A Brief History of the Notorious Sugar Pine Mine

     Early history of the Sugar Pine Mine is largely unknown. There is general agreement in the literature that the mine was discovered in 1860 by Cassidy and Draper, making it the first lode mines discovered in the Galice district and one of the earliest in the state of Oregon. However, other records suggest that the Sugar Pine was actually discovered in 1858 by P. Cassidy, J.E. White and B.F. Simms who sank a short shaft into an ore body on the top of Sugar Pine Butte.

The 1860 Federal census lists a P. Cassidy (born, 1807 in Ireland) living in Galice precinct who is 53 years old, as well as Job White (birthplace unknown) of Briggs precinct who is 21 years old and B.F. Simms of Galice precinct who is 36 years old. In 1860, Cassidy, White and Simms build an arrastre at an unknown location, but little mining is done. Thomas Martin (born Ireland) of Galice precinct, who is 31 years old, buys out J.E. White's interest in Sugar Pine. Martin owned a saloon and boarding house called the “Eagle” on Skull Bar at the mouth of Galice Creek, as well as extensive water ditches. William Martin was responsible for giving Applegate Gulch, a tributary of Galice Creek, its name. William Crow and five other miners locate ground on the same ledge as Sugar Pine (later known as the Green Ledge).

Nevada geologist Robert Streiff, a former owner, suggested that the discovery of the Sugar Pine mine is probably related to the early development of the Old Channel placer mine nearby. It is likely that gold-bearing quartz float from the Sugar Pine vein was found while constructing the lower water ditch that served the Old Channel mine. This ditch is now the main access road to the Sugar Pine, Blackjack and Gold Plate mines.

Raster Adit at the Sugar Pine Mine, circa. 1880s         

 On February 9th, 1876, George F. Green and D. Develbers relocate the Sugar Pine, recording the notice in Volume 3, Page 76 of the Josephine County Clerk's records. The Green Brothers and D. Develbers drove the “Raster” or No. 1 adit, constructed an arrasta on Galice Creek and began extracting high grade from above the Raster adit. An open wood chute was constructed from the Raster adit down almost 2000 feet to the arrasta on Galice Creek to deliver ore from the mine. High grade ore can still be found scattered across the hillside below the No. 1 adit from this early open-topped chute.

The Sacramento Daily Union reported on April 6th, 1881 that “the ledge owned by the Green Brothers of Galice Creek, Oregon, is yielding rock enough to keep the arrastre running steadily. The quartz will average $50 per ton, with plenty in sight.”

In the “Resources of Southern Oregon” (1882), it was reported that “the quartz mines of Galice Creek embrace the the Green and Yank Ledges, which are parallel, but dis-similiar lodes. The Green Mines, called also the Sugar Pine, was discovered twenty years ago, and has been worked more extensively, perhaps than any other claim in Southern Oregon. The vein is in slate, stands nearly vertical, with a strike nearly north and south, and obliques through the country rock. The thickness of the vein varies from nothing to three feet, averaging perhaps seven inches. 

The vein matter is white, splintery quartz, accompanied by much talc, with occasional deposits of calc spar. The metallic constituents are chiefly iron pyrites, copper pyrites and a very little galena, which last is regarded at the mine as an infallible indication of 'pay rock'. The sulphurets of copper and iron occasionally occur in large masses, forming a considerable part of the vein at the point,, and these massive pyrites carry a very high percentage of gold, the assays of solid specimens of copper pyrites reaching $2000 per ton (at $18.94 an ounce). 

Part of the quartz assays from $30 to $80 per ton, a portion falling below $20, and another portion, containing too little gold to pay for extracting is considered waste rock. The workings include four tunnels, the longest 550 feet in length, and the four aggregating 1200 feet; a shaft sixty feet deep, a winze sixty-five (feet in length), and many yards of stopes. The amount of pay rock extracted has not much exceeded 1000 tons, whose yield probably averaged $25 per ton (at $18.94 per ounce), as worked in an arrastre, with a loss of nearly all the rich suplhurets, of which but a small part was saved.”

The West Shore Magazine, reporting on the mines in Northern Josephine County in 1886, reported that: “Quartz veins are numerous in the mountain region of Northern Josephine. The country rock is highly metamorphic and exceedingly favorable to the existence of veins... The Green Ledge, called also the Sugar Pine, has produced twenty-eight thousand dollars in bullion, and has but lately ceased working. The quartz pays from thirty to eighty dollars per ton.”

The total production from this period exceeded $25,000 (at $20 per ounce) or over 1,250 ounces of gold. Lower grade mill ore was left piled along the walls of the Raster adit where it was ultimately found and milled by L.H. Wiese during open pit mining in the 1980s. Several mall adits and prospect pits near the Raster tunnel were also excavated during this period.

