Raphael Pumpelly.

Travels and adventures of Raphael Pumpelly : mining engineer, geologist, archaeologist and explorer online

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edge of the basin, using the dip needle, and trying to lo-
cate the southern limit of the granitic area. After having
traced a line of magnetic attractions several miles be-
yond Lake Michigamme, we sent J. L. Spurr to explore
carefully for ore outcrops along the line. He was to
have a third interest in anything of his finding that we
should buy. At the same time we sent Jack Armstrong
down into northern Wisconsin to explore for pine and
for iron on the possible western extension into Wiscon-
sin of the Lake Antoine iron formation. Spurr came
back with specimens from a large outcrop of ricn mag-
netic ore. I wrote to the owner, a Mr. Williams, near
Syracuse, N. Y., for a price. He answered that he knew
the tract contained iron ore, and he would sell the 160
acres for $8,000, if paid by a given date, which we
agreed to.

I went at once to New York, and from there, with
$8,000 in legal tender bills, I took a night train for Syra-
cuse. The porter woke me at three o'clock saying I had
five minutes to dress. On my way back from the wash
room my foot hit something on the floor. The car was
very dark, but, thinking some one might have lost some-
thing, I spent valuable time in searching for the thing.
It was my roll of $8,000! It was a case of rewarded al-

After delivering the deed of sale Mr. Williams told
me that a Mr. Palmer of Michigan was interested with
him in the property; and soon Palmer wrote to Major
Brooks that Williams had written him about the sale,
that he had known that the land contained valuable ore,
and that he hoped it would prove to be very valuable.
All of which seemed very nice. However, when the dis-
covery came to be much talked of, Mr. Palmer entered


a suit to recover a third interest in the property, and he
won out in the lower court. We appealed to the State
Supreme Court, where three judges out of five decided
against us.

It was my first experience at law, and it was a very
valuable and never forgotten object lesson; but it de-
layed development of the property for nearly three years.

At last we organized the Spurr Iron Mining Company,
issued stocks and bonds, and began to open the mine.
The ore body promised to be large, the railroad was ex-
tended to it, and we began to ship ore. This was, I think,
in 1872.

Among the owners of stock and bonds were Brooks and
I, Mr. Moses Taylor, and a Mr. Morgan an Ohio iron-
master. The bonds were made to run one year. By
1873 we had shipped over 100,000 tons of ore, but as it
was evident that we should not be able to pay off the
bonds at maturity we all agreed verbally to extend them
another year.

Then something happened. In a letter to Mr. Norwell
the secretary of the company, Mr. Morgan, had expressed
some difference of opinion on some mining or selling
question. Mr. Norwell, in his reply, had written that he
thought Mr. Morgan was really " hypercritical." There-
upon, without any notice, Mr. Morgan entered a suit for
foreclosure of the bonds ! Which showed an equal weak-
ness in temperament and vocabulary. It would have
been funny if it hadn't been effective.

The Jay Cooke panic, coming on top of the difference
between hypo and hyper, smashed the Spurr Mining

To go back to the autumn of 1868: Jack Armstrong,
our faithful and efficient " timber cruiser," returned with
a list of vacant Wisconsin pine lands, incidentally carry-


ing indications of iron ore formation. We bought un-
divided interests in several tracts having " iron chances "
with timber. Within a year we had a scattered holding
of a considerable number of thousands of acres. The
time for getting lands with more than a very moderate
stand of pine had, however, passed.



IN the autumn of 1869, I entered through marriage
with Miss Eliza Shepard into a new life that lasted for
many years a relation of happiness clouded only by
the death of two children.

The following winter I lectured at Harvard on ore
deposits. I also finished the manuscript of Across Asia
and America, and, with the help of my wife, prepared it
for publication. The book appeared in 1870 and went
through at least nine editions. It has long been out of
print, but, I am happy to be able to say, not out of mem-
ory; for even until now (1916) people who were then
young or middle aged often introduce themselves on the
strength of having enjoyed reading it. Some recall the
adventures in Arizona, some the episodes in China or
Japan, while my romantic ride through Siberia especially
attracted others.

