James Swisher.

How I know, or Sixteen years' eventful experience online

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and I feel that the sooner I can get rid of this outfit
the better. I will sell out for half price. For I now
feel that I have been duped, and that too, by those


whom I thought were my friends. I know that many
persons naturally look on the dark side of life, and
borrow trouble, and become despondent. It may be
that they cannot help doing so. But it is wrong. I
think a person ought to set his stakes as to what he
intends doing, and run for them, leaving despondent
feelings far in the rear.

I, for one, will never again tie myself to the apron
strings of relationship outside of the paternal roof.
There is more to be lost than gained. I have been
made despondent when I should have been elated, and
that through no fault of my own. But then there is a
little information to be gained every day, and we need
never to be beaten twice the same way. I lacked
caution when I ventured in this undertaking, or hardly
this eitrier, for if I had done as my best judgment dic-
tated to me, when at Salt Lake City, I would have
returned immediately to California. I do believe that
if I would be governed more by the first impulses of
my mind, that I would often work out consistent plans
with greater ease than I do.

There is good in everything. It does not do for a
complete stranger to put his hands in fighting posture,
cock his eyes at you, and inform you by way of intro-
duction, "Wall, I guess you're a tarnation logger-head,
you aire," meaning to cast some reproach at another's
personal appearance, and general mental capacities.
You would see a hand gently moving towards the belt
that always encircles the waist. It whould be a fine
thing if these appendages had never been introduced.


Because the danger of being knocked down on the
spot, and having his beauty spoiled, is likely to be a
much greater inducement to proper behavior, than the
pistol, to a man who can offend in this manner. Yet,
there are times when the pistol has the effect of awing
men into decent politeness.

Of course, to knock a man down is never good
manners. But there is a way of doing it gracefully,
and one thing should be observed. Whether you com-
mand your temper or not, never show it, except by
the blow. Never assail an offender with words, for it
has a tendency to make bad, worse. I would not
speak as above, but the surrounding circumstances
in the West are such, that every man you meet is
weighted down with weapons of death and destruc-
tion. You very seldom see a man who does not have
them, and then it is simply because he is not able to
afford something of the sort. There are those here,
who for a small gratuity, would decide for another
whether their honor was hurt or not.

Hunting and shooting are the only amusements on
Green River at the present time. In fact this, together
with boating and hallooing at the cattle, are all the
accomplishments we know ; yet these are sufficient to
drive away dull care, and to make time less tedious.
I know there are a great many who hunt, who have ac-
complished but little when the day is over; yet I know of
nothing that gives more pleasure to a skillful marksman
than the chase. Here deer, elk, antelope, and wolves
can be shot without traveling over miles of rugged


country. Many parts of the West are very thinly
settled, or are entirely uninhabited. In such places,
game is more easily approached than it is in places
where the hunter's or sportsman's fusilade is continually
kept up, and where the baying of the dogs is heard on
every side, as they go charging on in hot pursuit of the
crippled or badly-frightened animals, and where, now
and again, the huntsman's voice is heard breaking in,
urging on his ever-faithful companions to the capture.

There are. a great many things essentially necessary
to be a good hunter. Skill is needed; as a man must be
familiar with the habits of the game he is in pursuit of,
in order to approach it. Pluck is needed, for it is weari-
some work to carry a heavy rifle and trudge through
the forests and over the desolate plains, all day long.
Nothing escapes the eye of the old hunter. He quickly
discovers the cause of the least rustle. He hears every
sound. He is quickly aware of every danger. Years
of careful hunting for game have made him familiar
with all the various sounds; consequently, he will tell you
on the instant what it is that makes a noise. And
where a variety of sounds seem all mingled together,
he quickly singles each one out, and traces it to its

There are various ways of hunting. In hunting
deer, the hunter often goes early and reaches their
resorts by break of day, as deer feed in the morning,
early. When the sun is warm, they have to be routed
from thickets or their sequestered haunts; starting early,
then, gives the hunter many advantages that cannot be



had later in the day. The hunter hides himself early,
and watches for the feeding or traveling game. In a
part of the country, where game is plenty, the hunter
seldom misses his "luck" and fails to get something.
If he is hunting sheep, he ascends to the highest, rough-
est, rockiest mountain fastnesses in the vicinity, as it is


here where the mountain sheep love to gambol. Sheep
are very different, by nature and disposition, from any
other animal. Though they are large, they are inno-
cent and inoffensive in every way. They are seldom
seen in the low lands.

