A Brief History of the Panhandle of Oregon

One of the richest sections of Oregon is what is known as the Panhandle. Extending from the Blue Mountains west of North Powder to the Wallows county line, beyond Cornucopia.

And whilst this fertile and productive area belongs to Union county, it should be a part of Baker County, as Baker City is its natural outlet as well as its market point. Situated almost on the top of the granites in the extreme Eastern part of Union county, about seventy miles from Baker City, is the bustling mining camp of Cornucopia. As regards development the mines of the Cornucopia Mining district are only in their infancy. But one mine, the “Cornucopia Mines of Oregon” have been tested. The ore in this mine, as in the other mines of the district, is base, but pays well for working, as the ore goes on an average of more than twenty dollars a ton. This mine furnishes employment to something like 125 men in and around the mines, and in addition to this, a number of men and teams are engaged all the year in hauling concentrates to Baker City. But this mine is only one of a number of good mines in the district. In fact, the hills and mountains around Cornucopia are a veritable mass of gold, and all that is needed is capital to make the Cornucopia district one of me greatest mining districts of the West. Already capital is being invested in the district. The Simmons group and other equally good mines have been bonded to a strong company, and machinery is being put in place to thoroughly work the property. We predict that before autumn comes there will be at least three twenty-stamp mills in operation in the camp, and at least three hundred men given employment in and around the mines, and many others will be employed in hauling concentrates and chopping wood. At present every Indication points to Cornucopia as one of the greatest mining districts of the West. The mining companies that do business in the camp do a legitimate business. No “bogus” companies have ever operated in the camp and in this respect Cornucopia has been greatly favored as a “bogus” company can do more to retard the development of a mining district than can any legimate company do, in building them up. There is as yet considerable snow in the camp, but by the first of June the ground will be free from it and development work will begin in earnest. The various claims that have been bonded, are bonded to parties who have sufficient capital to thoroughly develop them, and at the present time more capital is seeking investment in the Cornucopia and Sparta districts, than anywhere else in the West.

Situated about one mile below the Cornucopia mines of Oregon, is the little town of Cornucopia, in which there are two stores, hotel, and a school of sixty-five pupils, and other business in proportion. Here, and at the mines, the farmers of the adjacent country find a ready market at good prices for their produce.

Just below Cornucopia is Pine Valley, which is a rich and productive valley. The population of this valley is nearly 1500 people, engaged mostly in agriculture and stock razing. All kinds of grain have splendid growth in the valley, and the producers find a ready and lucrative market at Cornucopia and the mines for his produce. Fruits of all kinds, excepting peaches, do well in the valley, although so far but little attention has been paid to fruit growing.

In the valley are four stores and other business in proportion. Education is not neglected as there are now five school districts, and two more schoolhouses will be erected the coming summer.

Just across a range of hills is Eagle Valley, which might truly be called “the paradise of the West.” It is one of the most productive sections of Oregon. The land is fertile, and the climate mild. No finer fruit is grown anywhere than in Eagle Valley. The prunes grown in Eagle Valley are superior to those grown in California. Every year hundreds of bushels of fruit go to waste in the valley, and not until the fruit growers of Eagle Valley have secured dryers and curing factories of sufficient capacity to save their entire crop, will they reap the full benefit of their industry.

But fruit growing is not the only industry of Eagle Valley. Usually three crops of alfalfa are harvested every year, which is fed to great herds of cattle and herds of sheep. Reliable information says that near 30,000 sheep and 10,0141 cattle were wintered in Eagle Valley the past winter.

There are two general stores, two churches, three schools, two halls, one hotel and two post offices in the valley. The bee industry is becoming quite a profitable business in the valley, and there are those who make more from their bees, than does many an Eastern farmer make from a large farm. No grain is grown in the valley, as it is much more profitable to grow hay and feed for stock. The valley is well watered by Eagle creek and Powder River, streams that always have an abundance of water.

Ten miles from Eagle Valley and 32 miles from Baker City is Sparta, a town that is now full of life owing to the number of capitalists who are there with a view to investing in mining property.

The Sparta mining district embraces an extensive territory, and includes free milling quartz and placer. To this district belong the mines close to Sparta, the placer mines near Powder River and the East Eagle placer mines. The placer diggings in the immediate vicinity of Sparta have been pretty thoroughly worked, but between Sparta and Powder River there is much valuable placer ground that is being worked and yielding good returns. The securing of sufficient water is now the great obstacle that prevents the placer claims of this section from yielding handsomely. Already Portland capitalists have run a pipeline from East Eagle Creek to claims across the hill from Sparta, and results are highly satisfactory. As soon as more capital is invested and water secured for the many claims in the Sparta district there will be a great yield of gold. A company of Eastern capitalists are now engaged in constructing a ditch to the placer grounds of East Eagle. The ditch, when completed will be three and one-half miles in length. There are now seventy-five men at work constructing the ditch, and it is expected that the work will be completed by the tenth of June. In the, construction of this ditch the company will use about one hundred thousand feet of lumber. The management of the company feel very sanguine as to the results of the East Eagle placer claims, and if the claim prove anything like as good as the expectation of the company, this will be one of the best placer producing districts in Oregon. The gold is of a fine quality, and tests made at various places on the claims show that there is an abundance of the precious metal in the placer grounds of East Eagle.

Between the placer grounds of Powder River and East Eagle is an extensive belt of quartz. The quartz of this district is free milling and some very rich pockets have been struck, and whilst but little work has been done in the way of developing the quartz claims of this district, everything tends to show that there are some very productive mines in the Sparta district. However, considerable development will be done there this year.

For some time past forces of men have been developing the Ollie Woodman and other claims. It is the opinion of experienced joiners and operators that before the mining season closes that Sparta will prove a great mining district.

In the Sanger district are the once famous Sanger, the Lithe White and others. At present there is but little being done in the district. Some of the claims are “tied up” in litigation; whilst others for the time being are not being worked. The Sanger was once one of the best producing mines of the West, but the past few years but little has been done with it, but it is the opinion of mining men who are thoroughly acquainted with the mine that if properly handled that it will again become a good producer.

West of Sparta is the productive Power Powder Valley, and Big Creek. The greater part of this extensive area is rich and productive, farming and stock rising are the principle industries. All kinds of grain do well in these valleys, but stock rising is the principal business. Owing to the abundance of hay produced, and the amount of good range, the stock business is very profitable in these valleys. Considerable fruit is grown along the foothills. The valleys are well supplied with schools. In the Bed Rock precinct, between Powder River and Sanger, are some good copper claims that no doubt, some day will be developed and form valuable property.

The last place to be mentioned in this rich and productive territory is North Powder and the territory adjacent thereto. This section, unlike most other parts of “The Panhandle,” is devoted chiefly to the growing of grain. In the North Powder and Wolf Creek valleys the farmers are engaged in producing grain of all kinds, and there are few sections of country, that will equal these valleys in the production of grain, both as to amount and quality.

Considerable attention is paid to stock and fruit growing in both valleys, but growing of grains is the principal occupation. But few sections of any country has as varied and profitable industries as has “The Panhandle” of Oregon, and the advent of capital will make it one of the greatest producing sections of our country

Eastern Oregon Gold Fields.

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