The Government of Michigan asked Major Brooks and
me to make jointly a geological survey of the state.
Brooks took the iron district, and I the copper region of
the upper peninsula. Major Brooks had already bril-
liantly worked out the geology of the whole Marquette
district, so I turned over to him all the notes of my ex-
plorations in the other parts of the upper peninsula to
use as clues.

I had as assistants Archibald Marvin, my former stu-



dent, and Luther Emerson, who did the surveying. The
results of the surveys and description of the beds of the
copper-bearing zone were published in Volume I of the
State Geological Survey in 1873. Those relating to the
occurrence of copper appeared later.

Late in autumn, a few days before leaving, I was on
crutches. In cutting out a transit line I undertook to
show the axeman how to cut a sapling. The double-faced
axe was new to me, and at my first stroke the thing
(flopped over and cut deep into my instep, sending up a
veritable fountain of blood. Fortunately I was able to
direct the stopping of the flow by twisting a bandage, and
there were enough men to carry me four miles through
the woods to the wagon, and get me to a surgeon. Near
the wagon were several miners' houses. We were soon
surrounded by Irish women, whose sympathy showed
itself in a loud wailing that reminded me of the Corsican
lamento over a victim of the vendetta.

In 1871, after a winter devoted to lecturing at Harvard,
I returned to Lake Superior to capitalize the experience
I had gained there.

Mr. Quincy Shaw and Mr. Alexander Agassiz agreed
to my proposition that they should supply the money to
buy lands, and that I should have the right to buy. a quar-
ter interest in these lands at cost. The purchases were
to be confined to lands carrying pine, the iron formation,
hardwood, and sandstone. Hardwood was then very
valuable for furnaces making charcoal iron, and the Lake
Superior brown sandstone was in great demand.

My wife wanted to go with me, and I felt that the out-
of-door life might hasten her recovery from a serious ill-
ness. So as soon as she was able to travel we went to
Marquette. I bought a bark canoe and hired a large
sailboat and skipper and two Canadian voyageurs, one


of them, Henri Ledouceur, with his educated Indian
wife, Priscilla. These, with two tents, supplies, guns,
fishing tackle, and abundant township maps, formed the

On a beautiful summer day we sailed out of Marquette
harbor. As far as Portage Lake the south shore is
formed by cliffs of the brown sandstone, some of which
I hoped to find worth taking. Two weeks or more were
spent in exploring this shore, and canoeing up the
streams. The scenery was of unending charm.

Sometime in October we reached Bayfield in Wiscon-
sin, where there was a U. S. land office.

A sail across the bay brought us to the mouth of the
Montreal River. It was my intention to take my wife to
the point where we should meet Major Brooks, and be-
gin our exploration, and to leave her there in a stationary
camp with the Indian woman Priscilla and her husband.
As she was not yet strong enough to make the journey
through the woods on foot, Indians were engaged to carry
her in a hammock swung on a pole.

Around their campfire, that lighted up the dark re-
cesses of the forest, these Indians were a picturesque
group. Their leader wore a decorative name. We liked
the sound of it so much that it caused him more than his
share of work. It was Jin-go-ben-e-sic War Eagle.

Henri and Priscilla made a delightful stationary camp
in a stately forest and near the river. In a large tent,
with one side open to the air, they made a thick, soft
bed of carefully thatched hemlock boughs, and arranged
all the possible conveniences for a prolonged stay. Their
own tent was put up close by the large one. There were
abundant provisions, and Henri was an expert in getting
game and trout. As both Henri and Priscilla were de-
votedly attached to my wife, I felt that I was leaving


her under health-bringing and happy conditions, for she
loved the primeval forest in all its aspects.

During the previous winter I had read Whittlesey's
account of the occurrence of magnetic ores in northern
Wisconsin, which seemed to be possibly a continuation of
the formation we were to look for in Michigan. So we
had agreed that Brooks should begin on the Wisconsin
side and try to trace the formation to our meeting point
near the state line.

