Section 13. Population of the mining regions ; agricultural resources ; table of
From the above synopsis it will be seen that an earnest attempt, at least, has
been made to meet the wishes of the department as expressed in the letter of
instructions hereto appended. Want of time for a more systematic arrangement
has been the only serious obstacle to move satisfactory results.
One of the most important subjects considered in the report is the discrep-
ances existing between the local rules and customs upon which a material part
of the late mineral land law is based and the statutes of the States and Terri-
tories. The policy of granting titles to the miners in fee-simple has met with such
universal approval, and the time has been so short since the law went into oper-
ation, that I have serious doubts as to the expediency of an immediate change.
Attention has been called to some of the difficulties arising from the loose inter-
pretations given to local rules and customs, and in many cases the entire im-
practicability of determining what they are or ascertaining where they are to
be found. Some provision requiring official records to be kept might, perhaps,
have a beneficial effect. Reasons doubtless exist for the differences in the size
of the claims in different districts. The rules which would apply to the Reese
River district, where the ledges are extremely narrow and close to each other,
would scarcely be applicable to districts in which the ledges are of great width
and far apart. Still, without descending to details in a general law, some regard
should be had to uniformity ; and especially some fixed principle should be
adopted as to the local laws which shall govern in all conflicting cases. The
policy of giving every advantage to the practical miner over the mere specu-
lator will at once be conceded. This, I think, can only be carried into effect
by national legislation. A general law, based somewhat upon the principles
incorporated in the mining law of Mexico, but more liberal in its provisions,
will probably be required before long. The holding of claims without working ;
the seizure of mining property for debt; the abandonment of claims; the de-
struction of timber ; the monopoly of salt-beds ; these are subjects worthy of
In the preparation of a preliminary report I have been compelled to depend
chiefly upon the labors of other and abler hands. To Mr. Hittell, author of a
very excellent work on the resources of California, Professor Whitney, Mr.
Ashburner, and Mr. Gabb, of the State geological survey, Professor Blake, au-
thor of various standard works on the geology and mineral resources of Cali-
fornia, Baron^Von Richthofen, the distinguished German savant, Mr. Degroot, an
experienced statistician and topographer, Mr. Bennett, a mining expert, tho-
roughly familiar with the mineral regions, to Dr. Blachley, of Nevada, and
others, I am indebted for nearly all that is really valuable in the report.
12 EESOURCES OF STATES AND TERRITORIES
It is my intention to visit the various mineral districts of the Pacific slope
during the coming spring and summer. Personal examination of the mines,
increased experience, and sufficient time for the careful preparation of the ma-
terial collected, will enable me, I trust, to present for your consideration, before
the next meeting of Congress, a report better worthy of your approval than that
just submitted. Reliable statistics and valuable information, showing the re-
sources and products of our new States and Territories, c'annot fail to result
beneficially to the country and the government. Nothing can tend in a greater
degree to encourage immigration and the investment of capital.
The question arises, how can the object be best accomplished in the future ?
A statistical bureau for the Pacific coast has been recommended.
It is manifest to my mind that the work cannot be properly done by bureau
organization. Information derived from interested parties by means of blanks
and circulars, sent out over the mining regions, would be very imperfect and
for the most part unreliable.
The plan that appears to me most feasible would be
~~lst. To authorize the appointment in each State and Territory of an able and
experienced geologist, familiar with all the operations of mining.
2d Annual reports to be made by each officer so appointed and assigned to
duty, under official instructions, to the supervising commissioner at San Francisco.
3d. The commissioner to make a visit every year to each mining district, for
the purpose of personal inspection of the mines, and conference with his assist-
ants ; after which he would be prepared to make his annual report to the Secre-
tary of the Treasury.
Proper measures, of course, would be taken to secure the official returns of
assessors, surveyors, tax collectors, and other local State or territorial officers.
The expense would be comparatively trifling, inasmuch as the services of pro-
fessional experts could be had without requiring their entire time. A small
compensation to each would be an object of some importance.
An appropriation of $25,000 would probably be sufficient to inaugurate such
a system, though a much larger amount could be advantageously expended.
