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.

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.

Seven Brides for Seven
Mail-Order Husbands

Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved? This book includes novellas by seven authors.
In Susan’s novella, The Kidnapped Groom:
Riding through the Flint Hills on his way to Dodge City, cowboy Sam Cayford finds himself the kidnapping victim of two children. When he meets their lovely mother, Maggie Piner—whom the kids insist he should marry—Sam starts to question God’s plans versus his own.



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: .

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Julian ~ The Ghost Town that Escaped


The lifespan of a mining town in the old west was as volatile as the dynamite used to blow up the rock and release the ore. Seems that just as soon as most of the ore was hauled from the mines, the town would dry up and blow away, becoming ghost town. Two famous ones in California that boomed and are now nothing but ghost towns are Calico and Bodie.

ghost towns
Calico Mining Crew

Calico in Yerma, California was established when silver was discovered in the mountains there in 1881. $20 million in silver ore came from the 500 mines surrounding the town over the next 12 years. Then, when silver lost its value, everyone packed up and left. Today, Calico is a historic site, restored for people to visit and see what life was like ‘back in the day.’ Calico makes for a very interesting destination today, but no one lives there anymore.

Bodie, California

The same thing happened to Bodie, California. The place was a small mining camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains when gold was discovered in 1859. Although nearby towns boomed, Bodie inched along until 1876 when more gold was discovered by the Sandard Company. Suddenly miners poured into the town and its population shot up to 7,000. $34 million in gold ore came from the mines there over the next eleven years. And then, like Calico, Bodie slowly died. In 1915 it was officially labeled a ghost town.

So how did Julian in San Diego’s back country escape the fate of becoming a ghost town? 

In 1870 gold was discovered 60 miles east of New San Diego and the Julian Mining District was formed. Over the next 6 years more than 600 people made Julian their home and enjoyed all that living in a boom town entailed. then in 1876 with most of the gold excavated out of the mines, the bulk of people left searching for better goldfields elsewhere. The population dropped to 100. What made Julian’s fate so different than Calico’s or Bodies had to do with a number of things–good soil, climate, and more than anything it seems, Julian became a place for family.

Although the town had its share of saloons and dance-halls and rowdy miners, it was never the “Wild West Town” like other mining towns. The early settlers of Julian saw to the opening of their first school–and the first year 100 children attended. When teacher after teacher married and had to stop teaching due to the law at the time that forbade married women to teach, the school trustees decided to hire a man for the position. When the miners learned of it, they threatened trouble, and the trustees relented and hired another woman.

When the mines played out, instead of leaving, a core group of 100 people remained and turned to agriculture. James Madison was the first to recognize the perfect soil a

Julian CA
Julian California

nd weather for apple growing and he, along with Thomas Brady started an orchard of young apple trees. Others followed suit, adding pear trees. Today Julian apples have won many awards and the town is world famous for its apple pies.

There were two main ways to socialize in town. One was through church (Free land was given for the establishment of churches.) The second was at the frequent dances. Dances and fundraising socials would often last through the night and into the early morning hours. The dance hall in town even had a separate room for mothers to leave their babies to sleep away the night so the mothers could continue dancing. A number of good-natured tricks were played on neighbors and friends in Julian. Couples tried to keep their romantic feelings a secret so they wouldn’t end up the recipient of these pranks. The people of Julian were known for enjoying each other and having fun in a big way. (To me, it sounds like the town had a lot of personality!)

Today, Julian is a tourist town with a small-town feel. It caters to those who want to get away from the city. They come for the mountain air, fresh apple pies, mining tours and–for many San Diegans (including me) — the snow in winter. I have always had a soft spot for Julian. As an author, it is great to vicariously live in the town of 1876 through the characters in my books. I am grateful it survived its gold rush heritage and has given me such inspiraFamiliar Stranger in Clear Springstion for my stories.

Do you have a soft spot for any particular place?

Leave a comment to be entered into my drawing for a copy of my latest book!

Familiar Stranger in Clear Springs

(Please see Giveaway Guidelines listed on this page)


Caroline Fyffe: Eureka!

