Frederick E Shearer.

The Pacific tourist : J.R. Bowman's illustrated trans-continental guide of travel, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean ... : acomplete traveler's guide of the Union and Central Pacific Railroads ... online

. (page 37 of 61)
Online LibraryFrederick E ShearerThe Pacific tourist : J.R. Bowman's illustrated trans-continental guide of travel, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean ... : acomplete traveler's guide of the Union and Central Pacific Railroads ... → online text (page 37 of 61)
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sented by seventy-two shares. The incorpora-
tions of all the 'mining companies on the Com-
stock Lode, and their offices have always been in
San Francisco, and the men who live immedi-
ately over and about the mine, cannot buy or sell
stock in them except by letter or telegraph to
The Bay."

In the development of this mineral lode, three
distinct periods may be marked. For some time
after its discovery, prosperity continually at-
tended operations on it somewhere along its
length, and often at all points. All the mines
named above paid dividends, and very few assess-
ments were made. The ore lying within 800 or
900 feet of the surface was finally exhausted
along the whole vein, and dividends fell off,
assessments became frequent, and great depres-
sion followed. This continued until patient
exploration revealed, several hundred feet deeper,
a rich ore body, in the Crown Point and Belcher
Mines, which produced an amount of bullion
hitherto unexampled in the history of the vein,
dividends amounting to a million a month com-

ing several months in succession. This body of
ore was worked out in time, and depression fol-
lowed again. The total yield of all the mines
of Nevada for the last six years has been

The Big Bonanza Mines. In the days of
their greatness, the Consolidated Virginia
and the California divided each 81,080,000
monthly for many months. During 1875,
and the first three months of 1876, the
bullion receipts of the Consolidated Virginia
company were twenty-four million eight hun~
dred and fifty thousand, five hundred and twenty-
four dollars and eighty-four cents, ($24,850,-

In March, 1876, were worked 24,991,800-2,000
tons of ore, which produced $3,634,218.92.
The total yield of the two mines Virginia
and California has exceeded ffty million dol-

The bullion from this mine and others on the
Comstock Lode is very pure, and on an average
is about .045 fine in gold, and .950 in silver, leav-
ing only about .005 of base metal. The propor-
tion of gold to silver varies, and with it the
value of the bullion per pound. A shipment,
which represented a fair average, was of 50 bars
of $186,998 stamped value, and weighing 5,741
Ibs. avoirdupois, thus representing a value of
$32.57 per Ib. Had this been pure silver, it
would have been stamped $18.81 per Ib., and the
excess above that, is for the gold in the bullion.
It may surprise one to be told that silver bullion,
carrying so large a portion of gold, shows no
trace of it. A bar of gold and silver, in equal
proportions, would scarcely differ in color from a
pure silver bar. Its weight would, however, re-
veal the presence of the gold, at once. When
six or seven-tenths are gold, its color begins to

The valuable product obtained from the ore
was over seventy-two per cent, of its assay value
during the month reported above. It is not
usual to obtain a better result than this without
roasting the ore before amalgamation. It will
interest one, not familiar with mining, to notice
how small in both bulk and weight the bullion
product is when compared with the amount of
ore handled. During the month referred to, four
hundred and forty-six tons of ore, which would
make a mass 10 feet high, 20 feet wide and 30
feet long, yielded only one ton of bullion, which
could be melted into a solid cube 18 3-5 inches
on a side, or 1,560 cubic feet of ore were worked
to obtain one cubic foot of bullion.

Reduction of the Ores. The ores at this
place are worked without roasting by the pan
process of American origin, first adopted on the
Comstock Lode. It is suited admirably to ores
which work kindly, requiring little chemical
action or heat to make them part with their

precious contents, to be taken up by amalgama-
tion with quicksilver. Though it rarely yields
as close a result as the Mexican patio process,
or the furnace and barrel process of Freiberg,
it is so much more expeditious and economical
of labor, and so, capable of being applied on a
large scale, that, on the whole, it is unquestion-
ably preferable. The other processes referred to
have been thoroughly tried in Virginia City, and
found utterly unsuited to the conditions existing

The first part of the process, is wet crushing of
the ore, by stamps in iron mortars, a constant
stream of water carrying off through a brass
wire screen the pulverized portion as fast as re-
duced small enough. The screens are at the
back of the mortar. Five stamps, weighing
about 650 pounds each, are usually placed in a
single mortar, and are lifted and dropped from
five to eight inches about ninety times a minute.
The feeder, standing in front, judges by the
sound when and where to feed in the ore lying
behind him. He is expected to feed two batter-
ies of five stamps each, which are usually placed
in one frame, and run by a single shaft. Some
mills have twelve such batteries or sixty stamps.
The amount crushed by a stamp in twenty-four
hours for work never stops day or night varies
with the fineness of the screen, the character of
the ore, and the skill of the feeder, and is from
one to two and a half tons a day. Automatic
machinery for feeding batteries is now introduced
in many mills.

