A drive along Carberry Creek in Oregon’s Applegate Valley leads past what was the mining town of Steamboat. All that remains is a tumble-down fence amid some pines that marks the town’s cemetery.
In 1860 the rugged, remote corner of the Siskiyous was the site of what may have been Oregon’s first arrastra, a primitive ore-crushing mill.
The arrastra consists of a center post placed in a circular stone-paved pit. A long wooden arm extends from the post with flat-bottomed stones hanging from the arm into the pit. When a horse, mule or human turns the arm on its post, the heavy stones drag over and crush ore in the stone pit. The word “arrastra” means “to drag” in Spanish.
Similar mills have been used throughout the Mediterranean since ancient times and are cheap to build and operate.
The first few months’ pay from the mine was paltry, but in February 1861 a rich vein struck enough gold within a week to repay investment and build four new arrastras.
By November 1861 there was enough money to hire Superintendent Samuel Taylor and by 1890 the town had 42 residents, a post office, school, sawmill, and a cemetery.
Source: Ruediger, Luke. The Siskiyou Crest: Hikes, History, and Ecology. Jacksonville, Ore.: Luke Ruediger, 2013. 102-03. Print.