J. Ross (John Ross) Browne.

Resources of the Pacific slope [electronic resource] A statistical and descriptive summary of the mines and minerals, climate, topography, agriculture, commerce, manufactures, and miscellaneous productions, of the states and territories west of the Rocky mountains online

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Online LibraryJ. Ross (John Ross) BrowneResources of the Pacific slope [electronic resource] A statistical and descriptive summary of the mines and minerals, climate, topography, agriculture, commerce, manufactures, and miscellaneous productions, of the states and territories west of the Rocky mountains → online text (page 1 of 153)
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Entebbd, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of

New York.





Tlic report of J. Boss Browne on the mineral resources of jjie States and Terri-
tories west of the liocl'i/ moimtcins.

March 5, ] 808.— Eeferred to tlae Committee en Mines and -lining and ordered to be printed.

Teeasuey ■'epaetmbkt, March 5, 1868.
Sir : I have the honor to transmit to the puse of Representatives the report
of J. Ross Bro\\Tie on the mineral resources ( t^ie States and Territories west of
the Rocky mountains.

Very respectfullv, your obedient se-'^'^^

H. Mcculloch,

Secretary/ of the Trcasiiri/.
Hon. ScnUYLEE Colfax,

Speaker of the House of Ttcpre-'^ntatives.

REPORT „., .

OF ^^S:*^-



Washi^^gtox, D. C, March 5, 18GS.
Sir : In the preliminary report wliicb I had the honor to transmit to you irom
San Francisco in November, 18GC, a general smnmary was given of the mineral
resources of the States and Territories west of the Rocky mountains. It was
not anticipated by the department that the information required under letter of
instructions dated August 2, ISGG, could be obtained in full uithin the brief
period intervening before the next meeting of Congress; but it was hoped that
sutiicient data might be collected to fiu-nish a general idea of the rise and pro-
gTcss of the mining interest on the Pacific slope. No oflicial document in any
department of the government contained accurate infonnation on this subject,
and it was considered desirable that special attention should be given to the fol-
lowing points:

1. The origin of gold and silver mining on the Pacific coast and present condi-
tion of that interest, as tending to show the progress of settlement and civilization.

2. Geological formation of the great mineral belts and general characteristics,
of the placer diggings and quartz lodes.

3. Different systems of mining, machinery used, processes of reducing the ores,
percentage of waste, and net profits.

4. Population engaged in mining, exclusively and in part, capital and labor
employed, value of improvements, number of mills and steam engines in opera-
tion, yield of the mines, average of dividends, and losses.

5. Proportion of agricultural and mineral lands in each district, quantity of
woodland, facilities for obtaining fuel, number and extent of streams, and water

6. Salt beds, deposits of soda and borax, and alLother valuable mineral deposits.

7. Altitude, character of climate, mode and cost of living, cost of all kinds of
material, cost of labor, &c.

8. I\)pulation of the mining towns, nuraljcr of banks and banking institutions
in them, facilities for assaying, melting, and refining bullion ; charges upon tlic
same for transportation and insurance.

9. Communication with the mines and principal towns, postal and telegi'aphic
lines; stage routes; <;ost of travel; probable benefits likel}' to result from con-
struction of the Pacific railroad and its proposed branches.

10.' Necessity f<n' assay ollices and public depositories; what financial facili-
ties uiay tend to develop the country and enhance its products.

11. Copies of local mining laws and customs regulating the h(ddiug and
working of claims.

12. Number of ledges opened, number claimed, character of the soil in the
mining districts, and its adaptation to the support of a large population.


. Tlie preliminary report, submitted in answer to tliese inquiries, embraced sucli
infonnation as could be obtained ■vsitbin the brief period allowed for its preparation,
Altliougli imperfect in many respects, it was received by the people of the Pacific
coast as an indication of a gTO'U'ing interest on the part of government in the de-
velopment of our mineral resources. It was a source of gi-atification to the miners
to find that, after years of unprofitable toil, during which they had contributed
largely to the national wealth, the peculiar character of their occupation was
beginning to be understood, audits inlluence in promoting settlement and ci%'i]iza-
tion to 1)0 better appreciated.

