Last Update:  June 3, 2006
On the weekend of May 13, 2006, I was visiting family in Terrabonne, Oregon.  My two brothers in law and myself decided to explore a region of the
Ochoco National Forest that I’ve never been too before.   USGS maps indicated a few mine remains existed up there.  However, I had no idea what we
would find.   I expected it to be very little, since the number of mines were relatively few.   But we would be surprised.

The mining in the Ochoco National Forest consists of three major types.   Cinnabar, which is the type of ore that Mercury is derived, gold mines and
thunder egg mines.   Gold is relatively rare in this part of the state, although just to the north and east are some of the largest gold deposits and gold
mining history in the Pacific Northwest.   The thunder egg mines are confined to a relatively small part of the National Forest.  Cinnabar mines would
be the most prevalent mining in this region.   Beginning at early as World War One, and continuing to be mined as late as the 1950s and even
possibly into the 1980s.   The most active period for Cinnabar mining was between the 1920s and 1950s, when demand for mercury was high and
mining for it could be very profitable.   During the depression of the 1930s, many prospects holes were dug by desperate people who lacked jobs
looked for anyway to support themselves.   But the bulk of Cinnabar mining in the Ochocos was concentrated in two main clusters of mines.   The
Mother Load/Independence Mines and the Blue Ridge, Amity Mines.   All are concentrated northeast of Lookout Mountain, about 30 miles east of
Prineville, Oregon.
Map showing the general area of mines discussed in this article.   Detailed maps of the mines can be found below.
The Mother Lode and Independence Cinnabar Mines:
These were the first mines that we explored on this short day trip.   It was the most interesting sites explored so far in this area, but also the hardest to
research.   That was surprising considering the amount of remains left behind.   

The two mines are accessible off of Forest Road 42, which is paved.  Turn off of on Forest Road 4205 which is a dirt road.  You can park here if you’d
like or you can drive about ¾ mile up the dirt road, providing weather conditions and your vehicle clearance allow.  From there you hike a short
distance to the two mines.   On this day, we encountered lots of snow drifts that only allowed our Subaru Forester to make it about ½ mile up the

The first mine we encountered was the Independence Mine.  It’s history is not clear, but a lot of buildings remains remain on site.   Some buildings
clearly indicate that the site originally dates to around the 1920s or earlier, but was probably worked into the 1950s.  The remaining buildings include
two standing log buildings that were probably residences, one standing wood constructed building that was obviously a residence, a generator
building, and remains of the mill.   No mineshafts were found, but maps indicate this was an open pit mine nearby.

The next mine had less buildings, but was more fascinating.   Called the Mother Lode mine, its history is also a mystery, although a forest sign had a
photo of the mill dating back to 1959 and the mill looked very much abandoned by then.   Hiking up the snow covered road, we first encountered a two
stall brick oven in the middle of the road, which what appeared to be a relatively  newer roof constructed over it.   Perhaps to preserve the remains.  
USGS maps indicate that two buildings existed near here, but we could only find the collapsed remains of one.

Continuing up the road, we found the mill.   This was an extremely imposing structure and of a unique design that I’ve never seen before.  The
complexity of the mill was interesting.   You’ll have to check out the pictures to see what I mean.   North of the mill was the main shaft used to supply
this mine of Cinnabar ore.   Unfortunately it was collapsed.  The snow hid most of the remains, but we could see sections of ore car track still remain
and they poked out of the snow.   A large open pit south of the mill is indicated on maps and probably also supplied this mill in its later years.

