If you trawl the internet for information on gold mining in Oregon, sooner
or later, you’ll find mention of the Armstrong Nugget. This huge lump of
placer gold was discovered near what is today the ghost town of
Susanville, Oregon in 1913 by George Armstrong. This big monster weighed
in at 80.4 ounces. Today, its gold value alone would fetch over $80,000
U.S. dollars. The Armstrong Nugget is currently on display at U.S. Bank in
Baker City in Grant County, Oregon. Most online sources claim that the Armstrong Nugget was the biggest gold
nugget ever discovered in Oregon, but it isn’t so.
In fact, here in Josephine County, on the opposite side of the state, a
number of larger gold nuggets have been discovered near what was refered
to as Sailors Diggings. One of them, pulled out of Sucker Creek, weighed
over 15 pounds. That’s a big chunk of gold, but it’s still not the biggest
nugget that Oregon ever produced.
In 1859, a little Irish fellow by the name of Mattie Collins was mining in
the high bank along the East Fork of Althouse Creek when he uncovered a
huge lump of almost pure gold that became known as the Collins Nugget.
Mattie’s find weighed in at a whopping 204 ounces (approximately 17
pounds. At today’s gold prices, the Collins Nugget would be worth over
$200,000, but typically a nugget will fetch a significantly higher price.
The Collins Nugget is the largest single hunk of gold ever pulled from the
Oregon lands, but unlike the Armstrong Nugget, it doesn’t survive today.
As was always done in those days, Mattie took his find to the smelter at
Jacksonville, sold it for $3500 and then drank himself into poverty.
~ Kerby Jackson