and Death on the Althouse
EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF ALTHOUSE MINING CAMP
The discovery of the rich mining camp on Althouse Creek created more intense excitement, perhaps, than any other of the many exciting discoveries which were made in Southern Oregon in an early day. This was due in part to the finding of many large nuggets, which seemed to be a specialty of the camp, and which were shown around and the news heralded abroad, causing an excited rush of miners from all directions to the great camp of big specimens. The creek was discovered in the spring or early summer of '53, and by fall, when the writer was there, the camp was alive with men. The gorge in which the town of Althouse was situated was a very beehive of surging, bustling humanity, and all inspired by the one supreme and all-absorbing thought of gold. The town, if such it could be called, was a picturesque job lot of tents, bark wickiups, improvised lodging camps and primitive shake houses with poles set in the ground and sided up with clapboards, and all skirted and flanked about by a lot of little, low miners' cabins, built of small poles. The place was a veritable variegated menagerie of human life in undress. Like all early mining camps, Althouse was preeminently cosmopolitan. Here were seen the Jew and the gentile, the Turk and the Swede, the Englishman and the German, the Pole and the Frenchman, the Scandinavian and the Switzer. Every nationality and color mingled in the throng. Every grade and shade of learning and civilization here found their counterpart. The able lawyer, the learned divine, the scholarly student and the brilliant journalist mingled, unawares, with the rough and the tough, the good and the bad, the desperado and the vicious, the gambler and the outlaw. And yet there was little trouble except of a personal and spasmodic character, which rarely resulted in anything serious. It will ever remain a great marvel, and one worth consideration, as tending to prove the universal brotherhood of man, that such an incongruous and non-assimilative mass of people, collected together from the four quarters of the earth, under the stress of intense excitement and anxiety, should have worked and mingled and fraternized together in the mad rush with so little trouble and friction. In looking back over the early history of mining on the coast, and considering the unorganized condition of society and government, it is strange indeed that so few racial, sectional or provincial troubles should have occurred. Every man was a law unto himself so long as he elected to do right, but when he trenched upon the rights of his fellow man the stern justice of the honest miner was quick to call him to account. The discovery of gold on the Pacific coast established two facts beyond any reasonable question: First, that civilization is much the same the world over; second, that the predominating impulse of man in the aggregate is toward the ends of justice.
Medford Mail, April 13, 1900, page 1
Althouse Creek Fifty-Three Years Ago
William Mackey in Crescent City Times.
Althouse Creek was one of several streams in southern Josephine County, Oregon which was noted for the immense amount of gold taken from placer mines during the decade immediately following the discovery of gold on that creek in the year 1852. In the first few years of the mining discovery several hundred men mined on that famous stream. Browntown, which was located on a flat on the east side of Althouse, was the chief congregating point for the miners and gamblers of that creek and adjoining district for miles around. And in those days long before the building of the Oregon and California railroad farmers with their teams and wagons hauled their produce from the Umpqua and Willamette valleys to Browntown, where they sold it to the miners.
This produce consisted generally of butter, fruit, flour and like necessaries. Many of these farmers were somewhat verdant and unused to the ways of sports and adventurers, and they were called tartars by the miners and gamblers, and many were the cruel tricks played on those simple and inexperienced farmers by the sporting fraternity of Browntown. These farmers were frequently enticed into games where they staked their coins and stuff which they had hauled and almost invariably lost all. Once a tartar came to Browntown and engaged in a game, and at night while he was poring over queens and hearts and several drinks of old bourbon were rising in his brain, his canvas-covered wagon, which stood on the outside, was plundered. Sacks of fruit and other farm products were carried on backs of miners on the trail for a mile up the course of Althouse and hidden in the creek, where they were in turn stolen from the thieves by other miners who had been secretly watching the dishonest doings of the first rascals.
An oldtimer was often heard to tell how a tartar came to Browntown and becoming interested in cards was arrested on a stock charge of cheating in the game. A jury was empaneled and a sham trial was held. Dan Lanigan, a clever scholar and gambler, put on a pair of eyeglasses and, holding a history of the United States before him, acted as judge. Everything bore the appearance and authority of a court of justice. The victim was firmly impressed with the belief that it was a serious charge and a real trial. And the miners standing around would say in an undertone within hearing of the accused, "Boys, it is a hard case. He will not get less than ten years." And the tartar's brother, seriously impressed with the sense of his brother's danger, would go among the bystanders and say, "I'm afraid it will go hard with my poor brother." However, the tartar was at length found guilty by the jury and Judge Lanigan, pretending to exercise as much leniency as possible, sentenced the victimized teamster to pay a fine of $20 and forfeit his wagon load of produce and treat the entire crowd at the saloon bar, which he gladly did, as he fancied that he had very luckily escaped a long term of imprisonment.
The miners and gamblers on Althouse in those days were wont to act out a sort of drama called the "Russian play." Six or eight men would line up on each side with pistols loaded with blank charges and shoot at one another. A tartar came to Browntown and engaged in a game of cards. A quarrel was picked with him by a gambler who was his opponent in playing and who pretended to take offense at something the tartar did in the game. The latter received a challenge to mortal combat coming from the gambler, who produced the pistols and made the tartar take his choice of the weapons. Almost simultaneously with the challenge the "Russian play" opened and the miners and gamblers began firing at each other with the tartar and gambler in their mist. The tartar fled in terror and running out into the night plunged into Althouse, which was flooded, and was carried downstream some distance and almost drowned. He remained out all night and returned in a wet and miserable condition. In the meantime his wagon was looted of its contents.
At length a large and determined-looking man wended his way with his team into Browntown. Soon after his arrival, when these two pistols were presented to him, he was told to choose either one and challenged to fight a duel. He politely replied, "Thank you, sir, I don't want your pistol. I have got one of my own in the wagon," and getting up into his vehicle he pulled a formidable-looking revolver, which he cocked and held in his hand. He told the crowd that he had heard of their doings and he invited them to pitch in. It is needless to say that they seemed to consider that wagon a little Gibraltar which was unsafe to attempt to carry by storm, and the big stranger was allowed to go without further molestation.
Medford Sun, May 21, 1911, page B6 Mackey retold this story twenty-four years later, transcribed below.
ALTHOUSE CREEK IN THE EARLY DAYS
BY WILLIAM MACKAY
The rich placer mines in Southern Josephine County.
Tales of early mining days told by well-known Crescent City pioneer.
Southern Oregon was noted in early mining days for the richness of its placer mines. Althouse Creek, which lies in southern Josephine County nine miles east of Waldo, produced more placer gold than any other mining district in Oregon, and was exceeded only by [a] few localities in California in its yield of the precious metal. The creek from where it empties into Illinois Valley to its source in the Siskiyou Mountains is about thirteen miles long. Several creeks have been what miners term spotted, paying unevenly with blank spots here and there. But the old lead of Althouse was uniform and continuous in its yield of gold, and for the length of ten miles extending upstream from its mouth except in one or two places never paid less than two ounces a day to the hand, and in places averaged $50 and $100 per day to the man.
Space will not permit us to describe all of the mines on the creek in detail; we will briefly refer to the most important places. Gold was first discovered on the creek in 1852 by a man named Althouse, after whom the creek is named. Many of the early miners of Althouse were seasoned veterans in the battle of pioneer life, several having crossed the plains and mined in the first gold fields of California, and braved the hardships and dangers of the frontier. In the later fifties and early sixties there was a great exodus of those strong and hardy men from Althouse to the northern mining excitements of Cariboo and Fraser River, and the majority never returned. A pioneer often told the writer of a scene he witnessed one day at a livery stable in Waldo, when a large band of these adventurous spirits rode out of the town on hired miles and horses bound for the mines of the north by way of Crescent City.
Browntown, which was situated on a flat on the east side of Althouse, three miles from Illinois Valley, was the chief center for the miners of Althouse and the surrounding country in those days. It was also at that time the resort of many gamblers and desperate characters and was the scene of savage personal encounters and bloody deeds. The flat on which the town stood has been long since sluiced away, and no trace of the old townsite remains. For the length of three-quarters of a mile extending up Althouse from Browntown, the greatest number of large nuggets ever taken out on Althouse were mined from the bed of the creek and the hill on the west side. These big pieces of gold were of a solid washed character and ranged in weight from $100 to $1400. A red point juts out in the creek at this place which paid $100 a day to the man. This point is visible from Browntown, and old tunnels run in the point more than a half century ago still stand with open mouths in sight of the traveler who passes up and down on the public trail on the opposite side of the creek.
To one familiar with the early history of the Althouse who views those abandoned places, and realizes that those energetic men who once toiled there are now with a few exceptions dead and forever gone, it all seems a silent sermon on the nothingness of life, like Goldsmith's village schoolmaster:
"Even the very spot
Where once they triumphed is forgot."
Three miles further up the creek from Browntown we come to Grass Flat, where a town stood which was almost equal to Browntown, where there were stores, saloons and hotels and a butcher shop and corral, where cattle were driven from the outside country and killed to be sold as beef to the miners.
Today not a vestige of this old town is to be seen: here and there clumps of brush and young trees cover the places where the buildings once stood. Near Grass Flat is the famous French Town Bar where $300,000 was mined. From this bar extending upstream is what has been called the wonderful spot on Althouse. Here the creek for the extent of one mile failed to pay. And fortunes were spent by miners to find the lost lead. The hills on each side were riddled with tunnels and shafts by prospectors like men in pursuit of the Philosopher's Stone. During forty-five years this place has only been let rest at short intervals, but the hidden treasure, if such exists, has never been found. In the opinion of miners it would, if discovered, be worth half a million dollars, as the creek at the end of the blank space one mile from French Town Bar paid in the bar and the bed of the stream $500 to every two sluice box lengths by twelve feet in width, the length of a sluice box being ten feet.
The largest single piece of gold ever found on Althouse was mined from the left-hand fork, six miles from Browntown, by a little Irishman named Matty Collins in the year 1859; it weighed 17 pounds, and was found in the face of a high bank a few feet above the bedrock under a large stump. The bank from which this piece of gold was taken was the front of a big bench of ground at the foot of a steep and high mountain. Matty Collins hired a fellow countryman named Dorsey to carry the piece of gold out of the country to a safe place of deposit in San Francisco.
He accompanied Dorsey on the way; the latter carried the mammoth slug in a sack slung over his shoulder on his back. Matty lived in constant terror of being robbed of the treasure on the route. He would sometimes stop on the road and say, "Go ahead of me, Dorsey, until I see if anyone would notice it." He then would stand and size Dorsey up from the rear, and after reassuring himself that all was right, he would say, "Arrah, the divil a one will notice it. Dorsey, go on."
On other occasions as darkness approached in the evening and he would see a stump or dark object before him alongside of the road a distance ahead, Matty would call a halt and pointing to the object with his finger he would say, "Dorsey, is that a man?"
After leaving Althouse, Matty Collins hired out and worked for wages in California, Nevada, Idaho and Montana, and placed his money as he earned it in the bank in San Francisco, and being a very industrious and saving man amassed a large stake of several thousand dollars.
But it was the old story in Matty Collins' case; at the age of sixty-five a young girl succeeded in taking away from him nearly if not quite all of the fortune which it had taken so many years of hard toil to accumulate, and Matty failed to win the object of his affections.
Medford Sun, Jun 18, 1911, page B4 Mackey retells the Collins story below.
GOLD FOUND FIRST IN 1851 NEAR ILLINOIS [RIVER]
By Wm. Mackey
Gold was first discovered in Josephine County in the year 1851 at the mouth of Josephine Creek, close to where that stream empties into the Illinois River, near the foot of Eight Dollar Mountain, which stands on the north side of the river west of the stage road and rears heavenward like a gigantic pyramid built by nature that overlooks the beautiful little valley extending south. Through this valley runs the Illinois River, and in it is situated the town of Kerby, three miles distant from the above-named mountain.
Eight Dollar Mountain is somewhat of a striking landmark. When viewed from the south from Kerby or other points on the stage road it seems like a great perpendicular high wall standing out in a bold red outline against the sky.
Mountain NamedThe mountain is said to have received its name from the fact that a man wore out a pair of new eight-dollar boots walking over it in one day. Josephine Creek, and also Josephine County, were named in honor of a girl, Virginia Josephine Rollins, who was the first white woman born in Josephine County, in the year 1851. [Other sources are unanimous that Josephine Rollins was the first white woman to settle in the area, not the first born. Virginia "Josephine" Rollins Ort was born in Illinois around 1833.]