Deer, however, are found in every locality. They


frequent both high mountains and low valleys; but dur-
ing the cold winter months, while the snow is deep, they
become more numerous in the valleys and low bench
lands. At such times they are more easily hunted,
and their flesh is fatter and better flavored than at any
other time of the year. In warm seasons they frequent
the slopes of timbered mountains, high up, where the
flies are not so bad. They are difficult to approach,
and, once alarmed, they are gone like a shot. When
a flock of them is started, in a thicket, they make the
brush crack loud enough to be heard half a mile away.
They are different from the antelope. The antelope
is similar, in size and weight, to the white-tailed deer;
their legs are longer, and they are very nimble. They
are found, chiefly, where the country is rolling, and on
the hills destitute of timber, where grass is found in

The country through here is different from any
other portion of the West. Both sides are hemmed in
with high mountain chains. The valley is thickly
dotted over with sand buttes and destitute of water, for
miles and miles. And yet, day after day, we seem to
be constantly in sight of water; but each time we find
that we have been deceived by mirages. This part of
the country bears evidences of the presence of min-
erals, all the way from the Squash Mountains, or
Three Peaks, clear through to Leadville. There is
water coming from the canons, on either side, but it all
sinks ere it reaches the valley. In some of these
places I saw as good indications of gold as there are


anywhere in the gold diggings of the West. I have
in some of these gulches, seen good pan prospects.
Some were worth thirty-four cents. But the Indians
are bad, and water is scarce. The supply of timber is
limited to the short, scrubby pine and cedars. This is,
moreover, three hundred miles from any settlements;
so that it will be seen that a small band of men would
run great risk in undertaking to stay in this section of
the country.

These valleys constantly vary from one-half to three
and five miles in width. This is a beautiful place, as
far as looking at the grandeur of nature is concerned,
but barrenness and destitution mark all its surround-
ings. Either range is covered, for the greater part of
the year, with a varying thickness of snow. Here the
ranges are white in June. I have been traveling
through these valleys often with my companions, when
we were all suffering from thirst, when, by looking in
the distance, for half a mile or a mile, we could observe
a large lake of water, and see men in boats and canoes
paddling about in the water, everything looking as na-
tural as if it were real. And the famished traveler makes
for the lake to slake his thirst. He travels on and on
and on, until, finally, the lake, boats and men begin to
disappear, and, by and by, the thing is all gone. The
traveler is by this time sick at heart, weary, and begins
to despair.

One trip is generally enough to satisfy a wanderer
that this is no place in which to linger. Contrast the
barrenness of this country with the fertility of the val-


leys in the East, and mark well the difference, and
there is no civilized man on the face of this christian-
ized world that would envy the red man of the forest
this country. He may like to hunt through the foot-
hills for antelope, but the bottom lands contain no
allurement for him. He soon grows foot-sore and
weary, and it is with pleasure that he reaches a stream
of cool water.

We are now approaching the Gunnison, a small
river of snow water, which runs with a rapid current.
When we first come in sight of the stream, we are
still high up on the top of the mountain, where every-
thing is barren and desolate. To come suddenly to
the edge of this rugged precipice, and to get an unex-
pected glimpse across and up and down the deep val-
ley at your feet, to see either bank carpeted with the
richest of grass,, and a luxuriant growth of joint rushes,
and dotted here and there with clusters of cotton-
wood of magnificent growth, and to see game of all
kinds in abundance, in every direction, is like taking a
peep into the Indian's happy hunting grounds. The
sudden contrast is so great as to make an entrance
from the surrounding barren mountains into this rich
valley like an entrance into a new world. This is cer-
tainly a most beautiful place, and I do not know where
to find a nicer. This valley is quite small. I suppose
that one thousand acres will include all the good land
there is in it.