Years of operation, production and ownership information are not available at this time, but if you know more please
email me.
Detailed Map of the Mother Lode and Independence Mines
Photos:  May 2006
The road the Mother Lode and Independence Mines from Prineville is all paved, except for the last mile, aftering turning off of the forest road.  The road to the mine is
actually a single lane unmaintained road that is little used these days.   In dry summer weather the road is driveable, but on this day, we ran into snow drifts that were just
high enough to stop the Subaru Forester I was driving on this trip.  So we hiked about 3/4 mile to the Mother Lode.
Photos:  May 2006
While hiking up the road, we bypassed the Independence Mine which we could see part of from the road, in favor of reaching the Mother Lode first.  The very first sign of the
Mother Lode Mine was this abandoned furnace.   It seemed to be standing in the middle of the snowy road completely by itself.   In reality another building used to exist
nearby, but has since been reduced to a pile of rubble.    The furnace was likely the original way Cinnabar was processed at this mine prior to the big mill being completed,
which we'll see shortly.    Photos:  May 2006
Walking past the furnace through the snow, we finally came upon the main mill complex of the Mother Lode Mine  
Photos:  May 2006
This picture was posted on a sign board near the Forest Road that leads to the mines.   It's apparently dated 1959 and shows the above Mother Lode mill.  Unfortunately no
history was included, but I suspect the mill dates to the mid 1940s.   Photos:  May 2006
The mill complex.   Apparently, ore was first processed through this tumbler, then moved via conveyor belt to the mill itself where it was further processed.
Photos:  May 2006
The covered conveyor belt tube apparently collapsed over the years, probably under the weight of snow, but the remains still exist on the property
Photos:  May 2006
I'm not exactly familier with how this mill operated, but it appeared the ore was loaded into the shaker located on the hill, then run by conveyor through the elevated chute
before reaching the top of the this tank.   At the bottom of the tank a mechanism appears to have powered a spinning mechanism inside the tank.   Somehow the oven
located on the 1st floor was also related.
Photos:  May 2006
Upon exiting the tank and or oven, the ore or remains then moves up and down through these tubes where I assume the finished product is sorted through.  The wood boxes
were hung spring metal which allowed the boxes to be shook back and forth and one remaining pan was seen on the floor, like used by the minors.   I've never seen this type
of complex before, which makes me suspect that they were possibly processing the ore for more than just cinnabar.  The final shot of the mill complex was taken from behind
the mill. Photos:  May 2006
Walking north back towards the road, we found the remains of the main mine adit.   The adit was collapsed, but evidence of the ore cart track remain, just barely visible
below the snow.    I suspect that this adit supplied the complex that predated the current mill structure as a large open pit was located south of the current structure and I
think that's what supplied this mill.
Photos:  May 2006
On the way back to the car, we headed off the road to examine the Independence Mine that we skipped earlier.   Unfortunately, the history of this mine is lacking as well.  I
estimate the mine property to probably date as early as World War One, with the current mill probably built after the war and worked into the 1950s.   This log cabin was the
first building we encountered and appeared to me to date from the early 20th century.   On this day it was still partly buried in a late spring snow field.  Note the stringers and
how the builders never bothered to strip the bark off the logs.
Photos:  May 2006
The second building we saw was probably the second cabin built and the main house used when the complex was used in its final years.   The interior had furniture inside,
but was pretty well trashed.  Newspaper clippings inside suggest that it may have been used as a cabin or camp site as late as the 1980s.
Photos:  May 2006
I don't normally take pictures of old outhouses, but how often to see outhouse interiors painted pink?    The 3rd picture is what I believe to be the old generator house.   The
4th building, I'm not sure what that is.  It looks like the top of a building that was removed and set aside here.
Photos:  May 2006
This very old log building, might possibly have been the wood cutting building used to build the rest of the complex.  It appeared to be the oldest building
and in the worst shape.
Photos:  May 2006
The remains of the mill.   Unfortunately, its seen better days.  The center section has collapsed, probably under the weight of snow.  I'm not sure when it was built, but I
suspect it dates to around the 1920s.   Ore appears to have been dumped into the upper chute, and then processed through the center section of the building that is now
gone, before entering the oven at the lower end that is still there.
Photos:  May 2006
The Blue Ridge and Amity Cinnabar Mines:
The Blue Ridge mine dates to 1929, when cinnabar ore was first discovered along Johnson Creek..  The Blue Ridge Mercury Company was
established to operate the mine and by 1930 an ore procession plant had been erected on the site.  Between 1931 and 1938 the mine passed
through several hands.   In 1938, C.T. Takahashi acquired the property and through the Central Oregon Quicksilver Mines, Inc., operated the mine until
1941.  The Number One mine adjacent to the Blue Ridge Mine was operated by the Number One Mining Co. and a variety of owners from 1930 to
1941. During this time, shafts were sunk on both mines to approximately 100 to 110 feet.

In 1941, both the Blue Ridge Mine and the Number One Mine came under the ownership of the Cinnabar Mines, Inc. In 1942, a 75-ton Gould rotary
furnace and condenser system was installed on the site, producing 93 flasks of mercury over the next two years. In 1944, the furnace and equipment
were removed from the site. This appears to account for the concrete remains that we found.

From 1952 to 1959, Roy Stanton owned the property and leased to a number of individuals. From 1959 to 1995, Frank Reid worked and operated the
Blue Ridge Mine.   The later period wood mill that appears to contain more modern equipment was likely Mr. Reid’s processing plant.
The Amity Mine was established in 1929 by W. J. Wesserling. From 1930 to 1932, the Johnson Creek Mercury Company leased and developed the
property, producing 250 flasks of mercury. In 1933, the property reverted back to W. J. Wesserling. In 1937, the ownership transferred to Homestake
Mercury Mines, during which time 4 adits were excavated. From 1937 to 1950, 24 flasks were produced under several different companies. In 1949, a
Herreschoff furnace was installed. In 1953, the lease was taken over by the Ochoco Mining Company and operated until 1956, producing 129 flasks.
In 1958, the Herreshoff furnace and retort were removed from the site.  At some point afterward the mill complex either collapsed or was purposefully
destroyed.   Two owners are recorded from 1960 to 1980, with no additional development noted.  The mine site included 4 adits, a glory hole and a 50
foot deep shaft. Two of the adits are under the current Forest Road 42 and two are depressions on the hillslope adjacent to the furnace and structures.

