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James Swisher.

How I know, or Sixteen years' eventful experience online

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34 HOW I KNOW.

now ascending gradually, then rising abruptly in broken,
rough, and dangerous looking precipices. At other
places it looks as if the country had been inundated with
water, and the rock, being in some places' softer than its
connecting sides, had been worn away, leaving canons
of all shapes, depths, and lengths. t

The valleys through Juab and San Pete Counties are
made very productive by irrigation. This is done by

taking water and con-
ducting it through
ditches all over the land
under cultivation. After
their crops are planted,
and it becomes necessa-
ry to moisten the ground,
the water is turned into
these small ditches and
left running until the
earth is sufficiently moist-
ened, when it is shut off
BRIGHAM YOUNG. until it becomes neces-

sary to repeat the operation. The valleys are of a dark,
loamy soil mixed with sand, and before they are brought
under cultivation are covered with sage brush a small
scrubby bush that grows sometimes to the height of six
feet. It is found from the British possessions on the
the North to the Gulf of Mexico on the South. All the
valleys and plains throughout the mountains of the West
produce the sage bush in great abundance. The sage
bush is the home of the jack-rabbit. Dozens of them




UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 35

may be seen at any time running in all directions from
the traveler, as he journeys over the plains.

Some of the loftiest peaks of Utah can be seen at a
distance of many miles. Mt. Nebo is as prominent as
any, with an elevation of a little over twelve thousand
feet. As the traveler journeys on South, through the
Territory, he travels over sandy deserts, unsettled and
uncultivated, except in a few places where the streams
flow through from the mountains, furnishing water suffi-
cient for irrigating purposes. Generally along these
streams a few of the saints have settled in adobe houses,
built after their own fashion, usually surrounded by a
stone wall built in the form of a square, and often con-
taining as much as an acre of land. Into this they
remove their families, and use it as a fortress in defend-
ing themselves against the Indians, when they make
their raids through the settlements.

The bench lands all over the Territory produce great
quantities of bunch grass, a very nutritious grass that
grows to the height of eighteen inches, and in bunches.
In passing through the Territory you see thousands and
thousands of cattle feeding upon this grass. The val-
leys are productive of no timber whatever, unless it be
a few scattering cottonwoods along the banks of the
streams. But sufficient timber grows in the mountains
for all necessary purposes. Mahogany and cedar con-
stitute the kinds that grow on that side of the ranges
lacing the South, while the pine, fir, spruce, balsam,
and small scrub-oaks, with a few more scrubby little
bushes, constitute the timber on the North slope.



36 HOW I KNOW.

Mines were discovered in Utah years ago; but owing
to the influences brought to bear by the Mormon
leaders upon their not so well enlightened followers,
mining was prohibited within the limits of the Territory.
But as time passed on, and people began to emigrate to
the West in greater numbers, crowding full the older
places, and seeking for newer fields, where fortunes
might be dug from the earth, at last, and in the face of
all opposition from the Mormons, prospecting and min-
ing throughout the Territory began. So that to-day
thousands of honest, hard-working miners can be seen
toiling and striving for the treasures of gold and silver,
and other minerals that lie buried underneath the surface
earth of Utah. Notwithstanding the many difficulties
that the pioneer miners of the Territory had to encoun-
ter and overcome, some of them have done extremely
well. And now some who were so bitterly opposed to
opening up mines there, finding it useless to resist the
fast growing population of miners, are zealously engaged,
themselves, in opening up some of the Territory's pre-
cious wealth.

Gold, silver, lead, copper, zinc, iron, salt, and a few
other minerals are found in many parts of the Territory
in sufficient quantities to leave a balance over all expen-
ditures in running them.

At different places throughout the Territory, salt is
found in the mountains, and is easily taken out and
refined. Large deposits of coal are found in various
places throughout the Territory.

While in Utah my home was in a mining camp



UTAH AND THE MORMONS.