The townsite of Kerby, which was formerly called Kerbyville, was laid off in the year 1855 and was named after an old man named Kerby, a well-known pioneer. Kerbyville was the county seat of Josephine County from 1857 until 1886. The county seat was then removed to Grants Pass.
Kerbyville was the chief center of Josephine County for two or three years in the beginning and was frequented by thousands of miners and prospectors who flocked there from California and elsewhere, and thousands of dollars poured into the coffers of Kerby from the surrounding country.
Fast-Going PlacesIn Kerby there were hotels and stores, dance halls and saloons and fast-going places in the middle '50s. But the nearby mining camps of Josephine and Canyon creeks, although yielding good returns, were not as extensive and lasting as those of Waldo and Althouse. Kerby was, after a short time, overshadowed and outdone by the flourishing mining camps of Althouse and Sailor Diggings. However, Kerby continued to be a place of considerable importance for many years on account of the circuit court which was held there twice each year.
The noted criminal lawyer James D. Fay had a law office in Kerbyville and pleaded his first case in that town, as did Dick Williams, who was in the '80s a law partner of Governor Thayer in Portland.
The late B. F. Mulkey, who was the prosecuting attorney and law partner of Judge Caples in Portland 50 years ago, said that Mulkey ran a pack train in and out of Kerby in his younger days, earning money to pay his way while going to school.
Knew PioneersThe writer, when a small boy, went to school in Kerby in the year 1869 and knew many of the old pioneers who were living there at that time. Tom Regan, the teacher, had mined on Althouse in early days. He was from South Carolina, a rebel at heart, and sympathized strongly with the South. Tom Regan had a southern temper and when not teaching school often carried a big bowie knife.
In this year, 1869, William Chapman, an early miner on Althouse Creek, lived in Kerby and herded 3000 sheep in the vicinity of Eight Dollar Mountain. He was sheriff of Josephine County.
The writer knew Dave Kendal, who kept a saloon in Kerby at that time, and also John Bolt, the pioneer merchant. Sam Sawyer, who had a store at the time in Kerby, Bill Linn, who ran the Union Hotel in 1869, and Charles Hughes, who was county clerk during that period and held that office during seven successive terms, were also his acquaintances. The writer was intimately acquainted with Jack Hendershot, the old California miner and Mexican war veteran, and his wife, who was known as Aunt Jenny. They lived on a ranch by the side of the stage road on the first high flat one-half mile south of Kerby in 1869. He often saw said Hendershot, who resided at Kerby in the above-mentioned year, and whose brother, Jim Hendershot, was sheriff of Josephine County in the year 1859.
Grants Pass Courier, April 3, 1935, page C1
HARD LIQUOR MADE MINERS TOUGH OUTFIT
Bold Characters of Mining Men, Bloody and Amusing Occurrences
Around Browntown Are Revealed
By Wm. Mackey
About five miles up the Althouse from Browntown is the famous Johnson's Point, a lofty bluff just below the forks of Althouse, and situated on the east side of that stream. It may be seen from afar, standing out in bold relief. This point is about 150 yards in length and ranked among the richest gravel deposits of Josephine County. This point was worked by Nels Johnson more than 70 years ago and bears his name.
The continuation of the Johnson lead was a bar of gravel in the creek underneath, which paid extremely rich. This bar was sold by a man named Henry McVay to a Chinese company for $300, and the hilarious time which the Chinese had while working this bar, feasting and drinking gin, indicated that Harry McVay had sold out too cheaply.
Gold Peters OutFrom Johnson's Point down the Althouse there again occurs one of those unaccountable things in the geology of the country. As at Grass Flat, the creek failed to pay for one-half, or perhaps three-quarters, of a mile.
This narrative would not be complete if we failed to make mention of Bill Evans. He was a miner on Sucker Creek in the year 1856 and was afterwards a merchant in Browntown from the latter '50s until the early '70s. He was from the state of Indiana and was a man of fair education, who dabbled considerably in politics and political literature. He bore the reputation among the people of being a good fellow. He had a vein of mischief and fun-making and delighted in practical jokes. He kept a large barrel of whisky of his own manufacture in a stone cellar in the rear of his store, which was called "terrible stuff."
When the combative miners came to Browntown and went into Evans' stone cellar and partook of Evans' best from the glass at the bottom of the big barrel, several went on the warpath, and set out like Alexander the Great to conquer the world.
Evans CalmWhen they shed their linens, as they termed taking off their shirts, and went out in the street to settle their grudges and disputes by a fistic struggle, Evans seemed to enjoy himself immensely amidst those warlike scenes. He commented on the physical powers and prowess of the combatants. When those miners with Evans' brand rising in their brains cursed and berated the latter, calling him a scoundrel and accusing him of cheating them in bills of goods which he had sold them, Bill Evans coolly smoked his cigar and replied with a smile, "I know, boys, I am a d-----d thief. I will beat you on every turn if I get a chance."
In 1857 there came to Althouse an eccentric and combative Irishman named Patrick Rooney. He had crossed the plains the time of the first gold rush to California and had formerly been a mule driver in the Mexican War of 1846. He was a small man of slight build and light complexion, and for his size was a wildcat in a fight. When under the influence of liquor he would purposely take what he knew was the wrong side in an argument, to get the chance to insult or provoke somebody. He was familiarly called "Old Pat" by the miners. He had a cabin alongside of the Althouse trail about one mile up the creek from Browntown. Old Pat's cabin was a hanging-out place for the miners when coming home from Browntown with their bottles and little harvest kegs full of Bill Evans' fighting whisky. Sometimes they spent days and nights drinking and carousing at Old Pat's before they resumed their journey through the tall fir trees up the Althouse canyon.
Set Miners FightingWhile the miners stayed over at Old Pat's cabin, the latter, who was well informed on the current topics of the day, introduced arguments which caused the intoxicated miners to fight with each other, or they sometimes administered a good thrashing to Old Pat himself before they left his premises. It is safe to say that Old Pat's cabin and its immediate surroundings had been in 10 years the scene of 100 fights.
In the year 1859 Colonel E. D. Baker, who was afterwards killed at Balls Bluff in the Civil War, stumped the state of Oregon in the interest of the Republican Party, for which he received $36,000. In making his tour Baker came to Browntown, and Bill Evans, knowing that Old Pat had always been one of the most uncompromising of Democrats, resolved to convert him to Republicanism.
Made Him a G.O.P.Evans called some of his confidential men around him and said, "Now, boys, we want to make a Republican out of Old Pat. We will get Colonel Baker after him." Evans' friends, knowing the contrary disposition of Old Pat, shook their heads and said, "The thing cannot be done."
Evans said, "Leave it all to me and you will see." Evans knew that Old Pat's weak point was his great personal vanity. And as Colonel Baker had been an officer in the United States and Mexican War of 1846, in which Old Pat had been a mule driver, Evans instructed Baker to meet Old Pat unexpectedly in the midst of the crowd and suddenly recognize Old Pat as one of his old Mexican War soldiers. Old Pat was seen coming down the Althouse trail to Browntown, and when he arrived Evans and his friends gathered around to see Colonel Baker try his powers of persuasion on Old Pat.
Singles Pat OutBaker, in passing through the throng of miners, stopped abruptly in front of Old Pat and said, "Well, is it possible that I meet one of my old soldiers here in the wilds of Oregon?" Baker then extended his hand to Old Pat and said, "Give me the hand, my fine Hibernian," and holding Old Pat's hand in his own, Baker turned to the crowd and said, "Gentlemen, here is a brave Irishman, who stood side by side with me on the plains of Mexico, where the bullets fell like hail, and was willing to spill the last drop of his life blood for the stars and stripes and for the land of his adoption." Bill Evans wore a very serious look and said, "You bet, Colonel, I know Pat. They don't make any braver man than he is," "And now," continued Baker, "my brave soldier, as you have served me so faithfully in war, you will serve me, your old chief, in peace, by walking up to the polls on the coming election day and voting the good straight Republican ticket."
Old Pat was much moved and replied, repeatedly, "You bet your life I will, Colonel, you bet your life I will." And from that day forth, Old Pat was one of the staunchest of Republicans. It seems that Colonel Baker had convinced Old Pat, contrary to the latter's senses, that he, Pat, had been a soldier fighting in the ranks when he had been only a government mule driver.
Drew His KnifeThe most disastrous combat in Old Pat's career was his encounter with Daniel Kinney in the year 1859. Kinney was a young man of powerful physique and belonged to the old school of frontiersmen who believed in settling their grievances by the code of the lead and steel. Old Pat had spoken in a manner derogatory of Dan Kinney, and the latter met Old Pat in Browntown and demanded an explanation. Kinney always carried a huge white-handled bowie knife, and a large six-shooter hung on his belt. When he interrogated Old Pat in regard to what the latter had said about him, Old Pat gave Kinney an insulting answer. Kinney then knocked Pat down and, jumping on him, bit off Pat's underlip, which was very large and protruding. Bill Evans was often heard to say that it made a handsome man of Old Pat to have that lip taken off.
While Kinney was wreaking vengeance on Old Pat, the latter's partner, Mike Riley, came to the rescue. Kinney jumped off of Old Pat and drawing his big knife pursued Mike Riley, who ran in swift retreat. Riley fired three shots with his pistol at Kinney, but being closely pressed he could not take a correct aim and the bullets missed Kinney. After they had run about 200 yards or the whole length of the street in Browntown, Kinney caught up with Riley as the latter turned around the corner of a house and drove his huge blade, which was 10 inches long, into Riley's side at the waist. The blade entered to its full length into the hollow space under the bowels. It seems that no member of the body was severed. Riley was taken to a hotel in Browntown, where he hovered between life and death for five weeks.
Riley, wonderful to relate, recovered, and afterwards he killed Dan O'Regan with a knife in Browntown.
Kinney FleesKinney, after the fracas, fled into the Siskiyou Mountains but was followed by the officers, captured, and brought back and was tried and sentenced to a term of years in the state prison. Upon being sentenced Kinney said that he had now only one thing to live for and that was to serve his time, and then come back to Althouse and kill Old Pat.
Kinney escaped from the state prison and was on his way back to carry out his threat when he had a battle with the officers in the Willamette Valley and was shot and fatally wounded, dying at a farmhouse to which he was taken.
In 1865, six years after his bloody encounter with Daniel Kinney, Mike Riley was the chief actor in a terrible tragedy in Browntown. Dan O'Regan was a merchant in that place, and had what was then called the finest store in Josephine County. Dan O'Regan's wife and Mike Riley formed a strong attachment for each other, and together they planned to elope. In order to pave the way for the elopement they found it necessary to cause Dan O'Regan to openly rebel against his wife. With the consent of Mrs. O'Regan Mike Riley paid George Wells, the old Texas Ranger at Waldo, $10 to write Dan O'Regan an anonymous letter charging the latter's wife, Mrs. O'Regan, with very improper conduct.
Scented TroubleDan O'Regan learned the source of the letter which he had received and sent for George Wells to come to his store at Browntown. O'Regan also sent for Mike Riley. Wells scented trouble in the air. He sheathed his left arm with leather between the elbow and the wrist to guard against a knife thrust, carried the arm in a sling which was suspended from his neck and wore a large soldier's overcoat. Taking along with him his big old-fashioned dragoon pistol, he went to Browntown. The O'Regan store was thronged with miners. George Wells stood on the outside of the counter with his left foot upon a chair, and the left arm rested on his left knee. His big dragoon pistol, which he held in his right hand, he laid across his left arm, which was supported by the sling and concealed by the cape of the soldier's overcoat.
Standing on the outside of the counter also stood Mike Riley about 10 feet from George Wells. Both men were facing each other. Dan O'Regan stood on the inside of the counter and, producing the trouble-brewing letter, said to George Wells, "Did you write this letter?"
Wells coolly replied, "Yes, that is the letter that I wrote for Mrs. Riley." At the mention of his own name Riley flared up and excitedly exclaimed, "What?"