After crossing the Gunnison, we then travel along
the Uncompahgre River. Here, again, we see some


beautiful land. Along the river bank, however, is a
wilderness of brush. It is only here and there that
one can get through this, to the water's edge. We
are now in sight of the stage road, that leads from
Saguache to Ouray and San Miguel. And, oh, what a
blessed sight it is to see the wagons coming toward
you, from other directions. The stage road intersects
our own road, six miles below Ouray village, which is
an Indian town.

Reader, imagine yourself shut off for six months
from all communication with the world, with no op-
portunity to hear a word from any of your friends at
home, or to see a newspaper, from which to learn any
events of the day, and then try to imagine how you
would feel in meeting with friends again. I do think
that twice as many events transpire during such a
period of time as take place at any other time, when
we see them and know them as they occur. Every-
thing seems new, and one cannot help feeling that he
has grown older rapidly, in a short time. There is a
strange sensation, in such an experience, that cannot
be pictured or told.

Ouray, the peace chief of the Ute Nation, lives
here on the Uncompahgre River. He has a splendid
location, in the heart of a beautiful valley. The old
chief occupies a good house, which is as nicely finished
as though built by a skilled mechanic. He owns one
section of land, in his own name, which is somewhat
improved, and enclosed with a strong fence. Quite a
number of his tribe are always around him, but they


seem more negligent in the matter of well-doing than
Ouray himself. There are dogs here by hundreds,
of all breeds, kinds and colors, and of every shade of
disposition. They are all sizes and shapes sleek ones
and wooly ones, large ones and small ones. Some of
them are good for hunting, and others for watching
camp ; some seem fitted only for barking, while there
are others that will bite ; all are lean and hungry-
looking. When a white man enters the village, there
is at once a regular pandemonium of yelping, growling,
and barking. It is fearful to be beset with four or five
hundred such snarling, ugly-looking curs as are found
in an Indian village.

They have horses, cattle, sheep, and goats in large
herds. These are seen in many parts of the valley,
with Indian herders lying around watching them. They
do no farming. I have often seen it stated that the
Ute Indians are great farmers. Ten acres will cover
all the little patches that are cultivated throughout the
whole tribe. The hoe is the principal implement used
in tilling these patches. They make no hay, since the
country abounds in grass, winter and summer. Snow
does not fall deep nor remain long. The valley is so
situated that the sun shines into it lengthwise, and the
climate is, in consequence, unusually warm, consider-
ing the fact that the valley is six thousand feet above
sea level.

Ten miles farther up the river we came to the
new Los Pinos Agency. Major Wheeler was at this
time acting as distributing Agent for the Ute Indians.


Here the Indians would gather in for the supplies dis-
tributed by the agent and furnished by the United
States government. There are only a few buildings
here, erected by the Government, for the sole purpose
of a distributing depot. They have an Agency Post-
Office. Not that the Indians need such an institution,
however, for none of them can read. They all talk
broken Spanish and Indian quite glibly. Twenty-five
miles on up the river we came to Ouray City. This
is a bustling mining town of perhaps five hundred
inhabitants, principally prospecting miners. Saloons
are plenty, and there are more stores than are needed
for the place, for they are all running behind. Not
that there is not a demand for goods, but cash is
scarce ; cheek, and promises to pay, seem to be the
chief currency 01 the place.

At this place we unloaded our wagons and sold
out, taking almost anything we could get. We sold
at ruinous prices. We got cash in part, and promises
to pay for the rest, and experience has shown me that
they will be promises to pay for a long time to come.
And such is life!