37



located on Sevier River. A great number of locations
was recorded. The recorder was kept busy writing
out and recording claims, as people would do nothing
but locate and then record. I often times thought to
myself, "What will this amount to?" But green as I




THE MORMON TABERNACLE.



was, I could only do as others did. I then knew no
more about mining than a two-year-old boy knows about
making an arasta, or quartz mill. I worked a few days
and obtained a little money enough for a grub-stake
then I went to hunting for hidden millions, along with



38 HOW I KNOW.

others. I would write out a notice and post it up on
everything that my ignorance claimed as a very valuable
mine. It was only a short time until every bowlder and
pile of rocks for miles around the camping spot was
located and recorded. The recorder would most always,
do the work of recording, and wait for his fees until the
mine became a paying property. And I rather think that
the recorder of Ohio District is yet waiting, like Micaw-
ber, for some of the miners that located there to turn up.

It would sometimes happen that two or more notices
would be found on the same bowlder. Then war would
be the result. A mine is of no value until a few per-
sons are butchered over it, in an effort to determine the
question as to who shall be the possessor of it.

Thousands of locations are made throughout the
mountains, when work to the amount of one dollar has
not been done upon them; yet the location is named,
filed, and recorded, and the worthy claimant struts
around and talks of his mine as though it were worth
thousands, when in reality it is not worth the paper he
has soiled in writing the notice. But stay with your
mine, pard, you may sell it for several thousand yet. It
is very easy to tell a prospector from any one else. The
prospector always has his pockets full of rocks of all
sizes, shapes, colors, and kinds, each piece of which he
will tell you the nature of, the probability of its value,
and all the different combinations of mineral that it con-
tains, with as much ease, and all the grace of a first-
class mineralogist. If he is not able to do this he is a
" tenderfoot," and has much to learn in the art of min-



UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 39

ing. To prospect successfully he should send to some
friend in California and have some very rich specimens
of gold rock sent to him. Then, if he keeps his little
tongue in the right channel, the whole camp is soon on
its feet, anxious to see a specimen of the richest gold-
bearing quartz rock that was ever heard of; and the
next day, and for days after, the lucky miner is watched
in his every movement, to see in what direction he leaves
camp. He is then still watched and carefully trailed.

Miners in well doing are the most excitable of men.
Often and often will they leave mines or claims that pay
well, to go to a distance, led by some new excitement;
and when they arrive there it frequently happens that they
find nothing but disappointment and starvation staring
them in the face. The White Pine excitement, in Ne-
vada, is a good illustration. Hundreds flocked there to
spend the last cent they had, and then to leave, packing
their blankets on their backs; that is, they who were
fortunate enough to have blankets, for hundreds had not
even a meal's provisions to serve them on their exit
from what a few days before was supposed to be one of
the richest camps the world had ever seen.

A miner's fortune is like a mushroom it springs up
where least expected, then again it vanishes with as great
rapidity as it came. I shall always remember the first
mine I endeavored to work for myself. After prospect-
ing for two months on all quarters of the compass from
Bullion City, the mining town I was holding responsible
for my bed and board, I at last resolved to go to work
on what I supposed the best of my many locations. So



40



now i KNOW.



I laid in a supply of drills, hammers, powder and fuse,
and hired a man to work with me for four dollars a day.
Then, after spending a day surveying the location and
arguing the many advantages one spot had over another
for working, we at last concluded that the cheapest and
best way to work the mine advantageously was to go
down below the mine on the slope of the mountain and




NEW MINING TOWN.



run a tunnel in until we struck the vein, then we would
be at a sufficient depth to ascertain the value of our
ore. So we spent the whole day, and did nothing ex-
cept to come to the conclusion that a tunnel was the
cheapest and best method, and that by running in
twenty feet we could tap the lead at about that or a
little greater depth, and that the next morning we would



UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 41

begin digging the tunnel. After digging, picking, drill-
ing and blasting one month we had run a tunnel in
twenty-seven feet and had found no ledge. Then what
to do I did not know, for my money was exhausted and
I had been running in debt at the store for provisions
two weeks. At last I resolved to have some older, ex-
perienced miners to go up with me and see my claim
and give me some idea of what I should do in order to
show up my vein of ore, for I was sure it was there
some place, and plain to be seen on top I thought.
Some said I was working it right; others were doubt-
ful. At last one of them agreed to come the next
morning and to help me work some on it from the top
in exchange for work, which I accepted.

