Charles W Greene.

Mines of the Pacific Coast online

. (page 1 of 22)
Online LibraryCharles W GreeneMines of the Pacific Coast → online text (page 1 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

University of California Berkeley



The recent action taken by Congress,
looking to a revival of the gold mining
industry in this State, lias aroused public
interest in the subject of the supply of
the precious metals, and makes this an
opportune time for summarizing the facts
in regard thereto, particularly with refer-
ence to the great mineral region of the
West. The wonderful discoveries of gold
aud silver made in this region during the
last half century have surpassed any-
thing recorded theretofore in the world's
history. That these discoveries revolu-
tionized financial methods need not be
more than pointed out. That they added
more to the world's wealth than any other
fifty years since the dawn of creation will
not be denied. That the deposits, instead
of approaching exhaustion, have, in fact,
only been exploited to an inconsiderable
degree, is firmly believed by every miner
who has made the subject a study.
The surface hag been skimmed over,

a small way. Along the seashore in
Huruboldt and Del Norte counties, for-
merly the chiet sites of this cl iss of min-
ing, the residents of that section of the
St;ite gather from these sands by hand
sluicing a little gold every year. Their
earnings are small and their labor inter-
mittent, being prosecuted only when they
h ive water for the washing, which in
most localities is the case during only a
sm ill portion of the year.

Besides these "gold bluffs" and
"beaches" we have in California a variety
of other auriferous deposits, some of
which, like the gold bluffs, are peculiar to
the State; nor do more than a few of the
others rnoet elsewhere with such large
development as fiere. The principal of
these deposits, designating them by the
local names, consist of the following, viz. :

The dry diggings, so called, are simply
such surface placers as, being without a
sufficient nitur.l supply of water _ lor
washing, cannot be supplied by artificial
means. There are many localities of this
character in California, in cases of this
kind, it the auriferous earth is not rich
enough to bear transportation to water,
the goi'l is separated from it by "dry
washing," a process formerly conducted
by means of the Mexican batei, still em-
ployed in some places. By the Sp mish-
s pei kin g races ttie batea continues to be
exclusively used in the dry diggings, and
these people are very skillful in handling
it. Latterly dry-washing machines of
various Kinds have been invented, some
of which are efficient, as mucli so, in fact,


arce of supply will in time have to be h
systematically exploited in order to keep '
pace therewith.

It is certain that the gold production of
the world ia steadily decreasing, while
there is a constantly increasing demand
for purposes of ornamentation. Not mo/e
than $100,000,000 worth is now mined an-
nually, and that is not enough to meet

sources which will in time yield as greal
an amount as has yet been produced, if,'
indeed, they do not largely surpass it.

From the last report ot the Director of
the Mint, covering the year 1891, the fol-
lowing facts are taken: "The product
of gold from the mines of the United
States aggregated 1,604,840 fine ounces,
of the value of $53,175,000. This is
an increase oi $330,OOU over the product
of the previous calendar year. The in-

the demand, as shown by the constantly

increasing value of the metal, as evidenced olc creased product is due largely to improved
by its increased purchasing power. The ^ j processed of treatment and to the in-
creased amount of gold extracted from
fol i ea d and copper ores.
of The product of silver from our own
-P mines was 58,330,000 fine ounces, of the

available mines of the world are being
rapidly exhausted, while the unexplored
portion of the world's surface grows less
in extent each year and the possibility
of finding new mines becomes less prom-

commercial value of $57,630,040 or of the
ising, In ancient times gold was obtained D t coinage value in silver dollars ot $75,416,-
abundantly from the rivers of Asia. The " 665. This is an increase of 3,830,000
Bands of Pactolus, the yellow metal of ounces over the previous year. The in
Ophir, the fable of King Midas, all illus- be creased silver product was due principally
trate the Eastern origin of gold. Alexan- T - to new finds in Colorado and Idaho, and
der tb<5 Great brought nearly $500,000,000 ^ to the cheapening of the process of smelt-
of gold from Persia. Gold also came froni vei -ing lead and copper ores hearing silver.
Arabia and from the middle of Africa by rJoi The Director of the Mint has made

way of the Nile. But all of these sources ' " n^mma

of supply were long since exhausted. Bra-

zil, which a century ago was a rich gold pro- , state, a. to the sources of Deduction.

ien| He estimates that of the total product for

Irid! th Ia8t calendar y ar 28 ' 497 - fin ounces
were produced from * quartz and milling

y it ores, 23,707,000 from lead ores nnd 6,126 000
produced $500, 000,000 worth of the precious from copper ores. Total ailver output

metal, but little is now obtained there. CI1L 58,330,000 fine ounces.

