Mining In Historic Okanogan County
By Lawrence K. Hodges
A series of articles originally published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1897.
This district was once the center of mining excitement in Washington and is likely to be so again, for the presence of large mineral deposits has been so conclusively proved that its eclipse can be but temporary. Its chief drawback is its remoteness from means of stream transportation, but the development of other districts to the north, south and west is likely to bring this ever nearer.
The route from Seattle is by the Great Northern Railroad to Wenatchee, 174 miles; thence by steamer City of Ellensburg up the Columbia and Okanogan Rivers to Brewster, eighty-five miles, and stage to Ruby, forty miles, Conconully, forty-six miles; at high water, steamers to Johnson's Landing, 130 miles; then by stage to Ruby, sixteen miles, and to Conconully, six miles further.
The first mineral discoveries of this district were made after the opening of the Moses Reservation, in the fall of 1886, in Ruby Hill, a steep mountain rising to a height of 3,800 feet above the town. In a country rock of granite and gneiss were found ledges of quartz, carrying silver in almost all its forms, with a small quantity of gold, the croppings being stained with iron and copper. The ledges run a little west of north and east of south, and pitch about 221/2 degrees east, and are on the summit of the hill, ranging in width from six feet upward. The ore is principally sulphurets, carrying from 10 to 100 ounces of silver, with rich pockets of native, wire and ruby silver running much higher, and an average of about $3 gold. The first discovery was made by Jack Clonan, Billy Milligan, Tom Donan and Thomas Fuller, who struck a ledge about eighteen feet wide, which ran uniformly from wall to wall about $14 gold and silver. They located the Ruby on it, and this proved to be the lowest grade mine on the hill. Dick Bilderback and his father, Pat McGroel and Will Chilson, located the First Thought on a parallel ledge further east, which was thirty to forty feet wide on the surface and which ran about $28 gold and silver for its whole width. The discovery of the Fourth of July, showing the richest ledge on the hill, and the Arlington, both by the same party, came next. The discovery of the Peacock, by John Pecar and the Lenora by James Robinson and James Gilmore, on the Peacock Hill, to the northeast of Ruby Hill, then diverted attention.
About the same time the mineral belt was found to extend beyond Conconully to Mineral Hill, which was an extension of the same ridge, shutting in the Salmon River Canyon on the west, and is about two miles northwest of Conconully. Equally valuable discoveries were made on the opposite side of the canyon and through the lime belt, which runs north of Johnson Creek and east of Toat's Coulee up to Wagon Road Coulee, east to Loomiston. The ore in the lime belt is all high grade, carrying black sulphurets of silver and showing copper stains.
After sinking a fifty foot shaft and running a 100 foot tunnel, both on the ledge, and discovering a small stringer running into the main ledge, with a rich pocket at the junction, from which $1,000 was taken, the discoveries of the Ruby sold it to Jonathan Bourne, Jr., of Portland. This was the beginning of a heavy investment by a large company of Portland people, headed by Mr. Bourne and by others who followed his lead. The First Thought showed $28 ore in an eighty-foot shaft, and was sold to Mr. Bourne and his associates for $40,000 cash. On the Arlington the locators sank a forty-foot shaft, showing a six-foot vein, which ran about $40 gold and silver, and in 1888 sold for $45,000 cash to the Arlington Mining Company, of which Mr. Bourne was president. Mr. Bourne incorporated the Ruby and First Thought each separately, organized the Washington Reduction Company to put in a concentrating plant to treat the ores, and acquired other claims, so that he and the corporations which he controls now own twenty-seven contiguous claims on Ruby Hill.
The Arlington Mining Company did about 800 feet of development in the shape of shafts, drifts and tunnels, reaching a depth of 225 feet, at which the ledge was the same in size and character as on the surface. The company then started the erection of a leeching plant, but, after expending about $130,000 on this and other work, discovered that no water could be obtained on the site selected, although there was abundance in the creek 200 feet below. Work on the plant was suspended, mining stopped and, of several hundred tons of ore, which has accumulated, the best was concentrated at the Washington Reduction Company's mill.