In the hope that these suggestions, hastily made and informally stated, may
at least furnish some ground for action, I have the honor to be, very respectfully,
your obedient servant,
J. ROSS BROWNE,
Hon. H. McCuLLOCH,
Secretary of the Treasury.
WEST OF THE EOCKY MOUNTAINS. 13
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF GOLD AND SILVER MINING ON THE PACIFIC
1. First mention of gold. 2. Gold found before 1848. 3. Marshall's discovery. 4. The
gold discovery in print. 5. Excitement abroad. 6. Pan washing. 7. The rocker.
8. Mining ditches. 9. Miners' " rushes." 10. Gold Lake and Gold Bluff. 11. The
"torn." 12. The sluice. 13. Placer leads traced to quartz. 14. A gold-dredging
machine. 15. Decrease of wages. 1C. Growth of the quartz interest. 17. Failures
in quartz. 18. Improvement in quartz minmg. 19. The hydraulic process. 20. Hill
mining. 21. Decline of river mining. 22. " Rushes" to Australia. 23. The Kern
river excitement. 24. Ancient rivers. 25. The Tuolumne table mountain. 26. The
Fraser fever. 27. Discovery of Comstock lode. 28. The Washoe excitement. 29. The
barrel and yard process. 30. The pan process. 3 1 . Growth of the Washoe excitement.
32. Virginia City. 33. The silver panic. 34. Litigation about the Comstock ledge.
35. The many-lode theory. 36. Expenses increasing with depth. 37. Some charac-
teristics of Esmeralda, Humboldt, and Reese rivers. 38. Sutro tunnel project and 39.
Baron Richthofen's report. 40. Columbia basin and Cariboo mines.
1. FIRST MENTION OF GOLD.
The first mention of gold in California is made in Hakluyt's account of the
voyage of Sir Francis Drake, who spent five weeks in June and July, 1579, in
a bay near latitude 38 ; whether Drake's bay or San Francisco bay is a matter
of dispute. It certainly was one of the two, and of neither can we now say
with truth, as Hakluyt said seriously, ''There is no part of the earth here to be
taken up wherein there is not a reasonable quantity of gold or silver." This
statement, taken literally, is untrue, and it was probably made without any foun-
dation, merely for the purpose of embellishing the story and magnifying the
importance of Drake and of the country which he claimed to have added to the
possessions of the English crown.
If any " reasonable quantity" of gold or silver had been obtained by the Eng-
lish adventurers, we should probably have had some account of their expedi-
tions into the interior, of the manner and place in which the precious metals
were obtained, and of the specimens which were brought home, but of these
things there, is no mention.
Neither gold nor silver exists " in reasonable quantity" near the ocean about
latitude 38, and the inference is that Drake's discovery of gold in California
was a matter of fiction more than of fact.
2. GOLD FOUND BEFORE 1848.
Some small deposits of placer gold were found by Mexicans near the Colo-
rado river at various times from 1775 to 1828, and in the latter year a similar
discovery was made at San Isidro, in what is now San Diego county, and in
1802 a mineral vein, supposed to contain silver, at Olizal, in the district of Mon-
terey, attracted some attention, but no profitable mining was done at either of
Forbes, who wrote the history of California in 1835, said " No, minerals of
particular importance have yet been found in Upper California, nor any ores of
It was in 1838, sixty-nine years after the arrival of the Franciscan friars,
and the establishment of the first mission, that the placers of San Francisquito,
14 RESOURCES OF STATES AND TERRITORIES
forty-five miles northwest from Los Angeles, was discovered. The deposit of
gold was neither extensive nor rich, but it was worked steadily for twenty years.
In 1841 the exploring expedition of Commodore Wilkes visited the coast, and
its mineralogist, James D, Dana, made a trip overland from the Columbia river,
by way of Willamette and Sacramento valleys to San Francisco bay, and
in the following year he published a .book on mineralogy, and mentioned in it
that gold was found in the Sacramento valley, and that rocks similar to those
of the auriferous formations were observed in southern Oregon. Dana did not
regard his discovery as of any practical value, and if he said anything about it
in California no one paid any attention to it. Nevertheless, many persons had
an idea that the country was rich in minerals, and on the 4th of May, 1846,
Thomas O. Larkin, then United States consul in Monterey, a gentleman usually
careful to keep his statements within the limits of truth, said in an official letter
to James Buchanan, then Secretary of State : " There is no doubt but that gold,
silver, quicksilver, copper, lead, sulphur, and coal mines are to be found all over
California, and it is equally doubtful whether, under their present owners, they*
will ever be worked."