Australia has yielded $1,300,000,000 worth ds Th tn^i ' *

i total product of Government and
of gold, but the production has greatly

decreased. Not less than seven billion

8pecial effort
time the

to di8tr ibnte for the
producfc Qf *

ducing country,
famous Gold Coast of Africa has lost its
productiveness. Since the commence-
ment of the sixteenth centurv Africa has

dollars' worth of gold has been dug in the p\\
world since the discovery of America, but, j
nevertheless, the world's supply is be- j
coming so scarce that the yellow metal
will undoubtedly soon be hoarded to such
an extent that before the expiration of
many centuries it will have attained a

private refineries in the United
eluding foreign material


fined, was: Gold, 2,169,863 fine ounces-
silver, 69,336,415 fine ounces.

The total value of the gold deposited at
the mints during the year was $70,915,632,
of which $24,853,180 was foreign coin and
bullion. The deposits and purchases of

silver aggregated 73,088,626 standard
Talue several times greater than at present, -j ounceij) of the c ^^

The importance ot exploitmg al the ^ The amount Qf Bilyer > '^

TT4laHlA /Mirr>o /-if oilnnlTT in riatt-fVltmia 11 ! ,-.

government during the year was 54,393,-
912 fine ounces, costing $53,796,833,
average cost of the silver purchased

available sources of supply in California
and elsewhere on the Pacific coast is em-
phasized by these undisputed tacts. The
belief is widespread that our gold mines
have been exhausted, and little is to be
expected from them in the future. This
those who have examined the matter
know to be an erroneous conclusion.
They know that there are undeveloped


ing the year was $0.989 per fine ounce.
The average cost of the total amount pur-
chased under the act of July 14th, 1890,
"" has been $1.02 per fine ounce."
The price of silver at the


ment oi the calendar year 1891 was $1.058
per fine ounce, and at the close, December
31st, was $0.955 per fine ounce. The aver-
age, price for the calendar year was $0.99
per fine ounce.

At tho date of the pasn&ge of the act of
July 14, 1890, the price of silver was
$1 07J4 per fine ounce; at the date the
law went into effect it had advanced to
$1 13. The highest point touched was on
August 19, 1890$! 21 per fine ounce.

j The lowest point reached was on March

| 28, 1892 $0.85J4 per fine ounce.

According to the reports of the trana-

! portation companies tho bullion product

! of the States and TerrLories west of th*e(
Missouri river ior 1891 was as follows:

in T,n past. i

All this and more, too, will be given
in as plain and straightforward a man-
ner as possible, for the purpose of
educating the pe ople to a correct knowl-
edge of the great wealth that may be
theirs for the taking.



Alaska.... fj
Arizona. ...
Colorado.. .



Idaho 11,595,000

Montana. .$28,011,000

Nevada. ...
New Mex..




Where Gold Was First Dlscorered
Different Methods of Mining Valu-
able Stlrer Mines Copper, Coal,
Quicksilver, Etc. A.sphaltum and
Petroleum The Cajaloo or San
Jaclnto Tin Alines.

In the variety and extent of her mineral
wealth California has scarcely a rival and
certainly no superior. The popular coti-
caption in regard to this matter is that

These figures, however, do not repre-
sent the entire production to a large ex-
tent. Much bullion, is carried otherwise

than by the express companies, while vast j- the principal" If "not the sole resource" of
quantities of ore are shipped for treatment | this character possessed by this State is
to outside points, the product of which the deposits of gold, which the majority
does not nppear in such reports as that
quoted. As will appear further on, these
figures require considerable revision in
order to arrive at the actual production
of the various States and Territories.

In the succeeding columns the various
sources of production will be pointed out,
the more notable districts and mines will
be described in detail and an effort will be
made toward removing the widespread
misapprehension that exists upon this
subject, that the mines of the Pacific
coast are "played out," and that further j
effort in this direction is useless.

