The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Beach Sands
For more on the beach diggings, see the Mining Notes pages.

    THE GOLD DISCOVERIES AT PORT ORFORD.--From information of a private nature which we have received, by a late arrival from Port Orford, we are led to believe that the stories of rich gold discoveries on the seashore at that place are by no means unfounded. We are positively assured that diggings have been commenced and carried on with the most satisfactory results in the sand of the beach at the foot of a bluff near Port Orford. Two men took out seventy-five dollars on the day before our information was posted. The gold is extremely fine, and mixed with platina. How far the diggings extend is not yet ascertained. It appears that several parties are endeavoring to keep down excitement on the subject in this city, in order to prevent goods being shipped until a large stock on hand, at last accounts, could be disposed of.

"Later from California," Albany Evening Journal, Albany, New York, August 24, 1853, page 2

The Port Orford Gold Diggings.
    For the accuracy of the annexed statements we cannot vouch, the name of the author not accompanying the communication. If the writer furnishes this information for no interested purposes, and it certainly has the appearance of truth, it will be valuable to persons who may have projected a trip to the mines in question.
    Messrs. Editors:--As statements in relation to the gold at Port Orford continue to appear in the papers, it may save those who cannot afford the expense of the price of passage there and back by describing things as they actually exist.
    The writer returned from the above port on the steamer Columbia, and having resided there about a month, has had a good opportunity of understanding the capabilities of the place.
    At the town of Port Orford there are only four or five available claims, and these are already taken up. Gold has been found at Hubbard's Creek, three-quarters of a mile distant. A company of six persons built a dam and turned the stream, but owing to the sandy nature of the soil they were unable to manage the water, and consequently have failed in taking out anything.
    The principal diggings are thirty-five miles beyond Port Orford, and six miles above the Coquille River. Seven sluices were at work at the time of my visit, and several more in preparation. Some of these sluices were yielding two hundred dollars a day per man; others as low as thirty or forty dollars. The whole were supplied by one stream of water. The claims on either side of this stream were richest, and of course worked at least expense. The gold diminishes in proportion to the distance from the stream, and the expense of working increases, owing to the necessity of making ditches or troughs to conduct water to the sluices. In this vicinity "the color of gold" has been found several miles along the beach, but there is great scarcity of water. About twenty miners are settled there. They pack their provisions up from Port Orford, on mules, at a cost of ten cents per pound, which, added to the high prices charged at Port Orford, makes living very expensive. A few hired laborers were receiving one hundred and fifty dollars per month, "and found." Cowan Bay is fifteen miles further north, and it would be an advantage to the miners if goods could be landed there instead of at P.O., thus saving twenty miles of land carriage.
    There are other diggings twenty miles below Port Orford, near the mouth of Rogue River. Until within two weeks there has been only one sluice at work there, belonging to a man named "French Joe." I retorted twenty ounces of gold for him, which he had "taken out" in nine days, a result so flattering as to cause several persons to go down, packing their provisions upon Indians, but they complain much of want of water, and were about to try the "Jenny Lind rocker," instead of sluices--with what success has not been heard.
    A party had also gone out to search for placer diggings. They returned the day the steamer Columbia left, and if they found anything, were very silent about it.
    Most of the miners who left San Francisco per Cecil and Thos. Hunt have been disappointed; some have returned. If any others intend going up, I should advise them to take their own provisions. The beach diggings will not be good for more than two months more, after which time the high tides prevent labor.
Yours respectfully,                W.W.W.
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, September 2, 1853, page 2

    At Crescent City there is new excitement about the "beach diggings" from the mouth of Rogue River to Port Orford. Big strikes are reported--from $25 to $100 per day, all out of the black sand. Quicksilver, is, of course, in great demand.
"Mining Intelligence,"
Sacramento Daily Union, October 22, 1853, page 2