The report which I now have the honor to submit is the result of many years
of labor and exploration. It contains the aggregated experience of the ablest
statisticians and experts on the Pacific coast. If there bo any merit in the work,
it belongs chiefly to my co-laborers, Avho have devoted themselves with such
unselfish zeal to the promotion of the objects designed to be accomplished by
this commission. The fund appropriated by Congress was insuflicient to admit
of compensation adequate to such labor ; but assistance was cheerfully given, as
a matter of public benefit, -without regard to personal or pecuniary considerations.
When it is taken into view that this inquiry extends over the Territories of Utah,
Ai'izona, Montana, Idaho, and Washington, and the States of Oregon, California,
and Nevada, embracing an area of country stretching fi'om the Rocky mountains
to the Pacific, and from Mexico to British Columbia; that in many parts of this
vast mineral range travel is still difiicult and expensive; that the business of
mining is new to the American people, and the collection of statistics unsystem-
atized in this department of industiy, it will be conceded that as much has been
accomplished as could reasonably be expected.

An eiToneous idea prevails that the collection of mining statistics involves
original explorations and detailed personal examinations of every mine through-
out the vast range of our mineral regions, with scientific and })ractical deduc-
tions relative to the treatment of ores; and it is expected by some that the infor-
mation obtained shall be entirely new, and furnish a complete index for the
purchase, sale or working of every mine in the country. Apart from the fact
that such an investigation would require tho employment for many years of a
large scientific force at great expense, it would be difiicult even then to present
statistics which had not already been made public. The same sources of infor-
mation are open to all. The mining press of the country, closely connected with
that interest, directly identified with its progress, in daily and familiar contact
with its details, makes it a special duty to keep up the current record of cost and
production, success and failure. There may bo misstatement or exaggeration,
but not more so on the part of the press, wliich is held to a certain accounta-
bility b}'' public sentiment, than on that of individuals who may be prejudiced or
irresponsible. Statements publicly made and thoroughly criticised are as likely
to be correct as casual cxauunations made by jiersons visiting a special locality,
Tuifamiliar with its growth and progress, and comju'lled after all to dej^ei^d upon
infonnation derived from others. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that there
are dilficulties in the way of absolute accuracy.

Every miner naturally desires that his mine should be carefully examin(?d
and reported upon in detail, especially if, as in the majority of cases, it be unpro-
ductive. Without reflecting that a nlere list of the unproductive mines would
fill a volume, tho miner is disjiosed to estimate the value of a report by its men-
tion or omission of that in which ho is most interested. However disposed a
government agent may be to meet the wishes of the mining conununity in this
respect, it is equally important to bear in mind that this inquiry is not designed
for speculative purposes or the })romotion of special or individual interests. The
public desire reliable statements, and herein lies the difliculty — a spirit of ex-
aggeration on the one hand, a demand for facts ou the other. To afford satis-


faction to all is impossible. I liavo tlicreforc relied upon my own sense of
fairness, and endeaA'ored to ])resent the truth inipurtially.

That errors may have been eomiiiitted, and false statements given by interested
parties, is probable, but prceantion has been taken to i^-uard against them. The
selection of assistants" was made with reference to their integrity and capacity.
Instructions were given to theni in detail, enjoining careful scrutiny and verili-
cation of every statement. The revision of tlieir work, under these precautions,
has occupied more than four months. There is no subject upon which greater
difl'erenco of opinion exists than that of mining statistics. It is an open field in
which there is room for discrepancy under any existing circumstances. No two
persons rate the product of the precious metals alike. The superintendent of a
mine often furnishes information which when submitted to the board of directors
is pronounced incoiTCct. llepresentatives from the mining districts arc apt to
rate both population and ])rodacts higher than persons who have made them
spec'ial subjects of inquiry, but whose opportunities for judging may not bo so