 The Green brothers started the No. 2 or “Green” adit sometime before 1887 but little ore was mined.

On February 24th, 1892, George F. Green located the Sugar Pine North Extension, recording the notice in Volume 6, Page 147 of the Josephine County Clerk's records. On March 24th of this same year, John Bolt locates the Sugar Pine South Extension, which is said to adjoin the Sugar Pine on its north border and the Bull Pine claim (later relocated as the Golden Cycle) on its south border. The location was recorded in Volume 6, Page 148 of the Josephine County Clerk's records. Later in the year, John Bolt, a well known local merchant and pioneer from the mining town of Waldo bought out the Green Brothers for $9000 in gold (a modern day equivalent of nearly three-quarters of a million dollars) and forms a partnership with Kaspar Kubli, a well known rancher and mine owner from the Applegate Valley. Around 1894, twenty-two year old Frank Knight from Sterling Creek in Jackson County bought out Kubli's interest for an unreported figure. Later, Bolt buys his share of the mine out.

On July 8th, 1899, John Bolt died at the age of 62 and was interred at the Jacksonville Cemetery. A flurry of interest surrounds the mine as the financial affairs of the Bolt Estate are sorted out. As one example, on March 1st, 1901 the Bohemia Nugget, reported that H.W. Kirchoff of the Standard Pyritic Smelting Furnace Co. was in Grants Pass, Oregon erecting a smelter over the past weeks and was “interested in taking a leasing bond on the Sugar Pine in Galice”. 

A month later, on April 5th, the Morning Oregonian ran a headline that read “Revive The Sugar Pine” and states “Thomas Heady, an experienced mining man, has bonded the Sugar Pine quartz mine on Galice Creek in Southern Oregon, and now has a force of men cleaning out old tunnels and drifters and otherwise putting the property in shape. "The Sugar Pine Mine," Mr. Heady said, at the Perkins yesterday, "has been abandoned for several years, on account of the death of its owner. It has produced a large amount of good ore and there is a fine ledge now being tapped with a 400 foot tunnel. This ore body is six feet wide and assays well. I consider the Sugar Pine one of the most promising properties of that locality, and there are several well-paying ledges there.”

The Morning Oregon reported on January 17th, 1902 that “From Galice Creek comes the report of a fine strike of free gold ore in the Sugar Pine mine, owned by George Boll, but bonded to Dr. C.R. Ray. The tunnel is in 600 feet.”

Not long after this article appeared, William I. Dowell, a local area farmer and miner, purchases Sugar Pine at a Sheriff's sale. Dowell Road in Grants Pass, Oregon is named for W.I. Dowell. Inside of a year, he is forced to sue the Estate of John Bolt (see Dowell v. Bolt, 45 Or. 89) in the Circuit Court of Josephine County over the result of an earlier court action involving H.C. Austin, one of Bolt's creditors. The case was subsequently appealed by Austin to the Oregon Supreme Court, who affirmed the findings of the Circuit Court in Dowell's favor.
In their August 1st, 1904 issue, “Mineral Wealth” reported extensively on the Sugar Pine, remarking: “The Sugar Pine quartz ledge on the right fork of Galice Creek was one of the first discovered in Southern Oregon, having been located in 1860 by two miners, Draper and Cassidy, who organized a partnership and built an arrastre in the following year, although little was further done. The prospect lay idle until the spring of 1872, when the Green Brothers located it and built a new arrastre, the only kind of milling plant the property has ever had. They ran a drift on the ledge and stoped out about $5000 (at $18.94 an ounce). The following year they ran a lower drift, stoping from that level about $10,000 in the year. A third drift also yielded $10,000 from its stopes. This represented practically the last milling the property has seen (1882). A lower level had been driven on the vein for a distance of 600 feet. The vein exposed is small, frequently narrowing to the barest seam, but has never been lost. In 1882 the property was acquired by Bolt and Kubli. The Kubli interest, some ten years ago was sold to Frank Night. Recently, the whole property was acquired by W. I. Dowell at sheriff's sale. The tunnel was continued to a point over 700 feet in, but has come into a change of formation, pronounced by some to be a form of serpentine, which seems to have cut off the continuity of the seam. This fact, however, is making no difference with the present owner, Mr. Dowell, who expects to either sink or upraise at one or two of the more promising points in the tunnel. The strike is north and south, with a slight dip to the west and the formation is diorite. The concentrates are high grade, three tons, the only concentrates ever saved, yielded about $4100 (at $18.96 per ounce).”