Pulls Out PistolIt seemed as if Watts and Riley were about to clash, when Dan O'Regan, who was under the influence of liquor, took the quarrel out of Wells' hands. He called Riley a vile name and, reaching under the counter, pulled out an old rusty unused pistol in sight of all. Mike Riley said, "Well, self-preservation is one of the first laws of nature." Drawing his huge bowie knife, he buried the blade in Dan O'Regan's body. He fell upon the floor and expired within a few minutes. Mrs. O'Regan rushed into the store and pretended to almost go into hysterics over the loss of her husband. Mike Riley and O'Regan's wife afterward left the country together.
About the year 1856 a German Jew named Cohen kept a store in Browntown. He was the first owner of the famous Cohen quartz ledge which bears his name. This ledge is situated about two miles from Holland up on the mountain southeast of that place. They said that it was very rich when first struck. There is a large amount of iron in the vicinity of the Cohen ledge and other things which indicated the presence of gold. There was also a quartz mill built down in the valley about one mile from Holland, to which ore was hauled from the ledge. This quartz mine has been repeatedly abandoned and then relocated for 70 years.
Grants Pass Courier, April 3, 1935, page C9
HISTORY OF OLD BROWNTOWN DAUBED WITH COLOR
ADVENTUROUS TYPE RULED IN PIONEER CITY
By Wm. Mackey
The history of early pioneer days in Josephine County is for the most part the story that tells of miners and mining, as the latter industry was the sole occupation of the majority in this section in those times.
Many of those early miners, particularly those on Althouse, were of that adventurous type of men who had crossed the plains at the time of the first discovery of gold in California. And with their old muzzle-loading rifles they had encountered hostile Indians and bearded the great grizzly bear in his lair, and otherwise carved their way where no weakling could exist. A number were men of good early training and education who became hardened and reckless by the lives they followed amid the rude surroundings of the then-wild West.
Learned to DrinkMany acquired the habits of strong drink and gambling, staking fortunes at the gambling table. And men of strong nerve were prone to settle their disputes with their fists or by mortal combat with deadly weapons.
Few mining towns in Oregon have a more eventful history than old Browntown, which stood on the banks of Althouse Creek, three miles from Holland, the latter place being situated in the southern end of Illinois Valley. The site of old Browntown was a large flat of several acres at the mouth of Walker Gulch, a tributary of Althouse Creek.
The flat has long since been sluiced away, and scarcely a vestige of the old townsite now remains. Browntown in its early history was visited by several desperate characters and was the scene of more than one tragedy or deadly duel in which men lost their lives.
Meeting PlaceBrowntown was the concentrating point for the miners of Sucker Creek, Bolan Creek and Democrat Gulch. These adjacent camps yielded millions of dollars in the precious metal. The miners from those camps spent their money with a lavish hand in the dance halls and at the gambling tables in the drinking resorts of Browntown.
In the year 1859 a gambler named Sam Herd was shot at Browntown, and at his funeral a crowd of miners in their shirtsleeves, each one with a large revolver and bowie knife swung on his belt and a bottle of whisky in his hand, followed the corpse up Walker Gulch to the miners' burying ground on the bank of that gulch, one mile up from Browntown.
Upon arriving at the graveyard, before the casket was lowered into the grave, some of the miners sat down on the coffin, and others stood around and, lifting their bottles to their lips, all drinking to the welfare of Herd in the great beyond. Addressing the corpse they said, "God luck to you, Sam, old boy, where you are gone."
But with all of their faults a number of those miners were diamonds in the rough and had with all their rough ways a reverence for higher and nobler things. They were ever ready to respond with open hearts to the calls for help and charity. And whenever a clergyman of any denomination came to Browntown he was treated with respect and received a large contribution.
Found Gold in '52Gold was discovered on Althouse Creek in the year 1852 by a man named Althouse, after whom the creek is named. He died and was buried in the miners' burying ground in Walker Gulch. And after a lapse of several years his remains were raised and taken to the Willamette Valley, where they were reinterred.
Immediately below Browntown there is a large bar on the west side of the creek from which an immense amount of gold was taken. And a short distance upstream from Browntown, and opposite the old townsite within plain view of the same on the west side of the creek, is a red hill called the Red Point from the color of its dirt.
From this red hill in about 100 yards of ground $60,000 was mined. The writer's father, Martin Mackey, owned an interest in this claim in the year 1857. He was one of the twelve partners. From this red hill and from the creek bed in front for the length of a quarter of a mile the largest run of heavy gold on an average ever mined on the creek was taken out, pieces of gold that weighed from $100 to $400 and from $800 to $1,000 and $1,400.
Got $800 NuggetA story is told about a fellow named Vaun who came to Browntown from the Willamette Valley in 1853. He was penniless, and a gambler went his security for a new pair of boots in Browntown. Vaun inquired where he might find a good place to prospect. The miners seemed to make fun of him and pointed out to him a big rock pile by the side of the creek a considerable distance upstream from the Red Hill and told him to prospect there and that he would strike it, and while they sought to fool him and secretly laughed. Vaun did as they advised him and started to work while it was raining. Soon after some men, a distance downstream from where he was working, saw him making motions and yelling for help and, thinking he had gone crazy, they went up to where he was. They found that he had discovered a big piece of gold, which weighed $800. Vaun then said that he had more money than the law allowed him. He bought a horse, bridle and saddle, and departed for the Willamette Valley. The place where this mammoth nugget was found has ever since been known as Slug Bar.
Great ExodusIn the year 1858 there was a great exodus of those early miners from the mines of Althouse and other nearby camps to the mining excitement of Fraser River in British Columbia. And the majority never returned. The writer often heard his father, who was one of those who went, tell about the day of their departure at Waldo when every horse and mule that was obtainable in the livery stables of Waldo and Kerby was hired by the miners. And what a sight it was when that cavalcade of brave and hardy men mounted on mules and horses rode that day out of Waldo and took the road to Crescent City, there to take the boat to San Francisco and then journey by sea and land to the far-off region to which they were bound.
As the writer has often gone up and down the public trail on the east side of Althouse and looked across the creek at Red Hill on the opposite side and viewed the yawning mouths of the old tunnels driven into this red hill 75 years ago by men now dead and forever gone, the following lines of Oliver Goldsmith have come into this mind: "But now the very spot where once they triumphed is forgot."
Indians BotheredFrom the year 1853 until the year 1856 there was trouble with the Indians on Althouse and in the Illinois Valley. A log fort was built during that period on the old Briggs ranch.
Three men were killed by the Indians at the Houck ranch three miles from Holland. They were buried where the road now runs into the Houck lane. All trace of the whereabouts of their graves has long since been obliterated. They sleep in unknown and unmarked graves.
Two men were killed while mining in Deadman's Gulch, a tributary of Althouse Creek. They carried their guns to their place for work to protect themselves. The Indians stole stealthily upon them, while at work, and killed the two men with their own guns.
In the year 1853 a very serious and unusual thing occurred on Althouse, in which Jack Gristle, a noted Indian fighter and gambler, was one of the chief actors. A man named Sam Anderson, while drunk, hid an oyster can containing $500 in gold and when sober afterwards could not find the can with its precious contents. Anderson accused a boy 17 years old of stealing his golden treasure.
Flogged BoyOn Rich Bar, where 300 miners and gamblers were assembled, Jack Gristle and his crowd tied the boy to a tree and flogged him. The boy stoutly protested his innocence and said that it would disgrace him and his folks, who were living in the East. They tied the boy twice and flogged him to make him confess, and were going to tie him up and flog him the third time when Jim Little, a brave and fearless Irishman who lived near Waldo, drew his pistol and swore that he would kill the first man that again laid hands upon the boy. The latter was not molested any more.
Jack Williams, a lone gambler, tried at first to prevent the flogging of the boy, but he was told by Gristle and his crowd that they would flog him if he interfered. Whereupon Williams told Gristle that he would settle with the latter yet and would avenge the wrong done the boy. Williams afterward made good his word. He met Jack Gristle as the latter was coming out of a barber shop in Jacksonville and blew the top of Gristle's head off with a double-barreled shotgun. Anderson's can of gold was afterwards found where the latter had hidden it, and the boy was proved innocent.
Millions TakenFrom the time of the first discovery of gold until 1860 was what might be termed the golden decade on Althouse. Millions of dollars were taken out. The miners and gamblers rolled things high; there was much drinking and gambling and what the miners called having a glorious time. They were fond of playing practical jokes, and many were the cruel tricks played upon the simple and inexperienced.
Farmers in the fifties with their teams hauled farm products such as fruit, butter, bacon and vegetables from the Willamette and Umpqua valleys, distances of 150 and 200 miles, to Browntown and sold them to the miners. Many of those farmers, or teamsters as they may be called, were somewhat simple-minded and verdant and were called "tartars" by the miners and gamblers of Browntown. Those farmers seemed to have a mania for gambling and playing cards and were often enticed to stake their teams and products on card games, almost invariably losing all.
One night a "tartar" was drinking heavily and was deeply interested [i.e., indebted] at the gambling table, while the miners were looting his wagon outside. Sacks of plums and other kinds of fruit were stolen by miners and carried up the trail about a mile and hidden in the brush, where they were in turn stolen by other miners, who were secretly watching the dishonest proceedings of the first thieves.
On another occasion a "tartar" came with his team and load of stuff from the Willamette Valley and sat down to gamble in Browntown. The miners and gamblers had a performance which they used to act. It was called Russian Play. A number of men with pistols loaded with blank charges would shoot at each other from opposite sides. When the above-named "tartar" engaged in a game the gambler who was his opponent picked a quarrel with the "tartar" and, producing two pistols, handed the tartar one and challenged him to fight a duel.
Simultaneously with the gambler's challenge the Russian Play was opened, and a fusillade of shots rang out. The "tartar" sprang from the table and, rushing out into the darkness, plunged into Althouse Creek, which was flooded, as it was late in the fall. The unfortunate "tartar" was swept downstream some distance and almost drowned. He stayed out all night and appeared at a miner's cabin the next morning cold and wet and apparently more dead than alive. In the meantime his wagon was looted of its contents.
Lucky "Tartar"Another farmer appeared in Browntown with a wagonload of good things to eat raised on a Willamette farm. He was arrested by a gambler on a charge of cheating at the gambling table. A jury was empaneled, and everything bore the solemnity and dignity of a real court, over which an educated gambler, Dan Lanigan, presided as judge. He sat at a desk with a history of the United States as a pretended law book laid open before him. Witnesses were called and examined before Judge Lanigan. While the trial proceeded the miners who stood around would say in a low tone of voice to each other, but within hearing distance of the doomed "tartar," "Oh, it's a hard case, he'll get not less than 10 years." While the "tartar's" brother would go around among the bystanders crazed with grief and say, "I'm afraid that it will go hard with my poor brother."
At last the "tartar" was found guilty and sentenced by Judge Lanigan to pay $20 fine and forfeit his wagonload of produce and treat the crowd at the bar, which the luckless "tartar" gladly did, thinking that he had made a narrow escape from going to the state prison.
At length a large and powerful-looking man wended his way with his team into Browntown. Immediately after his arrival a gambler presented two pistols, offering the stranger one, and challenged him to fight a duel. The stranger declined to accept the pistol from the gambler, saying, "No, thank you, sir, I have one of my own in my wagon." He got up into his wagon and reaching down pulled up a large and formidable-looking revolver, which he cocked and held in his hand.
He told the crowd that he had heard of their doings and invited them to pitch in, but it is needless to say that they thought that wagon was a little Gibraltar which it was unsafe to carry by storm. The big stranger was allowed to go unmolested.
Grants Pass Daily Courier, April 3, 1935, section 3, page 8
SAILOR DIGGINGS PIONEER TOWN
OF GOLD PRODUCTION
By Wm. Mackey
Nine miles west of Althouse on the old stage road to Crescent City lies the old mining town of Waldo, or Sailor Diggings, as it was formerly called. The facts connected with the history of Waldo are so interwoven with those of Browntown, on Althouse Creek, as to make each place in many respects identical with the other. Miners and gamblers went back and forth from Waldo to Althouse. Hundreds of thousands of dollars changed hands, and even with a mixture of rough happenings there were rounds of pleasure and enjoyment in those prosperous times when money seemed within the reach of everyone who was industrious.
The town of Waldo was situated in a small hollow between low hills, through which the old stage road runs. Here in early mining days there were good buildings where neat and cozy homes were made, saloons and dance halls, hotels and stores, and the hollow where the center of the little town stood and the side hills around were carpeted with a mantle of green grass, studded with peach and apple trees and grape vines.
