The Armstrong Nugget was found in Eastern Oregon, and is the largest known existing gold nuggets known to be found in the state.
It was found in Elk Creek, near the historic mining town of Susanville. Located in Grant County, the mining town has long been abandoned, and only a few old building remain at the original town site. Very little is there to indicate that one of Oregon’s largest gold nuggets was found there.
In its heyday, Susanville had a ten stamp mill and a store. It was estimated that over 1000 miners could be found working the nearby creeks and rivers.
Located on Elk Creek a few miles upstream from the Middle Fork of the John Day River, many large gold nuggets were known to be recovered from the area. Mining was taking place in full force during the late 1800’s, but the discovery of the Armstrong Nugget did not occur until 1913, when it was unearthed by George Armstrong and Dick Stewart. While working their claim in Buck Gulch, they found the massive nugget.
It weighed in at 80.4 troy ounces, and fortunately it still exists today. Very few large nuggets from the early days avoided the smelter.
Many people believe that it was the largest gold nugget ever found in Oregon, but there were a few other discoveries in the gold rich area of Southwest Oregon that were even larger than the Armstrong Nugget (in Althouse Creek and the Illinois River were several chunks that reportedly weighed over 10 pounds!).
Unfortunately, as was common practice in the old days, they were tossed in the smelter and sold for their gold value. Today we cringe at the idea of melting a historically significant find like that, but during the early gold rush days, the value of a gold nugget was based simply on its gold content, not for its collectable value.
Nonetheless, we are very fortunate to have the famous Armstrong Nugget intact and available for public viewing. It is currently on display at the U.S. Bank in historic Baker City, Oregon. It can be viewed alongside many other breathtaking gold nuggets and specimens found in the Oregon during the early mining days.
It is a fine display that you should definitely check out if you’re in the area.