We decided first to try to trace the iron formation
through to Lake Gogebic, about thirty miles distant, and
then to examine it more carefully on the way back. It
took us more than two weeks to trace it to the point
where we lost it west of Lake Gogebic. What we saw
was very discouraging. There really was a continuous
iron formation resting on quartzite, and this on granite,
but it was totally unlike any that we had seen. By the
time we were ready to return, a foot of snow had fallen,
making hopeless any further examination.

One morning, on the return journey, as we reached the
top of a high hill, Jingobenesic startled me. He pointed
to the southeast. Far away above the forest there stood
a wall of dense smoke. It rose high in the sky, and
stretched along many degrees of the horizon. It clearly
meant an overwhelming conflagration one that threat-
ened destruction to everything in its course. We could
not judge of its distance, but I thought of my dear wife
in the heart of that vast forest, and twenty miles from
the lake and safety, and it would take us nearly two days
to reach her camp !

While I was hurrying forward in this anxiety, we
met a messenger bringing a telegram and letters. He
had been sent on from the stationary camp, and brought
news of the great forest fire in Oconto County, Wiscon-


sin, that was destroying whole villages and their inhab-
itants. The fact that it was more than 200 miles off
and to leeward relieved my anxiety. Early in the morn-
ing, before reaching the Montreal River, I left the blazed
trail, and climbed a high hill to look towards the wall of
smoke. The hill was on the quartzite of the iron forma-
tion. It commanded a grand view over the great forest
that, extending around Lake Superior, stretched away
to the north, to gradually dwindle to the stunted vegeta-
tion of the Arctic zone.

I sat long trying to solve a problem of duty. I had
received a telegram the day before disapproving my large
purchase of pine land. I now felt that I should be criti-
cized for buying a large amount of iron land of which
I could not speak with more confidence than I could
show in the case of a formation so different from any
known on Lake Superior.

While thus thinking I noticed numerous yellow stains
of limonite in the rock. What is luck? Those yellow
spots ! They determined my fortune. I knew they prob-
ably had no important significance, but there was a re-
mote possibility that they meant concentration of iron
oxides in the overlying formation. I decided to take
for the pool, at least this tract, about two miles long.

I found the stationary camp abandoned. It had been
left at least two days or more.

We followed a well-marked trail made in the snow by
the party in moving towards the mouth of the Montreal
River. It was after midnight when we reached the lake
and found the camp.

In the bracing air, and under the devoted care of her
attendants, my dear wife had recovered her strength.
Priscilla had enlivened the time by telling Indian legends
and tales of the wars between her people and the Eski-


mos, for she came from the North, and she had taught
her mistress how to make and embroider moccasins. A
hammock-stretcher was no longer needed; in spite of the
snow, the trip out was made on foot.

At Bayfield I found a letter from Agassiz objecting
strongly to the purchase of iron lands.

We took passage on a propeller to Marquette. It was
the last trip of the season, and the boat was crowded
with quarry men, nearly all of them drunk.

Soon after leaving these men became so uncontrollable
as to produce a serious situation, for they were over-
coming the crew. The captain got out the hose and was
beginning to play it on them when, on emerging from
among the Apostle Islands, we came into a choppy sea.
This quickly settled matters by leaving the floors covered
with very unsettled victims.

At the land office in Marquette I again faced the prob-
lem that had sorely troubled me on the quartzite ridge in
the woods. On the books the even numbered sections
were all open for entry. From my notes I could cover
all the iron formation along twenty miles of even sections.
Under ordinary circumstances I would, without hesita-
tion, have taken the risk. However, since that telegram
about pine lands, and Agassiz's letter, seemed to show
lack of confidence in my judgment, I preferred not to in-
vest in lands on an iron range of which I could not speak
with some confidence. As I shall show, I missed the op-
portunity of a lifetime. I was, of course, debarred from
buying with my own money. Still I bought, on the joint
account, two miles of the range adjoining the quartzite
ridge. Those two miles now form the Newport and Gen-
eva mining properties. They have produced till now
(1915) 12,000,000 tons of ore.

