"Golden Cornucopia" is a poignant documentary that takes us on a decades-long journey to explore the history and legacy of a once-thriving mining community in Cornucopia, Oregon.
Once a hub of industry and prosperity, the town of Cornucopia is now slowly fading into history, with its mines and memories the only remaining testament to the ingenuity, resilience, and self-reliance of the people who once called this place home.
Through exclusive never before seen footage and photographs, the film offers an insider's view of the mine and the people who lived, worked, and died here. Despite the dangers of mining, including avalanches, industrial mishaps, and premature dynamite explosions, the community persevered, drawn together by a shared sense of purpose and the promise of gold.
Today, visitors from all walks of life are drawn to Cornucopia, sensing a palpable energy that lingers long after the blasting and din of mining activity ceased. Through the stories, we witness industry on a grand scale, laughter, and song during Saturday dances, children playing, and 4th of July celebrations, complete with dynamite explosions to celebrate the holiday!
A billion dollars in gold ore may be safely locked away in the mountains. Still, the actual value of this place lies in the memories, stories, and community that endures to this day. "Golden Cornucopia" is a testament to the power of the human spirit and a celebration of this remarkable place's rich history and legacy.
Established in the late 1800s. Gold was discovered in the area in 1884, rapidly expanding and becoming the most significant gold mining operation in Oregon by the turn of the century.
The mines of Cornucopia would combine ownership in the '20s and 30s, to become the nation's 6th largest gold producer, with over $26 million worth of gold extracted in its 40 years in operation.
Gold was extracted through underground and surface placer mining methods, ore was processed using stamp mills, and cyanide vat leaching.
By the mid-'30s, production was booming, yet the mine faced labor, health, and financial issues— Oregon's most significant gold mining operation ended.
With World War II on the horizon and demand for gold dropping, the War Production Board, finally closed the mine, leading to the town's demise.
Today, Cornucopia is a ghost town with summer cabins; and an outstanding year-round lodge with only a few remaining traces of its mining past.
The region has become a popular destination for history buffs, hikers, campers, and outdoor enthusiasts alike; the nearby town of Halfway serves as a gateway to the Hells Canyon recreation area.
Historically, the town was founded as a gold mining camp in the late 1800s and was home to a diverse group of people, found livelihoods as miners, loggers, ranchers, and farmers.
Today, the town has a population of only a few dozen people, many of whom are descendants of the original settlers. Then as now, living in Cornucopia or the surrounding area requires a certain level of self-sufficiency and resilience. The town is located in a remote area with harsh winters and limited access to amenities.
Many families have lived in the area for generations and are deeply connected to the land and the town's heritage. The people of Halfway and Cornucopia, Oregon, embody the spirit of the American West – resilient, self-reliant, and deeply connected to their community and heritage.
A broadcast producer based out of McMinnville, Oregon. Producing and editing - “Fishing The West', “Fusion TV”, “Core Culture”, “Board Wild,” and other pioneering extreme sports and outdoor programming in the 80s-2000s.
2018 - executive produced the nuclear-themed biographical documentary - “The Half-Life of Genius” (Gravitas Ventures). Securing interviews with Pulitzer author Richard Rhodes - “The Making of the Atomic Bomb, and Los Alamos National Lab historian Roger Meade, as well as crucial family and additional expert sources. In 2022, producing “Golden Cornucopia”, the history and stories surrounding the one-time sixth-largest gold mine in America.
Tom, producer and historian, brings a wealth of expertise and a unique perspective to our documentary on Copia. His recent books on the town provide valuable insights into its history, people, and mining operations. He is a sought-after speaker and offers "History Talks" on the area.. We are lucky to have Tom on our documentary project, utilizing his skills and talents.
Jared, our co-producer and director, brings a fresh perspective to the project with a keen sense of visual pacing and timing. He wears many hats both on-location and in post-production, and his fluid camera work is invaluable to the project. Despite being busy with his feature project, we are fortunate to have Jared's visual skills and expertise on Copia. Jared also co-produced the "Half-Life of Genius," released in 2018 globally.
Jack, the creator and producer of "Ham - Homestead" on YouTube, covering Eastern Oregon's mining history, homesteading, and amateur "ham" radio topics. He's our senior camera operator and Part 107 certified aerial drone pilot, delivering fantastic cinematography. As a co-producer, he tackles daily changes and production challenges, wearing many hats as a producer, transportation captain, and local fixer/grip. His support since day one has been invaluable to our documentary project.
Jerry Ann functions as associate producer, local fixer, grip, talent coordinator, and behind-the-scenes. She and husband Trevor has hiked extensively all over Copia and provided us with valuable insights into the place and offer genuine respect for preserving memories, stories, and the town's history. Her assistance and insights are invaluable to the project.
Trevor also acts in many capacities - associate producer, local fixer, grips, and behind-the-scenes. His involvement and expertise in the area, hiking, and the history of Copia have been invaluable. As a professional musician and production artist, Trevor is composing a fantastic song dedicated to the memory of Copia, which we use in the film. You don't want to miss it!
“In The Cornucopia, Tom Cook leads us on an expedition 100 years back in time to a remote mountainside in Northeast Oregon. Once there, Cook lets us experience the enchanting, dangerous and sometimes heartwarming history of Oregon’s largest gold mining operation. Not fanciful fiction, this is an affectionately told story of real people scratching a living out of the cold hard rock of Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains. The Cornucopia adds a new volume to the great historical literature about America’s Old West.”
Dave Imus, author of The Essential Geography of the United States of America
- Interviewees -
- Narration -
- Recreation Cast -
- Dancers -
Theresa Cheslock Clemmer
- Producers -
- In association with -
The Pine Valley Community Museum
- Director -
- Associate Producers -
Jerry Ann Dunn
- Written by -
- Camera -
Jerry Ann Dunn
- Aerial Footage -
- Very Special Thanks -
Jerry Ann Dunn
Dave & Kathryn Moore
Yamhill County Heritage Center
Pine Valley Comm Museum
Baker Heritage Museum
Eastern Oregon Regional Theatre
McMinnville (OR) Grange
- Music -
DeWolfe Music Library
Written and performed by
©2023 Dunn Music, All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
"Copia" producer / engineer
Studio 1933 / Boise Idaho
- DICE Insurance -
- Equipment / Software -
Panasonic & Sony Cameras
Small Rig support & lighting
Manfrotto camera support
Matthews studio equipment
Adobe Premiere, Audition & Photoshop
Neat Noise Reduction
- Accomodations -
Cornucopia Packstation & Lodge
- Craft Service -
Prairie Child Catering
Barley Brown's Beer