The Legend of Lost Blue Bucket Mine by Susan Page Davis

Legend of Lost Blue Bucket Mine

The legend of Lost Blue Bucket Mine has intrigued people for a hundred and seventy years. Is it still out there, waiting to be discovered, or was it real in the first place?

It all started in 1845, when a wagon train got off the beaten track in eastern Oregon. There are several versions of the story, and no one has proof of what actually happened, but it involved at least one kid, a blue bucket, and some strange pebbles.

A large wagon train had reached eastern Oregon and camped for a few days at a hot spring. The travelers were apprehensive about the coming ordeal of rafting down the Columbia River.

A man named Stephen Meek, who was the brother of mountain man Joe Meek, said he knew a shortcut and could lead them overland, via the “Meek Cut-off,” to the Willamette Valley, their final destination. Some of the families decided to go with Meek. Others kept to the trail heading for the Columbia.

As the story goes, the travelers realized after a while that Meek had no idea where he was going. He left them on their own in the wilderness. They had to get through the Cascade Mountains before winter or they might starve to death.

Most versions of the story say children went to the river to get water and returned with a blue bucket full of strange-looking pebbles. One version says three young men went in search of some straying cattle and wandered for hours before returning with the famous rocks.

Anyway, the grownups of the party puzzled over the kids’ find. The blacksmith put one pebble on a metal wagon rim and pounded it. It flattened easily. They decided it was copper.

Why copper? No one’s really sure. The standard excuse is that it was 1845, several years before the California Gold Rush, and most people had never seen raw gold. Supposedly most of the rocks were dumped, but one woman, Mrs. Fisher, kept one. A few years later, with the advent of the gold craze in California, she had it assayed. It was a gold nugget.

The people who had been on that wagon train started remembering, and prospectors from all over began trying to find the spot. Many people spent years looking for it. Gold was found in various places in Oregon, but no one was ever sure where the so-called Blue Bucket Mine was.

Grave

Sarah King Chambors Grave

One clue often cited was that the gold was found three days’ ox team journey from the grave of a Mrs. Chambers near the mouth of Crane Creek. You can imagine how many people were out there looking for that grave. Supposedly the grave has been found more than once. And another tale says two Frenchmen moved it to keep people from finding the mine. People living in the area at the time told of 5,000 miners on Canyon Creek in 1863.

The story of Mrs. Fisher, the woman who reportedly saved one nugget from the children’s bucket, was written down by her grandson, but even this version is riddled with errors. For instance, he said the man who led the pioneers astray was Joe Meek, not his brother Stephen.

The wagon train split at a hot spring about a mile below the present town of Vale, near the Malheur River. Dr. Fisher, who was traveling with the Meek contingent, died and was buried August 12, 1845. The man writing Mrs. Fisher’s story knew several survivors of the wagon train. They named other landmarks they had passed.

The wagon train wandered on. Its exact route is a mystery, though many have tried to trace it. Eventually, they rejoined one of the trains they split off earlier. Some settled near Eugene, and some went on to California.

Twenty-five years later, several veterans of that wagon train got together and discussed it. They made a map of the points they knew they had passed and where they thought it most likely the gold had been found. Mrs. Fisher insisted that Mrs. Chambers died three days before the gold was found. Samuel Parker, who was also on the train at the time, said she died three days after. So, within about 100 miles—probably more like 50—in either direction, if anyone knew for certain where that grave was.

The site now believed to be the famous grave of Mrs. Chambers is about six miles east of where Crane Creek flows into the Malheur. If Mrs. Fisher was correct about the timing, that would put the wagon train in the Willow Creek area. Gold has since been found in that area.

My best guess as to the whereabouts of the Blue Bucket Mine? I think it’s been found, in one of the areas where gold strikes were later made, but the people who found it were never sure that was the exact place.  In 1960 a group of people claimed to have found it and filed claims as the Blue Bucket Group. At least three other gold mines over the years have been named “Blue Bucket Mine,” but none of them had anything to do with the legendary east Oregon find.

