Located in Lane County, 35 miles east of Cottage Grove is the Bohemia Mining District and gold was first discovered on Sharps Creek in 1858 by four friends (Rufus Adams, O.P. Adams, William Shields and W.W. Ogelsby) . The area received it’s name from the nearby Mount Bohemia, and later it lended it’s name to the town that eventually was formed around 1866 so aptly named Bohemia City. The Bohemia District has a very rugged landscape, is located on a saddle (a low dip on a ridge between Mount Bohemia and Mount Fairview, which are the high points). Cottage Grove was the key supply point for all the mining equipment, food and supplies to the area. Many winter’s were hard on the miners who were very reluctant to ever quit and go home. Many prospectors had up and left by 1900, but many returned during the great depression. The Bohemia Mining District was the richest district in the West Cascade Mountains.
The four friends who first discovered gold in 1858, lacked real knowledge on how to capture good amounts of gold and decided that two of them should travel to Josephine County; a already well established mining district, to observe and take notes from other miners. When they returned they built a sluice box and on Sharps Creek and the amount they were taking quadrupled and made it much more profitable to work. The very next year the four friends split up once again, this time to test the other streams in the area. In many of the streams there was no sign of gold, but the story was not over there.
An outlaw known by some as Bohemia Johnson, who was on the run and hiding from the law for killing an Indian in Roseburg, found gold in quartz in a stream 3/4 of a mile from the south side of Mount Bohemia. The gold-quartz was found in creek known as City Creek. Bohemia Johnson did not start mining. Instead he eventually made his way back to Cottage Grove and told of his discovery. The next summer in 1864, gold prospectors and want-a-be gold miners poured into the Mount Bohemia area, including the original four who had first discovered gold in Sharps Creek.
Even though Bohemia Johnson had spilled the beans that led to the gold boom, ironically it was Bohemia Johnson who located the first lode deposit. Today his discovery is known as the Mystery Mine. He reported that he found a pocket of gold that gave out six feet of depth. Many believed that Bohemia Johnson secretly found his gold elsewhere, which gave arise to the name Mystery Mine. Many people have searched for the so-called true Mystery Mine and it has never been reported as being found, if it exists.
Several lode gold mines have been dug in the area with it’s gold being found in quartz outcropping located along the ridges of the five mile long Bohemia Mining area. Many lode mines were located under the creeks and streams that the four friends had tested, but had found no gold. Little did they know it was right under their feet. After the initial boom, the gold started to dry up and people left the area around 1877.
In 1889, the Bohemia Mining Camp was rebuilt. Two years later a well-known gold miner from California known as James Musick, came to Bohemia City looking for investment opportunities and found the richest quartz vein in the whole district. The location of his claim was a stone’s throw away from the Bohemia City Mining Camp. Ten years later the Musick Mine was sold for $85,000 (3 million dollars in today’s values) to form the Calapooya Mining and Tunnel Company who also owned Champion Mine (Evening Star Mine) and Helena Mines.
A much older William Oglesby, discovered the Annie Mine located near the summit of Grouse Mountain, next to another mine known as the Knott Mine. the Annie Mine produced roughly about $26,000 in gold at 1890 prices in two years. The Helena Mine has a interesting story. It is said that a photographer from Cottage Grove got gold fever and asked if he could find some gold for a hobby (in today’s terminology: a weekend gold prospector) and someone told him to try a place along Annie Trail; a place thought to already have been tested and nothing but really fine powder gold was found previously. His name was C.B. Bruneau. He did just that, but he found more than fine flour gold. Later four claims were filed and he had discovered the richest per ton of ore at that time, valued at $30,000 per ton of ore.
Today you have to be very careful about where you prospect, as a lot of places are claimed up in the area. You should do your homework, before you head out.