Town in OasisAll this was brought about by water from mining ditches. The verdure of the little nook where the old town stood was remarkable from the fact that the low hills around the town and the surrounding country are for the most part barren, resembling in many places a desert in the midst of which the small town with its carpet of green seemed a beautiful oasis. As the writer passes over the old townsite of Waldo, where only two or three of the former buildings remain, and sees the dead orchard trees, the faded carpets of grass, where everything shows abandonment and decay, he is reminded of what the traveler says about Palestine and the Holy Land, where according to the Bible the land once flowed with milk and honey, but is now a barren waste in which he can hardly realize that he is where those great scenes which have long since passed away were enacted.
The town was called Sailor Diggings from the fact that gold was discovered in that locality by sailors who came from the coast to Waldo in the year 1852. A store and wooden dwelling house, and a large timeworn livery stable, which served in later days also as a barn, constituted the three links which connect the faded Waldo, of the present with the Golden Waldo of the past.
Store of ConcreteThe store is a good-sized building, made of concrete brick manufactured by hand, the whole covered with plaster or stucco, the building resting on a stone wall foundation. It was built by A. B. McIlwain in the year 1863. This date is marked above the recessed front entrance. Heavy iron doors and shutters were provided for further protection when needed. Under the store is a stone basement or a cellar seven to eight feet deep. Over the front entrance near the date marking the building's erection there is a noticeable crack about three feet in length. This was caused by a violent earthquake in the year 1873. About 80 feet east of the store is the house built by Mr. McIlwain in 1853, in which he and his family lived. It is a wooden structure consisting of four or five rooms, and is still in a fair state of preservation. The old barn in the west end of town dates so far back that it is impossible to fix with any degree of certainty the time of its erection. It was originally papered with a brilliant wallpaper of the period previous to the Civil War, but was "done over" with sheets of the less brilliant newspaper. These were all of the period of the Civil War, and one was disclosed to be the Weekly National Republican, a Washington, D.C. organ dated January 29, 1864. This relic of bygone days contains many pertinent references to events of the civil conflict. An item tells of the gunship Kennebec capturing a vessel laden with 10,000 rifles from Europe--supposedly for the rebels. Another item makes the people aware that France sympathizes with the cause of the North.
McIlwain Hot-TemperedMcIlwain was a large man and was very passionate and hot-tempered. There were many Chinese miners in the country in the later days, and those Chinamen as customers sorely tried the patience of storekeepers. When purchasing goods they would, even for small amounts, try everlastingly to "jew" the storekeeper down to the cheapest prices, and when buying an article of any kind they would require everything of a like sort in the store shown for their examination. These Chinamen used to buy a great many pairs of gum boots, and sometimes when they would make McIlwain put every gum boot in the store on the counter to be examined before they would buy, McIlwain would lose all self-control and taking a gum boot by the leg with both hands he would strike the Chinaman with the boot over the head as hard as he was able to hit. McIlwain occupied this brick store until about 1877, when he sold out and left the country, and the store passed into the hands of the Wimer brothers, who occupied it until 1888, when Charles Decker became the owner. With his son-in-law, Thomas Gilmore, Decker conducted the store business for several years, and after his death it came into the hands of the late George Elder. McIlwain was justice of the peace while keeping store at Waldo.
On the site of the present hotel at Waldo there stood the former Waldo Hotel, which was burned about 22 years ago, while under the proprietorship of Mrs. Mary Peacock. This hotel, which was burned, was a truly historical monument. It was built in early mining days. The building had been used as a hotel at times and then at other dates as a store. In this older hotel, Judge H. K. Hanna, the self-made judge of Jackson County, washed dishes in his younger days. He also hauled wood and mined in the vicinity of Waldo before he rose to distinction as a lawyer and judge in Jacksonville, and later as circuit judge, holding court in Jacksonville and Grants Pass. In this old hotel building Messrs. Logan & Thompson kept a store and did a large mercantile business with the people of the entire country in the early '60s.
A man named Crandal and another named Guthrie also kept stores in Waldo in the early mining days. Long pack trains of mules laden with merchandise wended their course over the mountains from Crescent City to Waldo and Happy Camp. In the later '50s a packer named Sam Brannan drove a pack train along the above-named route, and there was a Chinese packer on the same road who owed Brannan a sum of money. The latter repeatedly asked the Chinaman to pay what he owed, but the Chinaman laughed and mockingly refused. Brannan drew a knife and, seizing the Chinaman by the queue, he cut off that appendage. The Chinaman then pulled out a pistol and shot Brannan dead in his tracks. In court the act was termed self-defense and the Chinaman was acquitted.
Waldo, like Browntown, had its fights and tragedies. A tale is told of an old miner named Collins, who mined on Frenchtown Bar on Althouse. Collins was gambling in Waldo and while at the gaming table some players at his table began shooting and two or three were seriously wounded and fell sprawling on the floor. Collins remained sitting in his chair, unmoved, during the fracas, and laughingly remarked, "This is just as good as a Fourth of July celebration." The writer once saw several miners at Waldo, many of whom were drunk, fighting in the street in front of Frank Bryan's saloon. Some were destitute of shirts.
Next to AlthouseNext to Althouse, in its great field of gold, is the Waldo district within a radius of three miles of the town. It is estimated that 1500 miners here worked in the year 1853. Millions of dollars of the precious metal were taken from the flats, and such streams as Allen Gulch, Scotch Gulch, Fry Gulch, Butcher Gulch, and Sailor Gulch.
A great deal of this original mining around Waldo was done as in other localities by primitive methods, shoveling into sluice boxes, by hand. They merely skimmed in a shallow way over the surface. In many places in the flats and on the hills around Waldo there is a reddish clay intermixed with boulders, which served as a bedrock or a bottom for the workings of the oldtimers. There seems to have been but little gold found by the pioneer miners in this boulder formation, as it was called, but were are informed that this boulder formation in the Esterly Mine has been penetrated with shafts, and that good values have been found underneath in later years.
The writer, when only a boy in his teens, worked in Scotch Gulch for wages in the summers of 1876 and 1877 and well remembers what a hard place it was to work in a deep pit at the mouth of the gulch, the bottom of which was lower than the surface of the Illinois River. The gravel was very hard to pick, something like cement, and was pitched with shovels by hand high up into a flume. Jim Connell and Batheese Decell, a French-Canadian, were the owners of the mine.
The above-named gulch lies two miles south of Waldo.
About one mile and a half east of Waldo and looking down on Takilma is the high mountain in which the Queen of Bronze and the Waldo copper mines are located, which have been worked at intervals for 70 years.
Immediately over the hill south of the Elder store in Waldo is the famous Allen Gulch, noted for the great amount of gold it produced. This gulch heads on the south side of the hill and close to the summit, and runs in a southerly direction for about a mile and a quarter until it empties into Illinois River. The hill at the source of the gulch is about 1000 feet in height, and from the base of the hill to the mouth of the gulch the grade is not steep, and the form of the ground on the east side of the gulch is in broad flats approaching a level. Here on one of those flats a Catholic church was built in the early '60s, which was a source of much attraction in those days. Connected with the site of this church there is a Catholic cemetery in which several of the oldtimers--men and women--are buried.
The priest who officiated at the church was Father F. X. Blanchard. He was a French-Canadian and a nephew of the late Bishop Blanchard of Oregon. This pioneer priest resided in Jacksonville and came down at certain dates to officiate and hold services at the Catholic church in Allen Gulch.
Priest Carried LiquorFather Blanchard was a large and jolly, good-natured man and was very popular among the pioneer miners, irrespective of creed or denomination.
When Father Blanchard came down from Jacksonville to Waldo he always carried a large bottle of whisky along with him, and treated the miners when he met them. The roughest miners said that Father Blanchard was good fellow. They seemed to like him because he never asked any who were not Christians to join his church. He merely told them that the quicker they would identify themselves with some one of the different churches the better it would be. When he came down from Jacksonville the miners came to his church from all parts of the country the same as to a social entertainment, and he received bigger donations from miners of other creeds and non-church people than he did from members of his own church.
Blanchard was a well-read man, a good conversationalist, and a good storyteller. He smoked a large pipe when he mingled with the miners and entertained them with his stories. He sometimes took guns away from the miners when they made war on each other.
Father Blanchard died at St. Vincent's Hospital in Portland. The old Catholic church in Allen Gulch has disappeared long ago, and the old cemetery is covered with a growth of trees, and a few broken headstones and moss-covered graves are solemn reminders of a dead past.
Kept in PracticeIn those pioneer days an old Irishman named Coyle kept a saloon in Allen Gulch. He was the stepfather of Mike Ryder, who was afterwards sheriff of Josephine County. Coyle's saloon, like Bill Evans' store in Browntown, was the scene of innumerable combats and queer antics of wild men. Old Coyle delighted to try his muscle on those inebriated and refractory miners. When a miner who had imbibed too freely was making fierce motions and declaring war on all mankind, Old Coyle would quietly roll up his shirtsleeves and slipping gently around would watch for an opening and then land a blow with all of his ability to deliver it, which would knock the boisterous disturber topsy-turvy.
Grants Pass Daily Courier, April 3, 1935, section 3, page 7
LARGEST ALTHOUSE NUGGET WEIGHED 17 POUNDS
FINDER LIVED IN CONSTANT FEAR THEN ON
By Wm. Mackey
The largest piece of gold ever taken out on Althouse Creek was mined by a little Irish miner named Mattie Collins in the year 1859 on the east fork of that noted stream. The piece weighed 17 pounds. It was found in the face of a high bank about 12 feet up in the dirt, under a big stump above the high water in the creek. The bank in which the piece of gold was discovered is the front of a small flat which lies at the foot of a high mountain on the north side of Althouse Creek.
South Side PaysThe south side of the creek, unlike the north side, rises with considerable slope back in a southerly direction for several hundred yards until it strikes a big gorge in the mountain higher up and farther back. As the sloping mountainside leading up to this gorge has yielded good returns in gold, and as the big piece of gold was found several feet up in the dirt above the bedrock, it would appear that the mammoth nugget came into the creek in a glacial drift from the high gorge.
From the place where the big piece of gold was found, the creek extending upstream failed to yield the large returns in gold which it did below.
After Mattie Collins found his monster nugget he lived in constant terror of being robbed. He hired a fellow countryman, named Dorsey, to pack the big piece out of the country to a safe place of shipment on the outside. Dorsey carried the piece of gold in a sack on his back, and on the road Mattie would call a halt and say, "Go ahead of me, Dorsey, till I see if anyone would notice it." Mattie then would then "size" Dorsey up from the rear, and after reassuring himself that all was well, he would say, "Arrah, the Devil a one would notice it, Dorsey, g'wan." And in the evening when it would be growing dark on the road, and Mattie would see a black stump or some indistinct object ahead, he would stop Dorsey and say, "Dorsey, is that a man?"
Business IndexIn the early mining days the presence of gamblers was an unfailing sign of prosperity in the mining camps.
The knights of the gaming table were in evidence in Browntown and at Waldo. The gamblers went back and forth from one of those places to the other. Gamblers whose names were household words in those times are now forgotten and lost to sight in the dim haze of 75 years. Such men as Dan Lanigan, Pony Young, Bill Nicholas and Jos. Wall.
The writer, when he was a boy, used to hear the oldtimers tell about Bill Nicholas and how he used to mine for a awhile and then put on a white shirt and go to gambling. They said he was a good fellow, who never insulted or wronged any man.
They used to tell how Nicholas was once challenged by a gambler in Browntown to fight a duel. Nicholas and the gambler went out in the street to do battle. They took one handkerchief between them, each holding an end in his left hand. The gambler held a pistol in his right hand pointed at Nicholas' head, Nicholas holding a bowie knife in his right hand. Nicholas dodged his head as the gambler fired, and drove his knife into the gambler's shoulder, when the crowd of miners rushed in and the men were parted.
Matched with BullyBill Nicholas was a small man. A big bully at Waldo, who was an ex-prize fighter, declared that he would whip Nicholas the next time that he came from Althouse to Waldo. When Nicholas entered Waldo the bully proceeded to pick a quarrel with him. Nicholas walked away and went into a store, the bully following him. Nicholas seized a 10-pound weight and struck the bully on the head with it. The bully reeled. Nicholas picked up another weight and struck him in the stomach, felling him to the floor. After this the bully, on meeting Nicholas, never pretended to see the latter.
