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Entries for the ‘Linn County Gold’ Category

The Quartzville Gold Mining Con Man

In 2002 and 2003, I spent several months exploring the area around Quartzville, in Linn County. At the time I was looking for new quartz deposits that might be hiding up there in the mountains. During that time I did some metal detecting in the area, including the old Quartzville town property. You could clearly see the layout of the roads from the difference in the size of the trees, and if you looked hard enough the outlines of old foundations and some old timbers. The area of my exploration was north of the old town site.I did not have any good finds that day. I have heard of people finding nuggets there, but I usually just pass it off as “mythology”. Anyways regardless of what people or lack of what people have found there, does not affect this story about one of the greatest gold mining scams in Oregon history.

When I returned in the summer of 2005 I noticed a “No Trespassing” sign, blocking all access to where I wanted to go, which was on up the forest service road that cuts through the townsite. I did however notice many changes in the area, including the land looked like it was ripped up from one end to the other and changes were apparent. The area was obviously bulldozed and some harvesting of some of the tree’s had been done in the area. I did not venture too far because of the No trespassing sign, but I could see some of the changes from the road.

Gold Mining Con Man David Ross Nonnemaker

David Ross Nonnemaker

The Gold Mining Con Man is now known as David Ross Nonnemaker, who ran under the business names of “Western Sand and Gravel” and “Western Mining”. People who have met him says he is a fast and very smooth talking man. This obviously wasn’t his first scheme. Nonnemaker had allegedly obtained money from investors to develop mining operations and harvest timber in the Quartzville area, but had no authority to harvest or mine there. He was a claim jumper in other words.

He apparently came up with this scheme and planned it all from prison, collecting information from the internet. He found that the owners of the old townsite were “Absentee” owners. Victims included people from Nevada, Missouri, California, New York, Oregon, Alaska and as far away as Germany. Not only did he try to mine the area, he also sold off the timber from the site, making as much as $1,000,000 from timber sales from Weyerhaeuser, who did not connect the dots. Other timber companies also bought from him. He definitely made more from timber sales, than what he ever found in gold.

He had what appeared at first, to be proper documents and permits, but eventually his over-jealous and ambitious scheme got the best of him, as his operation drew the attention of law enforcement and of the USFS. Once the so-called permits and paperwork were checked up on, the truth was known and the arrest was made.

The amount of money collected from investors was enough to buy the large equipment he needed for the operation. The impact that he had on the people he came in contact with is the sad side of the story…the people he stole from. He was convicted to five years in prison. He was ordered to pay restitution of over $300,000 to people caught up in the scam and $900,000 to two victims in theft cases. The whole scheme was a very ambitious operation and will go down as one of, if not thee most infamous gold mining schemes in Oregon history.

The Blue River Mining District

The Blue River Mining District is primarily found in Lane and Linn Counties and consists of the Lucky Boy Group of mines and Rowena Mine (Callaghan and Buddington, 1938). The gold geology in this district is often compared to other Oregon Cascade Districts, such as Bohemia, Quartzville, and North Santiam. It is compared because of the amount of pyrite associated with gold in the quartz veins. They are also compared because the quartz veins are considered small and erratic without any explanation, such as is the case with the other districts.

The Blue River Mining District itself consists of a ridge of the Calapooya, Blue and McKenzie Rivers and is located about 45 miles east of Eugene. The ridge stands at about 4,500 ft and the north side has been heavily glaciated. On the north Calapooya side the gravel roads may be blocked by snow until June or July on most years, that lead up to the Lucky Boy Mine. At one time the Lucky Boy could be searched for hydro-quartz crystals, but from what I have been told, they do not allow explorers or gem hunters in the mines anymore.

A swift section of the Calapooya River

The Lucky Boy Mine was the largest gold mine and was discovered in 1887, and produced gold between 1898 and 1915. Other mines in the area, were worked around this time period including the Great Northern, the second largest producer (approx. 1,200 ounces), Cinderella Mine, Evening Mine, Great Eastern Mine, Higgins Mine, North Star Mine, Poorman Mine, Red Buck Mine, Sochwich Mine, and Treadwell Mine. Exposure of veins are generally poor and mainly consist of trenches or outcroppings with most of the gold belt vein being hard to find, or mostly underground.

The Cinderella Mine, was mined during the 1960’s in which 5 tons of ore averaged 1.84 ounces of gold per ton and 1.18 ounces of silver per ton. The price of gold at that time prevented serious development. The new vein discovery in 1992 at the Nimrod Mine was made.

