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As It Was: Rising Star of Investment Sells Bogus Oregon Mine Shares

Southern Oregon mine produced more than valuable minerals. They also inspired some clever scammers, including James H. McNicholas of Portland.
McNicholas started selling Oregon mine shares when he was 21 and quickly became known as a rising star of investment.  In 1908, he opened a suite of offices in Cleveland, Ohio, and sold shares in the Old Channel Hydraulic Mine near Galice in Josephine County, Ore.  He bilked 600 people into investing more than a million dollars in the dormant mine, and bragged that William Rockefeller and W. K. Vanderbilt were among them.  

His scheme fell apart in 1912 when he failed to produce dividends.  Lawmen pursued him from Portland, Ore., to Boston, where he was caught after five months on the run and sent to jail in Cleveland.  Three weeks later he escaped to Europe, where he sold munitions to wartime allies.  McNicholas remained free until he was arrested in 1916 in New York and charged with mail fraud. 

Post Office Inspector E.C. Clements declared McNicholas “one of the shrewdest and most daring men” with whom he had ever come in contact. 

Sources: "McNicholas Is Again In Toils." Rogue River Courier, 6 Oct. 1916 [Grants Pass OR] , p. 1;  Historic Oregon Newspapers, https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn96088180/1916-10-06/ed-1/. Accessed 18 Nov. 2017; "High Finance Charged in Complaints Filed in Suit for Forclosure." Medford Mail Tribune, p.1. Historic Oregon Newspapers, 29 Sept. 1910, https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn97071090/1910-09-29/ed-1/. Accessed 18 Nov. 2017; "James McNicholas Breaks From Jail." Morning Oregonian, 8 Mar. 1913 [Portland OR] , p. 1+. Historic Oregon Newspapers, https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn83025138/1913-03-08/ed-1/. Accessed 18 Nov. 2017. 

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.