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Full text of "History of the big bonanza: an authentic account of the discovery, history, and working of the world renowned Comstock silver lode of Nevada, including the present condition of the various mines situated thereon; sketches of the most prominent men interested in them; incidents and adventures connected with mining, the Indians, and the country; amusing stories, experiences, anecdotes, & c., &c., and a full expostion of the production of pure silver"

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Entered according to act of Congress, in year 1876 by 

in toe office of the Librarian of Congress 


One easily gets a surface-knowledge of any remote country, through the 
writings of travellers. The inner life of such a country is not very often 
presented to the .reader. The outside of a strange house is interesting, but 
the people, the life, and the furniture inside, are far more so. 

Nevada is peculiarly a surface-known country, for no one has written of 
that land who had lived long there and made himself competent to furnish 
an inside view to the public. I think the present volume supplies this defect 
in an eminently satisfactory way. The writer of it has spent sixteen years in 
the heart of the silver-mining region, as one of the editors of the principal 
daily newspaper of Nevada ; he is thoroughly acquainted with his subject, 
and wields a practised pen. He is a gentleman of character and reliability. 
Certain of us who have known him personally during half a generation are 
well able to testify in this regard. 


HARTFORD, May, 1876. 


I have put all I had to say into the body of this'book ; but, being informed 
that a preface is a necessary evil, I have written this one. 










_ $> GOLD DIGGINS IN 1859 44 







13. H. T. P. COMSTOCK 85 







20. D N WASHOB 108 

21. BUSINESS i05 


23. GOING IN 108 


25. COMING BACK 108 


27. SAVAGES 126 


29. '-HOLD UP YOUR HANDS" 151 














* The illustrations of Mining Works, Scenery, and Machinery, are from Photographs taken 
cm the spot, by John S. Noe, and E. Hurd, of Virginia City, Nevada. 



44. RESIDKNCH o* HON. J. P. JONES 222 









53. SHRIMPS 285 

















70. THE SECRET 411 


72. NICK-OF-THE. WOODS .*....; 416 

73. HANK MONK 416 

74i DONNER LAKE 422 










84. THE MAN-EATER 508 

85. JOHN MACKEY 516 

'86. HON. WM. SHARON 520 

87. JAMES G. FAIB , 524 


89. HON. J. P. JONES 531 






Facts and Fiction How the Rivers are Lost Unwelcome Visitors 

The Washoes Taking in the Pilgrims 17 



"Washing" Celestials at the Diggings Original Papers Primitive 

Amusements Jacob Job's little Game A Delusion and a Snare.. . . 26 


The Mysterious Brothers What was found in a Shaft Pike's Great Dis- 
covery "Stuff they Make Compasses of" Wonderful travelling 

Stones 33 



" That Blasted Blue Stuff"" Old Pancake "A Discovery John Bish- 
op's Story Unearthly Treasure 39 


Discovery of the Great Comstock What they threw Away Old Pancake 
Arrives Questionable Rights Sold and " Sold " Locking up "Old 
Virginia." 47 



" Old Pancake's " Weakness Naming the town An Astounding Dis- 
closure Going to th Diggings A Grand Discovery 55 



The Old Record Book Strange Notices Curious Houses A Modern 

Robinson Crusoe Before the World Mills and Arastras 6l 



Thieves in the Camp An Uupleasant Joke Sales of Mining Property 

Smelting on a Small Scale What they Got from the Furnaces. ... 70 



"Old Pancake" Courting Catching a Runaway Wife Women and 
Mischief Always the Same Winnie and his Wife Seeking a New 

Bonanza 77 

" Old Pancake's " Story Roughing It The Fate of Old Virginia Ole 

Comstock Dead A Man who drank but Little 82 



Prospecting for a dinner A Skunk Story O'Riley's Mistake A Duel: 
Curious Consequences Flight of the Victor O'Riley and his Gun. 89 



The Great Oil-Tank An Untapped Reservoir Going in and Coming 
out Experiences of those who Stayed Approach of Spring " Zeph- 
yrs" and Avalanches A Rather long Night Queer Incidents 100 



" Bring out your Injunction " Testing Ores for Gold Testing Ores for 

Silver A Fire Assay Valuable Donkeys The Washoe "Canary" 109 



The Migratory Instinct The Piute War Battle of Pyramid Lake 

Second Expedition The Survivors of the Slaughter 116 



An Unlucky Dutchman Skirmishing An Appeal to Indian Justice 
After the Scalps Old Gus. and his " Injun." 121 



Organization Begun In Search of the Gold Fighting Sam Brown The 

Knife and the Pistol Pugnacious Periods 128 



In the Heart of the Bonanza Inside the Mine Extraordinary Experi- 
ments " Process Peddlers " and their Devices The Value of Tail- 
ings Neat way of making Rings waste of Gold and Silver 133. 




Floating Treasure Where the Quicksilver Goes An Unanswered Ques- 
tion Floating Away 143 



Footpads on the "Divide" Attacking a Dutchman Mysterious Dis- 
appearances Search for the Missing A Bonanza of Beef Where 

did they go to ? 146 



Providing for his Friends The Sierra Nevada Mountains The Ascent 
of Mount Davidson An Eclipse Going Back to the City A 

Majestic Scene 154 



How the Fissures were Formed Formation of Quartz and Ores How 
the Comstock Vein was Found Disagreeable " Pinching " Never 

Discouraged 160 



Sales of Stock A Day's Vicissitudes Speculations An Infallible Maxim 

Mr. Frank's Devices Nada Bonanza 165 



Hoisting the "Giraffe" Deserted Shafts Perillous Ways and Dark Places 

What they saw in the Night Rather Astonished Poisoned 170 



Yellow-Jacket Mine in a Blaze A Scene of Horror The Victims Sub- 
duing the Flames The Work of Destruction Scenes at the Mouth 

of the Shaft On Fire for three Years Missing Men 176 



Explosions of Firedamp How Gas is formed in the Mines Searching 
for the Dead What the Giant-powder Did The Inquest, and the 

Dead Carelessness of the Miners 186 



Progress of the Flames Descending the Burning Shaft Danger A 
Cave in the Mine Deluge of Fire Courage of the Men Still 
Burning A Warm Comparison The Centre of the Earth IQI 




Smoking out the Enemy The Early days of Washoe Amiable Miners 
The Kossuth and the Alhambra Causes of Fear A Little Mis- 
chiefBurnt Rags 197 



The Adventures of Four Miners Fixed A Struggle for Life Danger- 
ous Playthings Exploding with a Scratch Those little Copper Cyl- 
inders Loss of Noses and Thumbs , 2OI 



Tumbling down Two Thousand Feet Blown to Atoms A Singular 
Accident Automatic Safety Origin of Accidents The Pilgrim in 
a Coffin Shuffling out the " Corpse " 208 



The First-born of Virginia City A Comical Newspaper-Office Growing 
like Mushrooms A little Pictnre Among the Rubbish-Dumps 
Big Loads" See for Yourselves " 215 



Travelling in a Circle Through the Six Tunnels Crooked Roads 
Side-tracks and Other Devices The Way the Iron Horse Goes The 
Men on the Line Timed by Telegraph 227 



Spring Business Tapping the Hills Dams Constructed What Mr. 
Shussler Did The Big Water-PipeTesting the Siphon Great 
Rejoicings The Work Completed 231 



"The Forests of the Mountains A Daring Leap The Rafts on Lake 
Tahoe Descending the Flumes Vanishing Forests Coal Deposits 
of Nevada .238 



.A Mysterious Society Afraid Led forth to Death The fate of Perkins 
"Another Man Gone" Kirk's Fate Venturing too Far "You 
see he Stayed " 247 




An Unpleasant Breeze " Sleep no More " A Jackass on the Wing 
Weird Scenes The Artist's Soul Light and Shade Mountain 
Scenery The Giants of the Sierras 25$ ""-? 



The Piutes and the other Reds A Strange Pair Old Winnemucca 
The Woman who made the Indians The Indians' Ancestress The 
Piute Brave Big Injuns 261' 



On the War-path An Interview with the Chief A White Indian 

Captain Truckee John's Funeral Oration The " Princess." Sarah. 266 



Juan's Spanish Speculation The Devil's Visit to Earth Cooking the 
Sage What was It ? Piute Theology Poco Tiempo "Plenty Old" 
Jim and his Ducks 272 



A Little Warrior in a Fix Only a Shrimp Piutes in Virginia City- 
The Lord and His Lady How the Little Ones Came The Early 
Settler Adam and Eve A Model Parent An Important Occasion 
Sam's Theft 282 



Above Ground Suspicious Attacks How the Cage is Worked Great 

Responsibility Cages, Reels, and Cables Comical Disguises 293 



Our Conductor Downward Unpleasant Possibilities Safety A Bless- 
ed Inventor The Price of Stock Vasquez and His Friends The 
Carman 301 



Tumbling down a Chute Timbering a Mine Taking Samples What 
the "Giraffe" can Carry Gnomes of the Mine Troglodytes 
What is " Sumpf ? " 310- 




Draughts and Drifts Machinery of the Lower- Levels Southward Cur- 
rents Use of Compressed Air Industrious little Engines 317 



Changing Shifts A Shift-Boss's Report Useful Items Modern Trog- 
lodytes Shirtless but Hot Fights and Factions 322 



Rats Unwelcome Visitors Chasing the Ghost Cornered 329 



The Reduction- Works Working the Machinery The Batteries Pre- 
paring the Ore The Amalgamating- Room Two Processes 336 



How Quicksilver Vanishes Charging the Retorts Ladling out the 

Molten Silver How Assays are Made Results 346 



Big Eaters Recognizing Murphy A Nice Little Supper What he Did 
with his Gun " A Devil of a Time " " A Nice Agreeable Gentle- 
man." '. 354 



A trifling Accident Blazer and His Friends A Little Misunderstanding 
" Couldn't Drink Alone " " I'll bring in the Rabble "The Dea- 
con Sent For Resurrection ! * Awful big Gooses." 362 



A Fuddled Pillar Philosophical Advice " Don't Git Married Afferd" 
Mr. Jones's Guest The War-hoss of the Hills Something of a 

Fighter Beating a Retreat "Jim Carter or the Devil." 371 



A Strange Mixture of Duties Wicked Mongolian Tricks 'Melican and 

Chinaman Compared A Ghostly Difference Restless Spirits 382 



How they Smoke the Drug Babel Street-Scenes in Virginia City 

Voices of the People Hard Cash The Grasshopper Man 388 




Bulls and Bears Doings of the Brokers On a Margin "Pussy-Cat 

Wilde" and " Bobtaile "Going Up ! Dealers and Dabblers 97 



Old Joe's Disaster A New Excitement Sharp Doings " The Greatest 

Buy on the Lead " A Lady's Speculation 405 



Romantic Scenery A Curious Freak of Nature Lake Tahoe Hank 

Monk He Couldn't tell a Lie Practical Joking The Summit... 413 


Donner Lake Lost in the Snow A Horrible Scene What became of 

the Donners The Sulphur Springs The Golden State 420 



A Neat little Game What Doubting Thomas Found " Doctoring " a 

Tape-line Devices of an Honest Man What a Stockholder Found. 427 


" Me Ketch um There " Doings of the Roving Miner The " Goddess 

of Poverty" The Bully Honest Miner 432 



Among the Employes Miners' Union Labor and Capital A Heavy 

Pay-list Where the Money Goes to "Steamer Day." 439 



Secrecy "Booming" Stock Adventures of a French Count Left in the 

Dark Making it Hot for Him Rescued Polite to the Last 446 



The Beginning of Trouble The Contest " Fighting Interests 454 



Mines of Ancient Days The Yield of American Mines Humboldt's 
Curious Calculations Varied Fortunes The Plum in the Pudding 
Value of the Different Levels Searching in the Dark 461 




The Comstock Mines Hidden Treasure A Great Sensation The Ex- 
citement Increases Panic A Millionaire's Advice 460 



The Grand Gallery Glittering Caverns The World's Greatest Treas- 
ure-Store " Ventilation " A " Horse " in the Mine 479 



A Fortune in one Foot Future Prospects What Yet Remains Undis- 
covered Bonanza Figures before Facts Facts After Figures 

Distribution of the Wealtji Its Influence 487 



Too hot for Comfort Blowers Down Deep The Sutro Tunnel 496 



Deeper than a Well Bottom Dropped Out Creeping Propensities A 

Skull Discovered An Unlucky Slip 501 



Carson City Lizards and Scorpions A Pleasing Insect A Wicked 

way of Laying Eggs Another Agreeable Insect 509 



Mr. John Mackey The Hon. William Sharon How his Fortune was 
Made Mr. James C. Fair Mr. Samuel S. Curtis The Hon. J. P. 

Jones A Big Business 517 


A Secret Expedition Bitten by a Snake All a Mistake Camping Out 

Manufacture of Slapjacks " It never came Down." 533 



Off for the Land of Gold Something in his Boot Afraid of Tom 

Tom's Intentions Pike Outwitted Left Behind 540 



Tom Sings The Joke Successful Pike Vanishes A Pretty Big Story 

Doubtfnl Dreams Self-deceived Our Journey's End 547 



THE bare mention of a mine of silver calls up in most minds 
visions of glittering wealth and a world of romantic situ- 
ations and associations. All no doubt have read the story 
of the Indian hunter, Diego Hualca, who, in the year 1545, 
discovered the world-famous silver-mine of Potosi, Peru. How, 
while climbing up the face of a steep mountain in pursuit of a 
wild goat, this fortunate hunter laid hold upon a bush, in order 
to pull himself up over a steep ledge of rocks, and how the bush 
was torn out by the roots, when lo ! wonderful store of wealth 
was laid bare. In the roots of the upturned bush, and in the 
soil of the spot whence it was torn, the eyes of the lone Indian 
hunter beheld masses of glittering silver. 

Having all our lives had in mind this romantic story, and 
having a thousand times pictured to ourselves the great, shining 
lumps of native silver, as they lay exposed in the black soil 
before that Indian, who stood alone in a far-away place on the 
wild mountain, we are apt to imagine that something of the same 
kind is to be seen wherever a silver-mine exists. Besides, we 
have all heard the stories told by the old settlers of the Atlantic 
States in regard to the wonderful mines of silver known to the 
Indians in early days. 

Hardly a State in the Union but has its legend of a silver-mine 
known to the red-men when they inhabited the country. This 
mine was pretty much the same in every State and in every 
region. Upon the removal of a large flat stone an opening 
resembling the mouth of a cavern was seen. Entering this, you 
2 IT 


found yourself in a great crevice in the rocks, and the sides of 
this crevice were lined with silver, which you forthwith proceeded 
to hew and chip off with a hatchet kindly furnished you by your 
Indian guide. You worked rapidly, as, according to contract, 
you had but a limited time to remain in the mine. When the 
Indian at your side announced your time up, the tomahawk was 
taken from your hand, even though you might have an immense 
mass detached, save a mere clinging thread. 

Only men who had saved the life of some Indian of renown 
weie ever led to these silver caverns and they were invariably 
obliged to submit to be blindfolded, so that none of them were 
ever able to find their way back to the mines they had been 

These and kindred stories have placed masses of native silver, 
and deposits of rich ores of silver very near to the surface of the 
ground, in the popular mind. No doubt there are many places 
in the world where native silver exists almost upon the present 
surface, as was the case in the Potosi mine, in Peru, and as was 
the case with the rich deposit of silver ore first found on the 
Comstock lode, but those who visit the present mines of the 
Comstock will find little in them that at all agrees with their 
preconceived notions of silver-mines. On the surface they will 
find nothing that is glittering, nothing that is at all romantic. 
The soil looks much the same as in any other mountainous 
region, and the rocks seem to have a very ordinary look to the 
inexperienced eye. The general hue of the hills is a yellowish- 
brown, and all about through the rents in the ashen-hued sage- 
brush which clothes the country, peep jagged piles of granite 
the bones of the land, showing through its rags. 

In sketching the history of the famous Comstock silver lode of 
Nevada, however, and of the bonanza mines, situated on that 
lode, it seems proper to begin by giving a brief account of the 
first settlement of the country, when known as Western Utah, 
and under Mormon, if under any rule ; also, to chronicle what is 
to be gathered in regard to the finding of gold-diggings in that 
region, the working of which finally resulted in the discovery of 
the richest silver-mines in the world. 

Nevada, as at present bounded, extends from the 35th to the 


42d degree of north latitude, and from the ii4th to the i2oth 
degree west longitude from Greenwich. 

The area of the State is 112,190 square miles, or 71,801,819 
acres. Assuming the water-surface of the several lakes in the 
State to cover an area of 1,690 square miles, or 1,081,819 acres, 
there remain 110,500 square miles, or 70,720,000 acres as the 
land-area of the State. 

I do not know that this is correct to the fraction of an acre, 
but, when the quality of the greater part of the land is considered, 
I don't think anybody is likely to come along and make trouble 
about the measurement. 

The Sierra Nevada Mountains, with long lines of snowy 
peaks towering to the clouds, form the western boundary of 
the State and rise far above any mountain ranges lying to 
the westward in the Great Basin region, a region largely 
made up of alkali deserts and rugged, barren hills, yet a 
country abounding in all manner of minerals. 

The rivers of Nevada are none of them of great size. They 
all pour their waters into lakes that have no outlet, where 
they sink into the earth or are dissipated by the active evapo- 
ration that goes on in all this region during the greater part 
of the year. Each river empties into its lake, or what in that 
country is called its " sink." Not a river of them all gets out 
of the State or through any other river reaches the sea. 

This condition of the rivers of Nevada was once thus 
curiously accounted for by an old mountaineer and pros- 
pector. Said he : 

" The way it came about was in this wise The Almighty, 
at the time he was creatin' and fashionin' of this here yearth, 

fot along to this section late on Saturday evening. He had 
nished all of the great lakes, like Superior, Michigan, Huron, 
Erie and them had made the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi 
rivers, and, as a sort of wind-up, was about to make a river 
that would be far ahead of anything he had yet done in that 
line. So he started in and traced out Humboldt River, and 
Truckee River, and Walker River, and Reese River, and all 
the other rivers, and he was leadin' of thfcm along, calkerlatin* 
to bring 'em all together into one big boss river and then 
lead that off and let it empty into the Gulf of Mexico or the 
Gulf of California, as might be most convenient ; but as he 


was bringin* down and leadin* along the several branches 
the Truckee, Humboldt, Carson, Walker, and them it came 
on dark and instead of trying to carry out the original plan, 
he jist tucked the lower ends of the several streams into the 
ground, whar they have remained from that day to this." 

Carson River and Carson Valley were named in honor of 
Kit Carson, the famous Indian fighter, trapper, and guide, who 
visited that region as early as 1833. He was accompanied by 
old Jim Beckworth, once chief of the Crow Indians, three 
Crow Indians and some white trappers nine men in all. 
The party passed over the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Cali- 

Thirteen years later when with Col. J. C. Fremont, Kit 
Carson followed his old trail in crossing the Sierras, going in 
the direction of Bear River, and at last, ascending a high hill 
in the neighborhood of where Rough-and-Ready, California, 
now stands, Kit struck a landmark he well remembered. 
Pointing out the blue peaks of the Marysville Buttes, seen far 
away in the smoky distance, he said: "Yonder lies the 
valley of the Sacramento ! " 

At the time of the discovery of silver, the principal settle- 
ment in that part of Utah which afterwards became the 
Territory and eventually the State of Nevada, was at Genoa, 
now the county-seat of Douglas county and situated about 
fourteen miles south of Carson City, the capital of the State. 
To all who crossed the Plains, on their way to the gold-fields 
of California, in the early days, Genoa was known as " Mor- 
mon Station," a name it continued to bear for some years. 
Even after the name had been changed to Genoa, many of 
the^old settlers persisted in calling the place Mormon Station. 

The first building of a permanent character erected in Genoa 
was built by Col. John Reese, who came from Salt Lake City 
early in the spring of 1851 with a stock of dry-goods. This 
first structure was a large log-house, covering an area of 
forty-five square yards, was in the form of an L and at one 
time formed two sides of a pentagon-shaped fort. Colonel 
Reese bought the land on which the town of Genoa now 
stands, with a farm adjoining, of Captain Jim, of the Washoe 
tribe of Indians, for two sacks of flour. 


Besides the settlement at Mormon Station, a settlement, also 
by Mormons, was commenced in the spring of 1853 at Frank- 
town, Washoe Valley. Quite a little hamlet was formed at 
Franktown ; and others of the colony settled at various points 
along the west side of the valley at the base of the Sierra 
Nevada Mountains. Several Mormon families still reside in 
this neighborhood and occasionally the voice of the Mor- 
mon preacher is yet to be heard. 

Orson Hyde, a man of considerable note at Salt Lake, had 
in charge the spiritual and temporal welfare of the Mormon 
settlements in the early days, he being both preacher and 
Justice of the Peace. 

At this time in the history of the country there was no town 
in Eagle Valley, where Carson City now stands. The first 
building erected in that neighborhood was at Eagle Ranche, 
from which ranche the valley took its name. This place was 
afterwards better known as King's Ranche, a name it still bears. 
Two or three houses were next built on the present site of 
Carson City, but the town was not regularly laid out until 1858, 
when the land was purchased by Major Ormsby, who gave the 
place the name it now bears. 

Although these early settlements were made upon lands 
belonging to the Washoe Indians, a tribe of considerable strength 
at the time, yet no very serious battles were ever had with them. 
The whites, however, who were at first a mere handful, Mor- 
mons and " Gentiles," all told, stood in considerable awe of the 
redskins. They were obliged to quietly endure not a few insults 
from some of the bullies of the tribe, who had a fashion of walk- 
ing into houses and making themselves at home in the cupboards. 
They were often exceedingly insolent, and when only women 
and children were found at a house, always managed to frighten 
them into giving up most of the provisions about the place. 

In one instance, however, an Indian who went to the house of 
a Gentile, when the only occupants were a boy about twelve 
years of age and his sister still younger, met a fate he little 
anticipated. The Indian, after regaling himself in the pantry, 
began threatening the children with a roasting at the stake, for 
the purpose of enjoying their fright ; and, finally, whipping out a 


big knife, began " making believe " to take the scalp of the little 
girl. The boy, it would seem, thought they had had about enough 
of this foolishness, as he went into an adjoining room, took down 
his father's rifle and returning to where the brave was flourish- 
ing his knife and enjoying himself, shot him dead in his tracks. 

The Indian killed was one of the worst in the Washoe tribe, 
and was greatly dreaded in all the settlements. The father of 
the boy who rid the country of the much-feared Indian bully^ 
was obliged to " pull up stakes " at once and fly to California for 

The Washoes inhabited the eastern slope of the Sierras, and 
made the stealing of the stock of the settlers both their 
business and their pleasure. Like crows they sat looking down 
into the valleys from the tops of the rocky buttresses of the 
mountains, and when they saw the coast clear, down they came 
and gathered in as many animals as they were able to drive. 

Whenever the whites were so incautious as to collect for the 
purpose of enjoying a ball or any such social festivity, the 
Washoes were pretty sure to know of the affair, and seldom 
neglected to swoop from their mountain fastnesses, gathering up 
and driving away whatever animals they could find. The trail 
of the Indian depredators, when followed, was generally found 
marked with the remains of roasted horses the Washoes hav- 
ing a great fondness for horse-flesh. On the occasion of a ball 
in Dayton, as late as 1854, the Washoes came down and "gob- 
bled up " all the horses of the revellers. The Indians appeared 
to think this cunning and a very good joke. 

Although Colonel Reese had about his big log-house at 
Mormon Station, a strong stockade, that defence was never 
required as a protection against the Washoe Indians. The 
tribe has dwindled away until at the present day those remain- 
ing are few and miserably poor, ragged, filthy, and spiritless. 
They now cling to the skirts of the white man and stand in awe 
of all surrounding tribes of Indians, even in time of peace. 

The settlements thus far mentioned were all scattered along 
the eastern base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but as early 
as 1851, there were erected a few temporary structures, prin- 
cipally canvas houses, at various points to the eastward, along 


the line of the main " Emigrant Road." This, the then grand 
highway across the continent, after passing through some of the 
worst and most dreaded deserts between the Rocky Mountains 
and the Sierras, led to the well-watered and fertile valley of the 
Carson, a region that doubtless seemed almost a paradise to the 
weary emigrant, who for 'months and months had been toiling 
over rugged mountains and across sterile plains. 

Mormon Station being directly on the old Hangtown (after- 
wards Placerville) Road, then the principal route over the 
Sierras, drove a thriving trade with the thousands and tens of 
thousands of adventurers who were then pushing their way 
toward the gold-fields of California. Seeing that there was 
money in this trade, not a few adventurers, principally from 
Salt Lake and California, established posts on the line of the 
road to the eastward of Mormon Station and Eagle Ranche, a 
few even pushing out a considerable distance into the deserts. 
The majority of these traders, however, returned to California 
each season, following in the wake of the last emigrant-trains 
that came in over the Plains, and there remained until the 
tide of emigration began to pour in again the next year. 

These traders furnished the " pilgrims " cheap luxuries at 
outrageously high prices, traded for their disabled cattle and 
swindled them in every possible manner, as they all con- 
sidered the emigrant their lawful prey. 



GOLD was first discovered in Nevada in the spring of 
1850, by some Mormon emigrants. They had started 
for California, but so early in the season that when 
they arrived at the Carson River they learned that the snow 
on the summit of the Sierra Nevada Mountains was still too 
deep to allow of their being crossed. This being the case, 
the party encamped on the Carson to await the opening of 
the road. 

Having nothing else to do, some of the men of the party 
began prospecting for gold. Their camp on the river being 
at no great distance from the mouth of the Gold Canon, the 
largest canon in the neighborhood, they were naturally attract- 
ed to it and there began their prospecting operations. 

Although they knew but little about mining, and had only 
pans with which to wash the gravel, they found gold suffi- 
ciently plentiful to enable them to make small wages. It does 
not appear, however, that the discoverers worked them longer 
than until they were able to continue their journey to Califor- 

Other emigrants coming in and encamping on the river 
learned of the discovery of gold in the canon, and, being 
anxious to begin gold-digging as soon as possible, did some 
prospecting along the bed of the ravine. 

But the gold being fine (/'. <?., like dust in fine particles), 
and the quantity not being up to their expectations, nearly all 
pushed on to California, where they expected to make for- 
tunes in a few weeks or months; as all believed, that they, 



through their superior acuteness, would find places in some 
of the dark and secret gulches of the Sierras where they 
would be able to gather pounds of golden nuggets. 

Finally, Spofford Hall, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, arrived 
across the Plains and, thinking it a good point at which to 
establish a permanent station, erected a substantial log-house 
at a point not far from the mouth of the Gold Canon. This 
was for some time known as Hall's Station. Afterwards it 
was known as M c Martin's Station, the property having been 
purchased by James M c Martin, a man who came across the 
Plains with Mr. Hall. This house stood on ground now 
covered by the town of Dayton and was still being used as a 
store at the time of the discovery of silver, it being then 
owned by Major Ormsby, killed at Pyramid Lake, in 1860, in 
the first battle with the Piutes. 

This discovery of gold at the mouth pf Gold Canon was 
undoubtedly that which led to the discovery, some years 
later, of the Comstock lode the first step, as it were, to the 
grand silver discovery of the age. At the head of Gold Canon 
are situated a number of the leading mines of the Comstock 

In the spring of 1852 a considerable number of men began 
working on the lower part of Gold Canon, most of them using 
rockers in their mining operations. As these men did well, 
making from $5 to $10 per day, the number of miners on the 
canon was considerably greater in the winter and spring of 
1853, there being as many as two or three hundred men 
at work. As there was little water in the bed of the canon 
except during the winter and spring months, few miners 
were to be seen at work in summer seldom more than forty 
or fifty. 

As the miners worked their way up the canon from bar to 
bar, a new town was eventually founded at a point a few 
miles above the first settlement at its mouth. This was a 
little hamlet of a dozen houses of all kinds, and was christ- 
ened Johntown. In this little town or " Camp," as such 
places are usually styled in mining countries, lived Henry 
Comstock, who gave his name, some years later to the great 
silver lode; also, Peter O'Riley and Patrick McLaughlin, 



the discoverers of the Comstock vein. " Old Virginia " 
(James Finney, or Fennimore), in whose honor Virginia 
City, the great mining town of Nevada, was named, was also 


a resident of Johntown in the early days, as were several 
other persons who are now classed among the worthies of 
the Comstock range. 

From about 1856 up to 1858, Johntown was the "big mining 
town " of Western Utah at least was the headquarters of most 
of the miners at work in the country. All told, the camp con- 
tained only about a dozen buildings, some of which were mere 
shanties, but many of the miners preferred to camp out during 
the spring and summer months they had no use for houses. 

A large number of Chinamen being at work at the mouth of 
the canon, near where the gold was first discovered, that place 
finally became known as "Chinatown," a name which it long 
retained, though the whites who settled there did not much 
fancy the name. They gave the place the name of Mineral 
Rapids, but this did not take ; then there was danger of it being 


christened Nevada City, but the citizens rose in their might and 
at a meeting, held November 3d. 1861, the name of Dayton was 
unanimously adopted, and Dayton it has ever since remained. 

The Chinamen mentioned, forty or fifty in number at first, 
were brought over from California, in 1856, to work on a big 
water-ditch, by means of which water was to be brought to the 
Gold Canon mines from the Carson River. Finding they would 
be allowed to mine in certain places, others followed, and at one 
time not less than one hundred and eighty Mongolians were at 
work at the lower end of the Canon. 

The Celestials probably found very good pay, even in the 
places where they were allowed to plant their rockers, as it is 
said that the. bars for some miles up the canon paid well when 
first worked, there being places where an ounce per day was 
taken out. 

The canon continued to pay pretty fair wages for some years, 
and was still being worked at the time of the discovery of silver 
and the grand silver excitement which immediately followed. 

Literature was not neglected at this early period in the history 
of Washoe. There were, even in the early days when Johntown 
was the great mining centre of the country, two spicy weekly 
papers published in the land. They were written on foolscap, 
often several sheets, and, by being assiduously passed from hand 
to hand, were widely circulated in the several settlements. 
These papers were everywhere eagerly read. One, called 
the Scorpion, was published at Genoa, and was edited by S. A. 
Kinsey; the other was published at Johntown and was edited 
by Joe Webb. It was called The Gold-Canon Switch. These 
papers were both published between the years 1854 and 1858. 

The people of Johntown, though not numerous, were jovial. 
They were fond of amusements of all kinds. Nearly every 
Saturday night a " grand ball " was given at " Dutch Nick's " 
saloon. As there were but three white women in the town, it 
was necessary, in order to "make up the set," to take in Miss 
Sarah Winnemucca, the " Piute Princess " (daughter of Winne- 
mucca, chief of all the Piutes). When the orchestra a " yaller- 
backed fiddle " struck up and the ' French four ' was in order, 
the enthusiastic Johntowners went forth in the dance with ardor 
and filled the air with splinters from the puncheon floor. When 



a John town " hoss " balanced in front of the " Princess " he made 
no effort to economise shoe-leather. 

Even in those early days and in that primitive community, the 


"beast of the jungle " was known in the land. The "boys" 
were not allowed to languish for want of amusement. When 
their sacks of gold-dust became painfully plethoric, and too heavy 
to be conveniently packed around, Jacob Job, the leading mer- 
chant of the place used to deal faro for them " out of hand ; " that 
is, he took the cards from his hand and laid them out on the 
table, instead of drawing them from a box such as is used in the 
game by regular "sports." 

Billy Williams, a man who had a ranche up in Carson Valley, 
occasionally came down to Johntown in seasons of great aurif- 
erous affluence, and dealt for the boys a little game called 
"Twenty-one." Faro, out of hand, and Twenty-one, with 
Williams at the helm, usually sent all the male Johntowners back 



to their toms and rockers, each man financially a total wreck. 

About 1857 58 the diggings along Gold Canon showed signs 

of failing, all the best bars and banks being pretty well worked 


out. It was only occasionally that a rich spot could be found, 
and most of the miners were only making small wages.' That 
this was the case is evident from the fact that about this time the 
Johntowners, the mining men of the land, began to scatter out 
through the country and make prospecting raids in all directions 
among the hills. 

In 1857 , several men from Johntown, struck gold-diggings on 
Six-mile Canon. This canon heads on the north side of Mount 
Davidson, while Gold Canon, in which gold was first found, 
heads on the south side of the same mountain. The heads of 
the two canons are about a mile apart, and through the eastern 
face of Mount Davidson, across a sort of plateau, runs the Corn- 
stock Silver lode. The lode (or lead), extends across the heads 
of both canons, and the gold that was being mined in both came 
from the decomposed rock of the croppings of the vein. 

Thus, it will be seen, these early miners were approaching the 


great silver lode from two points on Gold Canon towards the 
south, and on Six-mile Canon toward the north side of Mount 
Davidson. But not a man among them knew anything of what 
was ahead. They were only working for gold and were looking 
for that nowhere but in the gravel of the ravines ; none of them 
having thought of looking for gold-bearing quartz veins. 

The men who" were mining on Six-mile Canon first struck pay- 
ing ground, at a point nearly a mile below the place where silver 1 
ore was afterwards found in the Ophir mine. The gold was in 
clay, which was so tough that before it could be washed out in 
rockers it was necessary to " puddle " it that is, put it into a 
large square box or a hole in the ground, and dissolve it by 
adding a proper quantity of water and working it about with 
hoes or shovels. Even working in this way, the men were able to 
make from five dollars to an ounce per day. The gold found 
at this distance down the canon was worth about $13.50 per 

The miners on Six-mile Canon sold their dust in Placerville, 
California. Being acquainted with some California boys who 
were mining in a place called 'Coon Hollow, our Washoe 
miners were in the habit of buying a certain quantity of fine 
dust of them, which they mixed with the gold from Six-mile 
Canon, when they were able to sell the whole lot at such a price 
as was equal to fifteen dollars per ounce for their own dust. As 
they worked further up the ravine, toward the Comstock lode, 
the gold deteriorated so rapidly in weight, color and value, that 
this game could no longer be played. The gold-buyer looked 
upon the mixture of Six-mile Canon and 'Coon Hollow 
products and pronounced it a delusion and a snare. 



TWO young men who were mining in Gold Canon, sus- 
pected the existence of silver-mines in the country at 
least five or six years before silver was actually discov- 
ered. These men were Hosea B. and Edgar Allen Grosch, 
sons of A. B. Grosch, a Universalist clergyman of considerable 
note, and editor of a Universalist paper at Utica, New York. 
The Grosch brothers were well educated and had considerable 
knowledge of mineralogy and assaying. 

They came to Gold Canon in 1852, from Volcano, California, 
and engaged in placer-mining. In 1853 and 1854, they appear 
to have become convinced that there was silver to be found in 
the country, and did a good deal of prospecting in various 
directions among the neighboring mountains, doubtless in search 
of silver ore. 

In their cabin, which stood near the present town of Silver 
City, about a mile above Johntown, they are said to have had a 
library consisting of a considerable number of volumes of 
scientific works ; also chemical apparatus and assayer's tools. 

They did not associate with the miners working on the canon, 
and were very reticent in regard to what they were doing. 
They, however, informed a few persons that they had discovered 
a vein of silver-bearing quartz and it was well known among 
the miners that they had formed a company for the purpose of 
working their mine. The majority of the members of their 
company were understood to be in California (about Volcano), 
and in one of the Atlantic States. Mrs. L. M. Dettenreider, 
one of the early settlers of the country, and a lady who had 



befriended the brothers, was given an interest in their mine, and 
at one time had in her possession a piece of ore from it. This 
ore, they assured her, contained gold, silver, lead, and antimony. 

Mrs. Dettenreider, who is a resident of Virginia City, says 
she always understood that the mine discovered by the Grosch 
brothers was somewhere about Mount Davidson, and thinks they 
may have obtained their ore somewhere along the Comstock 

In 1860, I saw their old furnaces unearthed, they having been 
covered up to the depth of a foot or more by a deposit of mud 
and sand from, Gold Canon. They were two in number and but 
two or three feet in length, a foot in height and a foot and a half 
in width. One had been used as a smelting and the other as a 
cupel furnace. The remains of melting-pots and fragments of 
cupels were found in and about the furnaces, also a large piece 
of argentiferous galena, which had doubtless been procured a 
short distance west of Silver City, where there are yet to be seen 
veins containing ore of that character, some of which yield fair 
assays in silver. 

In the spring of 1857, Hosea Grosch, while engaged in mining, 
stuck a pick in his foot, inflicting a wound, from the effects of 
which he died, in a few days. In November of that year, while 
on his way to Volcano, California, Allen, the surviving brother, 
was caught in a heavy storm in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, 
and had his feet frozen so badly that amputation was necessary, 
from the shock of which operation he died. With the brothers 
was lost the secret of the whereabouts of their silver-mine ; if 
they ever discovered any silver except that contained in the ore 
of the veins of argentiferous galena I have mentioned. 

After the discovery of the old furnaces of the Grosch brothers 
in 1860, there was much search by miners in the neighborhood 
for the mine they had been prospecting, but no mine was ever 

In a sort of sink on the side of a large mountain, at the foot of 
which stood the cabin and furnaces of the brothers, was found an 
old shaft. Here was supposed to be the spot where they had 
worked, and the place was "located" ("claimed" or "pre- 
empted "), and called the "Lost Shaft." 


About the first discovery made by the locators, when they 
began cleaning out the shaft, was the body a sort of mummy 
of a Piute squaw, who had been murdered some years before by 
members of her tribe, who had tumbled her remains into the 
old shaft. 

After finding this " dead thing,' the owners of the claim let a 
contract for the further sinking and exploration of the old shaft. 
The men who took the contract soon gave it up. They said 
they could not work in the shaft ; that stones were falling out 
of its sides without cause. Others took the contract, and each 
party of miners that went to work in the shaft gave it up, saying 
that their lives were endangered by the stones which suddenly 
and at unexpected times, jumped out of its sides. A tunnel 
was then started to tap the ledge on which the old shaft was 
supposed to have been sunk, but it was never completed. It is 
now well known that the old shaft was sunk by a party of Gold 
Canon miners in 1851, they having taken it into their heads that 
from this curious-looking pit or sink in the side of the mountain 
came all the gold found below in the canon. 

There was also a story current among the miners, in 1860, that 
before starting on the trip over the Sierras which resulted in his 
death, Allen Grosch boxed up the library and all the chemical 
and assaying apparatus, and cached the whole somewhere about 
Grizzly Hill, the mountain at the base of which stood the cabin 
occupied by the brothers. There was much search by curious 
miners in the neighborhood for this supposed deposit of valuables. 
They crawled under the edge of shelving rocks, peered into 
crevices among the cliffs, and probed all suspicious-looking stone- 
heaps, but no bonanza of scientific apparatus was ever discovered. 
When Allen Grosch left to go over the mountains to California, 
Comstock was placed in charge of the cabin, and it is very 
probable that whatever books and apparatus there may have been 
were carried away by such visitors as took a fancy to them, and 
thus were scattered and lost. 

In the summer of 1860 I was camped on a branch of Gold 

Canon, near where the old stone-cabin of the Grosch brothers 

stood. I had a score or more of neighbors, whose tents were 

pitched on the banks of the ravine, or who, having no tents, 



made the willows on the bars their shelter. One hot day in 
July, one of the men, a big, long-legged Missourian, started up 
the mountain to see what he could find. One object probably 
was to look for the Grosch scientific "bonanza," but, being a 
man who had no more knowledge of ores and minerals than a 
Piute, he was quite sure to make some remarkable discovery, no 
matter in what direction he traveled. 

He had been absent some hours when, looking up towards the 
sifmmit of Grizzly Hill, we saw a cloud of dust moving down the 
face of the mountain. In the midst of this whirling cloud, we 
caught occasional glimpses of a man, bounding along like a wild 
goat. Rocks disturbed by his feet, rolled down the steep slope 
of the mountain, adding greatly to the dust and commotion. 
All in camp were soon out gazing at the unusual spectacle, and 
all wondered what had happened to "Pike," who by this time 
had been recognized by his long legs and reckless manner of 
handling them. 

Some thought that a bear or some other wild beast was in 
pursuit of Pike, as he charged down the steep mountain in 
a manner so reckless that it was very evident he was taking no 
thought of the risk he ran of breaking his neck. 

Over jutting ledges and through huge patches of loose, sliding 
rock, bounded Pike, and soon he came rushing wild-eyed into 

Rivulets of perspiration were coursing down his dust-covered 
cheeks ; dust whitened the ends of his long black locks, and dust 
seemed to fly from his nostrils as, puffing and blowing, he made 
his way into our midst. 

In both hands he held a quantity of black-looking rock. As 
soon as he could get his breath he said : " Boys, I've struck it ! 
There's millions of tons of it ! Millions on millions enough to 
make the whole camp rich ! " 

" Well, what is it Pike ? " asked some one. " Is it silver, gold, 
or what ? " 

" It is what none of you fellers would ever have found : it's the 
Stuff they make compasses of! " 

" Make compasses of! What do you mean ? " asked the men. 

" Mean ! I mean just what I say, that it is the stuff they make 


compasses of surveyors' compasses, mariners' compasses, and all 
them kind of compasses that pint to the North Pole. None of 
you would ever have found it ; you wouldn't have knowed what 
it was ! " 

" Well, where is it ? Where is this big thing ? " 

" Way up yander on top of the mountain," said Pike, pointing 
towards the summit of Grizzly Hill. " There's a whole ledge of 
it a ledge fifty foot wide ! " 

" But how do you know that the stuff is good for anything? " 
asked the boys. " How do you know that it is what compasses 
are made of? " 

" How do I know ? Easy enough. Just look here, will you ! " 

Pike then took a piece of the rock weighing about five pounds, 
and placing one end of it in the midst of a handful of smaller 
pieces, ranging from the size of a pea to that of a hulled walnut, 
the whole mass of small fragments was lifted up and remained 
clinging to the larger lump of rock. 

" See that ! " cried Pike, glancing at one and another of the 
men about him : " What did I tell you ? and there is millions 
more where I got this ! " 

All were now really a good deal interested in the rock found 
by Pike, and in the powerful magnetic qualities it exhibited, as 
the large lumps would pick up and hold suspended fragments 
weighing over an ounce. 

" The way I come to find it," now explained Pike, "was this: 
I found the big ledge of black, heavy rock, and taking up a 
chunk of it began trying to break off a slice from the main ledge. 
As I hammered away, I noticed that all the little bits of rock 
pounded loose stuck to the chunk I held in my hand. I thought 
at first that there was pine-gum on the chunk, but could find none, 
then it all at once flashed into my mind, and I said ' I've struck 
it! 'This is the stuff they make compasses of!' Then you 
just ought to have seen me make tracks down the mountain." 

" We saw you ! " said the men. 

Pike then went on to say, that his discovery was one of the 
most important, in many respects, that had been made in modern 
times. It would be of incalculable advantage to navigation 
and would increase the navies of the world a thousand-fold. 


He even went so far the next morning (which showed that his 
brain had not been idle during the night) as to assert that here-' 
after there would be no difficulty about reaching the North Pole. 
All that would be necessary, he said, would be to place a block 
of about ten tons of his rock on the bow of a ship, when, without 
the aid of sail or rudder, and in spite of adverse winds and ice- 
floes, the vessel would plough its way up through the oceans of 
the north and never stop until its nose rested against the side of 
the Pole. 

Pike had several assays of his " find " made, and it was weeks 
before he could be made to believe that it was not something of 
more value than magnetic iron ore. 

Some years after Pike's great discovery, a prospector who 
had been roaming through the Pahranagat Mountains, the 
wildest and most sterile portion of southeastern Nevada, 
brought back with him a great curiosity in the shape of a 
number of traveling stones. The stones were almost per- 
fectly round, the majority of them as large as a hulled walnut, 
and very heavy, being of an irony nature. When scattered 
about on the floor, on a table, or other level surface, within 
two or three feet of each other, they immediately began trav- 
eling toward a common centre, and then huddled up in a 
bunch like a lot of eggs in a nest. A single stone removed 
to a distance of a yard, upon being released, at once started 
off with wonderful and somewhat comical celerity to rejoin 
its fellows; but if taken away four or five feet it remained 

The man who was in possession of these traveling stones 
said that he found them in a region of country that, though 
comparatively level, is nothing but bare rock. Scattered 
about in this rocky plain are a great number of little basins, 
from a few feet to two or three rods in diameter, and it is in 
the bottom of these basins that the rolling stones are found. 
In the basins they are seen from the size of a pea to five or 
six inches in diameter. These curious pebbles appeared to 
be formed of loadstone or magnetic iron ore. 



TO return to the notions of the early miners and others, 
in regard to the existence of silver in Nevada. Few, 
it would seem, besides the Grosch brothers, and one or 
two of their intimate friends, ever dreamed of there being any 
silver-mines in the country. Had there been anything said 
about the existence of silver, those who made predictions 
that it would be found, would not have been slow to remind 
their friends of the fact as sown as the first discovery .of silver 
was made. Some of the Johntowners say that, in 1853, a 
Mexican who was hired by them and who worked a few days 
in Gold Canon, tried to tell them that he was of the opinion 
that there were silver-mines in the mountains above them. 
The man spoke no English, therefore was unable at that time 
to make himself understood ; now that the silver-mines have 
been found, all seems plain enough. 

Pointing to the large fragments of quartz rock lying along 
the bed of the canon, the Mexican said : "Bueno \ " good ! 
Then pointing toward the mountain peaks about the head of 
the canon, and giving his hand a general wave over them all, 
he cried emphatically : "Mucho plata ! mucho plata ! " " Much 
silver! much silver! all above you in those hills," was what 
the Mexican said by word and gesture. 

The men who were at work with the Mexican remember 
this, because during the two or three days he was at work 
with them he several times uttered the same words and went 
through the same pantomime. All that the miners under- 
stood of what the fellow was driving at was, "lots of money, 
gold," somewhere above them in the mountains. 



The fact is, that silver was so little in the minds of the early 
miners, and they knew so little about any ore of silver, that 
when they at last found it, they did not know what it was and 
cursed it as some kind of heavy, worthless sand of iron, or 
some other base metal, that covered up the quicksilver in the 
bottom of their rockers and interfered with the amalgamation 
and saving of the gold they were washing out. They damned 
this stuff from the rising of the sun till the going down thereof, 
and worked in it for a considerable length of time before any- 
body knew what it was. Until after an assay of the " blasted 
blue stuff" had been made, the miners were all working in 
blissful ignorance of silver existing anywhere in the country. 

In the spring of 1858, which the snow was going off and 
water was plentiful, the men who had worked in Six-mile 
Canon the year before, with a number of other miners from 
Johntown, returned to their diggings. The newcomers set to 
work on the canon above the claims of those who had mined 
there the previous year, planting their rockers wherever they 
found a spot of ground that would pay wages. 

Among those who came to mine on Six-mile Canon at this 
time were Peter O'Riley and Pat McLaughlin, the discoverers 
of the Comstock silver lode, and "Old Virginia" who gave 
his name to Virginia City, under the streets of which now lio 
the bonanza mines. 

Nick Ambrose, better known in that country as " Dutch 
Nick," also moved up to Six-mile Canon, following his cus- 
tomers in their exodus from Johntown. Nick came not to 
mine, but to minister to the wants of the miners. He set up 
a large tent and ran it as a saloon and boarding-house. The 
boys paid him $14 per week for board and "slept them- 
selves ; " that is, they were provided with blankets of their own, 
and rolling up in these, they just curled down in the sage- 
brush, wherever and whenever they pleased. 

The liquid refreshment furnished these miners by Nick was 
probably the first of that popular brand of whisky known as 
"tarantula juice" ever dispensed within the limits of Virginia 
City. When the boys were well charged with this whisky it 
made the snakes and tarantulas that bit them very sick. 


At this time, H. T. P. Comstock was engaged in mining on 
American Flat Ravine, a branch of Gold Canon, a short 
distance above the point where Silver City now stands. He 
was working with a " torn " (a contrivance for washing aurif- 
erous gravel which combines the principles of the rocker and 
the sluice-box), and, the water used in the torn being some 
distance below where his "pay-dirt" was found, he had a 
number of lusty Piute Indians employed in packing the dirt 
to where he was engaged in washing it and supervising things 
in general, as became the proprietor of the " works." 

The ground worked was not so rich as to greatly excite 
anyone, it being about, as the Chinamen say, " two pan, one 
color," therefore it is not likely that the Indians received 
wages that gave them a very exalted opinion of mining as a 
regular business. 

At that time Comstock, whose name is now heard in all 
parts of the world in connection with the great silver lode 
bearing his name, was familiarly known to the miners of 
Johntown and neighboring mining camps as " Old Pancake." 
This name was given him by his brother miners because he 
was never known to bake any bread. He always had or 
imagined he had so much business on hand that he could 
spare no time to fool away in making and baking bread. All 
of his flour was worked up into pancakes. And even as, 
with spoon in hand, he stirred up his pancake batter, it is said 
he kept one eye on the top of some distant peak and was lost 
in speculations in regard to the wealth in gold and silver that 
might rest somewhere beneath its rocky crest. 

Meantime, while "Old Pancake" was thus toiling in Amer- 
ican-Flat Ravine, and utilizing the native muscle of the land 
in his struggles with the stubborn matrix of auriferous deposits, 
the miners on Six-mile Canon were steadily working along 
the channel of the same, picking out the richer places, and 
the gold extracted was gradually becoming lighter in color 
and weight, consequently less valuable; a condition of things 
that puzzled them all not a little. As, at that time, the pres- 
ence of silver was not suspected, the miners could not imagine 
what was the matter with the gold, further than that there 


seemed to be some kind of bogus stuff mixed with it in the 
form of an alloy. This light metal, whatever it might be, 
seemed gradually taking the place of the gold and changing 
the color of the dust. As a small percentage of silver alters the 
color of a great quantity of gold, the value per ounce was not 
so much reduced as one would have supposed from looking 
at it; but in the value there was a slight but steady decrease. 

The miners on Six-mile Canon worked on in the fall of 
1858 with tolerable success making small wages until it 
became so cold that the water they had been using in rocking 
was frozen up, when all hands broke up camp and returned 
to Johntown, to go into winter quarters. 

In January 1859, there came a spell of fine weather, when 
some of the Johntowners struck out in various directions, for 
the purpose of prospecting; water being plentiful in all the 
ravines, owing to the melting of the snow. 

On Saturday, January 28, 1859, "Old Virginia," H. T. P. 
(Pancake) Comstock, and several others struck the surface- 
diggings at Gold Hill, and located a considerable number of 
claims. They claimed the ground for placer-mining but had 
no idea of there being a rich vein of gold and silver-bearing 
quartz underlying the whole region upon which they were 
staking off their gravel-mines. 

They had struck upon the little knoll to which the name of 
Gold Hill, was soon after given, which knoll stood at the 
north end of the site of the present town of Gold Hill. 
Although at first mistaken for placer-diggings, the ground 
forming this hillock was in reality nothing more than a great 
mass of the decomposed croppings of the Comstock lode. 
This discovery was made at a point on the head of Gold 
Canon about a mile south of where, a few months later, silver 
was discovered in the Ophir mine, at the head of Six-mile 
Canon. John Bishop, one of the men who made this strike, 
thus describes the manner of it. I give his own words: 

"Where Gold Hill now stands, I had noticed indications of 
a ledge and had got a little color. I spoke to ' Old Virginia* 
about it, and he remembered the locality, for he said he had 
often seen the place when hunting deer and antelope. He 


also said that he had seen any quantity of quartz there. So 
he joined our party and Comstock also followed along. When 
we got to the ground, I took a pan and filled it with dirt, with 
my foot, for I had no shovel or spade. The others did the 
same thing, though I believe that some of them had shovels. 
I noticed some willows growing on the hillside and I started 
for them with my pan. The place looked like an Indian 
spring, which it proved to be. 

" I began washing my pan. "When I had finished, I found 
that I had in it about fifteen cents. None of the others had 
less than eight cents, and none more than fifteen. It was 
very fine gold; just as fine as flour. Old Virginia decided 
that it was a good place to locate and work. 

" The next difficulty was to obtain water. We followed the 
canon along for some distance and found what appeared to 
be the same formation all the way along. Presently Old Vir- 
ginia and another man who had been rambling away, came 
back and said they had found any amount of water which 
could be brought right there to the ground. 

" I and my partner had meantime had a talk together and 
had decided to put the others of the party right in the middle 
of the good ground. 

"After Old Virginia got back we told him this, but were 
not understood, as he said if we had decided to ' hog ' it we 
could do so and he would look around further; but he 
remained, and when the ground was measured off, took his 
share with the rest. 

" After we had measured the ground we had a consultation 
as to what name was to be given the place. It was decidedly 
not Gold Canon, for it was a little hill ; so we concluded to 
call it Gold Hill. That is how the place came by its present 

The new diggings were discovered on Saturday, and the next 
day (Sunday) nearly all the male inhabitants of Johntown went 
tip to the head of Gold Canon to take a look at and " pass upon " 
the new mines. The majority of the sagacious citizens of the 
then mining metropolis of the country did not think much of the 
new strike. They had placer-mines near at home, five miles 
below, that prospected much better. However, " Old Pancake " 
and some of others interested in the new diggings, blowed 
about them as being the big thing of the country. 

Although the prospects at first may not all have been as large 
as stated by Bishop, who is quoted above, yet Comstock, Old 
Virginia, and party soon reached very rich dirt very much 
richer than Comstock had ever found in any part of his American 


Ravine claim, where he worked the braves of the Piute tribe. 
Starting in at about $5 per day, they were soon making from $15 
to $20, and for a time even more to the man. Believing they were 
working placer-mines, they were at times moved too far away 
from the main deposit of decomposed croppings, when they 
made small wages until they got back and started again on the 
Tight track. 

It was not long before most of the Johntowners had moved to 
Gold Hill, camping under the trees at first, then building shan- 
ties and eventually putting up substantial log-houses. 

Thus was first discovered, located, and worked that portion 
of the Comstock lode lying under the town of Gold Hill, and 
containing the Belcher, Crown Point, Yellow Jacket, Imperial, 
Empire, Kentuck, and other leading mines of the country 
mines that have yielded millions upon milions in gold and 
silver bullion. 

It was not, however, until these mines had been worked for 
two or three years, that they were positively known to be silver- 
mines and a continuation of the Comstock lead, then being so 
successfully mined upon a mile north, at Virginia City. 



IN the spring of 1859, a considerable number of miners returned 
to Six-Mile Canon, to work. They now made their head- 
quarters at Gold Hill, where two or three log-houses includ- 
ing a large log boarding-house, had been erected. 

Peter O'Riley and Pat M c Laughlin set to work well up at the 
head of the ravine, where the ground began to rise toward the 
mountain. They used rockers and found small pay. They 
continued to work at this point until about the ist of June, 1859, 
gradually extending their operations up the slope of the hill, in 
the hope of finding something better. They had started a 
little cut or trench up the hill and were washing the dirt taken 
from this in their rockers. Before they started the cut they 
were making only from $1.50 to $2 per day; in the cut their 
pay was even less. They were becoming discouraged, and were 
thinking of going to Walker River to try their luck, placer-mines 
having been found in that region the year before, but concluded 
to work on whefe they were a few days longer -probably in the 
hope of being able to raise money with which to go to Walker 

Having but a small stream of water, it became necessary for 
them to dig a hole as a sort of reservoir, in which to collect it 
for use in their rockers. 

They set to work a short distance above the little cut in which 
they were mining, to make the needed reservoir or water-hole, 
and at a depth of about four feet, struck into a stratum of the 
rich decomposed ore of the Ophir Mine, and of the now world- 
famous Comstock silver lode. 



The manner in which the grand discovery was made, was 
much less romantic than in the case of the discovery of the 
celebrated silver-mine of Potosi, Peru. What our miners found, 
was not glittering native silver, but a great bed of black sul- 
phuret of silver a decomposed ore of silver filled with spangles 
of native gold. This gold, however, was alloyed with silver to 
such an extent that it was more the color of silver than of gold. 

The gold dug in the placer-mines of California, is worth from 
$16 to $19 per ounce, whereas, the gold taken from the crop- 
pings of the Comstock was worth no more than $11 or $12 per 

When the discoverers struck into the odd-looking, black dirt, 
they only thought that it was a sudden and rather singular 
change from the yellowish gravel and clay in which they had 
been digging. As any change was welcome, the luck in which 
they had been working considered, they at once concluded to 
try some of the curious-looking stuff in their rockers. 

The result astounded ' them. Before, they had only been 
taking out a dollar or two per day, but now they found the 
bottoms of their rockers covered with gold as soon as a few 
buckets of the new dirt had been washed. They found that 
they were literally taking out gold by the pound. 

However, as the gold they were getting was much lighter 
in color and weight than any they had found below on the 
canon, or even on the surface in their cut, they began to fear 
that all was not right. They thought that, after all, what they 
had found might be some sort of "bogus stuff" base metal of 
some new and strange kind. 

It is not strange that these impecunious miners, tinkering 
away there on the side of a lone, sage-covered mountain, with 
their rockers, should have felt a little alarmed on account of the 
great quantity of gold they were getting, as in a few weeks after 
the discovery had been made and the work had been advanced 
further into the croppings of the lode they were taking out 
gold at the rate of $1,000 per day. This they were doing with 
the rockers. Taking the harder lumps left on the screens of 
the rockers, one man was able to pound out gold at the rate of 
$100 per day in a common hand-mortar. 

In the evening of the day on which the grand discovery was 


made by O Riley and M c Laughlin, H. T. P. Comstock made his 
appearance upon the scene. 

" Old Pancake," who was then looking after his Gold Hill mines, 
which were beginning to yield largely, had strolled northward 
up the mountain, toward evening, in search of a mustang pony 
that he had out prospecting for a living among the hills. He 
had found his pony, had mounted him, and with his long legs 
dragging the tops of the sage-brush, came riding up just as the 
lucky miners were making the last clean-up of their rockers for 
the day. 

Comstock, who had a keen eye for all that was going on in the 
way of mining in any place he might visit, saw at a glance the 
unusual quantity of gold that was in sight. 

When the gold caught his eye, he was off the back of his pony 
in an instant. He was soon down in the thick of it all 
" hefting " and running his fingers through the gold, and picking 
into and probing the mass of strange-looking " stuff" exposed. 

Conceiving at once that a wonderful discovery of some kind 
had been made, Old Pancake straightened himself up, as he 
arose from a critical examination of the black mass in the cut, 
wherein he had observed the glittering spangles of gold, and 
coolly proceeded to inform the astonished miners that they were 
working on ground that belonged to him. 

He asserted that he had some time before taken up 160 acres 
of land at this point, for a ranche ; also, that he owned the water 
they were using in mining, it being from the Caldwell spring, in 
what was afterwards known as Spanish Ravine. 

Suspecting that they were working in a decomposed quartz 
vein, M c Laughlin and O 'Riley had written out and posted up 
a notice, calling for a claim of 300 feet for each and a third claim 
for the discovery ; which extra claim they were entitled to under 
the mining laws. 

Having soon ascertained all this from the men before him, 
Comstock would have "none of it." He boisterously declared 
that they should not work there at all, unless they would agree 
to locate himself and his friend Manny (Emmanuel) Penrod in 
the claim. In case he and Penrod were given an interest, there 
should be no further trouble about the ground. 