On the First Thought Mr. Bourne went vigorously to work. He first ran tunnel No.3, 900 feet, tapping the ledge at a depth of 400 feet, and then upraised a shaft to the surface, 234 feet. He ran another tunnel about 1,000 feet on the footwall, and made a crosscut 112 ½ feet, all through ore. Another tunnel was 800 feet on the hanging wall, which gave a depth of 200 feet. A number of drifts from the tunnel on the footwall to that on the hanging wall showed the ledge to be from thirty to sixty feet wide. It averaged from six to ten ounces silver and $3 gold, though there were rich streaks and pockets, showing native and ruby silver, which ran up to 1,000 ounces.
Meanwhile the Washington Reduction Company erected a concentrator at Ruby and built a cable bucket tramway a mile long, from the First Thought mine. It has two rock crushers, two Dodge pulverizers with screens, eight Frue vanners, canvas strakes, and an electric dynamo run by water power, the whole costing about $70,000. It ran for about three months in 1892, and, after a suspension during the winter, started again in the spring of 1893 and ran until July. As silver then fell below 70 cents, the mill was stopped after producing about $40,000 in concentrates, clear of freight and treatment charges, and has not since turned a wheel.
The Fourth of July was bought by a syndicate which incorporated, leaving out Mr. Bourne's one-eighth, as he refused to sell. The company sank about 730 feet, ran drifts for some 500 feet and stopped about 800 tons of ore. This was the richest ledge on the hill, being fifteen feet wide, with a pay streak four feet wide, from which one shipment of twenty tons paid $480 a ton gold and silver, while specimens of ore carrying native and wire silver were carried away, which would aggregate thousands of dollars in value. About 200 tons of ore were shipped and 300 tons were treated at the Ruby concentrator.
Among the first locations on Ruby Hill was the Wooloo Mooloo, by Hugh McCool and others, who found a ledge eight feet wide, carrying black sulphurets, the first two assays from which ran 3,000 and 5,000 ounces silver. They sank a shaft 160 feet on the ledge and then lost it. The War Eagle, owned by a number of St. Paul men, has an eight-foot ledge of low-grade ore on which a shaft has been sunken 150 feet. On the Idaho, George Turner, W.N. Drumheller and William Pfunder have a shaft about 150 feet deep on the same ledge.
The discovery claim on Anaconda Hill was the Anaconda, located by Thomas Higstrun, on a twenty-foot ledge of chloride ore, showing well on the surface and assaying 200 to 300 ounces. Higstrun sold it for $10,000 to John Rudberg, who resold to Hale and Smith, Xenophon Steeves and J.C. Moreland, of Portland, for $ 15,500, he retaining a one-eighth interest. The new owners sank a shaft thirty-five or forty feet and then lost the ledge. They ran a tunnel lower down the mountain to tap it in about 400 feet, at a point below the shaft, but did not strike it there. They have been continuing assessment work and have run on the ledge again, showing up good black sulphurets.
About the same time that the first discoveries were made on Ruby Hill a similar body of ore was found near the foot on Conconully Lake by "Texas" George Runnels and J.C. Boone, who located the Lady of the Lake on it the day the Moses Reservation was opened. They bonded it to O.B. Peck for $40,000, and he made about 100 feet of drifts and crosscuts, but forfeited the bond.
Henry C. Lawrence, who interested Allen C. Mason, of Tacoma, located the Lone Star, on the West Side of Salmon River, about a mile above Conconully. There is a ledge of galena ore about twelve feet wide, which assays about 100 ounces of silver, on which a shaft has been sunken 350 feet. Drifts have been run each way on the ledge at every 100 feet, aggregating, 1,000 feet, about $40,000 being spent and a considerable quantity of ore taken out.
Directly across the river from the Lone Star is the Tough Nut, owned by H.C. Thompson, Mile Kelly and others. The ledge is about six feet wide, showing black sulphurets and galena like the Lone Star ore, and the work on it consists of a 100 foot shaft and a tunnel 150 feet, both on the ledge.
Ben Everett, Charles Ulmann and Otis Sprague, of Tacoma own the Homestake, adjoining the Tough Nut on the south. They ran a tunnel 150 feet through a twenty-foot ledge, well mineralized with silver-lead ore, and have 200 tons of ore in the bins.
