J. H. (John Hanson) Beadle.

Western wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... online

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Online LibraryJ. H. (John Hanson) BeadleWestern wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... → online text (page 57 of 62)
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less though the small room contained fourteen beds filled with other
weary pilgrims.

February 20th, awoke with strange sensations: giddiness, head too
big entirely, and limbs rather slow in obeying the motions of the will.
First attempt to run about town proved a total failure, for a painful
fluttering in the temple and tremor about the heart warned me
to go slow. Nor did those symptoms leave me entirely for a week.
Leadville is ten thousand two hundred feet above the sea, and the
pilgrim should be in no hurry about exercise. Fortunately the
tendency to rest is generally too strong to be resisted; laziness be-
comes a virtue, and one can sleep half the time and lounge the other
half. But when I got my mountain legs on the days were too short
to view the novelties. My first climb was to the Little Pittsburg
Mine, of which one-fourth had just been sold for $262,500. The
lucky seller was a poor man a year before, but on receipt of his cash
he proceeded immediately to Silver Cliff and reinvested it so he may
be a poor man again in due time. The Little Pittsburg was said to
be producing $10,000 a day when in full work.

Day after day I gained in lung power, and climbed to higher mines;


and night after night enjoyed seeing the motley crowd on the streets.
Nothing surprised me so much as the enormous quantities of mail re-
ceived and the crowd at the post-office, especially on Sundays. Then
one often has to wait in line an hour or two for his chance. It would
seem that miners spend all their spare time in reading or answering
letters. But there is a good sized theater crowded nightly, and scores
of popular resorts, all of which seem well patronized Day after day
the town is excited by new reports of rich discoveries in the mount-
ains, "a little further on." And after a month's experience of this
sort of thing, and diligent study of the formation, it seems fair to
drop the narrative style and give the reader some condensed facts.

Come with us now, in the opening of 1882, to Leadville. You need
not stage it as we did, for you can lie back in a Horton reclining-
chair and view the scenery as you come, on either of two railroads.
The Denver and Rio Grande comes directly up the Arkansas from
Pueblo, the Denver and South Park in a general south-west direction
from Denver; and whichever one you come by, you will think the
scenery the finest in the world till you return by the other. You
will land in a city of fifteen thousand or twenty thousand people, with
large hotels, immense wholesale and retail stores, an elegant opera-
house, with good society, an odd compound of that of Chicago and
San Francisco, and some of the worst society in the world if you
look for it.

Leadville lies on the east side of, and about three miles from the
Arkansas River, on a gently sloping plain, or plateau, cut through
on the south by the famous California Gulch, walled in on the east
by the world-renowned Freyer and Carbonate Hills, which are in turn
overshadowed by the frowning peaks of the Mosquito Range. On the
north the main portion of the city is flanked by an elevation known
as Capital Hill, upon w r hich some of the finest residences in the city
are located. Looking west, the valley of the Arkansas is seen, beyond
which towers the majestic Mount Massive, whose snowy head is often
veiled with clouds. Surely no city could be more beautiful for situ-

Near the city indeed, throughout the district this side of the
divide the geological formation is very irregular. The basis is
granite, which crops out frequently. All along the valley of the
Arkansas indications of extensive Silurian formations are quite abun-
dant. However, the strata have been so broken up by volcanic
action and so extensively converted into metamorphic rock, that it is
impossible to determine the^extent of the original formations. So far


as the mines have developed, there seems to be no regularity or system
whatever, but all is in a confused mass. Mines that are but a few
hundred feet apart strike very different rock deposits. There is no
uniformity in the thickness of the " wash," or of the deposits of lime-
stone, porphyry, and carbonates. One mine will strike valuable car-
bonates a few feet from the surface, while the mine next to it may go
down hundreds of feet and find little or no paying ore. In some
mines limestone is found in abundance; others encounter extensive
deposits of porphyry. As a rule, the carbonates are found below the
porphyry. These carbonate deposits are not at all uniform in extent.
Sometimes they contain only a ton or two ; and, again, there will be
a hundred tons or more in one deposit. The silver-bearing ores also
vary greatly in kind. Some are soft or pulverized, called sand car-
bonates; some are hard, and carry a large per cent, of iron; while
others are almost wholly composed of galena, with a small per cent,
of silver; still others are rich in chlorides and sulphurets.