In 1905, the Salt Lake Mining Review reported that “The Sugar Pine, one of the first quartz mines in Southern Oregon to be successfully worked, now bids fair to become one of the big gold producers of this district. The Sugar Pine was first operated in 1873, when, with an arrastre, $30,000 (at $18.94 an ounce) was taken out by George and Daniel Green and other owners. The shoot of rich free milling ore having been worked out the property passed through various hands until three years ago it came into possession of W.I. Dowell, of this city (Grants Pass, Oregon). Mr. Dowell felt certain that the vein would at least prove to be a big low-grade proposition, with a possibility of its producing more high-grade ore. With this expectation in view, he has had considerable development work done and now has a tunnel driven on the vein for a distance of 800 feet, the breast being at a depth of 300 feet on the vein. As Mr, Dowell expected, the ore has steadily gained in value and he is now taking out some fine ribbon quartz that is flecked with free gold. Mr. Dowell will continue development work for some time to come and this year will either put on a mill himself or sell the property. The mine is located on the Right Fork of Galice Creek, five miles up from the Rogue River.”

By 1910, the Sugar Pine is reported to have been owned by Mrs. Mary Ellen “Mollie” Dowell-Belding of Grants Pass, Oregon after her father, William I. Dowell passed away. Records indicate that Mollie was born in Illinois in 1869, had once been a cook for mining crews, but was later a school teacher. Her husband was William P. Belding, a fairly well known mining superintendent who managed mines in Idaho and other states, as well as in Mexico between 1895 and 1910. Mollie's marriage to Belding was so turbulent that it resulted in multiple separations, until finally he abandoned her and her young son, Don, around 1905 after the Orofino Mine near Merlin, Oregon, where he was employed operating the concentrator, closed down. After being abandoned, Mollie turned to teaching as a way to make some income, but required financial assistance from her father to help raise her young son. Due to Belding's financial situation, she chose to lease the Sugar Pine Group to varying parties. 

On April 25th, 1911, Belding amended the original location notices for the Sugar Pine, Sugar Pine North Extension and Sugar Pine South Extension, which were recorded in Volume 20, Pages 17, 18 and 19 of the Josephine County Clerk's records. Belding's notices state that the relocations are made to “definitely (describe) the boundaries … and is made without waiver of any rights acquired under the said original location and conveyances of said mining claim(s).”

A 10-stamp mill was moved on-site in 1908 and briefly operated but was apparently not successful and moved to the Oriole mine.

A level, narrow wagon road was constructed from the No. 2 adit north around the ridge to a point above Quartz Creek where a second wooden chute was built to deliver ore to the 10-stamp mill.
By 1911 the Blacksmith tunnel (No. 3 level,) had been driven 700 feet .
It was some time shortly after this period that Western Metals Mining Company acquired the Sugar Pine as well as several other properties in the Galice area, including the neighboring Blackjack property. Stockholders in Western Metals Mining Company included E.D. Briggs, G.S. Butler, S.W. Gordon, W. Kraft, P.J. Kraus, J.J. Seidel, and P.B. Wickham.

Western Metals completed the No. 3 adit 150 ft below the No. 2 level, drove several raises connecting the two levels and mined a considerable amount of ore. A camp of several buildings was constructed on Quartz Creek between the Sugar Pine and Blackjack claims as well as a water-powered 5-stamp mill adjacent to the creek below the camp. Production records from the Western Metals operation are lost, but an estimate of production, based on the stopes mined and the grades remaining adjacent to these stopes suggests that about 2075 tons of hand-sorted ore were mined with a gross gold content of approximately 3110 ounces.

Western Metals abruptly closed the Sugar Pine mine around 1928. L.H. Wiese reported (to Streiff) that when he reopened the adits in the 1970s, all of the tools were neatly piled along the various drift walls. He stated that everything had been left as thought it were the end of a shift and the miners expected to come back the next day. Mr. Wiese even found survey plumb-bobs still hanging from the drift backs and a transit still on a tripod in the middle of the drift. Mr. Wiese stated that according to local lore, the mine manager ran off with the company president's wife, who was also the bookkeeper for Western Metals. The president then quickly 'pulled the plug' on all mining operations. This was later (2013) verified by Stephan Wickham, a grandson of P.B. Wickham, who reported to the current owners that: "My grandfather P.B. Wickham, after over 20 years of marriage. divorced from his first wife Vera (Verna) Wickham. She married J. (Julius) J. Seidel. In the divorce settlement she acquired a number of P.B. Wickham properties (Western Metal Mines). PB, in the early part of the 1900's, had a house across from Galice Creek."

Perry B. Wickham is perhaps best known to history as the superintendent of the Almeda Mine and a one time operator of both the Greenback and Ashland Mines. In September of 1938, the Grants Pass Daily Courier Article stated: “P. B. Wickham is generally regarded as the leading mine owner and operator of this section and his holding besides the Greenback, include Standard Metal Mine, and Standard Placer on the Rogue River in Josephine County, the Shorty Hope Mine, and the Ashland Mine near the city of Ashland in Jackson County, the latter being at present the largest lode of gold produced in Southern Oregon with continuous operation under present ownership since 1931”.