The implication here is that if the country were only transferred to the Amer-
ican flag, these mines, of whose existence he knew nothing save by surmise, or
by the assertion of incompetent persons, would soon be opened and worked. In
sixty-six days after that letter was written, the stars and stripes were hoisted
in Monterey, and now California is working mines of all the minerals mentioned
by Larkin save lead, which also might be produced if it would pay, since there
is no lack of its ores.
3. MARSHALL'S DISCOVERY.
The discovery of the rich gold fields of the Sacramento basin is an American
achievement, accomplished under the American dominion, by a native of the
United States, and made of world-wide importance by American enterprise and
industry, favored by the liberal policy of American law.
It was on the 19th day of January, 1848, ten days before the treaty of Gua-
dalupe Hidalgo was signed, and three months before the ratified copies were ex-
changed, that James W. Marshall, while engaged in digging a race for a saw-
mill at Coloma, about thirty-five miles eastward from Sutler's Fort, found some
pieces of yellow metal, which he and the half dozen men working with him at
the mill supposed to be gold. He felt confident that he had made a discovery
of great importance, but he knew nothing of either chemistry or gold mining, so
he could not prove the nature of the metal or tell how to obtain it in paying
quantities. Every morning he went down to the race to look for the bits of the
metal; but the other men at the mill thought Marshall was very wild in his
ideas, and they continued their labors in building the mill, and in sowing wheat,
and planting vegetables. The swift current of the mill-race washed away a
considerable body of earthy matter, leaving the coarse particles of gold behind,
so Marshall's collection of specimens continued to accumulate, and his associ-
ates began to think there might be something in his gold mine after all. About
the middle of February, a Mr. Bennett, one of the party employed at the mill,
went to San Francisco for the purpose of learning whether this metal was pre-
cious, and there he was introduced to Isaac Humphrey, who had washed for
gold in Georgia. The experienced miner saw at a glance that he had the true
stuff before him, and after a few inquiries he was satisfied that the diggings
must be rich. He made immediate preparation to go to the mill, and tried to
persuade some of his friends to go with him, but they thought it would be only
a Waste of time and money, so he went with Bennett for his sole companion.
He arrived at Coloma on the 7th of March, and found the work at the mill
going on as if no gold existed in the neighborhood. The next day he took a
WEST OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS. 15
pan and spade and washed some of the dirt from the bottom of the mill race in
places where Marshall had found his specimens, and in a few hours Humphrey
declared that these mines were far richer than any in Georgia.
He now made a rocker and went to work washing gold industriously, and
every day yielded him an ounce or two of metal. The men at the mill made
rockers for themselves, and all were soon busy in search of the yellow metal.
Everything else was abandoned ; the rumor of the discovery spread slowly.
In the middle of March, Pearson B. Reading, the owner of a large ranch at the
head of the Sacremento valley, happened to visit Sutter's Fort, and hearing of
the mining at Coloma, he went thither to see it. He said that if similarity of
formation could be taken as proof, there must be gold mines near his ranch, so
after observing the method of washing, he posted off, and in a few weeks he was
at work on the bars of Clear creek, nearly two hundred miles northwestward
from Coloma. A few days after Reading had left, John Bid well, now represent-
ative of the northern district of the State in the lower house of Congress, came
to Coloma, and the result of his visit was that in less than a month he had a
party of Indians from his ranch washing gold on the bars of Feather river,
seventy-five miles northwestward from Coloma. Thus the mines were opened
at far distant points.
4. THE DISCOVERY OF GOLD IN PRINT.
The first printed notice of the discovery was given in the California news-
paper published in San Francisco, on the 15th of March, as follows :
" In the newly made race-way of the saw-mill recently erected by Captain
Sutter on the American Fork, gold has been found in considerable quantities.