A fruitful source of eiTor is in supposing that the ordinary channels of trans-
portation cannot be. relied upon as a clue to the gross product of the mines. It
is alleged that large quantities of the precious metals are carried awa}* in the
pockets of the niiners. Even if this were so, it is not reasonable to suppose that
the miners continue to biaxlen themselves with their treasure after aniving at
their place of destination. It must lind its way into the mint or branch mints
for coinage or the custom-house manifests for exportation. It cannot be assayed
without paying its internal revenue tax. The gross yield of all the mines can
be determined with approximate accuracy. It is more difficult to arrive at a
subdivision, when it comes to the product of each State and Territorj-. In
California, for example, during the early days of placer mining, before the trans-
portation of bullion by organized companies had become a business entitled to
eonlidence, a large proportion of the gold derived from the mines was carried
out of the country by private hands. There was comparatively little danger of
loss. The routes to San Francisco were short, public, and protected by general
interest. From that point to New York the passengers usually combined for mutual
protection, and the risk was inconsiderable. It was not until the idle and the prof-
ligate began to obtain an ascendency, the business of transportation by express
more firmly established, ami the mines more difficult to work with profit, that
the increase of risks and reduction- of charges resulted in the general aban-
donment of this system. It doubtless prevails to a limited extent now, but
the transportation of bullion by private liands in California is exceptional. It
prol)ably does not exceed seven per cent, in the aggregate, and this applies only
to the routes by which it reaches San Francisco. In reference to silver it is
impossible that any considerable amount can escape notice in this wa}'. The
yield of Nevada can be determined with more accuracy than that of other States.
Silver predominates in the mines; and where gold is obtained it is not in an
inicombincd form. When we come to Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon
the greatest difficulty is experienced.

Shr[)meuts of treasure from ]Moutana and Idaho may become incorporated with
others before reaching their deslination. From ^Montana most of the bullion
goes east. Two main routes are open to examination — one by the ^lissouri river,
the other by Salt Lake City. Indian disturbances and the insecurity of the
roads have during the past year almost entirely closed the latter; so that the
chief exit is by the former route. Shipments from Idaho are made chielly by
way of Portland and the inland stage route through Ihunboldt and across the
Sierra Nevada. On both of these routes it is alleged that they arc liable to
become merged with the products of other States and Territories. It has been
impossible to obtain an account of the shipments from each agency at the express
office of Wells, Fargo & Co., at San Francisco. For reasons of private expe-


cliency tboy refrain from giving the desired infomiation. TVc have, however,
the aggregate receipts at their ofHce, and knowing very nearly what amount can
fairly be credited to California, Nevada, and British Columbia, can draw reason-
able conclusions as to the proportion derived from Idaho, Washington, and
Oregon. From the best infomiation available the following is a near approxi-
mation to the total gold and silver product for the year ending January 1, 1867 :

California $25,000,000

Nevada 20,000,000

Montana ]2, 000, 000

Idaho 0,500,000

Washington ], 000, 000

Oregon 2,000,000

Colorado 2,500,000

New Mexico 500.000

Arizona 500,000

70, 000, 000
Add for bullion derived from unknown sources within our States and TeiTito-

ries, unaccounted for by assessors and express companies, &.c 5, 000, 000

Total product of the United States 75,000,000

The bullion product of Washington is estimated by the surveyor general at
$1,500,000. That of Oregon is rated as high as $2,500,000. Intelligent resi-
dents of Idaho and Montana represent that the figures given in the above esti-
mate, so far as these Temtories arc concerned, are entirely too low, and might
be doubled without exceeding the truth. The product of Idaho alone for this
year is said to be from $15,000,000 to 618,000,000. That of Montana is esti-
mated by the surveyor general at $20,000,000. Similar exceptions are taken
to the estimates of Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. As I have no grounds
for accepting these statements beyond the assertion that most of the bullion is
can'ied away in the pockets of the miners, I am inclined to rely upon the returns
of the assessors, express companies, and official tables of export. Admitting
that a fraction over seven per cent, may have escaped notice, although reason-
able allowance is made for this in the estimate of $70,000,000, and that a con-
siderable sum may be dei-ived from sources not enumerated, I feel confident the
additional allowance of $5,000,000 is sufficient to cover the entire bullion pro-
duct of the United States for the year 1867, thus making the aggregate from
all sources $75,000,000, as stated in the report of the Secretary of the Treasury.