    The beach diggings between Crescent City and Port Orford are reported to be extensive and profitable. A number of prospectors have gone into new districts about Rogue River, and the reports of their discoveries are favorable, but we have no positive information.
"California Intelligence," Washington Sentinel, Washington, D.C., December 15, 1853, page 1

    THE GOLD DISCOVERIES AT PORT ORFORD.--We published on Wednesday a brief account of reported valuable discoveries in the neighborhood of Port Orford. A correspondent of the Alta, under date of May 31st, gives the following confirmation of the rumor:
    "It will be remembered that much excitement was created, during the last fall and winter, in relation to the "beach diggings" in this vicinity. Many came here with high anticipations of amassing sudden fortunes, but in few instances were these expectations realized. There are undeniably large deposits of gold all along the beach, extending from Rogue River to within fifteen miles of Cape Arago, but the great and only difficulty in collecting the gold has heretofore arisen from the scarcity of the water, there being, perhaps, on a beach four miles in extent not water sufficient to run more than six or eight machines. Within a short time, however, the experiment of using sea water has been tried with great success. This is done by the application of horse power to a common pump, raising the water into a reservoir, and distributing it along the beach as required. The mines at the Coquille and Rogue rivers are paying not less than ten dollars to the man, while in many instances "big strikes" are made of ten to fifteen ounces of pure gold. At Cape Blanco, which is eight miles north of Port Orford, three men have taken out of one claim over twenty-five thousand dollars since last November. After paying all expenses, they divided, a few days since, twenty-three thousand dollars. There are about one hundred men at work there at the present time, and all of them doing well.
Sacramento Daily Union, June 8, 1854, page 3

Rich Prospects of New Gold Diggings in Southern Oregon.
Beach and Interior Gold Deposits.
Port Orford, O.T., Jan. 12, 1857.
    I have received intelligence from California, making inquiry concerning the probability of other and more extensive diggings than those recently discovered on Sixes River, and known as "Summers' diggings." In compliance with this request I have made considerable inquiry, and from the knowledge that I have obtained from different persons, together with my own experience, I can but arrive at a favorable conclusion.
    The section of country known as Southern Oregon, or that portion bordering on the coast, has hitherto been only slightly prospected, although, so far, with favorable results. This portion of Oregon has always been infested with belligerent bands of Indians until quite recently, rendering it exceeding hazardous for prospecting companies to make a thorough examination of the country. In August last, immediately after the removal of the Indians, a small prospecting company was fitted out for the purpose of prospecting Sixes River, which resulted in the discovery of Summers' diggings. This company was absent only four weeks when they returned with the neat little prospect of thirty-eight hundred dollars, or thereabouts.
    Sixes River rises in a range of mountains situated between the Coquille and Rogue rivers, and from the same range some six or eight other streams also rise and flow in different directions, and in every one of which gold in greater or less quantities has been found for several years past, but on account of the troublesome disposition of the Indians, a satisfactory prospect could not be had. In Elk River, a stream that empties into the coast some six miles north of this place, and only six hours' walk, twenty-five cents to the pan was found some three years since, but the stream was never thoroughly prospected for the same reasons that I have above spoken of in relation to other streams. Yet it may be found on a thorough examination of all the other streams flowing from the immediate vicinity of Sixes River, that more of them will be found to pay well, and judging from what has been found on Sixes River, a sufficient inducement is here offered for miners to prospect, and prospect thoroughly all the streams throughout the whole region between the Coquille and Rogue rivers.
    It is a fact, well established, that gold abounds in considerable quantities along the beach from Coos Bay to the line of California, and it is a fact nonetheless apparent that this gold has during the process of time all been washed from the interior, by the streams emptying into the coast, and by the action of the surf upon the deposits thus brought to the sea, the gold is distributed along the beach. It is easy to discover also the unmistakable appearance of volcanic action along this same locality which has changed the delta of rivers several miles distant from the position that they once occupied, which accounts in my opinion for the many rich deposits that have been formed along the beach several miles distant from streams of any magnitude. It has been argued by some, and that too quite logically, that the beach gold originates in the stratum of soil along the coast. I differ only in this argument on the gold originating in the vicinity of the coast: I am strongly of the opinion that the entire stratum of earth along the beach, where gold is found, is nothing more nor less than the deposits of streams flowing into the coast, and the gold together with other matter has come from the interior.
    All the gold found along the beach is excessively fine, and easily susceptible of being removed almost any distance by a rapid current of water. The gold in the interior, however, is of a much coarser grade, and would naturally find a deposit, or resting place, near its original formation. It is natural then to suppose that the beach gold, together with that found along the streams in the interior, once occupied the same locality when Nature completed its work of formation, but by the action of the water upon the fine gold, it has been separated from the coarse and deposited along the beach, together with the alluvion matter. Consequently, I am led to believe that other, and, perhaps, more extensive placer diggings will be found on other streams in the vicinity of Sixes River, during the coming summer. For there are several streams rising in the same locality, and upon which gold has been found, that empty into Rogue River, and at the mouth of which the celebrated Gold Beach diggings are situated, which run along the beach some four or five miles, north and south, from the mouth of the river.
    P.S. Since writing the above I have learned by two gentlemen just in from the mines that the snow has fallen to the depth of four or five feet on the mountains between here and the mines. They also report finding one man and his horse both frozen to death. The man's name is Andrew Hurbert.
    The winter thus far has been uncommonly severe, and snow has fallen several feet deep at intervals during the winter, within a few miles of the coast, but in this immediate vicinity Nature presents the beautiful aspect of spring.
San Francisco Bulletin, February 4, 1857, page 1