Nothing like a true fissure vein has been found in Freyer or
Carbonate Hills; but in the gulches over the divide, many rich veins
have been discovered. These veins vary from one foot to six feet in
thickness, and are often rich in galena. Little of horn or wire
silver has been discovered in the deposit mines, though some has been
found in fissure veins. During the past season some very valuable
gold-bearing veins have been discovered near Leadville. It is be-
lieved that there are many rich gold-bearing lodes yet undiscovered
in the immediate vicinity of Leadville. Several millions of dollars
in gold dust have been washed from the gravel beds of California
Gulch paying dirt having been found there twenty years ago, and
it is very probable that the gold dust has been washed down
from veins of gold-bearing rock in the sides of the neighboring

Some suppose that there is a deposit of carbonates underlying all
the country about here, which may be struck if the shaft is sunk deep
enough. But the more probable opinion is that these deposits lie here
and there with no regularity. It will be seen, therefore, that the
search for carbonates in the foot-hills about Leadville is one of luck
or haphazard entirely. The miner has no indications to guide him,
but digs a hole hoping to strike it. Not more than one in one
hundred of the holes thus dug has yielded well. So mining about
Leadville, at the start at least, is simply prospecting on a large and
very expensive scale. But when they do strike it, it is marvelous
how the wealth rolls out.



The following table is carefully compiled from the furnace returns
and shipments, and shows within a very few dollars the yield of Lead-
ville mines for 1880:


Pounds of

Ounces of

Ounces of

Tons of Ore

Value of








r :




5 167,429








$1 616 035

5 042 719

808 758





292 742

173 181

1 385605








166 132

1 304 093



636 716






109 394

1 080726










1 ,378 664







126 997

1 040283


4 598 738

676 227






77 885

1 041 184










1 364 179

7 524,747

848 715


2 937




217 147

1 556599


5 866 851

583 880




3 1-10

262 372


99 295


67,691 854

8,979 399

1 688






$15 025 153

An aggregate of over fifteen million dollars in one year is truly
astonishing. The proved returns and work done in particular mines
are even more remarkable. In the Chrysolite Mine alone over twelve
thousand linear feet of drifts, raises, and winzes, were made during the
year, and in eight of the Freyer Hill mines over seventy-five thousand
linear feet of drifts, levels, winzes, and raises, were made, representing
about two million cubic feet. Still larger sections of promising terri-
tory remain to be opened, and not one-tenth of the hill has even been
explored. Less than eight acres are stoped, and about twenty acres
are opened, and thousands of tons of rich mineral are exposed to
view in nearly every mine on the hill. On Carbonate Hill a very
large amount of development work has also been done during the
year, but less ore has been taken out. The mines located on the car-
bonate break show from the Catalpa northward an almost inexhausti-
ble supply of medium grade lead ores that promises to supply the
smelters of the camp for years to come.

Large bodies of fine smelting ores have been discovered in the
Florence, Brian Boru, and Columbia mines, on the south side of Cal-
ifornia Gulch; in the Big Chief, St. Mary's, Henriette, and Yankee
Doodle mines, on Carbonate Hill ; in the mines of Little Ellen Hill,
and the Uncle Sam, Little Johnnie, A. Y., and other mines on Breecc
and Iron hills. Yankee Hill has disclosed ore bodies recently, that,
in the opinion of many prominent mining men, will soon make it a
formidable rival of Freyer Hill. Recent developments have shown
some of the richest chloride bodies ever discovered in the vicinity of
Leadville to exist in this hill, and its future possibilities are beyond


estimation. In addition to these discoveries of smelting ores, a score
of rich strikes of free milling silver-bearing and gold-bearing ores and
quartz were made. Some of these are located on Ball Mountain and
Breece Hill, and give magnificent returns in gold, while other rich
silver-bearing quartz ledges have been opened on Yankee Hill and in
Colorado Gulch.

