Letters from the Bohemia Mines

Vesuvius Mine, 1914. Merle S. Moore collection.
Courtesy of the Lane County Museum

Settlers discovered gold in what became the Bohemia mining district in the mid-1800s. By 1866, the area could boast of a town, Bohemia City, complete with saloons, hotel, and private housing. Cottage Grove provided food and other goods to the miners, shipping items up the steep grade of the Row River Valley. While some may have successfully mined gold ore, generally the Bohemia mines were marked by the boom and bust cycles typical of extraction resources. One contemporary writer claims that "if optimism had been a marketable commodity, all of Cottage Grove would have been rich." That optimism surged during times of economic insecurity, and when the stock market crashed in 1929, prospectors returned to the mines to wait out the Depression.

Bohemia Sept 14, 1914

To mother & all -
Greetings - from the clouds, for these lofty mountains have been lost in the clouds for nearly a week. It has snowed twice already - on Monday & a little Saturday morning. The temperature, with the exception of last Thursday, has been 40 & below. It was foggy & rainy all day Sunday as it has been today. This morning I pitched & slid c ord wood down the mountain to the mill & got all wet. At 9:00 o'clock I came to the house and put on dry clothes & went up to run to Tram the rest of the day. This has the usual daily programe for the past week.

My dinner bucket today (for instance) contained a qt. of cold tea without cream, three ham sandwiches, pumpkin pie, & cake. The fog in the room in which I run the Tram is so thick that I can see it within 2 ft of myself. It comes up the mountain at the rate of 6 or 7 hundred miles an hour, but never quits coming the gusts of wind roar louder than the breakers on the coast it seems that the mountains will blow away. A fellow feels fine & alright with warm cloths on, if they are dry. And say, those new blankets are great.

I heard that the McMurpheys were coming about 9 o'clock that morning. They did not get here by noon & after dinner I had to go up & run the tram. I fully expected to see my dear mother here when I came back to supper – I did not know who was in the party & thot that maybe the Mc's would bring her with them. It was foggy & rainy all that afternoon, stage horses had to pull the machine part way up the mountain until they left it & walked the rest of the way & got here - soaking wet - at 6 P.M. It sleeted that night & snowed in the morning & I couldn't help but think what my mother missed by being spared such a trip.

Was glad to see Kenneth's name in the paper and am wondering how the fearful little freshman is man-aging to keep out of the way of the awful Soph's. I hope Mary can find a highbrow joint that is swell enough for her before the week is over.

Will have to cancel my relations with the Register staff. Notice the abbreav[?] on the enclosed mailing slip.

All I am worrying about just now is that you will have the telephone taken out - Please don't I am going to talk to you some day.

With Love.


Merle Snodgrass Moore
National Guard, 1917-1918.
Photo courtesy of Lane County Museum
Merle Snodgrass Moore was a native of Eugene, Oregon. He was convinced by a friend, the son of the owner of the Vesuvius mine, to work in the Bohemia mines in 1914. He ran the tramway at Vesuvius, moving ore to the stamp mill where it was crushed and sorted.

Bohemia Dec 2, '14

My dear Mother:

Your welcome letters received this evening. Pardon for not thanking you for the flowers before. I enjoyed them & still have them in my room. We don't see many flowers or hear much music around here. Wish we had the old graphone up here.

I wish that you would call on Clerk Mc Murphey and get the things out of my private draw - which is the upper left hand draw - also get a few letter heads & envelopes for soveigners, my cards and my big check book - I want it for a record (the stubbs). Thanks for the blank checks, but I am sorry to say that the Hards have put me off until the 10th but if $10.00 will do you any good go ahead & fill out the for said amount. I hope to send a check to the bank (next mail) for at least $35.00 - my Nov. salary. I'm not the only fellow that is having trouble getting any money.

On thanksgiving day I ran the Tram all day & ate dinner with the miners outside the tunnel house in the sun. In the evening as I came out the house. Straight in front of me loomed old Bohemia over which the new moon & the evening star shone. Before got down to the Camp night had "drawn her heavy curtains l ight" & the heavens were sparkling with stars. Friday morning I had the fire under the boiler by 5 A.M. & 60 lbs. of steam to blow the whistle on at 6:15. After breakfast I put some wood down the chute until Char. came up to get me to fire the boiler because the "expert" foreman who was substituting that day was unable to keep steam up. It was threatening rain. At 12:30 I started up to run the tram. By the time I got up there it had started to snow. It snowed up at the mine all after-noon. The wind was blowing a gale and actually blew the snow up hill. On the way down it snowed in my face & I could hardly keep my bug lit. Sat. it snowed & blew all day. The miners broke the trail & I followed. Sunday morning about 1 ft of snow. Sunday night about 2 1/2 ft of snow. Great to watch the storm all day. Mon. morning broke trail again. Helped wood-cutter fall a "giant of the forest" after digging out & carring in a cord a wood to the boiler room. Took shovel & cleaned out wood chute - waded in snow waist deep. When I went up to run tram in afternoon the trail was almost filled up with snow as it was at night 1 hr. after miners had come down. Did not snow Tues. ran tram all day.

Mt ranger not very pretty because wind had blown all snow off of trees. Snowed about 8 or 10 inches today - big flakes & almost straight down. Had to stop at one of the water wheels on way down tonight & had to wade thru fresh snow, I would have to pick my way for some times I would get into snow where I couldn't reach bottom & would have to back out & try another way. In the room where I run the tram the snow shifts thru the cracks in the wall & I have to keep it swept off the floor etc. - some days I can make tracks on floor 5 minutes afterwards. The bottom of the "trail" (up to the mine) is now 2 feet above the ground with the snow 1 ft & over (high) on the sides - therefore when you step off the trail you go into 3 ft of snow. They say that when it starts to thaw that walking on the trail is just like walking the plank—it being higher than the rest. The air in a small deep hole is delicate blue color.

About Christmas. I don't know. Three possibilities home to stay, home on a visit, at Bohemia on the 25th. A number are talking about leaving - the weather prevents continuation of their jobs. There is not more than 3 days run of wood Cut for the mill & it is getting almost too cold to handle the (wet) ore - it freezes overnight in the bins, & has to be thawed out of the tram buckets with a steam hose. The buckets almost drag in the snow. It's owing to what kind of a job I can get after the mill shuts down. I will probable have to turn miner. Wet from head to foot with water every day & use a good deal of dynamite…

With lots of love