After consulting together, the discoverers concluded that, 


rather than have a great row about the matter, they would put 
the names of Comstock and Penrod in their notice of location. 

This being arranged to his satisfaction, Comstock next demand- 
ed that 100 feet of ground on the lead should be segregated 
and given to Penrod and himself for the right to the water they 
were using he stoutly asserting that he not only owned the 
land, but also the water, and, as they had recognized his right 
to the land, they could not consistently ignore his claim to the 
water flowing upon it. In short, he talked so loudly and so 
much about his water-right that he at last got the 100 feet, 
segregated, as he demanded. This 100 feet afterwards became 
the Spanish or Mexican mine, and yielded millions of dollars. 

Comstock would probably not so easily have obtained what 
he demanded, had the men who made the discovery been fully 
aware of its great value. They, however, did not know that the 
"blue stuff" (sulphuret of silver), which they had dug into, was 
of any value, and even the gold itself seemed altogether too 
plentiful as well as a good deal " off color." 

Comstock had probably at some time posted up a notice 
claiming 160 acres of land, somewhere in that neighborhood, 
as a ranche, but if he did so he never had his notice recorded. 
Men in those days, while roving about the country, very 
frequently wrote out and stuck up notices claiming land, 
springs, the water of. streams, quartz veins, gravel deposits, 
or anything else that they might for the moment think valu- 
able, but unless such claims were properly recorded and 
worked they could not be held, as all miners and others well 
knew a mere notice expiring at the end of ten days, when 
the property might be taken up, recorded and held by the 
first man that came along. Comstock had some show of 
right to the water and to the placer-mines along the upper 
part of Six-mile Canon, as the year before, he, Old Virginia 
and Penrod, had bought of old Joe Caldwell a set of sluice- 
boxes and the water of a spring. However, the possession of 
a set of sluices on the canon and a right to use water from a 
certain spring in the neighborhood, by no means gave Com- 
stock or his friends the right to lay claim to a vein of quartz 
found in a hill somewhere in their section of the country. 
John Bishop, who bought Old Virginia's interest in the 


sluices, gravel-diggings and water, got no share of the quartz 
vein discovered by Pete O'Riley and Pat M c Laughlin, though 
he managed to get in on the lead, locating the mine known as 
the Central No. i ; now a part of the California, one of the 
bonanza mines with millions of ore in sight. 

Bishop put up the first arastra ever built on the lead, start- 
ing it up two or three days before that of the Ophir folks 
began running. He sold his interest in the Central No. i. 
for $4,000 and shortly afterwards the purchasers sold the 
same ground for $1,800 per foot now (as incorporated in the 
California mine) the ground is selling at over $50,000 per 
foot, and John Bishop still works, as a miner, at Gold Hill. 

After Comstock had managed to become largely interested 
in the new discovery, and after the gold taken out by O'Riley 
and M c Laughlin had been carried down to Gold Hill and 
exhibited and examined, there was at once a great local 
excitement in regard to the new diggings, and all were 
anxious to get an interest in the claim, or on the lead as near 
to the original discovery as possible. 

Those who were finally recorded in the Ophir notice as 
original locators were the following persons: Peter O'Riley, 
Patrick M c Laughlin, H. T. P. Comstock, E. Penrod, and 
J. A. ("Kentuck") Osborne. The men named had one-sixth 
each of 1,400 feet of ground on the lead and, in addition, 
Comstock and Penrod had TOO feet segregated to them, mak- 
ing 1,500 feet taken up by the party. 

The 100 feet of Comstock and Penrod, though in the midst 
of the 1,400 feet of ground, was not reckoned as a part of the 
Ophir claim and was soon sold and worked as a separate 
mine, under the name of the Mexican or Spanish mine. 

The Ophir claim was the first that was located, as a quartz 
claim, at any point on the Comstock lode, though as early as 
February 22nd., 1858, Old Virginia made a location on a 
large vein lying to the westward of the Comstock. This 
vein is known as the Virginia lead or Virginia croppings. 
It has never yielded much ore, but contains vast quantities of 
base metal of various kinds. 

At one time it was thought by some that this would prove 
to be the main or "mother" lead of the range, as at the 


surface, and for a considerable distance below the surface, the 
Comstock vein dipped west toward it. Parties bought Old 
Virginia's claim, and began suit against the Ophir Company, 
asserting that the lead on which they were at work was the 
same as that located, in 1858, by Old Virginia. It was a 
sort of speculation on the part of those who brought the suit, 
and it is understood that they succeeded in obtaining $60,000 
from the Ophir Company. 

At the beginning of this suit it was necessary, if possible, 
to produce the original notice placed upon the croppings of 
the lead by Old Virginia, but the parties to whom he had 
sold his claim could never get him sufficiently sobered up to 
show where it could be found. Growing desperate, they at 
length seized the old fellow one evening, and thrusting him 
into the mouth of a big tunnel, closed and locked upon him a 
heavy iron gate. The next morning when they went to the 
tunnel they found Old Virginia sober, but very savage. 

He would say nor do nothing until they had taken him 
down town and given him half a tumbler of whisky. This 
swallowed, he was ready for business. He marched directly 
up the side of the mountain, and going straight to a large 
tower of croppings, drew out a small block of rock, and lo ! 
behind it was seen snugly stowed the much-desired notice. 

It was probably on account of his having made this location 
that Old Virginia was given the credit of having been the 
discoverer of the Comstock lode, his interest in which he was 
said to have sold for an old horse, a pair of blankets, and a 
bottle of whisky. He sold a third interest in the sluices, 
water, and diggings in the canon to John Bishop, for $25. 

James Hart, who had an interest in the sluices, and diggings 
in the canon, sold his right to be " considered in " on the big 
discovery to J. D. Winters, of Washoe Valley, for a horse and 
$20 in coin. In this way Winters got into the Ophir as one of 
the locators, and from this came the " old horse " story that has 
always been saddled upon Old Virginia to fix it still more 
firmly upon the old fellow, the bottle of whiskey was added. 




ONCE Comstock got into the Ophir claim he elected him- 
self superintendent and was the man who did all of the 
heavy talking. He made himself so conspicuous on every 
occasion that he soon came to be considered not only the dis- 
coverer but almost the father of the lode. As it was all 
Comstock for a considerable distance round the Ophir mine, 
people began to speak of the vein as Comstock's mine, Comstock's 
lode, and the lead throughout its length and breadth came to be 
known as the Comstock lode, a name which it bears to this day ; 
while the names of O'Riley and M c Laughlin, the real discover- 
ers, are seldom heard, even in the city that stands on the spot 
where they first opened to the light of the sun the glittering 
treasures of the vein. 

Even after the Ophir claim had been duly recorded and its 
owners had gone regularly to work upon it, they had no idea that 
the ore contained anything of value except the gold that was found 
in it. 

For some weeks they dug down the rich decomposed silver 
ore, washed the gold out of it, and let it go as waste throwing it 
anywhere to get it out of the way of the rockers. They not only 
did not try to save it, but they constantly and conscientiously 
cursed it. 

Being very heavy, it settled to the bottom of their rockers, 
covered up the quicksilver they contained, and prevented the 
thorough amalgamation of the gold. The miners all thought 
well of the diggings, but for this stuff. It was the great draw- 
back. In mining on Gold Canon, they had been bothered with 
a superabundance of black sand and heavy pebbles of iron ore, 
but this new, bluish sand was a thing which they had never before 
encountered anywhere in the country. 

4: 55 


Notwithstanding their trouble with the sulphuret of silver, 
they were taking out gold at the rate of a thousand dollars or 
more per day; their dust selling at about $11 per ounce. In 
some spots they obtained from $50 to $150 in a single pan of dirt. 

About this time some ladies from Genoa visited the mine, 
attracted by the reports which had reached their, town of its 
great richness. Comstock was delighted, showed them every- 
thing and very gallantly offered each lady a pan of dirt, a piece 
of politeness customary in California in the early days when 
ladies visited a mine. " Old Pancake " was anxious that each 
of the ladies should get something worth carrying home, there- 
fore by means of sly nods and winks gave one of the workmen 
to understand that he was to fill the pans from the richest spot. 

One of the ladies was young and very pretty. Although the 
other ladies had each obtained from $150 to $200 in her pan, 
Comstock was determined that something still handsomer should 
be done for this one. Therefore, when her pan of dirt was being 
handed up out of the cut (/. e. the open drift run into the lead), he 
stepped forward to receive it, and as he did so, slyly slipped into 
it a large handful of gold which he had taken out of his private 
purse. The result was a pan that went over $300, and " Old 
Pancake was happy all the rest of the day. 

Although Comstock had a passion for possessing rich mines, 
and appeared to have a great greediness for gold, yet no sooner 
was it in his possesion than he was ready to give it to the first 
man, woman, or child that asked for it, or to recklessly squander 
it in all directions. Anything that he saw and took a fancy to 
he bought, no matter what the price might be, so long as he had 
the money. The article to which he had taken a momentary 
fancy, once purchased, he presented it to the first person that ap- 
peared to admire it, whether that person was white, red, or black. 

As work progressed, and the opening made in the hillside 
penetrated further into the lead, the silver sulphuret, which had 
at first been found in a decomposed condition, began to grow 
more firm. In order to work it in the rockers it was necessary 
to pulverise much of it by beating it with the poll of a pick or 
sledge-hammer. Even then there were many lumps which it 
was necessary to pound in a mortar, and soon much of the ore 
began to assume the form of a tolerably firm rock, when it 




became necessary to work it in arastras an old Mexican con- 
trivance for grinding up gold and silver-bearing quartz. 

As soon as the grand strike had been made at the Ophir mine 
by O' Riley and M c Laughlin, there was a great rush to that 
neighborhood ; not only of miners from Johntown, Gold Hill, 
and Dayton (then known as Chinatown), but also from the agri- 
cultural sections of the country from Washoe Valley, Tracker 
Meadow and from Carson and Eagle Valleys. 

Claims were taken up and staked off for a great distance north 
and south of the Ophir mine in the direction the lead was shown 
to run by the huge croppings of quartz that came to the surface, 
and towered far above the surface, in various places. 

It was not long before other companies had found pay, and 
soon there was in the place quite a lively little camp, the miners 
living in brush shanties, houses made of canvas, or camping in 
the open air in the sage-brush flats. 

At this time the camp was spoken of, in documents placed 
upon the records, as " Pleasant Hill " an.d as " Mount Pleasant 
Point; "in August, 1859, it was designated as "Ophir" and 
" the settlement known as Ophir," and in September, as " Ophir 
Diggings." In October the place is first mentioned as " Virginia 
Town," but a month later it was proposed to " change the name 
of the place from Virginia Town to Wun-u-muc-a, in honor of 
the chief of the Py-utes." Old Winnemucca, chief of all the Pi- 
utes was not so honored, and in November, 1859, the town was 
first called Virginia City, a name it has ever since retained. 

Comstock says the way the place came to take the name of 
Virginia City was this : 

" 'Old Virginia ' was out one night with a lot of the " boys " 
on a drunk, when he fell down and broke his whisky bottle. 
On rising he said ' I baptize this ground Virginia." 

For a time the old settlers had the new diggings all to them- 
selves and were hard at work with their rockers, saving only the 
gold and pacing no further attention to the silver than to curse 
it for interfering with their operations ; but in a few weeks after 
the discovery had been made, there was suddenly stirred up in 
California a whirlwind of excitement that swept over the Sierras, 
and not only overwhelmed these first miners on the Comstock, 
but swept them almost out of sight. 


About the ist of July, 1859, Augustus Harrison, a ranchman 
living on the Trucker Meadows, visited the new diggings about 
which so much was then said in the several settlements. He 
took a piece of the ore and going to California shortly afterwards 
carried it to Grass Valley, Nevada county. He gave the speci- 
men, as a curiosity, to Judge James Walsh, a resident of Grass 
Valley, who took it to the office of Melville Atwood, an assayer 
in the town. The ore was assayed and yielded at the rate of 
several thousand dollars per ton, in gold and silver. 

All were astonished and not a little excited when it was ascer- 
tained that the black-looking rock which the miners over in 
Washoe as the region about the Comstock lode was called 
considered worthless, and were throwing away, was almost a 
solid mass of silver. The excitement by no means abated when 
they were informed by Mr. Harrison that there were tons and 
tons of the same stuff in sight in the opening that the Ophir 
Company had already made in the lead. It was agreed among 
the few who knew the result of the assay, that the matter should, 
for the time being, be kept a profound secret; meantime they 
would arrange to cross the Sierras and secure as much ground 
as possible on the line of the newly-discovered silver lode. 

But each man had intimate friends in whom he had the utmost 
confidence in every respect, and these bosom friends soon knew 
that a silver-mine of wonderful richness had been discovered 
over in the Washoe country. These again had their friends, 
and, although the result of the assay made by Mr. Atwood was 
not ascertained until late at night, by 9 o'clock the next morning 
half the town of Grass Valley knew the wonderful news. 

Judge Walsh and Joe Woodworth packed a mule with provis- 
ions, and mounting horses, were off for the eastern slope of the 
Sierras at a very early hour in the morning. This was soon 
known, and the news of the discovery and their departure ran 
like wildfire through Nevada county. In a few days hundreds 
of miners had left their diggings in California and were flocking 
over the mountains on horseback, on foot, with teams, and in any 
way that offered. Many men packed donkeys with tools and 
provisions, and, going on foot themselves, trudged over the 
Sierras at the best speed they were able to make. 



WHEN news began to be received in various parts of Cali- 
fornia from the first parties of these adventurers, upon 
their arrival in Washoe, their reports were confirmatory 
of all that had before been said and imagined of the new mines, 
and an almost unparalled excitement followed. Miners, business 
men, and capitalists flocked to the wonderful land of silver that 
had been found in the wilderness of Washoe, beyond the snowy 
peaks of the Sierras. 

The few hardy first prospectors soon counted their neighbors 
by thousands, and found eager and excited newcomers jostling 
them on every hand, planting stakes under their very noses 
and running lines round or through their brush-shanties, as 
regardless of their presence as though they were Piutes. The 
handful of old settlers found themselves strangers, almost in a 
single day, in their own land and their own dwellings. 

There were numerous sales of mining claims almost daily, 
at what then was thought high prices, and the hundreds who 
were unprovided with money with which to purchase mining 
ground swarmed the hills in search of ledges that were still 
undiscovered and unclaimed. The whole country was sup- 
posed to be full of silver lodes as rich as the Comstock, and 
the man who was so fortunate as to find a large unoccupied 
vein, containing rock of a color similar to that of the Ophir, 
considered his fortune made. 

The Mining Recorder of the district now drove a thriving 
trade; he could hardly record the locations of mining claims 
as fast as they were made. 

Some of these notices were literary curiosities, particularly 
those to be found in the old Gold Hill book of records. 



V. A. Houseworth, the "village blacksmith," was the first 
Recorder at Gold Hill, and the book of records was kept at a 
saloon, where it lay upon a shelf behind the bar. 

The "boys" were in the habit of taking it from behind the 
bar whenever they desired to consult it, and if they thought a 
location made by them was not advantageously bounded they 
altered the course of their lines and fixed the whole thing up 
in good shape, in accordance with the latest developments. 

When the book was not wanted for this use, those lounging 
about the saloon were in the habit of snatching it up and 
"batting" each other over the head with it. 

The old book is now in the office of the County Recorder, 
at Virginia City, and is beginning to be regarded as quite as 
curiosity. It shows altered dates, places where leaves have 
been torn out, and much other rough usage. 

The majority of the notices of location recorded by the 
early miners are very vague. The first notice recorded in the 
book is one of the location of a spring of water by Peter 
O'Riley and Patrick M c Laughlin. It reads: 

"We the undersigned claim this spring and stream, for mining purposes." 
Nothing is said about where the spring is located. For 
aught the person reading the record can discover, it may be 
in California or Oregon. 

In the book are scores of locations made and recorded in 
the same loose manner. Many of the recorded notices read : 
" We the undersigned claim 2,000 feet on this quartz lead, ledge, lode, or 
vein, beginning at this stake and running north." 

Not a word is said about where the stake is to be found. 
No wonder that the lawyers drove a thriving trade in the 
early days of Washoe ! 

During the progress of a mining suit in the early days the 
lawyers quarrelled for nearly two days about a certain stump 
from which one of the parties to the suit desired to begin the 
measurement of their claim. They produced witnesses who 
said they could identify the stump, and the next morning the 
court adjourned, and jury and all concerned went out to take 
a look at the landmark in question. No stump could be 
found. The parties of the opposite side had dug it up the 
night before and packed it away. Not even the spot where it 


was supposed to have stood could be found, so completely 
had the ground been levelled in all directions. 

I give the following verbatim copy of the original location- 
notice of the Yellow- Jacket mine a mine that has yielded 
many millions of dollars as it stands on the old Gold Hill 

records : 


That we the undersign claim Twelve hundred (1200) feet of this Quartz 
Vain including of of its depths & Spurs commencing at Houseworth claim 
& running north including twenty-five feet of surface on each Side of the 
Vain. This Vain is known as the Yellow Jacket Vain. Taken up on May 
1st. 1859 recorded June 27th, '59. 

H. B. CAMP. 

The claim was called the Yellow Jacket because of the fact 
of the locators finding a nest of yellow-jackets in the surface 
rock while they were digging about for the purpose of pros- 
pecting the vein. Future developments proved this claim to 
be on the Comstock lode. 

What the locators meant by " depths," in their notice, was 
dips no matter in what direction the "vain" might dip, they 
desired to put on record their right to follow it. 

Many notices read "This vein with all of its dips, spurs, 
angles, and variations." The word * variations' was presumed to 
capture everything in the vicinity. 

A practice prevailed among the early miners of locating 
quartz ledges as "twins." This was when they found two 
parallel veins so near together that they feared, in case of 
their locating but one, that parties would take up the other 
and give them trouble in some way. None of the twins ever 
became famous. 

The owners of the Ophir, and some of the adjoining claims 
on the Comstock lead, continued to use rockers and arastras 
for some time after it was ascertained that what was at 
first supposed to be worthless, was silver ore of the richest 
description, but they no longer threw the "blue stuff" 
away. It was all saved and sacked up for shipment to San 
Francisco, thence to England for reduction. Many arastras 
were running, and the camp soon presented quite a bustling 
appearance. The first house erected in Virginia City, was buiJt 


by Lyman Jones, who is still a resident of Nevada. It was 
a canvas structure, 18 x 40 feet in size, and stood near the 
present corner of B Street and Sutton Avenue, at no great 
distance from the Ophir Mine. 

It was kept as a boarding-house and saloon. Mr. Jones 
opened his house with two barrels of " straight " whisky, but 
being of an accommodating disposition and wishing to suit all 
tastes, he dignified the contents of one of these barrels with the 
name of brandy. As alcohol was the foundation of nearly all 
the liquors seen in the country at that time, it made little 
difference by what name they were announced to the consumer, 
Mr. Jones had an old sluice-box for a bar, and the bar fixtures 
were by no means numerous or costly. 

At this time the Ophir Company were in the habit of bringing 
their gold-dust to Mr. Jones's house, and leaving it for safe-keep- 
ing, and frequently he had in his place as high as twenty and 
thirty thousand dollars. 

As the walls of his " hotel " were constructed of nothing more 
substantial than a single thickness of cotton cloth, safer places 
might have been conceived of, in which to deposit such an 
amount of gold. At length, when the grand rush from Califor- 
nia came, and adventurers of all kinds swarmed along the lode, 
Mr. Jones refused to any longer act in the capacity of banker 
to the Ophir folks, as he did not care to run the risk of having 
his throat cut for gold not his own, in fact did not want his 
throat cut at all. 

At first it was almost impossible to procure lumber of any 
kind for building purposes, and the houses erected were prin- 
cipally of canvas ; though a few rough stone-houses were 
soon built and the miners constructed cabins of the rough rocks 
lying about on the sides of the hills. Many dug holes a few 
feet square in the sides of steep banks, and covering these with 
a roof of sage-bush and dirt announced themselves " at home " 
to their friends. 

As winter came on, not a few who had been living in tents or 
the open air, betook themselves for shelter to the tunnels they 
had begun to run into the hills; widening out a place at some 
distance back from the mouth for bedroom and parlor. 

Some of those who thus made habitations of tunnels did their 


cooking in the open air, under a brush-shed placed in front ; 
others, displaying more industry and ingenuity, made a kitchen 
some distance back in their underground quarters, working a 
hole up to the surface of the earth, through which the smoke of 
their fire found egress, presenting the curious appearance of a 
small semi-active volcano, when seen at a distance by one who 
knew nothing of the subterranean lodging-house whence the 
smoke proceeded. 

A Scotchman tunnelled into a hill of dry and soft rock near 
Silver City and excavated a habitation in which he dwelt for 
years, and in which he finally died. He worked out several 
chambers of considerable size in the rock, one of which was his 
library and contained three or four hundred volumes of books, 
principally of a religious character. 

His place was on a secluded ravine, a mile from the town, 
and he led the life of a hermit ; indeed, his home not a little 
resembled the rock-dwelling of Robinson Crusoe. He had 
been educated for the ministry in his youth, and now in his old 
age, became again a student and gave nearly his whole time to 
pious meditations. During pleasant weather, in summer, the 
ladies of Silver City frequently visited the recluse on the Sab- 
bath, when, sitting on a bench at the mouth of his subterranean 
habitation, he would talk beautiful sermons to them. 

In 1859, when the discovery of silver was made, the only 
wagon-road in all the country was the old Emigrant Road ; 
coming in across the Plains, passing through Carson Valley and 
thence ascending and crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains 
to California, by the way of Placerville. 

Virginia City being situated on a sort of sloping plateau, 
on the eastern face of Mount Davidson, at the height of over 
6000 feet above the level of the sea, was a place difficult of 
access. Wagons could be used in the surrounding valleys, 
but Virginia City could receive no freight except such as 
could be carried up the mountain on the backs of pack-mules. 
Soon after the discovery of silver, however, companies located 
routes for wagon-roads to the place, and began the difficult 
work of building them, blasting out passage-ways in many 
places through solid rock along the sides of canons shut in by 
almost perpendicular walls. Men swarmed on these roads 


during their construction, the explosion of heavy blasts was 
almost constant along the canons, and it was not many 
months before they were completed, when lumber, timber, 
and many other much-needed articles, that could not be 
packed on the backs of mules, poured into Virginia City 
whose streets were soon crowded with huge "prairie schoon- 
ers" as the great mountain wagons are called drawn by 
long lines of mules or horses, all musical with bells. 

The completion of a practicable wagon-road to Virginia 
City was at that time considered a great achievement, but 
now locomotives rush and shriek round the mountain steeps 
up which the patient mules tugged and groaned in former 

While the wagon-roads were being built, the miners were 
not idle. Supplies for their use could readily be packed up 
the mountain, and the rich silver ore, securely sewed up in 
canvas bags, made convenient return loads for the trains of 
pack-mules. In a month or two the several companies work- 
ing on the Comstock discontinued the use of rockers and 
arastras. The richest of their ore was sacked up and sold for 
shipment to Europe, and that of a lower grade was piled up 
in dumps and ore-bins to be worked in mills in the country 
at some future day. 

The following extract from the Territorial Enterprise, then 
published as a weekly newspaper at Genoa (it is now pub- 
lished as a daily and weekly at Virginia City, and is the 
leading paper of the city and state), will give some idea 
of what was being done three months after the discovery. 
The item was published on Saturday, October i, under the 
title of " The Mines : " 

" The mines at Virginia Town and Gold Hill are exceeding the most san- 
guine expectations of their owners. At Virginia Town, particularly, the 
claims on the main leads promise to excel in richness the far-famed Allison 
lead in California in its palmiest days. 

"Claims are changing hands at almost fabulous prices. No fictitious sales 
either, but bona-jide business operation. The main lead, on which is the 
celebrated Comstock and other claims, appears to be composed of ores pro- 
ducing both silver and gold, and the more it is prospected the richer it is 

" Donald Davidson & Co., of San Francisco, have purchased 200 tons of the 
rock, containing gold and silver in conjunction, at $2,000 per ton, and are 



shipping it to England by way of San Francisco, for assay. (Smelting is 
meant). Other parties are investing heavily. All that are now interested 
are but making preliminary arrangements for next spring, when we may 
expect to find an amount of either dust or ore sent from that section that 
will astonish some of the now incredulous ones in California," 

They were not only selling and shipping large quantities 
of ore at this time, but were also beginning to work x>res in 
mills and water-power arastras on the Carson River, near 
Dayton. In October, 1859, Logan & Holmes had a four- 
stamp mill in operation (by horse-power) at Dayton, which 
crushed four tons of ore per day, and Messrs. Hastings & 
Woodworth had two water-power arastras running, which 
reduced three tons each per day. The ore being worked by 
these mills was from Gold Hill, where the ore of the vein as 
yet contained only gold, they not yet having penetrated to a 
sufficient depth to reach the silver. 



ALTHOUGH occupying the western portion of Utah 
Territory, the laws under which the people of the 
Comstock range were at this time living were of their 
own making. At a meeting held by the miners of Gold Hill, 
June u, 1859, the following preamble and "rules and regula- 
tions" were unanimously adopted: 

At the present day all manner of gambling games are 
allowed by the State laws and are licensed by the towns and 
cities. In the original document, preserved in the old Gold 
Hill book of records, there are given several additional sec- 
tions, but as they relate to matters not of interest to the 
general reader I have omitted them. One of these provides 
that "No Chinaman shall hold a claim in this district." 

Whereas, The isolated position we occupy far from all legal tribunals, and 
cut off from those fountains of justice which every American citizen should 
enjoy renders it necessary that we organize in body politic for our mutual 
protection against the lawless and for meting out justice between man and 
man, therefore we, citizens of Gold Hill, do hereby agree to adopt the follow- 
ing rules and laws for our government 


SEC. I. Any person who shall wilfully and with malice aforethought take 
the life of any person, shall, upon being duly convicted thereof, suffer the 
penalty of death by hanging. 

SEC. 2. Any person who shall wilfully wound another, shall upon convic- 
tion thereof, suffer such penalty as the jury may determine. 

SEC. 3. Any person found guilty of robbery or theft, shall, upon convic- 
tion, be punished with stripes or banishment, as the jury may determine. 

SEC. 4. Any person found guilty of assault and battery, or exhibiting 
deadly weapons, shall, upon conviction, be fined or banished, as the jury may 



SEC. 5. No banking games, under any consideration, shall be allowed in 
this district, under the penalty of final banishment from the district. 

At the present day all manner of gambling games are allowed 
by the State laws and are licensed by the towns and cities. In 
the original documents, preserved in the old Gold Hill book of 
records, there are given several additional sections, but as they 
relate to matters not of general interest to the reader I have 
omitted them. One of these provides that " No Chinaman shall 
hold a claim in this district." 

As may be seen, the laws of the first settlers were few and to the 
point ; they were for use, not for ornament or the puzzling of the 
common understanding In each settlement were in force some 
such " rules and regulations " as these. The man who broke 
one of the " rules " was sure to suffer a strict enforcement of the 

In August, 1859, two thieves who gave the names of George 
Ruspas and David^Reise, stole a yoke of cattle at Chinatown 
(now Dayton), and driving them to Washoe Valley, offered them 
for sale at a price so low that they were at once suspected of 
having stolen the animals. They were arrested, and it having 
been proved that the cattle had been stolen from the ranche of 
a Mr. Campbell, near Dayton, the sentence of the jury was that 
they have their left ears cut off, and that they be banished the 

The trial was held under a big pine-tree, near the western 
shore of Washoe Lake, at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mount- 
ains. Jim Sturtevant, an old resident of Washoe Valley, was 
appointed executioner. He drew out a big knife, ran his thumb 
along the blade, and not finding its edge just to his mind, gave 
it a few rakes across a rock. He then walked up to Reise and 
taking a firm hold on the upper part of the organ designated 
by the jury, shaved it off, close up, at a single slash. 

As he approached Ruspas, the face of that gentleman was 
observed to wear a cunning smile. He seemed very much 
amused about something. The executioner, however, meant 
business, and tossing Reise's ear over to the jury, who sat at the 
root of the pine, he went after that of Ruspas, whose eyes were 
following every motion made and whose face wore the expression 
of that of a man about to say or do a good thing. 


Sturtevant pulled aside the fellow's hair, which he wore hang- 
ing down about his shoulders, and lo ! there was no left ear, it 
having been parted with on some previous and similar occasion. 

Here was a fix for the executioner ! His instructions were to 
cut off the fellow's left ear, but there was no left ear on which to 

The prisoner now looked him in the face and laughed aloud. 
The joke was so good that he could no longer restain himself. 

Sturtevant appealed to the jury for instructions. The jury 
were enjoying the scene not a little, and being, in a good humor, 
said that they would reconsider their sentence ; that rather than 
anyone should be disappointed the executioner might take off 
the prisoner's right ear, if he had one. 

The smile faded out of the countenance of Ruspas as he felt 
Sturtevant's fingers securing a firm hold on the top of his right 
ear. An instant after, Sturtevant gave a vigorous slash, and then 
tossed Ruspas, ear over to the jury, saying as he did so, that they 
now had a pair of ears that were " rights and lefts " and therefore 
properly mated. 

This little ceremony over, the pair of thieves were directed to 
take the road leading over the Sierras to the beautiful " Golden 
State." They went, not as Adam and Eve left paradise, " drop- 
ping some natural tears," but as a pair of twin lambs are seen to 
depart when in the spring-time the farmer has whacked off their 
too luxuriant tails went dropping blood. 

There have been numerous stories told in regard to the amount 
of money received by Comstock for his interest in the Ophir 
mine and other mining property on the Comstock lode at Vir- 
ginia City, some of which are far from the truth. The sale 
made by Comstock to Judge Walsh is recorded in the books of 
Virginia mining district and is dated at the " mining -village 
or settlement known as Ophir," August 12, 1859. I make the 
following extract in regard to the amount to be paid and what 
was eventually paid : 

" For and in consideration of $10 to me in hand paid, and for the further 
consideration of ten thousand nine hundred and ninety dollars to be paid by 
James Walsh, according to the provisions and terms of an obligation executed 
by him to me this day/I have bargained and sold," etc. 

The description of the property sold is as follows : 

" One undivided one-sixth part of 1400 feet, said 1400 feet being now 


worked by myself, Penrod, Osborne, M c Laughlin, Riley, and other owners, and 
known as Comstock & Co.'s claims, and owned jointly by myself, James Gary 
and others our associates ; also, one undivided half of 200 feet of mining ground 
being worked by the California Company at the present time under an agree- 
ment made with me ; also, all my right, title, and interest in and to certain 
mining claims at Six-mile Canon digging's, being the claims known as the 
Caldwell claims ; also, one-half the water-right known as the Caldwell Springs, 
situated on the hill above the said village of Ophir, and being the springs 
supplying the workings on the first-mentioned 1,400 feet the present owners 
in said 1,400 feet being only entitled to the use of said water so long as they 
continue to be owners ; also my recorded title, to a ranche on which the 
aforesaid village of Ophir is located, together with the springs on the lower 
part of said ranche. Also, the surface-diggings on the first-mentioned 1,400 
feet and one-sixth of all improvements, animals, arastras, and all other property 
belonging to the company working the first-mentioned 1,400 feet." 

If Comstock had a ranche recorded which covered the site of 
Virginia City, the page containing such record must have been 
one in the old book of records of Gold Hill district. At first all 
claims located in Virginia district were recorded at Gold Hill. 

September 23, 1859, Pat M c Laughlin, one of the discoverers of 
the silver, sold his interest, one-sixth, in the Ophir mine for 
$3,500. Peter O'Riley, the other original discoverer, held on 
to his interest in the mine longer than any of the original loca- 
tors, and received for it about $40,000, with back dividends 
amounting to four or five thousand dollars. Osborne received 
$7,000 for his ground. 

V. A. Houseworth, the recorder at Gold Hill, who had trade 
for one-fourth of one-sixth interest in the mine, sold that interest 
to Judge Walsh, in September, 1859, for $3,000. All of thesemen 
supposed at the time that they were obtaining a big price for their 
interests in the mine. They knew nothing about silver-mines 
and feared that the deposit discovered might suddenly " peter " 

November 30, 1859, E. Penrod sold to Gabriel Maldarnardo, 
a Mexican miner, his interest in the TOO feet of ground segrega- 
ted to himself and Comstock, at the time the Ophir mine was 
located. The deed given on this occasion is quite a curiosity 
It shows that the legal genius who drew it up was determined to 
corral all that was in sight in the way of " tenements, heredita- 
ments " and " appurtenances." It reads : 

" For and in consideration of $3,000, to him in hand paid, this day, E. 


Penrod has remised, released, and quit-claimed, and by these presents do 
remise, release and quitclaim unto said party of the second part and his 
heirs and assigns forever, all his right, title, and interest in and to the undivi- 
ded one-half of one hundred feet of a certain Quartz Lead known as the 
reserved claim of Comstock, Penrod, Co., on the original location of the 
said company at Virginia City, near theliead of Six-mile Canon, in Virginia 
Mining District, said Territory of Utah, said claim known as the Spanish 
claim, together with all and singular the tenements, hereditaments and appur- 
tenances thereunto belonging, or in anywise appertaining, and the reversion 
and reversions, remainder and remainders, rents, dues, and profits thereof. 
And, also, all the estate, right, title, interest, property, possession, claim, and 
demand whatsoever, as well in law as in equity, of said party of the first part, 
of, in, or to the above-described premises, and every part and parcel thereof, 
with the appurtences, to have and to hold, all and singular the above-mentioned 
and described premises, together with the appurtenances, unto the said party 
of the second part, to his heirs and assigns forever." 

This tremendous document held the property, and Maldar- 
nardo soon after coming into possession of it, erected two 
small smelting-furnaces and began working the ore of the mine 
after the Mexican fashion. 

The furnaces would hold but about fifty pounds of ore each y 
yet he managed to melt out a considerable amount of bullion 
gold and silver mingled. The bullion, as it came from the fur- 
nace, was worth about $2.25 per ounce. The blast for the 
furnace was furnished by means of a common blacksmith's bel- 
lows. It was a slow process, and was soon abandoned, though 
quite a number of cakes of bullion of considerable value were 
shipped to San Francisco during the time the furnaces were 
in operation. 





A SHORT time before he sold his mining interests in Vir- 
ginia City, Comstock was smitten by the tender passion 
and made a venture in the matrimonial time. It appears 
that a Mormon from Salt Lake, a little sore-eyed fellow named 
Carter, landed at the diggings one day with his wife and all 
his worldly effects on board of a dilapidated wagon, drawn by 
a pair of sorry nags. 

The man said he desired to go to work, and if he could find 
employment would take up his residence in the diggings. 

Comstock looked upon the fair features of the wife, and his 
susceptible heart was touched his soul went out toward her as 
she sat there in the end of the little canvas-covered wagon, 
mournfully gazing out from the depths of her calico sun-bonnet. 
Having charge of the Ophir mine, as superintendent, Comstock 
hired the man and set him to work, being determined to keep the 
woman in the camp. 

The Mormon pair made their home in their wagon, and in 
the course of a week or two it was observed that Comstock 
spent most of his time in the neighborhood of the vehicle, was 
all the time hanging about it. Finally he was one day seen 
seated upon the wagon tongue, smiling upon all nature, with the 
Mormon wife engaged in combing his hair. The next morning 
both Comstock and the wife were mrssing. The hair-combing 
had meant business showed the sealing of a compact of some 
kind. The pair had made a bee-line for Washoe Valley, where 
a preacher acquaintance of Comstock's one of the old settlers 
of the country married them after the manner of the " Gentiles." 

5 n 


The next day Comstock and bride went to Carson City, and 
while there receiving the congratulations of friends, the Mormon 
husband suddenly appeared upon the scene. 

There was for a time a considerable amount of blowing on 
both sides, Comstock producing his certificate of marriage and 
asserting that it was the right he stood upon. Finally, to settle 
the difficulty, Comstock agreed to give the ex-husband a horse, 
a revolver, and $60 in money for the woman, and so have no 
more bother. 

This was agreed to and Carter took the "consideration " and 
started off. After he had gone a distance of two or three hundred 
yards, Comstock shouted after him and told him to come back. 
When he had returned, Comstock demanded of him a bill of 
sale for his wife, saying that the right way to do business was 
" up and up ; " he wanted no " after-claps " didn't wish to be 
obliged to pay for the woman a dozen times over. 

Carter then made out and signed a regular bill of sale, which 
Comstock put in his wallet and then waved the man away. 

In a few days Comstock had business at San Francisco. He 
left his bride at Carson City and started over the mountains. 
When he had reached Sacramento, word was sent him that his 
wife had run away with a seductive youth of the town, and that 
the pair were on their way to California by the Placerville route. 

Comstock was all activity as soon as this news reached him. 
He engaged the services of half a dozen Washoe friends whom 
he found at Sacramento, and all hands hastened to Placerville, 
where they waited for the runaways, who were on foot, to come in. 

In due season they arrived and were pounced upon. Com- 
stock and his wife had a long talk in private. 

At length Comstock made his appearance and told his friends 
that it was all right, there would be no more trouble, as his wife 
was sorry for what she had done and would now live with him 
right along and be a good wife to him. All congratulated " Old 
Pancake " upon having brought his affairs to a conclusion so 

Wishing to bring forth his wife and have her tell his friends 
how good she was going to be in the future, Comstock presently 
went to the room in which he had left her. No wife was there ! 
While Comstock had been talking with his friends and receiving 


their congratulations, his wife had climbed out of a back window 
and was off again with her young lover. 

" To horse ! to horse ! " was then the cry, and soon Comstock's 
friends had mounted and were away. Not a moment was to be 
lost if the fugitives were to be captured, and the pursuit began 
at once, Comstock himself was not idle. He went forth into 
the town and offered $100 reward for the capture and return of 
the runaways, He also went to a livery-stable and hired all 
the teams about the establishment, sending forth upon, the search 
all who could be induced to go. 

Most of those who accepted teams went off pleasure-riding, 
and would not have disturbed the runaways had they found 
them. One man who went out on the search, however, was a 
California miner who happened to be in Placerville "dead 
broke." He wanted the reward, and when he started out he 
meant business. 

The next day this man walked the runaways into Placer- 
ville in front of his six-shooter. Comstock was delighted, and 
at once paid the man the $100 reward. He then took his wife 
away to a secure place in the upper story of a building, and 
locked her up in a room in order to have another talk with her. 

Meantime, his friends had charge of the young fellow who 
was making a business of stealing Comstock's wife. They 
shut him up in a room at the hotel where they were stop- 
ping, and placed a man over him as a guard, until they 
could consult together in regard to what was to be his fate 
at least this was what the young fellow was given to under- 

Soon after dark the guard told the young man that it had 
been decided to take him out and hang him. The guard pre- 
tended to regret that they were going to be so rough with 
the young fellow and finally told him that if he could manage 
to escape it would be all right. " Now," said he, " I am going 
out to the bar to take a drink and if I find you here when I 
come back it will be your own fault." 

The young fellow was not found nor was he ever seen in 
the town again. 

By practicing eternal vigilance, Comstock managed to keep 
his wife that winter, but in the spring, when the snow had 


gone off and the little wild-flowers were beginning to peep 
up about the rocks and round the roots of the tall pines, she 
watched her chance and ran away with a long-legged minei 
who, with his blankets on his back, came strolling that way. 

Mrs. Comstock finally ceased to roam; she came to anchor 
in a lager-beer cellar in Sacramento. 

The fate of Carter, the Mormon who sold his wife to Com- 
stock, was tragic. After making the sale he mounted the 
horse he had received in part payment for his spouse, and 
crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains by way of Hope Val- 
ley and the Big Trees, went down into California. There he 
fell in with an emigrant train and courted and married a 
young girl, all within a week. The next spring he came to 
Virginia City with his wife. He had lived there but a short 
time before his wife learned of his having sold a recent wife 
to Comstock, when she left Carter's bed and board and sued 
for and obtained a divorce. She then married a Mr. Winnie, 
of Gold Hill. 

At that time it was the fashion to take up mining ground 
in the names of women. Carter had caused some claims to 
be located in his wife's name, and after she was divorced from 
him and married to Winnie, kept running to see her about 
these claims, wishing to get some share of them back. The 
frequent visits of Carter were not relished by Winnie, and he 
and Carter had several wars of words. At length, one day 
when Carter came and was bothering Mrs. Winnie about 
the mining ground, she went out and called in her husband, 
who was at work near at hand. As Winnie entered the house 
the battle was opened by Carter drawing his revolver and 
shooting three fingers off Winnie's left hand. Winnie then 
turned loose with his six-shooter and killed Carter in his 
tracks. Some time after this, in a similar argument Winnie 
had a few fingers less than half a dozen shot off his right 

Winnie afterwards went to Honey Lake Valley, where his 
wife was thrown from a horse, dragged over the ground, and 

After Comstock's wife ran away with the strolling miner he 
thought best to let her continue her travels unmolested. He 


opened a store at Carson City with the money received for his 
mining interests in Virginia City and also had a branch-store 
at Silver City, a town on Gold Canon, about three miles 
below Gold Hill, which was laid out in the summer of 1859. 

He soon broke up in the mercantile line, losing everything. 
He trusted everybody all went to his stores and purchased 
goods without money and without price, and at last his old 
friends the Piute Indians came in and carried away the rem- 
nants. Comstock made them all happy, male and female, by 
passing out to them armfuls of red blankets and calico of 
brilliant hues. 

His stock in the Carson store was as good as was seen in 
most trading establishments of the kind at that day, but his 
Silver City branch never amounted to much, the stock con- 
sisting principally, as the miners said, of blue cotton overalls, 
pick-handles, rusty bacon, "nigger" shoes, and "dog-leg" to- 

After losing all of his property, Comstock left Nevada and 
went to Idaho and Montana, through which countries he 
wandered and prospected for some years, always hoping that 
some day he should come upon a second Comstock lode. He 
was always ready to join every expedition that was fitted out 
to explore new regions, as the "big thing" seemed to him to 
be ever just ahead. 

In 1870 he joined the Big Horn expedition in Montana, and 
this was his last undertaking. When near Bozeman City, on 
September 27th, 1870, he committed suicide by shooting 
himself in the head with his revolver. The Montana papers 
said it was supposed that he committed the act while laboring 
under temporary aberration of mind, and this was doubtless 
the case, as his was by no means a sound or well-balanced 



THE following letter from H. T. P. Comstock was originally 
published in the St. Louis Republican, some years ago, 
and gives a good idea of the man and his mental condi- 
tion during the latter years of his life. He was always very 
eccentric, and even during the time he was in Washoe, in the 
early days, was considered by many persons to be " a little 
cracked " in the " upper story " was a man flighty in his imag- 
inings. The first part of the letter, with the date, is lacking and 
was no doubt left off as being merely introductory and unimpor- 
tant, by the papers which republished it after it reached the Paci- 
fic Coast. The letter was written from Butte City, Montana, 
Some of Comstock's statements are correct, but the greater part 
of what he says is a mere jumble and shows a wavering mind. 
His letter begins : 

" These men, there in Washoe, are interested in misrepresenting the facts 
about the Comstock lode ; they fear my claims to the water, the town site of 
Virginia and other interests they have swindled me out of. It is just what 
they are afraid of exactly ; and that's what everybody in Washoe is afraid of 
I shall yet have my say, I am writing a history of my life and all those 
fellows had better stand from under. Now I want to tell the whole truth 
about the Comstock lode : I'll try to do it and I want you to publish it. If 
you are gentlemen you will do it it is nothing more than right. Here it is : 

I, Henry Thomas Paige Comstock, first went to that country the Washoe 
from Mexico, in 1853 ; roved all around California, and went back to Mexico 
that year ; went back then to Washoe, in the spring of 1854, and staid there. 
My home was in Santa Fe, when in Mexico. I, old Joe Caldwell, Elmore & 
Co., partners of mine for twelve years, were the first men who ever worked in 
that section. 

Worked there in 1855 56 on surface-diggings, prospecting all the while 
for silver ore. The Grosch brothers worked at what is now known as Silver 




City. One of them, Hosea, stuck a pick in his foot and died in my cabin. 
The other, Allen, died near Sugar-Loaf, California. This was three years 
before the Comstock lode was discovered. 

The first discovery of the Comstock lode was made in this way : In the 
middle of January, 1859, I saw some queer-looking stuff in a gopher hole ; I 
ran my hand in and took out a handful of dirt and saw silver and gold in it. 
At that time, big John Bishop and old Virginia were with me, when I found 
it ; they were sitting upon the side of the hill, Gold Hill, a couple of hundred 
yards from me. I took up five claims. A couple of weeks from that time, 
and where the Ophir is now located, I found the same prospects, and told the 
boys at Gold Hill I was going to work as good a mine as the first discovery ; 
did not know at the time there was a lead of that description there, Riley 
and M c Laughlin were working for me at the time of the Ophir discovery. 
I caved the cut in and went after my party to take up the lead and form my 
company. Manny Penrod, Peter Riley, Patrick McLaughlin, * Kentuck,' or 
Osborne, and myself formed a company. With my party I opened the lead, 
and called it Comstock lode ; that is the way they came by their interests ; I 
gave it to them. 

We started to rocking with my water; had only a small quantity to rock 
with. We made from five to ten and twelve pounds a day, and the dust was 
from $9 to $12 an ounce went that at Brewster's bank, Placerville, Cali- 
fornia, where I did my business. 

I continued owning the claim, locating 1,400 feet out for myself, for the use 
of my water to the company. I also located the Savage claim ; showed the 
ground to old man Savage. 1 located the Gould & Curry went into the 
valley and got old Daddy Curry to come down, and put him in possession of it. 

I also owned tbe Hale & Norcross, and kept Norcross for a year to work in 
that ground. I also owned the principal part in Gold Hill and leased it out 
to Walsh and Woodruff leased to them 950 for 760 don't now remember 
which. Now I will tell you how I sold it ; it has never been told as it ought 
to be told throughout the United States for my benefit, and it shall be. 

Sandy Bowers, I gave him his claim of 20 feet in Gold Hill. Bill Knight, 
I gave him his claim ; Joe Plato, I gave him his. Joe is dead now, and his 
widow is awful rich. 

I was working this claim, the Ophir, and taking out a good deal of ore ; I 
did not know what the ore was worth, being in the wilderness then, with no 
road to get out or into from California. It was an awful wilderness ! I took 
several tons of the ore and transported it by ox-teams, to best advantage 
through the mountains of California, and Judge Walsh was my agent and 
helped me. 

Now during this time I was taking out large gold and silver specimens, and 
took one specimen, weighing 12 pounds, and boxed it up and ordered it sent 
to Washington City. I instructed John Musser, a lawyer at Washoe, to send 
it ; I don't know whether it ever reached there or not. I wanted Congress 
to see it, and the President, for it was the first gold and silver ore mixed ever 
found in the United States. 


I went on working, and Judge Walsh and Woodruff were there for two 
months, trying every day to buy me out. My health being bad I sold the claim 
to them on these terms: I was to get $10,000, and did get it at last; and 
I was to receive one-eleventh of all that ever came out of the claim during my 
natural life, and at my death was to will it to whoever I pleased ; also, to re- 
ceive $100 per month. 

That was the contract ; and two men, Elder Bennett and Manny Penrod, 
witnessed it ; but my health was bad, and before I had the contract of sale 
recorded, Woodruff and Walsh sold it out, Having taken no lien on the 
property, I never got a dollar, from that day to this, except what was at first 

I am a regular born mountaineer, and did not know the intrigues of civilized 
rascality, I am not ashamed to acknowledge that. Well, I had a store in 
Carson City and was lying in the back room sick and helpless. I told Ed. 
Belcher to take all my papers, and the contract between Judge Walsh and 
Woodruff and myself, and put them under my pillow. I could speak, but 
couldn't help myself a bit. They all said I would die, and said : ' Boys, let's 
pitch in and help ourselves ! ' And they did pitch in ; and I never saw the 
papers afterwards. And the Gold Hill I leased to Walsh and Woodruff ; and 
then Frink and Kincaid got it, and I never got anything for it ; and the 160 
acres of ground on which Virginia City is built is my old recorded ranche. 
I used to raise all my potatoes and vegetables on it, and had the Indians do 
the work for me. 

Virginia City was first called Silver City. I named it at the time I gave the 
Ophir claim its name. Old Virginia and the other boys got on a drunk one 
night there, and Old Virginia fell down and broke his bottle, and when he 
got up he said he baptized that ground Virginia hence Virginia City and 
that is the way it got its name. At that time there were a few tents, a few 
little huts, and a grog-shop ; that was all there was. I was camped under % 
eedar-tree at that time I and my party. 

I am now living at Butte City, in Montana Territory. The quartz in Mon- 
tana is very rich quartz, and the Cable claim is next to the Comstock, but 
gold in place of silver. There is a greater variety of minerals in Montana 
than in any country I have ever explored. There are tin mines here. I 
discovered them myself ; and there are alabaster mines here, Silver, vastly 
rich, and gold very rich. The Flint Creek mines oh, God ! how rich ! 
This is bound to be a rich country, but we are a long way from market and 
have to go slow. 

And the Butte mines, too, they are vastly rich, but very much mixed with 
other metals that is, a great many of them and Highland has a good many 
rich leads now open and opening. 

This is a country second to none on the globe, in point of mineral wealth 
and in the precious metals. Now, you newspaper men have got me in your 
papers, I want to say a word about myself. I am a man that has been 
through the wars. I was in the Black Hawk war ; was with Black Hawk 
when he died. I was in the Mexican war, and all through in the patriot war 



in Canada ; had three brothers in it I was the youngest ; they are all dead 

I am the son of old Noah Comstock, living in Cleveland, Ohio. He has 
been largely engaged in the lumber and hotel business there. I have been 
in the wilderness since a child ; was bound to the American Fur Company ; 
my boss died and that's the way I got with old Black Hawk. My first recol- 
lection was packing traps ; trapped all over Canada, Michigan, and Indiana ; 
but the Rocky Mountains have been my home ; I have been a guide these 
years and years. I was born in Canada, and am now near fifty years of age. 


James Fennimore, better known as James Finney and 
familiarly called " Old Virginia," by all the old settlers of 
Washoe, he being a native of the State of Virginia, came to 
the mines on Gold Canon, in 1851. He came from the Kern 
River country, California, where he had a " difficulty " with a 
man, and, believing he had killed him, took a little walk across 
the Sierra Nevada Mountains, dropping the name of Fenni- 
more and calling himself James Finney. 

Although fond of the bottle, Old Virginia was by no means 
a loafer. He had his sprees, but these were generally followed 
by seasons of great activity. 

He was very fond of hunting, and when not engaged in 
mining or prospecting he was ranging the mountains and 
valleys in search of deer, antelope, and mountain sheep. He 
was interested in nearly all the enterprises of the early John- 
town and Gold Hill mines but missed being in the Ophir at 
the time of the discovery of silver, having sold his interest in 
the Six-mile Canon diggings the previous season. 

He was killed in the town of Dayton, in July, 1861, by being 
thrown from a "bucking" mustang that he was trying to 
ride while a good deal under the influence of liquor. He 
was pitched head first upon the ground, suffered a fracture of 
the skull, and died in a few hours. At the time of his death 
he was possessed of about $3,000 in coin and had been talk- 
ing of returning soon to his native State. 

I one day met a Piute Indian in Virginia City who recol- 
lected both Comstock and Old Virginia very well. Fifteen 
or twenty stalwart Indians, who had been engaged at driving 
wood and timber on the Carson River, had visited Virginia 
for the purpose of expending their earnings in the purchase 


of blankets and other staples. Among the number was an 
Indian who appeared to be forty-five or fifty years of age. 
Something that he said about the changed appearance of the 
place induced me to ask him how long he had known the 

"Well," said he, speaking pretty fair English, "long time. 
When me first come here, no house here; all sagebrush. Me 
work here first time me come for Old Birginey (Old Virginia). 
Yes ; me work for Old Birginey down in Six-mile Caiiyum." 

"At mining?" I asked. 

"Yes; minin/ Me heap pull um rocker. Me that time 
know Comstock Ole Comstock. You Sabe him ? " 

" Yes ; " said I, " have seen him. He is dead now. Got 
broke, up in Montana ; bad luck all the time ; got crazy and 
shot himself through the head with a pistol. 

" Hum ! Ole Comstock dead," said the old warrior mus- 
ingly, " dead ! Well, Ole Comstock owe me fifty-five dollar. 
That money gone now. Well, same way Ole Birginey. He 
owe me forty-five dollar when he die." 

" How did he die ? " I asked. 

" Well, you see he die down to Dayton long time ago. Ole 
Birginey he all time drink too much whisky. One day he 
bully drunk, he get on pony ; pony he run, he buck one bully 
buck and Ole Birginey go over pony head. One foot stay in 
stirrup and pony drag ole man on ground and kill him. Me 
help dig one grave, bury Ole Birginey, down Dayton, by 
Carson River. Well, well," said the old redskin, reflectively, 
" boss kill um Ole Birginey, Comstock he kill heself. Com- 
stock owe me fifty-five dollar; Ole Birginey owe me forty- 
five dollar ! Me think," shaking his head, " maybe both time 
too much whisky!" The sage old Piute was mistaken as 
regarded Comstock ; he was a man who drank but little. 



OLD VIRGINIA used to tell of a terrible fight that took 
place one evening in Gold Hill. The stakes, he said, 
were two short bits (twenty cents). The fight lasted half 
an hour and was most stubbornly contested on both sides. The 
contest was, as he would here explain, between his appetite 
and his "drinketite." He held stakes, and fora good while 
was unable to decide which had won. At last, however, 
drinketite got his opponent down and kept him down so long 
that he decided in his favor, and all three struck out for the 
nearest saloon appetite grumbling at him all the way about 
his decision. 

As has been already mentioned, Old Virginia was a great 
hunter. When not engaged in mining or prospecting, he was 
off in the hills with his gun ; most generally alone wandering 
and philosophizing through the wilderness as he viewed the 
stupendous works of nature. He used to tell a story of a 
feast he once had in the desert regions of the Humboldt, 
which was quite amusing. It ran as follows: 

"In '53, six or eight of us were out on a huntin* trip and 
camped on the Humboldt River, down to'ards the sink of the 

" We'd been havin' miserable luck. Couldn't strike any 
game and had 'bout devoured what grub we'd carried out 
with us when we left Johntown. This being the case, we 
nat'rally had to keep stirrin' about to try to skeer up some- 
thin' that would do to eat. So, one afternoon, when the pot 
was 'bout empty, all hands struck out to try for something in 
the way of game; some goin* one way and some another. 



" Old Captain Crooks and one or two more, went off down 
the river, while the rest of our fellers struck back from the 
stream and kind o' promiscuously diversified themselves out 
across the sand-hills and sage-brush flats in search of sage-hen 
and rabbits; you see we couldn't expect to find big game in 
that section deer, and antelope, and them sort of fellers. 

"I finally went off up the river alone. I jogged along up 
the stream, 'bout half a mile, and then laid down in a big 
bunch of weedy-lookin' bushes. As I was reposiri' thar in the 
silence, gazin' up at the deep blue sky, I fell to ruminatin' on 
the unsartainty of all things here below on what is above, 
and why we are here. 

"I had jist arrived at the conclusion that man can no more 
help bein' born than a blade of grass can stay in the ground 
when spring comes; and, as the blade of grass can't help 
fadin* and dyin' when winter comes on, so man goes out of 
the world with about as little say in the matter as when he 
comes into it. 

"All of this I was a-thinkin* about as I lay thar lookin' up' 
at the sky, half-way noticin' a solitary raven as was a sailin 
about high above. I'd fixed it up that thar was a great head 
mind up in them blue heavens somewhar, as was a-seein' to 
all matters for me and the grass, and that things was liable to 
work jist about as that mind willed, whether me and the grass 
made a fuss about it or not, when all at once I heerd a small 
racket, near me in some dry grass. 

"Erectin' myself cautiously, and peepin' over the top of my 
clump of bushes, I seed a all-fired big skunk, rootin' under 
the dry, matted grass near the brink of the river. He war 
lookin' after mice, worms, bugs, grass-nuts, and sich like 

" I brought my gun to my shoulder and knocked the unsus- 
pectin' critter over so dead that he never kicked. He was jist 
as good game as I wanted I wouldn't have traded him for 
any number of blue-meated rabbits. 

u Bein' shot in jist the right spot, thar wasn't a particle of 
smell about him. You see I'd knocked over many sich fellers 
back in Ole Virginney and knowed percisely whar to hold on 
him to do the work. Many's the fine fat one I'd cooked and 
devoured ! But it's not every place whar they'll eat skunk 
it's a thing that runs in streaks and through sartain settle- 
ments, as you may say. 

" This was a prime feller ! I think I never, in all my 
experience, killed a finer or fatter one. I shouldered my 
game and trudged back to the camp, which I found vacant. 
None of the boys had yet returned. 

I sat down and skinned my skunk, then tuck and hid the 


skin in some low bushes, a few rods from camp, in order that 
none of the fellows might know the exact natur of the game 
I'd brought in. 

" If they knowed it war a skunk, not one of 'em would eat a 
bite of it some people's so prejudiced, you know 'bout outside 
appearances and the little nat'ral peculiarities of birds and beast. 

"'Well, to'ards night, Captain Crook's and all the fellers got 
into camp, and not one of them had killed a thing. They soon 
spied the fine plump animal I had hangin' up on a stake, near 
camp, and wanted to know what for critter it war. I told 'em I 
didn't know for sartin the blame thing ruther headed my time, 
and I war convarsant with most of the four-footed quadrupeds 
perambulatin' the present hemisphere ; yet I reckon the thing 
might do to eat on a pinch. 

" All hands now wanted to see the skin. I pretended to look 
for it, then told 'em I'd seed the dogs a worryin' with somethin* 
a bit ago' and ruther guessed they'd drug the skin into the river. 

11 Captain Crooks seemed to be took with a idea. Says he : 
'Was it a kinder brownish-black lookin' thing, with a kinder 
middlin'-like bushy tail ? ' 

" ' What would it be apt to be if it was that way ? ' says I. 

" A fisher,' says he. 

' ' Is a fisher good to eat ? ' says I. 

"'Yes, fisher's bully eatin,' says he. 
' That's the way its tail looked,' says I 

" ' How about the color ? ' says he. 

" ' Air fishers as good as rabbit ? ' says I. 

"'Much bulleyer! ' says he. 

"'Then,' says I, 'you've guessed the color.' 

" The old Captain then turned to the boys and said he knowed 
it was a fisher the moment he sot eyes on it, and he hadn't seen 
one for goin' on eleven year, now. 

" Then he went to braggin' so much about what good eatin' 
fisher was, that the boys all got awful anxious to be tryin* some 
of the critter. 

" But the Captain said fisher warn 't good till it had first been 
well parboiled ; that we must put him in the camp-kettle and 
bile him that night, then stew him down in a pan for breakfast. 

" When we went to bed. we left the fisher gently simmerin' over 
the fire, and by mornin' he was not only biled, but too much so 
was biled to rags. 

"The Captain looked alitle puzzled at this phernominon, but 
the boys said it was all the better. 

"We fried as much of the animal as we could stack into two 
pans and had a reg'lar feast of fisher ; as the fellers all believed 
the thing to be. 


" Old Captain Crooks was delighted. He had his plate filled 
about five times, and told the boys, as all were squatted in a 
circle round about on the ground, how he used to have big times 
up in Wisconsin a catchin' and a cookin' of fishers. 

