Spanish Diggings, Arastras, Shrines and Crosses

from Diane Marie Molter

Northeast of Warren was the location of an old Arastra. When we first stopped to look at it the thinking was that it only dated from the 1880's as a convenient way to consolidate local pay dirt and ore. The remaining timbers and stones were certainly from that era. But the base stone was granite and very worn down around the crushing floor. There were several discarded "drag" stones and the lithic ( order of the piled discards) stack showed the chronology of the usage. Top and most recent were local granite stones, middle stones were lighter and water rounded boulders of mixed rock types and the lowest levels were Granite all of the same size and shape. The trough around the arastra showed three different paths , The original being a wide flat area, then a central and closer narrow ditch and then a superimposed double path. The Archeologist I was with stated the first path was the oldest and indicated that multiple light weight sources dragged or pushed the drag bar. The single path indicated a horse or ox and then the double path a team of mules, donkeys or horses being used.

From Warren the road down to the Salmon River passed two sites along the streams feeding into the river where Arastra stone bases could be seen. The later miners did not use these as the Rattlesnakes made it too hazardous. These flats were also prone to flooding. Ditching could still be seen leading to the Arastras and may have helped in the placer process. I also saw an arastra on Marshall mountain, but from the crushing floor depth it was as recent as the early 1870s.

Some of the people I spoke with told me stories of finding crosses carved into the rocks near or at Ore sites. These were of three kinds, a straight cross with a longer up and down bar, a Maltese or iron cross of equal lengths and a cross with a T shape or "Broken bar" sitting at an angle. The crosses were attributed to the early Catholic Missionaries and converts from the French Canadas, with Spanish gold miners and the Evangelical Christians trekking to Oregon and Washington valleys.