News of the Week, March 6-12

Oregon City Enterprise, March 10, 1876


The man Brown, who was confined in the county jail some time ago, to await the action of the Grand Jury, was released on bail the other day. our jail is now empty. Who next?


Our city marshal says the town is getting so moral, he fears he will be compelled to change his calling. Not a single drunk or assault in the courts for over a month.

Oregon City Enterprise, March 6, 1896

Mr. Dan O’Neill, in response to a telegram, left Sunday evening for Alaska, where he goes to take a position in the United States revenue service. He will be stationed at Marys Island, a port near Sitka. Mr. O’Neill went to Tacoma by rail where he takes the steamer Topeka by rail where he takes the steamer Topeka for his destination. Mrs. O’Neill will leave about the middle of this month to join her husband in their new northern home. They will not be among strangers for Mrs. O’Neill’s brother, T. E. Holmes, is stationed there as a deputy collector of customs. Mr. O’Neill is a very capable man and will fulfill the duties of his new position in first-class shape. A host of friends in this city regret their departure but wish them a prosperous and happy life in the land of seals and icebergs.

rose farm

Rose Farm, William L. Holmes house, early 1900s. Pictured are the Holmes sisters, their cousins John W. Meldrum and Mary Meldrum Thompson and their spouses, Georgina Pope Meldrum and David Preston Thompson.

Daniel O’Neill married Minerva Joseph Ann Gray Holmes on September 8, 1858 at her family home known as Rose Farm. She was the oldest daughter of early settlers William Livingston Holmes and Mary Ann Louisa Campbell Williams Holmes. Their youngest son, Theodore Edwin W. Holmes, was lost at sea in February 1898. Two of his four children, William Livingston Holmes and Francis Louise Holmes Martin were the parents of the only descendants of William and Louisa Holmes. Although William and Louisa were the parents of eight children, several of their children died young and the two longest lived daughters, Minerva Holmes O’Neill (1836-1918) and Mary Louise Holmes (1845-1915), had no children.

Oregon City Enterprise, April 29, 1898
T. E. Holmes, deputy collector of customs at Sitka, Alaska, is believed to have drowned. He was formerly a resident of Oregon City and his relatives here fear the worst. Mr. Holmes was a passenger on the steamer Alexander, which left San Francisco on February 5 and is long over due at her Alaskan port of destination.

Oregon City Enterprise, June 3, 1898
The sad news was received this week of the drowning of T. E. Holmes, who formerly resided in this city. Mr. Holmes was deputy collector of customs at Mary Island, Alaska, and was transferred to Karluk, at which place he was to have held the same position. On February 5 he sailed from San Francisco on the supply schooner Alexander. The vessel never reached her destination, and it is supposed she foundered in one of the terrific gales which swept the coast in February. The Alexander carried in all eight men, and was laden with supplies for government stations. All hope for the safety of the vessel has been abandoned. Mr. Holmes was well known in this city and his death will be deplored by his many friends. He leaves a wife and three children who reside in Spokane. His sisters, Mrs. D. O’Neill and Miss Holmes reside near Oregon City.

Oregon City Enterprise, March 9, 1916

charles terrill

Charles F. Terrill

Cellar is Worth Million Dollars
Charles F. Terrill Unearths Silica Mine Beneath His Home at City Limits
Value About $1,200,000
Deposit Discovered Accidentally as Iron Shovel is Polished by Contact with Pure Mineral

Charles F. Terrill, of Oregon City, is not going to be a candidate for constable this year. Mr. Terrill has got something better in view. If he hadn’t started to put a cellar under his house last fall, Mr. Terrill would probably have sought office as constable, so as to have provided a more or less sufficient income for his family. But he started to dig the cellar, and thereby hangs a tale.

Mr. Terrill’s house is just outside the corporate limits of Oregon City. When he started in to dig his cellar he struck a peculiar whitish soft stone that made the metal part of his shovel shine like silver as he pushed the big scoop into the yielding earth.

“Huh,” exclaimed Terrill, “I’ve struck something that ought to make a good metal polish.”

And breaking off a few chunks of it, Mr. Terrill put the material in his pocket and visited a friend who was a chemist. He asked him what the stuff was. The chemist tested and analyzed it, and two days later he went to Terrill.

“Charlie,” he said, “you take some of that stuff down to a chemist in Portland, and see what he says about it. If he finds its the same stuff that I think it is maybe you’ve got something interesting.”

