Mining adventures in Linn County history

Roberta McKern, historian at the East Linn County Museum in Sweet Home, shares her knowledge about the area’s rich past with our sister paper, the Sweet Home New Era.

Here at the East Linn Museum, we’re taking yet two more looks at the Quartzville Mining District.

First, we had a visit from Cindy Budlong, a Mill City Historical Society volunteer representing their museum, one to keep in mind.

She told us how the Linn County town of Anidem got its name. Anidem was Quartzville reborn under the direction of W. B. Lawler, who revived the mining district and White Bull and other earlier gold mines in the late 1890s. An internationally respected mining man, he had foreign backers, one being British banker Mr. Medina. Reverse Medina and we get Anidem..

Gold in the Quartzville vicinity was first discovered in the 1840s, but the initial stampede occurred in the 1860s and was over by the end of that decade. The same happened to Lawler’s enterprises. Anidem reverted to being Quartzville and a ghost area by the beginning of the 20th century.

A second reason for the return involved our learning about the 1877 adventures of Z.T. Bryant. Admittedly this was a slack time for mining, but attempts to remove gold from the area never really ceased despite the enterprise’s status as more bust than boom.

The year 1935 saw the compilation of “Zachariah T. Bryant: An Unpublished Autobiography of a Carpenter/Builder and Civil War Soldier.” Bryant apparently kept journals. In 2003, the Linn County Historical Society Newsletter and Journal published excerpts regarding his venture into Quartzville gold-mining. Aha! Upon recently refinding the article, we thought, “Here is an up-front and real report of looking for gold in the Quartzville District.” Therefore, we offer a summary of the excerpts.

In 1877, Z.T. was likely around 30, a Civil War veteran. He would prove to be hard-working and hearty and not always naive about mining, although he classified as a greenhorn and admitted to knowing nothing. He would have a long career in the Albany and Lebanon areas, building houses and churches and a hotel in Sodaville.

However, in February of 1877, he took time off from making picture frames and trekked to Quartzville to investigate his district friend Kenton’s mining claim.

On his initial trip, Z.T. traveled with an acquaintance, Lollis. (If his autobiography’s any indication, Z.T. was seldom on a first-name basis with those he met). They would follow the North Santiam River to the foothills of the Cascades, ascend the summit and travel down its south side to Quartzville.

But before they began, Z. T. noted some excitement in Albany, where a night watchman was badly beaten by a “sailor bum” and a woman snatched a baby from another woman’s arms during Sunday church. The baby apparently belonged to the former, who was divorced from her husband, who had given the child to relatives for safe-keeping. Z.T. supposed there’d be a lawsuit. However, he’d be leaving wicked town life for mountain fresh air and purity in February, a time of rain and snow – and also some slack time, perhaps, for a professional carpenter.

He and Lollis began their journey by taking a train north to Marion, where, at a hotel, they fortified themselves with buckwheat pancakes – which Z.T. said kept entering his mouth – for 25 cents a meal. Cooks watched the prodigious eater from the kitchen. He generally kept a record of meal times, but not of menus. After leaving Marion, the pair took the North Santiam River “pass” to Smith Ferry, where lunch cost 50 cents and the north-to-south trip was but 10.

They ended their first day in the Linn County town of Thomas, staying with Lollis’ friend Mrs. Thomas and her two grown sons. Lollis hauled out his whiskey bottle, offering a drink to the “old lady.” Z. T. watched as she took a sip, then a drink, pronouncing it the best she’d had in a long time. Her son, Charles, drank, but Z.T. and the other son, Bill, did not.

The travelers had hiked a total of 32 miles that day. The summit was about 10 miles from Thomas with admirable trees along the way. With his carpenter’s eye, Z. T. judged some to be up to 399 feet tall, and some were clear of limbs up to 200 feet. A fine lot of timber.

At Stampede Pass, they met two men coming from Quartville. They’d been packing things into miners at Quartzville, using two mules. The miners, Z. T. learned, were working a ledge called the White Bull, so named for its white rock.

Z. T. and Lollis reached Kenton’s cabin, where they borrowed some tools and a gold pan, then went forth to find claims. Kenton had already located Z. T.’s where Canal Creek flowed into Quartzville Creek on the map. But Z. T. thought Canal Creek flowed into the Santiam.

They spent this night in the woods with no blankets. From some found shakes, they made a shelter and, from cut brush, beds. They built a fire. While Lollis wrote up his claim, Z. T. wrote, “I am setting here in the lovely mountains thinking of Home Sweet Home. But I am happy. Here the Lord is with me. He is ever present with them that love him.”

The next day he and Lollis returned to Albany, crossing the North Santiam at Stayton on their way to catch the train at Marion. They took the wrong road, crossed rough country to get back, and had to race through darkness and rain to reach the station. The fare to Albany cost 75 cents for 15 miles, a nickel a mile. At this point, Lollis disappears from the narrative.

Z.T. went to church and bought what he needed at his claim. The Chinese, he noted, were having a big time, shooting firecrackers. They spent $80 on fireworks. He spent $20 on supplies.

Loaded with provisions, he traveled by hack to Stayton and by wagon to Thomas, where he stayed with a different family and dined sumptuously on elk meat and apples. He found the elk meat good. It was the first time he’d eaten any.

He hired a one-armed man and two pack mules to move his things to his claim. Having fed on the biscuits Z. T. baked in his refractor oven, accompanied by sugar-water syrup and coffee, they slept under a moonlit sky. Including the one-armed man and mules’ labor, Z. T. listed his expense as $5 – a bargain.