" I'd finished my breakfast and started to go and ketch up my 
horse, when I came to the skunk skin, layin- in the bushes whar 
I'd hid it away. An idea popped into my head. I looked at 
the great black-and-white, woolly hide, then at the ole Captain, 
who, with his knife and fork balanced acrost his fingers, was showin' 
the boys how to set a trap for a fisher. He still had in his lap 
'bout half a plate of greasy, steamin' fisher stew, and the fellers 
was all still a shovelin' in fisher, watchin,' between mouthfuls, 
the trap the Captain was fixen up for 'em. 

" * I'll do it ! ' says I, to myself. Pickin' up the skin by 'bout 
six of the long white hairs in the end of the tail, I marched up 
to where all war squatted. 

"'Hyar, fellers,' says I, 'blame me if hyar ain't that dam 
fisher skin now ! " 

" Gentlemen, if I war to talk from now till next week I could'nt 
do full justice to what follered ! Old Captain Crooks was just 
raisin' a forkful of stew to his mouth, when he ketched sight of 
that air skin. The fork dropped from his hand; his eyes 
bugged out like the horns of a snail, and a sort of convulsive 
shudder shook his whole animal system as he yelled : ' Skunk, 
by all that's stinkin' and nasty ! " 

" ' Skunk, by thunder ! ' howled all the rest in chorus. 

" Sick ! well, I need'nt mention what follered. But, fellers, 
that like ter cost me my life that trick did. When them boys 
finally got convalescent and riz up and come for me, it was 
close papers for a time. 

" Ole Captain Crooks picked one lock o' hair out o* my head 
before I had time to make the least explanation, It tuck awful 
hard swearin' to make them fellers believe I had'nt never seed a 
skunk afore." 

" Peter O'Riley, in the early days, when mining on Gold 
Canon and along Six-mile Canon, was an honest, hard-work- 
ing, good-natured, harmless kind of man, yet when aroused 
displayed a most fierce and ungovernable temper. When he 
flew into a passion he was ready to do anything or use any 
kind of weapon that first came to hand. Even then, he 
showed, in this, signs of that insanity in which he ended his 
days. Many instances of his exhibitions of blind and furious 
rage are related by the early miners. 

During these early days a sham duel was got up at John- 
town between O'Riley and a young man named Smith, a 


miner working in Gold Canon. As in most real duels, there 
was a woman in the case, a girl living up in Carson Valley. 
Both O'Riley and Smith found pleasure in the smile of the 
young girl in question, and the light of her eyes was as sun- 
shine to their hearts. O'Riley was so much smitten that he 
would sometimes go and work all day on the farm of the 
father without money and without reward of any kind, other 
than the pleasure of being near the daughter during the time 
he was taking his meals. Such hard-working love as this 
must have been strong and honest. /As O'Riley could neither 
read nor write the "boys" fixed up letters purporting to come 
from the girl, in which she expressed uubounded love for 
both men, but the trouble was that for the life of her she could 
not say which she most loved. At last there came a letter in 
which she said she had thought of a way of deciding the 
matter. O'Riley and Smith were to fight a duel, and her 
hand was to be the prize of the victor. 

O'Riley was ready for this at once, for, as I have said, he 
was a man who was quite desperate when the deeper feelings 
of his nature were aroused, and Smith, though he pretended 
to dislike the proposition, finally agreed to stand up to the 
rack ; there appearing to be no other way in which the diffi- 
culty could be settled. 

It was left to the friends of the principals to make the 
necessary arrangements. These decided that as but one of 
the men could have the girl, the duel should be to the death. 
They therefore announced that the fight must be with double- 
barrelled shotguns, at twenty paces. 

The appointed time arrived, and the rival lovers were placed 
in position, each armed with a shotgun. The guns were 
heavily charged with powder and paper- wads, but O'Riley, 
who was in downright earnest and thirsted for blood, sup- 
posed that all was on the square and that each barrel of both 
guns contained not less than nine revolver-balls. 

At the word, both men fired; but O'Riley, who was deter- 
mined to put his rival out of the way, turned loose with both 
barrels of his gun, firing his second barrel almost before the 
smoke had drifted away from the muzzle of the first. 

Young Smith fell groaning to the ground, where his brother 


who was standing near with his left hand filled with the blood 
of a chicken, ran to him, crying : " Oh ! my poor brother, my 
poor brother! " at the same time smearing his brother's breast 
with the blood he held in his hand. 

O'Riley was brought to the spot by his seconds, and while 
they were asking the seconds of the opposite side if their man 
had received satisfaction, the brother of the man lying on the 
ground suddenly drew his six-shooter, and shouting : " You 
have killed my brother, now I'll have your life ! " made at 
O'Riley, who ran like a deer for the house of a neighbor, 
where he knew a loaded shotgun was kept. 

As he ran, the brother of the man supposed to be killed, 
occasionally fired his pistol, causing O'Riley to do some lively 
zigzaging, after the manner practiced by the Piute Indians 
under similar circumstances. 

The farce of the duel having been carefnlly studied in all 
of its details, long before going upon the ground, and know- 
ing that at this stage of its progress O'Riley would go for 
this shotgun, the boys had rammed tremendous charges into 
both barrels of the ponderous old family weapon, putting a 
number of paper wads down upon the powder. 

Leaping into the house and getting possession of the gun, 
O'Riley rushed out and was about to make his way across 
Gold Canon, when his pursuer, now dangerously near, blazed 
^way at him again with his revolver. 

O'Riley, standing on the brink of the canon, wheeled about 
and let drive at his relentless pursuer. He had cocked both 
barrels of the gun and both went off together, the breech 
striking him full on the nose and mouth, sending him rolling 
fifteen or twenty feet to the bottom of the canon. He landed 
in active retreat, however, and went up through the canon 
like an antelope." 

O'Riley made directly for the village of Franktown, distant 
twelve miles, over the mountain, and remained there some 
two weeks, though the Johntowners several times sent word 
to him to come back and work his claim that he had not 
killed Smith, that all was right and the duel was only a 
sham affair. 

But not a word of all this would O'Riley believe. He had 



seen his rival stretched upon the ground in his gore, had 
heard his dying groans, and was not to be fooled back to 
Johntown to be shot by the incensed Smiths or hanged by the 
miners of the camp. 

Taking with them young Smith, the man supposed to have 

been killed in the duel, a party 
of Johntowners went over to 
Franktown to see O'Riley. No 
sooner did the latter see that 
Smith was really alive than he 
flew into a terrible rage and it 
was all that the friends on both sides could do to prevent 
shooting that was not sham and bloodshed in earnest. Peace 
was finally made by young Smith agreeing to renounce all 
pretensions to the hand of the young lady. 

Peter O'Riley, one of the discoverers of the Comstock lode, 
as has been stated, held his interest in the Ophir mine, longer 
than any of the original locators, and realized nearly $50,000. 
He seemed to be " fixed " for the remainder of his days. Being 
a man used to roughing it all the days of his life, his wants, both 
real and imaginary, were few. Had he placed his money at 
interest he could have taken his ease all the rest of his days. 
But he built a big stone hotel in Virginia City, and then allowed 
persons to persuade him that he was a great man, a man of 
financial genius, who should make himself felt in the stock-mar- 
ket. As he could neither read nor write, he was obliged to find 
persons to do that part of the business for him. He and his 
assistants then speculated speculated until one day "poor 
old Pete " found himself with pick, shovel, and pan, on his 


back, again going forth to prospect ; as we have seen Comstock 
wandering in unrest through the wilds of Montana. 

Being a spiritualist and having always the latest advices from 
the ghosts of the departed, in regard to mines and all else worth 
knowing about, O'Riley did not find it necessary to wander as 
far as to Montana. The spirits pointed out a place in the foot- 
hills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where they said was 
stored up far more gold and silver than in the whole Comstock 

The place shown O'Riley by the spirits was nothing more 
than a bed of rotten granite. Here he toiled alone at running 
a tunnel worked for two or three years under all manner of 

The ground in which he was at work was full of water, and 
caves frequently occurred in his tunnel. The work of many 
weeks was often lost in a moment by a cave, which crushed in 
his timbers and drove him back almost to where he first began; 
but the spirits said there was a whole mountain of silver and 
gold ahead, and he believed them and persevered. 

He was without money but not without friends. One and 


another of his friends among the old settlers, purchased for him 
what he required in the way of provisions and tools. As he 
worked alone in his dark tunnel, month after month, far 
under the mountain, the spirits began to grow more and more 
familiar. They swarmed about him, advising him and directing 


the work. As he wielded pick and sledge, their voices came to 
him out of the darkness which walled m the light of his solitary 
candle, cheering him on ; voices from the chinks in the rocks 
whispered to him stories of great masses of native silver at no 
great distance ahead, of caverns floored with silver and roofed 
with great arches hung with stalactites of pure silver and 
glittering, native gold. 

The spirits talked so much with him in his tunnel under the 
mountain, and had made themselves so familiar then, that at last 
they boldly conversed with him under the broad light of day, and 
in the city as well as in the solitude of the mountains. He was 
heard muttering to them as he walked the streets, and a wild 
and joyous light gleamed in his eyes as he listened to their 
promises of mountains of gold and caves of silver. 

News at length came that O'Riley had been caved on and 
badly hurt; then that the physicians had pronounced him 

When he recovered from his Hurt, he was anxious to return 
to his tunnel the spirits under the mountain were calling 
to him but he was sent to a private asylum for the insane, 
at Woodbridge, California, and in a year or two died there ; 
the spirits to the last lingering about him and heaping on him 
reproaches for having left the golden mountains and silver 
caverns they had pointed out to him. 



COMSTOCK was a believer in spirits. Mrs L. S. Bowers- 
one of the early settlers at Johntown and at Gold Hill, and 
now known as the "Washoe Seeress," on account of her 
many predictions about fires in the mines and rich bodies of ore 
is a Spiritualist, and very many of the early settlers and those 
who were one way and another connected with the discovery of 
silver in Nevada, were Spiritualists. Old Virginia was also a 
believer in " spirits." O'Riley was not the only person who did 
mining in Nevada under the direction of the spirits. Much 
money has been lost in that country with spirit superintendents 
in charge of the work. 

The most ridiculous work of the kind ever done there however, 
under the direction of spirits was that by some parties who were 
led to believe that Mount Davidson the mountain on the side 
of which Virginia stands and which towers nearly 2000 feet above 
the city was an immense tank of oil. 

This was about the time of the excitement in regard to the oil 
wells of Pennsylvania; while "Coal-oil Tommy " was " swinging 
round the circle." 

The great coal oil revelation was made through an old lady of 
Virginia City who was a great medium, and the great oil deposit, 
according to this old lady and her spirits, was near the summit 
of Mount Davidson. 

To Joe Grigg, an engineer at the old Savage mining-works, 
the medium made known the spot where the great subterranean 
lake of oil was to be found. Joe got some tools and began a 
tunnel in the flinty granite, or rather gneiss, which was stratified 
and stood as would the shingles on a house if turned upside 




down. For a long ^ime Joe 
dug away in his tunnel, en- 
couraged by new revelations 
almost daily. 

The medium could see the 
oil and was carefully observ- 
ing the progress of the tunnel. 
Joe was getting closer and 
closer to the vast reservoir 
every day. At last it seemed 
to Joe that he must be al- 
most on the point of breaking 
through into it. Just ahead 
of him the medium could see 
the great lake of oil an ole- 
aginous ocean. Joe, at work 
away up there all alone on 
the steep slope of the moun- 
tain began cogitating on the 
situation and became fright- 
ened. It seemed altogether 
too big a thing too great an 
abundance of oil. Then, too, 
he began to think of the 
consequences to the town, 
and the innocent and unsus- 
pecting inhabitants thereof. 
There he was, blasting and 
banging away on the mount- 
ain-side, with a mere shell 
of granite perhaps not ten 
inches thick between him- 
self and the great lake. He 
pondered upon the matter 
until at last he became afraid 
to continue, and decided the 
blast he was then putting in, 
should be his last. He feared 
even that might break through THE LAST BLAST. 

the shell of rock and set on fire the great lake of oil. In 


imagination he already saw this vast tanl; of oil pouring down 
the side of the mountain, overwhelming and destroying the city. 

In this emergency the spirits were again consulted. They 
declared that a large iron pipe must be procured and laid from 
the tunnel down into the town, when the oil might be tapped and 
its flow controlled. The spirits also asserted that the time for 
forming a company had now arrived and advised that certain 
persons be let into the secret. Joe having hitherto been "going 
it alone." 

The persons to whom the secret of the existence of the great 
subterranean reservoir of oil was made known were nearly all 
spiritualists. The " Mount Davidson Oil Company " was formed, 
and all concerned kept very quiet about the matter in hand. 

All was now in readiness for tapping the oil so soon as the 
pipe could be procured and laid. In order that they might not 
lack the pipe, the medium who was at the head of the com- 
pany and was managing the whole business proceeded to levy 
an assessment of $5 per share on the capital stock. That 
assessment exploded the whole arrangement. Every shareholder 
turned tail and "got out of the wilderness." To this day that 
lake of oil remains untapped, and as it is not likely that the 
spirits would lie about the small matter of a few million hogs- 
head of coal-oil Mount Davidson stands to-day the greatest 
natural reservoir of oil in the known world. 

Patrick M c Laughlin, who, with Peter O'Riley, made the dis- 
covery of silver in the Ophir mine, was alive at last accounts 
(in 1875) and was at work at the Green mine, San Bernardino 
county, California. He was doing the cooking for some half- 
dozen men, employed at the mine named. He sold his interest 
in the Ophir mine for $3,500 and probably received considerable 
sums for shares owned by him in other mines on the Comstock 
range, all of which he doubtless lost in speculations of various 
kinds speculations undertaken with a view to securing millions. 
Few of those who were original locators anywhere along the 
Comstock lode received large prices for their claims, and in a 
few years all were again as poor as before the silver was found. 
Those who bought and continued to buy at what seemed like 
enormous figures were they who have made the most money out 
of the mines. 



The first winter after 
the discovery of silver: 
1859 60, was one of the 
severest the country has 
known. As I have al- 
ready stated, there were 
very few buildings in Vir- 
ginia City that were wor- 
thy of the name. The 
majority of the inhabi- 
tants lived in mere shan- 
ties and in underground 
caves and dens -a tribe 
of troglodytes. , 

Many men who were in 
the country during the 
summer and fall, left for 
California before winter 
set in, some with the in- 
tention of returning and 
others cursing the coun- 
try. These last were men 
who had for years been 
working in the placer- 
mines of California and 
who had rushed over the 
mountains to Washoe as 
soon as news reached 
them of the great wages 
being taken out with 
rockers. They supposed 
there were extensive pla- 
cer-mines in the new 
region. When they found 
none but such as had 
already been gutted by 
the Johntowners and the 
Chinese who had worked 
about the mouth of Gold 
Canon, they wanted nothing more to do with the country. They 



had no taste for working quartz veins or for deep mining of 
any kind. They lingered in the country till toward fall, hunting 
for rich pockets in veins of quartz that appeared to be gold-bear- 
ing, then rose up and in a flock crossed the Sierras to the more 
congenial hills flats, and gulches of the "Golden State." 

Many persons, however, remained at Virginia City, Gold 
Hill, Silver City, and Dayton, and a rough time they all had 
of it before spring. The first snow fell on the 22nd of Novem- 
ber ; it snowed all day, and four days later again set in, when 
snow fell to the depth of five or six feet, cutting off all com- 
munication between Gold Hill and Virginia, though the two 
towns were but a mile apart. The worst of the winter was 
between this time and the ist of February. In December 
many cattle were dying of cold and hunger about Chinatown 
(Dayton), where they had been sent to find a living in the 
valley along the Carson River. Not only cattle, but also 
horses, donkeys, and animals of all kinds died of cold and 
hunger. Most of them starved to death. It was impossible 
to procure foqd for them. 

In March, 1860, hay was selling at 50 cents per pound and 
barley at 40 cents. Men could not afford to keep horses, and 
therefore shot them or let them wander away into the valleys 
and flats and take their own time about dying. Food for 
man was about as dear as that for beast. Flour sold for $75 
per 100 pounds in Virginia City; coffee at 50 cents per 
pound, and bacon at 40 cents. Lumber was worth $150 per 
thousand feet, and all else in proportion. None of the settlers 
starved, but the stomachs of many of them had frequent holi- 
days. Fuel was scarce, it being necessary to pack it through 
the deep snow from the surrounding hills, where, at that time, 
was to be found a sparse growth of stunted pines and cedars. 
The stoves of the saloons and lodging-houses were well 
patronized. Bean-poker and old sledge were the principal 
amusements, aside from talking over the great expectations, 
which all cherished. Every man who had a claim expected 
to sell it for a fortune when spring came. 

Little work could be done in the mines, but that little 
showed them to be growing richer and richer for-every foot 
of progress made or depth attained. The excitement was at 



fever heat in California, and a grand rush of capitalists was 
expected as soon as the mountains could be crossed. This 
being the case, those who were wintering in Washoe though 
physically uncomfortable were comfortable in spirit. Gold 
lent its hue to all of their visions of the future. 

Some Indians lingered in the neighborhood, and they were 
quite as hard up for provisions as the whites. They fre- 
quently came to the cabins of the miners to beg food. On 
such occasions like some 
white beggars they began 
business by presenting a 
paper to be read. The 
paper very often read as 
follows : 

"This Indian is a d d old 

thief. He will steal anything he 

can lay his hands on. If he comes 

about your camp, break his head. 

A Friend." 

In the early part of Feb- 
ruary it began to grow 
warm. Many days were al- 
most as warm as summer, 
but of nights it continued 
to freeze. Building soon 
began, and in March many 
houses were going up in 
Virginia City, in all direc- 
tions, and the town was 
roughly laid out for many 
a mile along the Comstock lead. People began to flounder 
through the snow from California, during the latter part of 
February, and early in March began to cross the Sierras in 
swarms. Great hardships were endured by some of the first 
parties that crossed the mountains, and a few persons lost their 
lives in storms that suddenly arose. 

Although there was much fine weather in February, March, 
and April, snow-squalls were of frequent occurrence in May 
and even as late as June; this, however, was not particularly 
out of place in that country ; it still does the same way out 



there. It is a region that has no climate of its own. What 
climate it has is blown over the Sierras from California and 
comes in fragments. But for the towering, snow-clad peaks 
of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Nevada would have a climate 
similar to that of California, but these mountains chill all the 
" weather " that passes over them. 

They may be having a fine, warm rain in California, but 
any portion of it that reaches Nevada is transformed during 
its passage over the Sierras and descends in the shape of snow. 
Owing to the altitude of Virginia City, whenever clouds shut 
off the sun for any considerable length of time it becomes cold. 

The early settlers at Virginia made the acquaintance of the 
" Washoe zephyr" during this first winter of their sojourn in 
the town. This "zephyr," as it is sarcastically termed, is a 
furious westerly gale which is a frequent visitant during the 
fall and spring months. It appears to come sweeping from 
the Pacific Ocean, passing over California, and only plunging 
down to the earth when it has crossed the Sierras. It made 
wild work that first winter with the frail tenements of the 
first settlers. Canvas-houses, tents, and brush-shanties were 
scattered right and left. 

During the prevalence of a zephyr, early in the spring of 
1860, some enterprising Washoeite performed the feat of steal- 
ing a hot stove. A canvas-house occupied by a lone woman 
was blown down, and while she was gone to find some men to 
set it up, her stove disappeared, and never more was seen. 

Avalanches also put in an appearance, and in March, a man 
who was cutting wood on a hill just north of Virginia was 
buried by one, and his body was not recovered till the snow 
had melted away. Avalanches are still of occasional occur- 
rence, and several lives have been lost and a number of 
buildings demolished in the southern part of Virginia City, 
by heavy slides of snow rushing down the side of Mount Da- 
vidson into the western suburbs of the town. 

In the spring of 1860, an- avalanche which fell near Silver 
City, covered the mouth of a tunnel in which half a dozen 
miners were living. It came down in the night when they 
were all asleep. At the usual hour in the morning some of 
the men awoke, but finding it still dark, turned over and went 


to sleep again. Others of the party did the same. After a 
time all were tired of sleeping and began talking about what 
a long night it seemed. However, they concluded it was all 
right, and each again addressed himself to the task of trying to 
sleep the night through. All would not do, and in an hour or 
two they were again discussing the apparent great length of 
the night, wondering, also, whether or not all hands might 
not be unusually wakeful. 

At length, one of the party said he would go out to the mouth 
of the tunnel and see if he could perceive any sign of the 
approach of daylight. On reaching the mouth of the tunnel, he 
ran his nose into a solid bank of snow. The exclamation of 
surprise he uttered, brought all to their feet. They soon com- 
prehended the situation. Luckily they had several shovels in 


the tunnel. Lighting a candle, they set to work, and in half an 
hour had dug their way out, when they found that it was almost 

When warm weather came, and men and money were pouring 
in from California, those who had wintered in the several ne\r 
towns of Washoe forgot all the troubles they had had and all 
the hardships they had passed through. They were on the alert 
to sell claims, and many did realize handsome little fortunes, as 
all the new comers were wild with excitement, and all were 



anxious to get hold of ground near 
the mines. Newcomers who had no 
money, prospected for new leads, or 
"jumped "the claims of parties who 
had made locations the previous fall. 
This made times lively, and numer- 
ous battles, with guns and pistols were 
the result. 

One day while a battle was raging 
at a claim on the hillside, near the 
town, a big long-legged fellow, with 
GOING IN. a knife and pistol slung to his 

belt, 'started up to where the fight was raging, on a dead run. 

Those who were 
fair said : " Now, 
fly, when that f el- 
ground ! " When 
the hill, a pistol ball 
took off a portion 
never for an in- 
but as the ball cut 
he spun round on 
running he did 
the other direction. 

watching the af- 
we shall see the fur 
low gets on the 
about half way up 
came along and 
of his goatee. x/ He 
stant ceased to run, 
through his goatee 
his heel and the 
after that was all in 
From his start till 
was unbroken. 

his return, his gait CHANGE OF MIND. 

An honest Dutchman who, at great pains and expense, had 
built him a cabin in the northern part 
of the place, came into town one eve- 
ning to make some purchases. When 
he went home he found his cabin jumped. 
To add insult to injury the jumpers were 
fiddling and dancing, had a lot of whisky, 
and were having a regular house-warm- 
ing. The Dutchman had to go and raise 
an army of his friends before he could 
drive the intruders out. It was three or 
four days before he regained possession 
of his cabin. Such occurrences were not COMING BACK. 

rare, and persons were often placed iii very annoying situations. 



DURING the spring of '60, two mining companies were 
at war about their locations, and one company threat- 
ened the other with an injunction. There had been 
considerable talk among members of the threatened company 
about this injunction being put on their claim. Two green 
Irishmen of the company, who heard this, and who were at 
work on the claim, concluded that they would keep a bright 
lookout for this injunction. They had no idea what it was 
like, but if anything of the kind was going to be put upon 
their claim they'd see about it. Every day they kept a bright 
eye open for the injunction, but saw nothing stuck up any- 
where about their claim that looked like one. 

About this time, however, it so happened that a party of 
surveyors were engaged in running out a road in that neigh- 
borhood. The surveyors arrived at the disputed claim just at 
noon, and, leaving their theodolite standing on the line they 
were running, went into town to get dinner. Pat and Mike 
were also away at dinner, but got back to their claim before 
the party of surveyors returned. It so chanced that the theod- 
olite had been left standing on the bank immediately above 
the cut in which the two sons of Erin had been at work. The 
first thing that caught the eye of Pat and Mike, was the large 
and costly instrument, standing on the bank, as though on 
guard over the cut in which they had been working. 

"By the powers 'o war, Pat! "cries Mike, "what divilish 
thing is that, standing there on its three legs?" 

" It looks like some quare kind of patent invintion," said 




Pat, "wid all of its brass muzzles and stop-cocks. What 
would it be, anyhow ? " 

" Well, now," said Mike, " I wondther if it isn't the thaving 
injunction thim rascally divils over beyant have been swearin' 
they'd put upon the claim ? " 

" By the sivin churches, ye've said it ! " yelled Pat. " Let's 
afther it ! " 

With this, one seized a pick, the other a crowbar, and rush- 
ing upon the theodolite they smashed it into a hundred pieces, 


crying " This for all of yer infernal injunctions ! " Pat flung 
one leg of the instrument as far as he could send it, yelling : 
" To the divil wid all injunctions ! " Mike sent another whirl- 
ing down the hill, shouting: "Bring on yer injunctions, 
we're the lads that can knock the stuffin' out of the best and the 
biggest of thim ! " Just as the pair had succeeded in " bustin' 
up the injunction " the party of surveyors returned. The 
interview between them and the two Irishmen was short, but, 
as Pat afterwards acknowledged, it was " mighty improvin." 
The newcomers who swarmed across the Sierras spread 
along the Comstock range for miles, pitching their tents and 
establishing their camps wherever wood and water were to 
be found. Having thus established their headquarters they 
scouted out on prospecting expeditions in all directions 


among the hills. In places on the ravines and in the flats, 
where good water and some grass were to be found, there were 
to be seen considerable villages of tents and brush shanties. 

Of evenings, when the prospectors returned from the hills, 
there was a big time among them, as they exhibited specimens 
of ore from the ledges they had discovered and compared 
notes. All gathered about and opinions were passed in regard 
to the value of the ores brought in. 

The next business was to test the ores for the precious 
metals. In gold-bearing quartz, small specks of gold were 
often to be seen with the naked eye or aided by a small mag- 
nifying glass, such as every prospector carried in his vest 
pocket for use in the examination of ores. If gold could be 
seen at all, either with the naked eye or the glass, it was 
considered a good sign. In order to further test the specimen, 
it was then either beaten to a powder in a mortar or was 
ground as fine 1 as flour on a large flat stone, using a smaller 
stone for a muller. This pulverized ore was then placed in a 
" horn," a little canoe-shaped vessel made of the split horn of 
an ox, when it was carefully washed out, much as auriferous 
gravel is washed in a pan. The gold, in case the ore experi- 
mented upon contained that metal, was found lying in a 
yellow streak in the bottom of the horn ; generally small 
particles of gold dust, almost as fine as flour. 

This was the test for gold, and any miner was able to judge, 
from the "prospect" obtained in his horn, whether or not the 
quartz from which it came was rich enough to pay for working 
in a mill. 

In testing ores for silver, the miners in the early days used 
acids. If a specimen of ore was supposed to contain silver, it 
was pulverized in the same way as gold-bearing quartz, then 
was placed in the horn and the lighter matter it contained 
washed out. When that which remained in the horn appeared 
to be principally sulphurets and other metalline matter, the 
washing ceased. The heavy residuum was then washed from 
the horn into a matrass (a flask of annealed glass, with a narrow 
neck and a broad bottom). Nitric acid was then poured into the 
matrass until the matter to be tested was covered, when the flask 
was suspended over the flame of a candle or lamp and boiled until 


the fumes escaping (which are for a time red) came off white 
The boiling operation was then presumed to be completed. 

When the contents of the matrass had been allowed to cool and 
settle, the liquid portion was poured off into a vial of clear, thin 
glass, called a test-tube. A few drops of a strong solution of 
common salt was now poured into the test-tube. If the ore oper- 
ated upon contained silver, the contents of the test-tube would at 
once assume a milky hue. This would begin at the top of the 
liquid in the tube, where the salt solution first touched the solu- 
tion of silver in the acid and would be seen to gradually descend 
to the bottom of the vial. If there was much silver in the ore, 
the milky matter formed was quite thick, and clinging together 
descends to the bottom of the tube in the form of little ropes. 

Muriatic acid poured into the tube produced the same effect 
as the solution of salt and water. The white matter formed was 
the chloride of silver. 

In case the prospector had any doubt about what he had 
obtained being genuine chloride of silver, he held the test- 
tube in the strong light of the sun for a few minutes, when the 
chloride would be seen to asume a rich purple color a color 
which no photographer would ever mistake. Those who wish to 
try this experiment may do so anywhere. If no silver ore is to be 
had a few filings of a silver coin, or anything containing silver, 
may be used. The boiling in nitric acid may be performed in a 
small saucer of ordinary table ware and a common vial may be 
used in lieu of a test-tube. 

The chloride of silver obtained in the bottom of the tube 
may easily be reduced to the metallic state. To do this it is 
dried and placed in a small hole scooped out in a piece of 
charcoal, when the flame of a candle is blown upon it until it 
is melted, and a bright little button of pure silver is obtained. 
Lead ore (galena) treated with nitric acid, as in testing silver 
ore, will produce a chloride somewhat resembling that of sil- 
ver, but is more granular in appearance, does not turn purple 
in the light of the sun, and is dissolved in twenty times its bulk 
of water ; whereas washing with water does not dissolve the 
chloride of silver, no matter how many times the washings 
are repeated. 

If the presence of copper is suspected in the ore tested for 


silver, a bit of bright iron wire or the blade of a penknife may 
be dipped into the solution obtained from the specimen, either 
before or after adding the salt, when, if copper be present, the 
wire or knife will show a coating of it in the metallic state. 

Chloride ores of silver cannot be tested by the acid method 
they being chloride of silver in advance of the operation. 
These ores must be subjected to the test of a fire assay must 
be smelted in a crucible. This being the case, our prospectors 
were not utterly cast down when their pet specimens failed 
to show silver when tested by the acid process. They at once 
declared that the silver was in the form of a chloride, and were 
not satisfied that they were not millionaires, until they had 
carried their specimens to some assay office and had a regular 
fire assay made. Then, when the certificate of the assayer 
came, they were generally obliged to take a back seat, receiving 
the imprecations of the camp. Occasionally, however, a " big 
assay" was obtained. Then there was a grand excitement. 
Every man in the camp wanted the lucky man to put him 
down in his notice of location for a claim of 200 feet the 
amount of ground that could be taken up by one man under 
the revised laws of the district. In order to get an interest in 
a claim that promised to turn out a " big thing," there was 
much pulling and hauling, buzzing and log-rolling, among the 
miners who knew of the " strike." 

The miners all did their own cooking, but this was no great 
task, as when you had mentioned slapjacks, beans, bacon,, 
and coffee, you were at the bottom of the bill of fare. A few 
men, however, in every camp, developed a decided genius in 
the art culinary and concocted some wonderful dishes, the 
raw material at hand considered. 

About three-fourths of the prospecting miners who came 
over from California, packed their traps on the backs of don- 
keys, and, driving these before them, boldly, if not swiftly, 
scaled the Sierras. These donkeys became a great nuisance 
about the several camps. All became thieves of the most 
accomplished type. They would steal flour, sugar, bacon, 
beans, and everything eatable about the camp. They would 
even devour gunny sacks in which bacon had been packed, 
old woollen shirts and almost everything else but the picks 


and shovels. The donkeys would be seen demurely grazing 
on the flats and on the hillsides when the miners left camp in 
the morning to go out prospecting, but all the time had one 
eye upon every movement that was made. Hardly were the 
miners out of sight ere the donkeys were in the camp, with 
heads in the tents devouring all within reach. When the 
miners returned the donkeys were all out picking about on 
the hillsides, as calmly as though nothing had happened ; but 
the swearing heard in camp, as the work of the cunning 
beasts came to light, would have furnished any ordinary bull- 
driver a stock of oaths that he could not exhaust in six months. 

One of these donkeys too confiding was caught in the act. 
Many of the miners used a kind of flour, called " self-rising." 
There was mixed with it when it was ground all of the ingred- 
ients used in the manufacture of yeast powders. All the miner 
had to do in making bread from this flour was to add the 
proper quantity of water and mix it, when it " came up " 
beautifully. The donkey in question had struck a sack of 
this flour and had eaten all he could hold of it. He then 
went down to a spring, near the camp, and drank a quantity 
of water. When we came home that evening Mr. Donkey 
was still at the spring. The self-rising principle in the flour 
had done its work. The beast was round as an apple and his 
legs stood out like those of a carpenter's bench. He was very 
dead. Here was one of the thieves. Cunning as he had been, 
he was caught at last, and with " wool in his teeth." 

A queer genius thus described the donkey, called by every- 
body in. that region, " The Washoe Canary " : 


Let it be proclaimed at the outset that ye Washoe canary is not at all a 
bird ; and, though hee hath voice in great volume, lyke unto that of a prima 
donna, yet is hee no sweet singer in Israel. Hee is none other than ye un- 
gainly beaste known in other landes as ye jackass. You may many times 
observe ye Washoe canary strolling at hys leasure high up on the side- of ye 
craggy hill and in ye declivous place, basking in ye picturesque and charging 
hys soul wyth ye majestic. Hee rolleth abroad hys poetic eye upon ye beauties 
of nature ; yea, expandeth hys nostryls and drinketh in sublimity. 

Hee looketh about hym upon ye rocks and ye sage-bushes ; he beholdeth 
ye lizard basking in ye sun, and observeth ye gambols of ye horned toad. 
Straightway hys poetic imagination becometh heated, he feeleth ye spirit 
upon him ; hee becometh puffed up with ye ardent intensity of hys elevated 


sensations ; he braceth outwardly hys feet and poureth forth in long-drawn, 
triumphant gushes hys thunderous notes of rapture, the meanwhile wielding 
hys tayle up and down in the most wanton manner. Hys musick does not 
approach unto ye ravishing strains whyche descended 'through ye charmed 
mountain of Alfouran, and overflowed with melody the cell of the hermit 
Sanballad. It hath, in some parts, a quaver more of Chinese harmoniousness. 

A wild, uneducated species of canary was thought worthy of mention in ye 
booke of Job, among the more note-worthy beasts and birds of ye earth ; now, 
how much more .worthy of description must be the cultivated and highly 
accomplished warbler whyche is ye subject of this briefe hystory ? We shall 
presently see that hee will compare favorably with any fowl or beaste of 
whyche we have mention in ye goode booke. Of ye leviathan we read 
" Who can come to him with a double bridle ? " But, ah ! who dare come to 
ye Washoe canary wythe a Spanish-bitted double bridle, two rope halters 
and a lasso ? Again, of ye leviathan : *' Lay thine hand upon hym, remember 
the battle, do no more." Verily, I say of ye Washoe canary lay thine hand 
upon hym, remember hys heeles, do no more. 

Of ye behemoth it is said : " He moveth hys tayle lyke a cedar," but when 
ye Washoe canary giveth vent to hys sudden inspiration in an impromptu 
vocal effort he moveth hys tayle like unto two cedars and one pump-handle. 

Again, of ye behemoth " He eateth grass as an ox." Ye Washoe canary 
not only eateth grass, but in ye wild luxuriance of hys voluptuous fancy, and 
hys unbounded confidence in hys digestive -capacity, rioteth in ye most reck- 
less manner on sage-brush, prickly-pears, thorns and greasewood. 

Of ye horse : " He smelleth ye battle afar off and saith, ' ha, ha ! '" Now, 
not any horse can further smell -out a thing presumed to be hidden sugar, 
bacon, and ye lyke than ye Washoe canary then, indeed, hys "yee-haw" 
far surpasseth the " ha, ha ! " of 'a. horse-laugh. What are ye wings of ye 
peacock or ye feathers of ye ostriche to ye fierceness of hys foretop and ye 
widespread awfulness of hys ears ? 

Of ye horse : " He swalloweth ye ground in fierceness and rage." Now, 
ye Washoe canary swalloweth woolen shirts, old breeches, gunny sacks and 
dilapidated hoop-skirts when in a state of pensive good nature what, then, 
must we suppose hym capable of swallowing, once hys wrath is enkindled 
and all ye fearful ferocity of hys nature is aroused ; Such is ye Washoe 
canary. Be in haste at no time to proclaim a victory over him. 



ON the Pacific Coast there is felt every spring a kind of 
unrest men of all classes feel as if they should go some- 
where. This feeling is particularly strong among miners, 
and they look about to see if some region cannot be thought of into 
which they may make a prospecting raid. Others feel like going 
up into the mountains, or some wild and far-away region, on 
general principles just to be rambling and seeing something 
new and picturesque. To desire to be on the move when spring 
opens appears to be natural to all mankind to be a sort of 
animal instinct implanted in the human race, and an instinct 
probably never wholly eradicated by the influences of even the 
most refined civilization. 

With the opening of spring, our Indians and all savage tribes 
of people are on the move. Even among wild animals the 
same migratory instinct is to be observed. Bear, deer, elk, and 
other animals that have wintered in the valleys, move up into the 
mountains, when the snow has disappeared under the warmth 
of the returning sun. The spring unrest is doubtless now much 
less strong within us, than at that remote period when we sported 
tails, yet we still retain in some degree this instinct of our former 
savage state ; it is still in us, and at each return of the season for 
breaking up camp and moving out of winter quarters it takes pos- 
session of us. In the older settled communities, the people may 
not think of wandering to any great distance, but even there the 
farmer feels best when he is rambling in his farthest fields, and his 
wife prefers working in her garden and roving in the open air, 
to remaining in her house. 



No doubt in the dim and distant ages of the past when we 
still retained our caudal appendages spring ,was a stirring 
season with the race. There was then a general awakening of 
the tribes. Knowing nothing, at that time, of the means by 
which we might provide artificial warmth, when the rigors of 
winter began to be felt we all left the mountains. Descending 
into the deepest and most sheltered valleys, we there hibernated, 
as best we might, in the mouths of caves and in sunny nooks 
among the hills, till the spring sun again warmed us into life. 
When it was judged time to be on the move toward the mountains, 
the sagacious elders probably took up their position on some 
prominent ledge of rock above the sheltering ravine in which 
the winter had been passed, and addressed the assembled tribe. 
What a glad chorus of yelps applauded the sage chatterings of 
the orators, and what a wildly exultant waving of tails was there 
when it was known all were to migrate " to fresh woods and 
pastures new ! " 

The discovery of the silver mines in Nevada gave all an 
excellent opportunity of gratifying their migratory instincts, 
and miners and men of all classes and all trades and profes- 
sions flocked over the Sierras, in the spring of 1860. 

At first they came on foot, driving donkeys or other pack- 
animals before them, or on horseback, riding where they 
could and leading their horses where the snow was soft, but 
soon sleighs and stages were started, and in some shape 
floundered through with their passengers. Saddle trains for 
passengers were started, however, before vehicles of any kind 
began to run, and the snow passed over was in many places 
from thirty to sixty feet in depth. 

At first there was not sufficient shelter for the newcomers, 
and they crowded to overflowing every building of whatever 
kind, in all the towns along the Comstock range. But houses 
were rapidly being built in all directions, and the weather soon 
became warm enough to allow of camping out in comfort 
almost anywhere ; men who had rolled up in their blankets 
and slept on the snow, high up on the frosty Sierras, did not 
much mind sleeping in the open air on the lower hills. 

The newcomers from California not only prospected in the 
neighborhood of Virginia, Gold Hill, Silver City, and all 


the hills surrounding these towns and the Comstock, but 
scouted out in all directions to the distance of from fifty to 
one hundred miles. They generally went in parties of from 
five or six to a dozen or more men, and when they traveled 
any great distance, were mounted, and had pack animals with 
them, to carry their provisions and tools. 

The excitement in regard to the mines discovered and being 
worked, those newly found and those yet to be found in 
regard to town sites, mill sites and all manner of property in 
the new land was at its greatest height, when that occurred 
which for a time paralyzed every industry, and alike brought 
business and prospecting to a stand. A Pony rider the mail 
was then being carried across the Plains and over the Sierras 
to California by Pony Express came in and reported that the 
Piute Indians, till then friendly toward the whites, had burned 
Williams' Station, on the Carson River, thirty-one miles 
below Dayton, and had murdered two or three men whom 
they found in charge. 

The news that the Piutes were on the war path, and had 
begun killing and burning, spread like wild-fire through the 
several towns and settlements of the country. It was deter- 
mined that the murderous redskins should be punished. 
There was a call for volunteers in all the towns, and the call 
was promptly responded to everywhere. 

The news of the burning of Williams' Station, and the mur- 
ders there, reached Virginia City, May 8th, 1860, and May pth 
a party of 105 men, volunteers from the several towns, under 
command of Major Ormsby, of Carson City, marched down 
the Carson River for the purpose of overtaking the Indians, 
and inflicting upon them a proper chastisement. 

As I am not writing a history of Nevada I shall leave a 
detailed account of the "Indian war" to be given by some 
future writer. I shall but briefly sketch this first and last 
Indian trouble in Nevada, not attempting to give the names 
of more than a few of the men who were prominent partici- 
pants in the battles at Pyramid Lake. 

The men under Major Ormsby were poorly armed, badly 
mounted, and almost wholly unorganized. The majority of 
the men thought that there would not be much of a fight. 


They thought they should probably have a bit of a skirmish 
with the Indians, kill a few of them, capture a lot of ponies, 
and on the whole have rather a good time. Major Ormsby 
and a few of the leading men and old settlers doubtless knew 
the Indians better, but most of the recent arrivals from Cali- 
fornia who volunteered on the occasion thought it would turn 
out a sort of pleasure excursion. They were wofully disap- 
pointed. Finding no Indians at Williams' Station on his 
arrival there, Major Ormsby and command marched toward 
Pyramid Lake, known to be the headquarters of the Piute 
tribe in that region of country, and distant less than two days' 

On the morning of the i2th of May, on the Truckee River, 
at a point about three miles from Pyramid Lake, they found 
a party of Indians occupying a strong position on a rocky 
hill. They attacked these Indians, who retreated after firing 
a few shots, falling back along the sides of a ravine. 

As the Indians fell back they continued a scattering fire. 
The whites charged into the ravine in pursuit. They had 
proceeded some distance when a body of two or three hundred 
Indians suddenly confronted them, pouring into their ranks 
in quick succession several deadly volleys. 

On the side of the whites many men and horses fell at this 
spot. The volunteers were staggered by this sudden on- 
slaught, and made but a feeble reply to the fire of the enemy. 
At this critical juncture it was observed that the Indians were 
gathering in the ravine behind them, when a precipitate 
retreat was made for a piece of woods on the river. The 
Indians hotly pursued them, firing as they advanced. At the 
edge of the wood the whites dismounted and tried to make 
a stand, but the Indians gathered from all sides, pouring in a 
rapid and galling fire, killing several men and horses. The 
men were then ordered to mount for another charge. While 
this was being done the Indians rushed forward, firing and 
yelling, throwing the whites into a confusion which ended in 
a precipitate and disorderly retreat. 

Many men had no horses, and these fell an easy prey to the 
elated and victorious savages who pursued the whites a dis- 
tance of fifteen or twenty miles, even overtaking and killing 
men who were tolerably well mounted. 


The trail of the retreating volunteers was strewn with dead 
bodies, saddles, guns, knives, pistols, and blankets, thrown 
away when the chase became desperate, and every man was 
trying to save his own life. Of the 105 men who went into 
the fight 76 were killed and a few wounded, slightly, who 
managed to escape. 

Among the killed was Major Ormsby, the commander of 
the expedition, an old resident in the country; and Henry 
Meredith, a young lawyer from Nevada City, California, a man 
well-known and highly esteemed on the Pacific Coast. At the 
first volley fired by the Indians, in the canon into which the 
command had been entrapped, Meredith was wounded and 
fell from his horse, but rose on one knee and fired three shots 
from his revolver as the foe advanced upon him. 

When the survivors of this slaughter reached Virginia City 
and told the news of the defeat, the excitement was intense. 
In all the towns it began to be feared that the Indians, elated 
by their victory, would come in and sweep everything before 
them. It was said that there were 500 warriors in the fight at 
Pyramid Lake and it was supposed that the Piutes could 
muster 5,000 men. Dispatches were sent to California for 
regular troops, and as the news spread men volunteered and 
companies were formed in Sacramento, Nevada City and 
Downieville, California. Men also volunteered again in the 
several Washoe towns, and soon an army of several hundred 
men, regulars and volunteers, was in the field for the effect- 
ual putting down of the savages. 



MEANTIME there was a grand panic in the several towns 
along the Comstock range. Many men, women, and 
children at once left for California. The night after 
the survivors of the fight at Pyramid Lake came in, it was 
reported in Virginia City and Gold Hill that the Indians were 
advancing in full force and were but twenty miles away. This 
news caused a grand stampede, many men suddenly remembering 
that they had business on the other side of' the Sierra Nevada 

At Virginia City, during this season of alar*is, the women and 
children who remained were corraled for safety in a large stone 
hotel, that was being built by Peter O'Riley, and the walls of 
which were up to such a height that it made a pretty fair sort of 
a fort. 

There were frequent night alarms and at times it was reported 
that the Indians were on their way up Six-mile Canon to attack the 
town. There were but two classes of persons in the place, those 
who were not at all frightened, and those who were frightened 
almost out of their wits. 

One night when there was an alarm at Virginia, a Dutchman 
got his partner to let him down into a shaft, about fifty feet in 
depth, thinking that about the safest place that could be found 
in case of an Indian raid. 

After the Dutchman had been deposited at the bottom of the 
shaft his partner went down into the town. He had been there 
but a short time before a lot of horses and mules were stampeded 
somewhere down the canon and came charging up toward the 



town with great clatter. All thought the Indians were surely 
coming this time, and not a few went out of the town by the back 
trails and struck out for California. 

Among these was the Dutchman's partner. In his fright 
he thought only of himself. The poor Teuton roosted at the 
bottom of the shaft for three days and nights before he was dis- 
covered, and was almost dead when taken out. 

The people of Silver City determined to stand their ground. 
They were on the war-path. Just above their town, on Gold 
Canon, rugged rocks rise to the height of two hundred feet or 
more, leaving a very narrow pass. This place is called the 
Devil's Gate, and here the Silverites determined to make the 
Indians smell "villainous saltpeter." They went up on top of 
the Devil's Gate, and built a stone fort about two rods in diame- 
ter. The genius in command of this enterprise then bored out 
a pine log, hooped it with iron bands, and mounting it in the fort 
as a cannon, filled it full of pieces of scrap-iron, bits of chain, 
and the like. The muzzle was so pointed that when fired it 
would sweep the canon for a great distance, making it very un- 
pleasant for any Indians who might happen to be jogging up that 

After the war was over, some parties one day concluded to 
fire this wooden gun off. They took it from the fort and carried 
it to a considerable distance back on the hill, rigged a slow 
match to it, and then got out of the way. 

When the explosion finally came, the air was filled in all direc- 
tions, for many rods, with pieces of scrap-iron, iron bands, and 
chunks of wood. Had it ever been fired in the fort it would 
have killed every man near it. 

At Virginia City, when the news of the defeat at Pyramid 
Lake came, among other business transacted was the unanimous 
adoption of the following resolution : 

" Resolved, That during the next sixty days, or until the settlement of the 
present Indian difficulties, no claim or mining ground within the Territory, 
shall be subject to re-location, or liable to be jumped for non-work." 
This gave many persons who had urgent business in California 
an opportunity of going over and attending to it doubtless 
many started soon after voting upon the resolution. 

On the 24th of May, the second expedition against the Indians 


left Virginia City. It consisted of a force of 207 regular soldiers 
and 549 volunteers, all armed with minie-muskets and well 
equipped in every respect. 

The regulars had with them two twelve-pounder mountain 
howitzers, and all felt in starting out that they were now prepared 
to give the Indians a good substantial battle, in case they should 
be found in fighting humor. 

About noon, June 2d., the Piutes were, found in force near the 
old battle-ground at Pyramid Lake, and fire was opened on them. 

As soon as the firing began, the plain, the ravines, hillsides, 
sand-drifts, and mountain tops seemed alive with Indians. 

The battle was short and decisive. The Indians were severely 
punished. They lost 160 killed and had a great many wounded, 
while the whites had but two men killed and only three or four 
wounded. Captain E. F. Storey, from whom Storey county, Ne- 
vada, takes its name, was shot through the lungs, and died in 
camp in the evening. Captain Storey was taking aim at an Indian 
who was lying behind a rock at the time he received his death 
wound. The Indian was too quick for him and got the first shot. 
Storey's men instantly riddled the fellow. 

This expedition brought in the remains of Meredith and 
Major Ormsby. The bodies of many of the dead were found to 
have been horribly mutilated. About the place where the 
bodies of the volunteers were found, the ground, for the space of 
two hundred yards, was beaten as solid as a brickyard. Ap- 
pearances indicated that the Indians had taken these men 
alive, and had held a big dance about them before killing them. 

After this battle no more was seen of the Indians in a long time, 
and there has been no trouble with them since. 

In September of that year, Winnemucca, chief of the tribe, 
visited Fort Churchill, (a fort that was built on the Carson 
River, near Williams' Station, after the last battle at Pyramid 
Lake,) accompanied by several leading men of his tribe. The 
old fellow said that he not only desired at that time, but at all 
other times had desired, to live at peace with the whites. The 
late trouble had been brought about by a few Bannocks, a lot 
of Shoshones and Pitt River Indians, with some bad Piutes. 
The whites had, he said, charged in among his people without 
seeking an interview with him and he had defended himself to 


the best of his ability. He hoped that the peace would be 
permanent, arid desired that the whites and Piutes should now 
become firm friends and allies. 

After the trouble was all over the cause of it was ascertained. 
It was this. In the absence of Williams, proprietor of the 
station where the massacre, as it was called, occurred, two or 
three men left in charge had seized upon two young Piute 
women and had treated them in the most outrageous manner, 
keeping them shut up in an outside cellar or cave for a day or 

The husband of one of the women coming in search of his wife, 
heard her voice calling him from the place in which she was 
hidden. When he attempted to go to his wife's assistance the 
men at the station beat him and drove him away, threaten- 
ing to kill him if he did not leave at once. 

It so happened that the women who had been outraged were 
of the branch of the Piute tribe living at Walker Lake who had 
married men of the Bannock tribe. The Indian who was driven 
away from the station hastened to Walker Lake and informed 
the chief man there of the outrage, asking him to send a band 
of braves to punish the men at the station. But the sub-chief 
at Walker Lake* would send no men. 

The wronged Indian then went to Old Winnemucca, who said 
he would send no men, that he wanted no trouble with the whites. 
His advice was that the whites be informed of the outrage, and 
requested to punish the men in their own way, in accordance 
with their laws. 

Not satisfied with this, the Bannock went to young Winne- 
mucca, the war chief. Here he was given the same advice that 
he had already received from the old chief. Thirsting for 
vengeance, the man then hastened to his own country and his 
own chief. 

When the chief of the Bannocks had heard the man's story he 
at once gave him thirty of his best men, and told him to go and 
avenge the wrong that had been done him. He went and the 
result is known. 

After killing the men and burning the station, the Bannocks 
marked their return trail with blood. They murdered in cold 
blood several small parties of unarmed prospectors. The bodies 



of these were not discovered until after the last fight at Pyramid 
Lake, when the murders were charged to the account of the Piutes. 

Old Winnemucca was not at the first fight at Pyramid Lake, 
he being on the Humboldt River at the time, but young Winne- 
mucca, the war-chief, was there, and commanded. 

Before the fight began he showed a white flag and wished to 
explain 'matters, but a man among the whites, who had a tele- 
scope rifle, fired and killed an Indian who showed himself on the 
rocks, and thus precipitated the battle which ended so disas- 
trously for the whites. 

When the volunteers returned victorious from the second battle, 
they were the heroes of the hour, until some of them began to 
walk into stores and help themselves to clothing. 

They called this mode of obtaining clothing " pressing " it, 
and declared that it was a military necessity. Some of the 
merchants thought they were " pressing " it a little too strong 
when they began to help themselves to fine calf-skin boots and 
cassimere pantaloons, and in two or. three instances fights ensued 
in which pistols were used, one of the merchants and two or 
three of the raiders receiving severe wounds. This "pressing" 
was done by a " hoodlum " class that came over the Sierras 
among the volunteers. These were the men who took Indian 
scalps after the battle. In one instance one of them found an 
Indian lying with his back broken by a minie musket-ball. 
Drawing his bowie-knife he proceeded to scalp the poor devil 
alive. As he was sawing away at the tough scalp, the Indian 
spat in his face. This had the desired effect the white butcher 
drew his revolver and blew out the Indian's brains. The officers 
allowed no scalping, yet two or three scalps found their way to 
Virginia City. ' 

" Old Gus," an old Dutchman, marched about the town, from 
saloon to saloon, with an Indian bow stuck in the muzzle of his 
musket, at the end of which dangled a scalp. This gave " Old 
Gus" all the whisky he wanted. Wherever he came it was: 
" Hurrah for Old Gus, he got his Injun ! " 

The captain of one of the volunteer companies afterwards 
told me that in passing over the ground after the fight he chanced 
to come upon Old Gus, behind a rock, industriously engaged in 
skinning the head of a dead Indian, meanwhile calmly smoking 
his pipe. 



OWING to the breaking out of the war with the Piutes, 
and to the fact that th'e precious metals existed in solid 
quartz, and, in most instances, far beneath the surface, 
where it could only be reached by means of deep shafts or 
long and expensive tunnels, many men who came to the 
country early in the spring of 1860, left in disgust. 

; Hundreds of prospectors came in the expectation of being 
able to find rich placer-mines, or at least large deposits of 
decomposed quartz, rich in gold, which they might wash out 
with rockers and sluices, as they were accustomed to wash the 
auriferous gravel of the California gold-fields. Being unable 
to find anything of this kind, except the ground already taken 
up and being worked at Virginia and Gold Hill, these men 
said that-, x though rich, the mines were of "no extent," and 
made haste to return to those they had left on the western 
slope of the Sierras, in the Golden State. 

The Indian troubles greatly assisted many of these men in 
a speedy arrival at the conclusion that Washoe was no good 
country in which to abide. Few of those who first rushed to 
the country possessed sufficient capital to enable them to 
undertake the expensive works required for the proper open- 
ing and development of the claims they had located, and not 
being able to sell a "pig in a poke," they wanted nothing 
more to do with silver mining, while many of those who had 
the means lacked faith in the value of the leads discovered. 

The business of working silver mines was then new to our 
people, and at first they depended much on what was told 
them by the Mexican silver miners who flocked to the country. 



Mexicans were in great demand. The man who had the word 
of a Mexican that his lead or his location was " bueno," felt 
that his fortune was made. It has since been suspected that 
many of these Mexicans were but " vaqueros " from the " cow 
counties " of California, who knew no more of silver and 
silver mining than a Digger Indian. They were shrewd 
enough, however, to keep their own counsel, and any man 
who spoke the Spanish language was supposed to have mined 
all his days in the richest silver mines of Mexico. 

There were, however, undoubtedly in the country many old 
and skilful Mexican miners skilful after the fashion of min- 
ing in Mexico and with what our people were able to learn 
of these men, and what they soon themselves discovered, it 
was not long before very good work was being done, both in 
the mines and in the works erected for the reduction of the 
ores. In the reduction of ores much that was of great practical 
value was learned from the scientific Germans who flocked to 
the mines, men who had had much experience in the silver 
mines of their own country, both in mining and in the work- 
ing of ores. Although rapid progress was made in mining and 
milling, in building roads and making substantial improve- 
ments of all kinds, Washoe was a region almost destitute of 
laws of any kind, and all carried pistols and knives at their 
belts, each man a " law unto himself." 

The people of Western Utah, now Nevada, were supposed 
to be living under Mormon law, but the laws of the Saints 
were distasteful to the Gentiles and they would have nothing 
to do with them. They preferred living under some such 
"rules and regulations," as we have seen were adopted at 
Gold Hill, in June, 1859, or to settle their difficulties in a fair 
fight. Such a dislike had the people to the Mormon laws 
that they early began to agitate the matter of a separation 
from Utah and the erection of a new Territory out of its 
western half. Delegates were sent to Congress to urge this, 
but nothing was accomplished, and at length the people took 
the matter into their own hands and determined to secede 
from Utah. 

A convention was called, and met at Genoa, July i8th., 1859, 
when steps were taken for the formation of a "Provisional 


Government." A "Declaration" and "Constitution" were 
drafted, submitted to a vote of the people, and adopted. An 
election for Governor and members of the Legislature was held, 
and, December i5th., 1859, this Legislature met at Genoa, the 
capital, organized, received the " first annual message " of Gov- 
ernor Roop, passed a number of resolutions, appointed a few 
committees, and then adjourned. This was their first and last 
adjournment; they never met again. The silver mines were 
discovered and Governor Roop and all hands had other things 
to think of. The new population created by the grand rush 
to the mines so altered the whole face of affairs that it was 
considered inexpedient and impolitic to proceed further in the 
Provisional Government at that time. The discovery of silver 
and the rapid settlement of the country soon brought the 
people of Western Utah to the notice of Congress: the Terri- 
tory of Nevada was created, and in July, 1861, Governor Nye 
and a number of the Federal appointees arrived in the country 
and set in motion the wheels of a government that was in 
accord with the feelings and traditions of the people. In 1860, 
however, the Mormon laws were the only laws left to the 
people; the Legislature of the provisional government having 
adjourned before making any new laws. Having an abun- 
dance of "rules and regulations," with that ready-reckoner 
the revolver, laws were not much missed for a time; besides, 
all were too eagerly engaged in the pursuit of wealth in the 
shape of mines of silver and gold to give much serious atten- 
tion to matters politicalA 

Soon after the last l5attle at Pyramid Lake, prospecting 
parties again began to scout out into the wild and then 
unknown and unexplored regions lying to the eastward and 
southward of the Comstock range. Stories of wonderful dis- 
coveries of all kinds in these regions kept the people in the 
several mining towns and settlements in a constant state of 
excitement. Reports of these new discoveries, greatly exag- 
gerated in most instances, reaching California, a return tide 
of miners from that State soon set in. The marvellous 
richness of the Ophir and other Comstock mines continuing, 
and constantly increasing, capitalists came flocking back to 
Virginia and Gold Hill, and it was not long before all 


enterprises were in a condition as flourishing as before the 
Indian troubles began. With the miners and capitalists also 
came gamblers of both high and low degree, roughs, robbers, 
thieves, and adventurers of all kinds, colors, and nationalities. 
Not a few noted and well-known desperadoes arrived and 
walked the streets and presided in the saloons as "chiefs." It 
was the ambition of men of this class to be considered as being 
"chief" in whatever town they might conclude to infest. 
Early in the spring of 1860, Sam Brown, known all over the j 
Pacific Coast as "Fighting Sam Brown," arrived at Virginia. 
He was a big chief, and when he walked into a saloon, a side 
at a time, with his big Spanish spurs clanking along the floor, 
and his six-shooter flapping under his coat-tails, the little 
" chiefs " hunted their holes and talked small on back seats. 

In order to signalize his arrival and let it be known that he 
was no " King Log," Sam Brown committed a murder soon 
after reaching Virginia. He picked a quarrel one night in a - 
saloon with a man who was so drunk that he did not know 
what he was saying, ripped him up with his bowie-knife, 
killing him instantly; then, wiping his knife on the leg of his 
pantaloons, walked across the saloon, lay down on a bench 
and went to sleep. After this, where was the chief who dared 
say that Sam Brown was not the big chief? Sam had then 
killed about fifteen men, doubtless much in the same way as 
he killed the last man. Not long was Sam chief in Washoe. 
He took a ride down into Carson Valley, and stopping at 
Van Sickle's Station, near Genoa, took a shot or two at the 
barkeeper, then mounted his horse and rode away. 

Van Sickles was soon informed of what had occurred, and 
mounting a fast horse, with a heavily-loaded double-barrelled 
shotgun in his hand, started in pursuit. 

He overtook the desperado before he reached Genoa. 

