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Entries for the ‘Quartzville’ 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.

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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