A man named Burnett kept a hotel at Waldo in the year 1859. He kept a young grizzly bear which weighed 500 pounds chained in the back yard of his hotel. Dogs from all parts of the country were pitted against this bear for the entertainment of the gamblers and miners.
In one of those grizzly bear and dog exhibitions at Waldo the grizzly bear broke loose and entered the kitchen of the hotel, dragging his chain. The cook and the hired help fled, and the bruin was left in sole possession of the cooking department. Burnett bravely entered the kitchen and jumping astraddle of the bear recaptured the animal and with the help of others placed him back in the bear pen. The bear afterwards escaped and was never recaptured.
The ridge between Bolan Creek and Althouse is a highly mineralized section. It extends from the east fork of Althouse nearly to Holland, a distance of 10 miles. From gulches on either side of this ridge good values were mined in early days. McDonnell Gulch, which empties into Bolan Creek, was noted for its large yield of heavy gold. Several large pieces of gold were found in this gulch.
Ryan Runs AmokIn the year 1885 there was a reckless desperado on Althouse named Tom Ryan. Several were afraid to come to Browntown on Sunday lest ill fate might number them among Tom's victims, for when Tom Ryan came to Browntown on Sunday and had had a few drinks of old bourbon rising in his brain he would hold a big bowie knife in one hand, and a rock in the other, and whoop like an Apache Indian in the street. He had seriously wounded two or three men and attacked others without provocation.
About this time at Waldo there was a notorious shoulderstriker and bully who, it was said, could whip any man in Josephine County. He could strike a blow with his fist equal to the kick of a horse. Tom Ryan, jealous lest his own ruffian fame be eclipsed by that of the Waldo ruffian, resolved to humble the Waldo shoulderstriker's pride. Ryan procured a large stick or club through which he drove several 40-penny nails crosswise. Armed with this odd weapon he started from Browntown to invade Waldo and carry war into the shoulderstriker's territory.
Upon arriving at Waldo, Tom Ryan met the shoulderstriker and charged upon him with his stick full of 40-penny nails. The shoulderstriker fled, with Ryan in hot pursuit. Ryan was gaining in the race with the Waldo bully when the latter in despair rushed up a high staircase on the outside of a building, closely followed by Ryan. When the bully reached the top of the high flight of steps and saw Tom Ryan ascending the stairs with his stick of nails, the bully jumped from the top to the street beneath and was fearfully shaken by bumping on the hard ground. Stimulated to greater exertion by the bear of being transfixed to the wall or some other place by 40-penny nails, the shoulderstriker shook the dust of the town from his feet, leaving Tom Ryan in complete possession of Waldo.
Name Becomes TerrorThe name of Tom Ryan had become a terror to Althouse and to the entire country, but conqueror as he was recognized to be, he was yet destined to meet his Duke of Wellington.
There was living on Althouse at that time a husky son of the Emerald Isle named Maxwell, who was a noted character among the miners of Althouse and the country in general in those days. He was a large and finely formed, handsome man, possessed of great bodily strength and activity and was a good singer and dancer. The latter qualities made him popular among the sporting miners.
There was a social gathering of the miners one night in Browntown. During the evening while wine and whisky flowed copiously and freely and while all were enjoying themselves, Maxwell was called on to sing a song. While all were listening with respectfully attention to Maxwell's melodious voice, Tom Ryan rose suddenly and seizing a stool without warning struck a poor and inoffensive fellow named Jim Travis on the head, knocking him senseless.
Maxwell then interfered and laid hands on Ryan to prevent him from striking Travis again. Ryan struck at Maxwell with the stool. Maxwell dodged, and the blow landed between his shoulders. The latter then grappled with Ryan, and a terrible struggle ensued in which Ryan was thrown to the floor and severely punished by Maxwell. The miners pulled Maxwell off, but the enraged Maxwell turned to a rude table, newly made with small fir trees for legs, and with his hands wrenched one of the little green legs loose from the table. He was about to knock Ryan's head off with it when it was wrenched from his grasp by the miners.
Learns What Fright IsRyan, for the first time ever frightened on Althouse, made a rush to get out of the house but turned for a moment on the threshold to look back when the infuriated Maxwell grabbed a hot stove lid from the stove with his hand and hurled it at him, striking him in the face and making a gash which extended nearly to his eye. He fell to the floor.
Maxwell's hand was severely burned by the hot stove lid and Tom Ryan was led to another house and 14 stitches were taken in his face.
Ryan was so humiliated over this crushing defeat which he had met at the hands of Maxwell that he left Althouse soon afterward and went to peddling goods on board a boat running up and down the Columbia River from The Dalles to Portland.
In that eventful year of 1859, when so many remarkable things occurred in this country, there lived on Althouse a miner named Harry McVay who was an athlete and had considerable reputation as a wrestler and boxer. McVay had formerly been a deckhand on the line of steamships plying between San Francisco and Panama and was said to have whipped and thrown some of the best men on that line. However, there were miners on Althouse who seemed to think that Maxwell, although unknown to fame, was a better man physically than McVay, and they were anxious to bring the men together in a physical contest of some kind.
McVay JealousMcVay was somewhat jealous and piqued by the admiration of the miners for Maxwell and was always in a good-natured way taunting and daring Maxwell. The latter seemed to disregard all this and appeared to avoid anything that would lead to a personal collision.
There was an Australian Englishman named Webb who kept a hotel and saloon at the forks of Althouse Creek. One day on a special occasion a large number of miners were assembled at Webb's from different parts of Althouse and other parts of the country. While the miners were sitting in the barroom, and when several bottles of whisky were brought and passed around and their contents drunk Harry McVay arose suddenly in the crowd and said, "I can throw any man that is in this house."
When McVay flung out his challenge to the crowd, Maxwell, who spoke with a brogue, replied, "Harry, you mane that for me, now you have gone far enough. You'll have a chance to try yourself."
McVay admitted that he meant his challenge for Maxwell. The miners quickly cleared the room in the center and formed a circle to witness the struggle between the two men. When they clinched, Maxwell threw McVay without any apparent great effort. McVay, surprised, said, "You cannot do that again."
"Yes," replied Maxwell. "I'll do it aisy," and he threw McVay three times in quick succession.
Cousin Steps ForwardThen Dick Doran, a first cousin of McVay's, came forward and struck Maxwell with the back of his hand. Maxwell, with wonderful self-control, pulled out a purse containing $100 in gold dust and handed it over to the barkeeper for safekeeping. He then addressed McVay and the latter's friends and said with an Irish brogue, "Yees have been after me for a long time. Now if this is yere game I'll give ye enough of that too. Let the best of yees come. I can whip any man that is on Althouse."
The miners then tried to prevent the men from fighting. They put McVay out of the house and the miners all went outside themselves and they locked the door on Maxwell and kept him inside. That terrible temper that had swept Tom Ryan before it in Browntown was aroused. Maxwell procured an axe and swore that if they did not open the door for him he would chop the door down. They then opened the door and let Maxwell out.
Excitement PrevailsGreat excitement now prevailed among the miners. Axes were uplifted and pick handles were flourished and and pitched battle seemed about to be fought between the friends of the two men. At length the crowd was pacified and quieted down and two combatants faced each other. McVay made a furious rush at Maxwell, but the latter cleverly sidestepped and knocked McVay down. McVay sprang to his feet like a lion and launched several terrific blows as he fiercely rushed the fighting, but Maxwell skillfully ducked and parried those blows and they went went wild. Maxwell knocked McVay down several times in a few minutes. The men then clinched and McVay was thrown heavily and severely beaten by Maxwell while underneath the latter. The miners told McVay to give up and say enough as Maxwell, they said, was too much for him, but McVay replied that he would die before he would do that.
The miners then pulled Maxwell off the prostrated form of McVay, and while being pulled away Maxwell gave McVay a parting kick with the toe of his heavy boot, cutting a terrible gash in McVay's forehead. McVay had been severely punished; his face and head were blackened with bruises and blood from cuts and gashes, while Maxwell scarcely bore a mark of the exciting struggle. The miners gathered around the two fighters and the two men were made to shake hands. McVay was complimented on the gallant struggle that he had made and Maxwell was acknowledged the best man on Althouse.
While several bottles of whisky were being purchased and handed around a proposal was made to raise a purse of money and send Maxwell to English to fight the English champion, Tom Sayers. As they said that Maxwell would surely make his mark in the world if he did not spend all of his life in the wilds of Oregon.
Rich Bar, where Maxwell and his partners worked, is a part of the famous Leonard, Beach and Platter claim, a tremendous deposit of gravel near where Althouse empties into the Illinois Valley. A fatality seems to have attended the working of these extensive placer deposits.
Two tunnels were driven the length of several hundred feet to drain the ground and dump the tailings into the Illinois Valley. Great freshets filled these tunnels with debris and choked the outlet for tailings and otherwise impeded the progress of working for many years past.
Gulch Yields FortuneImmediately over a low hill from Rich Bar lies Democrat Gulch, where a few hundred yards of shallow ground yielded in early mining days the sum of $300,000. This gulch empties into the Illinois Valley near the Smock store at Holland.
In 1870 when many of the richest claims on Althouse were pretty well worked out, the gold excitement was on the wane, and things were not as brisk as they used to be. The majority of the first miners had taken their departure for new fields. Yet there remained quite a number of the standbys who partook of ardent spirits and made things howl on certain occasions, keeping alive the spirit of the golden '50s. Among those was an Irish miner named Bill Dooley, who was called Old Bill by the miners because he was a true chip off the old block. He had been a soldier on the plains in the '40s and a miner in the early '50s in California. He was a true type of the early plainsman.
In Old Bill Dooley's time on Althouse there was a German miner named Peter Lockamyer who worked on that stream. He was a short, heavy-built man with crooked and deformed hands and feet.
Deformity MarkedLockamyer's deformity was very marked. The palms of his hands were turned out a great deal, and the ends of his feet at the toes were turned extremely to the outside. As he struggled his shoulders when talking he presented [a] ludicrous appearance. He had a very peculiar turn of mind. He was given to making mischief and trouble for others and was continually prying into other people's affairs and investigating other people's business and commenting on what he found out and heard. Very little of what transpired in the entire county escaped his notice and comment. The miners used to say that Lockamyer was more valuable than any local newspaper from which to learn the news of the day.
There seemed to be great rivalry between Lockamyer and Old Bill Dooley. Lockamyer seemed to never tire of trying to undermine and overthrow Old Bill and upset the latter in all of his plans. Old Bill said that Lockamyer was a crooked-legged Dutch scoundrel, who was as crooked in his mind as he was in his hands and feet.
Old Bill and Lockamyer had claims opposite each other on the banks of Althouse Creek. The bed of the creek between their claims was not located by anyone. Lockamyer had a German partner named Charley, who went away from Althouse before the trouble which we will relate occurred. While Old Bill was working at the Cohen quartz ledge for wages, Lockamyer located the creek bed between Old Bill's claim and his own, and sold it to a company of Chinamen.
Makes ThreatsWhen Old Bill was informed while working at the Cohen ledge of what Lockamyer had done he said, "That is my ground, and I will go up there and kill that crooked-legged Dutch scoundrel."
It was nine miles up the Althouse from the Cohen quartz ledge to Lockamyer's claim. Old Bill shouldered his old rifle and girded on his six-shooter and knife and started up Althouse to put his threat into execution. He stopped over for a few minutes at Browntown to partake of a few glasses of Bill Evans' fighting whisky to excite his courage.
Lockamyer's cabin was built high up on the side of a deep ravine which emptied into Althouse Creek. The cabin was built lengthwise with the course of the ravine. From the end of the cabin a long open shed extended towards the creek. At the end of this open shed next to the creek, Lockamyer had a small rock fireplace at which he cooked.
Bolts into ShedOld Bill bolted into the shed on an April evening while Lockamyer was sitting on a small stool before the little fireplace. Accosting Lockamyer Old Bill said, "You crooked-legged Dutch scoundrel, what did you sell my ground to the Chinamen for?"
