thousand feet deep.
The high banks, the bars, the bends, the rapids, the deep places, the tribu-
WEST OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS. 25
tary gullies and brooks, the water-worn gravel, the remains of fresh-water mol-
lusks, the flat stones pointing down stream, the heaps of giavel formed by ed-
dies, the drift-wood, and the deposit of coarse gold in the centre and deep places
of the channel unmistakable evidences of a stream that had existed for cen-
turies were all distinctly recognizable.
In these ancient rivers the gold was distributed in the same manner as in
those of the present geological era, but in greater abundance and ^usually in
larger particles, as though it had not been subjected to so much wear.
The primeval streams were intersected in places by water courses of our own
day, and these latter were usually richer just below the points of intersection
than at any other places.
The largest and most noted of the ancient river beds yet discovered in Cali-
fornia, called the Blue lead, runs nearly through the middle of Sierra and Ne-
vada counties, has a width varying from a hundred to three hundred yards, and
has been traced nearly forty miles.
Its course is at right angles to that of the present streams in the same neigh-
borhood. The amount of gold taken from its bed has never been ascertained,
but it cannot be less than $25,000,000, and perhaps twice as much.
35. THE TUOLUMNE TABLE MOUNTAIN.
The traveller in the mining districts frequently sees " table mountains ;" that
is, high rocky elevations, with flat surfaces and steep sides. They are evidently
remains of lava floods, from which the earth, by which they were once sur-
rounded, has been washed away, leaving 1 the basalt towering above the adja-
The most remarkable of these table mountains is in Tuolumne county, through
which runs the Stanislaus river, and with the same general course.
Its length, with its bends, is about thirty-five miles, its height from three hun-
dred to one thousand feet above the clay and gravel near it, and its width from
a quarter to half a mile. The smoothness of its surface, the gradual inclina-
tion to the westward, the basaltic nature of the rock, its proximity to a centre
of great volcanic activity, and various other circumstances which cannot be
stated here in detail, leave no room for doubt that this table mountain is a solid-
ified bed of lava.
Some miners, sinking a shaft at a place where the lava had been carried
away, leaving the sandstone or gravel under it bare, found gold, and some
other miners, working along the side of the mountain, found a rich streak of
pay-dirt, which ran down in a deep rocky channel obliquely under the moun-
tain. They attempted to follow it, but they soon met a body of water, which
they could neither avoid nor pump out. This put them on nettles. Further
examination showed that there were other little channels running under the
mountain and on both sides, and all going deeper as they went further in, and
nearly all tending westward, with a course oblique to that of the mountain, and
all containing more or less gold.
There must, then, be an ancient river bed under the mountain. This opinion,
advanced by a few men without education, who wished to induce wealthy men to
undertake the exploration of the mountain by tunnels, was met by incredulity
and ridicule. Nevertheless, the projectors of the scheme had got the idea fixed
in their minds, and they were determined to see what the mountain was made
of. The storekeepers, in accordance with the general custom of assisting in
developing the resources of their own neighborhood, willingly trusted them for
provisions, tools, and clothes, while they were cutting a tunnel to reach the bed
of the supposed ancient river.
They commenced their work at some distance from the basalt, and after cut-
ting through clay and gravel reached a slate rock, which seemed to have been the an-
26 RESOURCES OF STATES AND TERRITORIES
cient bank, and then they came to a bed of gravel of such character that the
theory of the primeval river was fully established. But the tunnel was not
It was far above the bed rock, and the water stood, as before, between the
miner and the gold. Months of labor had been lost, and it was uncertain whe-
ther the next tunnel would strike the right level, nor could it be known whether
the bed WQuld be rich enough to pay. Nevertheless, hope and confidence, the
chief divinities of the miner, and he is happy in their smiles even when priva-
tion is his companion and when experience tells him that no gold fortune is in
store, continued to sustain him.
The Table mountain prospectors, however, had reason and experience, as well
as hope and confidence, to cheer them, and the second tunnel was undertaken
with the encouragement of many men who had sneered at the first. The right
elevation had been struck this time, the bottom of the river bed was reached
and was drained by the tunnel, and the gravel was found to be extremely rich.