By 1930, Oregon Mining News reported in August of this year that: “The Western Metal Mines Company, J. J. Seidel, secretary and general manager. Box 481, Grants Pass, Oregon, is planning a program of development for its property. It controls the Sugar Pine, Black Jack, and Golden Cycle, all gold-producing mines, and the Seven Thirty, and Copper Eagle, which produce copper, in addition to their gold content. A crosscut will be run from the Mill Level, to the Sugar Pine Vein, and caves cleared, and some re-timbering done on the Copper Eagle Vein. Two more stamps are to be added to the stamp mill, which will bring its capacity up to between 20, and 25 tons, of ore daily. The principal development is 3,300 feet of tunnel in the Sugar Pine, and 1,100 feet of development in the Black Jack. Louis Lynn Walls, 672 Rush Street, Chicago, is President of the organization.

The Sugar Pine and all the other claims owned by Western Metals eventually ended up in the possession of J.H Gordon and Neil R. Allen, a law partner of a local Grants Pass firm, Schultz & Salisbury, in December of 1957 after they conducted a hostile take-over of the company. Starting in 1948, Gordon, who had become manager of the company sometime in the late 1930's, began to express concern about the lack of activity at the mine and the resulting amount of claim jumpers that he had been forced to drive away. Allen and Gordon hatched a plan to expunge the twenty-three other shareholders in Western Metals of their interests in the company and to take control of the mine for themselves. The process took nine years.

On June 22nd, 1957, Niel Allen and Jack Gordon assigned, to Niel Allen's wife, Evelyn, for a “valuable consideration”, the right to pursue a $6000 collection claim against John Doe Engwer, Herman F. Frank, Blanche P. Kelley, Walter E. Kelley, E.D. Briggs, Dr. Louis Lynn Walls,, G.S. Butler, P.B. Wickham, M.H. Price, Dr. Parkes, John M. Bryant, Verna Seidel, J.J. Seidel, A.W. Seidel, Wm. C. Kleiner, Jos. M. Bandish, Henry Studt, Flora Wickham, Rose Griffith, P.J. Kraus, Walter Kraft, S.W. Gordon, E.T. Staples, their heirs and any un-named stock holders of Western Metal Mines Company. The assignment gave Mrs. Allen (later known as Mrs. Niebel), the authorization to sue the above named individuals for the collection of the monies and to discharge the claims. 

On October 10th, 1957, Miss Allen succeeded in court action against the named parties. On February 14th, 1958, Evelyn Allen is awarded possession of thirteen unpatented mining claims in the Galice District previously held by Western Metal Mines Co. and was assigned ownership of the properties, together with all appurtenances, by way of Sheriff's Deed.

On April 13th, 1959, Niel Allen passed away a few weeks before his 65th birthday, his portion of ownership in the Sugar Pine Group passing to his law firm which became Schultz, Salisbury and Cauble. On November 20th, 1969, Evelyn M. Niebel (formerly Evelyn Allen) quit claimed to Jack Gordon “six claims on the Sugar Pine”, adding “I hope he makes his million out of them.”

Jack Gordon continued to maintain the claims and do assessment work, often hiring L. Herman Wiese to assist him. Gordon's half-interest was purchased by L. Herman and Helen Wiese of Merlin, Oregon in around 1978.

L.H. Wiese had been involved in a logging accident which prevented him from continuing his logging work. He acquired the claims and conducted open trench mining on both the Blackjack and Sugar Pine claims with a D-4 Cat dozer.

The quartz gold ore was hand-sorted by Wiese and his wife in the trenches, transported in a pick-up truck to his small stamp mill and milled, using an amalgam-coated copper plate to recover about 70% of the gold values. His original mill was a 3-stamp mill located in the city limits of Merlin, Oregon. Later, he erected a larger 2-stamp mill on Quartz creek at the site of the old Western Metals camp (after his neighbors complained about the noise!)

The outcrop of the Sugar Pine vein was eventually mined down to the level of the old Raster adit in a large open pit. Ore adjacent to the old stopes, parallel veins and ore stockpiled inside of the Raster adit was milled, recovering a total of about 200 ounces. Additional significant surface production by Mr. Wiese also came from the Oregonian, Blackjack and Victor claims. Minor upkeep of the underground workings were done by Mr. Wiese but no ore was mined underground.

L.H. Wiese eventually was forced to purchase the other half of the interest in the Blackjack and Sugar Pine mines from the law firm. In order to finance the purchase, he sold an interest in the claims to W.J. Pieren, a local underground miner, in about 1980. Pieren drove several adits both on the Oregonian claim and the Blackjack claims, but never extracted any ore.