The history of Leadville is a Rocky Mountain romance in real life.
When the first invasion struck the territory, the eager gold hunters
prospected every gulch on the eastern slope; and in the spring of
1860, parties of Gilpin County miners crossed South Park and dis-
covered rich placers on the head-waters of the Arkansas. These were
so much like the old placers of California that they named the local-
ity California Gulch, and in a few months a continuous line of claims
and cabins stretched along the Gulch thirty-three thousand feet. One
claim for awhile yielded $1,000 per day, and a single firm took out
$60,000. They named the principal settlement Oro, and a few of its
cabins still stand. Before Christmas, 1860, the camp contained some
five thousand men, with all the accompaniments of saloon, store, dance
house, and gambling hall, in which the lucky miner too often parted
with his bonanza. Gold dust was the usual medium of exchange, by
weight at $18 per ounce.

In one year the gulch yielded about a million dollars; then one by
one the placers were worked out, and the slow decline began. In 1865
but few miners remained, and the total yield to that time was esti-
mated at three millions. In 1869 it was but $60,000; in 1876 but
$20,000 ; and then for a short time there was no town of Oro. But
some observing men had noticed a few things which they kept to
themselves till they had secured Government title to their claims.
Messrs. Stevens and Wood remarked the extraordinary weight of the
boulders displaced in placer mining, analyzed the metal, and found
silver. They quietly secured titles to nine claims, and began to de-
velop. Maurice Hayes and brother, the Gallagher brothers, and a
Mr. Durham also made similar discoveries. Meanwhile the Printer's
Boy and some other gold lodes had been opened and worked. At
length, in the autumn of 1876, the Gallaghers struck a big deposit of
rich carbonates, and in a few weeks several others "struck it rich";
then California Gulch awoke from its long sleep and the era of mod-
ern Leadville began. For fifteen years miners had taken out one
kind of ore directly over fabulous wealth of another kind, without
even suspecting it. In how many old camps are they doing the same
thing even now?



" Early in 1877 two smelters were running, but rich discoveries fol-
lowed each other so fast that ore was piled up hundreds of tons ahead
of their capacity to reduce it. In June, 1877, Charles Mater erected
the first house in the present Leadville, and opened a stock of goods
therein. Before Christmas the place contained one thousand inhabit-
ants; by spring it had a weekly paper, a school, and two churches.
A. B. Wood made the first big sale, disposing of his half interest in
the nine claims above mentioned for $40,000. In March, 1878, the


St. Louis Smelting Company bought the Camp Bird and adjoining
property for $225,000. By the first of June half a dozen rich mines
were known; then the flood began. First came miners and investors
by twos and tens from adjacent camps, then by scores from distant
parts of Colorado, and soon by hundreds from every part of the world.
Winter brought a slight cessation, but the summer of 1878 increased
the arrivals. The next winter made no cessation, and early in 1879
the arrivals averaged a hundred per day. Meanwhile the wonderful
deposits on Freyer Hill were opened deposits so rich and easily


mined that they exceeded any thing previously known in Colorado;
and were only exceeded, if at all, by the Big Bonanza of Nevada.

In May, 1879, this was the situation: Three stage lines were dis-
charging their daily loads there, and two railroads were pushing for-
ward to Leadville; five smelters and sampling works were taking in
ore and shipping ore or bullion ; a dozen saw-mills ran day and night,
and were a month behind on orders for lumber; six thousand people
had a regular residence in the place, and unknown thousands more were
scattered over the adjacent country ; five hundred houses were in process
of building, and the sound of the hammer and saw was heard day and
night. The luxuries of life followed fast. Dance houses and saloons
multiplied, and " dizzy doves " gave an air of abandon to the streets.
Enormous sales followed each other rapidly. Men who rarely had
an extra dollar in their lives, found themselves rich beyond their
dreams, and spent money with lavish hand. It was difficult to make
one's way along the streets after night, when sight-seers and roysterers
crowded the pavement. A dozen bands were drumming up audiences
for as many variety shows and concert halls, and from scores of open
doors were heard the click of billiard balls and the crash of ten-pins.
Those who make money suddenly, generally spend it carelessly, and
life in a thriving mining camp is a continuous invitation to prodi-

In December, 1879, the official report showed that Leadville con-
tained four banks, with over $2,000,000 in deposits; that $569,070
had been sent east in postal money-orders, and mail received at the
rate of one or two tons per day ; that corner lots sold at from $3,000
to $8,000; and that the city had that year done a business aggregating
over $18,000,000!