Lockamyer replied, "You're the worst feller what I ever did see, you want monopoly of the whole country. Me and Charley claim bank on one side, and you claim opposite side, and creek belong nobody."
"You lie," answered Old Bill. "You crooked-legged Dutch scoundrel, that is my ground, and I'm going up now to kill them Chinamen. Have your peace made with God agin I come back, for Be Heavens Almighty, I'm going to finish you."
Old Bill then started up the creek to where the Chinamen were at work about a half mile from Lockamyer's house. Upon approaching where the Chinamen were at work in the creek, Old Bill yelled like a Comanche Indian and fired his pistol in the air. The Chinamen threw down their tools and fled in terror. Old Bill picked up an axe and smashed and cut their sluice boxes and threw their tools into Althouse. Then he started back down the creek to put a finishing touch on Lockamyer. The latter was still sitting on the stool as he was when Dooley started up to attack the Chinamen. Upon entering the shed Old Bill said, "Now, you crooked-legged scoundrel, your time has come."
Lays Gun DownHe then laid his gun down against the end of the cabin and struck Lockamyer a blow in the forehead with his fist, which knocked him off the stool and into the fireplace. Old Bill then said, "I may as well finish you while I'm at it," and he picked up his gun and pointed it at Lockamyer. The latter sprang from the ashes and, wrenching Old Bill's gun from his grasp, flung that firearm far down the ravine. Then grabbing Old Bill himself he hurled him over the side down into the ravine where he landed on the top of his head among stumps and roots.
Old Bill rose to his feet, bleeding from contact with the roots, and looking up to where Lockamyer stood above, said, "You crooked-legged Dutch scoundrel, you done that well."
Old Bill's spirit was now broken by this disaster of the ravine. He clambered up into the shed where Lockamyer stood and procured a washbasin and washed the blood from his hands, which were bleeding from being torn by the roots and stumps. He said in a vanquished tone of voice, "Well, I got the worst of this fight. I guess I'll retrate."
He then picked up his gun from the ravine and departed from Lockamyer's premises.
J.P. Refuses to ActLockamyer started to Waldo to lodge a complaint before McIlwain, the justice of the peace, and have the latter issue a warrant for Old Bill's arrest. McIlwain, upon being approached by Lockamyer, flew into a passion and said that the miners of Althouse were not half civilized, and that if it were possible for him to do so he would make one kill the other until they were all exterminated. McIlwain further declared that he would not put the county to the expense of a trial, nor encumber his books with the names of such detestable trash.
Whereupon Lockamyer raised his hand and pointed his forefinger at McIlwain in a menacing attitude, saying in broken English, "If you no do your duty and make paper for arrest that feller in one-half hour, I put you behind bar."
Upon being threatened by Lockamyer, McIlwain reluctantly issued the warrant for Old Bill's arrest.
McIlwain exceeded his limited authority at justice of the peace. He proceeded in a high-handed manner to try the case after the manner of [a] higher court. At the start, it was with great difficulty that he could keep order in his court, where noise and confusion reigned. Owing to the broken English of Lockamyer, the fierce denunciations of Old Bill and the geese-like gabbling of the Chinamen, it took some time to restore order. McIlwain called witnesses to prove Old Bill Dooley's character. One Irish miner who was a personal enemy of Old Bill was sworn [in] and swore that Old Bill was an old bluffing blowhard, who would not kill a chicken.
Upon hearing this miner's testimony McIlwain discharged Old Bill and dismissed the case. Thus ended the greatest farce ever carried out in Waldo.
Although this Irish miner's testimony caused Old Bill's acquittal, yet the latter was furious over the slur cast upon his character by this witness. Old Bill said that he would rather be put to state's prison or hung than to be stigmatized as a coward in that manner. He challenged the Irish miner to mortal combat with shotguns loaded to the brim with buckshot, at ten feet apart, or muzzle to muzzle.
Lockamyer DisgustedLockamyer returned to Althouse highly disgusted with American justice and was heard to exclaim in broken English, "No law in the United States. If I have that Irish scoundrel home where I come in Shermany, I put him in jail so long he live."
In the year 1861 a man named Pat Kearney, who was one of Maxwell's partners on Rich Bar, was a pioneer miner, and cut a remarkable figure in the early history of Browntown and Althouse. Kearney was a dark, heavy-built man, about five feet nine inches in height, and between 35 and 40 years of age.
He was possessed of great bodily strength and once carried a stove which weighed 400 pounds on his back on a footlog across Althouse Creek. He seldom if ever wore a coat, and he went around wearing a heavy overshirt. He always carried a large dragoon pistol on his hip, suspended from a belt which encircled his waist. Kearney, like several others of that time, was a combination miner and a gambler.
Kearney was a desperate character and had a number of rough and tumble fights in Browntown. He was once made the victim of a practical joke. Someone procured a pig's tail, and while Kearney was mingling with a crowd the mischief-loving individual contrived to fasten the pig's tail to the center of Kearney's belt hanging lengthwise downward from the middle of his back.
Made LaughingstockWhile Kearney was unaware of the trick which had been played upon him he walked around Browntown, presenting a ludicrous spectacle with his big dragoon pistol swung on his hip and a pig's tail suspended from the center of his back, which made him the laughingstock of everybody.
When Kearney was at length apprised of what caused the merriment of the spectators he was almost beside himself with rage. He swore that if he ever knew who the joker was who perpetrated the trick on him, he would fill the audacious scoundrel so full of lead that somebody would locate the trickster for a mineral claim.
One night there was a free-for-all fight in which several miners were engaged in a dance house in Browntown. While the conflict was raging Kearney, who was one of the combatants, was stabbed but was not aware of the fact until the fracas was over. When feeling something warm about his waist he placed his hand to his side and said, "What in the devil is this?" Upon removing his shirt he saw his intestines protruding on his hip from a knife wound. On another occasion Kearney was gambling in Browntown when the gambler with whom Kearney played challenged him to mortal combat. Kearney, who had the choice of weapons, procured two double-bitted axes and flinging one to the gambler dared him to the encounter with battle axes like the knights of old. The gambler declined to fight in that manner.
Reared as FishermanKearney had been raised as a fisherman in his youth on the historic river Shannon. Having made a stake at mining on Althouse he resolved to take a trip to Ireland. He, with three others, took their departure from Althouse for San Francisco, and from the latter place embarked on board of a ship called the Yankee Blade.
When out on the ocean the ship caught fire and was burned. While the vessel was ablaze Kearney plunged from the deck into the fathomless deep, carrying his fortune in his shirt bosom suspended from a loop which he wore around his neck. The weight of his gold took him down under the water, but being an excellent swimmer he rose to the surface, and would have in all probability been able to keep his precious metal, had he not seen a little girl alone struggling in the water a short distance off.
Kearney, rough and desperate man that he was, had a tender heart. He flung away his gold which greatly encumbered him and swam to the rescue of the child, whom he saved.
Upon again setting foot on land, Kearney was destitute, having lost his gold. He was compelled to give up the idea of going to Ireland and returned to Astoria, Oregon, and there engaged in fishing and where he was still living a few years ago, at an advanced age.
Kearney was never married. It is said that the little girl whom he saved from drowning was afterwards a rich woman, and offered to give Kearney a home in his old age, but he refused to accept the kind offer.
Grants Pass Daily Courier, April 3, 1935, section 3, page 12
WM. MACKEY TELLS STORY OF OWN LIFE
MAY BE RICH ORE HIDDEN
By William Mackey
In writing the story of early mining days in southern Josephine County I find it the most convenient to follow the thread of my own personal experience. I was born on Grass Flat, on Althouse Creek, in the year 1859, in a hotel kept by my father, which was a resort for the miners from points many miles around. Grass Flat was a lively little mining town, and like Browntown, which was three miles farther down Althouse, it was a great congregating point for the early miners from those golden days. Grass Flat was the center of a locality on the creek which has been very appropriately called the "Wonderful Spot on Althouse."
Yielded FortuneFrenchtown Bar, immediately below Grass Flat, according to good authority, yielded from a comparatively short strip of ground more than $300,000.
I knew many of the first miners on Althouse in my early boyhood. One old man named Collins, who worked at the upper end of Frenchtown Bar, told me that he had made as high as $100 a day on this bar.
In the beginning of mining on Althouse, the law allowed only 30 feet in length to a claim, according to the local laws of the district. This was afterwards changed to 100 yards by location, and 100 yards by purchase.
The main pay streak on Frenchtown Bar was only 30 feet wide. The bar was shallow and easily worked. It received its name Frenchtown from the fact that many Frenchmen worked on the bar.
One tragedy on Frenchtown Bar will show how slack the law was executed. Two Frenchmen were working together on their claims on the bar. One day they had a slight quarrel and one of the men called French John quit work and went home to his cabin before his partner did. The other in going home after quitting work had to pass by French John's door. The latter stood on the threshold of his door crying with a double-barreled shotgun in his hands and warned his partner not to pass his door.
Blew His Head OffThe latter disregarded the warning and laughingly said: "You damned fool, what is the matter with you?" and continued to walk by, when French John blazed away with both barrels of the gun and nearly blew the whole top of his head off.
There were two storekeepers in Browntown to whom French John owed $600, and they said it would never do to have John hanged as they would lose the money he owed them, and they influenced a justice of the peace to dismiss John's case, and he was never brought to trial in the higher courts. French John's victim was buried in the canyon of Snow Gulch, which empties into Frenchtown Bar. I saw this slain Frenchman's grave several years after he was killed. The grave was where there was a growth of underbrush and large trees, and was half burrowed out by squirrels and other varmints.
French John was a coward at heart, as was afterwards proven at my father's hotel at Grass Flat. John and a little American named Montague had a difficulty and met at the above-mentioned hotel. French John was under the influence of whisky, and armed with the gun with which he had killed his countryman, paced up and down in front of the hotel crying and flourishing his gun, and said, "This is the only friend I have."
Montague came into the hotel and addressing my father said, "Martin, I wish you would go out and talk to that d----d fool John, he might shoot me." My father then went out and getting close to French John he grabbed the latter's gun and wrenched it from John's grasp, and when John was thus disarmed the little American, Montague, procured two knives, and offering French John one of the knives challenged him to mortal combat. John declined to accept Montague's challenge and cowered like a whipped cur.
No Pay DirtAt the upper end of French Bar and nearly opposite Grass Flat the big pay in the creek ceased, the coarse gold gave out, and the creek was almost a blank for the length of a mile.
On the west side of the creek extending upstream from Grass Flat was an immense deep bar of great width, which appears to have been a big slide from the mountain behind. The late Newell DeLamater of Grants Pass in 1870 sluiced a tremendous cut at the lower end of this bar, near Grass Flat, which cost $4000.00, without any success. And before 1860 nine tunnels, each several hundred feet in length, were driven across this deep bar, and far into the mountain behind. All this work was done upstream from DeLamater's cut.
For many years after 1860 innumerable tunnels were driven into this deep bar by different men without any beneficial results, and sums of money spent which if taken together would amount to a large fortune. The bottom of this deep bar, which lies on the west side of Althouse, is on a level with the present bed of Althouse Creek.
The gravel deposits on the east side of Althouse, unlike those on the west side, lie high up on the hill above the creek.
Falls in SearchMy father, Martin Mackey, raised company after company, and made repeated efforts for 30 years to find the lost gold leads, and punctured the high hill on the east side of the Althouse for the extent of a mile with tunnels and shafts. And at last, being broken physically and financially, he was compelled to discontinue his operations.
One mile up the Althouse from Grass Flat the big pay was again struck in the bed of the creek in what is known as the Nulty claim, which was the richest place ever found on Althouse Creek.
A short distance up from the Nulty claim, and high up on the west side, is situated what is known as the old Hank claim, called after its first owner, Frank Hank, and afterwards by the brothers Peter and Frederick Hansen, who made several thousand dollars there. The claim was later operated by Chinamen. There are large bodies of cement in this Hank claim that would pay $10 a day to the man if a process could be found by which this cement gravel could be worked.
In the early '60s most of the richest deposits of gold on Althouse Creek were well nigh exhausted, and the mines were on the wane.