The Devil's Food Mine prospect, also known as the Westbrook prospect, consists of a series of trenches and collapsed adits. The site was located by
Robert Osborne and J. H. Shelton in 1932. From 1933 to 1943, it was owned by William Endicott, producing 1 flask during this time. In 1957, trenches
were bulldozed under a Defense Minerals Exploration contract.   These trenches still exist today and can be seen northwest of the Blue Ridge Mine
Detailed Map of the Blue Ridge and Amity Cinnabar Mines.
Photos:  May 2006
The remains of the Amity Mine dates back to 1929 with this mill being built around 1930-1932.   The mine had several adits dug to supply this mill as late as the 1950s.  
Today, the mill has collapsed and little remains on the site.
Photos:  May 2006
We just barely spotted the remains of this chute through the trees and investigated.  What we found was the obvious remains of a major mill site.  The entire mill was
dissembeled, but for some reason the upper chute was left behind.   I think this is the remains of the Number One Mine, which is part of the Blue Ridge Complex.  If this is the
Number One mine, this mill was probably built around 1930 and torn down around 1944 and a combination of being scrapped out for the war and parts being used for other
mines in the area account for no other remains on the site.
Photos:  May 2006
The remains of the original Blue Ridge mine complex include this huge bunk house and the concrete foundations of the original mill.   The mill and complex dates to 1929
and building shown here was likely built around 1930-31 along with the mill.   This mill along with the Number One shown above were operated until 1944.
Photos:  May 2006
The remains of the Devils Food mine.   Originally discovered in the 1932, it produced one flask from then until 1943.   The trenches seen here were dug in 1957.  I presume
the ore was processed at the Roy Stanton/Frank Reid mill shown below.
Photos:  May 2006
This homemade mill was used by Frank Reid from 1959 for at least several decades.  It's not clear when mining stopped, but Frank owned the mill through 1995.   The mill
could possibly predate 1959, when Roy Stanton owned the property and may have been built in 1957 to process the ore from the above trenches.
Photos:  May 2006
The Ochoco / Ophire Mayflower Mines
The Ochoco Mines are gold mines located in an isolated Gold Mining district in Central Oregon, called the Howard District.   Located about 26 miles
east of Prineville.  

The Ochoco Mines, also known as the Ophire-Mayflower Mine was the largest producer in this area, although its production was rather small.    The
exact date of the mine’s construction is not clear, however records indicate that work began in the district as early as 1885 and appear to have faded
out by about 1923, although some work was done in the early 1930s.

The lower adit of the Ochoco Mine was a crosscut dug 1435 feet into the hillside.  A second cross cut entered the hillside about 200 feet higher.   This
higher crosscut appears to be the adit that we found still partly open.   Additional adits and open cuts existed in the area.

Total district production appears to be about $79,895, mostly in gold.  About 20,000 ounces.

Modern USGS maps indicated 2 separate sites listed as Ochoco mines, approximately 1 miles apart from each other.  The southern site is listed has
having two open adits while the northern site has one.  No buildings are indicated.  

When we arrived, we explored the southern most site first.  A USFS sign indicated that an open field next to the forest service road was the site of
Sissorville and the mine claim was called the Mayflower claim.

After arriving at the mine site via a short dirt road/trail we found the remains of a significant stamp mill.   Unfortunately, it was mostly collapsed.  Hiking
up the hillside we found evidence of several adits, but only one that was still partly open.  

The site is fairly easy to access and very interesting none the less, because it’s one of the few gold producing mines in this part of the state.

Lucky Strike, Valley View and Ochoco Agate Bed Mines are all privately owned mines that mine largely for thunder eggs.  They are actually open to the
public, sometimes with a fee and people can actually mine for thunder eggs themselves.  We have not visited these sites yet and don’t know the
history of them.
Detailed Map of the Ochoco Mines  These mines differ from the ones noted above in that they were mined for gold and date as far back as the 1880s.
Photos:  May 2006
The Forest Service sign calls this open field the site of Sissorville and the Mayflower claim.   Sissorville was apparently the townsite for the Ochoco mines, which were also
known as the Ophire Mayflower Mines.   The townsite was likely established sometime prior to 1923, possibly even around the 1900s as that was the heyday of this mine.
Photos:  May 2006
Unfortunately the mill complex is completely collapsed, but evidence exists which clearly shows this was a stamp mill and had least 4 or more stamps.   The mill was
probably built around 1900, probably abandoned around 1923 and any remaining metal was likely scrapped during World War Two.
Photos:  May 2006
The upper adit of Ochoco mine is one of two adits at this mine.  Another mine part of this complex exists about a mile north of here, but we were not able to access that site.
This is possibly the only surviving adit, although it is only partly open.   About 20,000 ounces of gold was pulled from this mine and a few others in the area through 1923.
Photos:  May 2006

Gold Mining in Oregon by Bert Webber 1995
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Note of caution:   These mines sites are inherently dangerous.   At no time during this trip did we trespass passed any no trespassing signs,
however, dangers lurk everywhere and you are in a remote area.  One danger unique to some of these mines is mercury contamination from the
Cinnibar mines.   So please be careful if you decide to visit these sites.

Copyright © 2006 Brian McCamish,  All Rights Reserved

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