The next morning found me on the ground as usual,
but not to tunnel. I was now about to sink a shaft
right down on what I considered to be the vein. After
spending the day in prying around large rocks and
pushing off smaller ones, we were ready to begin sink-
ing the next morning. Before noon we had sunk a
shaft clear through my mine, and there was now no
more of an indication left than there is on a barn floor.
So I was out about three hundred dollars in time,
money, and provisions, not counting my tools in, for I
still had them all because I was no miner, but simply
wanted to do something I knew nothing about. This
was my first out in mining.

But I remained by no means an idle prospector, show-
ing nothing but notices' on file. A company often of us
went in on the Webster Location Lode, and we located



42 HO W I KNO W.

all of the available ground that the law specified we
should have and more too, and then went to work on it,
some of my partners expecting to sell out in a few days
for fabulous amounts. But my courage was none of
the best in developing; for my first work spent in tun-
neling had proved such an entire failure. We had hard
rock to blast, and progress was slow. At a called meet-
ing of the members of the company, we concluded to
put in the remainder of the work done in developing by
sinking a shaft parallel with the vein. We got along very
well with this until we had attained the depth of fifty or
sixty feet, when the walls became scaly and we had to
timber the shaft. Then the water came in in torrents,
which had to be kept out, and the consequence was our
progress was so impeded that we were two years sink-
ing on the Webster Lode and only obtained a depth of
two hundred feet. I always will think it is a good mine,
could it be worked with any reasonable expense; but it
can not. So there it lies yet with no one doing any-
thing with it.

Thus it is with thousands of others who have located
and worked claims until they were satisfied that the
mineral extracted from the lead would not pay expenses
of labor and cost of milling, and have abandoned claims
that sometimes assay hundreds of dollars to the ton. In
this way prospecting is going on all over the West and
not one mine out of every ten thousand that is located
and even put on file in the county or district clerk's office
ever pays back the cost of expenditures, counting money,
time, provisions, tools, and all other necessary expenses.



UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 43

It can, therefore, plainly be seen that all men can not
make a fortune mining; but the majority of people that
are carried away by mining excitements rush in pell-
mell, without ever taking time to think what they can
or will do when they get there. They seem to think
that the precious metals are lying around in quantities
sufficient for them to amass enormous fortunes, so that
they may live at ease and in luxury and splendor the
balance of their lives; and all this is to be obtained
within a short time and at little or no expense, merely
expecting to shovel the gravel into a sluice box, or by
some other method to separate the gold from the mother
earth. Now, friends, this is all a mistake. Where one
man reaps a fortune in a mining field, scores are retiring
to hunt some other place where the chance would seem
better in their favor, and they will never find it. Mining
is a legitimate business, as much so as farming or any
other branch of industry that one might engage in. But
yet there is more chance work connected with mining
than with all the other different pursuits of business. I
am well aware there are a great many writing to the
contrary, and I would not wish to try to dissuade any
one from mining ; but, on the contrary, go if you want
to. There is yet plenty to learn. Hundreds will go to
the West, expecting to make their mark in some pro-
fession where shrewdness and education are required.
They will find all the professions full and much more
so than is needed. Some want to know where to go.
Bear patiently with me and I will show you where there
is yet room before I come to the end of this book.



44 HOW I KNOW.

Mining, when you are on a good mine, is an invest-
ment or enterprise that surpasses all other enterprises
that I know of as a high road to fortune. Thousands of
dollars have rewarded the sturdy prospector in some in-
stances in a single day. But the day is past when the
miner can take up his pan and in an hour or two pan
out enough dust to supply himself and friends with
abundant funds. One meets hundreds of good old fel-
lows, who will tell of the money they made in the early
days of California and how they spent it, thinking there
were such vast quantities lying in the gulches, that they
could be possessors of all the luxuries of the land as
long as they lived.



NEVADA. 45



CHAPTER III.

NEVADA.