The stream running constantly from the bat-
tery is received in a series of tanks and settled
as much as possible, the deposit from it being
coarse sand at first, and fine sediments at last.
The fine sediments are called slums, and must
be thoroughly mingled with the coarse sand in
the after process, for though often containing the
richest portion of the ore, the atoms are so im-
palpably fine, and adhere to one another so
closely, as to elude the mechanical agencies em-
ployed to obtain the precious metal they bear,
and, if woi'ked by themselves, carry away nearly
all they are worth with them. By mingling
them with the sand in as nearly as possible the
same proportion in which they come, from the
stamps, they become broken up, separated and
distributed through the whole mass of pulp, and
are persuaded to give up the most of the silver
they hold. This silver is not in metallic form,
but combined with sulphur, chlorine or antimony
for the most part. Chlorides of silver easily and
sulphurets more reluctantly part from the base
with which they are united, and amalgamate
with quicksilver.

Antimonial silver not only refuses to do this,
but obstructs the process on the part of other
silver compounds with which it may be associ-
ated, and is, therefore, dreaded by all silver mill-
men who do not roast their ores ; but the com-

pounds of silver at Virginia City, are chiefly
chlorides, and antimonial silver ores, though they
occur there, are found in small quantities only.

To effect this amalgamation of the silver in
the ore with mercury, the crushed pulp is now
placed in quantities of one to two tons, some-
times even more, in an iron pan, five or six feet
in diameter and three to four feet deep, and
ground and stirred by a revolving muller, till all
the coarse sand is reduced fine. The muller is
then raised and the grinding ceases, but the agi-
tation is continued, and a large body of quick
silver is introduced, and steam is also let eithei
into the body of the pulp, or a false bottom under
the pan, so as to heat the whole mass, the amal-
gamator in charge standing by and testing it with
his finger, thinning it with slums of water, thick-
ening it with coarse sand, shutting off the steam
or letting more on, as his judgment dictates, till
the temperature and consistency suit. This pro-
cess is continued from three to twelve hours, ac-
cording to the richness and the kindly or refract-
orv temper of the ore. Poor ores must be rushed
through, that a large amount may be worked.
Rich ores, after yielding handsomely, may still
obstinately retain more value than some poor
ones ever carried.

The pulp is kept thick enough to float minute
atoms of quicksilver, and is made to roll over and
over by wings on the sides of the pan and on the
muller, until all the amalgamation that can be
effected is accomplished, when the motion is
diminished, and the charge in the pan drawn off
into a large settler on a lower level, where it is
diluted with a large volume of cold water, and
slowly stirred, and the quicksilver atoms uniting,
gather in a body ait the bottom and are drawn
off through a syphon. Meantime, a stream of
water running through the settler, carries off
the earthy contents, and finally, when quicksilver
ceases to 'gather, the settler is drawn off nearly
to the bottom and made ready for the contents of
another pan. It is usual to have one -settler for
two pans, and give half the time to settling that
is occupied in grinding and amalgamating.

The silver and gold, so far as they have been
taken up, are now held by the quicksilver. This
is strained through long, deep, conical, canvas
bags, and the tough amalgam obtained is placed
in close iron retorts, the quicksilver distilled out
by fire ; crude bullion results, which is melted in
a crucible and poured into moulds, and when
weighed, assayed and stamped with its value, is
ready for market.

The discharged ore from the settler is called
tailings, and is often caught in large reservoirs,
and after lying months T years, as the case
may be, is worked through the pans and settlers
again, and this process is sometimes repeated
several times, especially if ore becomes scarce.
The practice of different mining companies as to
the disposition of their tailings, varies exceed-


ingly. So long as ore is plenty, no pains are
taken to save them. They never have been
worked so closely as not still to carry several
dollars to the ton value in precious metal.