One amusing point made by a woman who was part of the Blue Bucket Group: In 1845, about 3,000 traveled west over various routes in wagon trains. By 1950, she said, at least a third of them claimed to have been in the party that discovered the Blue Bucket Mine.

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GIVEAWAY:

To enter a drawing for a copy of one of Susan Page Davis’s western romances, leave a comment and your contact information. The winner can choose from several of her titles, either ebook or paperback: The Lady’s Maid, Lady Anne’s Quest, A Lady in the Making, Captive Trail, Cowgirl Trail, The Sheriff’s Surrender, The Gunsmith’s Gallantry, The Blacksmith’s Bravery, Echo Canyon, Desert Moon (paperback only), or The 12 Brides of Summer collection (paperback only).

                                                         

 

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than seventy published novels. She’s always interested in the unusual happenings of the past. She’s the winner of two Inspirational Readers’ Choice Awards and two Will Rogers Medallions, and also a winner of the Carol Award and a finalist in the WILLA Literary Awards. Visit her website at: http://www.susanpagedavis.com .

Find Susan at:

Website: http://www.susanpagedavis.com

Twitter: @SusanPageDavis

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/susanpagedavisauthor

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Guest Blogger

44 Comments

  1. Good morning Susan, welcome to the P & P blog site. What an amazing article. I’ve never heard of the missing blue bucket or of the story about the traveling group who wandered off the trail before. What an amazing piece of history mystery. It’s amazing how legendary stories take on so many different versions over time. If those travekoers justvknrwcwhat they had stumbled across and marked the true spot, they might have altered the gold rush days. Your books sound great. You have a fun time here on P & P and come back again and visit. Hugs, Tonya

    1. Thank you so much, Tonya! I love visiting P&P.

  2. Loved this bit of history wether it was a myth or not. I really wonder if that spot was ever mined or not! I’ve never read one of your books and I’m always looking for a new author to add to my list of go to Authors! Welcome to P&P!

    1. Stephanie, thanks! Glad you came by. I have wondered about that very question myself. I’ve traveled in eastern Oregon, and I don’t think it was any picnic for them.

  3. I love hearing about these things. I never heard this one before. Amazing how facts can change with each telling. Thanks
    debby236 at gmail dot com

    1. I am always amazed by things as I research a new book, and sometimes I can’t use them in my story, but I can’t let them go. Glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Great information. I live in Oregon and have never heard of Blue Bucket Mine.

    1. Hey, Estella! My husband grew up in Junction City, just outside Eugene, so it was a pleasure for me to research that area when I wrote Lady Anne’s Quest.

  5. Thank you Susan for sharing this . I’ve never heard of it before. But truly interesting.
    Carol L

  6. I have never heard about this one before but really enjoyed it. Weather it is a myth or not I found it to be interesting.

    1. I think that is part of the fun. I’m sure there have been stories and books written about it and what MIGHT have happened.

  7. Welcome to Wildflower Junction, Susan! I enjoyed your post! Legends of all types fascinate me so learning of the Blue Bucket Mine is a treat. I’m glad that there is some mystery out there, some surprises. Wouldn’t it be something is someone discovered this mine after all these years?

    Thank you for the giveaway and a chance to get to know your books!

    1. Most people seem to know about the Lost Dutchman’s Mine in Arizona (which started quite a bit later than this), but not many remember the Blue Bucket Mine. Thanks for taking part, Kathryn!

  8. I love history and historical stories whether fact or fiction. Thank you for sharing this with all of us.

    Thank you for the giveaway.

    Kara Groat
    klynngrt@gmail.com

    1. You’re welcome, Kara. I always love quirky bits of history.

  9. Susan, thank you for sharing your very interesting post. Wow! What a story! And thank you for the giveaway opportunity.

    melback at cebridge dot net

    1. Nice to see you here, Melanie. You’re very welcome.

  10. I love reading tidbits about history whether they are real or not. What a remarkable story this is about the Legend of The Lost Blue Bucket. I’ve read a lot of historical books but haven’t heard about this one until today.Thank you for sharing this interesting post with us today and for the giveaway opportunity.