Sam no doubt felt that his hour had come, for an enraged 
ranchman on his track meant business, as he well knew it 
was very different from having to do with a "chief." Sam 
turned in his saddle and began firing, as Van Sickles ap- 
proached ; but the ranchman was uninjured, and raising his 
shotgun riddled the great fighter with buckshot, tumbling him 
dead from his horse, just in the edge of the town of Genoa. 


Thus died " Fighting Sam Brown " died with his " boots on ; " 
an end which all " chiefs " dread. 

After the death of Sam Brown, numerous chiefs rose up and 
there were many bloody fights in regard to the succession. 
Also, there were many bloody fights in which the chieftain- 
ship was not the mooted question. Having knives and pistols 
ever at hand, men of all classes too frequently used them. 
The reports of pistols were heard almost nightly, and in pass- 
ing along the streets frequent stampedes from the gambling- 
houses were to be seen. As innocent parties were as likely 
to be killed as the persons engaged in the shooting, those who 
were not directly interested in a fight always withdrew when 
pistols were drawn in a saloon or gambling-house. At such 
times they came out into the street much as a flock of sheep 
would go through a gap in a fence with a dog at their heels. 

The street gained they turned and stood peeping back. If 
the war did not presently begin they gradually ventured to 
return and resume their interrupted occupations and pleasures, 
not expecting an apology from the gentlemen who had incon- 
venienced them. 

Thus were those not directly engaged in mining, or other 
productive industry worrying along. 



IN the mines rapid advances were soon made, both in the de- 
velopment of the various claims and in the machinery and 
appliances used. Whereas, the first shafts sunk were mere 
round holes, precisely similar in every respect to an ordinary 
well, now began to be seen well-timbered square shafts of two or 
more compartments; the old hand-windlasses gave place to 
horse-whims and to steam hoisting machinery, and large and sub- 
stantially constructed tunnels took the place of the " coyote 
holes " which were at first run into the hills. 

The first steam hoisting and pumping machinery seen on the 
Comstock lead was put in at the Ophir mine, in 1860. The 
machinery was driven by a fifteen-horse-power donkey-engine. 
The mine was at that time being worked through an incline (an 
inclined shaft) which followed the dip of the vein. A track was 
laid down in this incline and a car was lowered and hoisted 
through it by steam-power. The pump then used had a pipe 
but four inches in diameter, and it was hard work to keep the 
mine drained, even at the slight depth then attained. At this time 
the dip of the vein was to the west, and all supposed that that 
was the true dip of the Comstock lode : on this account loca- 
tions lying to the west of the Comstock were considered to be 
much more valuable, and were much more sought for than those 
lying to the east. The westward dip of the great lode 
would carry it directly into and under Mount Davidson, on the 
eastern slope of which, and 1500 feet below its summit, the 
croppings of the vein made their appearance ; all, therefore, were 
desirous of obtaining mining ground on the side of Mount David- 



son and the mountains flanking it north and south. But when 
the depth of 300 feet had been attained in the Ophir mine, the 
lead began to straighten up and soon assumed its true dip to 
the east, at an angle of about forty-five degrees, a dip it has 
maintained ever since, and not only at that particular point, but 
throughout its entire length of nearly three miles. 

When the true dip of the vein had been ascertained, it was then 
seen that its apparent dip to the west was owing to the pressure 
of the superincumbent rock and earth, on the steep side of the 
mountain, having pressed down the upper part and bent it over 
to the east. When those who had located claims on the side of 
Mount Davidson, and adjacent mountains, saw the Comstock 
lead thus .turning tail and leaving them, they stood aghast. 
Those who had located to the eastward and had mourned because 
they could do no better, were now happy men the Comstock 
was making toward them. 

In December, 1860, the Ophir folks had attained a depth of 
but 180 feet in their mine. They were working down in the heart 
of the bonanza, or rich ore-body, and at that depth the breadth 
of ore was forty-five feet. No such great width of ore had ever 
before been seen, and the miners were at their wits' end to know 
how to work it and keep up the superincumbent ground how 
to support such a great width of ground with timbers, was the 
question. The ordinary plan of using posts and caps would not 
do, as posts of sufficient length could not be obtained, and, even 
though they could be had, would be inadequate to the support 
of the great weight and pressure that would be brought to bear 
upon them. In this emergency the company sent to California 
for Mr. Philip Deidesheimer, a gentleman who had had much 
practical experience both in the mines of Germany and those 
of the Pacific coast. 

After Mr. Deidesheimer arrived and was placed in charge of 
the mine as superintendent, he worked upon the problem before 
him for three weeks before he arrived at a satisfactory solution. 
He then hit upon the plan of timbering in "square sets " which 
is still in use in all the mines on the Comstock, and without 
which they could not be worked. The plan was to frame timbers 
and put them together in the shape of cribs, four by five or six 
feet in size, piling these cribs one upon another but all neatly 


framed together to any desired height. Thus was the ground 
supported and braced up in all directions. Where the vein was 
of great width, a certain number of these cribs could be filled 
in with waste rock, forming pillars of stone reaching up to the 
wall of rock to be supported up to the roof of the mine. 

Previous to the invention by Mr. Deidesheimer of the system 
of timbering by means of " square sets," the only supports used 
in the mines were round logs cut on the surrounding hills. 
These logs were from sixteen to thirty-five feet in length. 
When of the latter length they were manufactured, that is, were 
made of two logs spliced and held together by means of iron 
bolts and bands. Owing to the stunted character of the pines and 
cedars found in the neighborhood it was almost impossible to pro- 
cure a log more than twenty feet in length. After setting up two 
of these long logs, a log about eighteen feet long was placed upon 
them as a cap. These posts and caps were placed as close 
together as they could be made to stand, but then would not hold 
up the ground when it began to slack and swell from exposure 
to the air. 

Besides this difficulty there was no safe way of working either 
above or below these sets, in the vein. To take out ore, either 
under or over the timbers, loosened them and caused a disastrous 
cave. Many accidents happened and many men lost their lives 
while this method of timbering was practiced, but no lives have 
ever been lost in timbering by the square-set or Deidesheimer 
plan. In the mines at Gold Hill was where the timbers thirty- 
five feet in length were used, and there was where the greatest 
number of accidents happened ; but in the Ophir mine, timbers 
sixteen feet long had been used. 

When the miners of Gold Hill heard of the new mode of timber- 
ing practiced in the Ophir mine, they went up to Virginia to see 
it, and found it was just what was required. Mr. Deidesheimer 
sent some of his carpenters down to Gold Hill to show the 
workmen there how to frame the new timbers, and how to. set 
them up. In 1861 this style of timbering was adopted along 
the whole line of the Comstock and has been in use ever since. 
The Ophir was probably the first mine in any part of the world 
where such a system of timbering became a necessity, as no ore- 
body of such great width had ever before been found. Nothing 


seen in the Comstock mines more surprises and pleases the 
mining men of Europe than this mode of timbering. It is a 
thing none of them has ever before seen or thought of, and its 
utility is so strikingly obvious that they can hardly find words 
in which to adequately express their great admiration of it. 

In 1861, Mr. Deidesheimer prevailed upon the Ophir Company 
to put up a forty-five horse-power engine, an eight-inch pump 
and improved hoisting machinery for the incline of the mine. 
The company thought this a fearfully extravagant move, and 
were almost frightened out of their wits when this " tremendous " 
machinery was first mentioned. Now there is hardly anything 
in the shape of a mine anywhere along the Comstock range on 
which there is not in operation more powerful and costly 

At the depth of 180 feet, at what was called the third gallery, 
the width of the ore was, as I have said, 45 feet ; at the fourth 
gallery it became 66 feet in width, and the miners were delighted 
to find that the new timbers supported the ground in the most 
perfect manner. At this time the ore extracted from this first 
bonanza was assorted as it was extracted. That which would 
average $1,000 per ton was sacked up and shipped to England 
for reduction, while the remainder was piled up as second and 
third-class ore, to await the erection of proper mills for working 
it at home. At the Mexican and other mines in the neighbor- 
hood, about the same disposition was at this time being made of 
the ores taken out, while at Gold Hill they had not yet attained 
a sufficient depth to reach the silver, and were working their 
ores for gold alone ; though much silver was obtained with the 

The first mill started up for the reduction of silver ores was 
that known as the " Pioneer," located at the Devil's Gate, just 
where the warlike " Silverites " built their fort at the time of the 
Indian troubles. Other mills started up within a few days after 
this first one went into operation and soon there were many at 
work in all directions. The early millmen knew but little about 
working silver ores, and all manner of experiments were tried 
with a view to the thorough amalgamation of the silver contained 
in the rock that was crushed. This, in the opinion of most 
superintendents of mills, was to be accomplished by the use of 



chemicals. A more promiscuous collection of strange drugs 
and vegetable decoctions never before was used for any purpose. 
The amalgamating pans in the mills surpassed the caldron of 
Macbeth's witches in the variety and villainousness of their 
contents. Not content with blue-stone (sulphate of copper), 
salt, and one or two other simple articles of known efficacy, 
they poured into their pans all manner of acids; dumped in 
potash, borax, saltpetre, alum, and all else that could be found 
at the drug-stores, then went to the hills and started in on the 
vegetable kingdom. They peeled bark off the cedar-trees, 
boiled it down till they had obtained a strong tea, and then 
poured it into the pans where it would have an opportunity of 
attacking the silver stubbornly remaining in the rocky parts of 
the ore. The native sage-brush, which everywhere covered the 
hills, being the bitterest, most unsavory, and nauseating shrub 
to be found in .any part of the world, it was not long before a 
genius in charge of a mill conceived the idea of making a tea of 
this and putting it into his pans. Soon, the wonders performed 
by the " sage-brush process," as it was called, were being heralded 
through the land. The superintendent of every mill had his 
secret process of working the silver ore. Often, when it was 
supposed that one of the superintendents had made a grand dis- 
covery, the workmen of the mill were bribed to make known the 
secret. To guard as much as possible against this, the superin- 
tendent generally had a private room in which he made his vile 
compounds. " Process-peddlers," with little vials of chemicals 
in their vest pockets, went from mill to mill to show what they 
could do and would do, provided they received from $5,000 to 
$20,000 for their secret. The object with many inventors of 
" processes " appeared to be to physic the silver out of the rock, 
or at least to make it so sick that it would be obliged to loose its 
hold upon its matrix and come out and be caught by the quick- 
silver lying in wait for it in the bottom of the pans. Had it been 
in the dark ages that these experiments were in progress, the 
efficacy of the blood of human victims would doubtless have 
been tried; they would occasionally have hoisted an honest 
miner up from the subterranean depths and cut his throat over a 
pan. The "process-peddlers " finally became a worse nuisance 
than evei lightning-rod men have been the limited space of 


country to which they were confined being considered and the 
millmen became disgusted with all the patent processes their 
own as well as those of others and soon little, save salt and 
blue-stone, was used in the pans. It was found that thorough 
grinding and careful working of the ore was. what was required. 
During the first few years that they were experimenting on 
the Comstock ores, in the many new and inefficient mills, millions 
of dollars in silver and gold were lost in the tailings ; that is, in 
the pulverized ore that ran away from the mills after it had been 
operated upon in the pans, settlers, and other apparatus for the 
saving and amalgamation of silver by the wet-process. These 
tailings flowed from the mills into the canons and were swept 
down into the Carson River, thence down to the " sink " or lake 
into which the river empties. These millions still lie in the bed 
of the Carson River and in the bottom of the sink. Had any 
man thought of saving these tailings in the early.days of milling, 
by putting a flume into Gold Canon and running them to some 
flat or valley where they could have been dumped in a great 
heap, all that is now lost would have been saved, and the origi- 
nator of the enterprise would have made half a dozen big for- 
tunes. The Mexicans knew the value of these tailings and 
worked them, but they always do things on such a small scale 
that what they obtained was a mere trifle, and nobody thought of 
collecting the whole of the tailings running to waste in the 
canons and saving them in bulk ; besides, the price of milling at 
that time was so high about $50 per ton that the general im- 
pression was that it would not pay to save the whole mass of 

Two Mexicans were at work all one summer in Gold Canon, 
at Silver City, at concentrating and working the tailings that 
were flowing down the stream, a mere rill of muddy water. 
They caught the tailings in a small ^ reservoir, from which they 
took them and spread them on a table that stood at an inclina- 
tion of about thirty degrees. They then threw water over the 
tailings with a small dipper, beginning at the top of the table 
and gradually working downward until they reached the bottom, 
at which point, where the end of the table rested on the ground, 
would be found some pounds of sulphuret of silver, with some 
particles of amalgam and quicksilver that had escaped from the 


mills. This they placed upon a platform of boards, called a 
"patio" and when several hundred pounds had been saved, sul- 
phate of copper, salts, and quicksilver, in proper proportions, were 
added to the mass of sulphuret and tailings, and the whole was 
mixed up as builders mix mortar. When thoroughly mixed, the 
whole mass was drawn together into a round heap, and allowed 
to stand and sweat and digest in that shape for a certain number 
of hours. It was then spread out and worked over, giving it the 
benefit of the air for a time, when it was again heaped up to di- 
gest. This being several times repeated, the operation . was 
complete, and the silver, amalgamated with quicksilver, was 
washed out in a pan or rocker. This is the famous Mexican 
''patio ' process on a small scale. At the mines in Mexico they 
have large, circular patios, paved with stone or tamped with 
tough clay, in which horses are driven about to tread and 
knead the pulverized and moistened ore. It is, however, the 
same thing in effect as the process described above. The two 
Mexicans mentioned worked all summer, and the supposition was 
that they were about "making grub," but after they left, the 
butcher of whom they obtained their meat stated that they took 
away with them about $3,000 each ; that they were in the habit 
of bringing their bullion to his shop every Saturday night to 
weigh it, therefore he knew what they had been doing all the 
time, but had promised to keep their secret, as they were afraid 
of being driven away before winter if it were known that they 
were making money. 

After freshets in the canon the miners used to go out and col- 
lect amalgam by digging it out of the crevices in the rocks with 
knives, or scooping it out with spoons. Having retorted this, 
they would take it to a blacksmith's forge, and make rings out of it 
by melting it and pouring it into a mould cut in an adobe or 
piece of brick. In this way they made rings that would weigh 
an ounce or more, and of nights, when going into town to have a 
good lime with the " boys," would slip three or four of these 
rings upon the fingers of their right hands, for use in lieu of 
brass knuckles. 

Notwithstanding all these evidences of the richness of tailings 
it was long before men began to work them in any regular or 
scientific manner. At length, however, shallow flumes were put 



up on the canons in which the tailings were concentrated and 
the sulphurets caught on strips of coarse blanketing placed in the 
bottom of the sluices, and, finally, huge reservoirs were construct- 
ed in which the whole of the tailings were caught and saved in 
bulk, it being found that they could be worked at an expense 
not exceeding four or five dollars per ton. With the tailings 
there is always caught more or less amalgam and quicksilver. 
It appears to be impossible to save all the gold and silver con- 
tained in ore by any one process; indeed, after it has been 
worked over several times, and in several different ways, the 
tailings that finally escape still contain gold, silver, and quick- 
silver, but a much larger per cent is at present saved than for- 



THE divisibility of quicksilver, and also of silver and 
gold, as shown by the milling operations conducted in 
Nevada, is incomprehensibly great, and would seem to 
be almost unlimited ; particularly in the case of the metal first 
named. A globule of quicksilver may be divided until no 
longer visible to the naked eye, and, indeed, until scarcely 
visible under a microscope, and yet even the most minute 
subdivision shall be found to contain both gold and silver. 
How infinitesimally small, then,' must be the particles of silver 
and gold contained in one of these almost invisible and 
immeasurable globules of mercury! 

In regard to the remarkable divisibility of the precious 
metals, the following instance may be given in illustration : 

The superintendent of a water mill on the Carson River, 
when working for a considerable length of time an ore in 
which gold largely predominated, used every precaution to 
guard against loss. In addition to the usual settling-tanks, he 
caused to be dug in the ground a number of large pits, into 
which the waste water flowed after leaving the tanks. 

After leaving these pits, the water passed off in a small 
flume, and to the eye appeared as clear as the water of the 
purest mountain stream. For the sake of experiment, the 
superintendent coated a copper bowl with quicksilver, and 
placed it in such a position that the water from the .flume 
should fall into it. He also placed in the flume, below the 
bowl, some copper riffles, properly coated with quicksilver. 
Although the water passing through the flume appeared to be 



perfectly clear, yet at the end of three months the bowl and 
riffles were cleaned up and over $100 in amalgam was obtained. 

This mill is driven by water taken from the Carson River, 
and carried for a considerable distance through a large wooden 
flume. At one time it became necessary to shut off the water, 
for the purpose of repairing this flume. In making the repairs it 
was found that in many places that the heads of the nails driven 
into the bottom of the flume were thickly coated with amal- 
gam. Within a distance of about three rods along the flume, the 
workmen engaged in making repairs collected over an ounce 
of amalgam. The water flowing through the flume was taken 
from the river, below a number of large mills, and, though far 
from being clear, would never have been suspected to contain 
floating quicksilver in such quantity as to form collections of 
amalgam on the heads of iron nails. In order that quicksilver 
may amalgamate with iron, the iron must be scratched or 
polished while immersed in the quicksilver; it will therefore 
be seen that much amalgam must have passed by before the 
accidental occurrence of the conditions under which the 
collection of amalgam on the heads of the nails could begin. 
As a beginning, a passing pebble must have pricked through 
a globule of quicksilver just at the moment when it was roll- 
ing over the head of a nail. By a succession of these acci- 
dental collisons the head was finally covered with quicksilver, 
and the collection of amalgam then went on rapidly. 

As further evidence that quicksilver in considerable quanti- 
ties floats in the water of flumes and streams, below reduction- 
works, in a state of invisible division, and yet carries with it 
the precious metals, I may give an additional instance. At 
a mill on the Carson River one of the workmen required a 
piece of copper. Remembering to have seen some old sheets 
of that metal lying near the waste-gate of the flume, through 
which water was brought to the wheel of the mill, he went to 
the spot and hauled them out of a puddle in which they were 
lying. Much to his surprise he found the sheets heavily 
coated with amalgam and so eaten up by quicksilver that 
they were as thin as writing paper. The water pouring out 
through the waste-gate had a fall of about fifteen feet. It did 
not fall directly upon the copper plates, but in such a way 


as to keep them constantly splashed and wet. The plates had 
lain where they were found four or five years. Over a pound 
of amalgam was scraped off them. It would seem that in 
these striking instances of the unsuspected floating away of 
the precious metals there is for millmen food for reflection, 
and for inventors a field of profit and distinction. 

Just what becomes of all the quicksilver used in the reduc- 
tion-works of Nevada is a question which has never yet been 
fully and satisfactorily answered. Much floats away with the 
water flowing from the mills ; but it cannot be that the whole 
of the immense quantities used is lost in that way. Quick- 
silver in great quantities is constantly being taken into the 
State, and not an ounce is ever returned. When it has been 
used in the amalgamation of a batch of ore, it is taken to 
the amalgamating-pans, and is used over and over again 
until it has disappeared. Whether it may float away with the 
water used in amalgamating, or is lost by evaporation while 
in the hot-bath of the steam-heated pans, there must be a vast 
amount of the metal collecting somewhere, as it is a metal 
not easily destroyed. In case it is lost by evaporation it must 
condense and fall to the ground somewhere near the works in 
which it is used, and if it floats away in the water it must 
eventually find a resting place on the bottom of the stream in 
which it is carried away. 

It is an axiom among millmen that " wherever quicksilver 
is lost, silver is lost ; " therefore there must be a large amount 
of silver lost, as we shall presently see. The amount of 
quicksilver used by mills working the Comstock ores alone 
averages 800 flasks, of 76 J pounds each; or 61,200 pounds per 
month. This in one year would amount to 734,400 pounds of 
quicksilver that go somewhere, and counting backwards for 
ten years shows 7,344,000 pounds that have gone somewhere 
either up the flue or down the flume. 

The quantity of quicksilver distributed monthly among the 
mills shows just how much is lost per month. None is sold 
or sent out of the country in or with the bullion ; therefore, if 
there were no loss, the mills would never want any more 
quicksilver than enough to give them their first start, as the 
same lot could be used over and over again, ad tnfimtum. 



IN 1862-3, with mills running in all directions and mines 
open and hoisting ore for a distance of a mile or more along 
the Comstock, Virginia City was a lively place. Where 
but two or three years before was nothing but a rocky slope 
covered with sage-brush and scrub cedar, were now to be seen 
large fire-proof brick and stone buildings, and streets crowded 
with men and teams. 

As all goods were at that time brought across the mountains 
by teams, and as hundreds of teams were required to haul ore 
from the mines to the mills, and to bring wood and timber 
from the hills and mountains, as well as to do all kinds of 
local freighting, there often occurred most vexatious block- 
ades in the streets. A jam of teams would take place, owing 
to some accident or to mismanagement on the part of some 
teamster, and teams rolling in from each side, there would 
soon be seen a regular blockade. These blockades were of 
daily occurrence and sometimes lasted for hours. Teamsters 
waiting for the road to open grew hungry, and producing 
their lunch-pails sat on their wagons and ate dinner, still 
waiting patiently for the blockade to be broken. Half a dozen 
stage-lines were running into the place, and these arrived 
loaded down with passengers capitalists, miners, "sports," 
thieves, robbers, and adventurers of all kinds. Cutting, shoot- 
ing, and rows of every description became of much more 
frequent occurrence than at any time in the early days. The 
stages on all the roads leading to the city were very frequently 
robbed by masked men, who halted the driver with revolvers 



or double-barrelled shot-guns and called upon him to hand out 
Wells, Fargo & Go's treasure-box. One driver was halted 
so often and became so well acquainted with the routine of 
the business, that whenever he happened upon a man with a 
shot-gun, he went down into the boot of his vehicle for the 
treasure-box. The usual plan of the robbers, after securing the 
treasure-box, was to form the passengers in line by the roadside, 
and while one masked robber stood guard over them with a 
shot-gun, another would search them and relieve them of their 
coin, watches, and other valuables. After this ceremony they 
would be ordered on board the stage and told to " go along." 

The stages were robbed scores of times, bars of bullion, 
coin, and all manner of valuables being taken. It was finally 
ascertained that the gang who did most of this work indeed, 
made it a regular business were men living on Six-mile 
Canon, only about five miles from Virginia City. They were 
ostensibly engaged in mining and had leased a mill, but the 
bars they produced were those captured in their raids upon 
the stages. The mill was only a blind. Without it they 
would not have dared to dispose of their stolen bars. The 
capture of stage-coaches being considered not quite up to the 
genius of the gang, they finally took a whole train of cars on 
the Central Pacific Railroad, and got a spoil of over $50,000. 
But this was their last exploit. All were soon captured and 
the greater part of the stolen treasure recovered. 

On the ridge between Virginia City and Gold Hill, called 
the " Divide," and forming the suburbs of both towns, was for 
some years a place where footpads prowled nightly, and rob- 
beries there were of constant occurrence. A belated Gold 
Hiller would be hurrying to his home when a man would 
suddenly step out from behind a lumber-pile and tell him to 
hold up his hands. With a cocked pistol pointed at his head 
the Gold Hiller, or any other man, uniformly obeyed the 
order, when he was quickly relieved of his loose change and 
told to " move on." A footpad would sometimes rob three or 
four men in quick succession in this way, provided they hap- 
pened along one at a time. They were quite industrious, and 
were not the men to borrow or beg while they were able to 
make a living by the labor of their hands. 


On one occasion a Virginian was coming up over the Divide 
from Gold Hill late at night. He had three twenty-dollar 
gold pieces in his breeches' pocket, and, happening to be saun- 
tering along with his hands in his pockets, had the coin in 
his hand. Suddenly a masked man stepped before him and 
thrusting a pistol into his face, cried : " Hold up your hands, 
sir ! " The gentleman held both hands high above his head, 
when the footpad searched his pockets and found nothing. The 
gentleman had closed his hand upon the three "twenties " and 
held them above his head while submitting to the search. The 
footpad was evidently much disappointed, as he said : " If 
you ever come along here again without any money, I'll take 
you a lick under the butt of the ear. That's what I'll do with 
you ! " 

One night a stout young German was passing over the 
Divide, when he was suddenly confronted by two masked 
robbers, one of whom placed a six-shooter at his head. The 
level-headed German just reached out and twisted the pistol 
out of the robber's hand ; whereupon he and his partner in the 
business of collecting tolls from belated travelers took to their 
heels, zigzagging and dodging industriously in the expectation 
that a bullet would be sent after them. Some one asked the 
young German what put it into his head to go for the pistol. 
" Py dunder," said he, " I did vant him ; because in der spring, 
you see, I goes to der Bannock country ! " 

Although few dead bodies were found on the roads, it is 
supposed that many murders were committed about this time, 
the majority of the victims being strangers in the country; 
yet not a few well-known residents of the State have from 
time to time mysteriously disappeared. Almost every year 
the remains of human beings are found in old shafts. In- 
quests are held by the coroner of the county, but the remains 
are generally so much decomposed that they cannot be iden- 
tified, and the witnesses summoned can only make mention of 
the several men known to them who have at various times 
suddenly and unaccountably disappeared. In one old shaft, 
when work was resumed on it after the lapse of some years, 
no less than three dead bodies of men were found. Pieces of 
rope were found tied about the arms and legs, as though for 


the purpose of making the bodies up into a bundle convenient 
for transportation to the shaft. This shaft was located below 
the town of Gold Hill, a short distance from a road on which 
there were few houses. Many persons have also, no doubt, 
accidentally walked into these old abandoned shafts, which 
everywhere cover the face of the country, in the night or in 
the winter, when their mouths were covered with drifts of 
snow. There are many instances of this where persons have 
narrowly escaped death. 

In Virginia City and other Washoe towns many goats are 
kept by families for their milk. There are hundreds of goats 
to be seen everywhere on the hiljs and mountains. The goat 
is an animal that is fond of caves and caverns. De Foe was 
right in putting an old goat into a dark cavern, in his " Robin- 
son Crusoe." The goats in Washoe constantly frequent the 
old tunnels high up on the side of Mount Davidson and other 
mountains. In many of these tunnels, at a distance of from 
two hundred to five hundred feet from the mouth, vertical 
shafts have been sunk, to the depth of from one hundred to 
two or three hundred feet. It often happens that the goats, 
in the darkness of the old tunnels, walk into these shafts. 
Some years ago a man living on Gold Canon went out to look 
up a strayed goat. He found the fresh tracks of goats leading- 
into an old tunnel, and ventured in. In walking back along 
the tunnel in the darkness he fell into a shaft in its bottom, 
The shaft was about eighty feet in depth, and he would prob- 
ably have been instantly killed, but that there were at the 
bottom the bodies of four or five dead goats ; as it was, he had 
an arm and a leg broken. 

The man being missed, his neighbors turned out in search of 
him. They found his tracks leading into the tunnel and went 
in after him, in Indian file. Suddenly the head man disap- 
peared, he having in the dim light of the place, stepped into 
the mouth of the old shaft. From the groans heard below his 
friends knew that he had not been killed, and at once pro- 
cured a windlass and rope and descended to his rescue, when, 
to their surprise, they found that they had two men in the 
bottom of the shaft. The man who last fell in had a leg 
broken, and by his fall came so near jolting the life out of the 


man of whom they at first came in search, that when first 
taken out it was thought he was dead. 

In Virginia City, some men who were one day at work in a 
lumber-yard, concluded it would be a good plan to pile a lot 
of boards over the mouth of an old shaft that was in a part of 
the yard, not far from the principal street leading to the town 
of Gold Hill. After they had commenced the work, one of 
the men said that as he put down a plank he thought that 
he heard a groan in the shaft. All listened. After a time 
another man said he had heard what seemed to be a faint 
moan at the bottom of the shaft. All again listened, and 
hearing nothing more were. about to go on with their work, 
when there came up from the bottom of the shaft a deep groan 
that was heard by all. A windlass was procured, and on de- 
scending the shaft a man was found lying at its bottom in an 
unconscious condition. He was brought to the surface, when 
it was found that he had a leg broken in two places, and was 
badly cut and bruised in many parts of his body. He was a 
man weighing about 180 pounds, and had fallen a distance of 
over one hundred feet. He proved to be an engineer employed 
at one of the mills at Silver City, and finally fully recovered. 
He remembered nothing about falling into the shaft; he only 
remembered that on a certain day he was in Virginia City and 
started for home very drunk. From this it was shown that 
he had been in the shaft three days and nights when found. 
He stated, that while in the shaft he regained his consciousness 
for a time, and to some extent comprehended his situation, as, 
looking about, he saw the walls of the shaft and the light of 
day at its top. When he recovered he " swore off" drinking 
never would drink another drop as long as he lived and did 
not get drunk again for nearly a month. 

One day a boy about six years of age was lost at Virginia 
City. His parents and their neighbors searched in vain for 
the missing child. The police turned out to their assistance, 
and many firemen and miners joined in the search. Bell- 
ringers had been through the city, and every place above 
ground had been searched. A dog had accompanied the boy 
when he left home, and this dog was also missing. Finally 
some one went up on the side of the mountain above town, 
and entered an old tunnel, in the floor of which was a vertical 



shaft over one hundred and fifty feet in depth. Calling at the 
mouth of this shaft, a faint cry was heard below. A windlass 
was hastily rigged, and a miner descended the shaft, and at its 
bottom found the missing child with not a bone broken. He 
had fallen upon the dead bodies of two or three goats that lay 
at the bottom of the shaft. The dog was also found alive at 
the bottom of the shaft. The man who descended was almost 
suffocated when he came to the surface. The air was bad in 
the bottom of the shaft and the stench from the dead goats 
almost unendurable. The child was nearly dead when taken 
out, and was covered with a mass of flies that had insinuated 
themselves into his mouth, nose, ears, and eyes ; but in about 
ten days the little fellow had fully recovered and was ready 
for fresh adventures. 

Many other instances scores of them might be given to 
show the dangerous character of these traps, which every- 
where cover the face of the country, for miles about the prin- 
cipal mining towns, but I shall cdnclude with the following: 

A teamster, stopping at noon two or three miles from the 
city, unhitched eight yoke of oxen from his wagon, in order 
to let them graze about among the sage-brush while he was 
eating his dinner. Although unhitched, they were fastened 
together in a string by a heavy log-chain which passed through 
their several yokes. The teamster, seated on his wagon, eating, 
was astounded at seeing his whole team of cattle, then distant 
about one hundred yards, suddenly disappear into the ground. 
In picking along they reached an old shaft, round which 
those in the lead had passed, then moving forward had so 
straightened the line as to pull a middle yoke into the mouth 
of the shaft. All then followed, going down like links of 
sausage. The shaft was three hundred feet in depth, and that 
bonanza of beef still remains unworked at its bottom. 

The Comstock range is a region in which a stranger should 
never venture to wander at night, either on foot or on horse- 
back. Even in daylight, in the midst of a driving snow-storm, 
a man once rode his horse into a shaft over fifty feet in depth. 
The city authorities have caused most of the old shafts to be 
filled up or securely planked over, but scores of open shafts 
are still to be seen everywhere in the suburbs of the town. 



MOUNT Davidson, of which frequent mention has been 
made, was originally called " Sun Peak." This was the 
name given it by the early miners of Gold Canon Old 
Virginia, Comstock, O'Riley, and the other pioneers of the 
country. It was a very appropriate name, as the towering 
granite peak reaching far above all others about it is the first 
to be lighted by the morning sun and the last on which rest his 
evening rays. 

The mountain was given its present name in honor of the late 
Donald Davidson, of San Francisco, who in the early days 
purchased the ores of the Ophir and other companies on the 
Comstock, sending them to England for reduction. On one of 
his trips to Virginia, Donald Davidson accompanied a party of 
men to the summit of the mountain. On their return to the 
town it was unanimously agreed that the tall peak which they 
had that day scaled should be called Mount Davidson. 

Half a score of the hardy miners whose camps were pitched 
along the lead had accompanied Mr. Davidson up the mountain, 
and while on their way a number of quartz veins of more or less 
promising appearance were found. In the evening, while in a 
saloon, talking over the events of the day, it was thought that it 
would not be a bad idea to locate some of the ledges they had 
seen. The charge was then fifty cents per name for recording 
a claim of two hundred feet on a ledge. A man called " Joe 
Bowers," but probably not the original " Joe " immortalized by 
the poet, took the lead in making out the notices and arranging 
for the recording. Joe swore that all the ledges they had seen 



were immensely rich millions in them ! and would make the 
fortune of any man who had an interest in any one of them. 
As the names were mentioned and written down on the notices, 
Joe called for " four-bits." This must be put up, in order that it 
might be handed over to the recorder of the district the first 
thing in the morning. 

Donald Davidson would say: "Well, here is Mr. A., a neigh- 
bor of mine in San Francisco, and a very worthy man ; suppose 
we put him down for a claim in this mine ? " 

"All right, Mr. Davidson," Joe would cry, "all right, sir; put 
up for him and in he goes ! " 

"Then there is Mr. B., a friend of mine and a worthy fellow; 
we might put him down." 

"All right, Mr. Davidson," cried Joe, who cared not how long 
the string of names might be, provided each name were repre- 
sented in his pocket by a half-dollar, " down he goes ! " 

All the notices were finally made out, and all the half-dollars 
paid in. Joe was to attend to the recording the first thing in the 
morning, but that night he struck a " little game of draw," and 
to this day those claims have not been recorded at least not 
by Joseph. 

As the leads upon the side of Mount Davidson have turned out, 
it was no doubt a fortunate thing for the old Scotchman's 
" worthy friends " that Joe found his " little game.," The height 
of Mount Davidson above the level of the sea is 7,775 feet, and 
the altitude of C street, the principal business street in Virginia 
City, is 6,205 feet. Thus, it will be seen, the peak of the mount- 
ain towers to the height of 1,570 feet above the town. As the 
city stands on the eastern face of the mountain, the sunsets in 
Virginia are rather early. In winter the sun sinks behind the 
top of Mount Davidson about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when 
the city lies in shadow and it at once begins to grow cold. The 
altitude of the place is so great that, at any season, when clouds 
obscure the sun and shut out his rays it rapidly becomes cold. 
During the summer, however, clouds are seldom seen weeks 
and weeks pass without a cloudy day. In order to have the 
benefit of the sun in winter, until a late hour each day, a Washoe 
genius once proposed to run a large tunnel through the peak of 
Mount Davidson. Through this tunnel he proposed to bring 


the light and heat of the sun after it had gone down behind the 
mountain. As he could not expect the sun to shine directly 
through the tunnel at all points in his course down to the west- 
ern horizon, our inventor proposed to set at the western terminus 
of his tunnel a huge mirror, moved by clock-work, which should 
pour the rays of the sun in a constant stream through the tunnel. 
At the eastern terminus was to be placed a large receiving mirror, 
which should catch the rays coming through the tunnel and 
throw them to a distributing mirror down in the town, arid from 
this the sunlight would be reflected throughout the town by 
smaller mirrors placed at proper points on all the streets. 
Although this grand scheme was much admired, capital which 
is proverbially timid could never be found to begin the work. 

There is a grand view from the summit of Mount Davidson. 
On a clear day the eye reaches hundreds of miles in many 
directions. The Sierra Nevada Mountains, twenty-five miles 
away to the west, and extending north and south as far as the 
eye can reach, form a magnificent panorama of wild mountain 
scenery, embracing hundreds of tall snowy peaks and dark, pine- 
clad ridges reaching upwards toward naked granite towers. To 
the southward along the great range, the peaks are taller and 
more imposing than those rising along the northern part of its 
course. To the southward, then, we turn and see at the distance 
of from forty to seventy-five or eighty miles, scores of massive 
peaks standing stately and clearly defined against the sky. Seen 
when robed from head to foot in glittering snow, these peaks 
present a particularly striking appearance. They may easily be 
imagined an army of giants marching up from the desert wilds 
of Arizona in meandering array. 

Far away the tail of this procession of the peaks is seen to 
sweep miles on miles to the eastward, while above the white 
hoods of the giants forming this lagging curve, is dimly discerned 
through the haze a hint of heads in the still more distant rear, 
swinging back to the west and falling, as it were, into the general 
line of march to the northward. All above, beyond, and about 
the giant army, looks so settled, calm, and silent that one is awed 
into all manner of wierd imaginings in regard to its motionless 
march. These -mighty peaks are impressive at any time, but 
when they come before us in procession robed in their trailing 


i . 

shrouds they set us to thinking ponderous, solemn thoughts that 
we don't more than half like. The view to the eastward is 
unobstructed for over one hundred miles, and by its vastness and 
its stern ruggedness is made imposing and grand, though but a 
region of rocky sterile mountains and broad deserts crested over 
with salt and alkaline exudations from the sandy and bitter soil. 

Far as the eye can range, not a tree, not a house, not a sign of 
life is seen. All is as dead, and as arid and wrinkled in death, 
as the valleys and the mountains of the moon. On this side the 
east clinging along the face of the mountain, we see below us 
Virginia City ; turning again to the west, Washoe Lake is seen 
shimmering almost at the base of the peak on which we stand, 
its waves washing the feet of the hills that flank the Sierras. 
Where we stand, on the narrow circle of granite forming the 
apex of the mountain, is planted a tall flag-staff on which, upon 
each recurrence of the natal day of the nation, the Stars and 
Stripes are unfurled. The flag is run up during the night, by a 
man who is annually sent to the top of the mountain on this 
errand, and those who turn their eyes toward the peak, on the 
morning of the 4th of July, will always see the flag of their 
country floating there through the "dawn's early light." 

On the occasion of the total eclipse of the moon, which occur- 
red on the night of October 24, 1874, it was not only cloudy at 
Virginia City, but there prevailed a furious and blinding snow- 
storm. Not a glimpse of the heavens or of the rising moon could 
be obtained when evening set in. Not to lose a spectacle so 
grand as a total eclipse of the moon, I determined to make the 
ascent of Mount Davidson and so reach a point above the clouds. 
Accompanied by half a dozen friends, I started a few minutes 
before 8 o'clock in the evening, and, pressing upward through 
the fast-falling snow, and through the dense cloud-mass, which 
we entered on the upper slopes of the mountain, at 10 o'clock 
we reached the topmost peak, and to our delight found that we 
at last stood above the clouds and the storm. 

It was one of the grandest sights ever witnessed by mortals. 
As far as the eye could reach, on all sides, stretched a level sea 
of clouds. All the surrounding mountains were shut all the 
lower world was hidden ; all but the extreme point of the bare 
granite peak on which we stood, a little island some fifty feet in 


circumference, with the tall flag-staff standing in its centre. 
High above, the full moon shone in splendor, and in all quarters 
of the heavens the stars twinkled brightly. The air was keen 
and frosty, but we were provided with blanket-overcoats and 

For some minutes after rising out of the sea of clouds in 
which we had so long been enveloped, our little party stood at 
the foot of the flag-staff and gazed on all around in speechless 
awe. It almost seemed that we had left the world. Our little 
island appeared to be all that remained of earth. Hundreds of 
miles on all sides, as it looked to us, stretched a smooth and 
level sea of pearl. In the distance this appeared to be motion- 
less, but nearer it all moved slowly and majestically from west 
to east, while, at the same time, a peculiar swaying up and down 
was seen as it passed along. On and along the crests of these 
cloud-waves, or rather cloud-swells, were observed to run and 
faintly flicker such tints as are seen in mother-of-pearl. All this 
was very beautiful, but with it came a sense of isolation from the 
world a feeling of loneliness that was most depressing. 
However, as the moon began to enter the shadow of the earth 
there were so many and such wonderful changes in the appear- 
ance of all about us, that our loneliness and littleness were for- 

The sea about us, which before had shown only the tints of 
the pearl, now took on the hue of amber, but still floated past 
and gently waved up and down as had the sea of pearl. As the 
obscuration progressed, the more distant portions of the cloud- 
sea changed from amber to brown, and this to black, gradually 
closing in upon us from all sides, but most from the northward. 
In our immediate neighborhood all had changed from amber to 
a deep burnt-sienna tinge. So deep and decided was this tint 
that at one time, for the space of some minutes, it seemed to 
pervade the whole atmosphere ; our clothing partook of it, and 
the flag-staff near which we stood looked like a great rod of 
rusty iron. 

During this dark stage a heavy breeze sprang up, and the 
swells in the vaporous sea surrounding us were tossed far higher 
than before. At times these billows rolled many feet above our 
heads, and the eclipse being then nearly total, we were some- 


times, for minutes, left in midnight darkness, and but for the 
lanterns we had carried up the mountain, and which were stand- 
ing at the foot of the flag-staff, we could not have seen our hands 
when held before our faces. But these waves of darkness seldom 
lasted more than two or three minutes, and we had, from first to 
last, an imposing and deeply impressive view of the eclipse. 
It is probable that a total eclipse of the moon was never before 
observed under precisely such circumstances as was this by our 
little party, standing on a mountain peak above the clouds. As 
the eclipse passed off, about the same phenomena' were observed 
above and about us as in its coming on. 

Being chilled to the very marrow in our bones, we left the top 
of the mountain, however, while nearly half the face of the moon 
was still obscured. Taking a last lingering look at all about us, 
observing that our cloud-sea was again assuming the hue of 
amber and that the horizon was widening and brightening in all 
directions, as the light spread abroad and drove back the brown 
and the more distant black, we plunged down into the thick cloud- 
stratum, and, guided by the light of our lanterns, made the best 
of our way down the bed of a huge gorge in the face of the 
mountain, and went back into the city. Strange as it may appear 
to some, we found it much warmer in the midst of the clouds and 
drifting snow than above on the summit of the mountain. Not 
one of the party will ever forget that total eclipse of the moon, 
seen from old Mount Davidson's topmost height, nearly 8,000 
feet above the level of the sea. 



THE Virginia range of mountains, of which Mount Da- 
vidson is the principal peak, is separated from the 
Sierra Nevada Mountains by a series of small valleys, 
the principal of which are Washoe Valley, Eagle Valley, 
Steamboat Valley, and the Truckee Meadows. The range 
can be traced for a distance of about one hundred miles from 
the point where it diverges from the Sierras, as they trend to 
the northwest, to where it finally dies out in the Mud Lake 
region. The average width of the range is about eighteen 
miles, though it is quite irregular. The great mass of the 
mountains composing the range is made up of volcanic rocks, 
the accumulation of several successive outpourings. 

On the eastern face of Mount Davidson, about 1,500 feet 
below the summit, are found the croppings of the Comstock 
lode. The rock on the west side of the vein called the 
" country rock" by mining men, because it is the general 
rock of the country outside of the lode is syenite, a rock 
which forms the mass of Mount Davidson ; on the east side 
of the vein the country rock is propylite, a volcanic rock of 
of much more recent origin than the syenite, (syenite is 
much the same as granite, and propylite is a rock of a por- 
phyritic character.) Between these two rocks, by some throe 
of nature, was formed the immense fissure in which lies the 
Comstock vein a fissure known to be nearly four miles in 
length and from one or two hundred to nearly fifteen hun- 
dred feet in width. This vast chasm was undoubtedly formed 
by volcanic action. It is not one fissure, but more properly 
speaking, a series of rents running parallel with the main 



opening. The smaller parallel fractures are principally in 
the propylite or east country rock. It is but natural that 
they should be in this, as it was the stratum that was lifted 
up and shattered when the main fissure was formed. In 
depth, all of these rents will be found to be lost in the prin- 
cipal opening. 

After the rending apart of the rocks and the formation of 
the chasm, there doubtless burst up through the opening im- 
mense volumes of hot mineral waters, steam, and gases, from 
solfataras or hot springs underneath, and these charged the 
vein with its rich sulphurets and other ores of silver. 

Signs of hot springs are seen everywhere on the hills to the 
eastward of the vein, and hot springs that are still active are 
found in various directions, at the distance of a few miles, the 
most remarkable of which are those known as the Steamboat 
Springs; which, even at this day, are briskly sending up hot 
water, steam, and columns of heated gases through a fissure 
over a mile in length, in fact are actively engaged in the form- 
ation of a metallic lode. 

It is not improbable that the fissure in which the Comstock 
lode was formed was originally rent by the upward pressure 
of the confined steam and gases of hot springs formed between 
the syenite and propylite far beneath the surface of the earth. 
Be that as it may, the rent was formed, and afterwards was 
charged with its present mineral contents. 

When the rocks were rent apart, fragments from the edges 
of the chasm principally from the east or propylite side, the 
side reared up fell into the opening, and sliding down the 
smooth slope of the syenite, blocked the fissure, preventing its 
closing. Some of these fragments were at least one thousand 
feet long and from three to four hundred feet in thickness, and 
many of them were from fifty to one hundred and fifty feet in 
length, with a proportionate thickness. These still rest in the 
vein, the ore, quartz, etc. having formed about them. 

By the miners these are called "horses." They are gener- 
ally composed of propylite (commonly spoken of as porphyry 
in the mines, owing to its inclosing crystals of feldspar and 
fragments of hornblende), but there are some that came from 
the west side of the fissure and are syenite. 


After the fissure was thus propped open, still other frag- 
ments of propylite fell from its roof during the time the vein 
was filling with its present precious contents, and these are 
found to be surrounded on all sides by ore of the richest 
character. The cavities caused by their displacement were 
also filled with quartz and ore. This makes the east wall or 
propylite side of the vein very jagged and uneven, while the 
less disturbed west or syenite wall is quite regular, descend- 
ing to the eastward at an angle of from thirty-five to fifty 
degrees, being throughout quite smooth and covered with a 
heavy coating of clay. 

The fragments of rock that fell into the chasm during the 
time it was being charged with the precious metals,* formed 
each a nucleus about which the quartz and ores collected. 
In all parts of the vein are to be seen pieces of country rock, 
from the size of a filbert to many pounds in weight, about 
which quartz has formed, and with the quartz ore. 

After the vein was filled, it appears to have again several 
times opened, when fresh fragments fell into the newly formed 
fissures, and were surrounded by quartz and ores by the action 
of the waters and gases forced up from below. These several 
convulsions pulverized the quartz and ore previously formed 
in the vein, leaving it in such a condition that in most of the 
mines the greater part of it can be dug down with picks. 

In most places in the ore-bodies in the lower levels, appear- 
ances indicate that while the ore and quartz were in this 
shattered and pulverized state, floods of hot water poured in 
upon it and boiled it as in a caldron, and that at the end of 
this cooking operation it finally settled down, assuming a hor- 
izontally stratified position. In this way must have been 
formed the occasional streaks of clay and the numerous strata 
of various shades of color and degrees of fineness of subdivis- 
ion of component parts seen in the ore as it now rests in the 
vein. It is as plainly sedimentary in form as any gravel 
deposit seen on the surface. This is not seen everywhere in 
the lower levels, but in such places as were most subject to 
dynamical action. 

All who have visited the lower levels of the mines on the 
Comstock lode must have observed, even upon the most 


cursory examination of the ores, the peculiar^tratification of 
which I speak. The chasm in which is formed the Comstock 
lode was doubtless at one time a seething caldron, and at the 
great depths now attained, not only great quantities of hot 
water are found, but the rock itself is in many places suffic- 
iently hot to be almost painful to the naked hand. 

The course or " strike " of the Comstock vein is a little east 
of the magnetic meridian, about north twenty-five degrees east. 
The lode crops out in several places along the face of Mount 
Davidson, throwing up huge piles of quartz at intervals of 
from three hundred to five hundred or one thousand yards, as 
it takes its course southward across the " Divide," and through 
and beyond Gold Hill ; also, to the northward, in the direction 
of Cedar Hill and Seven-mile Canon. When the ledge crops 
out it has a first or false dip to the west, but after being fol- 
lowed down it becomes straight, then turns, and takes its 
regular dip to the east at an angle of from thirty-five to fifty 
degrees. In the Ophir, when the true dip was first discovered, 
the vein turned to the east at the depth of three hundred and 
thirty feet. The croppings of the vein being above and to the 
west of Virginia City, this eastern dip carries it under the 
whole length and breadth of the town, and it also passes under 
the town of Gold Hill, a mile further south in the same way. 

The lead follows the curved outlines of the hills on the 
surface, swinging in at the ravines and bearing out on the 
points of the ridges, but as depth is attained it will doubtless 
be found to straighten in the direction of its present general 
course. The only gangue of the vein is quartz, though, in 
places, there are found detached patches and masses of gyp- 
sum and carbonate of lime. The ore contains native gold, 
native silver, sulphuret of silver (silver glance), stephanite, 
chloride of silver, some rich galena and antimony, and a few 
rare forms of silver in small quantities; also, mingled with 
the whole mass of the ores, iron pyrites, copper pyrites, zinc- 
blende, and a few other minerals. 

The early miners began the work of opening their claims 
along the Comstock by sinking shafts on the croppings and 
by running short tunnels to pass under these croppings and 
tap the vein at depths varying from two hundred to six or 


seven hundred feet. The shafts were mere circular holes 
precisely like an ordinary well, and a common windlass, rope, 
and bucket, constituted all there was coming under the head 
of machinery. 

When more water was encountered than could be hoisted 
out with a bucket, these early miners were at the "end of their 
string." Those who were running tunnels, however, were not 
incommoded by the water they tapped during the progress of 
their work, as it flowed out as fast as it came in. 

The Ophir mine was at first worked by means of an incline 
which followed the dip of the vein to the west. They soon 
began to be bothered with water and were obliged to set up a 
small pump, as has already been stated. All of those who 
had locations on the Comstock, however, were able to find 
means for the erection of machinery as soon as it was found 
necessary to use it, though much of the first hoisting and 
pumping apparatus was too light and was badly arranged. 
But almost any kind of steam machinery was better than 
hoisting by the hand-windlass or with the horse-whim. 

After starting up with steam hoisting-works, it was not 
long before a number of companies began to extract ore from 
the upper series of bonanzas, and these being exhausted, car- 
ried their work to lower levels and searched out new bodies 
of ore. It often happened that when the ore in sight was 
exhausted, the company was obliged to drift in all directions 
for a long time before again finding paying ore. In case a 
level was opened and explored in all parts without finding 
ore, sinking was resumed in the main shaft, and a new level 
was opened at a greater depth in the vein. The miners are 
never discouraged so long as they find a good width o'f quartz 
and other vein-matter between the two walls of the lode, as 
there is then always a chance of finding ore somewhere in the 
mass. What they do not like, however, is to find the walls 
coming together "pinching," as they call it. The coming 
together of the walls pinches out or cuts off the vein ; yet, 
even at the " pinch," there is always left a seam of clay, or 
sgme such sign, by which the lead may be followed until the 
pinch has been passed and the vein again widens and becomes 



THERE are always some companies in " borrasca " out of 
luck ; in barren rock while others are in " bonanza " 
in good luck ; working large bodies of rich ore. In a 
year or two, those who are to-day at work in barren quartz may 
have a rich body of ore, while those who are to-day in rich ore 
may in a year or two be delving through barren rock in search 
of a new bonanza. 

When a company has for a long time been engaged in the un- 
successful search for ore, their stock very frequently falls to a 
very low figure and few care to buy it at all, when of a sudden 
they come upon a great body of rich ore. A rumor of this reaches 
the surface, and those who have money to invest buy " take in " 
a few shares at a venture. The officers of the company and 
their friends in San Francisco who are daily informed by tele- 
graph of all that is going on in the mine begin to quietly 
gather in all of the stock that they can find, and soon the secret 
is out and the stock at once bounds upward to a high figure. 
Everybody then becomes wild to possess a few shares of the 
stock. Men who would not touch it when it was selling for a 
mere trifle, now rush in and pay the highest prices. Some appear 
never to think of buying stock until they see the whole com- 
munity excited about it and recklessly bidding for it ; they then 
rush in and pay the highest figures. It is like piling bricks one 
upon another till the whole column begins to topple and finally 
tumbles to the ground. When stock goes down in this way it 
nearly always goes as far below as it has before been above true 



Many men who are good judges of mines make large purchases 
of stock in mines that are in borrasca that are out of ore and 
appear to be out of luck, biding their time for profit. They have 
confidence in the mine from the position it occupies on the 
Comstock lode and from its having had rich bodies of ore above. 
These, they will contend, were never rained down into the mines 
from the heavens, but came up from the regions below ; there- 
fore in the regions below, whence came the rich ore already 
found, there must be more of the same kind. To find it, say 
they, is a mere matter of time. 

In November, 1870, an immense bonanza was found in the 
Crown Point mine, Gold Hill, at the depth of 1,100 feet. Four 
months before the discovery of this bonanza, that is, in August 
of the same year, the stock of the mine was selling at three 
dollars per share; in May, 1872, the stock was selling at one 
thousand eight hundred and twenty-five dollars per share. The 
same bonanza extended south into the Belcher mine, the stock 
of which was selling for one dollar and fifty cents per share in 
September, 1870; in April, 1872, it sold for one thousand five 
hundred and twenty-five dollars per share. At this time, how- 
ever, there was a grand stock excitement and the stock of many 
mines in which there was little if any ore sold at very high 
figures. The masses had come into the market as purchasers 
and were blindly buying right and left ; they were all industri- 
ously engaged in adding bricks to the pile, stocking them up 
higher and higher, as idiotically strong in the faith that they 
were building for all time as were the builders of Babel. 
Finally down went everything in a grand crash. During this 
excitement there was an increase in the value of the mines on the 
Comstock, in about two months, of over forty-five million dollars. 

It frequently happens that when a company have been a long 
time in search of ore it is at last found at a time when the officers 
and leading men have but a small amount of stock in their posses- 
sion. They then not only keep their strike a secret, but in case 
of anything leaking out through their men they bear their stock 
in the market, throwing in all the shares they dare venture for 
the purpose of breaking down the price in order that they may 
buy in a great amount at a low figure. Sometimes they succeed 
in this, but it often happens that the " outsiders " are too well 



informed in regard to what is in the mine, when there is a 
general scramble for the stock and it at once goes up with a 
rush. Not a few persons nearly always make money in stocks 
by observing the simple rule of buying them when they are down 
so low that nobody appears to care to touch them, paying for 
them in full and then holding them for developments in the 
mines, and it seldom happens that there is not a time within two 
years when they can sell for twice or three times the price origi- 
nally paid. If there should be no strike in the mines in which 
they hold stock there may be valuable developments in adjoining 
mines, which sends up the price of the stocks of all the mines in 
the neighborhood, 

While work is being done in a mine there is always a proba- 
bility of something being found, sooner or later. When a 
company whose claim is well situated on the lead has been a 
longtime out of luck not a few will buy stock in their mine, 
because they consider that it is about time for the luck of the 
company to change. 

The Mexican silver-miners have an aphorism, in the infallibility 
of which they have unbounded faith. It is as follows : " As 
many days as you are in borrasca (barren rock), so many days 
shall you be in bonanza " rich ore. Such faith have they in 
this maxim, that in Mexico they frequently go to work in a 
mine that has ceased to be productive with no other contract or 
understanding than the simple one that they are to be allowed 
to work as many days in the " bonanza " as they spend days in 
finding it. Such a contract as this was once made on the Corn- 
stock lode. It was at the time when the upper or first line of 
bonanzas was opened in the Ophir, Mexican, Gould & Curry, 
and other leading mines. 

Otto H. Frank was at that time superintendent of the old 
Central mine. He was anxious to find a bonanza in his mine, 
but found only barren quartz in all of his drifts and cross-cuts. 

Some Mexican miners were very desirous of getting into the 
mine. They " felt it in their bones " that they could find a 
bonanza. The terms they proposed to Superintendent Frank 
were simply these : " As many days as we are drifting in search 
of the bonanza, so many days shall we be allowed to extract ore 
from the bonanza." 


Mr Frank thought it all over. He had failed in his search 
for a bonanza ; what was proposed by the Mexicans seemed fair 
enough ; he would let them try their luck, anyhow, to get a 

So the bargain was struck : " So many days in borrasca, so 
many days in bonanza." 

The Mexicans went to work in high spirits. Mr Frank ajso 
was quite cheerful, as he thought those "knowing cusses " from 
the mines of Mexico would drift into a big body of ore the first 
week, when he would step in the week after and turn them all 
out before they had done more than get a taste of the 
bonanza. But they didn't strike it the first week, nor the 
second, nor the third. The fact is they didn't strike it the first 
month, nor the second, nor the third. Indeed, at the end of six 
months they had found no bonanza. 

Now it was that Superintendant Frank began to be frightened 
began to curse all Mexican mining aphorisms and rules and 
regulations. Should the Mexicans now strike a bonanza, what 
kind of a bonanza, he reasoned, would it be by the time it came 
into his hands ? In six months those Mexicans would have it 
completely skinned and gutted. He might as well have no mine. 
He now began to suspect that the fellows knew exactly where 
to drift to open out in a bonanza of vast size and incalculable 
richness probably nearly all silver but were only drifting about 
on the outside of it in order to get more time inside. He began 
to hate the very sound of those words : " As many days as you 
are in borrasca, so many days shall you be in bonanza." 

Being greatly worried about the bargain he had thoughtlessly 
made, Mr. Frank went to see old man Meer, an old Castilian 
who had but one eye, but who was the greatest " ore expert " 
that ever set foot upon the Comstock whose one eye bored into 
the rock further and faster than any diamond drill. He told 
Meer about the bargain he had made and the fears and suspi- 
cions he entertained, asking him to go into the mine, give it a 
thorough examination, and tell him if there was a bonanza any- 
where about. Old Meer went into the mine, traversed all the 
drifts, cross-cuts, and coyote-holes, boring into the rock at all 
points with that eye of his. 

When they came out and again and stood upon the surface at 



the mouth of the tunnel, in the broad light of day, Mr. Frank 
turned to Meer and said : " Well, what do you think ? " 

Meer uttered only two words, but those two words lifted a 
great load off Mr. Frank's breast. Old Meer simply said : "Nada 
bonanza," and " no bonanza " it proved. 

The Mexicans worked on for another week or two, when they 
became disheartened and gave up their contract, and with it, 
doubtless, some portion of their faith in their favorite saying : 
" So many days as you are in borrasca, so many days shall you 
be in bonanza." They had toiled more than six long, weary 
months and the result was " nada bonanza" 



WHEN the upper line of bonanzas had been worked out, 
and the shafts were sunk to greater depths in search 
of new bodies of ore, they eventually attained such a 
depth as brought them down upon the barren syenite forming 
the west wall. The shafts were then deflected from the ver- 
tical and passed down along the syenitic foot-wall to the 
eastward, in the shape of an incline. At length it was seen 
that these inclines were becoming too long to permit of their 
being worked through to advantage with the machinery then 
in use, and company after company moved to the eastward, a 
distance of a thousand feet or more, and then established a 
new line of shafts, over which they set up new and more 
powerful machinery than had yet been seen on the lead. 
These shafts did not strike the lead until they had been sunk 
to the depth of one thousand or one thousand two hundred 
feet, whereas the first line of shafts were either sunk on the 
lead, or at such a distance in front of the croppings as to tap 
it at the depth of from two to five hundred feet. 

A third line of shafts had been commenced in 1875, and one 
of these, which is now being sunk by the Savage, Hale, & 
Norcross, and the Challar-Potosi Companies combined, is 
nearly a mile east of the croppings. This is intended to be a 
shaft for all time. It will be of vast size, containing several 
spacious compartments for hoisting and pumping purposes, 
and will be supplied with the most powerful machinery that 
can be manufactured. It will require some years to sink this 
shaft to a point where it will intersect the vein ; meantime the 



several companies will continue to work through their pres- 
ent shafts and inclines. 