Two or three years later a miner by the name of


Moore, thrown out of work by the panic of 1873, was
employed in looking for pine. There wasn't any pine
land in the region. He sat down to smoke and curse his
luck on a hill several miles east of the land I had taken.
At his side rose the upturned roots of a great tree that
had been felled by a recent storm. Where its roots had
been there was exposed a smooth surface of black rock.
Lifting a piece, Moore found it very heavy, and, being a
miner, he knew it was not ordinary rock, though he had
never seen anything like it, so he put it in his pocket as
a curiosity. An assayer found that it was a very pure
bessemer iron ore. Moore raised money to buy the tract,
which became the Colby mine, and long before I heard of
the find all the even sections, excepting my purchase, were
taken up. Thus was started the great Gogebic iron
range. Every section along it is dotted with mines which,
together, have produced, up to 1915, over eighty million
tons of bessemer ore.

In the autumn of 1871 I was offered the position of
State Geologist of Missouri. I had been led to expect
political interference from the Governor, then Gratz
Brown, and from the Legislature. Instead of this I had
only cordial support.

On my trips I found the farmers always hospitable and
generally, too, interested in the survey. They had one
custom I had not seen elsewhere. There was almost al-
ways a basket of turnips at hand, from which you were
expected to take at least one and eat it raw.

On my trips in the winters I suffered far more from
cold than anywhere before or since. I remember a
Thanksgiving dinner at a hotel in Fredericksburg where
all the guests seemed to think it quite natural to have no


fire in a room in which the mercury stood below zero

In the winter of 1872-73 a severe enteric disease and
an attack of meningitis so affected my health that I re-
signed and removed to Balmville, four miles north of
Newburgh, N. Y., to prepare the results of the survey
for the volume that appeared in 1873.



I NOW spent several pleasant years in writing and re-
search work. After completing my report of the Mis-
souri Geological Survey, I made a special study of the
relation of the native copper in the trap rocks of northern
Michigan to the other minerals in those rocks. For much
of this work I had to cut from rocks, for study under
the microscope, sections thinner than the thinnest tissue

I reviewed many scientific works, among them Richt-
ho fen's China. In this work the author clearly proved
that the fine self-fertilizing soil of northern China, of
which I have written in a previous chapter, is a wind-
borne soil. I had supposed it to be a soil deposited by
water. But his demonstration that it was wind-borne
was convincing.

Near Owego, my birthplace, whither we had moved in
1876, a short time before the death of my dear father,
I tried my hand at farming. This was against my wife's
advice, and she was right, as usual. I sold land and
stock, when, after a number of set-backs, I found that
our ** honest " farm manager owned a farm nearby and
carted thither all the manure from ours.

In 1879 the government decided to turn the census of
mineral industries over to the Geological Survey, and I



was asked to take charge of this department, exclusive
of the precious metals and mineral oils.

I got permission to have my place of official residence
and offices at Newport.

Having a free hand, I decided to lay special emphasis
on the iron ores as underlying the fundamental industry
of civilization. The census of the other minerals could
be confined largely to the usual statistical methods. My
plan was to have every mine and every known outcrop
of iron ore, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and from
the Atlantic to the Pacific, examined geologically, and
systematically sampled for chemical analysis.

Within two months the whole organization per-
sonnel, instrumental equipment, and the methods, down
to the special notebooks was in order, and the assist-
ants in the field. During two years there poured in a
steady stream of iron ore samples in groups of five-pound
bags, each one accompanied by description and geological
diagrams of the occurrence. And they all came by mail
under government penalty label for postage, causing much
of whom, supposing them to be precious metals, kept
them guarded over night. 1

The report, including an exhaustive discussion of the
iron ore resources of the country, with about 1,000 pages
and 1 02 plates, made up the fifteenth volume of the Tenth

The assistants in the field told many humorous ac-
counts of the customs among the primitive people of the
mountains of the South. After supper at one house
Bailey Willis sat with the family smoking and talking
consternation to the postmasters of country offices, some

1 Professor Charles Sargent, who had charge of the Forestry
Census, even sent as mail 'matter a section of a California big
tree long enough to require two flat cars.


before a large fire. There was only one room, and no
beds. Willis wondered where they slept. There were
several big logs standing against the wall. At last the
host knocked the ashes from his pipe. He took down the
logs. They were hollow, and were the beds.