I have endeavored to obtain returns of the annual product of each State and
Territory since 1848 ; but, for the reasons already stated, and in the absence of
reliable statistics, it has been imj)ossible to make the necessary divisions with
more than approximate accuracy. As nearly as I can judge from the imperfect
retinns available, the following, in round numbers, is not far from the total pro-

California $900,000,000

Nevada 90,000,000

Montana 65,000,000

Idaho 45,000,000

Washington 10,000,000

Oregon 20,000,000

Colorado 25,000,000

New Mexico and Arizona - 5,000,000

In jewelry, plate, spoons, «S:c., and retained for circulation on Pacific coast.. 45, 000, 000

Add for amounts buried or concealed and amounts from unenumerated sources,
and of which no account may have been taken 50,000,000



This statomont iXHiuircs oxj)lanution. Uji to 1855 a considorable i)ortion of
the gold taken Jioin California was not manilestcd. In 1849 the actual viold
was probablv $10,000,000; in 1850, $.'35,000,000; in 1851, §40,000,000; in
1852, $50,000,000; in 1853, $60,000,000; and in 1854, 853,000,000. The
anionnt unaccounted for by nianilest was not so great after the last date. In
1861 Nevada and Idaho eonnnenced adding their treasure to the shipments, so
that after that date a deduction for the amounts })roduced from these sources
would be necessary, if the manifest alone were taken as a criterion, in order to
arrive at the product of California,

An addition should be made for the amount retained for currency, estimated
by some as high as $45,000,000, but jn-obably not exceeding $35,000,000 or
840,000,000 ; and for plate, jewelry, Sec, of California gold,' say 82,000,000,
and Nevada silver, $3,000,000.

Incorporated in these shipments are the amounts received from Nevada,
Idaho, Oregon, Arizona, Washington, and British Columbia; but these cannot
be deducted from the manifest of exports, according to the express returns, since
the proportions arc not accm-ately knowTi of the amounts, retained and shipped,
derived from separate sources.

The general condition of the mining interest on the Pacific slope is enconrag-
ing. There have been fewer individual losses than during past years, and the
yield of the mines has been comparatively steady and reliable.

Fluctuations in mining stock have not ])cen so great as usual, and those wild
and injinious speculations which have impaired c<jnfidence in this great interest
are gradually becoming naiTowed down to individual operators, whose influence
in the community is limited.

Legitimate mining has been as prosperous as other pursuits, though it cannot
be denied that there are uncertainties attached to this peculiar l)usiness which
render it hazardous and require more than ordinary profits to make it remunera-
tive under the most favorable circumstances. It may seem strange in this view
that the gross product of bullion has been gradually diminishing for some years
past, l)ut a brief reference to the history of mining operations on the Pacific
coast will explain this apparent anomaly.

The existence of gold in California Avas known long before the acquisition of
that teiTitory by the United States. Placers had long been Avorked on a limited
scale by the Indians ; but the priests Avho had estabfishcd the missionary settle-
ments, knowing that a dissemination of the discoveries thus made would frus-
trate their plans for the conversion of the aboriginal races, discouraged l)y all
means in their power the prosecution of this pursuit, and in some instances sup-
pressed it by force. As early as December, 1843, however, Manuel Castanai'es,
a Mexican ofHcer, made strenuous efforts to arouse the attention of the Mexican
government to the impoilance of this great interest.

It is not ray ])urpose to enter into a detail of the events preceding the dis-
covery by Marshall on the 19th of January, 1848, or the subsequent excitement
which resulted in the opening of the great placer mines, and the rush of immigra-
tion in 1849. Itcfercnce is made to these incidents in the history of California
merely to show the changes in the character of the business. At first gold was
easily found, and re<iuired but little skill in separating it from the loose gi'avel
or sand in which it was imbedded. Freciuently it lay so near the surface in such
quantities and in grains of such form and size, that a simple pan or rocker com-
l^rised all the means necessary, with ordinaiy labor, to insure extraordinary
profits. Mere will and muscle were sufiicicnt. Om- i)cople were inexpcnenced,
but ingenious in devices for saving labor, energetic and industrious.