    Cnnamongirl at aol dot com

    1. I’m with you, Deanne. I love history and historical fiction. There’s always more to learn.

  11. Cool story thanks for sharing.

  12. Good morning Susan. I truly enjoyed learning about this legend.
    Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Hi, Connie! Thanks. It was a fun topic to learn about.

  13. I enjoyed this interesting post. Thanks.

  14. History and the legend is fascinating. I love to learn new stories and about history.

  15. What a wonderful story and such intriguing historical information.

    1. Thanks, Ellie, Pearl, and Anne! Glad to have you here.

  16. I loved the post! It was so exciting! When I saw that you were going to visit the P&P I was overjoyed! I first fell in love with your books when I read The Lady’s Maid!!! It was so great!!!!

  17. Cori, thanks for your kind words. I love visiting this blog because they have so many readers who are excited about history.

  18. Thank you for the story of the lost blue bucket mine which I hadn’t heard before. I grew up reading tales of pioneers on the Oregon Trail and other routes, so these kinds of stories always grab me. Also, I checked your website and like you and many here at P&P I also love reading and history, but we also have genealogy in common. I think imagining stories about one’s ancestors as well as reading about pioneers naturally sets one’s imagination a-going, don’t you?

    The name Meek jumped out at me too since it appears in my genealogy (but in the South), so I googled it and as I suspected Meek/Meeks is a widespread name for towns as well as people. I also found a listing for for The Meek Cutoff “…a covered wagon road that branched off the Oregon Trail in northeastern Oregon…” that was “…named for frontiersman Stephen Meek….”
    The same Stephen Meek, I presume?

  19. Yes, that’s the Stephen Meek I’m talking about. I have used information I learned about my ancestors and my husband’s in some of my books. It’s fascinating. For instance, I studied a lot about my husband’s family that went west on a wagon train with the Mormons. When I wrote Echo Canyon, it wasn’t specifically about his family, but I used a lot of what I had learned. Then I lifted some incidents from my great-aunt’s 1920s-1930s journal when I wrote River Rest. Again, not her story, but lots of family lore in there.

  20. It’s always fun to learn new things in history! Especially about Oregon, since I live on the coast. 🙂 Thanks for the story of the Blue Bucket.

    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

    1. You’re welcome, Trixi! I love the beautiful Oregon coast.

  21. Legend or not, it is easy to forget exactly where things are located. When traveling under the conditions and strain they were it is easy to understand. I used to hike in the woods up the mountains near our family’s camp. There were no trails so I just headed upwards through the woods. I did this for many years and don’t think I ever went the same way twice. I found a rock shelf full of quartz crystals once and was never able to find it again.
    I am not surprised they couldn’t really remember exactly where they were. I am more surprised that they didn’t keep the pebbles they found. It would have been a nice stake for them when they got to their destination and realized it was gold.

    library pat AT com cast DOT net

    1. You are so right, Patricia! It’s easy to lose your way and to lose a location. And I’ve stumbled around in those Oregon woods with vine maple and all that–not fun if you’re off the trail.

  22. What a fascinating story! It’s amazing how vast the West is and how many stories have come out from the experiences there. Thanks for sharing!

    1. mindyhoung AT msn DOT com

      Sorry, forgot my email address with the first comment.

      1. Thanks for coming back, Mindy!

  23. Love old legends like that. I’m sure the story got changed many times in the telling lol.

  24. Susan, thank you for sharing this fascinating post!

    psalm103and138 at gmail dot com

  25. I don’t think I have ever heard of the Blue Bucket mine. This was very interesting. Thank you for sharing and for the chance to win one of your books.

  26. Susan – Welcome to P&P. Enjoyed your post about the blue bucket. A lot of settlers lost their way & the gold was a bad influence on them. The Blue Bucket mine held them in awe.
    I enjoy reading new authors to me. Your books sound awesome. Thanks for a chance to win one.

  27. Interesting legend.

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