Town AbandonedThe town of Grass Flat was finally abandoned and, in miners' phraseology, took on the appearance of a ghost town. Some of the buildings, which were made of logs with shingle roofs, were torn down and disappeared, and only two or three houses remained, in one of which our family, consisting of my father and mother, and an only sister, Mary, and myself lived for several years. My sister and I traveled 14 miles day to attend school at the Beach and Platter school in the lane a short distance below Holland, on the present mail route from Kerby. We had one horse between us, each taking turns at riding and walking, going down the Althouse seven miles from Grass Flat to Illinois Valley, and seven miles returning home. I was only 14 years of age at that time, and my sister was younger. Half of the road over which we traveled to school was mountain trail.
My mother died on Grass Flat in the year 1874. My mother was widely known and respected for her kindness by the early miners. When any lone miner was crippled or hurt by accident she would send me to his cabin to wait upon and take care of him. When she died a large number of miners assembled at Grass Flat to pay her their last regards, and she was carried by the miners down the Althouse trail to the home of Lawrence Leonard, in the Illinois Valley near the present site of Holland, from which residence her funeral took place. She was interred in the old Catholic cemetery in the Allen Creek Gulch near Waldo.
Few WomenAs there were very few women in the mountain regions of Althouse in those days, my sister was sent away to distant relatives, and was never more with my father or myself in that part of the country.
I knew Matty Collins, the miner who found the 17-pound nugget on the east fork of Althouse in 1859. He came back on a visit to Althouse in 1875 and stayed one night with my father and myself on Grass Flat.
In the early '70s there was a silver excitement on Althouse. Two miners named Cameron and Wheeler, while placer mining on Johnson Gulch, a tributary of the east fork of Althouse, found specimens of float silver ore which assayed several thousand dollars to the ton in silver, with a large percentage of gold. More float silver was afterward found by other miners besides Cameron and Wheeler.
Men from different parts of the country fitted out pack trains of horses loaded with grub and tools and repaired to Johnson's gulch to prospect for the hidden lode. Most of those silver prospectors who repeatedly came and went did little more, however, than run over the country and scratch the surface.
Location GivenThe summit of the mountain ridge above the head of Johnson's gulch runs east and west and is the dividing line between Oregon and California. Johnson's gulch is on the south side of the east fork of Althouse Creek. The mountainside at the head of Johnson's gulch is covered with soil and trees, which makes it difficult to find the hidden silver lode.
On the summit of the ridge the bare bedrock is visible in several places, and the rock formation is of a character favorable for gold and silver.
The late Newell DeLamater, Grass Flat miner, in the '80s sluiced a cut a hundred yards in length in the left fork of Johnson's gulch trying to strip the silver ledge, but his efforts were in vain. The late Jack Henderson, the pioneer of Kerby, told me that he prospected to find the silver ledge in Johnson's gulch in 1887, and while placer mining there he washed out black sand which assayed 36 percent in silver.
The miners of the old school and some today are impressed with the belief that gold is not to be found in any rock excepting quartz. But the contrary is once in a while what happens. It has been clearly demonstrated that gold is likely to be found in any formation, but when it is discovered in any rock besides quartz it is generally mixed with other minerals.
Belief InaccurateAnother idea accepted by many miners is that a ledge which carries but small values on top does not increase in worth at a greater depth. But the reverse is sometimes the case, as in the Comstock Lode in Nevada, which was a quartz ledge almost barren on the surface, and deeper yielded a fabulous sum of many millions of dollars.
Many of the richest gold and silver lodes in Old Mexico are not visible on the surface, and are called underwater mines.
A little more than 40 years ago two miners working in the vicinity of Johnson's gulch uncovered a big dike of black rock resembling charcoal. They started to sink a shaft on this dike, but after getting down to the depth of a few feet they abandoned the undertakings, as they did not understand timbering and were afraid of being caved upon. There were streaks of pretty yellow sulphurets in this dark rock, and gold was visible also in the black bedrock. The two men who stripped this black dike were old and went away soon after, and one died in the county hospital at Grants Pass. Their shaft and the cut in which it was sunk was soon covered with tailings from the hill above, and has remained ever since buried. I have often thought that this black dike might contain a tremendous amount of gold, as considerable amount of gold was taken from the gulch below, which appears to have been fed from this dark dike. This place has been claimed by men for many years.
Johnson's gulch is the center of a great iron belt, which runs northeast and southwest from Bolan Creek to the east fork of the Illinois River. And as I believe the richest deposits of gold have been discovered where there are large bodies of iron, there is a strong likelihood that immense pay chutes of gold lie along the course of this Althouse iron belt.
Iron Dike ExistsIn Johnson's gulch there is a large iron dike, and two miles northeast from the aforesaid tributary there is a large, well-defined ledge of high-grade iron ore which assays 73 percent in iron, in Iron Gulch on the north side of the east fork of Althouse Creek. In the same locality as the iron ledge the famous Hewston pocket of gold was found by Frank Hewston in 1895, which yielded $15,000.
On Bolan Creek, five miles northeast from Iron Gulch, Jack McLaughlin, while driving a tunnel in the year 1875, stripped a ledge of iron ore which was 50 feet in width.
Bolan Creek, which lies west of the main Althouse, and over a ridge from the latter stream, was noted for its yield of heavy, coarse gold in early mining days.
After the white men had first worked the bed of Althouse Creek and the bars and points on its banks, and had taken only the cream of the rich gold lead, then came hundreds of Chinamen, who turned and removed the rocks, and cleaned the bedrock several times over in the old claims of the early miners.
Those Chinamen were adepts at saving fine gold, and worked for themselves as low as 25 cents a day after board and expenses were paid. Their methods of living, when compelled by necessity, were very cheap. They subsisted on tea with spongy, steamed bread, and rice with chunk cabbage, which they grew on little spots of sand on the bars along the creeks. Those Chinamen found many good-paying places which were left by the first miners, who in many instances skimmed along over the ground, taking only the best.
Chinamen Had to BuyThe Chinamen were not allowed to hold claims except by purchase. They used to come to my father and get him to locate a claim on some old worked bar, and then they would pay him two or three ounces for his location. The Chinamen wrought in this manner on all of the creeks, and were a great detriment to the country, and they sent all of the gold back to China. Even their bones, after their deaths, were exhumed from their graves and transported by their countrymen back to the fatherland.
Those Chinese miners when making money and prospering were much given to going on sprees and feasting. Gin was their favorite beverage. They ate much pork and chicken and indulged in the smoking of opium.
There would be gold diggings yet remaining which would support white men and their families for many years to come had it not been for those Chinese miners. The Chinamen were at last expelled from the country, but not until they had done irreparable damage to the white population.
One incident I remember occurred in the year 1867 and shows how superstitious the Chinese were. On the north side of Grass Flat there is in the winter time a small seepage of water fronting Althouse Creek, at the head of a small ravine which runs down a high, steep hillside from Grass Flat to said creek. In the year mentioned there was a great freshet on Althouse and the little brooks and rivulets on the hillsides were booming with rainwater. A crowd of Chinese miners lived in a house close to the creek, at the base of this high hill fronting Grass Flat. They worked in a claim on the east side of Althouse, opposite the house in which they lived. My father had repeatedly warned these Chinamen when the floods came to turn off the water of the seepage and ravines in another direction by means of a ditch dug for that purpose up on Grass Flat, as he had foreseen that if the water was allowed to run down the hill to the Chinamen's dwelling it would soak the ground and cause the hill to slide and bury the Chinamen's house.
Failed to ListenBut the latter failed to heed my father's warning, and one day during the flood the Chinamen came home from their work at noon, cooked and ate their dinner, and then recrossed the creek to work in their claim again. One of their number, feeling unwell, remained behind at their house to rest for the afternoon. Immediately after his partners had crossed the creek to work, he started to go from the house to a blacksmith shop a few yards from the house, and when almost at the shop, the whole side of the rain-soaked hill above slid and buried the Chinaman and the blacksmith shop and dwelling [with] earth, mingled with stumps and trees.
It was raining heavily when the Chinamen ran to my father's house wailing piteously and told him what had befallen their partner. Father urged them to get to work at once and take their partner's body out from under the debris, but they seemed gripped with fear and said, "too late, too late." My father, seeing that his appeal to rouse the Chinamen to action was in vain, procured the assistance of two white miners, David Houck and Edward Moore, and those men, with my father, sluiced nearly all of the afternoon, until nightfall, and finally uncovered the body, which was terribly bruised and mangled. They then retired, leaving the corpse to be disposed of by the Chinamen. My father gave them a large cabin on Grass Flat in which to stay after the accident occurred. The cabin had two spacious apartments within it and a wide rock fireplace, in which the Chinamen built a good fire. That night following the accident it rained continuously until the next day. One can imagine the feelings of my father and mother when the next morning they discovered that the Chinamen had left the body of their unfortunate countryman outside, lying on the ground beside a log, with a few shingles over the body and leaning against the log to shed the rain during the stormy night. Common sense and human feeling should have forced them to take the body for safekeeping into the house, for when left out in this manner it was in imminent danger of attack by varmints, such as bears and panthers, and wildcats were numerous on Althouse in those days.
The day following the death of the Chinaman a number of Asiatics from up and down the Althouse attended the funeral. The dead Celestial was taken a half mile from Grass Flat and buried upon a hillside in a shallow grave. Many times afterwards I saw the lonely mound, with red Chinese candles and food gotten up to suit the Chinese palate laid at its margin to feed the ghost pf the departed when he would come back from the great beyond. At length I visited the grave and it was empty. All that was mortal of the man that wore the queue was raised, according to custom, and taken back to China.
Game AboundedThe Althouse region and adjacent creeks in the Siskiyou region were a great hunting ground and abounded with wild game of various kinds in early mining days.
As I roamed over those mountains when I was a boy I have seen innumerable grouse, pheasants and quail, hawks and snow birds, and large bands of deer, and I have picked up the old horns of an elk. I have seen many black and brown bears, cougars, panthers and wildcats, and occasionally a grizzly bear might be seen. But there has been a wanton slaughter of those animals for commercial purposes by men who made sale of their hides. The birds and animals have been almost exterminated. There are game laws now for their protection, when there are but few to protect. The wanton destruction of animals and birds has deprived poor prospectors and families of a great means of support.
The east fork of Althouse and Bolan and Green creeks have their source around the base of Bolan Peak, which looms up like a great Indian lookout against the sky. The mountain scenery in this locality, when viewed from a vantage point, is not excelled for grandeur and sublimity in any other part of the world.
I remember one incident in my boyhood which has left an indelible picture in my mind. When on a clear summer day in the month of June I stood for the first time, when I was but 16 years of age, on the top of Bolan Peak and viewed the broad expanse of mountains stretching far in every direction in panoramic beauty, with Mount Shasta towering in snow-crowned grandeur 75 or 100 miles away.
Remembers PeaksThere was one thing of which I have a very vivid recollection. On the top of the peak there was yet remaining a spot of unthawed snow, about 50 feet in extent, on the surface of which was imprinted what appeared to be the huge track of a grizzly bear.
From the summit of Bolan Peak I looked down on the clear water of Bolan Lake, which seemed to shine in the bright afternoon sunlight. This was in the year 1875.
This lake seems to be an extinct crater, as there are masses of cemented conglomerate resembling sulphur around the margin of the lake, which seems to have been belched up by volcanic action from the bowels of the earth. Sometimes I have thought that this cemented formation around Bolan Lake might be gold-bearing, and I have contemplated having some of this stuff assayed for gold. The lake and the locality in which it is situated is now within the national forest reserve.
Looks Like BlowoutFrench Peak, which lies about 1½ miles north from the head of the east fork of Althouse Creek, has an iron capping and looks like what miners call a "blowout." Running north from French Peak a mountain ridge extends for 10 miles in the direction of Holland. The main Althouse lies on the west side of this ridge, and Bolan Creek and Sucker Creek lie on the east side. This mountain section of the country is highly mineralized.
At the southern extremity of this dividing ridge near French Peak, and close to the summit of the ridge on its west side, a well-defined fissure, with a hanging wall and a foot wall, may be traced by holes that have been sunk in the fissure, the holes hundreds of yards apart, and from the last hole on the north end a ledge may be dimly traced on the surface of the ground extending northward for a distance of two miles.
There are bunches of white quartz in these prospect holes on the side of the hill above Snow Gulch. The fissure is in a porphyry formation, and as the hillside is very steep under this fissure, it could be tapped at a considerable depth without much expense. It is quite probable that this fissure may contain an underwater gold ledge.
