The deep blue signs of copper colored the bottom of a miner’s rusty pan, the azure flakes harbingers not of another gold mine, but of the Blue Ledge copper mine in the California mountains above Applegate, Oregon. The only access to the high ridge of copper was a rough wagon trail from Jacksonville.
Although the Blue Ledge Mining Company started operations in 1898, it didn’t flourish until 1906 with an infusion of $2 million. The four-terrace mine had extensive facilities, including tent houses and rustic cabins for the workers, homes for managers, a cookhouse, machine shop and even a dance hall. A hotel, saloon and stores sprung up nearby.
Employment ranged from 75 to 125 men, many of them from the Gold Hill area, including W.E. Thompson, who even whisked his new bride up the dusty wagon trail in 1906. They spent their honeymoon and first 1-1/2 years of their marriage at his mining claim.
The bride was Margaret, a daughter of Thomas Chavner, the founder of Gold Hill.
Copper prices fell in 1910, and by 1913 the mine was closed. It reopened sporadically, but copper’s peak days, like those of its glittering sister gold, never returned again.
Source: The Gold Hill News, July 6, 1906; Nuggets of News, Gold Hill Historical Society, “The Blue Ledge Mine,” Sept./October 2009. As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.