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About two thousand claims on quartz lodes have been recorded in Baker County since 1862. More or less development work has been done on most of them, perhaps one half of them having been worked to the extent which the law requires in order to make the claim secure.
Nineteen quartz mills have been built, ranging in capacity from two to sixty tons per day. The first one built was the Ruckles mill at Baker City, which was put in operation in 1864. The mill was run by waterpower, and was built to work the ore from what was then called the Rockafellow lode, situated about eight miles northeast of Baker City. Mr. Rockafellow and Mr. Wills discovered the lode in the spring of the year 1864, being led to prospect for it by reason of some specimens of gold bearing quartz having been found in that vicinity the previous fall by Philip Waggy and another man, who were out hunting horses. Mr. Ruckles worked the mine about four years, when J. W. Virtue and A. H. Brown became the owners for about three years. They sold to a San Francisco company, and the name was changed to the Virtue mine.
A Mr. Jackson took charge of the mine as superintendent and built a steam power mill of twenty stamps at the mine. About a year afterwards work was suspended, and after lying idle for some months, work was resumed, Mr. Hyde succeeding Mr. Jackson as superintendent. Mr. Hyde worked the mine two or three years, when it was again shut down, and for two years little work was done near the surface at intervals, and then ceased entirely for twelve years.
In 1891 an effort was made to resume operations with A. W. Oliver, superintendent, but nothing effectual was done before another suspension of work took place.
Recently work was again begun with George W. Boreman, foreman.
The total yield of the Virtue mine is estimated at nearly $1,500,000.
A twenty stamp mill was built on Connor Creek in 1873, to work ore from a lode which has been discovered by James Eidelman. The mine has been worked continuously ever since.
The men who were working in the mine at one time found blocks of ore which were very difficult to break with a sledge hammer, and they kept rolling them to one side until quite a quantity of them had been accumulated. The foreman came in one day and told them to try to break those blocks of ore. One of the men took a sledge hammer and after several blows succeeded in breaking a piece when it was found to be what miners call, lousy with gold.’ The hard blocks were then worked up and about $30,000 obtained from four tons of them.
A five stamp mill was built on the Mammoth mine, six miles west of Sumpter in 1879, by S. B., J. L. and J. C. Baisley. About twenty thousand dollars was taken from the mine, but no work has been done for several years.
A great deal of work has been done on Gold Hill on Burnt river, and a considerable quantity of ore has been worked yielding altogether about $100,000.
The Tom Paine lode on McCord Gulch was found in 1878. This was a “pocket” lode, and Mrs. Hayes took out about sixteen thousand dollars from the several “chimneys” or pockets” which he discovered. Subsequently he built a two stamp mill on Marble creek and worked some of the lower grade ore.
The Bonanza mine in the Greenhorn district is a good paying property, having a ten stamp mill in operation.
The Baisley-Elkhorn lode on Pine creek was discovered by James L. Baisley in 1884. For five years he worked the ore with an arastra, realizing about twenty thousand dollars in that time.
In 1889 a company was incorporated, a road built to the mine and a mill erected. Since that time additions have been made to the works, the plant now having a working capacity of fifty tons per day.
The mine has yielded about $250,000. The largest tunnel extends about six hundred and fifty feet into the mountain.
The Robbins-Elkhorn, another claim on the same lode, has been worked successfully since 1890, a Bryant mill of thirty tons capacity having been erected to reduce the ore.
The Robinson mine on Rock creek side of the same mountain has been developed to a considerable extent, and the machinery for a mill has been purchased.
Much development work has been done on the Chloride mine in the same vicinity, and across the ridge in the Cable Cover district several lodes have been developed.
Numbers of small pockets lodes have been found from which one to ten thousand dollars have been taken.
Indications of copper may be seen in the vicinity of North Powder River and Rock Creek.
The Bonanza mine on the Burnt river slope of the mountain, distant from Baker thirty miles in a direction a little north of east, was discovered in the year 1890, by H. R. Shelton.
He has driven a tunnel one hundred and eighty feet on the lode, and worked the ore, which is free milling, in a five stamp mill. The ore averaged fifty dollars per ton, aggregating fourteen thousand dollars for the whole amount that was worked.
Mr. Shelton has, besides the quartz lode, forty acres of placer mining ground on Boulder creek, supplied with water by ditches four miles in length. Two men with a hydraulic take from three to four thousand dollars per year from the placer claim.
Mr. Shelton sold his entire mining property recently to Salt Lake parties, and Mr. Durkee was engaged as superintendent and took charge of the works April 17, 1893. The company incorporated in Utah under the name of the Bonanza Gold Mining and Milling Company. Capital stock $300,000.