Ten feet square of superficial area yielded $100,000. A pint of gravel not
unfrequently contained a pound of gold. The whole mountain was soon
The State echoed with the discovery. A stream of lava had filled up the
bed of an ancient river for thirty miles, and in the course of- ages the earth and
slate that once formed the banks were washed away, leaving the basalt to mark
the position of the golden treasure. Other similar deposits were found else-
where, and other explorations, as bold in their conception but less successful or
less important in their results, were undertaken in nearly every county.
26. THE FRASER FEVER.
The years 1856 and 1857 were marked by no peculiar excitement or sudden
change. The working of the gullies and river bars and beds was gradually be-
coming less profitable and productive, the quartz and ditch interests continued
to grow larger, wages kept their downward tendency, and the number of hired
In 1858 the State received a shock that was felt in every fibre of her political
and industrial organization. Rich diggings were found in the spring on a bar
of Fraser river, and it was asserted and presumed that there were large tracts of
excellent placers in the upper basin of the stream. The presumption was not
without its foundation in experience and reason, but after all it was but a pre-
The miners, however, were not disposed to listen to any doubts ; they were
ready to sacrifice everything in the hope of finding and being the first to enjoy
another virgin gold field like that of California.
In the course of four months, 18,000 men, nearly one-sixth of all the voters
in the State went to Fraser river, and many thousands of others were preparing
for an early start. The confident belief prevailed that " the good old times " of
'49 were to come again.
Servants threw up their positions , farmers and miners left their valuable prop-
erty, wages rose, houses and land fell in value, and many persons believed that
California would soon be left without a tenth part of her population.
All this excitement was made before any gold had been received in San Fran-
cisco, and before there was any direct and trustworthy evidence of the existence
of paying diggings beyond the limits of a few bars, which could not give occu-
pation to more than a hundred men.
Suddenly, and with no material addition to the evidence, the conviction burst
on the people that Fraser river would not pay, and five-sixths of the truant
miners had returned before the end of the year.
WEST OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS. 27
* 27. DISCOVERY OF THE COMSTOCK LODE.
A party of emigrants discovered placer diggings on Gold canon, a little
tributary of Carson river, east of the Sierra Nevada, in 1849, and a permanent
mining camp was established there in 1852.
It was observed that the gold contained a large proportion of silver, in some
claims nearly one-half in value, but this fact was not without precedent in the
placers of California, and was regarded simply as a misfortune for the miner, who
did not receive more than $10 or $12 an ounce for his dust, while that obtained
on the western slope of the Sierra usually sold for $17 or $18.
The Gold canon diggings had been worked for seven years, and gave employ-
ment to about fifty men, when, in the .spring of 1859, the miners, following up a
rich streak of placer gold, came upon a quartz lode in the place now known as
A couple of months later, some miners, in following up a placer lead in which
the gold was mixed with about an equal weight of silver, came on the lode from
which the metal had been washed down.t
They were working here in a rude way, with no idea of the value of their
claim, when James Walsh, an intelligent quartz miner from Grass valley, passed
* The credit of this discovery has been claimed by so many parties, and the testimony is so
conflicting, that I am induced to give at least two of the popular versions. Substantially
they agree upon the main points. (See section 4, Resources of Nevada.)
t S. H. Marlette, surveyor general of Nevada, in his annual report for 1865, gives the fol-
lowing history of the discovery of the Comstock lode :
"In 1852, H. B. and E. A. Grosch or Grosh, sons of A. B. Grosh, a Universalist clergyman
of considerable note, aud editor of a Universalist paper at Utica, New York, educated me-
tallurgists, came to the then Territory, and the same or the following year engaged in pla-
cer mining in Gold canon near the site of Silver City, and continued thereuntil 1857, when,
so far as I can learn, they first discovered silver ore, which was found in a quartz vein,
probably the one now owned by the Kossuth Gold and Silver Mining Company, on which
the Grosh brothers had a location.
" Shortly after the discovery, in the same year, one of the brothers accidentally wounded
himself with a pick, from the effects of which he soon died, and the other brother went to
California, where he died early in 1858, which probably prevented the valuable nature of their
discovery from becoming known. In the mean time placer mining was carried on to consid-
erable extent in various localities, principally in Gold canon.