    A telegram from Jacksonville, Dec. 17th, says: The Red Beach diggings, near Randolph, have been found to be extensive. Some claims are paying one hundred dollars per day to the hand.

"Oregon," Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, December 29, 1866, page 407

    A correspondent at Ellensburg writes to the Jacksonville Sentinel: Do you know that in this neighborhood there are good diggings that pay $50 per day to the hand? At Randolph, at the mouth of the Coquille River, they have discovered the old ocean beach, some three hundred feet above the beach of the present day, and about three miles inland. At Randolph, the beach diggings of early days were very rich--$1,000 per day being made--no doubt fed by this older beach now found. It is most likely that the "streak" at Randolph is much older than the one at "Gold Beach," as the latter is only about 80 feet above the present beach, and the sand is not so plentiful nor so rich. We look for rich discoveries next summer. In prospecting for that "streak" at Randolph, they intend boring, as it is covered with 30 feet of earth and thickly set with timber. A creek cut through and exposed it.

"Oregon," Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, January 5, 1867, page 7

Gathering Gold on the Seashore.
    The mining of gold on the ocean beach has always been one of the leading productive industries of Curry County. These mines have been found to pay from the Coquille south to some distance below the mouth of Rogue River, and a large number of these claims are still good property. Dennis Cunniff not long since sold some claims of this kind near Ellensburg for $2,000, and much higher figures have been offered for some of the other beach mines in that vicinity, says the Coast Mail. Among these may be mentioned the Ophir Beach mine, a deposit of black sand on and near the beach about five miles north of Rogue River, Ore. Will Huntley, the present owner, has constructed dikes, etc. that supply water all the year for working the beach below high water mark. It pays from $3 to $10 per day, and sometimes more, to the hand--owing to the freaks of Neptune in throwing up the sand. The bluff mine is twenty-five feet above tide and is an old beach in which there is a stratum of sand, from ten to twenty feet thick, that assays from $1 to $50 to the cubic yard. Experts who have examined [the] black sand pronounced this the richest they have seen in Oregon or California. There is from thirty to forty feet of gray sand above the lead, forming a bluff of seventy-five to 100 feet above tide. During the winter season Mr. Huntley runs one hydraulic under forty feet pressure, using fifty inches of water five or six months in the year, doing all the work himself, and realizing from $5 to an ounce a day. If some enterprising Yankee were to take hold of this mine and construct a ditch from Euchre Creek, a distance of ten miles, it would afford 200 inches of water all the year.--Portland (Oregon) Bee.
Union County Courier,
Elk Point, Dakota Territory, November 26, 1879, page 1