It will be shown that from Alaska to
the Mexican line and trom the Pacific to
the eastern slopes of the Rocky mount-
ains are mineral belts of vast extent
which have as yet scarcely more than
begun to give up their wealth. It will be
shown that besides the vast deposits of
gold and silver bearing rock, there is a

of people outside its boundaries undoubt-
edly believe are nearly or quite exhausted.
In both ideas they are mistaken. The
gold mines of California will yet yield, it
is the opinion of those who have made the
subject a study, fully as much if not
many times more than the amount of
treasure that has already been delved
from them. But in addition this State
possesses latent mineral wealth of the
most surpassing and extensive variety.
To prove this it is only necessary to men-
tion the fact that the range of deposits
includes silver, quicksilver, copper, tin,
iron, lead, coal, antimony, asbestos, sul-
phur, borax, soda, petroleum, asphaltuin,
and a host of other substances of more or
less value, the exploitation of which is
certain to add millions to the wealth
which they have already created.

From whatever standpoint the mineral
wealth of California be considered, the
subject is one of interest and always will
remain so. True, the romance of the early
gold-mining days is past, never to return,
and the search for the golden treasure has

store of other minerals of a diversity not | become a prosaic industry similar toother
found in any other part of the world. It !| productive enterprises. Nevertheless
will be shown that there are opportnni- !i there is always an interest about the con-
ties for investment and for the exercise of | test for tne contents of nature's treasure
energy and ability that equal, even excel, H bo1 tha * makes fche Deject one of per-
those that have made fabulous fortunes j| enmal freshne8S -


er the Yellow Metal Was First
DIscoTered Fears of a Plethora.

The history of the discovery of gold in
1848 in California has been so frequently
told and the facts are so well established
that there is nothing of interest to be
added to the well known and familiar
account of the Coloma Mill, the finding of
the particles of gold in the tail-race, and
the subsequent operations of General Sut-
ter, Marshall and the others who were
present or were at once apprised of the
discovery. The story has been told a
thousand times and is familiar the world

It is not so well known, however, that,
while Marshall's discovery was unques-
tionably the one that produced the most
wonderful migration and subsequent de-
velopment of an unknown region that the
world has ever seen, he is by no means
entitled to the honor of having been the
first person to find the precious metal in

Nothing can be more assured than the
fact that from almost the first exploration
of the Pacific coast by the hardy naviga-
tors of the sixteenth century, the idea in
some way gained a foothold that gold
existed here in abundance. Sir Francis
Drake, who visited this region in 1579,
asserts it, and so do other -writers who
have other sources of information. The
Spanish conquerors of Mexico were per-
suaded of the existence of rich gold do-
posits in a country far to the northwest,
corresponding exactly with the location of
our State, but were unable to verify their
belief, though sending out frequent ex-
peditions to do so.

That the founders of the missions knew
of the existence of gold here there is good
ground for believing, as well as for believ-
ing that they profited by that knowledge.
In 1775 gold was discovered near the
Colorado river in the vicinity of Yuma by
Mexicans, and half a century later de-
posits were found near San Ysidro, in San
Diego county. In 1833 placers which are
still being successfully worked were found
in the mountains to the northwest of Los
Angeles, and from them were taken con-
siderable quantities of the precious metaL
Some of the prod uct of these mines found
its way to the Atlantic seaboard long
before Marshall was ever heard of,
and the knowledge of the existence
of gold on the Pacific coast was quite gen-
eral even then. This fact was kno wn to
the Mexican authorities as early as 1844,
as shown by documents found in the
archives of that Government. In one

communication, dated September 1, 184
it was said that fully 2000 ounces of goUl
dust taken from the placers of the Santa 1
Clara were in circulation at one time in
Los Angeles, and in the same letter the
existence of silver mines is also mentioned,
though their exact location is not given.

