ful, they are now, as they have been since the discovery of the mines, always
prepared for migration to any new field of excitement.
10. GOLD LAKE AND GOLD BLUFF.
In the spring of 1850 a story was circulated that gold was lying in heaps on
the bank of Gold lake, a small body of water eastward of where Downieville
now is. Thousands of men left good claims to join this rush, but after weeks
or months they returned much poorer than they started. The next year wit-
nessed a rush to Gold Bluff, on the ocean shore about latitude 41.
The sea beating against a high auriferous hill had left a wide beach contain-
ing much gold, which was mixed with sand that was very rich in spots, but was
shifted about under the influence of a heavy surf. A gentleman of much intel-
ligence, secretary of a mining company which claimed a portion of the beach,
examined the place and seriously wrote to his associates that each one would
receive at least $43,000,000 if the sand proved to be only one-tenth as rich as
that which he had examined.
Several other similar statements were made in corrob oration. The mining
population were wonderfully excited by these reports, and preparations were
made for a large migration to the golden beach ; but more precise information
was soon published, and most of the adventurers who had started were disen-
chanted before the vessels in which they were to sail could get to sea.
H. THE "TOM."
The construction of hundreds of ditches within three or four years after the
successful experiment at Coyote Hill gave a great impulse to placer mining,
and had much influence to change its character. Before the water had been
carried in artificial channels to the tops or high upon the sides of the hills, nearly
all the miners spent their summers in washing the dirt in the bars of the rivers
and their winters in working the beds of gullies, which were converted into
brooks during the rainy season. In the gullies the supply of pay-dirt was
usually small, and the claims were exhausted in the course of a few weeks.
On the bars the water was below the level of the pay-dirt, and had to be
dipped or pumped up by hand.
These circumstances were favorable to the use of the rocker ; but the ditch
brought the water to places where the dirt was far more abundant and could be
obtained with more facility, though it was poorer in quality, and, therefore, the
washing of a larger quantity would be necessary to yield an equal profit.
New modes of working and new implements must be introduced to accom-
plish the greater amount of work, and the torn and the sluice came rapidly into
use. The torn had been employed for years in the placers of Georgia, and some
Georgians had their sluices in Nevada county in the latter part of 1849, and in
February of the following year a party at Gold Run, in that county, finding
that the bed of the ravine did not give them enough fall, made a long board
trough on the hill-side leading down to their torn, and the pay-dirt from the claim
was thrown up to a board platform, and from that thrown up to the head of the
trough, and the water carried the dirt down to the torn.
I am indebted for information on this point to B. P. Avery, esq.
The purpose of this trough was mainly to save the labor of carrying the dirt
by hand from the claim to the torn ; but the trough having been once built, its
WEST OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS 19
value in washing gold was soon apparent. It was, however, the ditch that
gave opportunities for the general introduction of the torn and sluice, and in
most districts they were unheard of until late in 1850 or 1851.
The torn is a trough about twelve feet long, eight inches deep, fifteen inches
wide at the head and thirty at the foot.
A riddle of sheet iron punched with holes half an inch in diameter forms the
bottom of the tonvat the lower end, so placed that all the water and their mud
shall fall down through the holes of the riddle and none pass over the sides or
end. The water falls from the riddle into a flat box with transverse elects or
riffles, 'and these are to catch the gold.
A stream of water runs constantly through the torn, into the head of which
the pay-dirt is thrown by several men, while one throws out the stones too large
to pass through the riddle, and, throws back to the head of the torn the lumps
of clay whicl* reach the foot without being dissolved.
12. THE SLUICE.
The torn was a great improvement on the rocker, but it was soon superseded
by a still greater, the sluice, which is a board trough, from a hundred to a
thousand feet long, with transverse elects at the lower end to catch the gold.
With a descent of one foot in twenty the water rushes through it like a
torrent, bearing down large stones and tearing the lumps of clay to pieces.
The miners, of whom a dozen or a score may work at one sluice, have little
to do save to throw in the dirt and take out the gold.