On one of my trips with one of the assistants we
passed a stormy night in a miner's house in the Virginia
mountains. We ate supper in a room where five boys
and girls down with measles lay across one bed, and an-
other lay in a cradle that was too short. There were
present also several miners.

In order to keep the size of this book within desirable
limits, it will be necessary to omit accounts of many to me
interesting experiences between 1881 and 1915. These
may be read in my Reminiscences (published in 1918) by
those who care to know more of my life story.

Included in those years were: occurrences connected
with the organization and direction of the Northern trans-
continental survey of a route for the Northern Pacific
Railroad which would give readiest access to the natural
resources, especially coal, of the regions to be served by
the road; adventurous journeys to examine mines in the
Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico; home life under de-
lightful circumstances at Dublin, New Hampshire, and
at Roseland in southwestern Georgia; trips with my
family to Europe and northern Africa; and, especially,
two seasons of exploration and, excavation for the pur-
pose of studying the prehistoric life of man in Russian

It seems to me almost like deserting my own children
not to tell the story of these and of other events of my life
here; but publishers are inexorable with writers in mat-
ters of space, and this no doubt because the reading public


is inexorable with publishers as to the size of books in-
tended especially for the general public or for juvenile
readers. With this explanation to the reader and apology
to my own sentiments, we will proceed to the next and
last chapter. Therein will be told the story of a visit to
the desert region where, as a young man, I experienced
my most thrilling adventures.





EARLY in March, 1915, with my children, I was on my
way to Arizona. In the shadow of loss of my wife and
mother, we sought the healing influence of the desert.

For my children this journey was a pilgrimage to the
scenes of my early adventures. We left the train at
Tucson to prepare for the desert.

When I had last touched the ground at Tucson in 1860
there was only a cluster of mud huts, and a population
which though not virtuous was happy, for it was far
from vigilance committees, sheriffs, ropes, and wristlets.
The owner of the one eating place greeted the hungry, one
hand holding a revolver, the other outstretched and ex-

Now, after half a century, Tucson was a flourishing
city with fine streets, luxurious hotels and plate-glass-
windowed department stores. I was a dazed Rip van
Winkle. Was it only last night that I had slept on an
earthen floor to wake up at the sound of shots and find
myself among a lot of players who were dodging the
bullets of two gentlemen, each casting aspersions on the
other's moral character, and on the virtue of the other's
mother ?

This vision was still before me when I registered at



the hotel. A reporter who had seen me enter my name
hailed me as the pioneer of Arizona. From that mo-
ment I found myself to be the sole depository of history
of Arizona before the Civil War the legendary, heroic
period. Among the interesting men we met was Captain
Burgess, a -fine specimen of the old-time ranger and
scout type, who wore his long hair in a knot on the back
of his head. He had scouted with Kit Carson and
Buffalo Bill, and enjoyed the occasional removal of one
of the many bullets that enriched his body.

Before starting on our proposed desert trip we made
an excursion of several days to the Santa Rita mines
where I had passed tragic months.

It was early March, with delightfully warm days and
cool nights, and an air so clear that distant mountains
were deceptively near at hand. A gravelly arid plain
spread out for many miles in all directions, its monotony
relieved only by clumps of sagebrush and here and there
an ocotillo tree always a picturesque group of tall
stems diverging from a common root and straight
ahead the great massif of the Santa Rita peaks. It was
a region for travel in the saddle and with pack mules,
not for motor cars. With me were my three children,
Raphael and his wife Amelie, Margarita, and Elise, who,
although mothers, will appear herein collectively as " the
girls." As it was to be a rough camping expedition, we
carried only blankets and food, water and gasoline.
Each had a roll of blankets stored on the engine hood.
The food was bacon, cheese, bread, marmalade, canned
beans, tea, and sugar. And there was a frying pan,
wooden plates to be burned, and cups. There may have
been also a knife and teaspoons, but we may have eaten
with our fingers.

Instead of tents I took twelve yar:ls of extra wide and


heavy canvas to pull over all of us in case of rain, for we
were to sleep on the ground.

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Online LibraryRaphael PumpellyTravels and adventures of Raphael Pumpelly : mining engineer, geologist, archaeologist and explorer → online text (page 22 of 23)