Baker City Mining

 

Admittedly, the history of mining isn’t something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about or researching. And then I happened to include a setting of mines in not one but two stories and dove into researching hard rock mining in the Baker City, Oregon, area at the end of the 1800s.

I knew before I started that there were many, many mines in the area from the 1880s through the 1890s and on into the new century. Dozens of little mining towns popped up on the horizon and just as quickly faded one the mines closed. 

From 1880 through 1899, Oregon produced more than $26 million dollars in gold and silver with more than $18 million of it coming from Baker, Grant and Union county (which are all in the Baker City region). 

To say mining was a big deal at the time is something of an understatement. It was a huge business.

Thankfully, the Baker County Library has an incredible digital library of thousands of old images. I found many that illustrated the mining business and aided my research more than I can even say. 

As a visual person, it was fantastic to look at these images, read the descriptions and picture how things would look at my fictional mines. 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

This advertisement was such a help to me because the illustration lets you look inside the various levels of the mill and see how they were built into the hills. 

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

This is an image of the Eureka & Excelsior Mine mill building in the Cracker Creek District, Oregon. You can see how it’s built into the hill, quite similar to the illustration in the advertisement. 

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

This image shows the vanner room at the Bonanaza Mine, which was one of the top producing mines during the mining heyday in the Baker City region. It was located four miles from Greenhorn City which straddled both the Baker and Grant county lines.

Vanning is a process of separating the material of value from that which is worthless. Typically, a powdered sample of orestuff is swirled with water on the blade of a shovel and then given a series of upward flicking motions. The heavier ore is tossed up through the water and appears as a crescent shaped patch at the top of the charge with the lighter material that is unusable below.  In the 19th century, the process was automated and used to separate ore on an industrial scale. The Frue Vanner was a widely-adopted machine, invented in 1874 by W.B. Frue in Canada. 

With a Frue vanner, a continuous rubber belt (usually 4 feet wide and about 27.5 feet long, shown in the center of this photo) passed over rollers to from the surface of an inclined plane. The orestuff was concentrate on in the belt and the belt traveled uphill from three to twelve feet per minute while being shaken anywhere from 180-200 times. Crushed orestuff from the stamps fed onto the belt. As it traveled uphill, it met small jets of water which gradually washed the gangue (the commercially valueless material in which ore is found) off the bottom of the belt. The heavier ore adhered to the belt as it went over the top roller and passed into a box containing water where the ore was deposited. To make this work, anywhere from three to six gallons of water per minute was required. One machine could treat approximately six tons per twenty-four hours of orestuff.

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

 

This is a photo of the stamping room at the Golden Gate mine, also located near Greenhorn City. There are ten stamps shown here. The stamp is a large mechanical device used to crush ore and extract minerals. Repeatedly, the stamps and raised and dropped onto ore that is fed into the mill, until the coarse ore is reduced to a finer material that can be further processed. The number of stamps used depended on the size of the mill and the amount of ore being taken out of the mine.

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

The Red Boy Mine (also located near Greenhorn City) boasted it’s own laboratory, at least in this 1902 photo. On-site labs were considered to be a strategic value to a mine. Among the work done there was testing and sampling to derive critical operational, metallurgical, and environmental data needed to make the most of mining and mineral processing production.

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

This amazing photo (undated) was taken at the Bonanza Mine.  Five men are working in a tunnel wielding four-pound hammers that were called “single jacks” and steel drills. Note the candles on a wire stuck in cracks in the walls to provide light.  Total production at this mine from 1899-1904 was just shy of a million dollars. It was mostly a gold mine, although they did find some silver. Reports show total production from the mine totaled $1.75 million dollars. 

 

Baker County Library, Baker City, Oregon

And this awesome image is taken inside the superintendent’s cabin at the St. Anthony Mine in 1901.  One might assume the woman in the photo is the superintendent’s wife. Many of the mines refused to allow women in the camp and were called a “boar’s nest.” 

If you’d like to read more about mining in this region of Oregon, there’s a lot of detail in this digital report

And if you’d like to read about the adventures of my characters at the fictional mines that exist only in my head, you’ll find Graydon (Grady) Gaffney at the Lucky Larkspur Mine in Gift of Hope.

 

When his affections are spurned by the girl he plans to wed, Graydon Gaffney rides off in the swirling snow, determined to stay far away from fickle females. Then a voice in the storm draws him to a woman and her two sweet children. Despite his intentions to guard his emotions, all three members of the DeVille family threaten to capture his heart.

Giavanna DeVille holds the last frayed edges of her composure in a tenuous grasp. In a moment of desperation, she leaves her sleeping children in her cabin and ventures out into a storm to release her pent-up frustrations where no one can hear her cries. Much to her surprise, a man appears through the blinding snow. He gives her a shoulder to cry on and something even more precious. . . hope.