Since the opening of 1881, authentic figures are scarce. The popu-
lation is estimated all the way from fifteen to forty thousand: take
your choice. But the town is far more solid than it was. The Tabor
Opera House is the finest in the State ; and the churches, school build-
ings, and public halls are equal to those in eastern cities. The city
is illuminated with gas; has first-class water-works, police and fire
departments ; is now a well-ordered place ; has three first-class daily
and several weekly papers. The post-office is a wonder in itself.
Twelve clerks are constantly on the move, and thousands of letters
are received daily and delivered here or sent on to distant camps.
The hotel business is enormous. The Clarendon took in $260,000
in nine months. Almost every Christian denomination is represented
by a fine church; and even the heathen Chinese have a little room


which they use on occasion as a Buddhist temple. One dry-goods
house sold $350,000 worth in twelve months, and a grocery firm over
$400,000 worth in the same time. There are two planing mills and
four foundries and machine shops. The smelters ship over $1,000,000
in bullion every month. And as this is the test of a mining region,
let us finish our chapter on Leadville by a visit to the Grant Smelter,
which is among the largest in the world.

The first objects of interest, after you pass through the yard gate,
are the great piles of dirt and stone, as you would call them, but
which are really piles of valuable ore from the mines. Every load
is driven on the scales and weighed as it comes in, and then assigned
a place according to its value, which has been carefully ascertained
by an assay made by the experts in the employ of the smelting com-
pany. Passing into the building, you observe long rows of large bins
full of ore, each properly numbered the number indicating the qual-
ity of the ore. Passing these bins, you encounter an army of men
wheeling ore, limestone, coal, coke, and slag (which is the cooled
refuse of the smelted ore), in all directions, without any seeming
order or plan. Further on you observe men shoveling the ore into
a sort of hopper, and on the other side of the hopper wheeling away
fine dirt, or ore that looks like sand. These hoppers, with huge iron
rollers underneath, are called crushers, and the ore is passed through
these crushers to pulverize it so it will smelt more easily. There are
three of these crushers.

We now see that the men who were wheeling various materials
about the buildings, leave their loaded wheelbarrows in front of these
furnaces. They are just now charging or filling this one, and we will
watch the process. On the first is charcoal ; on the second, limestone ;
on the third, ore; on the fourth, coke; and on the fifth, slag. Ob-
serve he dumps the coal in first, then the limestone, and so on. Other
wheelbarrow loads are brought and dumped into the furnace until it
is full ; then the door is shut, and the whole mass begins to melt.
You ask why all these different materials are used? Well, the coal
and coke are of course put in to furnish the heat required ; the lime-
stone and slag are put in to act as a flux. (This word literally
means a flow.) These substances assist in the fusion or melting, and
also in separating the different metallic substances that are combined in
the ore. The silica or sand in the ore unites with the lime, and thus
frees the silver and lead which are contained in the, ore. Other min-
eral substances also unite with the flux, leaving the silver and lead free
from the baser metals. At the bottom of the furnace you see several