There’s gold in them thar hills…somewhere!  Throughout the history of the West, stories are told of lost, forgotten and misplaced mines.  Many have been sitting undisturbed for years, shrouding their boundless wealth, just waiting to be re-discovered.  Gold and silver-bearing regions are awash with stories of miners losing their way; Indians killing off the miners and then hiding the markings; flash floods destroying the lay of the land; earthquakes changing the rock formations that helped a miner find his way.  
Some of these accounts, of course, are surely yarns, just like the “fish-stories” told by sailors.  But many are the true tale of mines “gone missing” to the poor fools that lost them.  In Arizona alone, there are thought to be at least twenty such sites.  Can you imagine how many the vast American West could be hiding?  

The naysayers can scoff, but in 1959 the Burro Mountains gave up their treasure of the long-lost Spanish mines, twenty-five miles northwest of Lordsburg, New Mexico. And in 1965, Arizona’s “Lost Coconimo” mine was found in the state’s Sycamore Canyon.  

If you’re feeling lucky and have been bitten by wanderlust, you might want to check out a few of the accountings I’ve listed of some of the most famous or colorful lost mines:

—Lost Blue Bucket at the Malheur River in eastern Oregon.  The date was 1846 when a wagon train pulled into camp on the middle fork of the Malheur.  Some pioneers, finding some stones in a creek bed, filled a hand-made blue papier-mâché bucket. Later they learned their finding was gold. Status: still lost.

—Lost Rhoades in the Uintah Mountains, northeastern Utah.  This mine was said to be owned and strictly guarded by the Mormons.  Only Brigham Young and a handful of elders and two other members of the Rhoades family knew of its location.  In 1877 the Indians placed a ban on visits to the ledge where the mine was located, because it was on the Uintah Reservation.  In 1905, Caleb Rhoads, the last living person to know its whereabouts, took the secret to his grave and the “bank” of the Mormon Church was lost, so to speak.  He left a crude map with only Rock Creek and Moon Lake as landmarks, but others have been unable to find its location. Status: still lost.

—Lost Padre, somewhere in the 113,809 square miles of Arizona.   This mine, originally owned by Indians, was taken over by Spanish missionaries.  After the California gold strike of 1849, the Southwest had a surge of hopeful miners looking for their Eureka.  To keep their mine secret, the padres sealed it off. It’s been re-discovered several times, but with all the lucky finders ending in a violent death. Status: still lost.

—Lost Gunsight in California’s Death Valley.  No date is given for the first discovery of a reef that was said to be heavily laden with silver.   It was discovered by a single man who was part of a Mormon migrant party.  He fashioned a gun sight for his rifle with the silver from the reef.  Stories of this silver reef in Death Valley have circulated for years, and it’s been found and lost several times.  It’s believed that the cause of its elusiveness is the shifting sands.  Status: still lost.

—Lost Adams, south of the Little Colorado River in northeast-central Arizona.  In 1864, this gold-bearing dry wash was discovered by a man known only as Adams, along with a party of prospectors.  They were led by an Apache half-breed.  Soon after the colorful discovery, a war party descended and killed many of the men and ran the others off.  For ten frustrating years, Adams tried to get back to the findings, but was always held off by the Indians.  Finally, after the Apache Indians had been moved, Adams went back in search but was never able to find the correct spot.            This discovery is also known as the “Lost Adams Diggins” and has been made into a movie called Mackenna’s Gold. Status: still lost.
As you now see, there is still gold in them thar hills! You just have to be lucky enough to find and keep it.  Have you ever been gold panning?

Have you visited a haunted mine or discovered something special?  We’d love to hear about it…
Today, in celebration of the release of MONTANA DAWN, I’m offering a signed copy to a commenter.  Also, if you go to my website ( and sign up for my News Letter on the contact page, you will be entered in the drawing for a basket filled with candies, chocolates, muffin mix,  a handsome coffee mug (filled with even more chocolate!) and a jar of scrumptious jam, all made from the Big Sky State’s coveted huckleberry.  

Also included is an autographed copy of both MONTANA DAWN and WHERE THE WIND BLOWS.  It’s as easy as pie. The winner will be drawn on December 10th, 2010–just in time for Christmas.
 It’s wonderful to be here again at Petticoats & Pistols.  

Thank you to all the Fillies for having me.  It seems like only yesterday when we were talking about Pioneer Teachers and how they helped shape the West.  Don’t know about the rest of you, but time seems to have jumped its bank…and there’s no holding it back.