NOW I am once again in a mining community.
Here, as in every mining region, we find that
other branches of industry are very limited, and that
everything depends upon the development of the mines.
Quartz mining is always located in rocky regions,
where fruits, vegetables, and grain cannot be cultiva-
ted. The consequence is that everything which miners
consume, or need, must be shipped from other points.
A prosperous mining town is always, therefore, a good
market-place for vegetables and provisions of all kinds.
They command a fair or high price, owing to the dis-
tance they are shipped, and the amount on the market.
American mining enterprises are generally carried
on by corporations, which wield powers unknown in
any other country. These, in their efforts to make
dividends on fictitious capital, reduce the wages of their
employes as low as practicable* and, except at com-
peting points, burden production by heavy and discrim-
inating rates for transportation. No such tremendous
power was ever concentrated elsewhere in the hands of
a few men, as is concentrated in the hands of the men
who control these great corporations. A few men rule
the whole mining business throughout the West. They
put rates up or down at pleasure. They wield a power
which absolute monarchs would hesitate to exercise.


They generally have no permanent investment of stock
in any of their corporations. The business is usually
built up by loans on the donated property, and the
excess of stock, when disposed of, goes into the pock-
ets of the ruling faction, who are stock-holders and
directors. These men own (subject to the liens upon
them) and absolutely control said incorporations, which
have cost them comparatively nothing, and out of
which they realize vast riches. They have the full
control of the money and stock, and have no fear of
competition. They generally control all the approaches
to their magnificence.

Secure in their chartered rights, there can be no
interference with their liberal privileges. Unrestrained
in their traffic, they control the transportation of the pro-
ductions, and in no small measure, the labor of a country
vast enough and rich enough for an empire. Whenever
two such contending parties begin to strive for suprem-
acy, then good times come with a rush for the little folks
on the outside. The indications of prosperity can then
be seen in the crowded stores, in the busy workshops,
in the hopeful and happy faces of miners, mechanics,
and speculators ; in every department of industry, in
the active stock market, in the mining stock board, in
the increased clearings. They can be seen in the bouy-
ant spirits of men in every branch of trade, and in the
increased confidence of those with money, and of hope
among those without money. They open up fair fields,
rich in the promises of a glorious harvest. There are

new enterprises started, which were never thought of


274 HO W I KNO W.

before; and these, when once started, are pushed on
rapidly to completion. These are days of buying and
selling money is plenty, and business and speculation,
in all directions, are brisk and lively. But it is soon
apparent to all that the circulating capital is accumu-
lating in the hands of the capitalist. Now, this is in
accordance with the laws of trade, and must, inevitably,
take place. The majority of the community are not
hoarders of, or dealers in money, but spenders of
money. Give them any quantity of it, and they will
soon part with it for something more desirable. The
consequence is, that it then finds its way into the hands
of the people who make it their business to hoard it,
or loan it at high rates; and no injustice has been done
to any class. Yet corporations, as conducted, work
injury to all classes. One word more, and then I will
open up another subject.

If the naturalness of the laws of classification of
business was fully understood, and, also, the fact that
money is only really a commodity, subject to the same
laws of exchange, supply and demand as other things, it
would go far toward uprooting the pestilential econo-
mic heresies, which are such fruitful breeders of
popular discontent. The tillers of the soil are the real
sovereigns of labor, and of manly independence. A
glance at the history of our own country, and at the
present condition of industry in England and the conti-
nental nations, should be sufficient to make even the
chronic grumbler reasonably contented. It is question-
able whether there has ever been a time, since the


discovery of America, when a large class of people
were not complaining of hard times, and the scarcity
of money. Some point to other days as " the good old
times," when money was plenty and business lively.
We can all have money if we earn and save it.

Having expressed myself as I have about the incor-
porated companies, and their control of the mining
interests of the West, some might think I would
guarantee fortunes to all who would come West. I
cannot do that. You know some men will succeed in
anything anywhere, while others will fail in everything
everywhere. I desire to be no obstacle to hinder the
success of the first, nor can I prevent the failure of the
last, though I may aid in shaping the destiny of each.
And, even should I do neither, I am not likely to learn
of my instrumentality in the latter case, or to hear the
last of it in the former. I will assume the pressure.
It is my purpose and effort to make clear to the public
a description of the West.