AFTER remaining in Utah Territory until I became
weary of not well doing, I concluded to go to Ne-
vada. I settled temporarily in Carson City, which, at
that time, was a very small place; but was, nevertheless,
bustling with life and energy. My finances not being
cumbersome, I resolved to go to work at the first op-
portunity. This presented itself two days after, when
I went to work for Yerrington, Bliss & Co., who were
large wood and lumber contractors. They owned large
tracts of timber lands lying in proximity to Lake Tahoe,
together with saw-mills and flumes. Tahoe is a beau-
tiful lake, about which enough has been said to justify
me in passing over the beauties and grandeur of the
lake, and the surrounding locality. (Read Mark Twain.)
I began work in a saw-mill, as screw-turner, and
remained there until the mill closed in the Fall, which
it does every year on account of cold and snow. But
I had made good use of my time, and when I went
down to Carson City I had six hundred and forty dol-
lars, nearly all of which I had made that Summer.
There the mining fever was raging, as it always is.
Excitement ran high, and every one men, women, and
children, old and young, rich and poor if they were
able to raise only five dollars, were dealing or dabbling



46 HOW I KNOW.

in stocks of the celebrated Comstock mines, which
were just then receiving so much attention in the San
Francisco Stock Exchange. I, of course, must try my
luck, with the others. So I invested the half I had,
and became a constant attendant at the broker's office,
and w r atcher of the bulletin boards, along with the
crowded masses of different nationalities that are always
there watching every change that is noted down with




VIEW NEAR LAKE TAHOE.



the fluctuation of the stock in San Francisco.

Fortune for once, I thought, seemed to be in my
favor, for during that Winter I made the little sum of
sixteen hundred dollars; not by my shrewdness, how-
ever, for I declare I knew nothing about it, except that
I would give Messrs. Rice & Peters my money, with
orders to buy such and such stock, and in a short time
I would make sale at a large profit, and buy again.

Nevada possesses some of the richest producing



NEVADA. 47

mines in the world. The Comstock mines are the best
in the State. Millions and millions have been produced
from some of the oldest locations on this lode, with vast
bodies of ore yet in sight. No one who has never been
at Virginia City can form an idea of the vast amount
of work that is required to carry on the mining busi-
ness there. Some of the finest machinery that the
world has yet produced can there be seen. This must
be had in order to mine successfully in deep mines.
Millions of dollars are annually spent in erecting hoist-
ing works, quartz mills, and other, necessary improve-
ments. The water that they use comes through pipes
from Marlette or Silver Lake miles away, down the
mountain side, across valleys, then to ascend again, to
be distributed throughout the city. The mines are
always in need of vast quantities of wood and lumber,
a greater portion of which comes from the mountain
sides around Lake Tahoe. The lumber is sawed at the
different mills along the eastern shore of the lake. A
great many men are employed in this work. Some
cutting logs at different points around the lake, others
hauling and dumping them into the water, where rafts
are formed and then towed across the lake to the mills,
where they have large break-waters constructed to
keep the logs from being carried back into the lake and
lost. When the logs are sawed, the lumber is all piled
up, each kind by itself, after which it is loaded on the
cars and taken to the dividing ridge of the mountain
between the lake and Carson City, where it is again
piled up as before, alongside a flume.



48



HO W I KNO W.



Now, to go back a little, the Lake Tahoe Narrow
Gauge Railroad was built from the lake at Glenbrook to
the summit. In a direct line, the distance is a little short
of three miles; but to get from the lake up, they made
nine miles of road, and some of that has a grade of
one hundred and sixty feet to the mile. They have
two engines on the road, which run all the time, except

in the dead
of Winter,
bringing up
wood and
lumber to
the summit
yards.

From the
summit to
Carson City
is fourteen
miles, and
the distance
is spanned
by a long
flume. The

capacity of the flume is unknown. There have been over
one million feet of lumber and four hundred cords of
wood sent from the summit to Carson in a single day's
run of ten hours. The flume is built of two-inch plank
sixteen feet in length, and twenty and twenty-two
inches in width. These boards are placed the bottom
of one on the flat edge of the other, and securely




BLUE CANON, SIERRA NEVADA.