Occasionally it may be necessary to throw out some stones, or to shovel the
dirt along to prevent the sluice from choking, but these attentions cost relatively
very little time. The sluice is the best device heretofore used for washing
gold, and is supposed to be unsurpassable. It has been used here more exten-
sively than elsewhere, although it has been introduced by men who have been
in pur own mines, into Australia, New Zealand, British Columbia, Transylvania,
and many other countries.
The sluice, though an original invention here, had been previously invented
in Brazil ; but it was never brought to much excellence there nor used exten-
sively, and no such implement was known in 1849 in the industry of gold
At first the sluices were made short, and afterwards lengthened, until some
were a mile long, the length being greater as the gold was finer; that is, if the
surface of the earth in the direction of the sluice was favorable. There were
many little variations in the form of the sluice, to suit different circumstances.
The ground sluice is a mere ditch on a hill side or slope, and the miners dig
up the bottom and dig down the banks, while the water carries away the clay
and leaves the gold ; out the dirt at the bottom of the ground sluice must after-
wards be washed in a board sluice.
The ground sluice has been used to grade roads and to carry away snow
from the streets of mining towns, as well as to wash gold.
In claims where many large stones were found in the pay-dirt, and had to be
carried by the water through the board sluice, or where the sluice was to be
used for a long period, they were paved with stones, because any wooden bottom
was rapidly worn out. Sometimes the bed of a stream into which many sluices
emptied was converted into a "tail sluice," which yielded a large revenue, with
no labor save that of occasionally "cleaning up" or washing out the metal from
the sand deposited in the crevices between the stones.
13. PLACER LEADS TRACED TO QUARTZ
The placer gold had originally been confined in rocky veins which were
disintegrated by the action of chemical or mechanical forces,, and the lighter
20 RESOURCES OF STATES AND TERRITORIES
material was swept away by the water, while the heavier remained near its
The gold found in the bars of large streams far from the mountain*, after
having been carried a long distance, is in small smooth particles, as though it
had been ground fine and polished by long attrition.
In small gullies in the mountains the gold is usually coarse and rough, as if
it had suffered little change after being freed from the quartz by which it was
In hundreds of instances the abundance of gold in a gully has been traced
unmistakably to an auriferous quartz lode in the hill-side above it, and the
placer miners, following streaks of loose gold, have been brought to the rocky
source from which it came.
In this manner the Allisen mine and the Comstock lode, not to mention other
less celebrated mines or veins, were found. Such discoveries were made in
1850, and in the following year capitalists in New York and London, anxious
to get their share of the marvellous wealth of the Sierra Nevada, formed com-
panies to work the quartz mines at Grass valley and at Mariposa.
Millions of dollars were invested in machinery, and superintendents, witb the
wildest irieas, were sent to erect mills and to take charge of the precious metals..
All these ventures proved complete failures. In most instances the machinery
was utterly useless, and the superintendents utterly incompetent.
The castings for the mills lay about the wharves of San Francisco for many
years, objects of curiosity for experienced miners, and of ridicule for the general
In one mill the metal was to be caught in a course sieve, and in another the
quartz was to be crushed by a rolling ball. The mismanagement was so gross
and the losses so severe that foreign capitalists became very shy of California
quartz mines, and the development of that branch of industry was much
14. A GOLD-DREDGING MACHINE.
It was not, however, in quartz mining alone that ridiculous blunders were
made. Large sums of money were expended in the eastern States by men
who had never seen a placer mine, and had no correct idea of the nature of the
gold deposits, in making machinery *to take gold more expeditiously from the
river beds and bars than could be done by hand. One enterprising New York
company sent a dredging machine to dig the metal from the bottom of the
Yuba river, never questioning whether that stream was deep enough in the
summer to float such a machine, or whether the tough clay and gravel in its
bed could be dug up by a dredger, and entirely ignorant of the fact that the
gold is mostly in the crevices of the bed-rock, where the spoon and knife of the
skilful and attentive miner would be necessary for cleaning out the richest
15. DECREASE OF WAGES.
With the introduction of the sluice, the ditch, and the hydraulic process, it
became customary to hire laborers. The pan and the rocker required every
man to be his own master.