The Savage Company are prepared to sink the incline of 
their present shaft to the great depth of four thousand feet. 
For this purpose they have set up new hoisting machinery of 
novel construction and of the most powerful description. 
The reel on which the hoisting-cable winds is a novelty for 
the first time introduced on the Comstock lode, and a brief 
description of it and the cable used upon it may not be with- 
out interest for the general reader. 

The reel is fifteen feet in length, and at the larger end is 
twenty-two feet in diameter, while at the smaller end the 
diameter is but thirteen feet. It is suspended upon a wrought 
iron shaft about sixteen inches in diameter, the ends of which 
revolve in ponderous bearings supported by foundations of 
cut stone reaching into the earth to solid rock. The shell of 
the reel is covered with thick wooden staves, and the whole 
somewhat resembles a great tapering cask. Over the staves 
are securely bolted heavy iron plates forming a strong armor 
outside of the wooden structure. In this iron armor is a deep 
groove which, starting at the smaller end of the great conical 
drum, runs in a spiral manner to the larger end; just as the 
groove between the threads of a screw is seen to run. In this 
groove winds the cable as the incline-car ("giraffe") is let 
down into or drawn up out of the mine. 

When the car is at the bottom of the incline, the greater 
part of the cable is off the reel, and when the hoisting begins 
it is wound up on the smaller end of the drum, where the 
engines have greater purchase on the load. As the hoisting 
proceeds, and the weight to be raised becomes momentarily 
lighter, on account of the heavy steel cable being wound up, 
the lifting force is steadily moved toward the larger end of 
the drum, and each revolution adds to the swiftness of the 
ascent of the car that is being raised. The cable is round, 
and is made of the best steel wire. It is 4,000 feet in length, 
and weighs 25,190 pounds. The upper part, for a distance of 
1,500 feet down, is two inches in diameter; for the remainder 
of its length, 2,000 feet, it gradually tapers till at the lower 
end its diameter is one and three-quarter inches. The taper 


is not made by dropping wires in the several strands of the 
rope, but by drawing each wire (as it is manufactured) slightly 
tapering for the last 2,500 feet of its length. 

The incline hoisting-works stand a short distance from the 
building in which is contained the hoisting machinery of the 
vertical shaft, and the cable, after entering the latter building 
is carried over a large iron pulley or sheave that is placed 
over the main shaft. Thence it passes down a compartment 
of the main shaft a vertical distance of 1,300 feet, when it 
passes under a second sheave and continues down the incline 
to its bottom. 

The car used in the incline runs on an iron track, holds, 
about five tons of rock, and is capable of hoisting (easily) from 
480 to 500 tons per 24 hours. The car is made wholly of iron 
and steel. 

When this incline car has been hauled up as far as the bot- 
tom of the vertical shaft, that is, to within 1,300 feet of the 
surface, it there dumps its load by means of a self-acting gate 
in its bottom. The rock thus dumped from the incline-car is 
then taken in smaller cars and sent to the surface on cages 
that ply up and down the hoisting-compartments of the main 
vertical shaft. 

The engines for driving the huge reel, and thus hoisting 
this iron car or "giraffe," with its load of ore and the 25,000 
pounds of cable, are two in number and of 2oo-horse power 
each. A precisely similar hoisting apparatus has since been 
set up at the Ophir mine ; indeed, the drawings for this pow- 
erful machinery were first made for the Ophir Company. 
The length and weight of cable at the Ophir is the same as 
that in use at the Savage mines. 

Some of the old shafts opened on and about the first or 
upper line of bonanzas have quite gone to decay. They still 
stand, but the timbers in many places, far down in the bowels 
of the earth, are racked and rotten ; while the timbers built up 
in the mine to support the chambers from which ore was 
extracted, and set up in the galleries, drifts, cross-cuts, and 
chutes, millions on millions of feet in all, have quite gone to 
decay. It is perilous to undertake the exploration of these 
old worked-out levels. In many places they are caved in, 


every direction, the old floors are rotten, water drips from 
above, a hot, musty atmosphere and almost stifles the explorer, 
and in places, the air is so foul that his candle is almost ex- 

Down in these deserted and dreary old levels, hundreds of 
feet beneath the surface, are encountered fungi of monstrous 
growth and most uncouth and uncanny form. They cover 
the old posts in great moist, dew-distilling masses, and depend 
from the timbers overhead in broad slimy curtains, or hang 
down like long squirming serpents or the twisted horns of 
the ram. Some of these take most fantastic shapes, almost 
exactly counterfeiting things seen on the surface. Specimens 
of these are to be seen in most of the cabinets of curiosities 
in Virginia City. Some of the fungi that grow up from the 
bottoms of old disused drifts are wholly mineral and are 
composed of minute crystals of such salts as are contained in 
the earth from which they spring. 

These old, decaying places breed all manner of gases, some 
of them, as the firedamp (carburetted hydrogen gas), danger- 
ous to human life. 

One winter night, in 1874, some of the residents of the 
western part of Virginia City were startled by seeing what 
seemed a column of flame fifty or sixty feet in height, shoot- 
ing up from the mouth of an old shaft near the old upper 
works of the Ophir Company. It was at first thought that 
the timbers in the old mine were on fire, and three or four 
men ran to the spot to see what could be done toward smoth- 
ering the flames. , 

On reaching the shaft, however, they found that there was 
no smell of smoke, and also that the supposed fire was a light 
unlike anything they had ever before seen, in its weird white- 
ness and the strange coruscations of its component particles, 
the light shed about by the flame, the faces of the men were 
of a corpse-like palor. Their clothing and hair also partook 
in some degree of the same ghastly and unnatural hue. The 
light came up the full size of the large square shaft, and seen 
at a distance, as it rose through the falling snow, closely 
resembled one of the shooting spires *of the aurora borealis, 
and it exhibited something of the same waving and inconstant 


Although the men felt creeping over them a sort of super- 
stitious awe, they still had sufficient courage to approach the 
shaft and gaze into it. A strange sight was there seen. The 
whole interior of the shaft seemed to be at a white heat, and 
glowed like a furnace. The timbers on the sides were partic- 
ularly brilliant, Each splinter, excrescence, or bit of fungus 
seemed darting dazzling rays that streamed steadily out in all 
directions. A warm, strange current of air ascended from the 
sweltering regions below, and there was observed a musty, 
sickening smell. All of those who looked into the shaft 
afterwards felt a severe pain in the temples, and two or three 
were made sick at the stomach. 

This strange appearance lasted over half an hour, and 
before it ended a crowd of a dozen or more miners returning 
from their work had collected about the shaft. The light 
died out from the top downwards, and protuberances from 
the sides of the shaft continued to glow for some minutes 
after the light was no longer visible at its top. This remark- 
able phenomenon was undoubtedly caused by the belching 
forth of a highly phosphurated gas of some kind from the 
deep, underground chambers of the old abandoned works. 
The rush of this gas was probably caused by an extensive 
cave in a place where the timbers had rotted away. One of 
the men who witnessed the spectacle was of the opinion that 
the mingling of the gas from the mine with the atmospheric 
air had something to do with intensifying the light. He 
observed in the ascending current of pseudo-flame myriads of 
small particles of some substance of a floss-like texture, which 
appeared to flash and glow as they darted upward, and which 
presented in the general column of light much the same 
appearance as motes moving about in a sunbeam. 

In February, 1874, some miners at work in the Utah mine, 
just north of Virginia City, were all made temporarily blind 
by certain water or gases which they encountered. They 
were running a drift at the depth of 400 feet to connect with 
some old, flooded works. When the end of the drift neared 
the old works, the water they contained began to be drained 
oif. The water had attained a great height, and the pressure 
was so strong that it sent streams darting and hissing from 



every hole and crevice in the rock in which the drift was 
being run. In places, these streams of water spurted out 
with as much force as though they had been thrown by a 
hydraulic pipe. 

The water, or the steam and gases from it, poisoned all who 
worked in the drift. Their heads and faces were so swollen 
that their eyes were closed, and all were thus rendered blind 
for some days. A few years before, the same thing occurred 
in the Savage and the Yellow-Jacket mines, when drifts were 
run to tap old flooded works in which rotten timbers were 
soaking. Quite recently, all the miners at work in the Sutro 
Tunnel were poisoned, and had their eyes closed for some 
days by the tapping of a shaft which had been filled with 
water for two or three years. All who are thus poisoned 
speedily recover by remaining above ground for three or four 



NO premature explosion of blasts, crushing in of timbers, 
caving of earth and rock no accident of any kind is so 
much feared or is more terrible than a great fire in a large 
mine. It is a hell, and often a hell that contains living, moving, 
breathing, and suffering human beings not the ethereal and 
intangible souls of men. It is a region of fire and flame, from 
which the modes of egress are few and perilous. A great fire on 
the surface of the earth is a grand and fearful spectacle, but a 
great fire hundreds of feet beneath the surface of the earth is 
terrible terrible beyond measure or the power of words to 
express, when we know that far down underneath the ground 
which lies so calmly on all sides, giving forth no sound, are 
scores of human beings pursued by flames and gases, scorched 
and panting, fleeing into all manner of nooks and corners, there 
to meet their death. 

A large mine in which are employed from five hundred to one 
thousand men is of itself a considerable village, though it be a 
village far below the light of day. In it are more timbers, lumber, 
and other, combustible matter than is found in all the houses 
of a town of two thousand inhabitants it contains millions on 
millions of square feet of timber in it whole forests have found 
a tomb. 

Besides being built up to a height of from one thousand to one 
thousand five hundred or two thousand feet, with cribs composed 
of massive timbers, each crib filling a space five by six feet in 
size, there are floors of heavy planks, six feet apart, one above 
another, all the distance from bottom to top. In many places, 



too, the main timbers are doubled again and so filled with blocks 
and wedges and braces that all is a solid mass of wood. In 
numberless places there are stairs leading from floor to floor, and 
then there are scores of chutes, built of timber and lined with 
planks, with verticle winzes, constructed in the same way, all of 
which, with the chutes, lead up through the floors from level to 
level; also numerous drifts and cross-cuts supported by timbers 
and walled in with lagging (split pine-stuff like staves, but 
longer), all of which serve as flues to conduct and spread the 
heat and flames throughout the mine. 

The mines of the Comstock have not escaped fires. They 
have not been, many, but they have been fearful as experiences, 
and have cost many lives. 

The first and most terrible of these fires was that which broke 
out in the Yellow-Jacket mine, Gold Hill, about 7 o'clock on the 
morning of Wednesday, April 7, 1869, in which forty-five men 
lost their lives. 

The fire started at the 8oo-foot level (that is 800 feet below 
the surface) at a point two hundred feet south of the main shaft, 
near the line of the Kentuck mine. It was first discpvered at 7 
o'clock in the morning, though it had no doubt been burning 
longer, as some of the miners asserted that they detected the 
smell of smoke as early as 3 o'clock A. M. The night shift 
(relay) left at 4 A. M. and the morning shift began work at 7 A. M.,, 
and it was supposed that the fire originated from a candle 
left sticking against a timber by men on the night shift. From 
4 o'clock till 7 o'clock the only men in the mine were the car- 
men, but before the danger had been discovered many of the 
day shift had been lowered into the mines Yellow-Jacket,.. 
Crown Point, and Kentuck. 

The first thing done on discovering the fire was to try to get 
the men up out of the mines. The alarm of fire was sounded, 
and the fire companies of Gold Hill and Virginia City at once 
turned out. % 

Pending the arrival of the firemen with their apparatus, those 
about the several mines were doing all in their power to rescue 
the men who were left underground. At first the smoke was so- 
dense that no one dared venture into either of the shafts, but 
about 9 o'clock in the morning it seemed to draw away from the 


Kentuck shaft, and men descended on the cage and recovered 
two dead bodies. 

At the Crown Point mine, when the cage was being hoisted 
for the last time, some of the men on it w.ere so far suffocated 
as to fall back and were crushed to death between the sides of 
the cage and the timbers of the shaft. 

Toward noon some of the firemen working at the Yellow- 
Jacket mine ventured down the shaft to the 8oo-foot level and 
and recovered three or four bodies of asphyxiated miners. 

About the same time, at the Crown Point mine, a cage was 
sent down with a lighted lantern upon it. It was lowered to the 
looo-foot level, and with the iantern was sent the following 
dispatch, written on a large piece of pasteboard : 

44 We are fast subduing the fire. It is death to attempt to come up from 
where you are. We shall get you out soon. The gas in the shaft is terrible, 
and produces sure and speedy death. Write a word to us and send it up on 
the cage, and let us know where you are." 

No answer came back all below were dead. 

As soon as it was known that the mines were on fire, and that 
a large number of miners were imprisoned below, by the dense 
volumes of smoke and suffocating gases that poured up through 
the several shafts, the most intense excitement prevailed, both in 
Gold Hill and Virginia City. The wives, children, and relatives 
of the lost flocked to to the several hoisting works, approaching 
as near to the mouths of the shafts as they were allowed to come, 
and, standing there on all sides, their grief and lamentations 
caused tears to course down the cheeks of the most stout- 
hearted . " Lost ! lost ! lost ! " was the despairing cry constantly 
uttered by many of the women whose husbands were below. 

The Rev. Father Manogue, a pioneer of the country, and 
several other Catholic clergymen of Virginia City and Gold 
Hill, moved about among the people and did all that could be 
done to comfort and quiet the weeping women and children, 
but even the reverend fathers could find little to say in mitiga- 
tion of the woes of such an occasion. Many of the poor women, 
with weeping children clinging about them, stood round the 
shafts, convulsively clasping and wringing their hands, and 
rocking their bodies to and fro in excess of misery, yet uttering 
scarcely a word or a sob they at first seemed utterly stupefied and 


overwhelmed by the suddenness and awfulness of the calamity. 
Turn where they might there was no comfort for them. 

At the Yellow-Jacket mine the smoke and gases drew away to 
the southward, men descended the shaft, and all but one man 
known to be below at that point were brought up dead. 

As the cage containing the dead bodies rose up at the mouth 
of the shaft there was heard a general wail from the women, who 
could with difficulty be restrained from climbing over the ropes 
stretched to keep back the crowd . " Oh ! God, ! who is it this 
time ? " Some one among them would be heard to say. The 
dead bodies would then be lifted from the cage, and then borne 
in the arms of stout miners and firemen outside of the circle of 

As the men passed out with the dead, the women would crowd 
forward in an agony of fear and suspense to see the faces. " Oh ! 
Patrick ! " one would be heard to shriek, when the bystanders 
would be obliged to seize her and lead her away. 

At the Kentuck and Crown Point shafts there steadily arose 
thick, stifling columns of smoke and pungent gases, generated 
by the burning pine-wood and heated ores below. No person 
who stood at the mouth of either of these shafts could entertain 
the slightest hope that anyone of those in the mines could be 
alive ; yet wives and relatives would still hope against every- 
thing. In every direction almost superhuman exertions were 
made to extinguish the fire. 

By closing up the shafts and pouring down water, it was 
thought that the fire- might have been extinguished, but to have 
done so would have been equivalent to saying that all below 
were dead and would, indeed, have been death to any that 
might have been living besides, the order to close the shafts 
would have drawn from all present at all interested in the fate 
of those below such a wail as no one would have cared to hear. 

No one could enter the Crown Point or Kentuck shafts, but 
that of the Yellow-Jacket being cooler, the firemen began to 
work their way down it, carrying with them their hose and bravely 
battling with the fire. A long string of hose was attached to 
a hydrant and carried down to the 8oo-foot level, where the fight 
began. It was such work as few firemen in the United States 
have ever undertaken, and such as none but firemen in a mining 


country could have done. The miners and firemen battled side 
by side. The firemen would advance as far as possible, extin- 
guishing the burning timbers, and when a cave of earth and 
rock occurred, or the blackened and weakened timbers seemed 
about to give way, the miners would go to the front and make all 

The walls of the drifts were so heated that it was very fre- 
quently found necessary to fall back, even after the burning 
timbers had been extinguished, and play a stream on the rock 
in order to cool it down. In places boiling hot water stood, to 
the depth of two or three inches, on the floors of the drifts. 
Steam, fumes of sulphur, and gases from the heated ore and 
minerals rendered the air so bad that it became necessary to 
lead in an air-pipe from the main blower above, to enable the 
men to continue work. When caves occurred, flames and poison- 
ous gases were driven forward upon the men, singeing and 
partially suffocating them. Their position was one of great 
peril. Their only means of reaching the surface was through 
the shaft, and at any moment an accident might happen that 
would cut them off from this ; or the draught might change and 
overwhelm them with stifling gases before they could ascend to 
the surface. 

The situation below, when the fire broke out, was fearful. The 
smoke and gases came upon the men so suddenly that, although 
they ran at once for the shaft, many were suffocated and sank 
down by the way. At the Crown Point the men so crowded 
upon the cage at first (a cage holds from twelve to sixteen men.) 
that it was detained nearly five minutes; the station-tender 
being afraid to give the signal to hoist while so many men were 
in danger of being torn to pieces. A young man who came up 
on that cage told me, that as they were finally about to start, a 
man crawled upon the cage, and thrusting his head in between 
his (the young man's) legs, begged to be allowed to remain there 
and go up. He was permitted to keep the place, and his life 
was saved. 

As this cage started up, hope left the hearts of those remain- 
ing behind. They were heard to throw themselves into the 
shaft and to fall back on the floors of the mine. Another young 
man told me that in rushing toward the shaft, it occurred to him 


that he might fall into it all being dark below when he got 
down on his hands and knees and crawled, feeling his way until 
he knew that he was at the shaft. While lying there, three or 
four men came running along from behind, and pitched headlong 
into it, to their instant death. At one lowering of the cage, a 
man who went down from the surface, finding that there were 
more persons below than could be brought up that trip, gene- 
rousJy got off into a drift and put on board a young man who 
was so far suffocated that he was unable to stand. The man 
who did this was afterwards brought up unharmed. 

The firemen not only went into the burning underground 
regions cheerfully, but there was strife among them to be allowed 
to go. To see them in their big hats, ascending and descending 
the shafts, as they relieved each other, was a novel sight. It was 
a new way of going to a fire. Although a stream was kept play- 
ing at the 8oo-foot level of the Yellow- Jacket all day, at 9 o'clock 
at night it was found that the fire was rising, and a second stream 
was put on at the 700. 

At 2 o'clock, on the morning of the 8th, thirteen bodies had 
been recovered. Some of these were found in the sump (place 
in which to collect water at the bottom of a shaft) at the 1,100- 
foot level where they had fallen from stations above, others were 
found at the looo-foot level, lying in all kinds of dispairing 
positions, just as they had sunk down and died when overtaken 
by the poisonous gases. 

At i o'clock, on the afternoon of the 8th, twenty-three bodies 
had been recovered. When the fire first broke out, an explosion 
of gases occurred near the Crown Point shaft, which is supposed 
to have killed- several men in that direction. Wherever the 
stifling gas swept in upon the men it left them dead. One dead 
miner was found clasping a ladder with death grip, his head 
hanging backwards. It was necessary to lower the body with a 
rope a distance of fifty feet to the bottom of the level. On the 
9oo-foot level of the Crown Point mine, about thirty feet from 
the shaft, nine men were found in one heap. They had unjointed 
an air-pipe in the hope of being able to get enough fresh air to 
keep them alive. 

On the morning of the loth it was evident that the fire had 
increased to such an extent that no more bodies could be 


recovered, that none in that pit of fire could be alive and at, 
ii A. M, the mouths of all the shafts were covered with planks 
wet blankets, and earth. At noon, steam from the boilers was 
turned into the Yellow-Jacket shaft through the air-pipe leading 
from the blower (a fan revolving in a drum, used in forcing air 
into the mines) down to the 800 and poo-foot levels, whence it 
would go wherever it could find egress. 

On the 1 2th, a few more bodies were found, and there was so 
much fire that the mines were again closed and steam forced into 
them. Some of the bodies last taken out of the mines were so de- 
composed, owing to the great heat below, that in order to handle 
them it was necessary to roll them up in canvas coated with tar. 
Several bodies were in such a condition that the wives and rela- 
tives of the deceased were not allowed to see their faces. They 
were told to remember them as they had last seen them in life. 
One woman begged hard to see the face of her husband ; then to 
see his hair. Being shown his hair, she laid her hand on it, and 
said: "Good-bye, my husband." As she turned away, a little girl 
she was leading said : " Can't I see my papa ? " when the mother 

On the i4th, at 3 o'clock p. M., steam was shut off from the 
shafts and all the works stopped. Five bodies still remained in 
the mines. Three days later the shafts were opened and some 
explorations made. Spots of fire were extinguished, where they 
could be reached. Almost daily they were able to get into some 
one of the mines and direct streams of water upon some parts of 
the fire. At this work men were frequently asphyxiated, and 
then it was necessary to hasten with them to the surface. On the 
28th, another body was recovered, and on the 29th, efforts were 
made to reach the bodies (four) still remaining on the upper 
levels of the Kentuck ; but some of the men fell down insensible 
from asphyxia, and the attempt was abandoned. 

Thus the miners struggled with the fire, until May 2nd, when it 
grew worse. The drifts between the Yellow-Jacket and the 
Kentuck and Crown Point mines were then closed, and the shafts 
of the latter mines were again sealed. The fresh air thrown 
into the mines by the blowers was supposed to have given the 
fire new life. 

On May 1 8th, the Kentuck and the Crown Point mines were 



opened, and miners descended to the lower levels of both. On the 
2oth May another body was recovered in the south compartment 
of the the Crown Point shaft, when it was found lying on a 
scaffold at the looo-foot level, leaving three bodies not yet 
found. After this the fire again increased and drove the men 
away from places where they had been able to work. May 24th, 
it was discovered that the fire was on the 8oo-foot levels of 
the Crown Point and Kentuck mines, and the miners finally 
succeeded in walling it up and confining it to this space. 

As late as June 23d, men were occasionally brought to the 
surface in an insensible condition, and the fire continued to burn 
in that portion of the mines to which it was confined, for over a 
year. Nearly three years from the time of the breaking out of 
the fire the rocks in the 8oo-foot levels of the Crown Point and 
Kentuck mines were found to be red-hot. Only fragments of 
the skeletons of the three missing men were ever found. Their 
bodies were in those parts of the mines that were walled in and 
given up to the flames. 




ON the 2oth of September, 1873, about 3 o'clock in the 
morning, a second fire and series of explosions occurred 
in the Yellow- Jacket mine, by which six men lost their 
lives and several were seriously injured. 

This fire originated in a winze on the i3oo-foot level of the 
mine. The winze was directly over the forge of an under- 
ground blacksmith's shop, for which it served as a chimney. 
The fire seems to have been burning in the wood-work of this 
winze in a smouldering way, generating a quantity of gas, 
and when an assistant blacksmith approached with a lighted 
lantern in his hand, a heavy explosion occurred. A great 
quantity of smoke rushed up the main shaft and hung in a 
black cloud over the works. When this was seen, an alarm 
of fire was sounded on the surface, and soon there were over 
two thousand persons collected about the mine. Among the 
wives, children, and relations of those in the mines were 
enacted the same heartrending scenes as on the occasion of 
the first great fire in April, 1869. When the firemen reached 
the works, the fatal mistake was made of throwing water 
down the shaft, thus driving the smoke and gases back upon 
the men in the lower levels, and causing the loss of life. 
This was stopped by Captain Taylor, superintendent of the 
mine, as soon as he arrived on the ground. 

About this time a man was sent to the old shaft of the mine, 
some distance above on the hill, to see that all was right there. 
Doors were shut down over the mouth of this shaft, and while 
the man was looking to see that these were properly closed, 



he took the candle from his lantern and held it over the shaft. 
As he did so, he saw a streak of fire flash along up a post that 
stood in the middle of the shaft, between the folding doors. 
Thinking that a quantity of lint on the corner of the post had 
taken fire, he struck at it with his hat to blow it out. As he 
did this, an explosion occurred that shook the whole town. 
A sheet of flame darted from the mouth of the shaft, and the 
man, who was still over it, hat in hand, was thrown backwards 
a distance of several feet. 

This second explosion, which caused the solid earth to rock, 
not only added greatly to the terror of those on the surface, 
but it sent sheets of flame through all the mines as far as the 
Belcher, a distance of two thousand feet. Men who were in 
the Crown Point mine at the moment, stated that this fire 
seemed a solid mass that filled all the space about them, and 
that it flashed toward and past them as swiftly as lightning. 
At the same time the concussion which accompanied the flash 
was so great as to knock them down and drive them along 
the ground for a considerable distance. These streams of fire 
did not penetrate into the cross-drifts, but darted straight 
southward along the main drifts and galleries, owing to which 
fact, doubtless, several miners who happened to be in cross- 
drifts, escaped being killed or seriously injured. To add to 
the terrors of the situation, all of the lights were blown out by 
the explosions, and the lower levels of the mines were every- 
where in total darkness. 

Those who lost their lives died from asphyxia, while those 
who were injured were burned by the sheets of flame that 
darted through the several mines. The fire burned and 
stripped the shirts entirely off the backs of some of the men, 
and those who were touched by any part of the flame lost 
their whiskers, eyebrows, and the greater part of their hair. 

There being several hundred men in the mines, the utmost 
consternation prevailed when the first explosion occurred, 
and the smell of smoke and gases a smell well remembered 
by the old miners swept through the lower levels; but the 
work of hoisting these men to the surface was performed at 
the several shafts with safety, precision, and almost lightning 
swiftness. Notwithstanding the excitement that prevailed all 


about them, the engineers never for a single instant lost their 
presence of mind. They answered every tap of the signal- 
bells as promptly, and kept their eyes as steadfastly fixed 
upon the marks on their cables, as though nothing were 
wrong below. The cages and "giraffes" were rushed up and 
down the shafts and inclines with their living freight at a rate 
of speed which under ordinary circumstances would have 
been simply terrific. But by no means was this work too 
rapidly performed to suit the men who were fleeing up from 
the fiery furnace of the regions below. 

It luckily happened that the winze in which this fire raged 
was surrounded on all sides by solid rock, therefore when the 
timbers it contained were consumed, the fire died out. The 
man who at first approached the smouldering winze with his 
lantern, was found lying dead at a distance of about two hun- 
dred feet from it ; having been asphyxiated. Men who die 
of asphyxia in the mines, look like living men if brought to 
the surface at any time within a few hours after life is extinct. 
Their cheeks are flushed and roseate, and their bodies are as 
limp as though they were still alive. With their eyes closed, 
they appear to be men in a fever, lying in a sound sleep. It 
is a painless death. Several miners who were brought to the 
surface in an unconscious state, and who would no doubt 
have died in a few minutes had they been left in the mine, 
assert that a sensation of faintness was all they experienced, 
they did not even remember falling to the ground ; but all 
are very sick after regaining their senses. 

As it would have been impossible for the small fire in the 
winze to have generated such immense quantities of inflam- 
mable gases as must have been consumed in the two explo- 
sions that occurred during this last fire in the Yellow- Jacket 
mine, many men are of the opinion that a small quantity of 
the gas from pine-wood mingled with gases already in the 
mines, rendered the whole explosive. In this instance some 
such accidental compound must have been formed. Common 
air being mingled with the gases probably had much to do 
with causing the explosions. 

On the morning of May 24th, 1874, the hoisting works of 
the Succor Mining Company, near Silver City, were destroyed 


by fire, and two miners who were at work in the shaft at the 
time, lost their lives. The fire was kindled by some cartridges 
of giant-powder that had been left lying on the boiler. The 
cartridges did not explode, but simply burned. They were 
about a dozen in number, enough to have blown the works to 
atoms, had they exploded. They burned-very rapidly, throw- 
ing up a fountain of fire. The flames were intensely bright, 
and wherever the jets struck they set fire to the wood-work. 
The roof and all that part of the works about the boilers were 
on fire in an instant. 

The only men in the works were the engineer and the car- 
man. Two miners were at work at the bottom of the shaft, 
five hundred feet below the surface. The engineer and carman 
shook the cable attached to the hoisting tub, which was at the 
bottom of the shaft, as a signal for the men below to come up ; 
also, shouted to them, but could not make them understand 
their danger. Soon the two men were driven out of the build- 
ing, which was speedily consumed. 

Two days later, when the fire in the timbers of the upper 
part of the shaft had been extinguished, a windlass was rigged 
and men were lowered to see how things looked below. It 
was not expected that the bodies of the dead miners would be 
found, as much earth had caved from the top of the shaft, and 
its bottom was supposed to be filled to the depth of twenty or 
thirty feet with broken timbers, rocks, and earth. Contrary to 
the general expectation, the men had not been lowered a 
great distance into the shaft before they signalled those above 
to stop ; they then shouted up the shaft that the bodies were 
found. A large crowd had collected about the shaft, and when 
this unexpected report came up, the excitement was great. 

The bodies of the poor fellows were discovered at the pump 
station a recess some feet square in one side of the shaft to 
which point they had ascended by almost superhuman exer- 
tions. This pump station was two hundred and sixty-five 
feet above the bottom of the shaft, and the whole of this 
great distance the men had climbed in their desperate strug- 
gle for life, with nothing to cling to but the slight cracks 
between the timbers walling the sides. Considering the small 
and uncertain hold afforded by the timbers of the shaft, their 


t- ____ 

climbing to such a height was a feat bordering on the miracu- 
lous, and one which could only have been performed by young 
and active men, as both were. Both men had died from as- 
phyxia. Neither their bodies nor their clothing were scorched. 

In the pump station they were protected from the falling 
brands and beams from the burning building, and there they 
had remained till suffocated by the deadly gases that settled 
down into the shaft. The face of one of the men was rosy 
and as natural as in life, while that of the other, who lay in 
the outer part of the station, was black and frightfully swollen. 

An inquest was held, and the verdict of the Coroner's jury 
was that the men who lost their lives by the fire, James Bil- 
lings and James Rickard 

" came to their death by suffocation caused by the burning of the Succor 
hoisting-works and part of the shaft, said fire having been caused by the 
combustion of giant-powder which was kept on the top of one of the boilers, 
and we strongly deprecate the custom prevalent in many mines of keeping 
giant-powder on the boilers about the works." 

And well they might find fault with this practice of cooking 
giant-powder on the tops of boilers ; also, they might mildly 
suggest that the custom of thawing frozen giant-powder and 
nitro-glycerine on stoves and at the forges of blacksmith's 
shops is a thing not to be encouraged. Several, however, 
have prospected about until they have found this out for 
themselves. It is now probably well known in the other 
world, as a few of those best informed on the point have gone 




ABOUT 2 o'clock, on the afternoon of October 30, 1874, 
the air shaft of the Belcher mine took fire and was totally 
destroyed. The shaft was not completed at the time of 
the accident, but went down to a depth of 1000 feet below the 
surface. It was twelve by six feet in width, divided into two 
compartments, and substantially timbered from top to bottom. 
It had cost between $30,000 and 840,000, and was designed to 
ventilate and cool the lower levels of the mines those at the 
depth of 1500 and 1600 feet. 

As soon as the fire was discovered, the miners working below 
were notified, and all were safely hoisted out of the mine. It 
being found impossible to save the shaft, all connection between 
it and other parts of the mine was cut off and the fire allowed 
to have its way. 

The fire was first discovered by persons down in the mine, 
but it soon made itself manifest on the surface, in the dense 
volume of smoke of inky blackness that rose from the mouth 
of the shaft and ascended to a perpendicular height of three or 
four hundred feet. This large column of smoke was one of the 
grandest sights imaginable. The air was perfectly calm, and the 
smoke assumed the form of huge balloons rolling upward, one 
over the other. This ominous cloud of smoke was visible for 
many miles in all directions and filled the hearts of all beholders 
with terror. The steam-whistle at the Belcher hoisting works, 
near at hand, sent forth its long-drawn wail the fire signal as 
soon as the first black puffs of smoke rose above the surface of 
the ground. Instantly, the whistles of dozens of mills and hoist 
ing works joined in, and the whole air was rent for half an hour 



with their steady unceasing shrieks. All who saw the awful pall 
of smoke rise up and hang over the mine, feared the worst, and 
all who had husbands, fathers, brothers, or friends at work in the 
Belcher, hastened to the mine. 

Firemen from Gold Hill and Virginia, with steamers and hand- 
engines, soon swarmed the place, but were not allowed to throw 
water into the shaft the effects of this had been seen at the 
last fire in the Yellow-Jacket mine. There were houses to save, 
all about the shaft, and to this work the attention of the firemen 
was turned. To attempt to describe the wretchedness and 
despair of the women and children gathered round the shaft 
and looking upon the awful column of smoke, would be futile, 
and to the imagination of the reader may be left their joy on 
being told that all who had been in the mine were safe upon 
the surface. 

After the great column of smoke had rolled upward from the 
mouth of the shaft for twenty minutes or more, and when a 
great crowd was collected about the spot, there came a flash, as 
of lightning, there was a dull, heavy report, which was heard at 
the distance of a mile, and a sheet of flame shot upward to the 
height of nearly five hundred feet. 

Instantly, the dark column of smoke was gone was consumed 
in the tall pillar of fire. The flame then gradually fell back to 
a height of about sixty feet, and to this height it continued to rush 
for over an hour, with a roar that could be heard at the distance 
of half a mile. Pieces of flaming wood and live coals larger 
than a man's hand, were shot sixty feet into the air, and fell in 
such showers that they covered the ground on all sides and 
rolled by bushels from the roofs of buildings in the neighbor- 
hood. At a distance the burning shaft bore a striking resem- 
blance to an active volcano. The draught through it was the same 
that would be seen on the surface, in a burning chimney a 
thousand feet in height. 

At this critical juncture it was decided to go below and close 
all of the drifts leading from the burning shaft. The main 
hoisting shaft and works stood at a distance of one hundred 
yards from the air-shaft, and in the buildings at this point were, 
collected the miners who had just escaped from the lower levels. 
Showers of live coals were falling upon the roofs of all the 


buildings about and over the main working shaft, and a score of 
men engaged in pouring water over them could hardly prevent 
them from taking fire. In the hoisting works the engineers stood 
at their posts awaiting orders. A rope had been stretched about 
the mouth of the main shaft to keep back the crowd, and within 
the circle of this rope stood thirty or forty miners, also awaiting 
orders. The cage was below with two or three officers of the 
mine, who had gone down to ascertain the situation in the 
neighborhood of the bottom of the burning shaft. All were 
anxiously awaiting some news from these men, as 'since the 
escape of the miners from the lower levels, they were the first 
who had ventured back into the underground regions. 

Presently a cage a three-decker came up and stopped at 
the mouth of the shaft. On its lower deck stood an under- 
ground foreman. As the cage stopped, this official said: "I 
want eighteen men to go down to the looo-foot level with me." 
The men knew that on the level mentioned was the bottom of 
the perpendicular portion of the burning air-shaft, but they did 
not know the situation at that point, nor did they know what 
they would be asked to do on arriving at their destination. Yet 
no sooner had the call for volunteers been made than there was 
a rush of men to the cage. 

The lower compartment was instantly filled. The engineer, 
who stood with his hand on the lever of his engine, dropped the 
cage till the second compartment stood level with the floor, and 
this had no sooner been done than it was filled with men. The 
same was the case when the last compartment came down; 
indeed there was a quiet struggle among the men for a place 
on the cage, though few words were spoken. As the six men 
were taking their places on the last section of the cage, a young 
man pulled one of them off, and took his place, saying : *' No, 
John, you've got a family." 

The men were all brave, determined-looking fellows. The 
faces of all were calm and firm not a cheek was pale. While 
the men were filling the cage, as it hung in the mouth of the 
shaft. I said to a friend, "Those are all fine, brave men. 
See ! with what nerve they step upon that cage to go down into 
the burning mine ! It may be that some of those men will never 
reach the surface alive, yet not one shows a sign of fear." 

194: DANGER! 

"Very true," said my friend, "but I don't think there is any 
real danger down there. The fire is confined to the air-shaft, 
all around it is safe enough." 

" Men never go into a mine at any time," said I, " but they 
are in danger ; and when there is anything wrong in a mine the 
danger is vastly increased particularly when there is a fire in 
any of the lower levels." 

" Well, but what can happen to these men ? " asked the gentle- 

" These men," said I, " will probably come out all right, if no 
cave shall occur in the burning shaft while they are below ; 
but it will now soon be time for the caving to begin. The 
timbers must soon begin to weaken." 

" Well, what would be the result of a cave in the shaft ? " 

" It would close up the shaft and suddenly send poisonous 
gases through the lower levels." 

Leaving the shaft and the works, soon after the men had de- 
scended on their dangerous mission, 1000 feet below the surface 
of the earth, we returned to the town of Gold Hill. 

As we entered the main street of the town, we turned and 
looked in the direction of the burning shaft, half a mile away. 
No sign of flame was visible, but there rolled up from the mouth 
of the shaft a great inky cloud of smoke. 

"See! " cried my companion, "the fire has gone out! It is 
all smoke now ! " 

" There has been a cave in the shaft ! " said I, and in less 
than half a minute the column of flame again darted into the air 
to the height of sixty or eighty feet, and instantly all the smoke 

Now let us see what happened in the mine at that time. 
After the fire broke out in the air-shaft, the draught, which had 
always before been downward into the mine (contrary to the 
general expectation when it was made), changed, and rushed 
fiercely upwards. The draught in the main shaft at the hoisting 
works, one hundred yards distant, which had before been up- 
ward, was instantly changed, and in it there was found a strong 
downward suction. This allowed the men who went below to 
approach quite near to the bottom of the burning shaft. They 
were set to work at tearing out the woodwork and pulling up the 


car-tracks in a drift connecting with the air-shaft at the 1000- 
foot level, preparatory to filling it with a bulkhead of rocks and 
earth, in order to cut off its connection with other parts of the 

While they were at this work the cave occurred in the shaft. 
When the mass of rocks and earth composing the cave fell down 
through the shaft perhaps a distance of five hundred feet- 
it forced back, down into the mine, and out through the drift 
in which the miners were at work, a vast tongue of flame as 
fierce as that from a blow-pipe forced back upon the men all 
the heat and flame there was in the lower part of the shaft when 
it fell. 

This deluge of fire lasted but the fraction of a minute, when it 
was all sucked back into the shaft by the draught, but while it 
lasted it was fierce as the flames of a furnace. The men work- 
ing in the drift were naked from the waist upwards, and below 
wore nothing but cotton overalls. In a moment the flames were 
upon them, and all were terribly burned, notwithstanding that 
they threw themselves flat upon the ground. In some instances 
their overalls were licked from their bodies turned to ashes in 
an instant. 

Nine of the eighteen men we saw so bravely descend into the 
burning mine were hoisted out, scarred and crisped ; their clothes 
burnt from their bodies, and the skin peeling off in great flakes, 
wherever they were touched. One man was brought up dead. 
He was not found till the next day, when his dead body was 
discovered at the bottom of a winze into which he had fallen 
while fleeing before the flames. All of those burned finally 
recovered, but several not for many weeks. When the first squad 
of men was disabled, others bravely took their place in the 
drift, and finally succeeded in completing a substantial bulk- 
head ; thus saving the mine. Though several caves occurred and 
drove them from their work, none were so disastrous as the first 
the mass of rock in the bottom of the shaft doubtless prevent- 
ing a free outpouring of flame. 

Although this fire occurred in October, 1874, in May, 1875, 
when a new shaft was being constructed, great masses of rocks, 
still almost at a white heat were encountered by the workmen. 
These lay at the bottom of the old shaft, and there was no burning 



timber, charcoal, or fire among them, but they were so hot as to 
set on fire the timbers the miners were trying to set up in the 
drift run by them, and in order to work at all it was found 
necessary to carry a line of hose into the place and play a stream 
of water upon the rocks. 

When we find so small a mass of rocks as can be contained in 
the bottom of a shaft, remaining red-hot for eight months, should 
we be incredulous on being assured by men of science that the 
centre of the earth, once a molten mass of rock, still remains 
in a molten state after untold ages ? 



LITTLE difficulty has ever been experienced from fire- 
damp, in the mines along the Comstock lode. Firedamp 
is a gas which is more frequently generated in, and more 
strictly confined to, coal mines than to any others ; yet in a 
few instances it has been found to exist in mines on the 
Comstock. It is probably generated by decaying pine-timber. 

On one occasion, a mining superintendent of Gold Hill 
went into an old drift of the Segregated Belcher mine, and 
while passing along it, happened to lift his candle to its roof, 
to examine the rock. Much to his astonishment, he set fire 
to a stratum of carburetted hydrogen (firedamp), which pro- 
duced a brilliant flash that extended the whole length of the 
drift. Some miners working in the Gould & Curry mine on 
one occasion had a similar, but much more lively, bit of 
experience. On tapping an old drift in that mine quite an ex- 
plosion occurred, though no harm was done, further than the 
singeing of the hair and whiskers of the astonished miners. 

In the early days of Washoe it occasionally happened that 
adjoining mining companies drifted into each other's works, 
far below the surface. On such occasions there was war 
down in the bowels of the earth. In case pistols and similar 
weapons were not used, the battles were fought after the Chi- 
nese stink-pot plan. Each company sought to smoke the other 
out. The latest instance in which these underground ameni- 
ties of the amiable miner were indulged in, was in May, 1874, 
when the Kossuth and the Alhambra folks ceased to admire 
each other. 



The works of the two companies made an unexpected con- 
nection several feet below the surface. As to what passages 
at arms may have occurred in and about the breach below 
when it was first opened, those of the surface world are not 
informed. However, the Alhambra folks presently smelt 
something burning. They were not long in doubt as to the 
nature of the fumigation. The odor wafted to them was not 
that of sandal-wood, neither of frankincense nor myrrh. That 
which reached them was the hot, pungent, stifling smoke and 
gas that told of burning pitch-pine. The Kossuth folks had 
secretly prepared and lighted in a drift of their mine, connect- 
ing with the Alhambra shaft, a large bonfire of pine-wood. 
There being a draught into and up the shaft named, the men 
working therein soon found themselves in danger of suffoca- 
tion, and made all possible haste to reach the surface. 

The superintendent of the Alhambra mine narrowly escaped 
losing his life. When he was hoisted to the top of the shaft, 
some hundreds of feet, he was asphyxiated to the verge of 
insensibility, and fell back, but luckily caught at the edge of 
some planks and held on long enough to give those standing 
near time to snatch him away. Had he fallen to the bottom 
of the shaft, it would have been certain death, for had he not 
been dashed to pieces by the fall, the smoke and gases ascend- 
ing the shaft would have prevented his friends from going 
down to his assistance, and he must have inevitably perished. 

Turning the tables on the Kossuthites was now tried by the 
men of the Alhambra. They covered the mouth of their shaft 
with planks and wet blankets, in order, if possible, to force 
the smoke back into the Kossuth mine. The smoke still 
appearing to gather in their shaft, several large casks of water 
were got in readiness, the planks and blankets were raised, 
and a flood of water turned suddenly down. To what extent 
this experiment discommoded the Kossuthites was never made 
public, but the indications were that they received at least a 
temporary hoist from their own petard, as, shortly after, their 
numbers above ground were observed to have increased. 

During the war, a deserter came over to the Alhambra side 
and informed them that he had been ordered to drill a hole 
under the bottom of their shaft, charge it with giant-powder, 


and blow them all to the lower levels of Lucifer's brimstone 
pit, when they came to work in the morning. Rather than 
become a second Guy Fawkes, the man threw up his situation ; 
at least this was his story. The Kossuth folks caused to be 
published a statement of the affair, in which it was said that 
their foreman was a second Uncle Toby he wouldn't harm a 
fly. As for the smoking business, they had explained to the 
Alhambra folks the fact that they were about to kindle a little 
fire to dry their drift, and had told them that in case they 
found the smoke disagreeable, they could "go aloft." 

There is nothing so much dreaded by the miner as fire. 
When millions of tons of rock begin to settle down he is not 
frightened. He goes among them when they are being splint- 
ered in all directions and are cracking like pistols; coolly 
puts in double timbers and braces, drives wedges, and builds 
up sections with rock, for he knows that the settling must be 
gradual, and that if it is not stopped it can only continue till 
all the timbers in the place are pressed out as thin as wafers 
shortly before which time he will depart. When caves of 
ore fall from the breasts in a stope, he knows that they only 
endanger the few men who happen to be under or near them. 
When the premature explosion of a blast occurs, only those in 
the immediate vicinity are killed or wounded. But when 
there is a fire in a mine, the life of every man is in peril. 

One great reason why a fire in a mine is so much dreaded, 
is because there are so few avenues of escape open to the 
miner. Probably there is but a single shaft (if the mine is 
connected with no other) and up this, a thousand or fifteen 
hundred feet, he must go to escape. The smoke and deadly 
gases may reach the shaft before he arrives, and then he can 
but sit down and await his death. In case of a fire, there is 
liable to be a panic. A panic in a church or other building 
on the surface is always a terrible thing ; then what must be 
a panic in a mine where there are eight hundred or one 
thousand men, perhaps, all to go up a single shaft a thousand 
feet, a cage-load at a time? At such times, too, there are 
explosions of gases which extinguish all of the lights, and the 
men rushing to and fro are exposed to the danger of tumbling 
headlong into scores of pitfalls in the shape of chutes, winzes, 
and other excavations. 


All these things being often in the miner's mind give him 
a wonderful delicacy of nostril. He can scent a fire afar. He 
knows the smell of burning fuse, of giant-powder, of black 
powder and of everything with which fire ordinarily comes in 
contact in a mine, and the scent of these are no more noticed 
than is noticed the air he breathes on the surface of the earth ; 
but let any unusual substance be ignited and, like the hunted 
stag, his nose is in the air at once. Let but a splinter of pine 
be held in a candle, and soon the smell of the burning wood 
is detected by the miners above and around, and there is a 
commotion such as is seen when a hive of bees is disturbed 
men drop down from, and rush out of, all manner of places 
where no men were seen before. A bit of burning rag or 
anything of that nature creates uneasiness. 

On one occasion, I was in the i5oo-foot level of the Consol- 
idated Virginia mine when a gentleman from San Francisco 
was getting some samples of ore. These he tied up in small 
sacks. When he tied up the first he found that he had left his 
knife above, in changing his clothes. Having no knife with 
which to cut the string he had tied about the sack, he held it 
in the flame of a candle and burnt it off. The string was of 
cotton, and a length of about two inches was consumed in all. 
In less than a minute afterwards a man from some part of the 
mine hastily approached, and said to the underground foreman, 

"What is burning?" 

" Is there anything burning ? " inquired the foreman, giving 
us a wink. 

" Yes, sir ; there is something burning in this part of the 

"What makes you thinks so? " 

" Well, I smell it. It's cotton rags or something of that 

The foreman then showed the man the cotton string that 
had been burned off, and he left, giving the San Francisco 
man a sour look as he departed. Even a dead rat in any 
close or heated part of the mine annoys the men, and is 
speedily scented out and sent above. So with everything else 
from which there can arise the slightest effluvium. 



ACCIDENTS are of constant occurrence in mines in every 
part of the world, and the mines on the Comstock lode 
enjoy no immunity from what appears to be the common 
lot or prevalent fatality, in this respect. Accidents of every 
imaginable kind have occurred since the opening of the first 
mine on the Comstock, still occur, and will continue to occur so 
long as a mine on the lode is worked. 

In the early days, when the miners worked in a primitive way 
with a hand-windlass, and sunk a small round shaft resembling 
an ordinary well, they quite as frequently broke legs, arms, and 
ribs, or were instantly killed, as at the present day. Though 
men were working in that which was but a straight round hole, 
only fifty or a hundred feet in depth, they were still able to 
injure themselves in many ways. They fell out of buckets, or 
the crank of a windlass was broken, and they went back to the 
bottom of the shaft " by the run ; " a blast exploded while they 
were yet standing over it ; rocks fell out of the walls of their 
untimbered shafts ; or dropped from a bucket as it was being 
landed at the top of the shaft in short, they were maimed and 
killed in ways innumerable and past finding out until the thing 
had happened. 

At the present day, with all manner of safety apparatus, and 
every avenue to accident seemingly thoroughly guarded, men 
are wounded and killed the same as before. They are con- 
stantly being hurt and killed in new and unheard-of ways in 
fact, in every way imaginable. It is a saying in the mines, that 
these accidents run in streaks ; that they occur in groups. When 
12 201 


two or three accidents have happened within as many days, you 
will hear the miners say : " Now, look out, we are going to have 
a regular run of accidents ! " and so it generally turns out. 
There will often be a dozen accidents within a fortnight, half of 
them, perhaps, of a fatal character. 

More accidents happen to old miners than to men who are 
new to the business. The old miner sometimes forgets where 
he is, while 'where he is' is just what the greenhorn is all the 
time thinking about. He is always on the lookout for trouble, 
and he is always holding on to something that has the appear- 
ance of being pretty substantial particularly when he is in the 
neighborhood of shafts and winzes ; but a man who has worked 
in the mines for years will walk into a winze or chute in a musing 
mood, or run a car into the main shaft and be pulled in after it, 
which is a thing a green hand has never been known to do. 
Shafts, chutes, winzes, and things of that nature are what he is 
always looking for, and you couldn't pull him into one of them 
with any yoke of oxen ever seen in a mine. 

Hundreds upon hundreds of accidents have happened in the 
Comstock mines, some hundreds of them fatal. A large volume 
would not contain their history. I may furnish a few examples 
at random by no means the worst that have happened in order 
to give the reader some insight into the nature of the accidents 
that occur in mines : 

In January, 1874, four miners met with quite a thrilling and 
perilous adventure in the bottom of the main shaft of the Ophir 
mine. No situation in a sensational play could possibly have 
been more blood-curdling than that in which the four men found 

They were at work sinking the shaft below the jyoo-foot level, 
and had drilled and charged four holes, all of which they in- 
tended to fire at once. All being in readiness, they pulled the 
bell-rope, striking five bells at the surface, which was the signal 
for the engineer to lower the cage to the bottom. The signal 
was answered by the cage coming down to where they stood. 
They now set fire to the fuses leading into the four blasts in the 
bottom of the shaft, and then hastened to place themselves upon 
the cage, when they gave the signal to hoist this signal being 
one bell. To their consternation the cage did not move. As 



each second passed seconds were long thenthey expected to 
feel the cable taut and the cage start up, but it remained sta- 
tionary. The fuses were spitting fire and smoke as they burned 
down toward the powder ; still the cage moved not. The signal 
was again given, but the cage remained as steadfast as before. 

The fire was now just boring its way down through the fuses 
toward the four charges of powder tightly tamped deep in the 
rock, while the men were standing helplessly over the fearful 
spot. One of the men, as a forlorn hope, ran to the charges and 
wrenched away two of the fuses before they had burned down 
into the rock below his reach, but when he came to the others 
he found to his consternation that the fire had passed down into 
the rock. Rushing back to the cage, he shouted to his com- 
panions to save themselves by climbing the cable and timbers. 

A fierce struggle for life then ensued. The men scrambled, by 
means of the cable and the timbers, to get as far up the shaft as 
possible, each moment expecting the stunning explosion and 
shower of rocks which they knew must soon come. One of the 
men, who, it would seem, was completely paralyzed by the 
terrors of the situation, had hardly made an attempt to move 
when the explosion came. The three others managed to flatten 
their bodies against the walls, and screw themselves among the 
lower timbers of the shaft, and escaped unhurt; but the man 
below was struck in the forehead, above the right eye, by a small 
piece of rock which crushed in his skull. 

The charges in the bottom of the shaft were usually fired by 
means of an electrical machine stationed above, but this being 
out of order at the time, the men took the responsibility of firing 
the blasts in the manner described, and with the result stated. 
The trouble in regard to the giving of the last signal was that 
the bell-rope one thousand seven hundred feet in length had 
got foul on a timber, and no stroke was given on the bell above ; 
thus the engineer knew nothing of the thrilling scene that was 
being enacted below. Strange to relate, the man who was hurt 
got well. A surgeon took out a number of pieces of bone, and 
though a large hole was left in the skull, the man soon regained 
his senses and complained but little about his injury. 

In February, 1874, they had a new blasting experience at 
the Belcher mine, Gold Hill. They had this experience at the 


i2oo-foot level at a point where a patent drill run by compressed 
air was being used. It was the practice to drill a number of 
holes, charge them all with giant-powder cartridges (without any 
tamping), and explode the whole series at once by means of an 
electrical battery. On the occasion of the accident, the men on 
the forenoon shift had fired a number of holes in this way, but 
one of the holes, it seems, did not explode, the wire thrust into 
it having slipped out. When the afternoon shift came to work, 
they supposed this hole was one that had not been finished, and, 
inserting the drill, began working in it. The concussion of the 
drill fired the cartridge, and a terrific explosion followed. 

At the moment of the explosion there were five men standing 
about the drill, all of whom were more or less injured. The 
man who was guiding the drill was struck by a shower of small 
pieces of rock, which cut his face, and badly cut and bruised 
his arms and hips, and, in short, peppered him over the whole 
body. Another man had the bridge of his nose broken, was cut 
about the head, and had his eyes filled with gravel, and all the 
others injured were somewhat similarly cut and bruised. Scores of 
ordinary blasting accidents might be mentioned accidents that 
occurred from the premature explosion of blasts ; by trying to 
drill out blasts ; by blasts being discharged as the wires from the 
electrical battery were being inserted ; by persons coming un- 
awares upon blasts at the moment of their explosion ; and powder 
and blasting accidents of every conceivable nature but they 
can all be imagined. 

The caps used in exploding giant-powder and nitro-glycerine 
are filled with a powerful fulminating powder, and are very dan- 
gerous. They explode with the slightest scratch upon their 
contents. They are about half an inch in length, and their 
interior diameter is sufficient to admit the end of a piece of 
ordinary blasting fuse. Persons unacquainted with their uses 
always appear to be overcome by an ungovernable curiosity in 
regard to the nature of their contents, the moment they by any 
means get hold of any of these caps. The first thing they do is 
to begin probing and scratching in the interior of the little cop- 
per cylinders, in order to get out and examine a sample of their 
contents. It invariably happens that at about the first or second 
scratch the cap explodes, and the person engaged in prospecting 



it loses the ends of two fingers and the thumb of the left hand. 
In Virginia Gity and Gold Hill, about one boy per week, on 
an average, tries this experiment, and always with the same 
result. In the two towns there must now be scores of boys who 
lack the ends of the thumb and first and middle fingers of their 
left hands. On one occasion a boy created quite a sensation in 
one of the public schools by prospecting the interior of one of 
these giant-powder caps. The report startled the whole school, 
frightened the school-teacher nearly out of her wits, and spat- 
tered blood and bits of flesh and bone over the faces and books 
of half a dozen of the pupils. Miners very frequently carry 
these caps loose in their pockets, often mixed with their tobacco, 
and thus occasionally get them into their pipes. Several favorite 
meerschaums have been lost in this way, and the ends of a few 



MANY miners are killed by thoughtlessly running cars 
into the main working shafts of the mines, when no cage 
is standing in the shaft. They probably suppose that a 
cage is standing in the shaft ready to receive the car, and, with- 
out looking, push it into the open mouth of the shaft. 

Accidents of this kind generally happen at the stations of the 
underground levels. It almost invariably happens when a car- 
man pushes his car into the mouth of a shaft, that he is pulled in 
after it. The sudden pitching forward arid downward of the 
car, upon the top of the rear end of which he has hold with both 
hands, causes him to so far lose his balance that he can never 
regain it, and down the shaft he goes after his car, dashed from 
side to side against the timbers and planking of the compart- 
ments of the shaft into which he has fallen, till the bottom is 
reached, hundreds of feet below. 

The effect of a fall through a vertical shaft 1500 feet in depth 
is much the same as though a man were shot from the mouth of 
a cannon and thrown a distance of 500 yards. Mount Davidson 
stands about 1500 feet higher than Virginia City, and to fall 
down a shaft 1500 feet in depth, is much the same as would be 
a fall from the peak of that mountain (if such a thing were 
possible) into one of the streets of the town. The body of a man 
falling a distance of one thousand feet or more, emits towards the 
latter part of its course, a humming sound, somewhat similar to 
that heard from a passing cannon-ball of large size. 

A few instances will serve to show the effect of a fall of this 
character upon the human body : A miner who was ascending 



the Imperial-Empire * shaft, from the poo-foot level, accompa- 
nied by six companions, when within one hundred and fifty feet 
of the surface, spoke of feeling faint. He had hardly spoken 
before he reeled and fell. As he was falling, his friends caught 
him by the coat, but as the garment was only thrown loosely 
over his shoulders, it pulled off, and he fell off the cage and to 
the bottom of the shaft a distance of 750 feet. The cage was 
promtly lowered again and search made for the body, which was 
found to have fallen into the " sump " or well at the bottom of 
the shaft. As the sump contained a considerable quantity of water 
the efforts to fish up the body were not successful, until a good 
deal of bailing with the hoisting tank (a large tank with a valve 
in its bottom) had been done. 

When the body was at last recovered, it was found to be 
shockingly mangled. The left foot was pulled off at the ankle 
joint, the left hand at the wrist, the skull was crushed to pieces, 
and the bones of the right leg were crushed into small fragments. 
The face was but slightly disfigured. The left foot was found 
hanging by the torn tendons, to a timber some 200 feet below 
where the man fell from the cage. The left hand fell into the 
sump, and was not found/' 

Many lives are lost in this way. Men coming up from the 
heated regions below, when the thermometer indicates a tem- 
perature of from no to 120 degrees, faint on reaching the cold air 
at, or near, the top of the shaft. Strangers visiting the mines 
should always mention the fact to those with them on the cage, 
if they feel the slightest symptom of vertigo or faintness, as they 
may then be properly supported. 

On one occasion when I was in the Consolidated Virginia 
mine, a foreman who had gone up with a cage-load of men, 
some of whom were visitors to the mine, informed us on his 
return that one of the party just conducted to the surface had 
made a narrow escape. He said, that just at the moment of 
reaching the surface, the man fainted, and fell upon the floor of the 
cage. Had he fallen before, while the cage was in motion, we 
should probably have had him down with our party at the foot 

* This is not the name of a single mining company, else it would be as 
idiotic as it sounds, but the partnership shaft is owned by the " Empire" com- 
pany and the " Imperial " company hence the name. 


of the shaft, 1500 feet below, some minutes before the foreman 
returned. As our party got on board the cage, I said that a man 
who felt the slightest degree of uneasiness in the region of the 
stomach, or of 'faintness, should at once mention the fact. We 
were within about 200 feet of the top of the shaft when a gentle- 
man from San Francisco said : " I am beginning to feel sick I " 
Instantly two or three person took firm hold upon his arms and 
the collar of his coat, and thus held him until the surface was 
reached. At the surface he fainted, and a man under each arm 
carried him into the dressing-room, where he soon revived. 

The last time I visited this mine I had but just changed my 
clothes, and stepped outside of the building, when a miner fainted 
at the top of the shaft and fell to the bottom. 

His head was torn off, his arms and legs were torn off, and all 
that was left was his trunk, in which not a whole bone remained. 
The trunk was rolled up in a piece of canvas and brought to the 
surface, while pieces of his arms, legs, and head were scraped 
up and sent up in candle-boxes. 

In falling, the body bounded from side to side against the 
walls of the shaft, and, in passing the i4oo-foot station, a piece of 
one of the bones of a leg, with some flesh adhering, flew out of 
the compartments and fell on the station floor. He was a French 
Canadian, and had just purchased a lot of trinkets to send home 
to his wife and family by a friend who was going to leave for 
Canada the next day. 

