CENTRAL OREGON HISTORY: Maury Mountain mines a high producing mercury site
Mining in Central Oregon was limited in the early settlement days and was mostly gold and silver extraction on a minor basis. According to long-time local resident, Gladys Murray, pioneer doctor, Horace Belknap, had a sample of cinnabar that had come from the local area on his desk for several years. It was determined that his sample was a high quality from which mercury or quicksilver could be extracted. This led to an interest in finding cinnabar deposits in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Two prospectors, Frank Towner and Ed Staley, discovered a cinnabar deposit on the north slope of Maury Mountain in 1930. Their discovery was near the north edge of Mule Deer Ridge, about five miles southeast of Post, Oregon. They filed five claims on the land and with financial assistance from H. Corbett and W.L. Castleton, organized the Maury Mountain Mining Company and began mining cinnabar. A processing plant was built, and the mines produced some of the richest quicksilver in the state. Fifty-one flasks of mercury were produced in 1932. The mine then closed and remained idle until 1934. That year, 28 flasks of mercury were produced. The furnace at the mine was then moved to Horse Heaven Mine, near Ashwood.
Fred and Herbert Eichemeyer also had claims in the area. Although their claims were close to the Towner and Staley operations, they were separate enterprises. Later, Staley sold his part of the claims to the Eichemeyer brothers. Towner continued to operate separately. At least one shaft of 350 depth and 4,500 feet in length was excavated on the holdings. Total deeded acreage for the mining site was 480 acres. Towner later sold his holdings to the Eichemeyers. The Eichemeyers had two Champion rotary retorts and the mines became among the highest producers of mercury in Oregon.
C.F. Taylor and Tom and Ruby Davis purchased the Eichemeyer operation in the early 1970s and continued producing until the high-grade ore was mined out in the late 1970s. Total production for the Eickemeyer workings was 585 flasks and from the Towner workings was 181 flasks. The mine consisted of plant and shop facilities some of which are still standing.
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