In 1849 each miner worked for himself, or the exceptions were so few that
thev were almost unknown.
The method of working made it impossible for the employer to guard against
the dishonesty of the servant, who could always make more in his own claim
.than any one could afford to give him. Men become servants usually because
they have no capital, and cannot get into profitable employment without it ;
but there was no lack of profitable employment for the miner in 1849, nor did
WEST OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS. 21
he need any capital, even if he had it. But the sluice brought deep diggings, with
large masses of pay-dirt, into demand, and the claims were held at high prices,
so that their possession was in itself a capital.
There had been an abundance of rocker claims in 1849 ; but there were not
enough good sluice claims three .years later to supply one-third of the miners.
The erection of a long sluice, the cutting of drains, often necessary to carry off
the tailings, arid the purchase of water from the ditch company,.required capital,
and the manner of cleaning up rendered it possible for the owner of a sluice to
prevent his servants from stealing any considerable portion of his gold before
it came to his possession. Thus it was that the custom of hiring miners for
wages became common in the placer diggings.
In 1852 the wages were $6 or $7 per day; the next year about $5, since
which time they have gradually fallen, until now they are from $2 to $3 50
per day; the skilful quartz miner commanding the latter sum.
16. GROWTH OF THE QUARTZ INTEREST.
The development of the quartz mining interest of the State has been slow
and steady, unlike the placer mining, which, rising suddenly to gigantic propor-
tions, soon reached its culminating point, and then began to decline rapidly.
The placers had been discovered by miners who were searching for them,
and who spent much time and labor in the search ; but in early years most
of the richest auriferous lodes were found by men who were not looking for
Hunters, travellers, placer miners and road makers occasionally came, without
thinking of it, upon valuable veins, which they immediately claimed, and pro-
ceeded to work or sell.
The first quartz miners in California were Mexicans, who knew how gold-
bearing rocks were reduced in their native country.
They pounded up the quartz in mortars, or, if not rich enough to pay for re-
duction in that way, they made an arrastra or little circular stone pavement in
the centre of which stood a post. To an arm extending out from this was
hitched a mule which dragged round a heavy piece of granite, between which
and the pavement, the quartz was pulverized, and, when fine, the gold was
caught with quicksilver and separated from the base matter by washing.
This process required neither capital nor skilled labor, nor delay, nor a num-
ber of laborers. The owner of the arrastra could dig out his own rock one
day, and reduce it the next.
As a matter of profit he usually selected only the richest pieces to work in
the arrastra, throwing aside those portions that would not yield at the rate of
$75 or more per ton.
With experience in the observation of quartz, and a mode of working in
which failure was almost impossible, these Mexicans frequently did very well;
17. FAILURE IN QUARTZ.
Their success excited the envy of the Americans, who would purchase e
claims at high prices, and tell the Mexicans to see the wonders that would e
done by American enterprise.
The common result was that a large and costly steam-mill was erected ; a
multitude of laborers were employed ; they did not know how to select the
rich from the poor quartz ; the mill was so large that it could not be kept going
at its full capacity without receiving all the poor as well as the rich rock acces-
sible in the vein ; the amalgamator did not understand his business ; the rich
rock in which the Mexicans had been at work was soon exhausted ; the credi-
tors.who had loaned money for the erection of the mill brought suit to foreclose
22 RESOURCES OF STATES AND TERRITORIES
their mortgage ; the work stopped ; the title of the property was insecure ; and
the people in the neighborhood said quartz mining was a very uncertain busi-
ness. And so it is under that system of management ; and that system, leading
to failure, was followed in more than a hundred cases. Mills were built in
places where only a little pocket of rich quartz had been found, and if the pay-
quartz was abundant it was not properly selected ; or, if selected, the amalga-
mation was intrusted to a man who knew nothing of the business, and the gold
Horace Greeley was near the truth when he said, " I am confident that fully
three out of every four quartz mining enterprises have proved failures, or have
at best achieved no positive success."*
And yet in nearly every case prudent and competent management would
have secured success, perhaps on only a small scale, because in many instances
the quantity of pay-rock was small. But the failure of three-fourths of the
quartz mills built in early years did not prevent the continuous increase of
mills, and of the yield of gold from quartz. When a miner found a vein yel-
low with gold, he could not turn his back on it because his neighbor's mill did
not pay. Gradually more caution was used ; competent miners and metallur-
gists became numerous, and the veins were carefully examined as to the quan-
tity of pay -rock before mills were built.