NEVADA. 49

nailed with large spike nails, forming a V shaped box.
After the flume bed has been laid with stringers prop-
erly graded, the boxes are put in place and securely
supported by generally five bracket bearings to each
box. The brackets are made with arms extending
enough to admit of another two-inch plank ten or
twelve inches in width, being placed in on either side
if necessary. Then a head of water is turned on at
the upper end of the flume and it is ready for opera-
tion. Sometimes fifty men can be seen throwing in
wood without checking its movement in the least.
When at the yard, running lumber, I have seen one
hundred and thirty-four thousand feet run from the yard
in a single hour. I have seen green sticks of timber
forty feet long, sixteen by eighteen inches square,
thrown in and run along with more ease than a boat
through the water.

Miles of flume can be seen at this date extending
up along the mountain sides, used to flume wood to
Carson. Large bodies of men are everywhere at work
cutting wood. The timber around the lake is pine of
different varieties, white and red fir, spruce, and tama-
rack. All grow to large size. The forest land around
Lake Tahoe is very rough, broken, and of no value
except for the timber that is on it.

But to return to the Comstock Mines. The mines
are very deep and the deeper down they go the hotter
they become. Vast quantities of water are continually
rnnning in and are as rapidly pumped to the top by
mammoth machinery. The water is hoisted twenty-



50 HOW I KNOW.

three hundred feet out of some of the deepest loca-
tions. A few years ago they claimed that they hoisted
^through their pumps fish without eyes; they were
living when found, but, after being exposed to the
cold air on the surface, soon died. The heat on the
lower levels of the Comstock Lode is intense, vary-
ing according to particular parts visited, but averaging
about one hundred and forty degrees. Air pumps are
constantly at work, forcing down cool air, and at the
same time tons of ice are being lowered. And yet it
is more like traveling in an oven that is heated and still
heating than in the pure breezes from off Mt. David-
son. Eight hours constitute a day's work down in these
depths, where no light except the feeble flicker of the
miner's candle ever shines to guide him on his narrow
pathway underneath the ground. The miners' wages
average four dollars a day.

The Comstock Lode and Sutro Tunnel Company
entered into an agreement in 1866 to tap and drain the
lode. The tunnel was commenced at what is now
Sutro City, and was pushed along under the super-
vision of Mr. Sutro. Millions of money have been
expended in the undertaking. They now think they
will be able to use it by the first of June, 1879. Mr.
Sutro estimates that, after the mines are drained, con-
nections with the tunnel made, and cross-cutting under
way, the average daily output of ore will be three thou-
sand tons, a great portion of which will be first-class or
good ore. The Tunnel Company expect to reap bene-
fits in many ways, viz: by revenues they will receive



NEVADA. 51

for the use of the tunnel for purposes of transportation,
furnishing fire-wood, timber, compressed air, water for
power, irrigation, mill supplies, etc.

The climate of Nevada is cold in Winter and pleas-
ant in Summer. All through the Sierra Nevada range
deep snow falls, and covers the ground until late in the
Spring, in many places not melting off entirely at all, but
remaining until snow falls again.

A few years ago, in going from Lake Tahoe down
to Carson City, while on that part of the road lying be-
tween Mr. Spooner's and the Flinne camp, I passed
through a tunnel of snow for several hundred feet,
where the snow had been shoveled out along the side
of the wagon road and wood had been hauled in and
burned to melt the snow. I do not know how thick
the roof of the tunnel was, but I know it was on the
fourth day of July that I passed through it. Large for-
ests of the finest of timber lying between the lake and
Eagle Valley have all been cut and used for the ben-
efit of the Comstock Mines.

There are a great many horses and cattle scattered
throughout the State, but not in droves and herds, such as
are seen on the plains and bench lands of Utah or Col-
orado. Farming is not a success in Nevada for many
reasons. The seasons are too short. There is gener-
ally frost every month in the year, or, at least, I found
it so during my stay in the State.

Hot Springs abound all along the valley of the Hum-
boldt. Some of these springs are situated entirely
alone, while others lie very near springs of cold water.



52



HOW I KNOW.



I remember having seen a hot and cold spring so near
together that the two hands could be placed one in
each spring at the same time. Some of these springs
are very shallow, while others extend to unknown or,
at least, unsounded depths.

The valleys are covered with alkali, varying from a


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Online LibraryJames SwisherHow I know, or Sixteen years' eventful experience → online text (page 3 of 21)