Just as they were bringing up the remains in the canvas and 
candle-boxes, this friend arrived to get the trinkets which he 
was to carry to Canada. 

When cages are passing stations, men sometimes put their heads 
out into the shaft and 'have them crushed to atoms or pulled 
entirely off. In June, 1874, a miner was instantly killed by 
having his head caught by a descending cage at the Crown 
Point mine. He was at the time in the act of pulling the bell- 
wire at the station at the looo-foot level. As the man went to 
pull the wire to stop the cage, a friend who was with him turned 
to a box to get a candle. When he turned again he saw his 
companion going down with the cage. The cage passed down 
just below the level of the station, and stopped, having struck the 
head of the man who had fallen being wedged between it and 


the side of the shaft. The man left at the station, thinking his 
friend had gone to the bottom of the shaft, rang up the cage (a 
double-decker), wtfen the body came up with it, the legs still 

In August, 1873, at the Chollar-Potosi mine, a miner ran an 
empty car into the shaft, and was pulled in after it, falling a 
distance of 890 feet. In the sump were found floating portions 
of the shattered car. but the body of the man had sunk to the 
bottom of the water. By the use of grappling-irons the body, 
mangled almost out of all semblance to a man, was finally 
recovered. The whole of the head was gone, down to the under- 
jaw, both legs and both arms were broken in dozens of places, 
and, indeed, not a whole bone was left in any part of the body. 
So torn and mangled was it so nearly reduced to pulp that 
it was found necessary to roll it in a blanket, and lash it to 
a piece of plank, in order to get it up to the surface. In pull- 
ing, the man was dashed from side to side of the shaft, striking 
against the timbers, now on this side and now on that, tearing 
all the clothing from his person. Shreds of clothing were found 
sticking to the shaft timbers in several places. In one place one 
of his gloves was found lying on a timber, and in another place 
hung a piece of one of his socks, containing a toe that had been 
torn from the foot The pump brought up bloody water for a 
considerable time after the accident, showing that the whole 
contents of the sump had been crimsoned. 

Although the ingenuity of the many mechanics about the 
mines is constantly exercised in devising means for the preven- 
tion of accidents, and although there are now in operation a 
great number of useful inventions of this kind, yet men continue 
to find ways of being wounded and killed never before dreamed 
of. In all of the leading mines safety-cages are in use ; also, 
safety incline-cars, or " giraffes," and these have saved scores of 
lives. With the safety-cage or giraffe in use the miners do not 
fall to the bottom when a cable breaks. The safety apparatus 
instantly comes in play, and the cage or giraffe is at once stopped, 
at the point of ascent or descent at which the cable parted. 

In all the hoisting works there is a strong cover of lattice- 
work over the mouth of each compartment of the main shaft, to 
prevent men from stumbling or thoughtlessly walking into it. 


When the cage comes up the shaft, the iron shield or " bonnet " 
on its top picks up this cover, and holds it up out of the way, 
the floor of the cage meantime filling the mouth of the com- 
partment, and guarding it in place of the cover; when the cage 
descends it leaves the cover behind on the opening through 
which it passed down, somewhat like the cunning little animal 
that pulls the door of its hole in after it when it retreats into 
the ground. 

With all these provisions for protecting life and limb, acci- 
dents continue, and must ever continue to happen, as there are 
so many things against which neither the owners of mines nor 
the miners themselves can guard. In case of a cable parting, 
for instance, the men who are on the cage are protected by the 
safety apparatus, but the upper part of the cable is liable to 
spring backwards and kill the engineer standing at his engine 
fifty or sixty feet in the rear of the shaft, quite at the opposite 
end of the building. 

A heavy cable of steel wire whipping back in this way, will cut 
a broad road through the whole length of the ceiling of a build- 
ing, taking off large joists and beams as though they were so 
many bars of soap. Huge fly-wheels of many tons' weight 
occasionally burst asunder, tearing the sides and roof of the 
works to pieces, killing or wounding all who may be in the way 
of the flying fragments; boilers sometimes explode, and leave 
hardly a vestige of the works in which they stood ; men are 
caught in the cog-wheels of the machinery ; and, in short, there 
is no safety either above or below ground. 

Below the surface, however, the accidents are most numerous 
and terrible. In the examples given by means of which to illus- 
trate the fearful velocity attained by the human body in falling 
through a space of from 1000 to 1500 feet, it maybe thought 
that I have selected the most shocking I could find ; but such 
is not the case. It is the usual experience that in falling such a 
distance, the hand, foot, or head of a man coming in contact 
with a timber toward the bottom of a shaft, is cut or torn off. 
It is by no means unusual for the remains of men to be collected 
at the bottom of a shaft and sent to the surface in candle-boxes ; 
to such an extent are the bodies and limbs of many who fall 
into shafts rent and scattered. On one occasion of this kind, 


when the jury of inquest had finished hearing the testimony and 
were sitting silent round the fragmentary remains, considering 
their verdict, a man came hurriedly in, with a candle-box under 
his arm, approached the foreman, and said to him in a reverent 
tone, " Wait a moment, please I've got some more of him." 

Speaking of undertakers, reminds me of a little story : One 
night a Virginia City policeman while going his round, found an 


inebriated " pilgrim " reposing on a bench in front of an under- 
taking establishment. The officer shook the fellow until he 
awoke him from his drunken slumber, and then explained to him 
that unless he found other and less public quarters he should 
be obliged to escort him to the station-house. The pilgrim sat 
up, and rubbing his eyes, explained to the officer that he was a 
stranger in the town ; that he had but fifty cents in his pocket, 
and, the night being warm, he had concluded to sleep out of 
doors, and save his money to pay for a breakfast the next 
morning. Not being a hard-hearted man the officer told the 
fellow that he might finish his sleep, provided he would get up 


and move out of sight before people were astir in the streets. 

Passing the same way, in the course of an hour or two, the 
officer found that his man had rolled off the bench, and was 
lying at full length in the empty case of a coffin that was stand- 
ing at the edge of the sidewalk, close beside the bench. Rous- 
ing his " pilgrim " again, the officer told him he must " get out 
of that ! " 

" Out o' what ? " growled the fellow. 

" Why, out of that coffin ! " said the officer though it was 
only one of those coffin-shaped cases in which coffins are 

" Who's in a coffin ? " asked the fellow, evidently becoming 
somewhat interested. 

"Why, you are ! " said the officer. 

" Not if I know it, I ain't ! " said the pilgrim. 

"Well, I know it," said the officer sharply, " and if you don't 
get out of it pretty shortly it will be the last of you. Don't you 
know that if these undertakers get up in the morning and find 
you snoozing away there, they'll clap a lid on that coffin, screw 
it down, hustle you out to the graveyard and bury you, then send 
in a bill and make the county pay your funeral expenses. It's 
just one of the tricks that our Washoe undertakers like to 

Crawling out of his narrow quarters, the fellow rubbed his 
eyes and gazed at the coffin-shaped case for some time, then 
said : 

" I'd like to know what sort of a dod-rotted set of undertakers 
you've got out here in this country, anyway, that go and set 
rows of coffins 'longside the sidewalks, fur to ketch corpses ? " 
and without waiting for an answer, he shuffled away to find 
safer quarters/' 



AS not much has yet been said in regard to the principal 
towns of the " big bonanza," I shall now devote a few 
chapters to Virginia City and Gold Hill, but more 
particularly to railroads, water-works, lumber-flumes, and 
other things intimately connected with the growth and pros- 
perity of those towns, and the cheap and economical working 
of the mines. 

To begin, I may say that the two towns, Virginia City and 
Gold Hill, which were formerly over one mile apart, are now 
united, and the dividing line cannot be distinguished. The 
population of Virginia City is a little over twenty thousand, 
and that of Gold Hill about ten thousand, according to the 
directory for 1875. 

Virginia City, as has already several times been mentioned, 
lies along the eastern face of Mount Davidson, on a broad 
sloping plateau, and is surrounded on all sides by rugged 
hills and rocky mountain peaks. In the early days, these 
hills were covered with a sparse growth of nut pine-treesa 
sort of stunted pine, in size and form of trunk and branches 
somewhat resembling an ordinary apple-tree but the demand 
for fuel for the mines, mills, and domestic uses, swept all 
these away in a very few years, and even the stumps have 
been dug up and made into firewood by the Chinese. 

Gold Hill is situated at the head of Gold Canon, on the 
south side of Mount Davidson, and is shut in by the walls of 
the ravine, along which stand the principal buildings of the 
town. A ridge about two hundred feet in height, lies between 



the two towns, which is known as the " Divide." The Divide 
is covered with buildings, and is a fine airy location a place 
where the " Washoe zephyr " waltzes to and fro at will. 

In 1859, there were some scattering nut pine-trees on the 
sides of the mountains about Gold Hill, but these soon went 
the way of those about Virginia City, and now all the hills 
and mountains, as far as the eye can reach, are brown and 
treeless. The only covering of either hills or valleys is the 
eternal and ever-present sage-brush. 

This shrub grows to the height of from one to four feet, and 
its leaves are not green, but of an ashen-grey much the color 
and much the same in shape as the leaves of the common 
garden sage. The botanical name of this shrub is artemisia 
tridentata. Through the scanty covering of sage-brush the 
rocks everywhere rise up as though they might be the bones 
of the land peeping through its skin. 

The first house built in Virginia City was a canvas struc- 
ture, eighteen by forty feet in size, erected in 1859 by Lyman 
Jones, one of the pioneers of the country. Mrs. Jones was 
the first white woman who lived where Virginia City now 
stands, and her daughter Ella, was the first white child seen 
in the camp. 

The first white child born in Virginia City was a daughter 
of J. H. Tilton, one of the pioneer wagon-road builders of the 
country. She was born on the ist of April, 1860, and was named 
Virginia. She still lives in the town in which she first saw 
the light. 

In Virginia City are to be seen as many large and substan- 
tial buildings, both public and private, as in any town of like 
population on the Pacific Coast. The Catholics, Episcopa- 
lians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and other leading 
Christian denominations have fine and costly churches in the 
town, and these are as well attended as the churches in any 
other land. The Masons and Odd Fellows have fine halls, 
and both societies are in a very flourishing condition. 

There are in the city most of the orders and societies found 
in other large towns; as, the Knights of Pythias, Ancient 
Order of Druids, Improved Order of Red-Men, Knights of the 
Red Branch, Champions of the Red Cross, Crescents, Irish 



Confederation, Ancient Order of Hibernians, Caledonia Soci- 
ety, Society of Pacific Coast Pioneers, two Turn Vereins, 
Miners' Union, Printers' Union, and several similar societies. 

In the way of benevolent associations, there are, the Vir- 
ginia Benevolent Society, Italian Benevolent Society, Hiber- 
nian Benevolent Society, St. Vincent de Paul Benevolent 
Society, and several others. In the city is St. Mary's Orphan 
Asylum and School (under the charge of the Sisters of 
Charity), built at the cost of about $100,000, and the St. 
Vincent Hospital, which cost $40,000 or $50,000. In the 
town are five military companies the National Guard, Em- 
met Guard, Washington Guard, Montgomery Guard, and the 
Nevada Artillery. 

In the several wards of the city are handsome, commodious 
and comfortable school-houses, and there are several flourish- 
ing Sunday-schools, conducted under the auspices of various 
religious societies. The city is lighted with gas, is supplied 
with pure water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and has 
telegraphic communication with all parts of the world. 

Two daily papers are published in Virginia, the Territorial 
Enterprise, and the Evening Chronicle. The Enterprise is a 
morning paper, and the Chronicle, as its name implies, is 
published in the evening. The Enterprise is the oldest news- 
paper in Nevada. The first number (it was then a weekly), 
was issued at Genoa, on Saturday, December i8th, 1858. This 
was the year before the discovery of silver in Nevada, and 
Genoa was then a town of about 200 inhabitants. The office 
of publication was removed to Carson City, in November, 
1859, and remained there till November, 1860, when it was 
removed to Virginia City. The office in which the Enterprise 
was first published in Virginia City, was a small, one-story 
frame building with a shed or lean-to on one side, and was a 
queerly arranged establishment. The proprietors had the 
shed part fitted up as a kitchen and dining and lodging-place. 
Bunks were ranged along the sides of the room, one above 
another, as on shipboard, and here editors, printers, proprie- 
tors, and all hands " bunked " after the style of the miners in 
their cabins. A Chinaman, " Old Joe," did the cooking, and 
three times each day the whole crowd of " newspaper men " 


were called out to the long table in the shed to get their 
"square meal." The "devil" went for numerous lunches 
between meals, and often came flying out into the composition- 
room with a large piece of pie in his mouth, and the old Chi- 
naman at his heels. 

The Virginia City Fire Department contains four fine steam 
fire engines, one Babcock engine and two or three hand 
engines, hook and ladder apparatus, and all else required in 
battling with fires in a town of the size. There are also in 
various places hydrants, to which hose can be attached and 
powerful streams thrown, in case of a fire occurring in their 

In the business part of the city are many large and substan- 
tial fire-proof brick and stone structures. There is a large 
frame theatre and several halls in which balls and lectures 
are given. The rooms of the Washoe Club are as fine as 
those of most similar clubs in large cities, and were fitted up 
at a cost of about $75,000. They contain a library, reading 
and billiard-rooms, dining-room, and all else required for the 
accommodation ot members. Many fine oil paintings adorn 
the walls, and the furniture and all the appointments are 
costly and elegant. 

Owing to the fact that the plateau on which the town is 
built slopes rapidly to the east, buildings that are but three 
stories high in front, are in places five or six stories in the 
rear. This configuration of the ground is of great advantage 
to those who wish to make a display in cellars and basements. 

On account of the altitude, the atmosphere is very light and 
thin, but the climate is as healthful as that of any town on 
the Pacific Coast. When the town was first settled, for some 
reason never explained, a notion prevailed that it was a bad 
place for children that children could not be reared there ; 
but this was a great mistake. Finer or more robust children 
can be seen in no town or city in the Union than those of 
Virginia. They grow like mushrooms. This is probably 
because they have to contend with but a small amount of 
atmospheric pressure there is nothing to prevent their shoot- 
ing up and expanding in all directions. 

It is a well known-known scientific fact that animals, as 



sheep and deer, found on elevated mountain ranges, have 
larger lungs than the same species when inhabiting places at 
or near the level of the sea ; therefore the children of Virginia 
City are likely to be large-lunged and broad-chested when 
they arrive at maturity. The air being thin and light, it is 
necessary for those breathing it to inhale it in greater volume 
than would be required in breathing the denser atmosphere 
of places at or near the level of the sea, and to do this, there 
must be a proper and proportionate expansion of the lungs. 
Children born in the country provide themselves with a 
proper supply of lungs without any looking after, but adults 
sometimes find the stretching of their lungs to the required 
standard, a somewhat unpleasant operation. 

The town of Gold Hill is well supplied with churches and 
schools, societies of all kinds, fire apparatus, and all else that 
should be found in a place of its population and business. 
What has been said of Virginia City in regard to these mat- 
ters, will apply equally well to Gold Hill. The town has one 
daily paper, the Evening News, contains the works of many of 
the leading mines of the Comstock, and is a lively, bustling 
business place is full of the thunder of machinery and the 
shriek of steam-whistles. Although but a mile from the 
centre of Virginia, the temperature of Gold Hill is about five 
degrees higher, winter and summer, than in the first-named 

The whole town is undermined, and may be said to stand 
on a foundation of timbers. The ground worked out under- 
neath the town has, however, been so thoroughly filled in 
with timbers and waste rock that there is no danger of it 
caving, though it is immediately but slowly settling. To the 
eastward of the town, and behind a large hill on which a 
portion of the town stands, a crevice has opened which is 
is nearly a mile in length, and in places over two feet in 
width. This shows that the whole place, hill and all, is 
gradually " subsiding." Both Virginia and Gold Hill have 
frequently been swept over by great fires, involving a loss 
of property to the extent of many millions of dollars. The 
burnt districts, however, have always been speedily rebuilt. 
The houses destroyed have been replaced with better and 


more substantial stuctures, and consequently the towns have 
improved in appearance by means of the fires they have passed 
through, though many persons have suffered great loss. 

A striking feature of both towns, and one which at once 
rivets the attention of all strangers, is the immense piles of 
rock seen in the neighborhood of all the principal mines. In 
these great dump-piles are heaped the rock and earth extracted 
in sinking the shafts, running the drifts, and in making other 
underground excavations. Persons from the Atlantic States, 
who are in the habit of judging of the depth of a well or other 
excavation by the amount of rubbish seen on the surface, are 
greatly surprised at the size of the dumps, and their first 
question is : " Did all that dirt come out of one mine ? " As 
soon as they see one of these mountains of waste rock, they 
begin a mental calculation as to the size of the hole left in 
the ground. It is no small pile of rubbish that comes out of a 
shaft six feet wide, twenty-two feet long, and from 1,500 to 
2,500 feet deep to say nothing of the debris from innumer- 
able drifts, crosscuts and winzes. 

The dump-piles of the Savage and Hale and Norcross, 
mining companies, situated in the southeastern part of Vir- 
ginia City, are among the largest on the Comstock, the shafts 
of these mines having been carried down to a depth of nearly 
2,500 feet; the waste -dump of the Bullion mine, at the north 
end of Gold Hill, is also of great size. In many instances, 
the waste rock hoisted out of the mines is utilized in filling in 
and leveling the ground surrounding the buildings above the 
shafts. In this way, acres of level ground are made, and the 
number of the unsightly dump-piles is much diminished. 

J. P. Jones, United States Senator from Nevada, has a 
residence in the town of Gold Hill, where live his mother and 
three of his brothers, one of whom, Samuel L. Jones, is super- 
intendent of the Crown Point mine, one of the leading mines 
of the Comstock. The mother of the Senator, although she 
might reside in any one of the cities of the Union, prefers to 
make her home at Gold Hill is really in love with the wild 
beauty of the surrounding hills, and the thunder of machinery, 
and all the sights, sounds, and excitements incident to life in 
the midst of the silver-mines. 


Omnibuses ply between Gold Hill and Virginia City, and 
soon street-cars will be running between the two towns, and 
perhaps as far as Silver City, a distance of five miles. Gold 
Canon, between Gold Hill and Silver City, is filled with 
mills, hoisting-works, business houses and residences, and 
from the place last named to Virginia City, a distance of five 
miles, it may be said to be one town. 

In the early history of the Comstock towns, huge " prairie 
schooners," laden with goods, merchandise, and machinery, 
from over the Sierras, thronged the streets. Each " schooner " 
was drawn by a team of from fourteen to sixteen mules, and 
ach mule was provided with a chime of bells, suspended in a 
steel bow or arch above the bearskin housings of his collar. 
A few of these teams sufficed to fill a whole street with music, 
but it was a kind of music that sounded best when heard at a 
distance and far up in the mountains. These great teams are 
now no longer seen. The only big teams are those employed 
in hauling quartz to mills that are off the line of the railroad, 
and in similar local freighting. 

Many of the wagons still in use are capable of hauling 
immense loads. In that country they have a way of hitching 
a second and smaller wagon behind the first, which second 
wagon is called a " back-action." Often as many as three and 
four wagons are thus coupled together in a train. In this 
way twenty-four cords of wood have been hauled by a team 
of twelve animals; ten horses hauled on one occasion 73,050 
pounds of quartz, and on another occasion twelve horses 
hauled 84,000 pounds of ore a distance of eight miles. Four 
wagons were used in each instance. These were, of course, 
unusually large loads, and were hauled on account of there 
"being some bantering between certain team-owners, but the 
teamsters of Nevada usually haul heavier loads than are 
hauled elsewhere. 

Being in Gold Hill, on one occasion, with two Western 
farmers who wished to see some of the mills and hoisting 
works of the place, I was somewhat amused at their anxiety 
to satisfy themselves in regard to the weight of the loads 
hauled by the Washoe teamsters. They had been told a good 
many stories in regard to big loads, and had made many 


memorandums of the same, but still could hardly credit what 
had been told them. 

Seeing a wagon-load of ore being weighed, they said: 
" Now we have caught them in the act ! Now we shall see 
for ourselves. They are just weighing that load. Two four 
six horses. We shall now see what is a Washoe load for 
six horses ! " 

As the wagon was driven off the scales, I said to the man 
who had done the weighing: "These gentlemen are farmers 
from the West. They are curious to know the weight of the 
load of ore that has just been driven off the scales." 

" It weighed just 28,000 pounds," said the man of the scales. 
The farmers looked at each other and smiled. 

"You may see for yourselves," said he of the scales; "the 
weights used, as you see, are still on count them up." 

" No;" said the farmers; "we are satisfied; but it will never 
do for us to speak of the loads hauled in Washoe, when we 
get back among our neighbors." 

Said the weigh-master, "I'll tell you what is a fact; a team 
of ten horses, drawing a train of four wagons, hauled a load 
of ore which weighed over 73,000 pounds along this street on 
which you stand." 

Said the Iowa farmer to the Ohio farmer : " Let us go ; we 
don't want to hear too much ! " 

The man at the scales then offered to show them a whole 
bookful of weights of loads hauled, if they would step into 
his office ; but they had seen and heard enough, and, as they 
said " More than we dare speak of at home." 

At present, the greater part of the ore that is not reduced 
near the mines, is exported by rail, and, indeed, the railroad 
does most of the heavy freighting of the whole country. 



THE Virginia and Truckee Railroad, runs from Virginia 
City to Reno, on the Truckee River, at which point it 
connects with the Central Pacific Railroad. The length 
of the road is 52 miles, and it is undoubtedly the crookedest 
road in the United States probably the crookedest in the world. 

Ground was broken for the road, on the ipth of February, 1869, 
and in eight months after, it was doing business between Virginia 
and Carson City a distance of twenty-one miles. 

The heavy work lies between these points nearly all of the 
tunnels, deep cuts and sharp curves and for the greater part of 
the distance the road was cut through solid rock. 

From Virginia City to the Carson River, a distance of 13 
miles, the track is a continuous incline. The maximum grade 
is 116 feet. The maximum radius of curves is 300 feet, and the 
degrees of curvature amount in all between Virginia and 
Carson City to 6,120; or, in other words, are equal to going 
seventeen times round a circle. Thus, in traveling from Vir- 
ginia City to Carson twenty-one miles one passes through a 
sufficiency of curves to carry him round a circle, 360 degrees, 
seventeen times. This surpasses any "swinging round the 
circle," political or otherwise, that has ever been done in the 
United States. 

There are on the road six tunnels of an aggregate length of 
2,400 feet. All of these tunnels are lined through their whole 
length with zinc, as a protection against fire. Wood is the fuel 
used on all the locomotives, and in tugging up the mountain 
with heavy trains such a Vesuvius of sparks is poured from the 



smoke-stacks, that without the protection of the zinc lining the 
woodwork of tunnels would constantly be taking fire. 

As I have said, the heaviest work on the road was between 
Virginia and Carson City. The cost of this section of 21 miles 
of road was $1,750,000, or about $83,000 per mile, which includes 
permanent way and graduation that is, with the track laid, and 
the road ready for business. The cost of the whole road was 
about $3,000,000. From Virginia City to Reno, the terminus. 
of the road, the distance in an air-line is 16^ miles, while by 
rail it is 52 miles. By the wagon-road, over the mountain, the 
distance from Virginia to Reno is only 22 miles. Over this 
wagon-road, known as the Ganger Grade, supplies of all kinds,, 
including heavy machinery for the mines, were brought to Vir- 
ginia, previous to the completion of the railroad ; the hauling 
being done by teams of ten, twelve, fourteen, and sixteen mules 
each, attached to huge wagons known as "prairie schooners." 

As will be seen, by the distance from Virginia City to Reno in 
a direct line, the traveler not only swings seventeen times round 
the circle, in going from Virginia to Carson, but has almost 
completed a grand circle when he reaches the end of the road and 
connects with the Central Pacific. He starts off in a southerly 
direction, and so continues until Carson is reached, when he 
turns and travels northward until he arrives at Reno. 

At Steamboat Springs, between Carson City and Reno, the 
traveler who starts from Virginia has traveled forty miles by 
rail, yet it is but 5-^ miles from the place whence he started,. 
Steamboat Springs being situated just back or west of Mount 
Davidson, on the eastern face of which Virginia City stands. 
Between Virginia and Carson the only piece of straight road is 
one little stretch about similes in length, but between Carson 
and Reno are found several miles of road tolerably straight. 
The road does an immense local carrying business. From 500 
to 800 tons of ore are daily carried over it to the mills on the 
Carson River, and return trains bring great quantities of wood, 
lumber, and timber for use at the mines. From thirty to as 
high as forty-five trains per day pass over that part of the road 
lying between Virginia and Carson City. 

Notwithstanding the crookedness of the road, trains run over 
it at a high rate of speed, as the road is kept in perfect order 


and steel rails are used on the mountains where short curves 
most abound. So crooked is the road that in places, in going 
down the mountain with a long train, the locomotive seems^ to 
be coming back directly toward the rear car, when directly it 
gracefully sheers off and heads down the mountain again, the 
train being thrown into the form of the letter S, reminding one 
of what the Bible says of the "way of a serpent on a rock." 

From Reno over the whole length of the road come vast 
amounts of machinery, stores, and supplies of all kinds for the 
mines and mills, and goods and merchandise for all of the towns 
along the river and in the mines. Along the road are a great 
number of side tracks and switches leading to mills and mining 
works. Some of these are of considerable length and, as more 
are constantly being constructed, the indications are that the 
added length of these will possibly exceed that of the main road. 

Branch roads, all of a permanent and substantial character, 
are being built to the shafts of the leading mines, to be used in 
taking in machinery, wood, timber, lumber, and other supplies, 
and for sending ore out to the mills. Many of these side-tracks 
are laid in places where it would be almost impossible to con- 
struct an ordinary wagon-road, and to see trains darting out of 
tunnels, and rushing along the face of almost perpendicular hills, 
disappearing behind a great tower of rock one moment, and the 
next coming in sight again and swinging round a second rugged 
tower, looks somewhat too "lively." All the wonderful engin- 
eering required in the construction of these side-tracks, as well 
as in the the main road, was done by Mr. I. E. James, an old 
resident of the country the man who has done nearly all of 
the intricate surveying that has been required in the leading 
mines on the Comstock lode. Although one of the most modest 
and unassuming men on the Pacific Coast, with him nothing in 
the way of engineering appears to be impossible. 

After having seen the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, all will 
say that there is no region so rugged but that a track for the 
" iron horse " may be found over it and through it in all direc- 
tions. When engineers, conductors, and other railroad men from 
the Atlantic States, first begin running on the Virginia and 
Truckee road they promise themselves that they will make a 
very short stay, but in a few months they begin to take pride in 


their ability to run on such a road ; they like the excitement of 
it and consider that those who only run on roads that are 
straight and level know but little about the beauties of the 
business about railroading as a fine art. Although these men 
run trains down the mountains from Virginia City to Carson 
River swinging seventeen times round the circle and going at a 
fearful rate of speed, yet serious accidents very seldom occur. 
The trains are timed by telegraph and the stations are so nume- 
rous that the conductors are always well informed in regard to 
the trains on the road, and their position. 

Surveys have been made for a narrow-gauge railroad from 
Virginia City to Reno, and thence to the northward, along the 
eastern base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This road will 
run northward from Virginia starting out in an opposite direc- 
tion from that taken by the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, 
and will pass over some very rough country, but will reach 
Reno by a shorter* route than the other road named. The 
object in building this narrow-gauge road is the tapping of the 
vast forests of pine lying along the eastern slope of the Sierras. 



ANOTHER work that has been of great benefit to the 
towns along the Comstock, and to all the mining and 
milling companies in and about the towns, and along the 
canons below, was the bringing of an ample supply of pure 
water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 

In the early days, when the first mining was done at Virginia 
City and Gold Hill, natural springs furnished a supply of water 
for the use of the few persons then living in the two camps. For 
a time after the discovery of silver, these springs, and a few wells 
that were dug by the settlers, sufficed for all uses, but as the 
towns grew in population, an increased supply of water was 
demanded. A water company was formed and the water flow- 
ing from several tunnels that had been run into the mountains 
west of Virginia City for prospecting purposes, was collected in 
large wooden tanks, and distributed about the two towns by 
means of pipes. At length the tunnels from which this supply 
was obtained began to run dry, and a water famine was threat- 
ened. It then became necessary to set men to work at extending 
the tunnels further into the hills to cut across new strata of rock. 
This increased the supply for a time, but, at length, the whole top 
of the hill into which the tunnels extended appeared to be com- 
pletely drained. 

Early in the spring, when the snow was melting, they afforded 
a considerable supply; but in the summer, when water was most 
needed, the tunnels furnished but feeble streams and these were 
much impregnated with minerals, one of the least feared of 
which was arsenic. The ladies rather liked arsenic, as it im- 



proved their complexion ; made them fair and rosy-cheeked 
almost young again, some of them. The miners did not object 
to arsenic; as, while it did not injure their complexion, it 
strengthened their lungs made them, and able 
to scale mountains. (Every man of them hungered to hunt the 
wild chamois.) But there were other minerals held in solution 
in the water those that caused diarrhoea for instance that 
were not so well thought of. 

The nearer hills having thus been drained, tunnels were run 
into such of those further away as were of sufficient altitude to 
permit of streams from them being brought to the two towns 
These tunnels were run for no other purpose than to find water. 
A hill was examined with a view to its water-producing capac- 
ity. It was found that those which rose up in a single sharp or 
rounded peak were not rich in water. The best water-producers 
were hills on the tops of which there were large areas of flat 
ground. That portion of a range of mountains which contained 
on the summit a large shallow basin surrounded by clusters of 
hills or peaks was found to yield largely and for a long time, 
when tapped by a tunnel run under the basin or sink at the 
depth of three or four hundred feet. 

Dams were constructed across the outlets of these basins to 
hold back the water from the melting snow, in order that it might 
filter down through the earth to the tunnels. At the mouths of 
the tunnels heavy bulkheads of timbers and plank were con- 
structed, to keep back and dam up the water where it could be 
kept cool and pure. Where deep shafts stood near the line of 
these tunnels, ditches were dug to them along the sides of the 
hills, and the water formed by the melting of the snow in the 
spring was let into thejii. All manner of devices, in short, were 
resorted to for the purpose of keeping in and upon the hills all 
of the moisture from snow or rains that fell upon them. Yet 
one after another these hills failed. When once the tops had been 
thoroughly drained it appeared to require all of the water that 
fell on them in any shape during winter to reach down into and 
moisten them to the level of the tunnels. Finally, there were in 
all many miles of these horizontal wells. All the hills from 
which water could be brought, for miles away to the northward 
and southward of Virginia and Gold Hill, were tapped, thousands. 


on thousands of dollars being expended in this work. When a 
reservoir of water was first tapped in a new hill there would be 
poured out a great flood for a few days; this would then fall to 
a moderate stream and so remain for a month or two, when it 
would begin to dwindle away. The water from the many 
tunnels was collected by means of small wooden flumes or 
troughs, winding about the curves of the hills for miles, and in 
summer, when most wanted, the sickly streams from the more 
distant tunnels were lost by leakage and evaporation before 
having finished half their course to the towns. 

Virginia City and Gold Hill were frequently placed upon a 
short allowance of water, and it was seen that a great water 
famine must soon prevail in both towns, in case the tunnels that 
had been run into the mountains were depended upon for a supply. 
The Virginia and Gold Hill Water Company then determined to 
bring a supply of pure water from the streams and lakes of the 
Sierra Nevada Mountains from the regions of eternal snow. 

The distance from Virginia City to the first available streams 
in the Sierras was about twenty-five miles ; but between the Vir- 
ginia range of mountains and the Sierras, lay the deep depression 
known as Washoe Valley, in one part of which is situated 
Washoe Lake. The problem to be solved in bringing water 
from the Sierras to Virginia City was how to convey it across this 
deep valley. 

Mr. H. Schussler, the engineer under whose supervision the 
Spring Valley Water Works, of San Francisco, were constructed, 
was sent for, and crossing the Sierras he made an examination of 
the route over which it was proposed to bring the water. He 
acknowledged that the undertaking was one of great difficulty. 
To convey the water across the deep depression formed by 
Washoe Valley would demand the performing of a feat in 
hydraulic engineering never before attempted in any part of the 
world. This was to carry the water through an iron pipe under 
a perpendicular pressure of 1,720 feet. This feat, however, Mr. 
Schussler said could be performed, and he was ready to under- 
take it at once. 

Surveys were made, in the spring of 1872, and orders given for 
the manufacture of the pipe. To make the pipe was the work of 
nearly a year. The manufacturers were furnished with a diagram 


of the line on which it was to be laid and each section was 
made to fit a certain spot. When the route lay round a point of 
rocks the pipe was made of the required curve, and other 
curved sections were required when the line crossed deep and 
narrow ravines. 

The first section of pipe was laid, June nth, 1873, and the 
last on the 25th, of July the same year. The whole length of the 
pipe is seven miles and one hundred and thirty-four feet. Its 
interior diameter is twelve inches, and it is capable of deliver- 
ing 2,200,000 gallons of water per twenty-four hours. It lies 
across Washoe Valley, in the form of an inverted siphon. The 
end at which the water is received rests upon a spur from the 
main Sierras, at an elevation of 1885 feet above Washoe Valley. 
The outlet is on the crest of the Virginia range of mountains, 
on the eastern slope of which are situated the towns of Virginia 
and Gold Hill. The perpendicular elevation of the inlet above 
the outlet is 465 feet. Thus is brought to bear a great pressure 
which forces the water rapidly through the pipe. 

The water is brought to the inlet through a large wooden 
flume, and at the outlet is delivered into a similar flume, twelve 
miles in length, which conveys it to Virginia City. The pipe is 
of wrought iron, and is fastened by three rows of 5-8 inch rivets. 
At the lowest point in the ground crossed, the perpendicular 
pressure is 1,720 feet, equal to 800 pounds to the square inch. 
Here the iron is 5-16 of an inch in thickness, but as the ground 
rises to the east and west, and the pressure is reduced, the thick- 
ness of the iron decreases through 1-4, 3-16, down to 1-16. 

In its course, the pipe crosses thirteen deep gulches, making 
necessary that number of undulations, as it is throughout its 
length laid at the depth of 2 1-2 feet below the surface of the 
earth. Besides these, there are a great number of lateral curves 
round hills and points of rocks. There was just one place and 
none other for each section of pipe as received from the manu- 
factory. At each point where there is a depression in the pipe 
there is a blow-off cock, for the removal of any sediment that 
may collect, and on the top of each ridge is an air-cock, for 
blowing off the air when the water was first let in, and at other 
times when the pipe is being filled. The pipe contains no less 
than i, 1 5 0,000 pounds of rolled iron; is held together by 1,000,000 


rivets, and there were used in securing the joints 52,000 pounds 
of lead, which was melted and poured in from a portable furnace 
that moved along the line as the work of laying the pipe-pro- 
gressed. Before being put down, each section of pipe was boiled 
in a bath of asphaltum and coal-tar, at a temperature of 380 
degrees. At the first filling of the pipe a stream of water, about 
the thickness of a common lead-pencil, escaped through the lead 
packing of a joint, at a point where the pressure was greatest. 
This struck against the face of a rock, and, rebounding, played 
upon the upper side of the pipe. The water brought with it 
from the rock a small quantity of sand or grit, perhaps, but at 
all events it soon bored a hole through the top of the pipe, and 
from this hole, which shortly became two or three inches in 
diameter, a jet of water ascended to the height of two hundred 
feet or more, spreading out in the shape of a fan toward the top. 

When this break occurred, a signal smoke was made in the 
valley, and the lookout at the inlet of the pipe on the mountain 
spur shut off the water. Over each joint in the pipe was placed 
a cast-iron sleeve or band, weighing 300 pounds, and within this 
sleeve was poured the molten lead which served as packing. In 
all there were used 1,475 or 44 2 >5 pounds of these sleeves, 
and but three out of the whole number proved faulty, and failed 
to sustain the strain brought upon them, and of 12,640 sheets of 
iron used in the pipe, but one bad one was found. As it would 
have been a great task to test each section of the pipe by 
hydraulic pressure at the manufactory, the engineer proposed to 
bring the whole under the required strain at once, after they 
were put down. He began the pressure with a perpendicular 
height of 1,250 feet in the column of water; increased it to 
1,550, to 1,700, and finally to 1,850, being 130 feet more than 
the pipe would be required to sustain when in actual use. 

During these experiments, men were stationed at the inlet of 
the pipe, at its outlet on the summit of the Virginia range, and 
at various points through the valley, as lookout men. They 
made their signals by means of a smoke during the day, and a 
fire by night a trick learned from the Piute Indians. 

As the water came surging down through the great inverted 
siphon from the elevated mountain spur, and began to fill and 
press upon the parts lying in the deeper portions of the valley, 


one after another the blow-off cocks on the crests of the ridges 
crossed, opened, and allowed the escape of the compressed air. 
Compared with what was heard when these cocks blew off, the 
blowing of a whale was a mere whisper. The water finally 
flowed through the pipe and reached Gold Hill and Virginia 
City on the night of August i, 1873. Early that evening a 
signal fire was lighted in the mountains at the inlet of the pipe, 
showing that the water had again been turned on. 

As the pipe filled, the progress of the water in it could be 
traced by the blowihg off of the air on the tops of the ridges 
through the valley, and at last, to the great joy of the engineer 
and all concerned in the success of the enterprise, the signal 
fire at the outlet, on the summit of the Virginia range, was for 
the first time lighted, showing that the water was flowing through 
the whole length of the pipe. 

When the water reached Virginia there was great rejoicing. 
Cannon were fired, bands of music paraded the streets, and 
rockets were sent up all over the city. Many persons went out 
and filled bottles with this first water from the Sierras, and a 
bottle of it is still preserved in the cabinet of the Pacific Coast 

Previous to the laying of this pipe for the Virginia and Gold 
Hill Water Company, the greatest pressure under which water 
had ever been carried in any part of the world was 910 feet. 
This was at Cherokee Flat, California, and was also under the 
supervision of Mr. Schussler. 

In 1875, the Virginia and Gold Hill Water Company laid a 
second pipe alongside of the first. This has an inside diameter 
of ten inches. Instead of being fastened with rivets it is lap- 
welded, and is the largest pipe ever made in that way. As there 
are no rivet-heads in it to produce friction, it delivers the same 
amount of water as the larger pipe, namely, 2,200,000 gallons 
per twenty-four hours. 

Previous to 1875, the supply of water was principally obtained 
from a stream known as Hobart Creek, but, in the year named, 
the works in the mountains were extended by pushing the supply 
flume through to Marlette Lake, within the basin of Lake Tahoe, 
a distance of eight and a half miles, and a total distance from 
Virginia City of thirty-one and a half miles. In order to reach 


and tap Marietta Lake it was necessary in one place to run a 
tunnel 3,000 feet in 'length under a dividing ridge the ridge 
forming the rim of the Lake Tahoe basin. Marlette Lake 
covers over 300 acres of ground, and in the middle is 30 or 40 
feet in depth. 

Connected with the works are several reservoirs that hold 
from three million to ten million gallons of water. Signal fires 
are no longer necessary along the line of the works, as there is 
now set up a line of printing telegraph, with numerous stations 
between Virginia City and Marlette Lake. Marlette Lake lies 
at an altitude of 1,500 feet above C street, Virginia City, and 
the water is brought in at such a height above the town that it 
can everywhere be carried far above the highest buildings, and 
streams from the hydrants are thrown with great force and effect 
in case of a fire occurring near them. 

There is now not only an ample supply of water in the city 
for all town and domestic uses, but also for the boilers of the 
many hoisting works, and for use in the several mills where the 
ores of the Comstock mines are reduced. The cost of the water- 
works was over two million dollars. 



THE Comstock lode may truthfully be said to be the tomb 
of the forests of the Sierras. Millions on millions of 
feet of lumber are annually buried in the mines, never- 
more to be resurrected. When once it is planted in the lower 
levels it never again sees the light of day. The immense 
bodies of timber now being entombed along the Comstock, 
will probably be discovered some thousands of years hence, by 
the people to be born in a future age, in the shape of huge beds 
of coal, and the geologists of that day will say that this coal 
or lignite came from large deposits of driftwood at the bottom 
of a lake; that there came a grand upheaval, and Mount Da- 
vidson arose, carrying the coal with it on its eastern slope. 

Not less than eighty million feet of timber and lumber are 
annually consumed on the Comstock lode. In a single mine 
the Consolidated Virginia timber is being buried at the rate 
of six million feet per annum, and in all other mines in like 
proportion. At the same time about 250,000 cords of wood 
are consumed. 

The pine-forests of the Sierra Nevada Mountains are drawn 
upon for everything in the shape of wood or lumber, and 
have been thus drawn upon for many years. For a distance 
of fifty or sixty miles all the hills of the eastern slope of 
the Sierras have been to a great extent denuded of trees of 
every kind ; those suitable only for wood as well as those fit 
for the manufacture of lumber for use in the mines. Already 
the lumbermen are not only extending their operations to a 
greater distance north and south along the great mountain 



range, but are also beginning to reach over to the western 
slope over to the California side of the range. 

Long since, all the forests on the lower hills of the Nevada 
side of the mountains that could be reached by teams, were 
swept away, when the lumbermen began to scale the higher 
hills, felling the trees thereon, and rolling or sliding the logs 
down to flats whence they could be hauled. The next move- 
ment was to erect saw-mills far up in the mountains, and to 
construct from these, large flumes leading down into the 
valleys, through which to float wood, lumber, and timber. 
Some of these flumes are over twenty miles in length, and are 
very substantial structures, costing from $20,000 to $250,000 
each. They are built on a regular grade, and, in order to 
maintain this grade, wind round hills, pass along the sides 
of steep mountains, and cross deep canons; reared, in many 
places, on trestle-work of great height. 

These flumes are made so large that timbers sixteen inches 
square and twenty or thirty feet in length may be floated 
down in them. In a properly constructed flume, timbers of a 
large size are floated by a very small head of water ; and not 
alone single logs, but long processions of them. Timbers, 
wood, lumber in fact, all that will float is carried away as 
fast as thrown in. When a stick of timber or a plank has 
been placed in the flume, then ends all the expense of trans- 
portation, as, without further attention, it is dumped in the 
valley twenty miles away, perhaps. By means of these 
flumes, tens of thousands of acres of timber-land are made 
available, that could never have been reached by teams. 

In some places, where the ground is very steep, there are to 
be seen what are called gravitation flumes, down which wood 
is sent without the aid of water. These, however, are merely 
straight chutes, running from the top to the bottom of a single 
hill or range of hills. In places, they are of great use, as 
through them wood may be sent down within reach of the 
main water-flume leading to the valley. Nearly all of the 
flumes have their dumps near the line of the Virginia and 
Truckee Railroad, or some of its branches or side-tracks, and 
in these dumps are at times to be seen thousands upon thou- 
sands of cords of wood and millions of feet of lumber. 


In some localities a kind of chute is in use, made by laying 
down a line of heavy timbers in such shape as to form a sort 
of trough. Down these tracks or troughs are slid huge logs. 
When the troughs are steep, the logs rush down at more than 
railroad speed, leaving behind them a trail of fire and smoke. 
Such log-ways are generally to be seen about the lakes, and 
are so contrived that the logs leap from them into water of 
great depth, as otherwise they would be shivered to pieces 
and spoiled for use in the manufacture of lumber. Occasion- 
ally, in summer, a daring lumberman mounts a large log at 
the top of one of these chutes, high up the mountain, and 
darting down at lightning speed, with hair streaming in the 
breeze, takes a wild leap of twenty or thirty feet into the 
lake. In one place, in order to obtain a supply of water 
sufficient to run two lumber-flumes, a tunnel was run a 
distance of 2,100 feet at a cost of $30,000. This tunnel passed 
through a ridge, and tapped a lake lying within the basin of 
Lake Tahoe. 

Yerington, Bliss, & Co., one of the heaviest lumbering firms 
in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, have built a narrow-gauge 
railroad from their saw-mills on the shore of Lake Tahoe to 
the head of Clear Creek, on the first or eastern summit of the 
Sierras. The road is eight miles in length, and is used in the 
transportation of lumber from the mills of the company to 
their large flume at the head of Clear Creek. This railroad 
passes through a tunnel 500 feet in length, which was the 
only tunnel and the heaviest piece of work on the road. 

Logs are rafted across Lake Tahoe to the mills, from all 
points. The lake being of great size, and all of its shores and 
the slopes of the surrounding mountains being heavily tim- 
bered, the company have command of a vast area of pine- 
forests. Through the waters of the lake and its numerous 
bays, they reach out and up into the mountains in all direc- 
tions, gathering the pines into their mills, carrying them, in 
the shape of lumber, up their railroad, and then shooting them 
through their big flume down over all the hills till they land 
in Carson Valley. 

This is all very well for the company and for the mining 
companies, who must have lumber and timber, but it is going 




to make sad work, ere long, with the picturesque hills sur- 
rounding Lake Tahoe, the most beautiful of all the lakes in 
the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Where tall pines now "shade 
all the shores and wave on all the mountain slope, nought 
will shortly be seen, save decaying stumps and naked granite 
rocks. But timber and lumber are imperatively demanded, 
and the forests of not only these hills but of a thousand others, 
will doubtless be sacrificed. 

The rafts of logs are towed across the lake by small steam- 
boats. This rafting is of a novel character. The logs forming 
the raft are not pinned or in any way fastened together. The 
steamboat runs up to a bay or other place where logs are 
lying, and casts anchor. A boat is then sent out which 
carries a long cable strung full of large buoys. This cable is 
carried round a proper fleet of logs, as a seine is carried 
round a school of fish. The steamer then weighs anchor and 
starts across the lake, towing along all the logs about which 
the cable has been cast. No matter how rough the lake may 
be, the logs remain in a bunch, being attracted the one to the 
other, and clinging together as bits of stick and chips are 
often seen to do when floating on a lake or stream. 

On the side of the lake opposite the mills of Yerington, 
Bliss, Sa Co., a man who has a contract for delivering logs 
in the water ready for rafting, does his "logging" with a 
locomotive. He has laid a railroad track, some six miles in 
length, through the heaviest part of the forest, and instead of 
hauling the logs to the lake with oxen, in the old-fashioned 
way, rolls them upon low trucks, and hauls a whole train of 
them away at once, with his locomotive. 

At the edge of the lake the track is laid under water for a 
considerable distance, and the train being run upon this track, 
the logs are floated off the low cars, and are ready for rafting. 

Other large mills besides those of the company named, are 
engaged in devouring the forest surrounding Lake Tahoe. 
About five million feet of lumber per month are turned out 
by the several mills at the lake, and each summer about three 
million feet of timbers are hewn in that locality. Many of 
the sugar-pine trees about Lake Tahoe are five, six, and 
some even eight feet, in diameter ; all are very tall and straight. 


At a point in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, about eleven 
miles from the town of Reno, on the Central Pacific Railroad, 
Messrs. Mackay & Fair have a lumber-flume over twenty- 
miles in length. This flume was built through an exceed- 
ingly rugged region, and cost $250,000. It taps a tract of 
twelve thousand acres of heavy pine-forest owned by the 
parties named. The land is estimated to contain 500,000 
cords of wood, 100,000,000 feet of saw-logs, and 30,000,000 feet 
of hewn timber; all of which will be brought down to the 
Virginia and Truckee Railroad, through the flume. A print- 
ing telegraph extends along the whole line of the flume, by 
means of which orders are transmitted to all points. 

There are a great number of these flumes reaching up into 
the Sierras from the valleys of Nevada, and soon it will be 
necessary to build railroads to haul the lumber up to the 
heads of these from the California side of the mountains, as 
has been done by Yerington, Bliss, & Co. No means of trans- 
porting wood, lumber, and timber is or can be cheaper than 
these flumes. When once a plank or stick of wood has been 
dropped in at the head of the flume it is already as good as at 
the other end, twenty or thirty miles away. The flumes are 
far ahead of railroads of any gauge, broad or narrow, as a 
means of cheap transportation for wood and lumber. 

Each season, from 80,000 to 100,000 cords of wood are 
floated down the Carson River. This wood is cut high up in 
the Sierras, at the head-waters of the Carson and its tribu- 
taries, and is sent down from the mountain slopes for many 
miles, in flumes of the same kind as those in use for the trans- 
portation of lumber. The wood is collected on the banks of 
the river, ready to be launched at the proper and auspicious 

Contrary to what most persons would suppose, the proper 
time for starting one of these drives of eighty or one hundred 
thousand cords of wood, is not when there is a big freshet, 
'but at the falling of the stream after a freshet ; that is, on the 
heels of a grand overflow. If the wood be put into the river 
at a time when its waters are over the banks, it floats away 
into the flats and out over the valleys, whence it is almost 
impossible, but at too great cost, to get it back into the 


channel, and thus it is as good as lost. The lumbermen are 
for this reason careful not to put their wood into the river 
while there is danger of there occurring a sudden flood,~which 
would lift it above the banks and scatter it broadcast over the 

The time for starting the drive is just after the great flood 
of the season after the thaw which sweeps the greater part 
of the snow from the mountains. Then the wood comes down 
huddled in the channel, and covering the whole surface of the 
water, for fifty miles or more. At points where there are 
sloughs or bayous leading out of the river, booms are stretched 
to keep the wood in the straight and narrow way. French 
Canadian lumbermen and Piute Indians are generally em- 
ployed in making these drives. As the wood must be fol- 
lowed up and kept movjng, it is a wet and laborious business. 

The time is not far distant when the whole of that part of 
the Sierra Nevada range lying adjacent to the Nevada silver- 
mining region will be utterly denuded of trees of every kind. 
Already, one bad effect of this denudation is seen in the 
summer failure of the water in the Carson River. The first 
spell of hot weather in the spring now sweeps nearly all the 
snow from the mountains, and sends it down into the valleys 
in one grand flood ; whereas, while the mountains were thickly 
clad with pines, the melting of the snow was gradual, and 
there was a good volume of water in the river throughout the 
summer and fall months. 

The prevailing breezes in Nevada are from the west indeed 
the wind seldom blows from any other quarter than the west 
which is directly over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In 
passing over the fields of snow, on the summit of the Sierras, 
the breezes are cooled, and the summer weather in Nevada is 
thus rendered delightful. But when once the mountains shall 
have been denuded of their timber, all the snow on both slopes 
will be swept away by the first warm weather of spring as it 
is now swept away on the eastern slope when a marked in- 
crease in the heat of the summers in Nevada is likely to be 

Railroads are being pushed, both north and south, along the 
eastern base of the Sierras, with no other object than to strip 


the mountains of the forests in which they are now clothed, 
in the course of time. We may therefore look to see the whole 
range lying bare in the sun. When this shall come to pass, 
the Great Basin region to the eastward will be a perfect fur- 
nace in summer. 

There must come a day when wood will be scarce and dear, 
and some other fuel must be found. Coal from the Rocky 
Mountains is now extensively used at Virginia City, but it 
costs about as much as wood. The problem may be solved in a 
wonderful deposit of lignite recently opened by the Virginia 
City Coal Company, and it is to be hoped that the mine will 
prove to be all that it now promises. 

This coal deposit is on El Dorado Canon, eleven miles from 
Dayton, ten from Carson City, and seventeen from Virginia 
City. Such an extensive deposit of lignite as this has sel- 
dom been found in any country. There are two strata of it, 
each fifteen feet in thickness. The first vein was cut at the 
depth of forty feet, and forty feet below this was found the 
second stratum, of the same thickness (fifteen feet) as that 
above. Both veins dip to the southwest, at an inclination of 
four inches per foot, under a mountain of great size. The 
company have erected steam-hoisting and pumping machi- 
nery, and have sunk their main shaft to the depth of 180 feet, 
at which point they drifted out until they cut their lower vein, 
at a point 460 feet distant from the bottom of the shaft. They 
then followed the stratum back to the shaft, for the purposes 
of ventilation, and were all the way in coal of an excellent 
quality. The coal burns well and freely, and must prove of 
great value as soon as it can be cheaply brought to the several 
towns where it is needed, as it appears to exist in almost 
inexhaustible quantities. A narrow-gauge railroad is to be 
built from the mine to the neighboring towns. 

One or two mills have been run with coal, but the cost 
of hauling it on wagons is too great to make it much more 
economical as a fuel than the wood and coal already in use. 


IN the spring of 1871, there sprang into existence in Virginia 
City, a secret organization known as " Six Hundred and One." 
It was a "Vigilance Committee " similar to that organized in 
San Francisco in the early days. The object of the organization 
in Virginia City, as far as is known, appears to have been the 
speedy execution of persons guilty of cold-blooded murder, and 
the banishment of dangerous men from the city. 

At the time "601 " made its appearance, there were frequent 
incendiary fires, many murders had been committed, robberies 
were common, and there prevailed an unusual amount of law- 
lessness. The idea of those belonging to the organization seems 
to have been to strike terror to the hearts of evil-doers by the 
summary punishment of desperate characters who, with little or 
no provocation, killed peaceable citizens. 

" Six Hundred and One " was so quietly and secretly organ- 
ized that it appeared to spring into existence in a single night. 
The first that was publicly known of the organization was on the 
night of March 24, 1871, when Arthur Perkins Heffernan, who, 
a short time before, had shot down a man in cold blood at the 
bar of the saloon in the principal hotel of the town, was taken 
from the County Jail and hanged. ^ 

In the morning, when the coroner went to cut down the body 
of Arthur Perkins, as he was commonly called, there was found 
pinned upon it a paper on which were the figures " 601." This 
was taken to be the name of the " vigilante " organization, and 
*' 601 " it has ever since been called. It is supposed to be still 
in existence, and it is said that meetings are frequently held, in 


248 "WHAT'S UP? 

which the " situation " is discussed. The members are supposed 
to be leading citizens and business men of the town, but just 
who they are is not certainly known, as they always appear in 
masks when out on business. Perkins was taken from the jail 
and hanged, at about i o'clock in the morning. The majority of 
the residents of the city knew nothing of the occurrence until 
they arose, yet many persons were still on the streets and lingering 
about the saloons and other places of public resort, and not a few 
met " 60 1 " face to face, greatly to their astonishment. 

The meaning of the appearance of armed and masked men in 
the streets at such a time in the night was rightly guessed by 
most persons, as soon as tney had time for reflection. The 
members of the organization had quietly taken possession of the 
armory of one of the military companies of the town, where they 
armed themselves with muskets and bayonets, drew on their 
white masks, and suddenly sallied forth. 

Their first move was to place a strong guard at the four 
corners of the streets round the block in which stood the jail. 
The appearance of these guards at the street corners was the 
first intimation that the people of the town had that anything 
unusual was transpiring. Men started to go to their homes, when 
they suddenly found themselves confronted by a score of masked 
men, who brought to bear upon them a row of glittering bayonets, 
and said; " Go back ! " Most persons went " back " without a 
word, but a few wanted to know " what's up ! " and " what was 
the reason they could not pass ? " when they were again told to 
go back or they would " find out what was up ! " 

Some persons after being thus turned back, went round the 
block and tried at the next street corner, where they were again 
met by a glittering array of bayonets and the stern order : " Go 
back ! " 

A woman who happened to be scouting about the town at the 
unseemly hour when the net was drawn about the block, found 
herself caught in it. She tried every corner and, at each, found 
a row of bayonets held in front of her. 

Not a word was spoken anywhere, and this silence and the 
sight of the arms and masks so frightened her that she galloped 
about at a very lively rate for a time, then suddenly disappeared, 
no one knew whither. Some printers also going home from their 

AFRAID ! 249 

work on a morning paper, were halted, and their foreman, a fussy, 
fidgetty old fellow, recently from San Francisco, was frightened 
nearly out of his wits. When he found half a dozen bayonets at 
his breast, and saw before him the masked faces, he was sure he 
had fallen into the hands of robbers. 

" Don't shoot ! for God's sake don't shoot ! " he cried. " I'm 
a poor miserable old printer and haven't got a cent ! " 

Said a voice : "We know you, you old fool. You only want 
to go two doors above here. I guess we'll just escort you ! " 
Then turning to the printers, who stood back, heartily enjoying 
the fright of their foreman, the same masked man said : " Come 
on boys, you lodge in the same house, I believe ! " 

Four or five men stepped out and marched the printers within 
the lines, seeing them to and through their own door. 

" Gentlemen, will we be quite safe here ? " asked the still 
anxious foreman, thrusting his head out at the door, after it was 
thought he was secured within. 

"You are safe inside," said one of the masked men, "but if 
you come out again we'll blow the whole top of your head off! " 

The head instantly disappeared. 

Every few minutes some belated citizen was halted and turned 
back, at one or another corner of the beleagured block, giving 
him an opportunity of returning to his favorite saloon, telling of 
the wonder and taking another drink. The armed and masked 
men at the corners were all that any one saw ; what was going on 
within the guarded square no one knew, but all were able to make 
a tolerably correct guess. 

Suddenly the heavy boom of a cannon shook the town and 
disturbed the stillness of the night. Instantly, and as though by 
magic, the armed and masked men disappeared from the streets, 
going no one knew whither. The boom of the cannon, which 
was fired in the eastern part of the city, at an old military post 
occupied during the rebellion by a provost guard, told that 
Arthur Perkins was no more. 

While the masked men stood on guard at the corners of the 
streets, Perkins was hanged in the western suburb of the city. 
It appears that twenty or thirty members of "601" who were 
within the lines, quietly went to the Court-house, and, with a crow- 
bar, wrenched open the front door. They then quickly advanced 


to the private office and sleeping-apartment occupied by the 
sheriff and a deputy. These officers were surprised in their beds, 
their weapons were secured, and the keys of the jail and cells 
taken from them. All the rest was now easily done. Arthur 
Perkins and a man who, in a fit of jealousy, had shot and 
wounded his wife, occupied the same cell. When the heavy 
tramp of the vigilantes was heard in the outer room, Perkins 
suspected its meaning 

" They have come for me," said he to his companion. " I may 
as well bid you good-bye ; this is my last night on earth ! " 

When the masked men entered the room in wfiich were ranged 
the cells, they advanced to that occupied by Perkins, and un- 
locking the door, said : " Come out, we want you." 

The man who was in the cell with Perkins was terribly fright- 
ened. He supposed that he, also, was wanted indeed thought 
a clean sweep of all in the jail was to be made. He started to 
march out with Perkins, but was pushed back, one of the men 
saying: "Go back! we don't want you." These, the man 
afterwards said, were the most comforting words he ever heard 
in his life. In his excitement Perkins was unable to get on one 
of his boots. *' " Never mind the boot," said one of the vigilantes, 
" where you are going you will not need boots ! ' 

Perkins was marched by" the back way through the Court- 
house, was hurried to a point near the old Ophir works, and 
there, when a convenient timber was found, was hanged. He 
stood on a plank placed across the mouth of a tunnel and, when 
the fatal moment came, did not wait for the plank to be pulled 
from under his feet, but sprang into the air as high as he could 
leap, in order to fall with as much force as possible and thus end 
his life quickly and with little pain. 