Mr. Terrill is not an excitable man. He took the stuff to a Portland chemist. When he got the report back he hunted up his local chemist friend and the two of them compared notes. They both found the same thing. After considering it a bit, Mr. Terrill went out and took options on the property of his neighbors on either side. The neighbors didn’t think Oregon City real estate was worth much more than a hundred dollars a lot, and they were glad to sell. That was last fall.

Monday of this week Mr. Terrill had in his pocket a contract and bonded deed by Canadian and Portland capitalists, leasing from him all rights to the property which he had acquired and promising to erect and put in operation within 60 days a refining plant that will cost approximately $2,500, and which will employ from 15 to 20 men right at the start. The plant will turn out refined silica, one of the most useful minerals that modern civilization uses.

When Charles F. Terrill started to dig his cellar under his house at the city limits of the county seat, he dug into 400,000 cubic yards of a 95 per cent deposit of quartz silica. This stuff runs about a ton and a half to the yard, and it is worth $20 a ton. According to his agreement, Mr. Terrill will realize $110,000 in royalties alone from the silica taken out of his property; and aside from this he will get a substantial cash payment for his lease rights. Just how much money is involved in the deal neither Mr. Terrill nor the promoters of the enterprise will at this time make public.

Attorney John Clark, of Oregon City, is handling Mr. Terrill’s interests in the matter, and Mr. Terrill will be represented in the company which will be incorporated to develop the silica property. The plans of the development call for immediate operations, the erection of the refining plant on the property, and the shipment of finished material to the river-front in Oregon City, where it will be loaded on heavy scows and shipped to markets in Portland and other coastal cities. The Pacific coast demand for silica alone will take care of the entire output of the property; but it is understood to be the plans of the development syndicate to market some of the material to Canada, where on account of the European war better prices will be paid for the silica.

Practically the entire commercial silica supply has heretofore come from Germany and England. The European war has cut off this supply, and hence has greatly increased the value of Mr. Terrill’s find. Aside from the silica discovered on Terrill’s place, the only known supply of anywhere near its purity in the Northwest is in Eastern Oregon; and the Eastern Oregon supply is controlled by the same interests that have leased the Terrill deposit. Owing to lack of transportation facilities, however, the Eastern Oregon mine will not be immediately developed. Its silica is also a lower grade.

Silica is used for many things. It enters largely into the manufacture of soaps and polishing compounds, it is important in the manufacture of high test firebrick for ovens where great heat is generated. It is used as one of the component parts of all composition flooring, and as a dressing for hard surface pavings, such as are laid in Main Street, Oregon City. It is also used as a filler in cement where great tensile strength is desired, and plays an important part in the manufacture of pottery and other examples of the ceramic industry. Manufactures of rubber goods find it indispensable in making all sorts of moulded rubber forms, and it is also used extensively in the manufacture of all grades of heavy paper. Silica is also one of the chief ingredients in all waterproofing materials, in waterproof paints, cements and paper. It is also used in all varieties of non-conductors, its organic composition making it uneffected by temperature or lapse of time. It is also the base of most wood-fillers, and aside from all these commercial uses is also very important in the compounding of pharmaceutical preparations.

Silica is not rare by any means. It forms 80 percent of the earth’s surface, but it is usually so mixed with other ingredients as to be impossible of extraction from the compounds in which it is found. It is usually mixed with prehistoric ooze, sand, lime, shale, schist, sand and other impurities; and owing to the thoroughness with which it is adulterated with these foreign substances, has no commercial value. Deposits of pure silica are exceedingly rare, and the discovery that the Terrill deposit was 95 percent pure made its marketing a matter of almost instant success.

The Terrill plant here will be one of the most economical in the world, as far as its operation goes. The deposit lies on the side of a hill, and practically on the surface of the ground. For the first several years it will be only necessary to shovel it into the refining plant, which will be located below the deposit. From there it will be hauled downhill to the river, and thence will be towed in scows downstream with the current to Portland. There it will be shipped to various markets. Engineers who have not yet found its bottom, though borings have already been made to a depth of 30 feet. There is in sight approximately 400,000 yards of the material, or 600,000 tons, rough measurement. At $20 a ton, the present market price, this means that in the Terrill deposit alone there is about $1,200,000 worth of silica. Backing for the Terrill project was secured largely upon the analysis and report on the body of silica made by the Oregon Independent Testing Company of Portland, the firm which has been for sometime the official testing agency of the Oregon City water commission.

Mr. Terrill has been a resident of Oregon City for the past half dozen years. In a moderate way he has made a success of life up to the present, but he never had any expectations of being a capitalist. Now he is trying to bear up under his good fortune with the best grace possible. He has not yet decided what kind of an automobile he is going to buy – but as hints of his good fortune have leaked out, he has been surprised at the great number of people who have assured him they have always been his friends.

