Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Oregon's Biggest Gold Nugget

If you trawl the internet for information on gold mining in Oregon, sooner or later, you'll find mention of the Armstrong Nugget. This huge lump of placer gold was discovered near the ghost town of Susanville, Oregon in 1913 by George Armstrong. (Info here) This big monster weighed in at 80.4 ounces. Today, it's gold value alone would fetch over $80,000 U.S. dollars. The Armstrong Nugget is currently on display at U.S. Bank in Baker City, Grant County, Oregon.

Most internet sources claim that the Armstrong Nugget was the biggest gold nugget ever discovered in Oregon, but it isn't so.

In fact, here in Josephine County, on the opposite side of the state, a number of larger gold nuggets have been discovered near what was refered to as Sailor's Diggings. One of them, pulled out of Sucker Creek, weighed 15 pounds. But that's still not the biggest one.

In 1859, a little Irish fellow by the name of Mattie Collins was mining along the East Fork of Althouse Creek when he uncovered a huge lump of almost pure gold that became known as the Collins Nugget. Mattie's find weighed in at a whopping 204 ounces (approximately 17 pounds troy), which he sold for $3500. At today's gold prices, the Collins Nugget would be worth over $200,000, but typically a nugget will fetch a significantly higher price.

The Collins Nugget is the largest single hunk of gold ever pulled from the Oregon lands, but unlike the Armstrong Nugget, it doesn't survive today. As was always done in those days, Mattie took his find to the local smelter, traded it for cash and then drank himself into poverty.

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