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Siskiyou Valley Mines Yield Cinnabar, the Primary Ore of Mercury

The Barton and Lange Mine operated on the Klamath River in Siskiyou Valley, some four miles west of Oak Bar in the Oak Bar Mining District.  Discovered in 1890 by owners J.A. Barton and company, the mine covered 60 acres at an elevation of 1,855 feet. 

It primarily mined cinnabar, the source ore of mercury.  Cinnabar resembles quartz and is most often found near areas of volcanic activity.  The Barton and Lange vein stretched 160 feet wide and reached depths of 2,000 feet.  Two tunnels driven in a bed of gray-green sandstone found the mineral, which was obtained by sluicing it.
Cinnabar is usually bright scarlet to brick red in color.  It can be used to recover gold from river sediment and crushed ore, and the Chinese frequently bought the translucent red crystals for paint and medicinal purposes. They paid between $2 and $4 per pound, and sold its crystals for between $10 and $12 a pound. 
Miners found cinnabar at several other sites, including along Horse Creek, 10 miles northwest of Oak Bar, and on the headwaters of the West Fork of Beaver Creek above Oak Bar.

Sources: Appendix to the Journals of the Senate and Assembly of the thirty second session of the Legislature of the State of California. Vol. V. Sacramento: 1897. 602. Web. 15 Feb. 14; Brown, G. Chester. Mines and mineral resources of Shasta county, Siskiyou county, Trinity county. San Francisco: California State Mining Bureau, 1915. 126. Web. 15 Feb. 2014

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.