''In 1857, Ipe Kirby and others commenced placer mining in Six Mile canon, about hall
a mile below where the Ophir works now are, and worked at intervals with indifferent suc-
cess until 1859. On the 22d day of February, 1858, the first quartz claim was located in
Kossuth claim as upon one branch of the Comstock, which may not be impossible in case
we adopt the one lode system, for the lode is about one hundred feet in thickness, and its
strike would take it to the eastern slope of Mount Davidson, as explorations prove, as I have
been informed, the Virginia croppings to be the outcrop of the western portion of the Com
" The discovery of rich deposits of silver ore was not made until June, 1859, when Peter
O'Reilly and Patrick McLaughlin, while engaged in gold washing on what is now the
ground of the Ophir Mining Company, and near the south line of the Mexican Company's
claim, uncovered a rich vein of sulphuret of silver in an excavation made for the purpose
of collecting water to use in their rockers in washing for gold. This discovery being on ground
claimed at the time by Kirby and others, Comstock was employed to purchase their claim,
whereby Comstock's name has been given to this great lode, by which those entitled to the
credit of its discovery have been defrauded a transaction, to compare small things with
great, as discreditable as that by which Arnericus Vespucius bestowed his name upon the
western continent, an honor due alone to the great Columbus.
" From this discovery resulted the marvellous growth of Nevada. Immediately the lode
was claimed for miles ; an unparalleled excitement followed, and miners and capitalists
came in great numbers to reap a share of the reported wealth. The few hardy prospectors
exploring the mountains for hidden wealth soon counted their neighbors by thousands ;
soon walked along miles of busy streets, called into existence by the throng of adventurers,
and soon the prospectors were ransacking almost every part of the (at present) State of Ne-
vada in search of silver lodes."
28 RESOURCES OF STATES AND TERRITORIES
their place and examined their mine. His attention was attracted by the dark
gray stone which he suspected was silver ore, and as an assay of it he sent a
ton and a half of it to San Francisco, where it was sold for $3,000 per ton.
He and some friends then bought out four of the five partners, paying $22,000
for four-fifths of 1,800 feet, or at the rate of $14 per foot.
Some shafts sunk on the vein showed that the gray stone, a rich sulphuret of
silver, could be obtained in large quantities. The lode was soon claimed as far
as it could be traced, and the market value of the shares rose so rapidly that
before the end of the year $1,000 a foot had been offered for a portion of the
28. THE WASHOE EXCITEMENT.
The excitement about the silver mines spread throughout California in the
spring of 1860, and thousands of miners crossed the mountains to work in the
newly-discovered mines or to seek for others.
In every town companies were formed to equip and send out prospectors, and
the work was continued on a large scale for three years. Thousands of square
miles, never before visited by white men, were explored and examined, and
many thousands of metalliferous lodes were found and claimed.
It was in 1860 that the silver districts of Esmeralda, Bodie, Potosi, Coso,
and Humboldt were discovered, besides many others of less note. The chief
silver mining town grew up at the Comstock lode, and was soon the home of a
large and excited population. Every man owned thousands of feet of argentif-
erous lodes, and considered himself either possessed of a fortune or certain
of soon acquiring one.
The confidence in the almost boundless wealth of the country was universal,
but many were bothered to convert their ore into ready cash. Men who con-
sidered themselves millionaires had sometimes not enough money to pay for a
dinner, and in their dress they looked like beggars.*
* The following extract from a letter written at Virginia, in April, 1 860, gives a vivid pic-
ture of the condition of society there at that time :
"Of a certainty, right here, is Bedlam broke loose. One cannot help thinking, as he
passes through the streets, that all the insane geologists extant have been corraled at this
place. Most vehement is the excitement. I have never seen men act thus elsewhere. Not
even in the earlier stages of the California gold movement were they so delirious about the
business of metalliferous discovery. Hundreds and thousands are now here, who, feeling
that they may never have another chance to make a speedy fortune, are resolved this shall
not pass unimproved. They act with all the concentrated energy of those having the issues
of life and death before them. They demean themselves not like rational beings any more.
