texas Mine was driven on an incline of 45 degrees for a total distance of 800 feet. The Kaaba has six levels that produced a much-needed resource of lead, copper, zinc, and silver that helped support the war effort of WW II, and into the Korean War. Four Metals Mine, Number One both produced minimum amounts of ore, and only small shipments were shipped to the mills. These two mines, Four Metals and Number One went broke because the methods of extraction were not compatible with the type of ore being mined.
The Ruby Silver Mine was likely the most famous of them all. The Ruby was 950 feet in the main adit; there are some 5,000 feet of drifts and raises. It was located in April 1902 by A.M. Riste and George Bowers and sold on November 15, 1902 to the Ruby Mining Company, which at this time J.M. Haggerty took over as the main boss of operation. In January 1903 work began to develop the ore body, and in the first year of development it produced over $20,000 in silver values in 211 feet of adit. It also blocked out another 20,000 tons of ore that averaged $50.00 a ton. This mine is one of the very few mines anywhere that paid for its development work with money left over. It has been said the mine received its name from the ruby silver that was in the mountain, and that the silver ore under miners' carbide lamps would make the ore appear ruby red in color. Once the light of the sun shined on it, it was the same color of any other silver, a grayish black color much like the galena in this area. The Ruby Mine was worked into the 1960s off and on.
Not all the mines are closed down completely, but none are producing ore at this time. There are diamond drill programs running at Four Metals and the Nighthawk Mine is being sampled. There has been work done at the Ruby Mine, with hopes of one day the price of silver will make it profitable to work these mines once again. Ruby Mine is on private property and is posted as such but can be viewed from the road. Mines and mine shafts are DANGEROUS, please respect No Trespassing signs. The owner for a reason puts these signs there.
If only the ghost inhabitants of Nighthawks miners and prospectors of yesteryear could talk, they surely could tell us tales of long ago that have been forgotten over time. It's disturbing that much of the history of this area has been lost to time, never to be told again.
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