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Blewett

Prospectors returning from British Columbia’s Cariboo and Fraser districts in 1860 wandered into the foothills of the Cascade Mountains and began placer mining on the creeks. The town was named Edward Blewitt of Seattle, who operated a gold mining company that owned many of the claims in the area. At one time, more than 300 miners worked in the area.

Prior to 1879, Blewett was reached only by trail; in that year a wagon road was built from Cle Elum over the Wenatchee divide. Instead of wagons, saddle horses, and pack mules, today shiny new cars and rattling older models are parked under the pines. Numerous perforations visible in the mountain sides around Blewett are test holes sunk by early prospectors to tap quartz veins. Despite the large-scale development of gold mining, few prospectors were still searching for the scarce yellow metal by 1941. Today, the town no longer exists; US 97 now runs through the site, which is noted by a historical marker.

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The Blewett Arrastra

The Blewett Arrastra, constructed in the 1860’s and remaining in excellent condition today, dates from the earliest days of mining in the Pacific Northwest. The arrastra (or arastra) had been developed much earlier in Spanish America and was later adopted by Californians in the 1850s, a simple, inexpensive device for crushing quartz, as well as to work placers. These devices quickly spread as new goldfields were discovered throughout the West. A number of arrastras were constructed in the eastern Cascades, and some remain today including, of course, the Blewett Arrastra. These surprisingly efficient devices were often used to work ore that first had been crushed in a nearby stamp mill. The gold was then reclaimed by amalgamation with mercury, either by placing the quicksilver in the mortar or in sluices, riffle boards, and other similar devices.