In March, 1846, nearly two years before
the discovery at Coloma, Thomas Larkin,
Consul at Monterey, wrote to his superiors
that he had no doubt that mines of gold,
quicksilver, copper, etc., would be found
all over California. Five years before
that 3. D. Dana, who accompanied the
Wilkea expedition and made an overland
trip from Oregon to. San Francisco, re-
ported that he found indications of the
existence of gold in Southern Oregon and
in the Sacramento valley. Many other
facts might be cited, all tending to estab-
lish the certainty that the discovery of
Marshall was no discovery at all in the
real sense of the word, though by a fortui-
tous combin ation of ciicumstances bis
lucKy (or ra ther unlucky for himself) find
set the world in a blaze of excitement.

Not only were the people of every civil-
ized land carried away by the tales of
great fortunes to be made in a day, but
the financial and monetary world was ap-
palled and shaken to the base by Califor-
nia's extraordinary output of the precious
metal. Europe bacame alarmed. A ple-
thora of the noble metal was feared, and
for a time the idea was strongly enter-
tained of demonetizing gold.

PrimitiTe Mining: Methods.
The yield of gold was some chine ex-
traordinary. At first the general gains of
the miners, though great, were small
compared to what shortly afterward were
collected. By comparing different ac-
counts and endeavoring to form from
them something like a fair average, it is
found that from $10 to $15 worth of gold
dust was at first about the usual proceeds
of an ordinary day's work. But while
that might have been the average, well
authenticated accounts describe many
persons as averaging from $100 to $200 a
day for a long' period, and numerous oth-
ers are said to have earned as high as $500
to $800 a day. If, indeed, a man with a
pick and pan did not make a fortnne rap-
idly he moved off to some place which he
supposed might be richer. When, the
miners knew a little better about the busi-
ness and the mode of turning their labor
to account the returns were correspond-
ing increased. At what were called the
"dry diggings," particularly, the yield of
gold was simply enormous. One nugget of
pure metal was found of thirteen pounds

first made usa of VMS a butcher's knife
Af erward the pick and shovel were
used. The auriferous earth, dug out of
ravines and holes in the sides of the
mountains was packed ou horses for one,
two or three miles to the nearest water to
be washed. An average price of this
washing dirt was $400 a cartload. In one

were built and magnificent roads laid.
By the use of ingenious contrivances
water was given a pressure sometimes as
hiszh as 500 i'eat and a velocity of 160 feet
per second. With this, equal to the force
of a small Niagara, the base of the hills
was washed away and the summit top-
pled over like a building undermined.
Great rocks of hundreds of pounds weight

instance live loads sold for $752, which, ?< were tossed about like straws in the cur-
after washing, yielded $16,000. -Cases oc- ^ rent. Whole mountains were moved in
curred' where men carried tbe earth in \ this way and the very topography oi the

sacks on their backs to the watering
places and collected $800 as the proceeds
oi their labor. Individuals made their
$5000, $10,000 and $15,000 in the space of
only a tew weeks. One man dug out
$12,000 in about six days. Tnree others
obtained $8000 in a single day. But
these, of course, were extreme cases.
Still, it is undoubtedly true ta vt a lar^e
proportion or the miners earned such
sums as they hid 'never seen in their
lives, and which six months before would
have appeared like the wildest fable.

The washing was effected by patting
the earth in a pan or bowl, mixing w tter
with it and violently shaking the contents.
A peculiar shake of the wrist, best under-
stood and learned by practice, threw the
and to all of us, of the

country changed.

It is interesting to note here that while
we take the credit to ourselves of having i
invented hydraulic sluicing, our mighty i
nozzle work was but an exaggeration of j
the process used by the Romans in Spain.
Thus Pliny writes: "Another labor, too,
quite equal to this, and one which entails
even greater expense; is that of bringing
rivers from the more elevated mountain
heights, a distance in many instances of
100 miles, perhaps, for the purpose of
washing these debris. Then, too, valleys
and crevasses have been united by the aid
of aqueducts, and in another place impass-
able rocks have to be hewn away and
forced to make room for hollow troughs

of wood. The earth carried onward in the
do stream arrives at the sea at last, and thus

T ., T^ ., j. i , ,1 i is the shattered mountain washed away,

Library Building, which, thoj causeg which have greatly tended to ex-

means the least, among the I tend the shores of Spain by these en-

croachments upon the deep."
thought and generous impul The hisiory of hydraulic mining in Cal-

is at this moment and in tH ** tt

manifestation of that sentiir rich placers lasted there was little induce-

ment to seek for their origin; but as they j

to express our thanks, and f<

incoming ages,

we foreshadc

tions of students of the fu
advantages, the seeds of whi

I said a moment ago th;
all the citizens of the State
ing so, I spoke advisedly,
you all feel, that this is the
founded by the people, for