The process employed at Virginia City, is in
use wherever silver is mined on the Pacific Coast,
with such modifications as differences in the char-
acter of the ore demand. Some ores are so re-
fractory as to require roasting. They are first
dried thoroughly, then crushed dry, next roasted
to expel sulphur, antimony, zinc, etc., and then
treated in pans and settlers as if crushed wet with-
out roasting. The process is expensive, but has
some compensation in the closer percentage of
assay value obtained, and smaller waste of quick-
silver. The loss of this metal in amalgamating
unroasted ores, amounts in various ways to from
two to four pounds for each ton worked. Some
of it combines with chlorine in the ore, and is
converted into calomel. This is lost beyond re-
covery. Some of it is volatilized by the heat in
the pans, and some escapes through the joints of
the retorts, and this also is lost finally, and
sometimes hurts workmen exposed to' the fumes.
Most of it is lost by not being gathered in the
settler. It goes off in minute atoms, carrying
gold and silver with it. This is partly recovered
by working the tailings, or by running them over
blankets in sluices which entrap enough of it to
pay well for the cost of the process.

Sinks of the Great Nevada Basin.
One of the most wonderful natural features of
that part of the Continent lying between the
Wahsatch and Sierra Nevada Ranges of Mount-
ains, is the Great Desert and its numerous sinks.
The sink of the Great Salt Lake has already
been alluded to. It is a great natural curiosity
of itself. It receives the waters of an immense
region of country, and, though gradually rising,
is still confined to its banks, and gives off its sur-
plus waters by evaporation. There is no evi-
dence whatever that it has a subterraneous out-
let. Between it and the sinks of the Nevada
Desert, there is an elevated ridge and broken
ranges of mountains, with gaps and valleys be-
tween them. This whole desert has evidently
been a lake, or an inland sea, at some time,
while the mountains have been islands in it.
Passing the ridge, or low divide between the
broken mountains, which separates the Great
Salt Lake from the desert beyond, and we ar-
rive at the sinks of the Nevada Basin. The
first is the Humboldt Lake, which has been de-
scribed. Then the Humboldt and Carson Sink,
which, unlike the Great Salt Lake, receives the
waters of both the Humboldt River and Lake
and the Carson River and Lake, flowing from
opposite directions ; and, in the hot months of
summer, when evaporation is greatest, is very
nearly dry. On the other hand, in the spring,
when the snows of the mountains melt, or when
heavy rains occur in the winter and spring

months, causing a large flow of water in the
Humboldt and Carson Rivers, these lakes of the
same name nearly always rise together, and the
vast salty plain, in and around the sink, becomes
a lake of great size. There is no evidence of
any subterranean outlet to the waters that flow
into this large sink. On the contrary, those who
have noticed the rapidity with which water dis-
appears from a tub or other vessel exposed to the
sun and air in this region, have no difficulty in be-
lieving, in fact almost seeing, the process of evap-
oration going on, by which the waters are drunk
up and scattered over the earth in clouds, to be
again distilled in rain.

Walker Lake, which receives the flow of
Walker River, is another one of these mysteri-
ous sinks. It is off to the south of Carson
Lake. The river rises in the Sierra Nevadas
and flows in a general easterly direction, till its
waters are swallowed up by the sands of the
desert, or lost through the same process men-
tioned elsewhere. There are also numerous
streams rising in the mountains, assuming large
proportions by the time they reach the valleys,
but the sands of the desert soon drink them dry,
and they are " lost to sight."

North of the Central Pacific, about 20 miles
from Wadsworth, are the sinks of Pyramid
Lake, Winnemucca Lake and Mud Lake, the
latter being a considerable distance north of
Pyramid Lake. These bodies of water at times
quite large, are called fresh water lakes, though
they are brackish and abound in fish. North-
east of Winnemucca Lake is Quin's River, quite
a large stream near its source in the mountains
of Idaho; but it becomes lost in the desert, on its
way, apparently, to Winnemucca Lake. These
lakes and the desert are the mighty sinks which
drink up the water that is not evaporated, but
sometimes evaporation gets the best of them.
North-west of Mud Lake, over in California, is
Honey Lake, another remarkable body of water.
It is sometimes dry so that teams can be driven
across its bed, and then again it is on the ram-
page. Its waters resemble soap-suds, and are
admirably adapted for washing purposes. When
lashed by the winds, its waters become a rolling
mass of foam, and afford a magnificent specta-
cle to the beholder. If it only had permanent
water of the character alluded to, it would be an
excellent location for a huge laundry.

Stage Routes to Lake Tahoe. A favorite
route to Lake Tahoe is via Carson City. It may
be more easily reached and seen on the west-
ward tour, than to wait and include it on the
eastward return.