On the 26th of September, 1846, the ship Thomas H. Perkins 
sailed from New York, having on board a portion of Stevenson's 
regiment of California volunteers. The Perkins was commanded 
by Captain Arthur, and Arthur Perkins Heffernan was born on 
the vessel during her passage between New York and Rio de 
Janeiro. He was named after the vessel and her captain. His 
father was a corporal in Company F ; F. J. Lippite commanding ; 
his mother was a sister of the notorious robber, Jack Powers, 
who was also at that time a member of company F. A girl was 



born on the ship Thomas H. Perkins about the same time that 
young Heffernan first saw the light, and it was an understood 
thing by those on board the vessel that this girl, calledr Alta 
California, should, at the proper age, become the wife of Arthur 
Perkins Heffernan, an event that never came to pass. Both 
children were baptized at Rio, at the American Embassy, by the 
chaplain of the United States' ship Columbia^ then lying in Bra- 
zilian waters. 

On the i8th of July, 1871, " 601 " hanged George B. Kirk, a 
man who was considered a very bad character, who had killed a 
man in California, and who had lately been released from the 
Nevada State Prison. He had received a note (ticket of leave, 
as these notes came to be called) from " 601," ordering him to 
leave the city. He left, but after being gone some time ventured 
back. Acquaintances told him that to attempt to remain in the 
town would cost him his life, but he thought otherwise. 

The first night he was in the city he was found at the house of 
a female acquaintance, and, at about n o'clock, he was captured 
by " 601," placed in a buggy, and taken out to the north end of 
the town, to the Sierra Nevada mining works, and there hanged 
from the timbers of a flume. Again the cannon in the eastern 
part of the city boomed, and as the single, heavy shot echoed 
through the mountains those who heard it said : " Ha ! Six 
Hundred and One ! Another man gone ! " Had Kirk remained 
away from the city he would not have been harmed. When he 
came back in defiance of the order he had received, commanding 
him to absent himself from the city, the vigilantes found it 
necessary to make an example of him, as otherwise all who had 
received " tickets of leave " would have flocked back to the town. 

Since the hanging of Kirk," 60 1 " has not found it necessary to 
" deal with " any others of the desperadoes of the country. A 
wholesome fear of the organization is felt. All know that a man 
who behaves himself in even a half-way decent manner is in no 
danger from the vigilantes." 

As the reader may desire to know what the regularly consti- 
tuted authorities do in the case of an execution of the irregular 
character of those of " 601," I give the verdict of the coroner's 
jury in the case of Kirk : 

M We find the deceased was named Geo. B. Kirk ; was a native of Jacksoa 


county, Missouri, aged about 36 years ; that he came to his death on the i8th 
day of July, 1871, by being hanged by parties unknown to us." 

The morning after the hanging, when Kirk's remains were 
lying at an undertaking establishment, a - man who appeared to 
be a stranger in the city, observing something of a crowd about 
the door, approached, and looked in at the body lying in the 

" Man dead ? " asked he of a person standing near. 

"Yes, sir; " shortly answered the person questioned. 

Fidgetting a little the stranger tried it again : " How did he 
die ? " 

" Hung." was the laconic reply. 

" Hung ! Ah, hung himself ? " 

" No sir, he was hanged by * 601 ' by the Vigilantes." 

"What did they hang him for? " 

" He had been notified to leave town, but after leaving he 
came back." 

" When a man has been notified to leave the town, can't he 
never come back here again and stay ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

" Yes ? Then how is this ? " 

" Well he came back and " pointing to the coffin '* you see 
ht stayed" 



THE " zephyr " is one of the peculiar institutions of Washoe, 
and as such is worthy of special mention. At certain 
seasons generally in the fall and spring furious gales 
prevail along the Comstock range. In and about Virginia City 
these wind-storms are particularly severe. The city being built 
on the eastern slope of Mount Davidson, at an elevation of over 
6,000 feet above the level of the sea, and the mountain rising 
abruptly above the city on the west, to the height of about 2,000 
feet above the town, fierce whirls and " sucks " are formed in the 
lee of the mountain. 

The prevailing winds of the country come from the west, and 
from this quarter also comes. the "zephyr." It is probably a 
straight-ahead gale before it strikes Mount Davidson, but upon 
that towering mass of granite it splits. Currents pass round 
the north and south sides of the mountain, meet in the city ? 
and waltz about in the shape of whirlwinds of from eighty to 
two hundred horse-power. To complicate things still more, a 
third portion of the gale comes howling directly over the peak 
of the mountain, and plunges down into the town among the 
whirlwinds, knocking them right and left whenever it encounters 

It is no doubt this particular and peculiar current of the gale 
whipping down over the summit of the mountain, that produces 
the remarkable vertical atmospheric action observable during 
the prevalence of a first-class zephyr. A breeze of this kind 
will snatch a man's hat off his head and take it vertically a 
hundred feet into the air ; then, as he stands gazing after it, the 



hat suddenly comes down at his feet, as though shot out of a 
cannon, and lies before him as completely flattened out as though 
it had been struck with a sledge-hammer. 

The action of the zephyr is sometimes much the same as that 
seen in the leathern sucker with which boys are able to lift 
stones of considerable weight. A furious gust falls upon the 
flat tin roof of a building, then suddenly bounding upward rips 
a great hole in the tin. The whirlwinds and winds of all other 
" kinds for in the same minute, and almost at the same instant, 
it blows fiercely from every point of the compass then enter 
the hole, seize upon the roof, and very soon complete its wreck, 
A section of tin twenty feet square, may be seen to flap in the 
air, like the loose sail of a vessel at sea, but with a clashing 
sound that may be heard a mile away ; then, on a sudden, the 
whole sheet is ripped off, and goes sailing through the air like a 
piece of paper, landing, perhaps, two or three hundred yards 
away, and passing over half a dozen houses during its flight. 

Of late these " zephyrs " have not been so furious and destruc- 
tive as in years past. Then the tin on half a dozen roofs was 
often to be seen flapping in the breeze at the same moment, 
each section of roofing giving out a roar more startling than 
would be the combined sheet-iron thunder of a dozen country 
theatres of average enterprise. 

" Sleep ! Sleep no more ! the zephyr doth murder sleep." 
After a night of such wild work, the stranger within the gates of 
Virginia City is likely to make his appearance very early in the 
morning, red-eyed and wrathy. 

I remember to have heard a gentleman who sported a bunch 
of hair on each cheek, about the size of a coyote's tail, thus 
express himself one morning after such an elemental carnival : 

" Wind ! talk about wind ! Why, the wind 'owled at such a 
rate last night that I thought it would bring the bloody 'ouse 
down about my ears. Blast it ! when it 'owls like that a fellow 
can't sleep, you know ! The clark o' the 'otel calls it a Washoe 
zephyr zephyr be blowed, it was a bloody gale, you know ! " 

Not to exaggerate, I may say that one of the good old-fashioned 
Washoe zephyrs, even in the present condition of the town, not 
only howls itself, but also makes Virginia City howl, and would 
make Rome or any other place howl. At times such clouds of 


dust are raised, that, viewed from a distance, all there is to be 
seen is a steeple sticking up here and there, a few scattering 
chimneys, an occasional poodle-dog, and, perhaps, a stray-^nfant 
drifting wrong end up, high above all the house-tops. Down 
below in the darkness, gravel-stones are flying along the street 
like grape-shot, and all the people have taken refuge in the 

Such ripping of signs,, threshing of awnings, rattling and 
banging of iron and wooden shutters such tumbling about of 
chimney-pots and sections of stovepipe, is seldom seen or heard 
in any less favored town. 

Out on the Divide, a high part of the city where the wind has 
a fair sweep (this is generally of nights, when strangers are not 
likely to see it), the air is filled with dust, rags, tin cans, empty 
packing-cases, old cooking-stoves, all manner of second-hand 
furniture, crowbars, log-chains, lamp-posts, and similar rubbish. 
Hats ! More hats are lost during the prevalence of a single 
zephyr than in any city in the Union on any election held in the 
last twenty years. These hats all go down the side of the moun- 
tain and land in a deep gulch known as Six-mile Canon the 
place where the Johntown Jasons found the first tag-locks of 
the big bonanza. 

After a very severe zephyr, it is said, drifts of hats fully fifteen 
feet in depth, are to be seen in the bed of the canon just named. 
All these hats are found and appropriated by the Piute 
Indians, who always go down to the canon the next morning 
after a rousing and fruitful gale, to gather in the hat crop. When 
the innocent and guileless children of the desert come back to 
town, they are all loaded down to the guards with hats. Each 
head is decorated with at least half a dozen hats of all kinds 
and colors braves, squaws, and pappooses are walking pyramids 
of hats. 

There is a tradition in Virginia City, that in the spring of 
1863, a donkey was caught up from the side of Mount David- 
son far up on the northern side, near the summit of the moun- 
tain and carried eastward over the city, at a height of five or 
six hundred feet above the houses, finally landing near the Sugar- 
Loaf Mountain nearly five miles away. Those who witnessed 
this remarkable instance of the force of the zephyr, say that as 


the poor beast was hurried away over the town, his neck was 
stretched out to its greatest length, and he was shrieking in the 
most despairing and heart-rending tones ever heard from any 
living creature. The oldest inhabitant sometimes tries to spoil 
this story by saying that what was seen was an old gander, the 
leader of a flock of wild geese, lost in the storm, and baffled in 
his attempt to make headway southward against the hurricane. 
It may be so, but most folks along the Comstock cling to the 
donkey and sneer at the gander. 

Although there is hardly a green spot to be seen in any direc- 
tion, yet there are, in many places in Washoe, landscapes that 
will always at once attract attention. From Virginia City, 
perched as it is, high on the side of Mount Davidson, is obtained 
a grand view of a vast wilderness of hills, mountains, and desert 
plains. The eye sweeps eastward over untold scores of hills 
and valleys to the tall peaks of the Humboldt mountains, distant 
not less than one hundred and eighty miles. Hill rises beyond 
hill far away in all directions, each hill exhibiting in all its out- 
lines a stern individuality, and each rearing aloft a rock-crowned 
and treeless head. 

In the interstices of these peaks, each of which stands a dark- 
browed and sullen Ajax, we catch glimpses of deserts that lie 
white and glittering, long journeys away, yet we almost feel our 
eyes scorched as we gaze, by their far-darted shimmer. These 
spots that so glitter and twinkle, far away through the brown of 
the hills, are great plains of salt and alkali deserts more hungry 
and sterile than the wilds of Sahara. In the view before us we 
have the "hoar austerity of rugged desolation," yet there dwells 
in it a grandeur that is almost awful, and a something very 

Every artist who looks upon this weird and unsmiling land- 
scape feels his soul stirred with a desire to paint it. No man 
has yet painted it no man will ever paint it. There is that in 
it which no cunning in colors can reach no skill in drawing 
can express. The only way in which an artist can approach the 
subject is by painting what he feels, not what he sees. This 
vast landscape is at all times grand and worthy of study, but 
when its many moods are evoked by elemental disturbances, it 
becomes wildly beautiful. 


Often in summer several thunder-showers are to be seen in 
progress at the same moment, far out in the wide wilderness, 
each separated from the other by a broad belt of blue sky and 
bright sunshine. While one dark storm-cloud hovers over the 
city, showering its moisture upon the thirsty earth, another is 
seen a whole day's journey to the eastward, creeping along some 
parched desert, with the rain, in slanting columns, pouring upon 
the white and shining fields of alkali, and still others hang about 
the mountain peaks in various directions, sending down red 
bolts of lightning upon their dark granite summits. Away to 
the northeast the tall, turreted peaks of Castle District rise 
against an inky sky, each line of their rugged spires distinctly 
traceable, while to the southeast, looming high above the hori- 
zon, are seen, through a shower, the ashen-hued mountains of 

To the right of these, and miles on miles further away far 
south of the Carson River stand many tall, purple peaks, here 
and there one among the highest tipped with sunlight. East- 
ward, below the level of the city and almost in the centre of the 
picture, the Sugar-Loaf rears its rounded top, over which, and 
far beyond, stretched partly in sunlight and partly in shadow, 
lies the valley of the Carson. A green fringe of cottonwoods, 
visible along all the river's eccentric meanderings, is the only 
tinge of green in all the broad land before us. Here and there 
are seen short reaches in the river that glitter like burnished 
silver in the rays of the evening sun. 

A long table-mountain cuts short our view of the valley and 
river, but over this mountain we see, spread out like a vast 
sheet of parchment, the Forty-mile Desert, over which shadows 
of clouds move as slowly as in early times crawled across the 
same sands the long trains of weary pilgrims, wearing out the 
way to the land of gold, over the Sierras. Far beyond, where 
the cloud-shadows move in black squadrons across the desert 
sands quite two days' journey beyond are reared against the 
eastern sky the Humboldt mountains, whose white peaks might 
pass for the tombs and cenotaphs of the giants of the olden 
times. Some of these are half hidden in patches of dark mist, 
or veiled by slanting columns of rain, while others stand in the 
full glory of the sun. But in this scene we have a constant 



change of light and shade. Peaks that were a moment since 
sooty-black, suddenly flash up and become golden and brilliant, 
soon again to resume their dusky robes, while neighboring peaks 
stand forth clad in the garments of their departed glory. 

As the sun sinks lower, night is seen to settle into the deeper 
canons, and take shelter behind the lower hills, and the shadow 
of Mount Davidson goes forth as a giant, and stretches darkness 
from hill-top to hill-top everywhere. 



AS we have now been a long time among the mines, the 
reader will probably not object to a little more infor- 
mation concerning the Indians of the country, before 
making another plunge into the "lower levels" of the Corn- 
stock lode. 

The Piute Indians were formerly the owners of all that 
region in which the Comstock mines are situated ; also, of 
nearly all of the western part of the State of Nevada, though 
the Washoe Indians held Carson, Eagle, Steamboat, and 
Washoe Valley, the Truckee Meadows and the country in 
the neighborhood of Lake Tahoe. The Shoshones owned 
what is now Eastern Nevada, and they still live in that region.^___j 

The Piutes range nearly up to Oregon, and far soufhT~ 
toward Arizona. They have always been great travelers, and 
as early as in the days of the *' Mission Fathers," were in the 
habit of crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains and visiting 
the Pacific seaboard every summer; a journey still taken by 
many of them each year, as not a few Piute women are mar- 
ried to Spaniards who own large ranches in the vicinity of 
Santa Cruz and other towns in the southern part of California. 

Originally, it is said, the Piutes, the Utes, the Pitt River In- 
dians, the Queen's River Indians, and some other small bands, 
were all Shoshones, but the tribe multiplied rapidly, and at 
last was spread over such a vast extent of country that one 
chief could not govern all. They then broke up into large 
bands that took the names which now distinguish them as 



The Piutes belonged to the Ute band at the time that the 
original Shoshone tribe broke up through its own weight and 
unwieldy size. They settled about the lakes Humboldt,. 
Pyramid, Carson, and Walker and were therefore called 
Pah-Utes; that is, water Utes, "pah" being the word that sig- 
nifies water among all the Indians of the Great Basin region, 
Finally, the Utes and Pah-Utes, or " Piutes " as the name is 
now generally, though improperly, written became separate 

The language of all the tribes in the Great Basin region and 
far to the northward still retains a sufficient number of the 
words of the original Shoshone tongue to enable members of 
any one of the present tribes to make themselves understood 
by their neighbors. When pressed to go far back into the 
dim and distant past, beyond the time when they were all 
Shoshones, the Piutes have a legend according to which they 
owe their origin to the marriage of a white wolf and a 
woman. The white wolf came from the far north, and the 
woman, who was the daughter of a great chief, came from the 

The Piutes, according to the legend, are the descendants of 
this strange pair. 

Away north, on the summit of a high bluff on Pitt River, is 
to be seen a huge white rock which, when viewed from cer- 
tain points, bears a striking resemblance to a wolf in a 
recumbent position. To this day, many of the Piutes point 
to this rock and say that it is their great father the father of 
all the Piutes that he never died, but was changed into this 
rock, in which he still lives. I once told this story to an old 
and very intelligent Piute, and asked him what he thought 
about it. He said : " Who told you this story, Tom or 
Natchez ? " referring to two of the sons of old Winnemucca, 
the head chief. 

"I have heard it from Tom, and also from many other 
Piutes," said I. 

" O," said he, " it is only a story of times long ago. It was 
while we were still Shoshones, that this happened. You have 
heard the story the way the old women tell it." 

He then proceeded to say that, a very long time ago, there 


was a great war between a tribe of Indians living in the north, 
the name of whose chief was White Wolf, and a tribe living 
in the south. For years they fought every summer, and many 
on both sides were killed. Still, the old men would stir up 
the young men to continue the strife. At last both tribes 
grew weak and weary of the long war, and at a big council it 
was arranged that the White Wolf should marry the daughter 
of the chief of the tribe against which he had so long drawn 
a hostile bow, and thus all difficulties were settled. The two 
tribes settled down and lived together, all as Shoshones. 

The old Indian then proceeded to give me the true and 
most ancient tradition that has been handed down in the tribe, 
in regard to the origin of the Indians living in the Great 
Basin. He said that the Indians were made by a man and his 
wife, who came from he knew not where. They made the 
Indians of clay and something else, taken out of the water, 
the English name of which he did not know. After the 
Indian men and women were made, the man made all kinds 
of animals ; as bears, deer, antelopes, buffaloes, rabbits, wolves, 
and the like. The woman made the birds and the flowers, 
and all the fishes in the rivers, and the grass and the nut-pine 
trees, and all the bushes that bear berries. 

The man taught the men to make bows and arrows, spears 
with which to catch fish, and nets for use in fishing and 
taking rabbits. He also taught them to build and navigate 
tule (a giant bulrush) boats, for all the country was then 
covered with great lakes, and the tops of the present hills and 
mountains were islands. The woman taught the Indian wo- 
men to make baskets and how to prepare food and do all 
things proper to be done by women. 

After they had done all these things the mysterious pair 
took their departure, going away to the southward. 

" Do you expect them to return some day ? " I asked. 

" How can I say ?" answered the Indian. "They came of 
their own accord at first." 

" Do you hear the old men of the tribe speak of them ? " 


" Do they think the man and his wife will come back?" 

" How do they know ? They only know that they are gone." 

"That is all the old men know?" 


" Well, they sometimes say they have gone south to the big 
water maybe they live in the big water. Who knows? " 

When an Indian begins to say " who knows," he has then 
told you about all he knows in regard to the point upon 
which you are questioning him. All the Indian could say 
was that the pair came and did their work of creation, and 
then went away to the southward. 

This tradition bears a striking resemblance, in many re- 
spects, to that of the Peruvians in regard to the appearance 
among them of Manco Capac and his sister and wife, Mama 
Ocllo Huaco ; also, to the Mexican tradition in regard to the 
Huastecas, the strange family that came, whence, no one knew, 
to the mouth of the Panuco River, headed by Quetzalcoatl, 
priest and lawgiver, and who afterwards disappeared in the 
direction of Guatemala. .The disappearance of Quetzalcoatl 
is strikingly like that of the pair mentioned in the Piute tra- 
dition. Strange as it may appear, a prehistoric skull was 
found at the depth of several hundred feet in the Comstock 
vein which, on being sent to the Academy of Sciences, San 
Francisco, was found to exhibit peculiarities to be found only 
in the skulls of the ancient Peruvians, the people to whom 
appeared Manco Capac and his wife. 

What is said in the Indian traditions, about nearly the whole 
face of the country having been covered with water in ancient 
times, is undoubtedly true. In all the valleys throughout the 
Great Basin are to be seen traces of water, and on the sides of 
the hills water-marks have been left that are visible at the 
distance of a mile, and can be traced for many miles. In 
places, there are four or five of these water-marks, showing 
the gradual subsidence of the lakes. For hundreds on hun- 
dreds of miles, on all sides, there was a labyrinth of lakes. 
The water-marks showing the former levels of the lakes (in 
places two or three hundred feet above the present level of 
the valleys) not having yet disappeared by erosion, the date 
of the subsidence of their waters cannot be many centuries 
back. The Piutes and Shoshones have lost nothing by the 
coming among them of the whites ; indeed, they appear to fare 
better now than in the days when they were in undisturbed 
possession pf the whole land. They pitch their camps in the 
suburbs of the towns and fare sumptuously every day on the 


broken victuals collected by the bushel at hotels, restaurants, 
and private houses, by the squaws. The men, unlike the men 
of many other tribes, are not above work. They .work at 
sawing and splitting wood, at grading off building-lots, or 
anything that they can manage all they want is to be shown 

It is not unusual to see a Piute brave marching through a 
street in Virginia City with a wood-saw and buck under his 
left arm, and upon his right shoulder an ax the living exem- 
plification of the dawn of civilization upon barbarism. Thus 
far, however, he is one of the civilized, and represents "labor" 
seeking "capital," but with all the implements of peaceful 
industry borne about him, his pride still clings to the ancient 
insignia of the "brave" in his tribe. His face is painted in 
zigzag lines of black, white, and red; a necklace of bear's 
claws rests on his breast, and an eagle feather decorates his 
scalp-lock ; but instead of bearing a bow and arrows, a toma- 
hawk and scalping-knife, he carries only his saw, buck, and 
ax, and is only on the war-path to do battle with a wood-pile; 
therefore is either a peaceful warrior or a warlike wood- 
sawyer, just as you may choose to consider him. He has, as 
we may say, beaten his sword into a plowshare, but has not 
the heart to throw away the scabbard. 

Old Winnemucca, the head chief of all the Piutes, is about 
70 years of age, and has but little to say about the "affairs of 
the nation " ; indeed, there is little demand for legislation as 
the tribe is at present situated. Many years ago the old 
fellow appears to have turned over business of almost every 
kind to his nephew, young Winnemucca, then war-chief. 
Young Winnemucca was in command at the time of the 
trouble between the Piutes and the whites, in the spring of 
1860. Young Winnemucca never gambled, but old Winne- 
mucca was an inveterate gambler that is, among his own 
people. The Piutes do not gamble with white men. Old 
Winnemucca has been known to lose all his ponies, all his 
blankets and arms, and, in fact, everything he possessed, 
down to a breech-clout, at a single sitting. He is a good- 
natured, kind-hearted old man, but not a man remarkable for 
either wisdom or cunning. 



AT the time the war broke out between the whites and Piutes, 
two young Germans were engaged in prospecting at a point 
in the mountains east of the sink of the Humboldt. They 
knew nothing of the trouble and started to come into Chinatown. 

On reaching a station on the Humboldt River they found the 
buildings burned, and various articles, such as books and cards, 
strewn about. The thought then struck them that there was 
trouble between the Indians and whites. Feeling that they 
could make no fight, and not desiring to give the Indians an 
opportunity of blowing their brains out with their own weapons, 
the young men threw their guns into the river, and poured their 
powder upon the ground and set fire to it. 

After leaving the burned station they traveled on till night, 
without seeing any Indians ; but after they camped, an Indian 
who spoke very good English came riding up to the fire. He 
told the young fellows to pack their things and come with him, 
for should they remain in their present camp they were sure to 
be killed, as the Piutes were now at war with the whites. 

"Piute man," said he, "kill um great many white man at 
Pyramid Lake, get heap gun, heap pony. S'pose white man 
kill Piute, Piute kill um white man ! " 

The young men thought it best to do as requested, and catch- 
ing up their mustangs, packed their blankets and equipments, 
when they announced their readiness to follow their red guide. 
After an hour's travel they reached a large encampment, and 
found themselves in the midst of three or four hundred warriors. 

Their guide conducted them to a tent near the middle of the 
camp, which he informed them was " Winnemucca's house." 




Soon the old chief made his appearance and catechised them 
as follows : 

" Where are you from ? " 

"From beyond the Sink of the Humboldt." 

" What were you doing there ? " 


" Did you see many Indians there ? '* 

"A good many." 

" Did they beg of you much ? " 

"A great deal." 

" Did you give them anything ? " 

"All we could spare." 

" Did they try to take your grub ? " 

" No." 

" Did they steal ? " 

"Yes, a little." 

"Bad Injuns ! bad Injuns! Many white men bad too; many 
bad men some white some red ! What have you in your packs ! " 

" Blankets and grub." 

" Have you sugar left ? " 

"A little." 

" Will you sell me two pounds ? " 

" Yes ; certainly or give it to you." 

" No, no ! I must pay." 

Having measured out the sugar in a tin cup a cupful for a 
pound Winnemucca, on being told the price was a dollar, 
said it was not enough, and handed them two dollars. He next 
asked for gunpowder. Being told they had none, he caused 
their packs to be opened and searched. No powder being found 
the old fellow looked disappointed. 

When first brought into camp, the young fellows were a good 
deal frightened, but after their interview with Winnemucca, 
began to feel quite easy in mind. Winnemucca told them that 
he was only at war with the Californians, and said he had no 
quarrel with white men who came from the East. The horses 
of the young men were picketed out with those of the Indians, 
and they were shown where to spread their blankets. Although 
surrounded by Indians, they were soon asleep, being very tired. 

Late in the night one of the men felt a hand on his head, and 


awoke. He was greatly terrified at finding that an old squaw 
with a long knife in her hand had him by the hair, and was about 
to cut his throat. Before he could make a move, or utter a cry, 
an Indian lying near, sprang up, pushed the squaw away and 
then lay down at their heads. 

" Hush ! " said this man as he lay down. 

" I shall speak to old Winnemucca about this in the morning," 
whispered the man whose throat had been in danger. 

''Do nothing of the kind," said their self-appointed guard,, 
" that woman with the knife was one of the old fellow's wives. 
Say nothing about it." 

"Who are you ? You speak now like a white man." 

" I am not only a white man, but am also a countryman of 
yours. I heard you and your partner speaking together in 
German last night. Say nothing, I am an Indian now, and 
have been for years." 

The young men were not again disturbed, and in the morning 
went to Winnemucca and signified their desire to depart. The 
old chief gave orders for their horses to be brought, and then 
told them to be sure to travel fast, and not to stop to prospect. 

When they had packed up and were about ready to start, 
Winnemucca gave them a string made of twisted sinews in 
which were tied a number of knots, telling them that wherever 
they were stopped by Indians they must show them the string. 
They were stopped two or three times in the course of the 
forenoon, but the string operated like magic, as the sight of it 
instantly changed the countenances of the Indians from the 
scowl of an enemy to the smile of a friend. 

Wherever they were stopped the string was taken from them 
and one of the knots untied, when it was handed back to them. 
The Indians would then say, as they left them : " Go straight to 
Chinatown travel fast ! " In one place, while they were pass- 
ing through a canon, they were fired on by a small party of 
Indians and two or three bullets whistled past them. They 
halted and called out: "We are from Winnemucca's camp! 
We are friends ! " Two or three Indians then approached, and 
being shown the pass they exchanged glances, but took the 
string and undid a knot. They then shook hands, saying; 
" Now we all heap good friend." As they were leaving, one of 


them faced about, and said , " Don't tell Winnemucca that we 
shot at you." In another place they passed a hut that stood 
near the road, but seeing no one there, except an old woman, they 
did not take the trouble to show her the pass. In half an hour 
they were overtaken by three Indians on horseback, who levelled 
guns at them and told them to stop. On showing their pass they 
were asked why they did not show it to the old woman ; how- 
ever, one of the braves took out a knot, when all three turned 
about and went off laughing. 

After they had passed the site of Williams' Station, the burning 
of which, and the killing of the men stopping there, brought on 
all the trouble, they were again stopped by an Indian who 
undid their last knot and then kept the string. As the Indian 
turned to ride away, he began singing in a low tone : " Was 
ist des Deutschen Vaterland ? " and the young fellows said: 
" There is our countryman again ! " They were about to turn 
back and call to. him, but looking in the direction whence he 
came and in which he was again going, they saw the heads of 
several Indians and ponies among the willows, on the banks of 
the Carson River, along which they were now traveling. 

Old Captain Truckee, in whose honor the Truckee River was 
named, was a very intelligent man, and was always a great friend 
to the whites. He had been a good deal with Fremont and 
other American explorers, in the capacity of guide, and well 
understood and appreciated the superior conveniences and 
substantial comforts resulting from the industrious habits of 
civilized people. He deplored the ignorance and wilfulness 
of his people in preferring to lead a wandering life deriving a 
precarious subsistance from the proceeds of the chase and the 
spontaneous products of the soil to settling permanently in 
their rich valleys and turning their attention to the raising of 
stock and the cultivation of the soil. 

Captain Truckee died in the Palmyra Mountains, in 1860, from 
the bite of some insect probably a tarantula. Before his death 
he gave the most minute directions in regard to his burial. He 
had in his possession a letter of recommendation from Col. John 
C. Fremont, speaking of him as being a faithful and efficient 
guide and a good honest man. He also had other documents of 
a similar character from other white men, all of which he desired 


to have placed in his left hand when he was carried to his grave. 
He had been much about the Catholic Missions in California, and 
desired to have a cross erected at the head of his grave with his 
name cut upon it; he also told how deep the grave must be dug, 
how his head was to be laid, and mentioned particularly that 
they were to fold his hands on his breast and heap the earth in a 
mound above his last resting-place. 

As the Indians did not know how to do all these things, they 
asked some whites who were prospecting near at hand to come 
and bury Truckee as he had desired to be buried. All of his 
instructions were carried out to the last particular. The Indians 
all loved the old man, and there was great weeping and wailing at 
his funeral, which was taken charge of by a white man who had 
long known the old fellow and who was called by the Indians 
" the white Winnemucca." 

At the grave, Captain John, a son-in-law of Truckee, pro- 
nounced the eulogy. He spoke first in Piute and then in English, 
and said : 

" A good man is gone. The white man knows he was good, 
for he guided him round deserts and led him in paths where 
there was grass and good water. His people know he was 
good, for he loved them and cared for them and came home 
to them to die. All know that Truckee was a good man Pmtes 
and Americans. He is dead ; the good man is gone. All of 
our people cry, for they loved Truckee. 

I must go to Walker River and see the big Captain there 
and say to him, the good man is dead. I must go to Pyramid 
Lake, to Winnemucca, and say to him, the good man is dead. 
Winnemucca sits in the door of his house and says : l No sabe, 
no sabe ? ' Winnemucca himself is growing old. When he 
knows the good man is dead, he and the big Captain at Walker 
River will have a talk and will choose a man to put in his place ; 
but not many are fit to lead in the path where Truckee walked. 
[Captain John was himself chosen.] Truckee was much with 
the white men, he liked their way and learned much of them 
that we don't understand. He wished to be buried as the white 
men bury their dead, and the white Winnemucca a<nd the white 
men his friends have seen it done. I thank him and I thank 
them I thank all for Truckee and Truckee's people. Good- 
bye ! I go to Walker River to see the big Captain " and he at 
once set out on a run. 

The Indians who remained packed up their traps, and setting 
fire to the hut in which Truckee died, they all set out along a 
trail leading to the northward, weeping and wailing as they went. 



One of old Winnemucca's wives (he had three or four) was a 
daughter of Captain Truckee. This wife was the mother of 
Sarah, known in Nevada as the " Princess Sarah." "She was 
educated at Santa Cruz, California, at a Catholic Mission, and 
reads and writes very well, sometimes writing articles for publi- 
cation in the papers, concerning her people. She was married 
to a German named Snyder, and lived with him a number of 
years. Snyder died while on his way to Germany, on a visit, 
when the " Princess Sarah " married Lieutenant Bartlett, of the 
United States Army. She lived with him but a short time, when 
she left him and returned to her people. 

When in towns and cities she dresses after the fashion of 
American ladies,*but when with her people generally dons the 
Piute dress. Her Indian name is Sonometa even a prettier 
name than Sarah. Prince Natchez, a full brother of Sonometa, 
is heir-apparent to the Winnemucca throne and is now looked 
upon by all the Piutes as their leading man the man to stir 
up the agent sent to the tribe by the "Great Father" at 
Washington, and he keeps all the money appropriated for the 
use of the Piutes. " Natches " is a name given to the " Prince " 
by the whites. His folks simply called him " Nah-tze," the Piute 
for boy. The Indians have now split the difference and call 

Old Winnemucca wears in his nose a stick some four inches in 
length, and when he goes to the happy hunting-ground Nachez 
will no doubt thrust into his nasal croppings this badge of 
royalty. The name, " Winnemucca," means the charitable man. 

* See page 30. 



SHORTLY after the so-called Indian war I took a pro- 
specting trip into the wilderness lying to the eastward 
of the sinks or lakes of the Carson and Humboldt Rivers. 
I had with me two white men, and we roamed through the 
Indian country for nearly a month. During the greater part 
of this time we had with us a Piute guide known as Captain 
or " Capitan " Juan. 

When Fremont passed through the country and took Cap- 
tain Trucker into his service as a guide, Juan and nine other 
adventurous Piute youths accompanied him. When they 
reached California, these young Piutes liked the country so 
well, that the majority of them remained there several years. 
Juan lived there ten years. He worked upon a ranche and 
could plow and plant, reap and thresh grain as well as any 
white man. Then he learned the Spanish language, which 
he spoke quite as well as the Mexicans generally speak it. 
He also speaks pretty fair English, but mixed in a good deal 
of Spanish, when a little excited. He proved a trusty and 
excellent guide, and we retained him as long as we remained 
in his country. Captain Juan had seen his ups and downs in 
the world as well as the rest of us. 

One evening when we were all seated about our camp-fire, 
after a hearty supper, being in a talkative mood, he said : " I 
was pretty well off once, over in California I had fifty dollars" 
He named the amount with an emphasis which showed 
that he considered the announcement one of considerable 




" Indeed ! Had you so much money ? " said I. 

" O, yes ; I was well off many ricos ! " 

" And what became of all this wealth ? " % 

" Me burst all to smash ! " 

"Well, that was bad. In kind of speculation ?" 

" Me not understand spectoolation. What you call um 
spectoolation ? " 

" Well, it's when you put your money into something that 
you expect to make plenty more money out off like you 
plant wheat. You plant your money in some speculation to 
get more money." 

" Yes ; well, me make one bad plant." 

" One bad speculation, eh ? " 

"Yes; muy malo one mucho bad spectoolashe. She was 
one Spanish spectoolashe. Me marry one Spanish woman. 
She purty soon got all me money. She say, Juan you got-a 
some money ? ' Me say, ' No ; no, got-a money ? ' She say, 
' Juan, you no ketch-a money you vamose you git ! ' Me no 
like los senoritas. Spanish spectoolashe no good for Piute 
man you think ? " 

" No ; very bad speculation. But I suppose you went to 
work and earned more money for your Spanish wife? 

" No ; me stop work heap mad. Me no want no more 
money no more senorita. Too much all time want new 
dress. One night me vamose. Me come over mountains to 
my people, ketch me one Piute wife. 'She no all time want 
money, money.'" 

" Then you have a good Piute wife ? " 

"O, yes; muy bueno muy bonita! Me keep-a her mucho 
well dress, give her many shirt. She got heap-a shirt. Not 
many Piute woman get so much shirt ! " 

Why, John, you surprise me. How many shirts has she 
got twenty? Juan looked astounded and abashed at this 
extravagant guessing. He scratched his head, looked at me, 
then at the fire, and seemed to have some notion of not telling 
me the exact " quantity " of shirt in which 1 his wife rejoiced. 
At length he slowly said : 

" Well, she got two shirt two shirt, but all fix up nice 
plenty braid, mucho ribbon, O, very nice ! Twenty shirt no 


good. What you talk ? me never see one woman got twenty 

Juan one evening told me the story of a wonderful cave in 
a region far to the northward, where his tribe lived in the 
days of his fathers long and long before they came south, 
and long before the first white men crossed the Plains. This 
cave was in the side of a great mountain, and when the Evil 
One tried his hand at creation and began to make scorpions, 
tarantulas, snakes, horned toads, cactus, deserts and pools of 
alkali water, the Good Spirit (Pahah) caught him and put 
him into the cave, closing the entrance with a great mountain. 
There, far down in the ground, for many hundred of winters 
the Evil One used to roar and bellow. At times the hills 
trembled with terror; great rocks were shaken from their 
beds on the mountains and rolled down into the valleys, and 
fire came up out of the ground. Some of the mountains burst 
open, and one a great one sank down out of sight and left 
in its place a broad lake. 

The hill rolled off the mouth of the cave at this time 
and the devil came out and flew away toward sunrise. So 
large was he that, though he flew more swiftly than a hawk, 
his wings had not passed over when three sleeps were done. 
They shut out the light of the sun. There was no moon or 
stars. The medicine men said there would be no more day 
till the Evil One was again shut up, for he was very mad and 
had swallowed the sun, moon, and stars. The medicine men, 
however, held a council and by burning a great deal of 
buffalo hair made such a smoke as to make the devil very 
sick, when he vomited up the sun, moon and a great many 
stars, and it has been light ever since ; but now there are not 
so many stars as in former times. Since the flight of the Evil 
One there has been no more groaning in the mountains, and 
the hills have ceased to tremble. 

After the devil left the cave, a great buffalo came and lived 
in it. This buffalo was larger than twenty ponies, and had 
horns growing out of his nose. All the other buffalo went 
into this great cave every winter to see their big chief and did 
not come back till spring. At last this big buffalo got to be 
so old and weak that when he went to get a drink at the lake 



where the mountains had sunk, he. stuck fast in the mud. 
The Indians there found him, and got all round him, and for 
three days shot him full of arrows and beat him 'with great 
stones. Still he was not dead. They then built a big fire on 
his head, and so killed him. Afterwards, an old man came 
out of the cave. His hair was as white as snow, and reached 
to his hips. The Indians called him Taweeta. He never 
spoke to living man, for he had seen the Great Spirit and 
had spoken with him, and therefore dare not again speak 
the language of man. 

Taweeta was very wise ; he had seen the place where the 
sun sleeps, and had visited the wigwam where a great black 
man keeps the thunder in a gourd : he had been allowed to 
view the happy hunting-grounds, where all who die like men 
are permitted to live and hunt in peace forever ; and he knew 
the place where winter hides from summer and where the 
summer has its home. 

The white sage on which the herds of Nevada now fatten, 
was in times past much used by the Piutes as an article of 
food. Juan, in speaking of the many advantages enjoined by 
the Indians since the coming amongst them of the whites, 
said that in former times they were often almost starved. He 
said that he could still remember a time, when he was a little 
boy, when they were obliged to live almost wholly on white 

" How did you cook it ?" I asked. 

"Well," said Juan, "the women cooked it. They made 
soup of it." 

" How did they make the soup ? " 

" Well, they put the sage into a big basket and filled the 
basket with water, then put in hot stones till it was cooked." 

" Did they put in nothing but sage no meat? " 

"Sometimes s'pose you ketch um put in some piece 
rabbit or pish " (fish). 

" As you had no spoons, how did you eat the soup drink 
it out of the basket ? " 

" No. All got round basket and dip up with hands." 

" Was it good ? " 

" Yes ; good all same hay for cow," said Juan making a 

wry face. 



Juan then explained that in former times when there was a 
failure of the pine-nut crDp and no game could be found, the 
whole tribe was obliged to subsist on white sage. 

The white sage differs from the common sage-brush of the 
country, which few animals can eat, owing to its extreme 
bitterness. It sends up a great number of white shoots which 
become quite tender and nutritious after the fall frosts, when 
cattle greedily feed and rapidly fatten upon them. 

In Nevada 'this white sage is the principal food of vast 
herds of cattle that cover not alone a thousand but ten thou- 
sand hills the white sage and the bunch-grass. The bunch- 
grass is considered to be as good for horses as barley, as it 
bears a heavy crop of seed. This seed somewhat resembles 
millet, and is much used as an article of food by the Indians. 
It is ground on a flat stone, with the seeds of the wild sun- 
flower and other oleaginous seeds, and cakes are made of 
the meal thus produced. I have seen patches of bunch-grass 
many acres in extent, that had been cut, bound up in sheaves, 
and set up in shocks, the same as wheat in a field. This work 
is done by the squaws, who also sometimes strip the heads of 
the grass off between two sticks, tied together in the shape of 
a pair of scissors, throwing the seed over their heads into a 
large basket carried on their backs. 

In regions where deserts abound, on all sides there are 
always extensive flats on the tops of the mountain ranges 
where the bunch-grass and other grasses flourish. 

In Nevada, no less than four kinds of wild-clover are found. 
The seeds of one kind are inclosed in a small octagonal burr. 
In the little valleys on these mountains, flax is found growing 
wild. It is precisely the same as the cultivated species, except 
that it is perennial. It is from the fibre of this flax that the 
twine is made which is used by the Indians in making their 
nets for catching fish, rabbits, and water-fowl. While all is 
green and fresh on the summits of the mountains, in the sur- 
rounding deserts all is salt, alkali, sterility, and desolation. 
In the 'early days, when thousands on thousands of persons 
were annually crossing the Plains to California and Oregon, 
hundreds perished because they did not understand the country 
through which they were passing. In looking for water they 


always went to the lowest places they could find, as they were 
in the habit of doing at home in the Eastern and Western 
States, whereas they should have left the desert valleys and 
climbed to the tops of the highest of the surrounding hills. 

On all of the mountain ranges springs of excellent water 
are found, and in places, small brooks ; but the water sinks in 
the beds of the ravines and is lost long before it reaches the 
level of the deserts. The Indians always travel along the 
tops of the mountain ranges in summer. On their trails are 
put up signs that tell where springs can be found. These are 
small monuments of rock, capped with a stone, the longest 
part of which points in the direction of the nearest spring. 

Toward this spring are turned the long points of all the 
cap-stones on the monuments, until it is reached. Passing by 
the spring, the index-stones all point back to it until there is 
a nearer spring ahead, when the pointers are all turned in 
that direction. 

On finding the first monument, after striking the Indian 
trail, one may thus know which end of it to take to the nearest 
water. In traveling along a dry canon, where all was parched 
and dusty, I have sometimes seen upon one of its steep banks 
a monument, and, climbing up to it, have found the index 
pointing directly up the hill, where all seemed as dry as in 
the ravine below. But taking the direction indicated, it 
would not be long before a bunch of willows would be seen, 
and among these a spring was sure to be found. Not know- 
ing the meaning of these little stone monuments, the early 
prospectors made a business of kicking them over wherever 
they found them, and so destroyed what would have been a 
useful thing to them had they understood it. 

The Piutes believe in a heaven and a hell, a good being and 
an evil being. God, or the Good Spirit, they call " Pah-ah;" 
the devil or the Evil One, they call " Avea-dagii." Heaven is 
a delightful place where there is plenty of good water, and 
abundance of game and droves of stout squaws, to do all the 
work no rest for the poor squaws, even in heaven. Hell is 
one vast burning desert ; no water there but that which is red 
with alkali, and which burns like fire when swallowed. When 
the bad Indians try to get out of this, and essay to climb the 


hills to the happy hunting-grounds they are thrust with 
brands of fire, and so wander back across the burning sands 
to meet with the same treatment in trying to escape on the 
other side. Thus they wander forever ; always trying to 
escape, and always thrust back into the burning desert. They 
have preachers Piutes among them who preach very good 
Methodist doctrine. They sometimes begin preaching early 
in the evening and preach all night telling the Indians that 
if they lie, steal, and murder, they are sure to bring up in the 
great desert, "tooroop," when they die. 

Among themselves, and at their own games, the Piutes are 
nearly all inveterate gamblers. Old and young, male and 
female, are always ready to bet their last quarter at one of 
their games. Very few Piutes will touch whiskey or liquor 
of any kind. The women are remarkable for their chastity, 
and are in this respect models not only for the women of all 
surrounding tribes, but for those of all nations and colors. 

Although the Piutes swarm about the towns no one ever 
thinks of their stealing anything. On the contrary, the 
Chief of Police of Virginia City knows a certain man called 
" Snake Creek Sam " who often brings him valuable infor- 
mation in regard to the movements of rogues who may be 
hiding or scouting about in the hills. Some of them are a 
little trickish when it comes to a trade, but there are white 
men who think it no sin to get the best of a bargain when 
opportunity offers. 

A Piute on one occasion went about among the residents of 
Virginia City, selling suckers for trout to such unsophisti- 
cated housewives as he could find. One lady thought the 
fish did not look exactly right for trout, and said : " What 
makes their noses so long, Jim?" "Him heap young," said 
the deceitful Jeems. "Poco tiempo plenty old; no more nose 
mout' all same me/' and Jim opened his mouth from ear to 
ear. Looking upon the open countenance of the red-man, 
the lady believed him free from guile, and purchased a dozen 
of his long-nosed trout. 

An Indian is always ready to leave any work he may be 
doing and run after game if any is seen to approach. One 
day, at Washoe City, a few miles west of Virginia, some men 


who were stopping at the principal hotel, happened to be out 
on the veranda, taking a look at the surrounding country, 
when they saw a large flock of ducks settle down on the 
further side of Washoe Lake. A Washoe Indian, who was 
sawing wood near the hotel, also saw the ducks, and told the 
men that he would go after them if they would get him a gun. 
In the hotel they found an old United States' musket. This 
they loaded nearly to the muzzle, and giving it to the Indian, 
started him for the lake. 

The men then went into the balcony of the hotel, and, with 
opera glasses, watched the progress of the red Nimrod. 

He, at length, reached the spot where the ducks had been 
seen to settle down among the tules a kind of bulrush from 
ten to fifteen feet in height. 

Presently the watchers saw the smoke dart from the end of 
the Indian's gun; saw him fall backwards to the ground, then 
a tremendous roar came across the lake a sound as though 
the gun had burst into a thousand pieces. Fearing that the 
gun had indeed burst and killed the poor devil, the wags 
began to feel very guilty. They hastened from the house and 
hurried round the lake to the rescue. When they had gone 
about half way round they met their Indian coming toward 
them. There was a long gash across his right cheek-bone, his 
nose was bunged up, and his face was covered with blood, but 
he was completely loaded down with ducks. 

" Well, Jim," said the wags, who now felt better satisfied 
with their little joke, " how did you make it ? " 

" Yes ; " said Jim, " one more shoot um no more ducks, no 
more Injun ! " 




IT is said to be next to impossible to astonish an Indian, but 
on one occasion, while residing in Virginia City, I astonished, 
frightened, and disgusted a whole flock of the unsophisticated 
"children of the desert," and with a mere handful of shrimps. 

A crowd of Piutes, numbering over a dozen, male and female, 
great and small, had come to anchor, squat upon the ground, 
just off the sidewalk, in front of a fruit-stand (a favorite place of 
resort with them), and were in the midst of what to them was a 
great feast. Upon an old shawl, spread in the centre of their 
circle, was a great heap of half-rotten apples, damaged cherries, 
soured strawberries, and other offal from the fruit-store in front 
of which they were squatted. Among the male Indians was 
Smoke Creek Sam, the Piute detective, who, with head thrown 
back, was each moment dropping into his mouth great wads of 
strawberries, squeezed together, stems and all, of the size of an 
ordinary codfish-ball. 

Some of the little Indian boys and girls were smeared to the 
eyes with a leathery mess, half strawberries and half dirt, which 
they scooped up from the common heap, and held to their 
mouths in both hands. 

Even the most comely among the squaws had a brown dab of 
rotten apple on the 'end of her nose, which that organ had 
brought away as a trophy during some one of the frequent 
visits of her industrious mouth to the deep interior of a slushy 

One hideous old woman had raked a quantity of decayed 
cherries into her lap, and sat " and munched, and munched, and 



Under the vigorous attack of so many diligent hands and 
capacious and willing mouths, the mound of vegetable garbage 
was soon swept away. 

As I then lacked amusement, I stepped to a market next door, 
and procured a handful of shrimps. With these I approached 
the now surfeited group of savages, and began eating, by way of 
experiment on their nerves. 

At first they looked curiously on, and some of the juveniles 
rose to their feet to have a better view of the new and horrible- 
looking esculent. At a respectful distance they stood and gazed, 
as they saw me pull in two and devour the many-legged little 
monsters, each "little Injun " with lips curled up, teeth set, and 
nose wrinkled. 

The bucks shrugged their shoulders as they saw each fresh 
" bug " pulled out and eaten, and some of the squaws drew down 
the corners of their mouths and spat upon the ground with 
decided emphasis. 

The whole party, as though fascinated by a sight so fearful, 
sat and closely watched each shrimp as it was shucked out and 
swallowed, the general disgust each moment increasing. 

Finally, I held out toward a "brave " of some ten "snows" 
the few crustaceous specimens remaining in my hand. This 
incipient warrior was arrayed as to his head, in some Comstock 
dandy's cast-off " stovepipe " hat, and as to his nether extensions, 
in a pair of adult unmentionables of bake-oven capacity in the 

As my hand approached, his moon eyes rapidly grew moonier, 
and he began craw fishing, though determined, if possible, to 
retreat in good order, and with his face to the foe. 

At this critical moment I pitched at the budding chieftain 
the empty shell of a shrimp I had just finished. By chance it 
alighted upon a lock of hair hanging over his forehead, and 
there remained for a moment, hanging by the claws, and dangling 
before his eyes. 

The boy gave a yelp, made one grab at the ugly thing, then 
turned a complete back somersault over the old cherry-muncher. 
He landed running, but, his " plug " hat being down over his 
eyes, he soon brought up on all-fours, with his head between the 
legs of a passing Chinese wood-peddler, who was so frightened 


at the unexpected assault in the jear, that he, in turn, came near 
turning a somersault over the back of the donkey he was driving. 

The other youngsters, seeing what had happened, scattered in 
all directions like a brood of startled quail, while the squaws 
lusty old gals, all of them ! hastily snatched up the pappooses, 
which, in their wicker cradles, were lying across their laps, or 
standing against awning-posts or empty barrels, and deftly sling- 
ing them upon their backs, drew the straps across their foreheads, 
and started up the street at a rolling gallop, the noise of which 
resembled that of the stampede of a flock of fat wethers when 
in full wool. 

The old hag mentioned as the " cherry-muncher " probably 
fearing that a shrimp would be thrown into her straggling locks 
hanging with both hands to the dead branch of a cedar, poled 
herself along in the rear of the stampeders with astonishing 

At the distance of thirty yards she halted to get her wind, 
and seeing that she was not being pursued, faced about. Still 
grasping her rude staff in both hands, and resting her wrinkled 
and venerable lump of nose on its top, she stared back at me 
from under her mop of grizzled hair, like an old witch frightened 
away from some unholy feast. 

Some of the bucks sullenly marched away, casting backward 
glances from malevolent eyes which plainly showed their opinion 
of practical jokes, but Smoke Creek Sam stood his ground. He, 
too, had been outraged and disgusted, but as he had not yet 
found opportunity to beg a handful of smoking tobacco, he con- 
cealed his feelings and deferred his retreat. Extracting the pith 
of a particularly large and healthy shrimp, I approached Sam 
with it. 

" You no bring um here ! " cried he, waving me back with his 
hand. " No bring um, me say ! " 

" Just try this one, Sam," said I. 

" No ! " said Sam, decidedly ; " glash-hop, purty good ; klicket, 
me eat um ; scorpium-bug, heap no good. Scorpium make Injun 
man high up sick ! " 

I now saw it all, and was not so much surprised at the aston- 
ishment and disgust shown by the whole crowd of redskins. 
Knowing nothing about shrimps, all supposed that I was eating 


scorpions, a poisonous reptile very abundant in Nevada, and 
very closely resembling the shrimp. Seeing me, as they sup- 
posed, deliberately devouring scorpions, all thought that the Evil 
One himself was before them. 

The Piutes are the early birds in Virginia City. Almost as 
soon as it is sufficiently light for them to see, the squaws are 
dawn from their huts on the slopes of the surrounding moun- 
tains. The Piute squaw is the scavenger of the town. When 
she rolls into the place in the morning, she comes with her 
gunny-sack over her shoulder, and into this stows all that in her 
eyes is valuable. She gathers up every little wisp of hay that 
falls in her way, even to the last straw, as she wants it for the 
half-starved family pony, staked out in the hills near the camp ; 
looks into dry-goods boxes in search of straw, also for the pony ; 
dives into barrels in front of the markets, for half-rotten fruit, 
wilted turnips, carrots, and other vegetables good for the family, 
and as the markets open and the business of the day begins, she 
manages to secure all the heads and tails of salmon and other 
fish that are cut up. All this time she has one eye open for fuel 
the hills being stripped to the last rotten stick, by the China- 
men, who have even dug all the tree-stumps out by the roots. 
Bits of boxes, wooden hoops, staves, all that is wood she stuffs 
into her sack, along with the rest of her plunder. 

If the sack is full and a good haul of wood falls in her way, 
she makes it up into a bundle and places it on her head, and 
finally, loaded down like a donkey, the frugal housewife climbs 
the mountain to where her hut is perched, when she makes glad 
the heart of her lord and master and little ones, with the good 
things she has brought home to them. Others hang about the 
kitchens of the town, and collect loads of broken victuals, as 
there no swine are kept by families, and they have no use for the 
scraps that are carried from the table. 

The male Piute is not always idle, but he cannot always find a 
job. The Chinamen swarm the town in search of about the 
only kinds of work poor " Lo " is able to do. But no man with 
a fat government contract ever felt himself better fixed, than 
does one of these ex-warriors when he has fairly settled down at 
a job of wood-sawing, for which he is to receive one dollar per 
cord in coin, and board while he is doing the work. This is just 


the kind of bargain he likes to make with a newcomer, or some 
other unsophisticated citizen. The kitchen upon which he has 
thus established a lien is never out of his mind. He is on hand 
at dawn of day, and from the mountain height on which sits his 
eyrie, brings the appetite of a tiger. Until he has had his 
breakfast, his face is ever toward the dwelling of his employer, 
and ever and anon he is seen to pause with his saw in the midst 
of a half-finished stick, as he snuffs the odors wafted from the 

Breakfast over, he begins watching and snuffing for his din- 
ner; dinner over, his mind dwells upon the coming supper. Be- 
tween meals, he frequently becomes so exhausted that he cannot 
force his saw through the smallest stick, unless braced up by an 
occasional cup of coffee, slice of bread, and joint of cold meat. 

When the noble red-man boards himself, however, he works 
like a steam-engine, and loses not a moment until the last stick 
is done, and he can extend his palm for his coin. 

We hear much about the disappearance of the Indian before 
the march of civilization, and in some quarters predictions are 
freely hazarded that in a short time he will become extinct 
will pass away with the dodo. Whatever may be the case with 
other tribes, the Piute has no notion of passing away. He is 
among the most prolific of autochthones. To " increase and 
multiply " appears to be the first care of the average adult 
Piute. It looks somewhat as if he were bound to occupy the 
land in case his productiveness shall continue. The Piutes are 
a remarkably healthy people. They are seldom sick, and few 
deaths occur among them. The few who die seem to die of old 
age. There appear to be about'one hundred births among them 
to one death. Hardly a squaw that is over sixteen and under 
sixty years of age can be seen, but she has a pappoose slung on 
her back, and some of them surpass the wife of the martyred 
John Rogers in evidences of prolificness. The women do not 
appear to be much addicted to twins, but the little ones come 
marching along quite rapidly in single file. 

The Piutes are certainly multiplying more rapidly than any 
other people in the State of Nevada. Even astonishingly old 
women among them bear children. 

" What shall be done with these people ? " will one day be a 


question in Nevada that must be answered in some way. The 
women are virtuous, and the men temperate, and so long as they 
thus remain, there seems to be no likelihood of their dying off. 

Among the Piutes to work is considered no disgrace, and the 
biggest " brave '' is not ashamed to be seen handling an ax or 
saw no, nor to be found carrying his child, a thing that would 
ruin him in almost any other tribe. Their greatest vice is 
gambling among themselves. 

All is now well with these children of the desert, as they are 
not yet so numerous but that the cast-off clothing of the whites 
suffices for all, great and small, and the cold victuals given 
away in all the towns is more than enough to feed them ; but a 
time will come when this will not be the case. Then some place 
must be found, and some provision made for this people. 

A well-known old Piute couple in Virginia City were " Adam " 
and " Eve." Old Adam was supposed to have been about one 
hundred years of age at the time of his death, and Eve also was- 
very old. 

At the death of the aged couple there was a strange fatality. 
Old Adam was bitten by a ferocious dog, and after lingering 
some weeks, during which time he was cared for by the Sisters 
of Charity, he departed for the happy hunting-grounds. A year 
later old Eve was attacked and terribly mangled by a savage dog, 
the sinews being drawn out of one of her ankles by the teeth of 
the brute. She, too lingered some weeks, watched over and 
cared for by the Sisters, when she went to join old Adam where 
the grass is always green and bright waters ever flow. 

The old couple seem to have embraced the Christian religion 
in the early days, at some one of the Catholic Missions in Cali- 
fornia. Old Adam was very fond of being in and about the 
Catholic Church in Virginia City, and was never happier than 
when noticed by Father Manogue, the pastor, with whom the 
ancient red-man was fond of conversing, in his childish way, upon 
religious subjects. Whenever grand-children and great-grand 
children were born to him, " Old Adam " never failed to bring 
them to Father Manogue, in order that they might be duly bap- 
tized. Thus is the name of Patrick and Michael now heard in 
the Piute tribe. 

About the streets of Virginia is frequently to be seen stalking 


.<*. thin-visaged, solemn-looking squaw who attracts much atten- 
tion from her great height and her tremendous strides in walking, 
The gaunt apparition in female attire is, however, no squaw, but 
a " buck," a man of the Piute tribe condemned to wear the dress 
of a woman all the days of his life, for cowardice exhibited at the 
battle of Pyramid lake. He is shunned by both the men and 
women among his people, and therefore, like Baxter's hog, goes in 
a " drove " by himself. The last time I saw him he had on a new 
calico dress, of the meal-bag pattern in the skirt, and had a new 
gingham handkerchief upon his head ; still he was not proud. 
Nothing good, bad, or indifferent is said to him by the Indians, 
but the white boys about town scoff at him and his face wears a 
calm, resigned, chronic " sour." 

Many of the Piutes are anxious to have their children learn to 
read and write, and, in 1875, three little Indians boys were in 
attendance at the public school in Silver City, the principal of 
the school taking them in at the solicitation of the father and by 
way of experiment. In a few weeks they were able to read 
tolerably well in the first reader. They began with the alphabet 
and were very proud of the progress they were able to make. 
Unlike the majority of white parents, the father of the little red- 
skins thinks it worth while to visit the school occasionally, to see 
how things are going. When the stern old brave visits the 
school he marches into the institution of learning with a turkey 
feather in his hair, his face painted in bright zigzag lines of black, 
white and red, and a long double-barrelled shotgun on his 
shoulder. This has a business look which is doubtless appreci- 
ated by the teacher. 

As an object of distraction to the school the " lamb that little 
Mary had " would not amount to a row of pins would be a 
mere digitless cipher by the side of that Indian father in all the 
full-blown pride of shotgun, war-paint, and turkey feathers. 

The Piutes have some notion of picking up English songs and 
tunes. I one day saw a dusky maiden of perhaps sixteen summers 
vocalizing in front of a fruit-store, who evidently felt that she 
was a long way in advance of the majority of her tribe. The 
song she sang was : " I feel, I feel like a to-morrow morning 
star, Soo Fly ! don't bodda my ! Soo Fly ! " Her object 
appeared to charm a few wilted apples from the keeper of the 


store, but he being a native of melodious Italy was not much 
affected, and even scowled upon the singer, as though he felt it 
a duty to discourage and nip in the bud all talent manifesting 
itself in such a quarter. 

At one time a savior arose for the Piute people. This was 
Sam Brown, the civilizer, an Oregon Indian who had wandered 
to Virginia City and who was able to read and write. Sam 
Brown was a natural born philanthrophist he cared not for 
himself so long as he could amelorate the condition of the 
aborigine. He desired to see the Indian tribes educated and 
civilized, and to this work he was devoted, body and soul. He 
went forth among the Piutes residing in the neighborhood of 
Virginia and Gold Hill, and made known to them his plans 
told them of the school-house he would build for the education, 
of their children and how he should finally have them all 
residing in houses and working at trades like white men. 

