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As It Was: Banished Miner Survives Alone, Strikes Gold

Most of the stories from the old mining camps of Waldo and Allentown died with the miners who lived there, but John Eggers remembered a few.

Eggers, who was born in 1884, told the Grants Pass, Ore., Courier that Allentown and Waldo residents always argued over which camp was first in the Illinois Valley, and he told of the time miners in Allentown decided they didn't have enough food for everyone that winter, so they kicked out Malke Bockman.

Bockman camped by himself and survived by hunting.  When he heard the boys in Allentown were nearly starving, he brought them game and kept them well fed until spring.  Meanwhile, Bockman discovered gold at the Deep Gravel Mine at Butcher Knife. 

Learning of the strike, other miners tried to follow him to it.  Bockman would pretend to get drunk and pass out in the saloon, wait until everyone left, and then sneak back alone to his claim.

In those days, robberies were frequent, cheating rampant and law enforcement non-existent.  Eggers said election day was so rowdy all the kids in Allentown would run and hide.  Arguments were settled “quick and rough,” he added with a wink.


Source:  Grants Pass Daily Courier Golden Edition, 4, 3, 1935, third section “Mining,” page 1, Grants Pass, Ore.  Accessed at Josephine County Historical Society's clipping file. July 2018.

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.