Even the common modes of salutation are changed. Men, on meeting, do not inquire after
each other's health, but after their claims. They do not remark about the weather, bad as it
is, but about out-croppings, assays, sulphurets, &c. They do not extend their hands in
token of friendship on approaching, but pluck from their well filled pockets a bit of rock,
and, presenting it, mutually inquire what they think of its looks. During the day they
stand apart, talking in couples, pointing mysteriously hither and you : and during the
night mutter in their sleep of claims and dips and strikes, showing that their broken
thoughts are still occupied with the all-absorbing subject. I shall be able to convey to your
readers some idea of the intensity of this mining mania, when I assure them that this por-
tion of the American people do not even ask after newspapers, nor engage in the discussion
of politics. Little care they whom you choose President ; conventions and elections, wars
and rumors of wars, are nothing to them. They have their own world here. Here, bounded
by the Sierra and the mountains of Utah, spread over the foot-hills and the deserts, is a
theatre beyond which their thoughts are not permitted to roam ; to this their aspirations and
aims are all confined. Whatever of energy, ambition, and desire are elsewhere expended on
love, war, politics, and religion, are here all devoted to this single pursuit of rinding, buy-
ing, selling, and trading in mines of silver and gold. Everybody makes haste to be rich ;
and so great is the mental tension in this direction, that it may well be questioned whether,
if a sweeping disappointment should overtake them, many will not be reduced to a condition
of absolute lunacy. What guarantee this wildly-excited multitude have against the happen-
ing of this fearful contingency, I am not fully prepared to say, having, as yet, not been able
WEST OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS. 29
29. THE BAEREL AND YARD PROCESSES.
There was much difficulty in extracting the metal even from the richest'ore.
There were no mills to crush the rock, no skilful metallurgists to reduce the ore,
and no confident opinion in regard to the best means of extraction. The simple
processes used for reducing auriferous quartz would not suffice. The gold
exists in the metallic form, and so soon as the rock is pulverized can be obtained
by washing or amalgamation. But silver is in chemical combination with
baser substances, and must be separated from them by chemical influences before
the metal will submit to unite with quicksilver, by which it must usually be
All the silver produced in civilized countries was obtained by two processes,
the Frieberg. German barrel, and the Mexican yard or patio. In the German
process three hundred pounds of the ore, finely pulverized, are mixed with
water to the thickness of cream, and after the addition of some salt, iron pyrites,
scraps of iron, and quicksilver are put into a strong barrel, and kept revolving
rapidly for fourteen hours, at the end of which time the silver and quicksilver
have united, and they can easily be separated from the mud by washing. The
barrels are rapidly worn out, the amount of work done is little, and the labor
required is much. In the Mexican process the pulverized ore is mixed with
water, salt, iron pyrites, and quicksilver, and left out in an open yard for three
weeks, the mass being stirred or trodden with mules occasionally. This mode
of reducing is very slow, and is unsuited to the cool climate of Nevada, in lati-
tude 38, and at an elevation of 5,000 or 6,000 feet above the sea.
30. THE PAN PROCESS.
There was a general belief that some mode of amalgamation better than either
of these could and would be devised, so while one set of men were engaged in
hunting and opening mines, another set were busy in studying a mode for re-
ducing the ores. A satisfactory result was not reached for several years, but it
came at last in the invention of the pan process, as distinguished from the barrel
and yard processes.
The pan is of cast-iron, about five feet in diameter and eighteen inches deep.
Five hundred or a thousand pounds of ore are put in with salt, iron pyrites,
quicksilver, and enough water to make a thin mud. A muller revolves on the
bottom of the pan, and serves to grind the matter, which is not fine enough, and
also brings all the particles of the ore into contact with the chemicals and the
quicksilver. Besides the motion of the muller, various devices are used to keep
up a regular current, so that all portions of the mixture are successively brought
to the bottom, and exposed to the action of the quicksilver. In some pans heat
is applied. The American process extracts silver from the common sulphuret
ore as thoroughly as any other process, with much more rapidity, and with less
expense. It is, therefore, in almost universal use in the American silver mines
of the Pacific slope, and has been introduced into Mexico, where it will prob-
ably in time supersede the yard process. While the metallurgists were work-
ing away at their pans, the miners generally were afraid to erect mills lest
buildings and machinery might be unsuited to the new modes of working.