Can the two of them move beyond past heartaches to accept the gift of hope for their future?

You’ll also find the characters of my latest book Dumplings and Dynamite (releasing tomorrow!) at the Crescent Creek Mine, up in the hills out of Baker City. 

Widow Hollin Hughes doesn’t care how long it takes or the depths of deception required to discover how her husband really died. She’s determined to unearth the truth and unravel the mystery surrounding his death. Then a new dynamite man arrives at the mine and throws all her plans off kilter.

With a smile that makes females of any age swoon, Deputy Seth Harter can charm his way into or out of almost anything. When he’s sent undercover to Crescent Creek Mine, even the cranky cook seems entirely immune to his rugged appeal, making him wonder if he’s losing his touch. Eager to get to the bottom of a series of unexplained deaths, Seth counts on catching the criminals. He just didn’t anticipate a tempestuous woman claiming his heart in the process.

Brimming with humor, tidbits from history, and a sweet, unexpected love, don’t miss out on a heartwarming romance packed with adventure.

And here’s a little excerpt from the story:

A flash of pity swept through him for the baby’s mother who lost her husband and was now working for the contemptible Eustace Gilford. He had no doubt the woman had to rise in the wee hours of the morning to be able to cook a big breakfast for a camp full of miners. It had to be challenging to cook and care for such a newly-born child.

Mrs. Parrish hurried back into the kitchen, saw him holding the baby, and her pale skin blanched white.

“What are you doing?” she asked in a harsh, quiet tone. She moved across the room and took the baby from him with such haste, he had no idea how she’d managed to reach him in so few steps. He couldn’t be certain, but he thought maybe she’d forgotten about her limp.

“I hoped if I held her, she’d stop crying. It worked,” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets, although he moved a step closer to the widow. “What’s her name?”

“Keeva.”

“I’ve never met anyone named Keeva. Is it a family name?” he asked.

The woman merely nodded. “It was her great-grandmother’s name.”

“Then I’m sure she’d be proud to have a beautiful little granddaughter to share it with.”

The woman looked at him over her shoulder with an uncertain glare, as though she couldn’t quite figure him out, before she turned back to the baby. “Breakfast is on the table. The men will be in soon. If you want something to eat, you best get out there. If Mr. Gilford didn’t mention it, the men pack their own lunches from the food on the tables near the door.”

“He did say something about that. Thank you, Mrs. Parrish.” Seth tipped his head to her then made his way to the dining room where men began trickling inside.

Eustace directed Seth to a chair at the far end of the long table. When everyone was seated, he pointed to Seth. “Meet our newest employee, Seth Harter. He’ll be drilling and blasting.”

Mrs. Parrish nearly dropped the pot of coffee she carried at this announcement but quickly recovered. Seth wondered how hard he’d have to work to charm the truth out of her. In spite of her appearance, something about her made him look forward to trying.

Although Dumplings and Dynamite releases tomorrow, you can pre-order it today!

If you were a miner back in the 1800s, what kind of mineral would you have been searching for? Gold? Silver? Quartz? Copper? Lead? Something with a little more sparkle? 

Gifts of Christmas

I love the holiday season.

The scents, the sounds, the twinkling lights, glistening snow, the yummy treats. 

Truly, I love it all.

But I also love the gifts that don’t come from the store, but from the heart. The gifts that lift our spirits, warm our hearts, and wrap us up in a cozy blanket of love. 

It was thoughts of those gifts that inspired my newest series and collection of sweet holiday romances.

There are three books in the series: Gift of Grace, Gift of Hope, Gift of Faith.

Although each book can be read as a stand-alone, a fun little detail is that each story ties to one of my other series, too!

Tomorrow is the release day for Gift of Grace, book one in the series. Today, you can pre-order the book for just 99 cents!

Sometimes the best gifts

Are those freely given from the heart . . .

Ready to begin a new life far away from the sad memories of the Civil War, J.B. and Nora Nash head west on the Oregon Trail. They settle into the small community of Pendleton, Oregon, on a piece of land where they’re excited to build a future and their dreams together.

A devastating tragedy leaves them both reeling as they draw further and further apart. Nora blames J.B. for her unhappiness while he struggles through his own challenges. Only a miracle can bring them through their trials and reunite them for Christmas.

Together, will they discover the gift of grace in this sweet holiday romance brimming with hope, history, and abiding love?

Gift of Grace is the first book in the Gifts of Christmas series, a collection of heartwarming, wholesome romances, featuring precious gifts given straight from the heart.

Much to her dismay and surprise, J.B. stepped onto the bed with his damp boots and picked her up, holding her tight against his chest. Without missing a step, he walked off the other side and toward the bedroom door.

Nora clenched her hands into fists and pounded on his shoulders as he carried her into the kitchen.

