Crescent, Crown, and Great American: Buckeye

by Grace Meadows

This started out as an inspired-by-“Ghost Mine”-via-article-in-Ruralite follow-up to 29 Sep 2013’s “Chinese Food for Thought,” where “Ghost Mine” is a series shot in the Sumpter area and airing one more week on the Syfy Channel and Ruralite is the magazine put out by Oregon Trail Electric. The article writer had equated Crescent Mine with Buckeye Mine, which I had done at one time myself until I found out it wasn’t quite true.

Then I started looking at the maps and getting distracted by letters and mine claims. I haven’t had frequent access to hundred-year-old documents and the WOW factor just carried me away. I am limiting myself to two maps in this article, but hope to delve into an Indenture “entered into this 13th, [sic] day of December, A. D. 1906,” and a “Financial Statement of the James B. Sipe Mining Company and General Report of Development Work from June 15th, 1905 to December 15th, 1910” in another article. These and other documents are courtesy of the Sumpter McEwen Masonic Lodge, and how they came to have them is yet another third or fourth story.

The Buckeye Mine is actually made up of several different lode claims. I’ve taken to calling it the Buckeye Group to help me remember. Sumpter historian Brooks Hawley called it the Buckeye Group, too.


The Buckeye Group

Surveyed Sept 11-15 1914 by Park A. Reed

Sumpter, Oregon.

Changes made in location of claims by C.F.K. Jan 1915.

This reduced copy from part of a larger map, 1969, belonging to McEwen Lodge.”

The Crescent and Great American lode claims are seen from above with squiggly lines marking tunnels. There’s a road coming up from the lower left and curving across slope to be parallel to the ridge line and end where Great American/Buckeye Tunnel No. 1 goes into the mountain. On this road, there were a stable, a boarding house, a bunk house, and a blacksmith’s shop. The blacksmith’s shop is closest to the tunnel opening and the stable is farthest from it and the only building on the downhill side of the road.

The Crown is south of the Crescent, and at first it looks like the side view must be of the Crown. Keep staring at the map, though, and it becomes clear that the side view is of the Great American and the Crescent. Great American Tunnel No. 1 comes to an end under the Crescent rectangle in the overhead view. You see Kennerly Crosscut. There’s the Face of Tunnel No. 2 and Grave’s Shaft, all within the Great American “square.”

Lo and behold, in the side view you can also find the Kennerly CC marked on Tunnel No. 1 and Grave’s Shaft dropping down into Tunnel No. 2. Light bulbs go on.

The road in “Ghost Mine” went up to the opening of Tunnel No. 4, in the Crescent rectangle, high on the mountain side. The rise found in the middle of the second season of the series is the shaft that connected Tunnel No. 4 to Tunnel No. 5. Crescent’s Tunnel No. 5 lets a person clamber up onto the mountain slope to look southwest over the Cracker Creek drainage toward Sumpter Valley. Take the easier horizontal exit from Tunnel No. 5 and you’re looking northeast over the Rock Creek drainage toward Baker Valley. A mine tunnel that goes all the way through the mountain right here in our little ol’ neck of the woods!

From above, you can see that Tunnel No. 3 curved as it reached the boundary between Crescent and Crown and headed almost due north until it ended close to directly under the ridge line. Imagine dropping a deep shaft from Tunnel No. 4 and intersecting Tunnel No. 3 near its unnamed crosscut. Probably not practical from a mining point of view, but awful fun from the gee-whiz angle. It looks like a long way down. How far would it be?

For that answer, we turn to a different cross-section, the “Vertical Section following the vein from the North Pole Mine through the Sipe Mine” from “U.S. Geological Book page 658, 22nd Annual Report 1900-1901, Part II, Ore Deposits. Chas. D. Wallcott, Director.”


The piece of paper is beat up, but still quite legible. The top of the mountain is at 8600’. Tunnel No. 5 is called Rock Creek #2 and is 315’ long. The shaft from the surface down to No. 5 is called Bruce Shaft and is 40’ deep. The shaft from No. 5 down to Tunnel No. 4—Tunnel #3 on this map—is 60’.

The different labeling makes me wonder if the blue map includes tunnels from the Crown, whereas the cross-section above has only Great American and Crescent. Tunnel #1 seems to be the same as Tunnel No. 1, and it’s 590’ long. Tunnel #2 and Tunnel No. 2 both have Grave’s Shaft dropping down into them. The tunnel is 282’ long and the shaft is 90’ deep. On the blue map, a 20’ long Gleason Tunnel exists from off the top of Grave’s Shaft. This tunnel doesn’t appear on the white map. The 683’ long K Tunnel of the blue map looks to be Tunnel No. 3 from the white map. In the financial report, I do recall seeing a reference to K Tunnel. The blue map also shows two unnamed, short tunnels on the Rock Creek side of the mountain, one above and one 20’ long one below Rock Creek #2.

To get back to what I was asking myself, it looks like Tunnel No. 3/K Tunnel got a lot longer after 1901 and that dropping a shaft down to it would be about 90′, except nothing seems to be drawn to scale, so I don’t really know.

