By Elaine Rohse • Columnist • 

Rohse: There’s still gold out there, if you’re of a mine to find it

McMinnville’s Elaine Rohse is fascinated by words, books and writing — and spends much time sating that fascination.

If you’ve always wanted to go treasure hunting or hoped for a new gold field so you could go prospecting, yours indeed is a universal desire. Gold lures mankind down many and varied strange paths.

When gold was discovered in California in 1848 so many Yamhill County males wanted to go to the gold fields that Yamhill Valley farmers had considerable difficulty getting crops harvested. Their labor force had mostly headed for the harvesting of gold.

But gold cannot be harvested as readily as wheat.  Gold mining was not only unpleasant and hard work but the chances of a good crop were less than the prospects of a good crop of wheat in Yamhill Valley.  

Worth tens of billions in today’s U.S. dollars, gold’s wealth was realized only by a few  who participated in that 1848-1855 California gold rush. Many came home with little more in their pockets than when they left.

The lure of gold in Alaska and the Yukon drew a migration of 100,000 prospectors, some not even aware that they were required to bring a year’s supply of food  — an estimated three pounds of food per day. In addition to the 1,097 pounds of food, clothes and equipment, could easily double the weight of their load.

Of the estimated 30,000 to 40,000 who reached Dawson City during the gold rush, only 15,0000 to 20,000 became prospectors. Of these no more than 4,000 struck gold and only a few hundred became rich. 

A great boon for prospectors carrying heavy loads over the Pass was supplied by Dayton Evaporating and Packing Company because its dried products were so much lighter in weight, such as  eggs and potatoes.  The Dayton Company was started in 1890 by Reuben Snyder and his son, Douglas. Prunes and apples were processed. Their dehydrated soup mix that contained carrots, parsnips, potatoes onions, cabbage, turnips and celery, was sold to restaurants,  shipped to Alaskan gold fields and all across the west.

During World War I, the U.S. government commandeered the Dayton plant and around the clock it produced dehydrated foods for troops overseas,    

In 1943, during World War II, the Dayton plant produced about 8 million pounds of dehydrated soup mix for the U.S. government, plus a considerable amount for the Russian government. But in 1944, Douglas Snyder, unable to adapt his costs to OPA price ceilings, closed the plant  and did not again start it. He died in 1946 and the plant was purchased by Frank Foster, a Dayton businessman. Foster’s plant was used as a recycling plant for vegetables and berries, for drying walnuts and filberts — plus selling juice to a Portland vinegar firm, and drying the remaining pomace, or cider pulp, to sell as a base for slug bait. 

But  those who
feel that they are being passed by because of less prospecting and treasure hunting might take heart from information in “The People’s Almanac” by David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace. These pursuits are not necessarily things of the past.  

According to the Almanac, “At this  moment  more than $4 billion in lost treasure is scattered throughout the U.S. There’s robber’s loot buried, by people like Jesse James and Ma Barker, until the heat dies down, but never recovered because the robbers were shot before they could retrieve it. There are incredibly rich mines whose owners died without revealing their locations and which now are hidden by camouflage provided by time. There are robbers’ hoards, lost caravans and caches of loot carried from coast to coast. These bonanzas really exist and finding one would satisfy that lifelong dream harbored by so many.”

For Oregonians there’s additional hope: Oregon has its own lost mine: the Lost Blue Bucket Mine for which hundreds — perhaps thousands — have searched.

This lost mine is reportedly along the Meeker wagon trail and believed to be between the present day cities of Vale and The Dalles. It dates back to 1845 when Oregon-bound emigrants found a deposit of coarse pieces of gold in a dry creek bed.

Many different versions are told about the Blue Bcket mine, but the one told most frequently was that some young members of the wagon train were sent to get water in their blue buckets and came back with shiny pebbles in them. At that time not many in that wagon train were able to correctly identify gold. One member of the train thought the pebbles were copper.  When the children who brought back the shiny pebbles were questioned as to how many there were, the children replied that there were many — enough to fill the bucket. One woman took one of the pebbles home with her, but left the rest. Upon reaching The Dalles the nugget was recognized as gold. By that time the precise location had been forgotten. And to this day the search for it continues. The legend, however, sparked a gold rush to the area of modern-day Baker City. If the mine exists it  would be in a vast area comprising thousands of square miles. It is believed to be on a tributary of the John Day River, or on a tributary of Bear Creek. Three mines in the in the U.S.  are now named “Blue Bucket” including one in Grant County.

Perhaps the best known treasure hunting spot  presently is Oak Island in Nova Scotia. You may have heard of it. It is indeed a strange treasure spot, but hunters have hunted it for more than 220 years. They’ve come up with many theories and the island treasure spot has acquired a curse, perhaps because of the bad luck that has befallen people who gave it a try.  Over the years there have been disastrous floods, serious injuries, fatalities. The curse has claimed 14 lives since 1795 and yet it is called one of the world’s  greatest treasure hunting spots, although no one has yet been able to solve the question as to what and where is the treasure.   

Additionally, there are national treasures of huge amounts that are known to be out there.  And although these possibilities are not within the realm of most, what an exciting time you will have reading about them and discovering they are waiting for you. You have not been passed by. Anticipation and hope are yours to enjoy. And if a new gold field is discovered tomorrow, may you strike it rich on your first day and be wealthy forever after.

Elaine Rohse can be reached at



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