Gold Discovered on Ochoco Mountains in 1871

Ochoco Mine or more commonly known as Mayflower Mine was located along Ochoco Creek just northeast the present Ochoco Ranger Station site. Central Oregon had missed out on the early gold mining activity that had occurred in eastern Oregon, but in the fall of 1871 a gold discovery was made that created a short burst of mining activity.

That fall some settlers from West Branch near Mitchell were taking wagons of grain to Warm Springs Indian Reservation to be ground to wheat. The settlers included Preacher Mansfield, James Howard and two neighbors named Belcher and Evans. The first evening they camped on upper Ochoco Creek. Mr. Howard remarked to his fellow travelers that the terrain looked similar to ground that he had mined in California. The men set up camp and had supper before taking empty frying pans to the creek and panned for gold. The first pan showed sign of gold. This excited the men but they decided to continue on their way to complete their chore of grinding the wheat to flour, but agreed to return to the gulch where they had discovered sign of gold and locate claims.

They returned to the gold site in January of 1872 and built a rough log cabin at the confluence of Ochoco Creek and Scissors Creek. They then went prospecting and found more gold. News of the discovery soon spread and by the spring of 1872 miners began struggling in. The location became known as the Howard Mining District. Water ditches were constructed for placer mining and a small town soon emerged and was known as Scissorsville.

During the next several years mining activity continued with mine shafts constructed and about $100 worth of gold per ton of ore was produced. It was not a significant amount of production and the site never became a major mining operation. Scissorsville soon became known as Howard. The mines later became known as the Mayflower Mine.

Ownership of the mine changed on several occasions over the years and Lewis McAllister operated the mine for several years. Some placer miners from Idaho jumped his claim early in 1911 and a feud developed. On May 28, 1911 McAllister was cleaning some ditches on his claim when he was shot and killed by one of the placer miners, Ernest Robinson. Robinson was acquitted on grounds of self defense.

After McAllister’s death sporadic mining activity occurred but eventually mining ceased and only remnants of the old mine shafts are all that remain of the once bustling mining district.