Before coming to Oregon City Mr. Terrill was an engineer at the water works of Golden, Colorado. The city put in a gravity system, and Mr. Terrill bought a camp wagon, and with his family journeyed over the plains and mesas to Salt Lake City. There he sold his outfit and traveled by train to Hood River, where he worked as a plumber. Later he moved to Portland got a place with the Pintach Gas company, and shortly afterwards joined the forces of the Warren Construction Company as traveling oil expert and burner man.

It was while thus engaged that he came to Oregon City, and deeming that the city held possibilities, concluded to make the county seat his home. He borrowed some money to buy land where he now lives. People who sold him the land said they’d almost as leave give it away as pay taxes on it. Terrill took five acres of it, and by the end of two years had paid off his debts and owned his place free of encumbrance. Since coming to Oregon City he has worked with the Oregon Engineering & Construction Company, and for over a year had charge of road-rolling work for the county.

Incidentally in the history of the Terrill deposit there is an interesting little story that shows the great acumen and diligence of William E. Stone, one of the candidates for the republican nomination as district attorney. It appears that Mr. Stone is an enterprising young man, and that he thinks he knows a good thing when he sees it.

Shortly after Mr. Terrill drove his shovel into the funny stuff that was under his house, and which he was going to excavate for a cellar, Mr. Stone saw some samples of the strange, whitish soil. Without saying a word to Mr. Terrill about it, Mr. Stone, acting for himself and his law partner, Mr. Moulton, slipped out to the city limits and took options on 34 acres of ground that appeared to have this same sort of stuff under it. Mr. Stone didn’t know what it was, but he judged that it might be more valuable than the owners of the land thereabouts suspected. Being a young and rising man, Mr. Stone took a “sporting chance” – and there were subsequently recorded in the courthouse options for $5,000 worth of property in the names of Stone and Moulton.

Then Mr. Stone collected as fine a set of samples as he could, and sent them to a chemist for analysis. The chemist reported that the stuff had various things in it – organic matter, stumps, dead wood, grit, sand, lime and diatomaceous earth with some silica. Mr. Stone investigated the uses of these things, and then decided to proceed with more caution. He watched Mr. Terrill, but Mr. Terrill wasn’t leaving any clues.

And now that the story is out, Mr. Stone is somewhat surprised. He doesn’t see why pure silica – at least 95 percent silica, doesn’t underlie all the territory around Oregon City. However, the Stone and Moulton options are not a dead loss – the stuff can be sold as land plaster for from five to seven dollars a ton. However, there is a woeful difference between silica at $20 a ton, and with an unprecedented demand; and land plaster at $5 to $7 a ton with more offered for sale than the market can consume. And 34 acres of land plaster is quite a bunch.

Rock Products, February 1921

Silica Products Co., Inc., Portland, Ore. has been organized with a capital of $100,000, under the laws of the State of Oregon, and has taken under lease and bond the immense deposits of silica sand and clay formerly owned and operated by Silica King Mines Co., of Oregon City, Ore. Upon this property are large deposits of silica sands, which, as found in the natural state, range in fineness from 80 per cent passing the 200 mesh screen to all passing the 40 mesh, 20 to 30 per cent passing the 200. The clays are of the same chemical composition as the sands, and each range in color from almost pure white to the lighter shades of brown and blue. A hundred ton capacity grinding and drying plant is being installed for handling the materials required to be so treated, and washing and sizing plants are being placed for treating the various sand products. The chief market for these materials, so far as tonnage is concerned, is a 200 mesh filler required for asphaltic streets and state roads. The property has been operated in a small way for the past four years, but the increased demand for the several products has prompted the installation of a plant of a large capacity.

A 1931 article in the Oregonian reported that the mine was still operating and that it had been determined to be one of four known deposits of this quality in the world. The deposit covered eight and one-half acres extending to a depth of 165 feet, divided into three layers: “green silica” at the lowest 20 feet, “white silica” above that for four feet and approximately 140 feet of “blue silica” above that.

Where was the Silica Mine? From the “Terrill Silica Deposit” was between the east of the end of Alden Street and Morton Road. In 1941 the State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries prepared a report on the deposit. They indicated it was no longer being worked and stated that the deposit was definitely not silica but was pumicite, similar to “Old Dutch Cleanser”.

If anyone knows anything more about the mine please e-mail me at

See the State Geology Report here: Terrill Silica Deposit

terill silica deposits



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