Friday, January 2, 2009

Oregon's Lost "Blue Bucket" Mine

(Part of the John Day River region.)

One of the Richest "Undiscovered" Gold Placers?

Oregon's Lost "Blue Bucket" Mine is one of the Beaver State's more persistent lost treasure legends. Although not a mine per se (since this one, like most lost mine tales, involves a discovery and not mining activities), the "Blue Bucket" could be one of the richest gold placers ever left "undiscovered" in the northwestern United States. Yet, to this day, no one has been able to locate the Lost "Blue Bucket" Mine.

Gold Pans
Gold Panning Kits
Mining Equipment

A Shortcut Leads to "Shiny Little Rocks"

Many new settlers and homesteaders headed west to the Oregon Territory in the 1840s seeking a better life or a new start. In 1845 Joe Meeks, a member of a small group of these intrepid souls, suggested leaving the main trail for a shortcut he'd been told about back East. After some discussion on the subject, the rest of the would-be settlers agreed and, following Meeks' instructions, proceeded in a westerly direction along eastern Oregon's Malheur River.

In late August (the usual date given is August this specific date was derived I do not know) three men from the party went to bucket up water from a small stream nearby. As they did so, one of them noticed "shiny little rocks" scattered about the stream's shallow bedrock. Many of these were packed tightly into cracks and crevices or resting in small piles behind larger rocks and boulders. They gathered up a few handfuls of these pretty rocks, tossed them into a large blue water bucket, and headed back to camp.

Mrs. Fisher's "Souvenir"

The shiny rocks in the blue bucket created quite a stir when the men returned to camp and showed the rest of the group. After much study and debate it was decided that the shiny little rocks were copper nuggets. Since no one else in the party could prove differently, this premise was accepted, things calmed down, and the party headed west again.

Not long after the blue bucket was needed for its true purpose. Since by this time the "copper" nuggets had lost their initial "luster" as curiosities, they were unceremoniously dumped alongside the trail. But not before one of the party, a Mrs. Fisher, kept one of the larger nuggets as a "souvenir." It wasn't until 1848 and the beginning of the California Gold Rush and subsequent placer gold strikes in Oregon that Mrs. Fisher realized her "copper" nugget was, in fact, gold.

A Compelling Fact

One fact I do find compelling about this lost treasure legend is that prior to the Gold Rush of 1848, most Americans could not have identified placer gold if it hit them on the rear end. So it would have been quite easy for a party like Mrs. Fisher's to stumble across a rich placer area and not have a clue as to what riches surrounded them. Even recently arrived '49ers in the California goldfields had to be "schooled up" on how to identify and recover placer gold by more experienced miners from Virginia, Georgia, the Carolinas and other parts of the world.

This, in my view, lends credence to this lost mine legend. Also remember that not every piece of rich placer ground has to cover large tracts of territory (like California's Motherlode). Many smaller, rich placers were often bypassed by the oldtimers in favor of "greener grass" on the other side of the hill. Could the Lost "Blue Bucket" Mine be one of these?

The Search Continues

Either way, the search continues in Oregon for the Lost "Blue Bucket" Mine. By the way, most treasure hunters and prospectors have focused their search activities along tributary or "feeder" streams in the John Day River region.


This is one treasure tale that deserves further investigation and research by someone out there. Perhaps yourself?

Good hunting!

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "California's Lost Cement Mine, Part 1"
(c) J.R. 2009

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