One person brought thirty dollars to New Helvetia, gathered there in a short
On the 29th of May the same paper, announcing that its publication would
be suspended, says :
" The whole country, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and from the sea-
shore to the base of the Sierra Nevada, resounds with the sordid cry of gold !
sold ! gold ! while the field is left half planted, the house half built, and every-
thing neglected but the manufacture of picks and shovels, and the means of
transportation to the spot where one man obtained one hundred and twenty-eight
dollars' worth of the real stuff in one day's washing ; and the average for all
concerned is twenty dollars per diem."
The towns and farms were deserted, or left to the care of women and children,
while rancheros, wood-choppers, mechanics, vaqueros, and soldiers and sailors
who had deserted or obtained leave of absence, devoted all their energies to
washing the auriferous gravel of. the Sacramento basin. Never satisfied, how-
ever much they might be making, they were continually looking for new placers
which might yield them twice or thrice as much as they had made before. Thus
the area of their labors gradually extended, and at the end of 1848 miners were
at work in every large stream on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, from
the Feather to the Tuolumne river, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles,
and also at Reading's diggings, in the northwestern corner of the Sacramento
5. EXCITEMENT ABROAD.
The first rumors of the gold discovery were received in the Atlantic States
and in foreign countries with incredulity and ridicule ; but soon the receipts of the
precious metal in large quantities, and the enthusiastic letters of army officers
and of men in good repute, changed the current of feeling, and an excitement
almost unparalleled ensued. Oregon, the Hawaiian islands, and Sonora sent
their thousands to share in the auriferous harvest of the first year ; and in the
16 RESOURCES OF STATES AND TERRITORIES
following spring all the adventurous young Americans east of the Rocky mount-
ains wanted to go to the new Eldorado, where, as they imagined, everybody
was rich, and gold could he dug by the shovelful from the bed of every stream.
Before 1850 the population of California had risen from 15,000, as it was in
1847, to 100,000, and the average increase annually for five or six years was
As the number of mines increased, so did the gold production and the extent
and variety of the gold fields.
In 1849 the placers of Trinity and Mariposa were opened, and in the follow-
ing years those of Klamath and Scott's valleys. During the last sixteen years
no rich and extensive gold fields have been discovered, though many little
placers have been found, and some very valuable deposits, previously unknown,
have been brought to light in districts which had been worked previous to 1851.
6. PAN WASHING.
In the first two years the miners depended mainly for their profits on the pan
and the rocker. The placer miner's pan is made of sheet iron, or tinned iron,
with a flat bottom about a foot in diameter, and sides six inches high, inclining
outwards at an angle of thirty or forty degrees.
We frequently see and hear the phrase " golden sands," as if the gold were
contained in loose sand ; but usually it is found in a tough clay, which envelops
gravel and large boulders as well as sand. This clay must be thoroughly dis-
solved ; so the miner fills his pan with it, goes to the bank of the river, squats
down there, puts his pan underwater and shakes it horizontally, so as to get the
mass thoroughly soaked ; then he picks out the larger stones with one hand
and mashes up the lAgest and toughest lumps of clay, and again shakes his
pan ; and when all the dirt appears to be dissolved so that the gold can be car-
ried to the bottom by its weight, he tilts up the pan a little to -let the thin mud
and light sand run out ; and thus he works until he has washed out all except
the metal which remains at the bottom.
7. THE ROCKER.
The rocker, which was introduced into the California mines at their discovery,
is made somewhat like a child's cradle. On the upper end is a riddle, made
with a bottom of sheet-iron punched with holes. This riddle is filled with pay-
dirt, and a man rocks the machine* with one hand while with a dipper he pours
water into the riddle with the other. With the help of the agitation, the liquid
dissolves the clay and carries it down with the gold into the floor of the rocker,
where the metal is caught by traverse riffles or cleets, while the mud, water, and
sand run off at the lower end of the rocker, which is left open. The riddle can
be taken off so that the larger stones can be conveniently thrown off.
In places where there was not water enough for washing, and where the gold
was coarse, the miners sometimes scratched the metal from the crevbes in the
rocks with their knives ; but the pan and rocker were their main reliance for
three or four years.