For a few of the moments
your attention, I shall ask

declined the more enterprising of the
miners commenced tracing these alluvial
deposits to their sources. The researches
thus undertaken led to some remarkable
and astonishing discoveries. In many in-
stances the gravel, being worked in open
river beds, was found to burrow abruptly
into the sides of high mountains, and then
it was re dized that the stream which had
accumulated the t'-easure belonged to a
past geological period and that its bed
had been filled ages ago by a stream of
very different character a solid instead of
a liquid stream; in other words, a lava
flow. Numerous instances have occurred
where such an extinct river bed has re-
ceived successive lava flows, , one super-
imposed upon another, with auriferous
gravel between, showing that the river re-
sumed, as nearly as might be, its original
channel after each invasion of molten
Tbe yield of gold from these ancient

f streams, locally known as "dead rivers"
a most apt expression has been immense, >-
for they must have been mighty floods,
draining huge areas, and during their
long and active lives they were ceaselessly
Helping to accumulate the scattered riches
contained in the surrounding rocks, these
riches being liberated by the action of Irost
and thaw and rain and snow and sun,
whose combined effect disintegrated the
quartz veins that carried the gold. Thus
Nature, working in her own slow and se-
cret way, collected into comparatively
narrow limits, ready for the use of man,
tho srold which had been disseminated
through millions of tons of rock, probably
in auch small proportions .as not to repay
the coat of extraction by human methods.
More than that, the precious metal actu-
ally underwent a certain degree of refin-
ing at the same time, the accompanying
base metals having been dissolved out and
washed away.

Hydraulic Mining:.

Hydraulic mining added largely to our
annual output until in 1876 litigation
commenced between the farmer and the
miner. A bitter fight in our courts en-
sued, which resulted in favor of the agri-
culturists. This was followed by the ap-
pointment of a commission of engineers
to investigate the subject from an en-
gineering standpoint and report.

For years there has been a practical in-
terdiction of hydraulic mining except in a
few remote localities, and many millions
of dollars have been lost to the people of
this State. Finally, however, owing to the
discoveries of the engineers in charge of
the investigation, it has become apparent
that it is possible to bring about a re-
sumption of the working of these valuable
deposits, and from present appearances it
will not be long before the foothills of the
Sierra will again be contributing their
golden wealth to the industries of the

The importance of hydraulic mining
may be seen from the fact that it is esti-
mated that of the entire gold product of this
State at least nine-tenths was yielded by
the auri.erous gravels. The total yield
thus obtained would be represented by a
cube fourteen feet square. These auril'er-
ous gravels occur in the channels of
ancient rivers, and there are 400 miles of
these, which at a low estimate will yield
$2,000,000 to $3,000,000 to the mile.

According to the reports of the engineers
detailed by the Government to examine
into the question of raining debris, there
were some 857,000,000 cubic yards of mate-
rial excavated during the prevalence of
ulic operations, of which 230,000,000
remained in the beds of the
pal rivers affected the Ynba, Bear

and American. Aicer a caremi examina-
tion of the damage done by this debris
the engineers reported the following as
the injury done along the three streams
where the greatest amount of loss was


Feather river. .
Yuba river
Bear river















It is conceded and was demonstrated
to tne board of engineers that certain
lands are capable of being improved by
the addition of small quantities of
slickens. It is also stated that some
lands are benefited by the rising of the
adjacent water, which makes them moist
and cultivable. The extent of these
favorable features was not possible of de-


Area destroyed as above. 39,214

Area injured as above 13,955

Total area.


Value of land destroyed $2,871,585

Value of land injured 422,450

Total loss $3,304,035

There can be no doubt that the miners
have contributed to the filling of the min-
ing rivers ever since mining commenced
in California, and that the people whose
lands have been covered by debris have a
right to complain, and had they when the

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryCharles W GreeneMines of the Pacific Coast → online text (page 1 of 22)