Pamplin Media Group – CENTRAL OREGON HISTORY: Maury Mountain Operates High Mercury Production Site


Two prospectors discovered a cinnabar deposit on the northern slopes of the Maury Mountains in 1930

Mining in central Oregon was limited in early settlement and consisted primarily of minor gold and silver extraction. According to long-time local resident Gladys Murray, pioneering physician Horace Belknap had a sample of cinnabar on her desk from the area for several years. His sample was determined to be of high quality from which mercury or quicksilver could be extracted. This led to 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 northern 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 mercury in the state. Fifty-one flasks of mercury were produced in 1932. The mine then closed and remained inactive until 1934. In that year, 28 flasks of mercury were produced. The mine furnace was later moved to Horse Heaven Mine, near Ashwood.

Fred and Herbert Eichemeyer also had claims in the area. Although their dealerships were close to Towner’s and Staley’s operations, they were separate businesses. Later, Staley sold his share of the concessions to the Eichemeyer brothers. Towner continued to operate separately. At least one shaft 350 deep and 4,500 feet long has been dug on the farms. The total area surrendered for the mine 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 largest mercury producers in Oregon.

CF Taylor and Tom and Ruby Davis purchased the Eichemeyer operation in the early 1970s and continued production until high-grade ore was mined in the late 1970s. ‘Eickemeyer was 585 vials and that of the Towner yards was 181 vials. The mine consisted of factories and workshops, some of which are still standing.

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