After a visit to Virginia City, the tourist will
return to Carson City, remain over night at a
good comfortable hotel, the Ormsby House.^
whose proprietor considers it " the highest toned
hotel in Nevada" and next morning, at 8.30 A.
M., take Benton's Stage for Tahoe.




To visit and make the circuit of the lake, and
return to Carson will require at least 18 hours,
but most tourists will find it desirable to stop at
the little hotel on the opposite side of the lake,
and return via Truckee, thus seeing greater
variety of scenery.

Tourists by this route to Virginia City, Carson
and Tahoe, will be obliged to leave the Overland
Western train at Reno at 8:30 p. M. , and spend
the night at Reno at the Railroad Hotel, or
go on the same night to Carson or Virginia

^During the summer, stages leave Carson
every morning about eight o'clock for Lake

Private teams, or special stages, can be en-
gaged at Benton's stables, in Carson, for a trip
to the Lake at any time.

On this route there is the best known of all
California stage-drivers, who have reined kyuse
or mustang horses, the modest Hank Monk.
His first fame was not on the platform of
Faneuil Hall in oratory, but in the streets of
Boston, with eight horses abreast, well trained
to the voice and whip. He has driven stage in
California and Nevada, since 1852, and made
the distance between Carson and Virginia, 21
miles, in one hour and eight minutes. His ap-
pearance and gait do not indicate much energy,
but he drove Horace Greeley 109 miles in 10
hours, fast enough toward the end of the
journey, and as long as he can wake up his pets
with a strong voice or far reaching whip, he will
not fail to get his passengers through, " on
time." But to the credit of others, it should be
said, that California and Nevada have hundreds
of drivers not less skillful and reliable than the
favorite Monk.

The route to the lake lies first south, through
the Carson Valley, toward Job's Peaks and Silver
Mountain, always beautiful with snow. In the
clear atmosphere, the first will appear only a few
miles away, but it is still more than twenty
miles distant. The stage road turns west, up Clear
Creek Canon, through which comes the Twenty-
one Mile (V shaped) Flume of the Carson & Ta-
hoe Lumber Company, through which 700 cords
of wood, or half a million feet of mining timber
can be daily delivered at Carson City from the
summits of the Sierras. Along the canon are
many towering, sun-burnt rocks, weather-beaten
and worn into weird and fantastic shapes, and
these and the swift-descending timber, splashing
the water up many feet at every turn, to sparkle
in the sunlight, the Carson Valley spread out
below, with the Pine Nut, Walker and Sweet-
water Mountains on one side, and the Sierras
opposite, always attract and delight the lover of
bold mountain scenery.

At the summit, the flume connects with
the Lake Tahoe N. G. Railroad, 9 miles
long from summit to Glenbrook on shore of

the lake. The distance is but thi-ee miles by
wagon road, 6 miles less than by the R. R. The
railroad is worked only in the summer months
after much of it has been sought out and found
with shovels, and is exposed to damage and de-
struction from avalanches of snow or rock which
come thundering down the steep sides with re-
sistless force. Near the summit it has the enor-
mous grade of 180 feet to the mile. This pas-
sage over the eastern summit of the Sierras is
made where the range is depressed and the view,
though beautiful, is far too contracted to fully
gratify the traveler. Below, lies Lake Tahoe,
girt with everlasting pine-clad hills whose snowy
masses and evergreen foliage mingle with the
deep blue of an inland sea, yet only a small por-
tion of its beauty can be seen.

Lake Tahoe. This great body of fresh
water, 25 miles long, on an average ten wide,
about three-fourths in California, and one-fourth
in Nevada, has an elevation of a mile and a
quarter, and has been sounded to a depth of
3,000 feet. Through glacial action in past ages,
ice must have been piled up in the valley of this
lake 3,400 feet high. It never freezes, is smooth
as glass and clear as crystal, permitting the
trout to be seen or pebbles counted at a depth of
80 feet. Its water changes color to a beautiful
emerald or almost indigo blue according to the
depth, and when disturbed by the fierce mount-
ain winds, its waves lash the shore with foaming

At Glenbrook, five steamers will be found,
three of which are employed for the mills, and
the others, the " Niagara " and " Stanford " will
convey tourists, not exceeding 200 in number,
around the lake.

Glenbrook is the business center of the whole
region that borders on the lake. It has four
saw-mills with an aggregate capacity of five
million feet per month, running 11 1-2 hours
per day, also a planing mill.