tubes or pipes inserted. These are called "blowers," and through
them the air is forced into the furnace to increase the process of com-
bustion. By the aid of the blowers the furnace is made hot enough
to melt the ore, etc. Now you observe men opening a spout near the
bottom of the furnace, and draining off a red-hot liquid substance,
which looks like melted iron, into cast-iron molds shaped like an in-
verted cone. This is the slag or waste, and is composed of the sand,
iron, lime, and all other base metals which the ore contained. The
silver and lead, which are heavier than the slag, go to the bottom of
the melted mass, and are taken out at the side of the furnace, from a
round opening called the well. Near the well you see a long row
of cast-iron molds, each capable of holding about one hundred pounds
of bullion, or silver and lead combined. Into these molds the melted
bullion is poured, and when cold it is ready to ship. The silver and
lead are not separated at the smelter, but are sent as bullion to St.
Louis, Philadelphia, New York, and other places, to be separated and
sold. Some of the ore is very rich in silver, and contains but little
lead, while other grades have a large per cent, of lead and but little
silver. Some of the bullion averages as high as twenty-five per cent,
in silver.

When all the furnaces about Leadville are in operation they can
reduce two hundred and twenty-five tons of ore every twenty-four
hours, which will make about five tons of bullion, and will contain a
ton of pure silver, and perhaps more. Three hundred men are em-
ployed when all the furnaces are running to their fullest capacity.
Great care must be taken by the workmen not to get " leaded ; " that
is, not to inhale the fumes from the melted lead, which are very
poisonous, and, if inhaled to any great extent, will bring on a very
painful sickness, and perhaps result in death.

I have said that the pilgrim would seldom if ever recognize the
richest ore; that his eye would be caught by the glitter of the cheap
galena ; and this is as good a place as any to give some of the reasons
why. First, it is to be noted that though the simple elements in rock
and mineral are few, their combinations are almost endless ; and the
merest trace of some element like sulphur will entirely change the ap-
pearance of an ore. In gold mining there is little chance for techni-
calities, for gold is "free" that is, in its native matrix of quartz it
does not combine with other minerals, and the separation is simple.
But silver is the metal with which true science comes in play ; for of
the sixty or more simple elements of which all creation is composed,
he would be a bold miner who would put his finger on one and say,


"That is never found with silver." The enclosing rocks, known in
reference to the vein as " wall rock," and when spoken of generally as
the "country rock," are somewhat more simple in construction.

Of the elements in rock and mineral, the first is

Oxygen. This constitutes nearly one-half of the earth's crust; it
enters into all rocks and nearly all minerals. Next to it is

Silicon. This makes up about one-fourth of the earth's crust. So
oxygen and silicon alone constitute about three-fourths of all the mate-
rials the miner has to deal with. Combined in some way they make
. Quartz. This is, in general terms, the matrix of the precious
metals that is, the atom of silver or gold is inclosed by atoms of
quartz, so that the metal, as such, is rarely visible, and its presence is
known to the experienced miner only by various signs. But if there
is much galena present with the silver, that metal nearly always shows
brightly with its cubical crystals, looking like marvelously rich ore.
If, on the other hand, the silver is a chloride or sulphuret, there is no
luster. Thus the richest ore always looks worthless to the pilgrim,
and the cheapest looks the richest the quartz in either case merely
aiding to obscure the true ore. Next in rank, probably, is

Feldspar. A general name given to a class containing several
varieties. Next is

Mica. Which is too well known to need description. Quartz,
feldspar, and mica, combine to make granite, in which the shining
specks, or flakes, of mica may often be distinguished. Th6 last I
need mention is

Lime. A word used by the miner in a very general sense indeed,
and without reference to the many distinctions made by science. The
practical miner lumps it all together under the general name of lime-
stone. Limestone is the country rock of all the Cottonwood, Ameri-
can Fork, and Ophir Districts in Utah ; of the immediate vicinity
of Leadville ; of some of the richest mines in Mexico, and of many
other districts. In eastern Colorado we usually find granite, or some
massive rock; and in other districts the varieties are many. With
these definitions you may form some idea of what the miner means
by his first question about a new district: "What is the country
rock?" That answered, he at once has some idea as to the value of
the mines, for in some mysterious way the inclosing rock has deter-
mined the ease with which the ore can be worked, and to some ex-

* I

tent its richness. For instance, carbonic acid being present in lime-
stone, the reader will easily see why mines yielding carbonate ores

Online LibraryJ. H. (John Hanson) BeadleWestern wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... → online text (page 57 of 62)