The Bohemia Mining District ranks #1 for production for all Cascade Mining Districts as far as gold production is concerned. The Blue River District is ranked #3 right behind Quartzville followed by a few other districts who barely made it onto the list. These include, (might not be worth mentioning, but mentioned in order of rank) The Buzzard Mining District, North Santiam District, the Barron District, and the Salmon Creek District. I mentioned those areas for those who want to take their chances, even though gold production was not high.

Written by Robert E. Streiff

UPDATE 6/9/2013: The gorge of the Calapooya River in Linn County is blocked by a Weyerhaeuser gate on the western side near the town of Holley. It is a shame that Weyerhaeuser would block road access to public lands, but they do pay to maintain the roads going through their property. A year ago, I did enter the area on the Blue River side and according to maps there is a connecting road on the Sweet Home side of HWY 20 although I have never found that road, and have looked a few times. Edwin Waters, webmaster, OregonGold.net

Linn County Oregon Gold

Quartzville Creek

In Quartzville Creek and its tributaries there is abundant placer colors and flakes. The BLM operates “The Quartzville Recreation Corridor” and this is a great place to learn how to gold mine. There is a 19 mile section of Quartville Creek that is closed to mineral entry, but is open to recreational mining using pans, sluices, dredges and highbankers. Contact BLM for more information. Also in the area is the Albany Mine which was a minor lode producer. There a  few smaller mines in the area as well. Stay out of the mines as they are privately owned and dangerous.

Quartzville Creek is great for new gold prospectors

Quartzville Creek is great for new gold prospectors

Calapooya River

The Calapooya River is a popular river for dredging, panning and sniping gold. Also see our Lane County Oregon Gold section for more information.

North Fork of the Santiam river

This river also contains some fine placer gold. I have also heard rumors of the occasional nugget being found.

Quartzville Creek – Oregon Gold Locations

Quartzville is an old ghost town located in Linn County, near Sweet Home in the state of Oregon.  Gold was first found here on September 5th, 1863 by a man named Jeremiah Driggs. More than a thousand people called Quartzville home during a small gold boom that followed.  During this time Sweet Home grew and became the supply point for Quartzville. During that time all supplies and the gold that came from Quartzville traveled  between the two towns.  Everybody gave up and left sometime around 1870.

In 1888, mining resumed, only to be abandoned again by 1892.

There are no standing buildings at the Quartzville town site, just some unpaved roads that show up on a Forest Service map, most of which have been taken over by tree’s.  I scoured the townsite with a metal detector, but it was pretty obvious I was not the first one there, as I did not find anything other than modern scrap.

Quartzville recieved it’s name for the quartz mines located beyond Quartzville. The mines are privately owned and dangerous, as every winter a lot of water makes it’s way into the mines and weakens the rock. I ventured back into the mines, but I did not mine.  Way back in one of the mines, I found a palm sized black opal, however when I struck it with a hammer, I found it was wet and I destroyed what could have been a nice find for someone the future, once the gem had hardened. Mining stopped because it was unprofitable.

General Map of the Quartzville Area

General Map of the Quartville Area

Quartzville is located on the Quartzville Backcountry Byway. There is free recreational panning and prospecting at the Yellowbottom recreational site. Most of the gold found here is very small. There is also a lot of pyrite.  The nice thing is the motherlode was never found and makes for a good mystery or adventure.

At first glance it would appear that the Albany Mine just above the old town site is the would be source of the gold found in the area, however, gold is found in tributaries on both sides of Quartzville Creek. It is my opinion, that several smaller quartz deposits scattered through-out the area that are a result of this, and a few yet to be unearthed or located. Based on the amount of gold and size of the gold (mainly flour gold) in the creek itself, would seem to tell the story that if a new deposit was discovered, it would produce little per ton and would probable be unprofitable to mine.

If you live in the area it is a great place to hone your skills and to have a little fun, and to find a little color, but you most likely will not find your riches here.

Edwin Waters, the webmaster of OregonGold.net dredging on Quartzville Creek.

Edwin Waters, the webmaster of OregonGold.net dredging on Quartzville Creek.

A good metal detector around the miners tailings  may help you find a gold specked piece of quartz left behind or overlooked by the old miners, but do not accept too find much.

There is free camping along the road in many places, where you can stay for up to two weeks at a time. But it may be hard to find a good spot during the peak summer months.

The United States government thought that this area might be profitable. During the construction of the Green Peter Dam the U.S. government secretly processed tons dirt and ore in and around Quartzville creek, before they filled the reservoir.

During the winter time, snow may block your way depending on how far up you plan to go.

Another thing about Quartzville Creek…It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, the water is always very cold.

Sept. 5th, 1863 Sept. 5th, 1863

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