The mills that were built charged $50 and $60 per ton for crushing and
to give the subject much examination since my return. To attempt eliciting information
from those now here, only tends to confuse and complicate what is already incomprehensi-
ble. If you talk with one man, he is only concerned lest the argentiferous metal be ren-
dered worthless by the superabundance here met with ; while another, with equal opportu-
nities, and perhaps better ability for forming a correct judgment, derides the idea of there
being any silver apart from the Comstock vein, telling you that the whole thing is an in-
verted pyramid, having that truly wonderful lead for a base."
30 RESOURCES OF STATES AND TERRITORIES
amalgamating, though the same work was done at Grass Valley, only one hun-
dred miles distant, for less than $5 a ton.
The amalgamation was so conducted that only the free gold was saved. All
the silver and much of the gold were lost. Ore that contained $500 to the ton
was sent to the mill if it yielded $70 or $80, leaving about $10 profit, and a loss
of $400 of silver.
The value of the ore and the amount of silver lost were precisely understood,
but there was no remedy. It was necessary to take some silver from the mines
at any sacrifice to keep up the confidence of the shareholders. Although the
ore in sight was worth millions, the bullion sent across the mountains from
Nevada amounted to only $90,897 in 1860.
The next year, however, the export rose to $2,275,256 ; in 1862 to $6,247,074,
and in 1863 to $12,486,238. This increased rate might well astonish the world,
and dazzle people in the vicinity.
31. GROWTH OF THE WASHOE EXCITEMENT.
The silver excitement which pervaded California in the spring of 1860 con-
tinued to increase steadily for three years.
Washoe, by which name the mining region near the Oomstock lode was gen-
erally known, was the main topic of conversation, and the main basis of specu-
lation. Everybody owned shares in some silver mine. High prices were paid
to strangers for mines at places of which the purchaser had never heard until a
day or two before the purchase. . Men seemed to have discarded all the dic-
tates of prudence. Their judgment was overwhelmed by the suddenly acquired
. wealth of a few and by the general anxiety of the many to buy any kind of sil-
ver shares. People acted as though there were so many rich silver mines that
men who had been searching for them would not be so mean as to offer a poor
one for sale. Three thousand silver mining companies were incorporated in
San Francisco, and 30,000 persons purchased stock in them. The nominal
capital was $1,000,000,000, but their actual market value never exceeded
$60,000,000, and not one in fifty owned a claim of the least value. And yet
the organization of each company cost $100 on an average, and that money had
to be paid by somebody. Although the mines were in western Utah, which
was organized afterwards into the Territory and then into the State of Nevada,
the shares were mostly owned in San Francisco, and that place was the centre
of speculation and excitement, of profit and loss. On every side were to be
seen men who had made independent fortunes in stocks within a few months.
The share in the leading mines on the Comstock lode were the preferred
security for loans by money lenders and banks.
The shares, or feet, as they were more commonly called, (for in most of the
companies a share represented a lineal foot lengthwise on the vein,) of the Com-
stock claims advanced with great rapidity, in some cases as much as $1,000 per
A foot of the Gould and Curry mine, worth $500 on the 1st of March, 1862,
was sold for $1,000 in June; for $1,550 in August; for $2,500 in September;
for $3,200 in February, 1863; for $3,700 in May; for $4,400 in June, and for
$5,600 in July. Other claims advanced with a rapidity less rapid but scarcely
less startling. In the middle of 1863, Savage was worth $3,600 per foot ; Cen-
tral $2,850; Ophir $2,550; Hale and Norcross $1,850; California $1,5 00 ; Yellow
Jacket $1,150; Crown Point $750; Chollar $900, and Potosi $600.
32. VIRGINIA CITY.
Virginia City, the centre of the mining industry, rose to be the second town
west of the Rocky mountains. It had a population of 15,000, and the assessed
value of its taxable property was $11,000,000. The amouut of business done