The big galvanized tub they used for taking baths sat near the stove and she could see steam rising from the water. She had no idea what J.B. intended to do, but whatever it was she would fight him until her last breath.

“Put me down, you brute!” she demanded, shoving against his solid chest.

“Whatever you say, Nora,” J.B. said, dropping her into the tub.

Water splashed over the sides onto the floor and stung Nora’s eyes. She spluttered, pushing hair out of her face then rubbed her eyes.

Before she could stand and step out of the tub, J.B. reached down and ripped off her nightgown, sending buttons flying into the air. Appalled, she watched in horror as he wadded the ruined cloth into a ball and tossed it into a basket with dirty clothing sitting on the floor near the stove.

He glowered at her, pinning her in place with an unrelenting gaze. “You stink and your hair looks like you rubbed bear grease over your head. Take a bath and wash your hair. Maybe by the time you finish, you’ll feel better. At the very least, you’ll smell better than something left to rot on the side of the road.”

Shocked speechless by his actions, she remained as still as stone as he went into the bedroom and returned with the tray of tea and toast he’d prepared.

“When you get out of there, you eat that toast and drink the tea,” he ordered. “If you don’t, I swear I’ll force-feed you.”

Defiantly, Nora lifted her chin. “I’ll eat when I feel like it.”

J.B. picked up a bar of perfumed soap and a wash cloth then bent down until his nose nearly touched hers. “Either you start scrubbing or I’ll do it for you.”

Nora grabbed the soap and cloth from him. If looks could have killed, James Benjamin Nash would have inhaled his very last breath in that moment.


What about you? What is your favorite gift of the season?

Cowboy Fever and Rodeo Fun

This week, we’re celebrating Cowboy Fever. I’m pretty sure I’ve been infected since I was old enough to walk.

I love cowboys, rodeos, and the country way of life.

Growing up on a farm about twenty miles from the closest town (population around 1,000), we generally took our excitement anywhere we could get it.

Each summer, I eagerly anticipated our small town’s biggest event of the year – the Fourth of July Rodeo.

Back in those days, it was a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned rodeo. Some of the top names in the circuit would join hundreds of rodeo fans for four days of rodeo, events in the park, a parade through town, and the annual Suicide Race (a crazy horseback race down a steep butte, across the highway, through the river, and into the rodeo arena).

Our whole family looked forward to the celebration. My oldest brother regularly rode in the Suicide Race and a few cousins competed in the rodeo. My dad, brothers, and many cousins participated in the parade.

For a horse-crazy little girl who loved the smell of leather and the sight of cowboy hats, it was amazing. From an early age, I had a romance with the rodeo (and cowboy fever!).

One of the few stores we had in town was a saddle maker with a boot shop. When I was five, my dad took me to Leroy’s shop to pick out a new belt for the rodeo. It was the first time I could choose my own. Talk about excited!

As we walked inside, the welcoming aroma of leather filled the air. Dad led me to where Leroy worked on a saddle at the back of the shop and they talked a few minutes. Impatiently waiting to get down to the business of picking out my belt, they finally told me to go see what I could find. My gaze – and heart – immediately settled on a hand-tooled belt with little flowers stamped into the leather and a silver buckle with a gold saddle that glistened in the overhead lights.

I still have that little belt today along with my love of rodeo and cowboys.

I suppose that love is what inspires so many cowboy heroes in my stories. It’s awesome to write about modern-day ranchers in my Grass Valley Cowboys series, and about rodeo cowboys in my Rodeo Romance series. I also get a kick out of writing about cowboys in the old West. I think lawmen of yesteryear must be one of my favorites, since this coming Thursday I’ll release Lightning and Lawmen, my fourth story with a hero who works as a lawman in a rowdy western town.

How did a simple hello turn into something so complicated?

Love is about to leave one lawman thunderstruck in this sweet historical romance!

 Cultured and full of grace, Delilah Robbins agrees to accompany her meteorologist father to his new post in Baker City, Oregon. Expecting a primitive place, she’s delighted to discover an up-and-coming town with plenty of surprises as well as a place she can turn into a sanctuary for her beloved birds. As she settles into life in the western town, she unwittingly creates a riff between two deputies when they both fall for her charms.

 Deputy Dugan Durfey only meant to extend a friendly welcome to a newcomer. But the moment he set eyes on the meteorologist’s delightful daughter, Dugan’s heart was no longer his own. Since his best friend and fellow deputy suffered the same fate, Dugan struggles to do what’s right. He’ll fight jealousy, outlaws, and a wily raccoon to keep Delilah safe, but the greater battle lies in overcoming his fears to profess his love.

Filled with humor, adventure, and plenty of sweet romance, Lightning and Lawmen highlights the history of the era and blends it with the timeless feelings of discovering true love.

To enter for a chance to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card, answer this question:
What’s one special summer memory from your childhood?

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DLMXSGT/?tag=pettpist-20