Beach Mining.
    In 1853 gold was first discovered on the beach at the mouth of Rogue River, California, by a party of men who came up from Crescent City in a whaleboat.
Miners rushed in from Crescent City, Port Orford and Randolph, and in a short time the hitherto unknown shores were dotted with little villages of log cabins, where the miners congregated for safety, as the country was swarming with Indians who might have annihilated them were they less discreet. The mines extended along the beach for twelve miles on each side of Rogue River, and proved to be the most important beach mines ever found, and have well merited the name of "Gold Beach." No estimates, however, of the value of the precious metal extracted can be more than widely guessed at, hut hundreds of thousands is the sum; nor is the beach yet "worked out;" but whenever it is sluiced by the ocean storms and tides it is still profitably worked--sometimes with results equal to the first, as if the gold were cast up from the sea. The primitive method of saving this gold, which is inconceivably finer than the beach sand, was by rough sluices and blankets, and drops in which were placed from fifty to one hundred pounds of quicksilver. But these were soon superceded by galvanized copper plates, the preparation and use of which were accidentally discovered by a miner at Cape Blanco. These copper plates by constant use became brittle and broken, and were thrown away by the wholesale for several years, when it was discovered that they were worth several dollars per pound for the gold that had "worked into them."
Daily Colonist, Victoria, B.C., April 27, 1882, page 6