As the placers declined the miners were compelled to turn their attention to
uartz, and prospecting for quartz became a regular business.
18. IMPROVEMENT IN QUARTZ MINING.
In the mode of pulverizing and reducing quartz comparatively few changes
have been made. In some mills the same machinery and processes have been
used without alteration or addition for ten years. There is, however, a general
belief that the business has not been properly studied by any one, and it is
certain that there is much difference of opinion in regard to the various im-
portant questions involved in the reduction of ores. The practice is not uni-
form either in regard to the fineness of pulverization, or the size and speed of
the stamps, or the mode of amalgamation. Wood, as a material for the shafts
of stamps, has given way to iron ; the square form has been replaced by the
cylindrical ; and the stamps, instead of falling with a simple downward motion,
now come down with a twist. The mortar into which the stamps fall is now
always of iron, and the stamps stand in a straight line instead of forming a
circle, as they did in some mills years ago.
Two of the main improvements in gold quartz mining have been in the con-
centration and the chlorination of sulphurets.
19. THE HYDRAULIC PROCESS.
The sluice, though perfect as a device for washing the dirt, was not the last
invention in placer mining.
The shovel did not furnish earth to the sluice fast enough, and the wages of
a dozen workmen must be saved if possible. In 1852, Edward E. Mattison, a
native of Connecticut, invented the process of hydraulic mining, in which a
stream of water was directed under a heavy pressure against a bank or hill-side
containing placer gold, and the earth was torn down by the fluid and carried
into the sluice to be washed ; thus the expense of shovelling was entirely saved.
The man with the rocker might wash one cubic yard of earth in a day ; with
the torn he might average two yards ; with the sluice four yards ; and with the
hydraulic and sluice together fifty or even a hundred yards.
* An Overland Journey from New York to San Francisco, in the summer of 1 859, by
H oace Greeley, page 289.
WEST OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS. 23
The difference is immense. A stream of water rushing through a two-inch
pipe, under a pressure of two hundred feet perpendicular, has tremendous force,
and the everlasting hills- themselves crumble down before it as if they were but
piles of cloud blown away by a breath of wind or dissipated by a glance of
And yet even this terrific power has not sufficed*. When the hills have been
dried by?months of constant heat and drought, the clay becomes so hard that the
hydraulic stream, with all its momentum, does not readily dissolve it, and much
of the water runs off nearly clear through the sluice, and thus is wasted for the
purposes of washing.
The sluice could wash more dirt than the hydraulic stream will furnish when
the clay is hard and dry.
To prevent this loss, the miner will often cut a tunnel into the heart of his
claim, and by powder blast the clay loose, so that it will give way more readily
tofTthe water. There have been instances in which two tons of powder have
been used at one blast in a hydraulic claim.
20. HILL MINING.
As the introduction of the ditch led to the use of the sluice and hydraulic
power, so the introduction of the latter led to a change in the mining ground.
The miners were now able and they even preferred to attack high hills of
gravel, which afforded them an immense mass of auriferous earth, and furnished
profitable employment to large streams of water for months or even years.
Those counties which contained the most extensive districts Suitable for the
application of hydraulic power were the most prosperous, while the towns
dependent on river mining or on sliallow placers fell into decay, and were
partially and in some cases entirely deserted.