As I’ve said before, so many distractions. And so many questions. What’s really intriguing is what I’m not showing you: the other three-fifths of the blue map, that actually has cross-hatching for the mines in “Vertical Section following the vein from the North Pole Mine to the Golconda Mine.” Lucky for you, those mines have nothing to do with “Ghost Mine,” so I’m not wandering into that territory.

For a while anyway.


Chinese Food for Thought

Sumpter has so much history and so many great archival photographs, it’s been hard to figure out what to tackle next. Surprisingly, turning on the television led to inspiration.

There were six episodes of “Ghost Mine” on Syfy channel in Jan-Feb of 2013. Another twelve episodes started airing in early Sept. It’s been great fun hearing behind-the-scenes chatter around town. How deep was that mysterious portal really? What local man carved the Masonic door? Who placed the Masonic rocks? All three answers involve a supposed security guard who makes his television debut in an upcoming episode. (At least I think he hasn’t been on TV before.) A more open-ended debate was which paranormalist was the worse housekeeper: Patrick or Kristen?

Anyhow, in the second season’s fourth episode, they touched on the role of Chinese in mining the West. They interviewed Greg Nokes about the massacre of Chinese miners in Hells Canyon. They neglected to mention this Snake River canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America (take that Grand Canyon!) lies on the border between Oregon and Idaho. They also neglected to mention that the Snake is over fifty miles due east of Sumpter, as the crow flies. Going up and down the hills between here and there and around through passes in mountain ranges makes the trip by land considerably longer. Couple that with having to swing pretty far north because the massacre took place in Wallowa County—north of Baker County in which Sumpter is located—and the trip’s even longer.


Sumpter is near the Hwy 7 symbol in the lower left half of the map; Granite is to the west-northwest of Sumpter

The May 1887 event, in short, saw six white men apparently ambushing, torturing, murdering, and robbing a group of up to thirty-four Chinese men at Deep Creek. In 2005, the site was officially labeled Chinese Massacre Cove. In addition to the book he wrote and the interviews he’s given, Greg Nokes wrote a short article for the Oregon Encyclopedia about the massacre, its possible cover-up, and the eventual official recognition:


photo of Chinese Massacre Cove by Greg Nokes

This was probably the worst instance of abuse of the Chinese in Oregon, and it’s good that it get talked about. Bit by bit, the Chinese who helped pioneer a lot of our area of the country are getting recognition.

The show also visited the China walls in Granite, OR, in Grant County, about 15 miles west-northwest of Sumpter, and, by the way, over 70 miles away from Chinese Massacre Cove. According to the walking tour brochure for Granite, The China Walls are about 1-1/2 miles outside of “town. Rows of hand piled rock remain at the site where hundreds of Chinese were brought into the Granite district to work abandoned claims. The claims were leased for $8 to $12 a year. The China company made all the arrangements and taxed each man $2 per season.”

I’ve stacked rocks before. If you toss them willy-nilly, the pile gets unruly and in the way in a hurry. If you take the time to stack carefully, the pile stays tidy and unlikely to roll a random rock onto your toe as you walk by. So, how do you get lots and lots of rocks out of the way so you can get to the gold-bearing sand under them? You get really tidy and very, very patient. The walls looked pretty impressive even on my small screen. I’ve been meaning to get there for a look myself ever since I saw them listed on the walking tour brochure, just as I’ve been meaning to visit Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site over in John Day since I heard of it.

The Oregon State Parks brochure for Kam Wah Chung says, “The museum was built in the 1870s, possibly as a trading post. This tiny, unassuming building became home to two Chinese immigrants, Ing “Doc” Hay and Lun On. Both became locally famous: Lung On as a general store proprietor and businessman, and “Doc” Hay as a practitioner of herbal medicine. For 50-some years, the building was a social, medical and religious center for the Oregon’s Chinese community.” Doc Hay treated Chinese, European, and American patients in his “clinic” until 1948.


Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site;

One of the surest ways to see just how important the Chinese were, though, is to turn to the Federal Census. The city of Auburn—namesake for Auburn Street in the City of Sumpter—in Oct 1861 was where gold was first found in what eventually became Baker County. In the 1870 federal census, Auburn’s population was about 450. Of those, 233 were of Chinese descent, one of them a five-year-old boy born in Oregon. Most of the Chinese were involved in mining, but there were also a doctor, three washerwomen, one male washer, a female domestic, seven traders, and six cooks.

Sumpter apparently didn’t get a count in 1870, but its 1880 census was a lot like Auburn’s 1870; in 1880 Sumpter showed a population of 261. There were seven white women, two Chinese women, and fifteen white children. Of the 237 men, 210 were miners. Of the 237 men, 195 were Chinese. There were shopkeepers and other professions among both genetic sets. Most of the whites were born in the United States, but there were also the usual English, Irish, and Scottish, as well as a few Germans, Canadians, and a French man whose accented pronunciation of his name, Rimbol, led the census taker to record “Rambo.”

Ah, more inspiration. Reading censuses can actually be pretty fascinating. Choices, choices, choices. And when you finish a session investigating the past, you’re soon hungry for more.