A distance of two miles north from French Peak and on the east side of the dividing ridge is McDonnell Gulch, which has its source near the summit of the ridge and empties into Bolan Creek.
Large quantities of coarse, heavy gold were found by miners placer mining in McDonnell Gulch. The gold was supposed by the miners to have come from a quartz ledge somewhere in the hill.
Tragic TaleThere is a tragic tale connected with the history of this gulch. In the year 1859 a miner named Pete Dolan mined in the McDonnell Gulch. The winter of that year was noted for its great snowfall and severe weather. A little fellow named Gray, from San Francisco, being destitute, was taken by Dolan into his cabin and harbored and fed during the winter. One Sunday a number of miners, among whom were Dolan and Gray, were congregated at a miners' resort on Bolan Creek and were freely indulging in strong drink, when Gray insulted Dolan. The latter, being a powerful man, proceeded to chastise Gray, who fled from the house and ran into the woods, pursued by Dolan. Gray stopped, and resting his pistol on a stump, took aim and shot Dolan through the heart. Dolan, being a man of wonderful vitality, followed Gray several yards after being shot, and had almost overtaken Gray when he fell dead. Gray made good his escape and was never afterward seen.
Dolan had a very rich claim on McDonnell Gulch and was supposed to have had money buried in that locality, as he was often seen to take his rifle and absent himself from his cabin for an hour or more, apparently looking after his cache. His hidden treasure was searched for by men for years but was never found. His bones were two or three times sluiced out by miners in the course of years, and again reinterred.
I was informed that a man named Lacy, while running a tunnel a few years ago above the head of McDonnell Gulch, crossed a large ledge several feet in width which abounded in sulphurets and pyrites of iron, which he said indicated the existence of gold in the ledge.
Directly over the ridge from McDonnell Gulch, and on the Althouse side, is the large Run Gulch, in which Joe Ponlser worked a few years ago and found a good deal of gold far upon on the gulch. While panning on his claim he also found large quantities of metal resembling platinum. I procured some of this metal and had it assayed. It showed $4 to the ton in gold. The Run Gulch, and that section, abounds in quartz indications and prospects.
Gulches 7 and 8Three miles north from the head of the Run Gulch, and also on the west side of the dividing ridge, are what are known as No. 7 and No. 8 gulches, from which considerable amounts of gold have been taken. These streams are tributaries of Althouse. At the heads of these two gulches good prospects of cinnabar, or quicksilver, have been found.
On an arm of the dividing ridge and extending east toward Sucker Creek, and two miles from Holland, is the famous Cohen Ledge, where a very rich pay chute of gold was struck in the year 1865. This pay chute was afterwards lost, and prospectors have tried for many years to again find it, but without success.
There is a large area of red iron rock in the neighborhood of the Cohen Ledge, which indicates the existence of a large deposit of gold somewhere in that vicinity. I have seen extensive bodies of red iron rock, similar to that near the Cohen Ledge, in the richest gold and silver mines in the state of Hidalgo, in old Mexico.
When I was only six years old, in 1865, my mother lived with my sister and myself for a short time on the Althouse road, a few hundred yards from Jack Smock's store and the present site of Holland, and my sister and I played where the buildings now stand and all over the hill that lies back of Holland. As children we roamed over the Bain ranch at Holland, which was then owned by the pioneer Calvin Bain and now belongs to Mrs. Martha Trefathen. This ranch was noted for its fine crops of hay and its splendid apple orchard, which produced the best apples in Josephine County.
Saw Many MinersAs my sister and I wandered about, the southern boundary of our playground was what is now called the Burnt Ranch, on the Althouse road near Democrat Gulch, about one-quarter of a mile from Holland. Here we used to watch the butchering of hogs and cattle by Lawrence Leonard and his hired man, Tom Blake. Mr. Leonard afterward had a store in connection with his butcher shop and dealt largely with the miners. Lawrence Leonard was a Civil War soldier in the Union army who came to Althouse in 1864. From that date, until his death in 1906, he was a prominent business figure in Josephine County.
In plain view from Holland, and lying to the west, is the Beach and Platter ranch, named after its original owners, Beach and Platter, two men of whom it was often said that they did more hard work, and took less comfort, than any other two men in the country where they lived.
When I was a boy I worked for these two men at different times on this ranch, which produced an abundance of hay and excellent fruit and vegetables. Beach and Platter were bachelors and toiled almost incessantly on this ranch for 30 years, engaged in the store and butchering business, combined with farming. They were called "iron men" physically, and seemed never to rest. They had a pack train of horses with which they packed beef, vegetables and groceries to the miners far up in the Siskiyous. I have often heard the bells on their horses far into the night coming down Althouse, returning after delivering their goods to miners up in the mountains.
Like Oliver Goldsmith's vicar of Wakefield, Beach and Platter were men of splendid hospitality, and their house and home was a regular bachelors' hall, where any weary or destitute traveler was welcome to stay and have his bed and meals free of charge.
Drinking ExplainedSeveral people are at a loss to conjecture how it was that many of the first miners were so much addicted to strong drink and gambling, but on consideration this seems easily accounted for. Those early miners were in a great part hardy adventurous frontiersmen who were here, in this then-new and wild country, isolated far from their homes and families, where they knew only primitive methods to overcome the obstacles which nature had thrown in their way. When travel and transportation was so slow in those days, when everything seemed to depend on chance and adventure, coupled with great dangers, this wild life of risk naturally awoke the spirit of gambling and staking their all on cards, and they partook of stimulants to nerve themselves for the gigantic task ahead of them.
Had Fatal SpreeWhen I was a boy only 13 years of age I witnessed the results of a spree which terminated fatally for two men. On the Althouse in the year 1872, there were three miners. One, Joseph Delaney, was an educated Irishman who had formerly been a salesman in the famous A. T. Stewart's big store in New York City. The second was Thomas Russell, a literary Englishman, who was a writer of stories and had mined in California. These men came to Althouse in 1857. They were unmarried, and as far as known have not left any relatives behind them. They lived and mined far up on the east fork of Althouse. They were wont to meet at their respective cabins and have what miners called glorious sprees.
When they had their last and fatal spree together they drank from Christmas until New Year's eight gallons of whisky, and they ate little or nothing to sustain themselves during their long spree. The whisky was horrible, homemade stuff which used to be manufactured in Browntown. On this last spree they hired a Chinaman to pack the whisky to them in their little harvest kegs up from Browntown, a distance of eight miles.
Toward the end of this protracted spree the Frenchman Hubert went down to the foregoing town to get a fresh supply of liquor, and he was taken seriously ill on his way back and reached home with much difficulty. He tarried at the cabin at midnight where Delaney and Russell, who were awaiting him, started a fire to prepare some food and make a little hot whisky punch, while Hubert lay down on a bunk to rest, with his face turned to the log wall. His two comrades imagined Hubert had fallen asleep. When they had lunch and refreshments prepared they proceeded to awaken him. When they turned him over in bed they found to their horror and surprise that he was dead.
Miners AssembleThe news was carried up and down the creek, and the miners from above and below, my father, Martin Mackey, among the rest, assembled at Delaney's cabin, and the body of Hubert was borne by the miners down the Althouse trail to Browntown and interred in the miners' burying round on Walker Gulch, one mile up on the hillside from the already mentioned town.
When Hubert's body was lowered into the grave and his coffin covered with earth, Joseph Delaney stepped off the space for a grave for himself beside that of Hubert's and said, "When I die I wish to be buried right here," and in 48 hours from that time he was laid in the spot he had marked for himself.
Delaney went down to Browntown after Hubert's funeral and sat up all night in a store and he became sore internally from the effects of excessive drinking which he had done. Inflammation of the bowels set in and he died in a few hours.
The miners, while it was raining, waited all the next day following Delaney's death for a coffin to be brought up from Illinois Valley in which to place his remains. The coffin was brought to the place when it was almost dark in the evening by Charley Trefathen, who is yet living in Holland.
I well remember that damp evening in January nearly 62 years ago when, as a boy, I followed the funeral procession on the wagon road leading from Browntown up to the place of interment in Walker Gulch, where the pioneer miner, Tom Carr, preached a short funeral sermon, and Joseph Delaney was laid to rest until the resurrection morning.
Russell Dies LaterThomas Russell, the survivor of this fatal spree, died several years after, and sleeps in a lonely grave far upon the east fork of Althouse.
Contrary to the opinion of many people nowadays, several of the first miners of California and southern Oregon were highly educated men who became hardened and reckless by the wild life of the frontiers.
I did not have much educational advantage in my boyhood. My schooling was limited. I studied myself without a tutor and picked up the rudiments of an education. I used to go up in the mountains from Grass Flat and visit the cabins of educated miners, and get them to solve problems in arithmetic for me, and otherwise instruct me. In later years I have roamed over those mountains and seen grass-covered mounds here and there, where the rock chimneys of cabins which belonged to the first miners had been. As I viewed all this it caused me to have a painful and lonesome feeling. I looked around in vain to find some one of those oldtimers yet living to whom I could talk about past days, and the words of the poet, Thomas Moore, came to my mind:
"I feel like one who treads alone
Some banquet hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled, whose garlands dead
And all but me departed."
Crescent City, Calif.
August 13, 1934.
Grants Pass Daily Courier, April 3, 1935, section 3, page 9
STORY OF THE FINDING OF GOLD AND NAMING
OF ALTHOUSE CREEK IS TOLD BY ALBANY MAN
The romantic early-day history of a country is elusive, and without the effort of interested parties is lost before we know it. There are many interesting details connected with the discovery and mining of gold in Josephine County, and Geo. H. Parker has assembled much interesting data in this connection. Recently in getting the facts regarding the naming of Althouse Creek, Mr. Parker wrote to C. H. Stewart, of Albany, and received the following letter regarding the Althouse brothers, with whom Mr. Stewart had been acquainted:
"This is in answer to your letter of yesterday in relation to the Althouse brothers, with whom I was well acquainted.
"In the spring of 1849 Philip and John Althouse, the former being 21 years old and the latter 19, started from Illinois for the gold fields of California. There were ten men in the party, and they had four wagons. They crossed the plains safely, and when they arrived in the Sacramento Valley the party broke up. The Althouse brothers finally concluded to visit their brother Samuel, who had crossed the plains in 1847, and located at Albany, Oregon, so they sold their team for sufficient money to pay their way by steamer to Portland. Arriving there, they footed it up the valley to Albany, where they worked for some time at anything they could find to do.
"In the spring of 1851 the two young men went out to Southern Oregon and commenced prospecting for gold. In company with three other men they took the first wagon from the Rogue River Valley into the Illinois River country.
"In the fall of 1852 the two brothers with a few others discovered gold on a creek flowing into the east fork of the Illinois River, not far from Sucker Creek. These diggings proved to be very rich, and as Philip Althouse was the first one of the prospectors to wash out a pan of the dirt, the creek was named after him--Althouse Creek. The gold was rather coarse, and a great many nuggets were found, one of them in particular being valued at $1200.
"The two brothers mined in that locality successfully for several years. Philip finally died and was buried there, and John joined his brother Samuel at Albany and passed the remainder of his days at this place. He married a Mrs. N. H. Cranor, and died in June 1916, leaving no children.
"Capt. Althouse, who has recently been appointed governor of the island of Guam, and is now visiting at Albany, is a son of Wm. Althouse, the only one of the four brothers who did not remove from Illinois to this coast."
Adding further details to the interesting story, Sheriff George W. Lewis says that while placer mining on Althouse Creek at Browntown the mining operations formed a gravel bar on a tributary of Althouse Creek, and when the high water came the current of the creek was changed enough to cut into one bank of the creek and expose the bones of two men who had been buried at that place. Jesse Randall, an old pioneer who had been mining on Althouse for many years, told them that one was the skeleton of Philip Althouse. The bones were placed in a box and reburied further up the bank.
Sheriff Lewis says the nugget mentioned in the letter was found by Wm. Saunders, who had been very unsuccessful as a miner, and when he found the nugget he nearly went crazy. Saunders was afterward county assessor for two terms.
About 1900 Jacob Klippel found a nugget on Boulder Creek, just across the divide from Althouse Creek. This nugget weighed $560.
Unattributed newspaper clipping, W. W. Fidler scrapbook, MS208 box 2 SOHS
Last revised April 9, 2012