Black Sand.
    At various points along the Pacific Coast from Gray's Harbor, Washington, on the north, to Point New Year, thirty miles below San Francisco, on the south, there are found heavy deposits of a heavy black sand, of about the fineness of ordinary beach sand, which contain more or less of finely divided but rather pure gold particles. This is called black sand, from its color, which is usually black, and sometimes iron sand, from the fact that chemically it is mainly iron. The deposits are of two kinds--the old beach sands, meaning those which lie considerably above the present water level, and the new or late sands, which form part of the present beaches, and, like the other beach sands, are moved back and forth by the waves.
    The gold-bearing sands along the present beaches are usually black in color and are composed mostly of particles of magnetic iron; that is to say, of the magnetic oxide of iron, called magnetite. In chemical constitution the substance is considered to be a mixture of the protoxide and sesquioxide of iron, having seventy-two parts metallic iron to twenty-eight of oxygen. It is hard, sometimes scratching glass; its specific gravity is about five. It is strongly magnetic and is infusible. It is found in nature disseminated through granite, gneiss, mica slate, syenite, hornblende slate, chlorite slate and limestone, and at other times forms extensive beds of ore suitable for making the finest qualities of iron and steel. It is the same as lodestone or native magnet, excepting that the latter possesses polarity. It is maintained by some that the magnetic ore in the shape of black sand is even better adapted for steel-making than that which occurs in beds. But why this should be so is not explained. With the iron, which usually amounts to half or three-fourths of the whole bulk, there are other substances which may be regarded as impurities. They are first, and most useless and deleterious, titanic iron, called ilmenite, a substance possessing the same hardness, color and specific gravity as magnetite, but of no use in the arts, although it is rich in oxide of iron, and is prejudicial in smelting. Rounded quartz sand forms a varying proportion of the beds, sometimes nearly the whole and sometimes being entirely absent. The gem called zircon, a silicate of zirconium, also exists in the beach sands, and is not rare, though too small to be noticed except mineralogically. These, with other and rarer substances, make up the black sands, with the exception of the contained gold which is supposed to be always free or unencumbered.
    During the time that experimenters have been dealing with the problem, a large number of people have been making a living and some few getting rich by working the sands in the simplest and cheapest possible way; namely, by sluicing or rocking. It was in 1852 that the first work of the sort was done; it commenced that year on the California coast at Gold Bluff, near Crescent City, and in Oregon at the beaches at the mouth of the Rogue and Coquille rivers. Over a thousand miners were engaged in the industry at various points along the Pacific shore in the following years, the most being congregated near the points named, where the sand was richest. Work has been kept up at those localities, and intermittently at many others. No close estimates of the number of miners engaged therein have ever been made, nor of their earnings; but estimates for particular years have often been published. Probably the average number of miners employed steadily at this work would not vary much from 500, taking the years together. There has been a gradual decrease from 1856, when the number was greatest. In that year the coast of Curry and Coos counties was the scene of very active operations, and the former county contained then and for several subsequent years more people than it has at present. Large camps were built up at various points, and some of them remain populated at this day. Randolph, at the mouth of the Coquille, the center of the "high" or old beach mining industry, was the principal camp. Still, the resources of gold are not by any means exhausted, nor are they exhaustible if judged by their present appearances. There is hardly any diminution of riches noticed in the moving sands of the lower beaches, while the high deposits have hardly been touched. Explorations continually reveal more of the latter, and the ocean is continually providing more of the former.
    The product of the Pioneer mine in Coos County, Or., was $18,600 in one year.
    The most important "old beach" deposits occur about the mouth of the Coquille River, Coos County, where there are beds of many feet in thickness, overlaid usually with barren sand and other debris to a greater or less extent, the principal bed being buried under such a thickness that it would require extensive mining operations to obtain the gold which is known to be disseminated therein. For working a deposit of this kind a system of drift mining is recommended, wherein the overlying mass of gravel is supported temporarily by timbering, while the auriferous materials are sluiced out and the gold recovered. An open cut might be run to the sea, in which cut a long line of sluices with riffles should be stationed. Working a block of gravel here several feet in depth, although lying under from twenty to forty feet of worthless material, might be expeditiously and safely performed this way. These deposits have a sameness of description; they lie 30, 60, 100 and even 300 feet above the present beach, and are referable to various periods of elevation of the shore line, probably not, geographically, very ancient in any case.
    In Tillamook, Or., a new process has been introduced by which it is claimed that fully ninety percent of the gold can be saved. The body of black sand is almost unlimited, as it is found nearly everywhere on the ancient beach which extends inland along the Coquille River about two miles and has been traced north and south to a considerable distance. A complete successful process would be hailed with joy all along the coast.
    Since the above was in type, the following was noticed in the current number of a Del Norte Co., Cal., paper, published close to a large deposit of this sand, and is here appended as illustrative of hundreds of similar items that have been published in this paper in the last thirty-four years, exemplifying the fact that the industry is a permanently paying one, and that there has been little change in the successful methods of securing the gold:
    The black sand mine of E. Yates, a couple of miles below Crescent City, is running in full blast, and indications are that it is a bonanza. The machine used for saving the fine particles of gold is similar to the "Old Tom," in use for many years in mining along the beaches. In this machine twenty-five square feet of corrugated copper plates are used, the usual mercury being put on. After the sand that contains the gold passes over the plates, it passes over a blanket. Should the plates fail to catch all the gold, the blanket does it. Mr. Yates believes that almost every particle of gold is saved. In a run of fifty hours about $100 was saved. The indications are that the other portions of the property are richer than this, as it is among the driftwood that he is now getting his sand.

Mining and Scientific Press, San Francisco, September 1, 1894, page 130

    Black sand deposits containing placer platinum and gold, adjacent to Wedderburn and Gold Beach, Oregon, are soon to be processed now that a suitable recovery has been made by experimentation on the deposits. The four concentration units will be installed on Macleay Beach.

The Mining Journal, Phoenix, Arizona, November 30, 1931

Last revised October 23, 2019