Rain was intermittent, and he needed a shelter, so the ever-industrious Z. T. fashioned one from a brush palisade backed against a log and under a tree. Finding previous miners’ shakes made roofing it easy. So he could build a fire, he kept the three-sided shelter open at the end with the log. Z. T. wrote, “It was lonesome staying in a brush house, one side open and cougars, wolves and bear and other kinds of animals in the woods, but the river makes so much noise I couldn’t hear anything to get scared at.”

The brush shelter did have a drawback: Z. T.’s feet stuck out. It was too short, and when it rained, he had to “double up like a dog.”

The month was now March, and he could depend on rain.

He determined to build a cabin, on the other side of Canal Creek, on clearer ground. But first he visited Quartzville. The former mining center now housed five or six men, according to Z. T. Some were tunneling into the mountain, looking for gold. He’d already met two of them, the ones working the dredge, at Stampede Pass. “There is gold,” he reported, “in some of the rock and gravel.”

It was a 24-count carrot-on-a-stick gold, enough to give an optimistic greenhorn hope. Z.T. built his cabin in earnest, especially after becoming aware of a night visitor around his brush shack.

“Last night I thought I heard something about my mansion,” he recorded. “I raised up to look out, but the night was darker than darkness. I said to myself, ‘You stay out there and there will be no trouble.'” (There were signs the next morning that Z. T. had not been alone.)

Once his cabin was up, he revisited Quartzville, where he got along well with a handful of men.

The weather was rainy and the water rose in Canal Creek and the one into which it flowed. Returning from his Quartzville visit, Z. T. discovered that the log he’d cut to bridge Canal Creek to his cabin had washed away. He cut another tree to replace it. That one, too, fell into the creek and washed downstream. Deciding to wait for another day, he returned to Quartzville to spend the night. The next tree he cut for a foot bridge was 15 feet above the water.

He had his cabin built with a fire place, bunk and table. Now he’d learn about mining from experience, although he was not averse to learning from the Quartzville men. They’d come to visit and show him how to do things. On some Sunday mornings, they’d prospect for gold along his claim’s creeks and he’d prepare dinner.

There were reasons Kenton had recommended the claim. It was near Dry Gulch, the main source of placer gold in the 1860s. Water running into it entered a hole and generally overflowed only in hard rains. The water appeared to feed a spring on Z. T.’s claim that flowed from under a hill. A rise in front of the hill also caused ponding near the spring.

Some Quartzville regulars had helped sink a nearby 82-foot shaft without hitting bedrock. They told Z. T. about this and finding gold from top to bottom. He figured that water running through gold carrying gravel for hundreds of years ought to have carried some gold down around his spring.

He planned to dig a roughly 20-foot-long ditch that would drain water from the spring and pond, thus bearing deposited gold. In preparation, he retrieved two sluice boxes.

He found the work hard. The gravel he was digging through was cemented together like a “paved road.” He had to rely on his pick and shovel, and some of the rocks in the mix were as big as boulders. For them he devised a clever tool likely used by carpenters over thousands of years: a type of crane.

A convenient large log lay near the spring. He hauled a 30-foot cedar pole from the woods to use it, describing it as light. He then drilled a hole into it and fastened a peg. Taking the cedar pole partway down, he cut an eight- to 10-inch slot that fit over the peg. The pole’s big end went uphill and Z. T. would brace it with a forked stick, then fasten a piece of rope on the little end that hung over the ditch side.

He would tie the rope around a rock, go uphill, free the cedar pole’s big end, pull it down and maneuver the rock from his ditch, which he aimed to make 10 feet deep. He claimed he could move rocks between 600 and 700 pounds. Also, he made use of the two sluice boxes left behind on former claims. He had hauled them down to his claim and repaired their riffles.

For his hard, slow work, Z. T. deserved a reward. However, when he was down to bedrock within about 10 feet of the spring, he reached an obstacle: a large rock, around four or five feet wide, on the bedrock where it pitched under the spring. It proved immovable. And there his mining career ended.

Packing up his things to be left and delivered to him in Albany, he abandoned his claim with its ditch and cabin, and started south.

Having reached Quartzville twice by the northern route, the southern way was new to him. It was past the middle of April and the overgrown path appeared to have been unused for some time, faintly marked here and there with an occasional fallen tree.

An Albany friend named Read had an operation at Green Horn Bar about 30 miles down one trail. He stopped to visit and spend the night. Read employed a Chinese crew to dig his ditches and his mines while he used large sluice boxes and hydraulics to wash out the gravel. It was a big operation.

Having seen these works, Z. T. trekked to Foster and then Sweet Home. His interest in mining had faded and home beckoned. He’d meant to spend the night in Lebanon, but just kept going.

The weather proved uncooperative for both days. He encountered rain and snow and generally unpaved roads. As he concluded, “I have had some experience in the rain and snow since I have gone to learn to be a miner.”

Back from the isolated world of the gold-mining district and the lonesome woods, Z. T. had arrived in the real world again, where he noted, “Wheat has come down from $1.40 to $1.25.”

When we at the museum think of Z. T. and his last name, Bryant, thoughts of the sin city near Lawler’s Anidem, his resurrected town of Quartzville, come to mind. Bryant City served as a red-light district because Lawler did not allow hedonistic bad behavior in Anidem. To connect it with Zachariah Taylor Bryant would likely be a disservice to the pious churchgoer and builder. Any connection between his last name and Bryant City might have remotely to do with his ditch and claim, traces of which could have remained during Anidem’s brief existence, although Z. T. worked it around 20 years before Lawler took over the Quartzville vicinity.

Z. T.’s mining experience deserved a reward. There was no eureka moment out there. And he was too practical to follow the golden-tinged will o’ the wisp promising metallic riches. He cut his losses. But he did leave us a picture of a certain time and place.