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.
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.