Unskilled as they were, nearly all who went into the business realized hand-
some profits; and the reports of. their success induced a rapid inunigration from
the Atlantic States, South America, Australia, and other jiarts of the world.

Thus towns were built up ; a new and extensive commerce sprang into existence;


lands were cviltivatecl to supply the miners; roads were cut tlirouo-li tlie difficult •
passes of the mountains; steamboat and stage lines were established; and the
country from the western slopes of the Siena Ncvadas to the shores of the Pacific,
for many hundred miles north and south, became suddenly fdled with an indus-
trious, intelligent and enteqirising po2)ulation. Even in those earlj' days, how-
ever, as tlie siu-face jdacers receded towards their sources, time and money were
expended in the rediscovery of inventions which had been known to the old
world for centuries.

With all the genius and enterprise of the American people, no important dis-
covery in the way of machinery for mining was made which had not been long
in use in South America, Mexico, or Em'ope. Tlie same necessities gave rise to
identical contrivances for saving labor, and it is sufficient!}" creditable to our
miners to say that without any knowledge of what others had done, tliey frequently
improved upon the original's. The fact demonstrates very clearly that want of
knowledge, even in the preliminary stages of mining, is a source of loss. When
the precious metals are easily obtained, and the profits of individual labor are
large, less iujury 'results from ignorance than in the subsequent stages of the
business, when capital is required and the process of reduction is more complicated.
Mining differs essentially from every other branch of industry. Unlike agricul-
ture, there is but one crop in a mine. As the work progresses the stock of mineral
is decreased, and can never be replenished by any human art. There is no
opportunity of recovering what has been lost or wasted.

The fanner changes his crop or his system of cultivation ; and his land can be
improved and his profits increased by experience. So also in manufactm-es and
other pursuits. Hence it is important that the experience of mankind should be
preserved so that eiTor may be avoided.

Comparatively little progress was made in vein or quartz mining prior to 1860.
Quartz veins containing the precious metals were discovered in California in 1850,
and for several years experiments were made in working them, generally with
loss. The Mexicans Avitli their arastras Averc the only successful quartz miners.
Experience in their own country enabled them to realize fair profits upon their
labors. Their system of mining, however, was too slow for an American popu-
lation, to whom large investments of capital were of no consequence, provided
there was a prospect of immediate and abmidant returns.

The discovery and development of the Comstock lode in Nevada gave the first
impulse to this kind of mining. The wonderful richness of that vein attracted
attention at once, and drew from all parts of the world men of scientific attain-
ments. By the developments made in working it, the principle was established
that quartz veins (^ould be rendered a prolitalde source of supply on the Pacific
coast. The ex})erience thus gained inq)elled the adventurous miners of California
to attempt new systems, and devote themselves with greater vigor to the opening
and working of the gold-bearing veins in that State.

In ISGO the i)roduct from this source in California did not exceed 85,000,000.
As the surface diggings gave out, a resort to vein mining ])ecame indispensable.

The proportion of bullion now derived* i'rom various sources within the limits
of the State is about as follows : from smface diggings, $2,000,000 ; from
cement or deep-lying placers, $18,000,000; from quartz mines, $9,000,000 — total,

I'rofessor Ashbnruer estimates that about 80 per cent, of the gold is produced
from the nnnes lying north of the Mokelumnc. The production of the southern
mines is diminishing every year, and the surface diggings will soon be exhausted.
Wherever the latter predominated a sudden but ei)hemeral i)rosperity was
engendered. General stagnation now prevails; towns are dejiopulated; real
estate is of little value; business is depressed. The population consists of
hundreds in many counties where it formerly consisted of thousands. Ref-
erence to the accompanying reports will show the present condition of these


localities. Good quartz veins exist in many of tlicm, but the want of capital
has retarded their development. Unskilled labor can make no further progress,
and new lields of enterprise have been sought by those who formerly depended

Online LibraryJ. Ross (John Ross) BrowneResources of the Pacific slope [electronic resource] A statistical and descriptive summary of the mines and minerals, climate, topography, agriculture, commerce, manufactures, and miscellaneous productions, of the states and territories west of the Rocky mountains → online text (page 1 of 153)