Captain Pray, the oldest settler, is a large
land-owner, and much of the 200 acres in the
ranche on the shores of the lake, is covered with
a beautiful sod of timothy and clover. In the
State there is no finer land, and as the captain
and other mill-owners will rent none for saloon
purposes, Glenbrook, with a summer population
of 500, is a temperance town. The Glenbrook
Hotel, usually kept in first-class style, is usually
open each season, if not, comfortable accommo-
dations can still be found at the Lake Shore
House, for $20 a week, without extra charge for
the use of boats.

Shakespeare Rock, a remarkable curiosity, is
a bold, perpendicular rock on which the profile
of the great poet's face is outlined with great

From Glenbrook there is a charming drive on
the old Placerville Road, past Cave Rock, and
around the head of the lake to Rowlands or


Yank's. The road was constructed at great ex-
pense a single mile near the rock, costing $40,-
000. The only other drive, of note, is from
Tahoe City to Sugar Pine Point.

The whole of the lake is not visible until the
steamer has run out a little distance from the
shore. Then its generic name is rather fitting.
" Tahoe," in the Indian, signifies " big water,"
a ad is the name for ocean. The shore slopes
gently, in places, for two miles to a depth of
from 30 to 50 feet, then breaks sometimes ab-
ruptly as at the Bluffs of Rubicon or Observa-
tory Point, to a depth of 600 or 800 feet; and off
Sugar Pine Point is the greatest depth yet found.
The water is clear as crystal, and the tempera-
ture in summer, when taken from considerable
depth, very near the freezing point. The fare
across the lake is $2.50, and around, $5. The
steamer must lie idle half the year, and reasona-
ble fares may seem thus high. Leaving Glen-
brook for a circuit around the head of the lake,
the first object of interest is Cave Rock, three
and one-half miles from Glenbrook, about 400
feet high. This appears in the engraving from
Moran's sketch made from the point just south
of Glenbrook, and looking south and west.

After passing the rock, and looking back, it
resembles the Great South Dome of Yosemite,
split in two, and the cavern, 30 feet in length, is
seen about 100 feet above the ground. The line
of solid masonry and bridge for the road can just
be traced from the point where the artist stood.
, Leaving Cave Rock, Zephyr Cove is three miles
south. Beautiful meadows afford fine pasturage,
and being on the east side, the earliest vege-
tables are here grown. The mountain's wall
shows plainly its broken but regular character.
From the main ridge, a cross spur is thrown out,
but this must again be broken into a succession
of small canons and " divides."

Just south of the cave is the old Friday
Ranche, well known by the pioneers who were
"on the way to Washoe" and the Kingsbury
Canon, through which the road crossed the
mountain to Genoa. In other days, the toll re-
ceipts on the Kingsbury grade were $500 a day.

Rowlands 14 miles from Glenbrook, at the
head of the lake, on the Old Placerville Road,
was the first place of resort on the lake and
originally called the Lake House. It has greatly
changed from the day when J. Ross Browne was
a guest, and the host " seemed to be quite worn out
with his run of customers, from a hundred to
three hundred of a night, and nowhere to stow
'em all cussin' at him for not keepin' provis-
ions, with but little to drink, except old fash-
ioned tarantula-juice, warranted to kill at forty
paces." It has now two stores and a post-office,
with accommodations for tourists at moderate
price. Lake Valley appears, from a distance,
like a large, pine-covered flat. It is 14 miles
long and six wide, partly covered with timber,

and having much grazing land of the best
quality. The stock that pastures in these fertile
valleys of the lake, is all driven out before the
winter snows begin. Between Rowlands and
Yank's, is the terminus of Gardner's Rail-
road, a successful enterprise for lumbering. It
will soon be extended from six to ten miles.

Yank's is 4 miles from Rowlands, and at
the south-west end of the lake, just west of and
with convenient access to Lake Valley, and is
situated on a grassy sward, in a beautiful grove
of tamaracks interspersed with tall pines and
quaking aspens, with a pebbly beach gently
sloping from Teliae Point, commanding a view
of the whole lake, with convenient access to
Teliae Mountain, and only two miles from Fall-
en Leaf Lake, another beautiful sheet of water,
three miles long and one and one-half wide, at
the head of which are excellent Soda Springs.
Teliae Mountain is easily recognized from ita

Online LibraryFrederick E ShearerThe Pacific tourist : J.R. Bowman's illustrated trans-continental guide of travel, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean ... : acomplete traveler's guide of the Union and Central Pacific Railroads ... → online text (page 37 of 61)