Adjoining the Lone Star on the north is the John Arthur, owned by James Robinson, of Ellensburg, and Deputy Collector of Customs J.T. McDonald, of Oregon. A shaft is down 125 feet on the same ledge as the Lone Star, showing the same kind of ore. The north extension on the same ledges is the St. Clair, located by Thomas Hanway and Dudley, who sank a 100 foot shaft near that of the John Arthur and on the same ore chute.
The greatest development in this section of the district, however, was on Mineral Hill, where the Bridgeport Milling and Mining Company bought five claims. Double compartment shafts were sunk 125 feet on another, and a tunnel was run 160 feet on the hill above the latter. Shafts were also sunken on the other three. A pair of hoisting engines, boilers, air compressor, two machine drills and a sawmill were erected, the whole property representing an expenditure of $30,000 on mines and machinery. All the claims have ledges three to six feet wide of high-grade silver-lead ore, of which a ten-ton shipment ran $300, $20 of this being gold and the balance silver.
The Buckhorn, adjoining this group on the west, is owned three-quarters by the Bridgeport company and one-quarter by A.C. Cowherd and has a ledge forty to fifty feet wide on the surface.
Today, 2001 many of these claims are on private property and are dangerous.
Among the noted rich claims on Mineral Hill is the LaEuna, for which T.L. Nixon, of Tacoma, paid $10,000. It has a small ledge of very rich ore, of which a five-ton shipment from a forty-foot shaft gave returns of 398 ounces per ton.
Mineral Hill also boasts of the Mohawk, for which H.C. Lawrence refused an offer of $30,000 and on which a tunnel 200 feet has shown a three foot ledge of high grade ore, running over 300 ounces silver. On the Independence, John Stech, of Seattle, who paid $4,000 for it, has a 100 foot shaft on a four foot ledge of similar ore to that in the Bridgeport group, and is keeping up his assessment work. In the Pointer, adjoining the Tough Nut, on the south, Messrs. Hargrove and Stokesberry have a five foot ledge, running 130 to 150 ounces silver, on which they have a 150 foot tunnel.
It was about the time that the first discoveries were made on Salmon River that the late ex-lieutenant governor, Charles E. Laughton, organized a company to build a concentrator to treat their ores on the customs plan. He erected a building in the canyon between the Tough Nut and Lone mines and put up a plant consisting of a rock crusher, a set of rollers to pulverize the rock, drum screens to size the mineral, wooden jigs and wooden bumper-vanners. Nevertheless, much of the mineral escaped with the tailings, so that the latter were richer than the concentrates, less than half the value being saved. About fifty tons from the Tough Nut and a little from the Homestake were concentrated. Then, as the assay value failed to show up, the mine owners refused to furnish more ore, and after a two weeks run in 1889 the machinery stopped, never to run again. Some time later the machinery men foreclosed their mortgage and Allen C. Mason bought the mill, but has never run it. He has sold some of the shafting and parts of the machinery.
In the Lime Belt, the principal group is the Silver Bluff of ten claims, owned by the Silver Bluff Mining and Mining Company. On the surface the ore in this group runs in great bunches of high value, and a large amount of prospecting has been done in the endeavor to find where it lies in the country rock below. Work was going on last summer, and one carload was shipped which netted over $100. The Belcher is another claim on the Lime Belt, owned by the Belcher Mining Company, about one-half mile from the Silver Bluff. A shaft has been sunk 275 feet and drifts run at the 100 foot level and at the bottom. That the Salmon River cuts some free gold ledges is evidenced by the discovery of gold in the sand at several points on its course. Charles H. Ballard and H.R. Wallace found gold in the sand of a bench about a mile square one mile below Conconully and took out $20 in prospecting it. The ground carries from one-tenth of a cent to 10 cents to the pan, and would make good hydraulic ground. Eight miles above town, at a place called Meadows, on the North Fork of Salmon River, Layton S. Baldwin, L. Irwin Baldwin, H.A. Wilder, John Armstrong of Conconully, and J.P. Gleason of Seattle located claims on a bar. This bar appears to be an old riverbed and where the dirt carries shot gold to the amount of 10 to 15 cents a cubic yard.