21. DECLINE OF RIVER MINING.
From 1850 till 1856 river mining occupied a very important place in the
industry of the State. The beds of all the streams in the auriferous regions
were rich in gold, which could only be obtained by taking the water from its
natural course by means of dams and ditches or flumes. The beds being deep,
and the banks steep, rocky, and crooked, these enterprises to drain the rivers
were very expensive, and they were also very dangerous pecuniarily, since only
a brief portion of the year was suitable for the work, and an early rain might
come and sweep away dam and flume before an ounce of gold had been obtained.
The comb of the Sierra Nevada along nearly its whole length rises almost to
the limits of perpetual snow, and the white caps do not disappear, or the rivers
reach a low stage until late in the summer, so that three months may be consi-
dered as the limit of the period in which a river could be flumed, and the bed
emptied of its gold.
Every perennial stream of much note in the auriferous districts has been
flumed at some time in its history, but within the last seven years such enter-
prises have become rarities. One of the most costly and most remarkable river
flumes in the State was erected in 1857 to drain the Feather river at Oroville.
It was three quarters of a mile long and twenty feet wide ; the expenditures of
the company during the season were $176,985? and their profits $75,000.
They flumed the river again in 1858, and then lost $45,000.
Since that year no extensive fluming enterprise has been undertaken in any
part of the State, and the little work done in the beds of rivers is mostly left
to Chinamen, who are content to work for much less pay than white men expect
for their labor.
In some of the diggings the auriferous clay is so hard and tough that the hy-
draulic stream and sluice are unable to dissolve it, and mills have been built to
24 RESOURCES OF STATES AND TERRITORIES
crush it fine, so that the water in the sluice can get an opportunity to dissolve
all the earthy particles, and set free the metal.
The " cement mills," as they are called, are mostly of late construction.
The discovery of gold in Australia was made in 1851, by a miner from Cali-
fornia, and it proved to be equal in magnitude to thai; in our own State ; and,
singular to say, it attracted little attention, and drew from us within two years
only about a thousand of our residents, while many thousands were ready to
rush to imaginary diggings in other directions.
22. "RUSHES" TO AUSTRALIA.
Placer mining was at the height of its prosperity in 1852 and 1853. Wages
were high, employment abundant for everybody that wished to hire out, and
there was plenty of ground that would pay at least moderately for working
with the rocker.
But the rich spots were few, and the miners who had shared the prosperity
of 1849 were longing for the discovery of some new gold field that would again
reward them with an ounce a day.
In the latter part of 1853, and the beginning of 1854, a series of newspaper
letters and articles were published, asserting that there were very rich placers
on the headwaters of the Amazon, in Peru.
These articles probably came from the same source, and must have been
jraiten with the deliberate purpose of throwing trade into the hands of a few
ship-owners and merchants.
Whatever the design of the writer or writers may have been, the result was
that two thousand miners went from California and Australia to Peru, where
they found no placers, nor could they learn of any such place as that men-
tioned in the articles.
23. THE KERN RIVER EXCITEMENT.
The next year was marked by a greater rush to Kern river, in the southern
part of the State. Some small placers had been found there, and they served
as the basis or the suggestion of a multitude of false letters, asserting that the ba-
sin of Kern river was as rich in gold as those of the American and Yuba rivers
had been in 1849. These statements were copied into the newspapers, which
had no means of verification, and the entire industry of the State was thrown
into confusion. Miners abandoned good claims, farm laborers and clerks left
their employers, the rate of wages and the cost of mining implements rose in
the market, and soon six or eight thousand men were on the road to Kern river,
and as many more were ready to start, when the newspapers began to show the
folly of such a rush to diggings that had as yet produced no considerable amount
The tide of migration was arrested, and soon it turned back, the disappointed
adventurers returning with 'the satisfaction of knowing that every river between
the Mariposa and the Feather, even after seven years' working, was richer than
Kern river had ever been.
24. ANCIENT RIVERS.
It was in October, 1855, that a very remarkable discovery was made near
Columbia, in Tuolumne county.
In various parts of the State, the miners in following up rich deposits of gold
had come upon what appeared to be the channel of ancient rivers, which had
been filled up and covered over with beds of clay and gravel in some places a