Wilbur Pioneers: The Blue Bucket Mine Legend

You can’t write about this part of the country without mentioning the legend of the Blue Bucket Mine. Does it exist? If so, where is it?

The very name, Blue Bucket Mine is misleading, since “mine” implies some kind of working claim. The Blue Bucket discovery might be a more accurate description of a handful of nuggets supposedly found in a stream bed, somewhere along the route of the Meek wagon train. The ore was either placed in one of the blue buckets which the pioneers used to carry water, or it was found near where one of these buckets was crushed by the wheel of a wagon, depending on whose story you believe. By most accounts, the lost gold mine is somewhere in northern Harney county, but various theories have sent prospectors into Grant, Wheeler, and Crook counties, and as far afield as Baker County, even though the Meek train never came close to that piece of Oregon.

The accounts of the Blue Bucket by the pioneers vary widely, and by the time the stories were gathered and written down, they had reached the proportions of legend. For this reason, many modern day historians discount their validity.

Homer Applegate, however, believes that the tales are true, and that the gold deposit is actually somewhere in Wilbur County. The sixty-two year old prospector has been searching the stream beds north of Germaine for the past 40 years, but is not discouraged by the lack of results.

“My great grandfather told me about that gold on his deathbed,” says Applegate. “He said his father once had a nugget the size of an extra large country egg, you know, them big brown double-yolk ones. Said the settlers found a whole bucket full of ’em when they passed through this area, but he didn’t pay it no mind, it was just a pretty rock to him, ’til a stranger came through one day and told him it was highquality gold ore. He put the traveler up in his barn, and the next morning the stranger was gone, along with his nugget. Great Grandpa said they always expected a bunch of prospectors to show up lookin’ for the gold, but they never did.”

So, is the legend of The Blue Bucket true? And could it be here in Wilbur County? It’s an intriguing thought, but we may never know the truth.

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