At the turn of the 20th century, the California Mine was said to have been one of the most productive gold mines in Ferry County, Wash. Now the mine is up for auction to the highest bidder and some believe there’s still gold up in those hills.
The California Mine is located on 45 wooded acres just southeast of the county seat in Republic. Getting there right now means a long uphill trek and access issues still have to be worked out but the rumor of gold on the hills is a strong motivator.
Local expert Dick Williams thought about buying the mine himself at one point and dug deep into the mine’s history.
“The last dated material I have from it is 1903. Whether they actually did some work in 1903 or were just wrapping up, I don't know," Williams said.
Using basic tools miners dug 525 feet down into the Earth following a vein of gold. The old drifts still spider out under the mountain.
“When they ran their main drift they ran it right on the vein and then they just started mining out everything above it," said Williams.
Today old steam engine parts and rotting lumber mark the shaft entrances. Rumors passed down from the mining camp cook speak of the lost vein of gold rediscovered only too late.
“She said that on the last shift, when the miners came out of the mine they said they found the vein again," Williams said.
With the loss of the vein some of the gold may still lie in the mine tailings, small amounts of gold in each ton of rock.
“Some of this quartz that looks like it's just pure quartz, will run a quarter ounce," said Williams.
A few private ventures were thought to have been successful in the 1930s but mining for the most part hasn’t been done for over 100 years. The mine’s current owners are now in foreclosure, hence the auction.
“I've often thought there might be quite a bit of value left in this pile of rock but I don't know for sure," Williams said.
The California Mine auction will be held May 2 at 9 a.m. at the Ferry County Courthouse in Republic. The opening bid will be $125,000.