Now, mines can be bought here at prices ranging
from a few hundred to a million or more dollars. Pros-
pects are for sale for from a few hundreds up to many
thousands of dollars, and mining claims from fifty dollars
up to some hundreds. To obtain the immense sums
asked for some of these mines, owners must show that
their mines have yielded thousands of dollars' worth, or
millions, as the case may be, of the precious metals.
They may never yield as much again, however; for,
though in sight, to an apparently vast extent, that
extent and value can only be guessed. Still, men will



pay millions for a mine that has been mined, who would
not pay thousands for a prospect that has not been
mined. Others will pay thousands for a prospect, who
(would not pay hundreds for a single claim', which some-
times sells for a few dollars, and proves of as much
value as either of the others. Hence, all have a sell-
ing value fluctuating widely from day to day, being
governed by influences peculiar to mining districts.
There are numerous instances on record here, as else-
where, where claims have been sold at large prices,
that proved worthless when worked. We often see
mines of this class that have been aban-
doned for years; and there are hundreds
of others whose owners would be much
better off if they would quit and let the
claims go. Again, there are others that
have cost their present owners very little,
which have become of great value when
developed. The sturdy prospector, when
PRICE. ne finds himself the owner of a single
undeveloped claim, though it be with rather unpromis-
ing surface indications, directs all his first efforts to
testing its value, instead of wasting them in sinking a
dozen more or less assessment shafts, on as many ad-
jacent claims, which could afterwards be purchased at
almost any offer.

The success of judicious investments in partly de-
veloped claims is oftentimes well illustrated. There
has been an expenditure of a vast amount of money
and labor in some of these San Juan districts to



establish confidence with capitalists in the wealth of
some of these districts. One great feature in the es-
tablishing of a camp is to get men to believe there is
no other camp comparatively its equal, and another is
to have daily acquisitions of men who have faith in the
theory, that underlying the entire district is a body of
rich minerals practically inexhaustible, and who, hav-
ing means to demonstrate the truth of the theory, will
use money to do so. Always try to keep the outlook
of a camp away in advance of what it really is. Keep
mercantile interests well represented, if anything ahead
of the mineral developments the more rapid and the
farther ahead, the better prospect for the excitement
which must come to a camp before its merits are no-
ticed. Wherever mineral is discovered, crowds soon
become simply enormous. Hundreds of the new ar-
rivals have not a cent in their pockets and no way of
obtaining money. Hundreds of men line the streets
every day, idle, because they cannot obtain work.

Here in south-western Colorado are numerous min-
ing camps, and hundreds and thousands of people are
continually on the move hither and thither, drifting
toward the latest excitements. And the truth about
the San Juan regions has not and cannot be told on
paper, because as long as the excitements continue to
(start, the cry is, "Still they come!" Neither snow nor
cold seem to offer any obstacle to the anxious crowd
of crazy fortune-hunters, who are rushing to this coun-
try, supposed to be rich in carbonates and other ores.
It is true that mines are in some cases paying. It is


equally as true that not one in five hundred, who flock
here to make their fortunes by digging for minerals, suc-
ceeds in making any more than a precarious living. The
temptation held out by prospects of sudden wealth over-
comes all obstacles, and thousands upon thousands of per-
sons, who were making good wages at home, come here
to find disappointment of the most bitter and perplexing
kind. Unable to make discoveries that will warrant cap-
italists in investing their means, failing in their efforts to
obtain employment at rates that promise immediate
wealth, they become discouraged and dejected, and re-
sort to the cup, and in a short time the story is told.
This is by no means a fancy sketch, as any one not
misled as to the circumstances can inform you.

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Online LibraryJames SwisherHow I know, or Sixteen years' eventful experience → online text (page 15 of 21)