In many places the rich spots were soon exhausted, and there was a rapid
decrease in the profits of the miners. It was necessary that they should devise
new and more expeditious methods of working, so that they could wash more
in a day, and thus derive as much profit as they had obtained by washing a
8. MINING DITCHES.
The chief want of the placer miner is an abundant and convenient supply of
water, and the first noteworthy attempt to convey the needful element in an
artificial channel was made at Coyote Hill, in Nevada county, in March, 1850.
WEST OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS. 17
This ditch was about two miles long, and, proving a decided success, was imi-
tated in many other places, until, in the course of eight years, six thousand
miles of mining canals had been made, supplying all the principal placer dis-
tricts with water, and furnishing the means for obtaining the greater portion of the
gold yield of the State. Many of the ditches were marvels of engineering skill.
The problem was to get the largest amount of water at the greatest altitude
above the auriferous ground, and at the least immediate expense, as money was
worth from three to ten per cent, per month interest. As the pay-dirt might be
exhausted within a couple of years, and as the anticipated .profits would in a
short time be sufficient to pay for an entirely new ditch, durability was a point
of minor importance. There was no imperial treasury to supply the funds for
a durable aqueduct in every township, nor could the impatient miners wait a
decennium tor the completion of gigantic structures in stone and mortar. The
high value of their time and the scarcity of their money made it necessary
that the cheapest and most expeditious expedients for obtaining water should
be adopted. Where the surface of the ground furnished the proper grade, a
ditch was dug in the earth ; and where it did not, flumes were built of wood
and sustained in the air by frame- work that rose sometimes to a height of three
hundred feet in crossing deep ravines, and extending for miles at an elevation
of a hundred or two hundred feet.
All the devices known to mechanics for conveying water from hill-top to
hill-top were adopted. Aqueducts of wood and pipes of iron were suspended
upon cables of wire, or sustained on bridging of wood ; and inverted siphons
carried water up the sides of one hill by the heavier pressure from the higher
side of another.
The ditches were usually the property of companies, of which there were at
one time four hundred in the State, owning a total length of six thousand miles
of canals and flumes.
The largest of these, called the Eureka, in Nevada county, has two hundred
and five miles of ditches, constructed at a cost of $900,000 ; and their receipts
at one time from the sale of water were $6,000 per day. Unfortunately these
mining canals, though more numerous, more extensive, and bolder in design
than the aqueducts of Rome, were less durable, and some of them have been
abandoned and allowed to go to ruin, so that scarcely a trace of their existence
remains, save in the heaps of gravel from which the clay and loam were washed
in the search for gold.
As the placers in many districts were gradually exhausted, the demand for
water and the profits of the ditch companies decreased ; and the more expensive
flumes, when blown down by severe storms, carried away by floods, or destroyed
by the decay of the wood, were not repaired.
9. MINERS' "RUSHES."
The year 1850 was marked by the first of a multitude of "rushes" or sud-
den migrations in search of imaginary rich diggings.
The miners, although generally men of rare intelligence as compared with
the laborers in other countries, had vague ideas of the geological distribution of
gold, and the marvellous amounts dug out by them, sometimes ascending to thou-
sands of dollars per day to the laborer, excited their fancy so much that they
could scarcely have formed a sound judgment if they had possessed the inform-
ation necessary for its basis. Many believed that there must be some volcanic
source from which the gold had been thrown up and scattered over the hills,
and they thought that if they could only find that place, they would have
nothing to do but to shovel up the precious metal and load their mules with it.
More than once, long trains of pack animals were sent out in the confident ex-
pectation that they would get loads of gold within a few days.
H. Ex. Doc. 29 2
18 RESOURCES OF STATES AND TERRITORIES
No story was too extravagant to command credence. Men who ha5 neve
earned more than a dollar a day before they came to California were dissatisfied
when they were here clearing twenty dollars, and they were always ready to start
off on some expedition in search of distant diggings reputed to be rich. Although
the miners of to-day have better ideas of the auriferous deposits than they had
sixteen years ago, and no longer expect to dig up the pure gold by the shovel-