All the Indians were well pleased with what Sam told them \. 
they said it was " good talk." Sam looked about him for a man 
fit to be made chief of all the Piutes living about the two towns,, 
and finally selected himself as being the person most worthy ta 
receive that high arid honorable position. Soon after that he 
one day marshalled all of his people in procession, and with the 
American flag proudly floating at the head of the motley throng 
of men, women, and children, gaily marched them about the 
streets of Virginia City. They were the raggedest lot of recruits 
ever seen. To observe the dignified bearing of the old warriors 
and the grave expression of each countenance, was ludicrous 
beyond measure. They thought they were being adopted into 
the American nation, and therefore considered it a duty to- 
conduct themselves in a grave and becoming manner on such a 
momentous occasion. 

The use of a balcony on the principal street in the city was 
obtained, and from this, Sam Brown and several Piutes, also one 
or two white men, addressed the common herd below. 

This completed the inauguration of Sam Brown as chief, and 
he was now ready to begin the work of civilizing his subjects. 
The first thing in order with Sam was the building of a school- 
house. He owned a lot somewhere in the suburbs of the town, 
and on this he determined to rear a proper structure, Sam had 



worked as a carpenter in Oregon, and felt equal to the task of 
building the school-house himself, if he but had tools and lumber. 
However, to the man who is a born reformer and philanthro- 
pist, whose soul thirsts continually to inprove and benefit his 
species, no obstacle is so great but that by dint of untiring 
patience and perseverance it will finally overcome. 

Sam stole a chest of carpenters' tools and had made consider- 
able progress in the gradual removal of a lumber-yard, when 
unsympathetic eyes took cognizance of his philanthropic labors, 
and, failing to appreciate the purity of his motives, threw him 
into a prison, the fate, alas ! of many great reformers in all ages. 
Samuel Brown, the civilizer, now abides in the Nevada State 
Prison, where he has time to consider the vanity of all philan- 
thropic endeavors, and to mourn the obtuseness of the average 
human intellect in respect to the motives that inspire the soul of 
the reformer to do noble deeds and undertake arduous labors. 

To this day the proposed school-house has not been built and 
to this day the Piutes remain uncivilized. 



HAVING rambled far and wide among the Piute Indians, 
I shall now ask the reader to accompany me in a ramble 
far below the light of day, to the underground regions of 
the silver-mines. During our trip through the lower levels of the 
mines I shall endeavor to explain all that is seen. 

As all of the leading mines in the Comstock lode are opened 
and worked after the same general plan, a description of one 
mine will suffice for all. In singling out a mine, a description 
of the machinery and operations in which shall stand for all, I 
select the Consolidated Virginia as that in which is to be found 
all of the latest and most approved machinery, and in which all 
operations are conducted in a systematic and scientific manner. 
S It will also be more satisfactory to the reader if he knows that 
what he is reading applies to a certain mine the name of which 
is known to him." 

In giving a description of the various operations of mining, 
and of the machinery used, I shall find it necessary in but two 
or three instances to go outside of the Consolidated Virginia 
mine. In these cases I shall name the mine in which is to be 
seen what I am speaking of. 

The popular idea of a silver-mine among most persons in the 
Atlantic States, appears to be that a deep hole in the form of a 
common well has been sunk somewhere on the side of a mount- 
ain, from the bottom of which is dug the silver ore. As the ore 
is dug up from the bottom of the shaft, they suppose it to be 
hoisted to the surface in buckets, by means of an ordinary wind- 
lass, or some such rude contrivance. What really is seen at the 



main shaft or entrance to one of the leading mines on the Corn- 
stock lode is very different. 

When we approach the main shaft and hoisting works of the 
Consolidated Virginia Mining Company we find before us a 
main building of great size, from which extend several large 
wings. One of these wings is the boiler-house, in which are 
several sets of boilers, and from the roof arise a number of tall,, 
black smoke-stacks. 

Another wing is the blacksmith shop, containing several 
forges at which are sharpened the picks and drills used, and 
where is done a vast amount of work of all kinds required in and 
about the mine. 

Then there is the wing in which is the carpenter's shop, where 
the timbers used as supports in the lower levels of the mine are 
framed, and where circular saws, run by steam, are used in 
cutting and shaping the heavy square beams ; also, a wing in 
which is a machine-shop containing a steam-engine which runs 
planers, lathes, and other machines for working iron. The main 
building is handsomely finished and painted with fire-proof 
paint, as are all of the wings. Rows of windows are seen 'in the 
several buildings, and from the roof of the main building and 
some of the wings, arise pipes from which white clouds of steam 
are constantly puffed. 

In the mass of buildings before us we see nothing to cause us 
to think of a mine. What we have before us more nearly resem- 
bles a large iron-foundry or big manufactory of some kind. As 
we see on the grounds surrounding the buildings a number of 
immense piles of timber and lumber; in all, an amount sufficient 
to stock at least half a dozen ordinary lumber-yards, we should 
be more likely to guess -that we saw before us a large planing- 
mill, or door, sash, and blind manufactory, than that we were 
approaching the main working shaft of a great silver-mine. Near 
the main pile of buildings, are detached structures, which are 
occupied as offices ; one being the assay office, where the silver 
bullion is melted, moulded into bars, and assayed. 

Upon entering the main building, we are at once struck by 
the peculiar style of dress worn by the men we see grouped or 
moving about. They all wear grey or blue woollen shirts, caps, 
or narrow-brimmed felt hats, and blue cotton or thin woollen 



overalls. They are all serious-looking men, and their faces all 
seem bleached out to an unnatural and unhealthy whiteness. 
The whole building is floored as handsomely as though it were 
a church, and all the floors are scrupulously neat and clean. 
All overhead being open to the roof, forty feet above, and there 
being no partitions in the main building, the interior presents a 
most spacious appearance. 

Almost the first object that attracts our attention upon entering 
the place, is the mouth of the main shaft. Toward this we are at 
once attracted, for the reason that we see rushing up through 
several square openings in the floor, great volumes of steam. 
This steam appears to be hissing hot, and rushes almost to the 
roof of the building. We are surprised to see men coolly ascend- 
ing and descending the very heart of these columns of steam. 

Looking for the first time upon the rolling and whirling clouds 
of vapor pouring up from the shaft, more than one dandy tourist, 
who but a few minutes before was very enthusiastic in his talk 
about exploring the lower levels, has wished in his secret soul 
that he had never hinted that he had the slightest desire to 
descend into the dark and dismal bowels of the earth. 

Many back down squarely. They suddenly remember that 
they are subject to vertigo, are threatened with apoplexy ; or , 
which is a very common disease at such times palpitation of 
the heart. So many persons visiting the mines, and seeing the 
mouth of the shafts for the first time, have made serious mention 
of being greatly troubled with "palpitation of the heart," that 
the old miner standing near finds it a difficult matter to keep a 
sober countenance upon hearing that ailment mentioned. Noth- 
ing can induce some persons to venture into the steaming shaft 
after they have taken one good look at it, while proper explana- 
tions speedily cure others of their vertigo, apoplectic symptoms, 
palpitation of the heart, or whatever disease it may be their 
fancy to affect. 

When we inspect the mouth of the shaft more closely, we find 
before us an opening in the floor about five feet in width and 
twenty feet4n length. This opening is divided into four lesser 
openings or " compartments," by partitions which run from the 
top to the bottom of the shaft. Three of these are called hoist- 
ing-compartments, as in them the hoisting-cages pass up and 


down, just us does the elevator in a hotel. The fourth is known 
as the pump-compartment, as down it passes the pump column, 
an iron pipe from twelve to sixteen inches in diameter, through 
which the water is forced up from the bottom of the mine. The 
pumping machinery is the most pondrous about a mine, and the 
largest engine in the hoisting works of a mine is always that 
which drives the pump. The pumping apparatus, balance-bobs, 
tanks down the line of the shaft, the course of the water from the 
bottom of the mine to the surface, and the working of the several 
parts from the surface down, all are too complicated to be ex- 
plained without the aid of many drawings. 

The hoisting-engines, and all the hoisting machinery, are at 
the end of the building opposite that occupied by the shaft and 
fifty or sixty feet away. Here we find the alert and keen-eyed 
engineers constantly at their post by their engines. Before them 
is a large dial, like the face of a clock. On this dial are figures, 
and there is a hand like that of a clock, which moves slowly 
round and tells the engineer exactly where his cage is at all 
times after it has entered the shaft and passed out of his sight. 
By watching the hand moving round the dial he can see exactly 
when his cage is at the 900, the 1,000, 1,200, i,5oo-foot or any 
other station. Besides keeping his eyes upon the dial, he must 
also keep his ears open for the signals struck upon his bell. 

The bell stands near him and is his only means of communi- 
cation with those far down in the lower levels of the mine. A 
man 1,500 feet below the surface strikes a signal upon the bell, 
and the engineer unhesitatingly obeys it. By means of this bell 
the engineer receives nearly all his orders. He is told when to 
start the cage up and when to stop, if he is to stop short of the 
surface ; is told to hoist slowly ; that there are men on board ; and 
a great many other things which he understands as readily as the 
telegraph operator understands the click of his instrument. Each 
engineer has his bell and knows its sound better than he knows 
the sound of his own voice. 

The hoisting-engines and the engineers who run them, occupy 
a large platform raised three or four feet above tjie general 
level of the floor, and about this platform are placards inscribed : 



The lives of the miners are in the engineer's hands every 
minute of the day and night. To turn his head to nod to an 
acquaintance might cost a dozen lives. The man who is trusted 
at one of these engines is always a man who is thoroughly known 
and who has a well-established reputation for sobriety, " eternal 
vigilance," and good qualities of all kinds. In short, he is a man 
that can be trusted anywhere, and to say that Mr. Jones is 
engineer at this or that mine is to say that Jones is a man much 
above the average. 

Over the mouth of the shaft stands a frame, made of very large 
and strong timbers, which is called the gallows-frame, probably 
from the huge cross-beam it supports. On this cross-beam are 
fastened the great iron wheels or pulleys over which pass the 
cables that extend down into the shaft and raise and lower the 
cages. These cables are not, as might be supposed from the 
name, round hempen ropes, like the cables of a vessel. The 
cables used in hoisting from the shafts of mines are flat, like a 
piece of tape, and are braided of the best quality of steel wire. 
They are five or six inches in width and about three-quarters of 
an inch in thickness. As they are constantly exposed to drip- 
ping water in the lower part of the shaft, the cables are all kept 
covered with a coating of tar to prevent their rusting. 

Near the engine is what is called the hoisting-reel, and on this 
the cable is wound up or unwound, in raising or lowering the 
cage, just as a piece of tape would be wound upon a spool. The 
steam-engines revolve the huge reels, and the cage is let down 
into the shaft or is hauled up from its bottom just as is required. 

The cages work independently of each other. One may be 
going down while another is coming up, or one may be in 
motion while the others are standing still. When there is no 
living freight on the cages, they are often raised and lowered at 
a frightful rate of speed, but with men on board they are moved 
less rapidly. . 

Owing to the intense heat prevailing in many places in the 
lower levels of the mines, visitors must divest themselves of every 
stitch of their ordinary attire, as the first step toward their under- 
ground journey. This being the case, a comfortable and commo- 
dious dressing-room is fitted up in the works. 

Hanging upon the walls of this room will be found a great 


number of clean suits for the accommodation of visitors. A suit 
for the journey into the lower regions is neat but not gaudy. It 
consists simply of a pair of blue flannel pantaloons, a grey or 
blue woollen shirt, a pair of heavy brogans for the feet, and a 
felt hat, with a narrow brim, for the head. In a suit of this kind 
even the greatest dignitaries present a very ordinary appearance. 
A minister of the gospel of meek and lowly aspect, when in his 
suit of black, becomes such a desperate-looking villain on don- 
ing blue woollen pantaloons and shirt, brogans, and felt hat, thai 
you would not meet him alone on a mountain trail for all the 
wealth of the big bonanza ; a pompous railroad president to whom 
you would almost fear to speak while in his upper-world attire, 
upon presenting himself before you in lower-level rig looks so 
much like a sneak-thief that you feel strongly impelled to kick 
him out of the room. ' 

Fat men have the advantage in dressing for a trip to the lower 
levels, as nearly all of the pantaloons appear to have been selec- 
ted for the special accommodation of men of Falstaffian propor- 
tions. In thus dressing for a trip into the mine there is always great 
merriment ; each man laughs at his friend, unconscious of the 
ridiculous, mean, or insignificant figure he himself is cutting. 

In the dressing-room will be found a bath-tub, hot and cold 
water ready to hand by the mere turning of the cocks, an abun- 
dance of clean towels and all the convenience for taking a bath, 
on coming up from the sweltering lower levels. 




ALL being clad in the uniform of the gnomes of the silver- 
caverns, we go out to the shaft. A cage is stopped at 
the top of one of the compartments of the shaft, and its 
platform stands just on a level with the floor of the building. 
The cage is a heavy iron frame with grooves on two sides, 
which fit upon wooden guides run from the top to the bottom 
of the shaft. Upon these guides the cage runs smoothly 
through the whole course up and down the shaft, much the 
same as an elevator in a large hotel is seen to work. 

The cage may have but a single floor or platform, or it may 
have two or three, upon each of which may be hoisted a car 
loaded with ore, or on which men may be raised or lowered. 
Those with two platforms are called "double-deckers," and 
those with three platforms are called " three-deckers." 

One of the foremen of the mine, the superintendent, or 
whoever is to be our conductor, groups us upon the cage, 
showing us where we may safely grasp its iron frame for 
support, and finally all are in position. 

The engineer is standing with one hand on the lever of his 
engine, watching our proceedings. Our conductor turns 
toward him with a wave of the hand. Instantly we feel our- 
selves dropping into the depth and darkness of the shaft. 

Our first thought is, that between us and the bottom of the 
shaft 1500 feet below we have nothing but the frail platform 
of the cage, and, instinctively, we tighten our grip upon the 
iron bars of the cage, determined that, should the bottom 
drop out, we will be found hanging to the upper works of 
our strange vehicle. 


302 D WN WA RD ! 

At the first plunge all is dark, but suspended from the 
cross-bar of the cage, or in the hands of our conductor, we 
have a lantern or two, and by the light afforded by these, we 
soon begin to distinguish the sides of the shaft. Our view is 
very unsatisfactory, however, as all the timbers on the sides 
of the compartment appear to be darting swiftly upward 
toward the top of the shaft; just as trees, fences, and telegraph 
poles seem to be running backwards when we are flying 
through the country on a lightning-express train. 

Our speed is probably not half that at which the cage is 
lowered when its only load is an empty ore-car, a few beams 
of timber, or some such freight; but we are not anxious to go 
any faster. In the early daySj on receiving a wink from a 
foreman, an engineer would drop men down a shaft at such a 
rate of speed that their breath was almost taken away, but at 
present, no superintendent on the Comstock allows any such 
dangerous fooling. 

As soon as we have descended a few feet into the shaft, we 
see nothing of the steam, which, rushing out at its top, had 
presented so formidable an appearance above. It really 
amounts to nothing. It is merely the moist, warm breath of 
the mine coming in contact with the cold air at the surface. 
It is the same as the steam rising from a spring in winter, or 
as' one's breath blown into the air on a frosty morning. This 
steam is seen at the mouth of the Consolidated Virginia shaft 
because it is what is called an " upcast," that is, the draft in it 
is upward. At the Ophir shaft no steam is seen, as it is a 
"downcast," the surface air is drawn or sucked in at its 
mouth. The air that enters the mouth of the Ophir shaft 
comes out at the mouth of the Consolidated Virginia shaft. 

As we dart along down the shaft, we soon begin to pass the 
stations of the first or upper levels. Our speed is such that 
we see but little. We get a glimpse of what appears to be a 
room of considerable size, see a few men standing about with 
candles or lanterns in their hands, hear voices, and probably 
the clank of machinery. An instant after, all is again smooth 
sailing, and we see only the upward-fleeing sides of the shaft. 
Then there is another flash of many lights, a glimpse of half- 
naked men, a murmur of voices, and a clash of machinery, 


and we have passed another station. It is much like running 
past a railroad station in the night. 

Sometimes our conductor is hailed by some one at a station 
as we dart past. We hear the voice, but distinguish no words. 
The conductor, however, has understood, and makes answer. 
As he replies, we drop away from the sound of his voice at 
such a rapid rate that his words are drawn out into sounds 
which we can hardly understand, though we are standing by 
his side. The answer, which is left scattered along up the 
shaft, is finally gathered in at the station for which it was 
intended, and is there put together and understood. 

When we have descended to such a depth that from one 
thousand to twelve hundred feet of cable have been paid out 
from the reel above, we begin to experience quite a novel 
sensation. This is the " spring" of the cable. 

Most persons have observed the very active bobbing motion 
of a toy ball suspended from an india-rubber string. The 
motion of our cage, hanging at the end of the cable, is much 
the same. The less one has of this peculiar motion the more 
he enjoys it. When this motion sets in, we at once begin to 
speculate in regard to the probable amount of" stretch" to be 
found in a first-class steel-wire cable how far it may stretch 
before reaching the breaking point. It may be no more than 
500 feet to the bottom of the shaft, but we feel that we do not 
care to risk falling even that short distance. 

However, should the cable really break, there would be no 
danger, we should not fall. Attached to the upper part of the 
cage is a safety-apparatus designed expressly to prevent acci- 
dents of this nature. At the instant that the cable parted 
there would be released powerful springs which would throw 
out on each side of the shaft an eccentric, toothed wheel. 
These wheels, biting into the guides on each side, would 
instantly stop and hold the cage, block it fast in the shaft, as 
the wheels are of such a shape that the greater the weight and 
downward pressure upon the cage, the tighter they hold. In 
case of the cable breaking, we should not fall an inch, per- 
haps not half an inch thanks to that life-saving invention, 
the safety-cage! 

When the safety- cage was first introduced on the Comstock, 

304 SAFETY! 

I had the pleasure of assisting in making a test of the efficacy 
of the safety-apparatus at the Savage mine. We attached the 
cage to the iron cable by means of a large hempen rope. 

This done, the superintendent and a gentleman present, who 
was in search of excitement, got upon the cage, and we low- 
ered them into the mouth of the shaft, which was 1,000 feet in 
depth. We at the surface, who were conducting the experi- 
ment, then asked the superintendent and his companion if 
they were ready to be ' launched into eternity," and receiving 
an affirmative reply, a brawny-armed miner, standing ready 
with a big broad-ax, severed the rope at a single blow. The 
cage dropped less than an inch, we above were all glad the 
experiment was over. 

Had the safety apparatus failed to work, we at the surface 
would doubtless have all been summoned as witnesses when 
the coroner held his inquest. 

In case of a train of railroad cars getting off the track, we 
never know where we shall bring up; we may go over an 
embankment or may be dragged against a point of rocks, but 
when a cable breaks while we are descending a shaft, we stop 
exactly where we happen to be when the accident occurs. 
Thus, as the sailor in a storm at sea pities the poor wretches 
who are on shore, so may the miner pity those persons above 
ground who travel on railroads. 

In former times, however, previous to the introduction of 
the safety-cage in the Comstock mines, the breaking of a cable 
was an accident more dreaded and more dreadful than almost 
any other. There was no dodging when a cable parted. All 
who were on the cage must go to the bottom of the shaft. 
There the cage would be torn to pieces and driven through 
platforms of plank three or four inches in thickness into the 
"sump" or well of the shaft, where all who were not killed 
outright, were drowned. 

Whether half a dozen men or a dozen were on the cage, it 
nearly always happened that all were killed. If any did in 
any instance escape, it was in such a horribly mangled con- 
dition that they were maimed for life. No wonder, then, that 
the miner every day of his life, and as often as he goes up 
and down the great shafts, blesses in his heart the inventor of 
the safety-cage ! 



We have been a long time in the shaft, though it takes but 
a very short time to make the actual descent. There is an 
occasional flash of lights, hum of voices* and clash of machi- 
nery, as described above, when the motion of the cage begins 
to " slow down, " and a moment after this is noticed it stops 
exactly on a level with the floor of the station, 1,500 feet 
below the surface of the earth. We can hardly realize that 
we are standing at such a great depth below the upper world 
and the light of day. 

Before us is what is called the " Station." 

A 'station ' is the place of landing at each level of the mine 
(the levels are generally about 100 feet apart), and it is at the 
station that the cage stops to take on or let off passengers, to 
take on cars loaded with ore that are going up, or to put off 
empty cars that are going down. The station is generally a 
large and roomy apartment, the walls of which are ceiled 
with rough boards, and the roof of which shows heavy sup- 
porting beams. 

It looks not unlike the interior of some of the large, rude 
wayside-inns seen in places in California on mountain roads. 
Hats, coats, shirts, and many similar articles are seen hanging 
upon nails driven into the walls, and two or three large coal- 
oil lamps fixed in brackets, render the place light and cheerful. 

Upon the floor of the station (it has a floor as good as would 
be seen in most houses), ranged along the walls are seen boxes 
of candles, coils of fuse, and many other mining stores. There 
is also a large cask containing ice-water, with a tin dipper 
hanging on a nail near at hand. The station is a sort of 
lounging place, where the men who happen to have nothing 
to do for a few minutes stop to hear the news from the sur- 
face. Here there is more chat and sociability than in any 
other part of the mine. The reports of the sales of stocks in 
the San Francisco Stock Board are brought to the office of 
the mine as soon as they are telegraphed to the city, and about 
the time the reports arrive, you will hear the men at the 
station anxiously inquiring the price of stocks of the first man 
who comes down from the surface. The man thus questioned 
seems well prepared to answer, and gives the prices for the 
day, of a dozen or more of the leading stocks. 


His report doubtless quickly passes through the mine, and 
soon five or six hundred men away down in the silver caverns, 
from 1,500 to 2,000 feet beneath the surface, know as much 
about the price of stocks for the day as do those persons who 
are walking the streets of the town. Other items of news 
circulate in the same way; but stocks they are always inter- 
ested in. Almost every miner owns shares in some mine. 
There are not a few men working in mines along the Corn- 
stock who are worth from $40,000 to $50,000, and some who 
are probably worth still larger sums. While at work they 
are earning $4 per day regularly, and can " speculate " just as 
well as if they were constantly on the streets watching the 
stock reports. 

In some of the stations are to be seen things that one would 
not expect to find hundreds of feet below the surface. In the 
Crown Point mine, for instance, the visitor finds on one of the 
walls of the station at the i,ioo-foot level, a handsome little 
cabinet of ores, minerals, coins, and curiosities of all kinds 
all neatly displayed t in a suitable case which is provided with 
glazed doors. On the walls is also to be seen a considerable 
collection of photographs of actors, actresses, singers, and 
other celebrities. There is one group that is labelled " Vas- 
quez and His Friends." The "friends" grouped about the 
notorious bandit are photographs of leading citizens of the 
town of Gold Hill, a church deacon among the number. 

We have all heard about things being played " low down," 
but it would seem that this joker, at the depth of 1,100 feet, 
has it down about as low as any man on the continent. The 
cabinet, and the gallery of celebrities are the property, the 
care, and the pride of the station-tender of the level named.. 

A car-track a railroad track in miniature is laid through 
the floor in the centre of the station, which track runs out to 
the main north and south drift of the mine (it must be borne 
in mind that the general course of the Comstock lode is north 
and south), and through the main drift connects by means 
of turn-tables with a great number of cross-cuts and other 

As we stand in the station, cars loaded with ore are regu- 
larly arriving from the several " stopes " of the level. These 


are run upon the cage, the signal to hoist is given to the 
engineer above, and an instant after, the cage and car, with 
its load of ore, dart swiftly up the shaft. ^Perhaps at the same 
instant a cage comes down the adjoining compartment, bring- 
ing with it an empty ore-car. This is at once grasped by a 
man in waiting, known in the mine as a " carman," and is 
trundled away to some distant part of the mine, to be again 
loaded with ore and again whisked up to the surface on the 

As there are three hoisting compartments, the arrivals and 
departures are quite frequent, and the station is really quite a 
business place. 



IN order that the reader may get a proper idea of the under- 
ground works of a mine, I shall now give a detailed descrip- 
tion of all that is worthy of special mention. Drifts are 
openings or galleries from four to six feet in width, and from 
six to eight feet in height, opened along the course of the 
vein. They are generally run along one of the walls of the 
vein, in the "country rock," (rock outside of the vein) as that con- 
tains no lime, and therefore stands best, and does not swell and 
crush the timbers. In some drifts the rock stands without being 
timbered. The main north and south drift, generally the first 
reached after leaving a station in a mine, is the highway of the 
level in which it is opened. It has a car-track running through 
its whole length, and, in some cases, as in the main drift on the 
i5oo-foot level of the consolidated Virginia and California mines, 
contains a double car-track. 

The cross-cuts are the same kind of openings as the drifts, 
but they are smaller and run across the course of the vein run 
east and west. They start from the main drift, and are pushed 
out into the vein and ore-body, if ore-body there be. Pushed 
out in this way from the main drift at intervals of about 100 feet, 
they cut through and " prospect " the vein. The progress of the 
cross-cuts on a new level in a leading mine on the Comstock is 
always watched with great interest by all the " mining experts," 
" stock sharps," and mining men generally. 

Car-tracks are laid in all of the cross-cuts, and connect with 
the track of the main drift by means of turn-tables. The cross- 
cuts are pushed through the vein to its opposite wall, in order 



that the whole of the ground may be thoroughly explored and 
its boundaries defined. In order to secure a free circulation of 
air on the level, they are frequently connected at various points 
by cross-drifts. 

Winzes are small shafts sunk from one level to another in the 
mine. They are sunk in any place where they may happen to 
be required. Some are sunk vertically, but many follow the 
foot-wall of the vein, and thus go down at an angle of from 
thirty-five to forty-five degrees. All are of great use for the 
purpose of ventilation, and those that are sunk at an angle are 
very frequently properly planked up, and used as chutes through 
which to send ore or timbers to a lower level. In all mines will 
be found a great number of these chutes. Sometimes the men 
fall into them. When this happens they are always to be found 
at the bottom, on the level below, immediately after. Generally, 
men are not very badly hurt by sliding through an ordinary 
chute, yet not a few have been killed by such a fall, and many 
have had bones broken. 

In going down a chute much depends upon the angle of the 
opening the steeper, the more danger there is in making the 
trip. . On the surface of the earth all the vertical winzes 
would be called shafts, and what are called drifts and cross-cuts 
below would be called tunnels, were they where their mouths 
came out on the surface. An " upraise " is where the miners 
begin on a lower level and dig upward toward a higher. While 
it is going up, it is an upraise, but when it is connected with the 
level above it is a winze. Should it never reach the level for 
which it was started it remains an upraise for all time. 

Winzes are very often thus made one set of miners being 
engaged below at digging up, while above another set are digging 
down. The progress made by the men below is always much 
more rapid than that of the men above, as every ounce of dirt 
loosened at once falls down out of the way. 

When the ore-body has been properly opened, explored, and 
ventilated by means of drifts, cross-cuts, and winzes, the work 
of extraction is commenced. 

The first opening is made on the " track-floor " of the level-* 
the floor on which are run the drifts and cross-cuts wherein are 
laid the car-tracks and in the bottom of this opening or cham- 


ber are put down the sills for the first " square-set " of timbers. 

The timbers used as supports in a mine are from twelve to 
fourteen inches square. The posts are six feet, and the caps five 
feet, in length. The upper ends of the posts are framed in such 
a manner that the ends of four caps may rest upon each, and 
leave a mortise in the centre, in which to insert the tenon of the 
post of the next " set " ; on the top of this is a place for another 
post, and so the work of building up sets goes on to any height 
that may be required. 

As the ore is extracted at the sides of the first set, the same 
squares of timbers are built up in those places, and there is 
formed a sort of pyramid of cribs, rising constantly as the work 
of extracting the ore proceeds. The top sets of this pyramid 
are secured closely against the ore, by means of large wooden 
wedges, and the side sets are also wedged up against the ore in 
the same way, as they are carried up. In this way the mass of 
ore overhead is supported at all points by the cribs of timbers, 
except here and there where chambers are being excavated in 
the ore-body for new sets. 

Thus are squares of timbers constantly added, and the pyra- 
mid carried up till the ore has been worked out to the level 
above. If the level above has been worked out, it is already 
filled with the same square sets as are being built up from below, 
and the latter rise into their proper places and fit as neatly as 
the squares on a checker or chess-board. 

The sets are six feet in height by five feet in width, and as 
they rise, floors of strong plank are laid upon each set. Thus 
there are seen floors some six feet apart from the bottom to the 
top of the level. 

In these floors are square openings as for trap-doors, with 
short flights of steps leading from floor to floor. The floors are 
pushed out against the breasts of ore on all sides as the stope is 
extended. A light blast of giant-powder being exploded in the 
face of the ore-breast, the mass is shattered, and is then easily 
pulled down by the picks of the miners. 

As the ore is dug down it falls upon the floors, from which it 
is easily shovelled into the wheelbarrows, by means of which it 
is carried to the chutes. These chutes lead down to ore-bins on 
the track-floor, where the cars are loaded which carry the ore to 


the main shaft and finally up to the surface, and out along a 
track which leads to the ore-house, from which it is sent to the 
mills. This is the method of timbering rrfines that was invented 
by Mr. Philip Deidesheimer, in the early days of Washoe, when 
he was superintendent of the old Ophir mine. The building up 
of timbers in square sets or cribs is found to be exactly what is 
required, as a cavity of any size, however great, can by this plan 
be filled up and its roof supported. 

In order to still further secure the mine, it is usual to plank 
or timber up a section of four of these square sets, and fill them 
in from bottom to top with waste rock. Thus is provided a large 
column of stone reaching up to and supporting the roof of the 
mine. Such columns are constructed in a number of places, at 
suitable intervals throughout each level of the mine, and they 
are found to stand more strain than would all of the timber that 
could be piled into a level. Being built up of loose rocks they 
gradually yield for a time, but still stand as firmly in their places 
as bjefore, whereas a solid column of stone would be crushed 
into a thousand fragments, and would let down the whole upper 
part of the mine. 

In some mines many blocks of porphyry and other barren rock 
are found, with the ore, making it necessary to do a great deal of 
assorting, but in the Consolidated Virginia mine there is no work 
of this kind to be done, at least not on the i5oo-foot level, 
where they are stoping out in the bonanza. There is nothing to 
do but dig down the rich masses of black sulphuret and chloride 
ores, shovel them into the cars, and send them to the surface to 
be taken to the mills, and the same is the case in the California 

Samples are taken from each car-load of ore down in the 
mine, when it reaches the main shaft ; at the surface other sam- 
ples are taken, and at the mills samples are taken of the pulp, 
every hour, as it runs from the batteries in short, the ore is 
sampled everywhere, and at all stages in the handling, from the 
ore-breasts till it has passed through the* mills, and finally 
appears in the shape of large, shining silver bricks, each weigh- 
ing a hundred pounds or more. All the samples thus taken 
are carefully assayed, and the results compared and noted. 

An incline is simply an inclined extension of the main shaft, 


from some convenient point below, or rather at or near the point 
where the shaft strikes the west wall of the vein. The Corn- 
stock lode dips to the eastward at an angle of from thirty-five to 
forty-five degrees, and as the main working shaft of a mine is 
always sunk to a considerable distance a thousand feet or more 
to the eastward of the croppings [/. ^.that part of the lode which 
comes to the surface of the earth], the west wall is not reached 
until the shaft has attained a depth of from 1000 to 1500 feet, 
depending upon how far east of the croppings it was sunk. 

The main incline of a mine is of about the same dimensions 
as the main shaft, and is timbered in much the same way. In 
the Consolidated Virginia mine there is as yet no incline, but at 
the Crown Point mine is to be seen one that is a model in every 
respect. This incline starts at the noo-foot level, from the 
bottom of the vertical shaft, and goes down with the dip of the 
vein (at an angle of about thirty-five degrees), to the lyoo-foot 
level, its present terminus. A track is laid on its bottom, of 
ordinary railroad iron, and as neither cages nor a car of the usual 
pattern can be used in an incline, recourse is had to another 
device. A kind of car called a " giraffe " is used for hoisting 
through an incline. It has low wheels in front and hi'gh ones 
behind; thus the body of the giraffe stands level, the same as a 
common ore-car on an ordinary track. 

The giraffe is capable of carrying eight tons of ore more 
than eight ordinary car-loads. It is lowered down the track to 
the bottom of the incline, and hauled up to the foot of the shaft 
by means of a round steel-wire cable which runs upon a reel at 
the surface. 

The cable passes over a large iron pulley at the top of the 
vertical shaft, and under a second pulley of the same kind at its 
bottom. The cable is also supported by rollers, placed in the 
centre of the track, as it travels up and down the incline, other- 
wise its great weight would cause it to drag upon the ground. 
From the upper side of an incline, stations are made, the same 
as they are made at* intervals along a vertical shaft ; drifts are 
then run, and the work of cross-cutting and prospecting ths 
vein goes on in the same way as when the ore-body is approached 
by means of a shaft. The giraffe has in front and on the " out- 
side" two seats, facing each other, on which six passengers 


can ride very comfortably. Sometimes there is hitched behind 
the giraffe a second car of the same pattern, called the " back- 

There is not a little of novelty in a ride up an incline on a 
"giraffe." The conductor of the " train," who is seated by our 
side, gives the signal for starting by pulling a wire and striking 
upon the engineer's bell far away up the incline and up 
the vertical shaft, and some distance beyond that again in the 
engine-house a certain number of strokes. Instantly we start,, 
and soon are darting up the steep iron way at a terrific rate of 
speed. Lamps are placed at intervals on the sides of the incline ; 
besides, we carry lanterns, and there are lights burning at all 
the stations. Thus our underground railroad is well lighted up. 
We have a good view of the track, and can see the rails glisten- 
ing far ahead of and above us. 

We rush up this steep road so rapidly that the posts along the 
sides of the incline resemble a fine-toothed comb. To look 
ahead and see before you, and high above you, a hundred yards 
or more of semi-vertical railroad, up which you are thundering 
at whirlwind speed, is strikingly the reverse of natural. Going 
down does not in any way interfere with your notions of the 
"eternal fitness of things," for it is quite natural for anything 
that is loose to run down hill, but this fierce darting up the steep 
iron rails somewhat unsettles you. 

Up this queer railroad you are hurled through the caverns of 
the gazing Troglodytes, till you reach the foot of the vertical 
shaft, when they transfer you to a cage, and you are shot out at 
the top, much as the "Red Gnome," in the play, is shot up 
through the trap in the stage-floor of a theatre. 

A giraffe is provided with a safety-apparatus somewhat similar 
to that on a cage. A large wooden rail runs the whole length 
of the track. Extending from the side of the giraffe, and almost 
clasping this rail, are two toothed, eccentric wheels. Should 
the cable break, these wheels would instantly grasp and clasp 
the rail, and the greater the weight upon the oar the more fiercely 
they would bite into the wood, and retain their hold upon it. 
This invention has been the means of saving scores of lives. 

The " sump " is the well or hole sunk below the bottom of a 
shaft, for the purpose of holding the water flowing in from 



above. In this is placed the " suction " of the pump, and into 
it is collected the water from all parts of the mine. Although 
"sump "is now considered an English word, it was doubtless 
derived from the German word, " sumpf," which means a marsh, 
pool, bog, or fen. When miners fall down a shaft it is frequently 
necessary to fish their mangled remains out of the sump with 
grappling irons. 

As some persons may desire to know how sinking can be 
carried on in the bottom of a shaft where there is a strong in- 
flux of water, it may be well to explain the matter. On the end 
of the pump-column or tube which comes down near to the 
bottom of the shaft, is a piece of flexible hose, the same as the 
" suction " of a fire-engine, and this is moved about from side to 
side in the shaft, always keeping the end of it in the low places 
where the water collects. 



THE only air-shaft on the Comstock lode worthy of the 
name, is that of the Belcher Mining Company. In 
many situations air-shafts do not seem to be required, 
connections with the main working shafts of other mines serv- 
ing the same purpose. In some places along the lode are old 
shafts sunk in the early days with which connection has 
been made, and these often d'o very good service as air-shafts. 
The air-shaft of the Belcher Company is sunk at a point about 
100 yards to the northward of their main hoisting-works. 

The size of the excavation made in the rock is 8x14 feet. 
This, when timbered up, gives two compartments, each 6x6 
in size. Where the rock is hard and perfectly solid the shaft 
is cribbed with timbers 6x12 inches in size; but where it is 
soft and inclined to swell, it is timbered in sets; timbers 12 
inches square being used. All of this work is done in the 
most substantial manner possible. From the surface to the 
looo-foot level the shaft is carried down vertically, but from 
this point it is on an incline corresponding to the dip of the 
ledge, which is about 36 degrees, and to the east. The portion 
of the shaft which is carried down on an incline was kept in 
the west country rock lying back of the ledge. The object in 
keeping in this rock was to avoid ground that would be liable 
to swell and then crush in the sides of the shaft. 

This shaft is of the same size and is constructed after the 
same plan as that destroyed by fire, October 30, 1874, by 
which accident a large number of men were badly burned, 
and some lost their lives. It extends down to the lowest 
levels of the mine and will be continued downward as 



new levels are opened. In excavating the shaft, work was 
begun at the same time on the surface and down at the 850- 
foot level of the mine the men below digging upward while 
those above were sinking. 

The shaft is " downcast," that is, the air from the surface of 
the earth is drawn or sucked down into it and finds its way 
out through the main working shaft and other shafts connect- 
ing with the mine by means of drifts. The first shaft was also 
a " downcast," but when on fire, the draught was changed, and a 
column of flame darted upward from its mouth a hundred feet 
into the air, with a roar that could be heard at the distance of 
a mile or more. Had not the shaft caved and filled up with 
rock after the timbers were burned out of it, it would always- 
have remained an "upcast; " at least, so say all the old miners, 

Here it may not be out of place to speak of some of the 
curiosities of ventilation. 

The Yellow- Jacket shaft, previous to the great fire in that 
mine some years ago, had a strong draught downward; the fire 
changed the draught, and it has ever since remained an " up- 
cast." This is a curious freak of nature which all old miners 
have observed. When once the change in the draught takes 
place it is permanent. A curious thing in ventilation and it 
is a nut for the scientists to crack is that everywhere along the 
Comstock lode the tendency of all currents of air is to the south- 
ward in the same direction that the ore chimneys tend. Here 
certainly is at work another mysterious force of nature. This- 
tendency of the air-currents to move southward has never 
been overcome, except in one or two instances, and these 
exceptional cases will presently be mentioned. There are 
some queer courses taken by currents of air when once they 
have descended beneath the surface of the earth, which none of 
our scientific men have attempted to explain. The commonly 
accepted theory is that when two shafts are connected by 
means of a drift, the draught or ascending current of air will be 
through the higher shaft the longer branch of the siphon 
but exactly the reverse is seen if the short shaft happens to 
stand to the southward of the long one. 

The air will even go down a shaft and crawl out through 
a tunnel when that tunnel runs in a southerly direction! 


When the Union tunnel connected with the old Ophir mine 
the air did not draw through the tunnel and pass up and out 
through the main shaft, but came out of the mouth of the 
tunnel. When the old Best and Belcher works connected 
with the Gould and Curry tunnel, the same thing was seen 
the air went down the shaft and passed out at the mouth of 
the tunnel. About the next connection of the kind made on 
the lead was between the Crown Point and Belcher, at the 
depth of 160 feet ; and the current of air went down the higher 
shaft, moved southward, and came out at the Belcher. Next 
the Yellow-Jacket and the Crown Point connected, and the 
draught was southward to the Crown Point. The Alpha and 
the Imperial next connected, and the draught went south to the 
Jacket. When the Gould and Curry and the Savage connec- 
ted, the draught went south to the Savage. When connection 
was made between the Ophir and the Consolidated Virginia, 
the air went south to the Consolidated. The only places I 
know of on the lead where the air moves to the northward are 
between the Gould and Curry and the Consolidated Virginia, 
and between the Hale and Norcross and the Savage, and here 
it probably would not move north but for strong inducements. 

The latest instance of this tendency of currents of air to 
move southward in mines is seen in the Overman mine. 
When that mine was connected with the Belcher, the draught 
was southward, out through the Overman shaft, though it 
stands much lower than any of the shafts connected with the 
Belcher mine. 

From the facts given, it will be seen that there are some 
curious things connected with the ventilation of mines, and 
that it is not altogether impossible that Sutro's big tunnel 
may draw backwards, when completed. 

A great deal of machinery is now beginning to be used on 
the lower levels of the principal mines on the Comstock. 
Some years ago steam-engines were set up in the lower levels 
of some of the leading mines, with boilers, furnaces, and all, 
just as on the surface. This would not do. The heat of the 
furnaces, boilers, and steam, added to the heat of the mine, 
could not be endured by the engineers and others whose duty 
it was to "stand watches" about the machinerv. 


A few years since an engine was set up on the looo-foot 
level of the Gould and Curry mine, and steam was conducted 
to it from boilers situated on the surface. When this engine 
was started up there was a popping of champagne corks away 
down there in the bowels of the earth, and a good time was 
had drinking to the success of the experiment. But it was 
not a success after all it wouldn't do. The ground began 
swelling, the timbers were crushed and twisted, the engine 
bed could not be kept level three days at a time it was like a 
boat in a rough sea, now on this end, and now on that and 
the experiment was a failure. 

The latest attempt to use steam machinery underground 
was at the Ophir mine. A boiler and engine were set up on 
the 1465-foot level, near the main shaft, up which was ex- 
tended a sheet-iron smoke-stack reaching to the surface. This 
engine was used in sinking a winze (situated 365 feet to the 
eastward) to the lyoo-foot level, and also in doing some work 
on the level last named. The furnace and boiler heated up 
the level to such a degree that it was "killing" to the men. 
The boiler still stands where it was set up, but is now used as 
a reservoir for compressed air. 

The introduction of engines and machinery to be run by 
means of compressed air, was a grand forward stride in the 
science of mining. 

In the Consolidated Virginia and California mines are to 
be seen at work a number of small engines that are run by 
compressed air, furnished by two powerful compressors that 
are constantly in operation on the surface. The air is carried 
down the main shaft in a large iron pipe, and from this smaller 
pipes branch off in all directions, and are carried along the 
roofs of the drifts and cross-cuts, as we see gas-pipes running 
through buildings in the upper-world. 

Thus is the compressed air carried down into all parts of 
the mine where work is being done. In places we see small 
engines at work at the top of winzes, where they do all the 
hoisting, and effect a great saving of both money and muscle. 
At other points, in passing along a drift, we suddenly come 
upon a small chamber constructed on one side, and sitting in 
this we see a " cunning " little engine, industriously at work 


at running a blower (a machine such as we see in foundries 
for furnishing a blast to the cupola, where metal is melted), 
which blower is sending a stream of fresh air through a pipe 
to men working in some far-away, heated cross-cut or upraise. 

There are quite a number of these little engines and blowers 
in various parts of the mine, and instead of heating they 
greatly assist in cooling those parts of the mine in which 
they are used. 

As the drifts and cross-cuts are advanced, the air-pipes are 
carried along their roofs or sides, and are in readiness for use 
in running the Burleigh drills, by means of which the holes 
are drilled in the face of the drift where the rock requires .to 
be blasted. The air-pipes being in place in all the cross- 
cuts and drifts, the 'Burleigh drill may be moved about from 
place to place as required, and thus a single drill can be used 
in several different drifts during the day. When a sufficient 
number of holes for blasting have been made in one drift, the 
drill is placed upon its carriage and is moved along the car- 
track to another, where connection is made with the air-pipe, 
and it is hammering away again with but little loss of time. 

In the Ophir mine a small engine, situated at the winze 
mentioned above as being 365 feet east of the main shaft, 
does all the hoisting from the lyoo-foot level, and in a more 
satisfactory manner in every respect than the same work was 
formerly done by the old steam-engine. On the ii5o-foot 
level of the Consolidated Virginia mine a winze was sunk to 
the depth of 140 feet, with one of these little air-engines, and 
it could have been sunk to any depth required, but for an 
influx of water which was too strong to be contended with 
in that remote part of the mine at that time. 

Each year more and more machinery will be run in the 
mines of the Comstock, by means of compressed air. It is 
exactly what is needed, as all the air exhausted in the lower 
levels of a mine is beneficial and is so much ventilation 
and so much food gained for the lungs of the miners. Com- 
pressors, and machinery to be worked by them, are being 
ordered by all of the leading mines, and are already considered 
indispensable appliances in modern mining. 



IN order that the reader may obtain something like a correct 
idea of the appearance of the interior of a first-class mine, 
let him imagine it hoisted out of the ground and left 
standing upon the surface. He would then see before him an 
immense structure, four or five times as large as the greatest 
hotel in America, about twice or three times as wide, and over 
2000 feet high. The several levels of the mine would represent 
the floors of the building, These floors would be 100 feet apart 
that is, there would be in the building twenty stories, each 100 
feet in height. In a grand hotel communication between these 
floors would be by means of an elevator ; in the mine would be 
in use the same contrivances, but instead of an " elevator," it 
would be called a " cage." 

Our mine, raised to the surface, as we have supposed, would 
present much the same appearance as would a large building 
with the side walls removed, allowing a full view of all of its 
floors to be obtained. As we should see the elevator stopping at 
various floors to take on and put off passengers and baggage, 
so we should see the cage stopping at the several levels to take 
on and. put off miners or full or empty ore-cars. 

Upon the various floors of our mine we should see hundreds 
of men at work, but there would be seen between the floors, in 
many places, a solid mass of ore, in which the men were working 
their way up and rearing their scaffolding of timbers toward the" 
floor above. 

Not only would the men be seen thus at work, but there would 
also be seen at work on the various floors, engines and other 



machinery ; with, high above all, the huge pump, swaying up 
and down its great rod, 2,000 feet in length and hung at several 
points with immense balance-bobs, to prevent it being pulled 
apart by its own weight. 

Occasionally, too, we should see all of the men disappear from 
a floor, and soon after would be heard in rapid succession ten or 
a dozen stunning reports the noise of exploding blasts. 

When blasts are about to be let off in a mine, after the fuses 
have been lighted and the miners are retreating to a place of 
safety, " Fire ! " is the startling cry that is heard from them, as 
they fall back along the drifts and cross-cuts. The cry is well 
understood throughout the mine to mean no. more than that fire 
has been set to the fuses, and that several blasts will shortly go off. 

In the Consolidated Virginia mine, and in all other leading 
mines, three shifts of men are employed, each shift working 
eight hours. 

The morning shift goes on at 7 o'clock. Before descending 
the shaft the men go to the office of the time-keeper, situated 
in the hoisting works, and give their names at a window which 
resembles the window of the ticket-office at a railroad-station. 
These men come up out of the mine at 3 o'clock p. M., and again 
go to the window of the time-keeper's office, and give their names. 

The afternoon shifts go down at this hour 3 o'clock p. M., 
giving in their names "before descending the shaft. They come 
up out of the mine at IT o'clock at night, but do not give their 
names. If any men are missing, or are taken sick, and do not 
work, their names are reported by the bosses of their shift. 

The night shift go down into the mine at n o'clock at night 
and come out at 7 o'clock in the morning, when they go to the 
time-keeper's window, give their names, and get their mark for 
the day's work done. There are three shift-bosses for each 
level where regular eight-hour shifts are being worked. 

When the shifts are being changed the men do not rus*h pro- 
miscuously to the shaft, but form in a line and march up to the 
cages in single file, just as men are seen to form in line in front 
of the window of a post-office or at the polls on the occasion of 
an election. On the levels below, when the men are coming up, 
they form in lines in the same way in front of the shaft. No 
crowding or disorder of any kind is permitted. 


The shift-bosses report to the time-keepers the nurrberof men 
employed on their shift, the number of car-loads of ore, and the 
number of car-loads of waste rock hoisted during the shift, all of 
which is placed in a daily report, for which there are, in the 
office of the time keeper, printed blanks. A car-load of ore is 
calculated to weigh 1,800 pounds, and the number of tons 
hoisted during the day is also figured up and set down in the 
blank. The following is one of the blanks used in the Consoli- 
dated Virginia filled up with the exact work of the day on 
which it is dated the names given are those of the shift-bosses : 






7 o clock ) 17 

3 do. \ Wilson. 8 

II do. ) 8 


7 o'clock. Dan. Skerry, 75 4 54 48 I20O 

3 do. Wm. Harper, 78 7 67 60 600 

II do. Jas. McCourt, 76 5 79 71 200 180 


7 o'clock. Jas. O'Toole, 63 6 65 58 1000 

3 do. Wm. Odey, 53 3 131 117 1800 

II do. Richd. Lewis, 54 7 117 105 600 281 1400 

Hoisted through 

G and C Shaft, 

March 1 8th, '75. 41 26 38 38 38 * 

Total No. of Tons, 499 1400 

180 Tons to Mill Lump, 
281 " " Mine " 

By this report it will be seen that the account of the ore taken 
out through the Gould and Curry (" G & C.") shaft is not 
handed in until the day after the work is done. The report 
also shows the number of tons sent to the dump of the big mill,* 
near the mine, and the number sent to the dump of the mine to 
be shipped to other mills. In all departments an equally exact 
account is kept of all work done. 



In the Consolidated Virginia mine there is a man who is 
what may be called a general foreman. He has charge of the 
shaft, the prospecting drifts, and cross-cuts, and attends to the 
ventilation of the mine and to keeping it clear of water; in short, 
looks after underground affairs generally. 

After ore has been struck in the drifts and the work of ex- 
traction begins, this officer turns that portion of the mine over 
to one of the foremen who superintends the work of extracting 
the ore. 

There is always a day-boss on the i5oo-foot level, and at. 
night his place is filled by a second general foreman of the 
underground regions, who has charge of everything by night, as 
the other officer has during the day. 

Besides the miners there are employed a great number of 
timbermen, who look after the timbers and the timbering ; the 
pump man, who takes care of the pumps ; the watchmen, who go 
their rounds, each on his level* to look out for fire and to keep 
an eye on things generally ; and the pick-boy, who goes about 
through the mine gathering up the dull picks and sending them 
up the shaft to be sharpened, who carries the sharp picks to the 
places where they are wanted, who distributes water among the 
men and who, in short, is general errand-boy in the mine. As 
may be supposed, his position is no sinecure. 

The following amounts of timber, wood, and other mining 
supplies are used per month in the Consolidated Virginia mine, 
and, from this, what is used in other leading mines may be 
surmised : Feet of timber per month, 500,000 ; cords of wood, 
550 ; boxes of candles, 350 ; giant-powder, 2 tons ; 100 gallons 
of coal-oil, 200 gallons of lard-oil, 800 pounds of tallow, 20,000 
feet of fuse, 37 tons of ice, 3,000 bushels of charcoal, i-J tons of 
steel, 5 tons of round and square iron, 4 tons of hard coal 
(Cumberland), 50 kegs of nails, and a thousand and one other 
articles in the same proportion. The amount of timbers buried 
in the mines of the Comstock is almost beyond computation.. 
It is more than there is in all of the buildings in the State of 

Nearly all the pine forests on the eastern slope of the Sierra 
Nevada Mountains, for a distance of fifty or sixty miles north 
and south, have been swept away and buried in the lower levels,. 


or consumed under the boilers of the mills and hoisting works. 
Already the lumbermen are pushing their way beyond the summit 
of the mountains, and the demand for timber and lumber is 
increasing every month, as new levels and new mines are opened. 

In a silver-mine it is not all dark and dismal below, as many 
persons suppose. On the contrary, the long drifts and cross-cuts 
are lighted up with candles and lamps. It is only the little- 
used drifts, in parts of the mine distant from the main workings, 
that absolute and pitchy darkness prevails. 

In the principal levels candles and lamps are always burning. 
When it is midnight above, and storms and darkness prevail 
throughout the city, whole acres of ground, hundreds of feet below 
in the bowels of the earth, are lighted up ; and down there all is 
calm and silent, save when sounds peculiar to the place break 
the stillness. 

In a mine there is neither day nor night ; it is always candle- 
light. If we go into a mine late in the afternoon and remain 
below for some hours, a gloomy feeling is experienced when we 
come to the surface and find it is everywhere night above. We 
almost wish ourselves back in the lower levels of the mine, for 
when we are there it seems to be always daylight above. 

On the principal levels of a mine we have long drifts, galleries 
and cross-cuts which intersect each other, much as do the streets 
and alleys in some old-fashioned, overcrowded village some 
village seated in a confined place, where encroaching precipices 
seem to crush it out of shape. 

Our underground streets are not wanting in life. As we pass 
along the highways and byways of the lower levels, we meet with 
the people of the place at every turn. One mine connects with 
another, and so we have streets 3 miles long. There are employed 
in a single mine from 500 to 700 men ; a number sufficient to popu- 
late a town of considerable size. Men meet and pass us all 
going about their business, as on the surface and frequently a 
turn brings us in sight of whole groups of them. We seem to 
have been suddenly brought face to face with a new and strange 
race of men. All are naked to the waist, and many from the 
middle of their thighs to their feet. Superb, muscular forms are 
seen on all sides and in all attitudes, gleaming white as marble 
in the light of the many candles. We everywhere see men who 


would delight the eye of the sculptor. These men seem of a 
different race from those we see .above the clothes-wearers. 
Before us we have the Troglodytes the cave-dwellers. We go 
back in thought to the time when the human race housed in 
caverns ; not only far up the Nile, as the ancients supposed, 
but in every land, at a certain stage of their advancement in the 
arts of life. 

Not infrequently, while travelling along a lonely passage in some 
remote section of the mine, we are suddenly confronted by a man 
of large stature, huge, spreading beard, and breast covered with 
shaggy hair, who comes sliding down out of some narrow side- 
drift, lands in our path, and for a moment stands and gazes 
curiously upon us, as though half inclined to consider us intruders 
upon his own peculiar domain. We seem to have before us one 
of the old cave-dwellers and we should not be at all surprised to- 
see him cut a caper in the air, brandish a ponderous stone ax, 
and advance upon us with a wild whoop 

The only clothing worn by the men working in the lower 
levels of a mine are a pair of thin pantaloons or overalls,. 
stout shoes, and a small felt hat or a cap such as cooks are often 
seen to wear. Not a shirt is seen. From the head to the hins 
each man is as naked as on the day he was born. All are drenched 
with perspiration, and their bodies glisten in the light of the 
candles as though they had just come up through the waters of 
some subterranean lake. 

In places, in some of the mines, the heat is so great that the 
men do not even wear overalls, but are seen in the breech-clout 
of the primitive races. Instead of a breech-clout, some of the 
miners wear a pair of drawers with the legs cut off about the 
middle of the thighs. Something must be worn on the head to- 
keep the falling sand and dirt out of the hair, and shoes must be 
worn to protect the feet from the sharp fragments of quartz 
which strew the floors of the levels. One may be well acquainted 
with a miner as he appears upon the streets, yet for a time 
utterly fail to recognize him as found attired in the underground 
regions of a mine. 

When about their work in the mine, the miners have little to 
say, and in going about in the several levels group after group 
may be passed and nothing said by any one, except some 


question may be asked by the foreman of the level or the superin- 
tendent of the mine, who are the usual guides of those who visit 
these underground regions. 

Underground the men all have their respective levels, and 
there alone they belong. The miner who works on the" i4oo-foot 
level may not venture down upon the 1,500, nor up to the 1300. 
Those who are working on one level of a mine knows no more 
of what is going on in the level above or below when there is 
anything of special importance being done than they do of the 
developments that are being made in the mine of another com- 
pany. The foreman of one level does not intrude upon the 
domain of a brother foreman. When, for instance, he has shown 
a visitor through his own level, he conducts him to the next and 
turns him over to the foreman or " boss " in charge of that portion 
of the mine. 

In small or newly-opened mines this is of course different, as 
there but little is to be seen, and there is generally but a single 
officer in charge 

No righting is allowed among the miners while in the lower 
levels. No matter how angry they may become, not a blow 
must be struck. The penalty for a violation, of this rule is the 
immediate discharge of both parties to the quarrel. 

It very frequently happens that two men who have had a 
serious misunderstanding while in the mine, repair to some quiet 
place when they come to the surface and have their fight out, 
friends on both sides being present and the rules of the prize 
ring being observed. 

Fights growing out of wrangles in the mines are always thus 
settled with fists ; knives or pistols are never used on such occa- 
sions. However, there is much less quarrelling in the mines 
than would be supposed, the large number of men and their 
various and antagonistic nationalities being considered. The 
fact that nearly all are members of the same society, the Miners 
Union doubtless has, much to do with keeping peace among all 
the large underground families along the Comstock lode. 



THUS far we have seen only such levels, drifts, and cross- 
cuts as were well-timbered and in perfect order. We 
will now take a trip through an old upper level, where the 
ore has all been extracted, and where no trouble is taken to 
keep the ground up one of the old upper levels of the Belcher 
mine, for instance. Here we find about ten acres of worked-out 
ground which is a regular wilderness. 

In this place one sees something of the tremendous weight 
and pressure of the superincumbent earth. It is a place to make 
the hair rise erect on the head of any clothes-wearing man who 
has not been scalped by nature or by art. The large, square 
timbers are crushed down to half their original height, and are 
splintered and twisted ; chambers originally square are squeezed 
into a diamond shape, and their roofs almost touch the floor in 
the centre ; solid piles of timber that have been packed into 
the ground as long as there was room for another stick, are 
pressed into pancakes ; winzes and chutes are " telescoped ; " 
ladder-ways, once spacious, are crushed out of all shape, and 
now can hardly accommodate a cat all is confused and 

This region somewhat resembles the track of a tornado in a 
timbered country what is called a "windfall." In places we 
enter immense caverns where the timbers are gone, and where 
huge flakes of* clay lean far out from the walls, and composedly 
look down upon us as we tremblingly glide along underneath. 
One is afraid to sneeze lest he bring these down upon his head. 
A smell of mustiness and decay pervades the whole place. The 


330 RATS! 

whole level is gradually settling down and squeezing together. 
There is no danger of the sudden caving of any considerable 
area of ground, but eventually all the timbers will be pressed 
into a pancake, and the place will be forever closed. 

In these deserted levels the paths are circuitous and uncer- 
tain, and in threading the labyrinth of fast-disappearing drifts, 
galleries, and cross-cuts, one must have a guide who passes 
through them almost daily. 

To those not familiar with mines it may appear strange, but 
the lower levels indeed, all of the levels are alive with rats. 
The miners never kill or molest them, therefore they become 
quite tame and saucy. As the miners all carry a lunch with 
them into the mine, the rats live well on the fragments. These 
rats are really of service, as they devour the scraps of meat and 
bones thrown upon the ground, which would in a short time 
create a bad odor in the mine. The decay of the smallest thing 
in a mine cannot be endured. Should a rat be killed by any 
accident it must be sent up out of the mine. Should a small 
piece of cotton cloth be burned in a drift, the miners would 
smell it throughout the level, and to burn a small splinter of 
pine would probably cause serious alarm, if not a grand stam- 
pede among them, as they would think there was a fire in the 
timbers of the mine. 

In the old upper levels we find as many rats as in any other 
place. If we sit down upon a fallen timber and converse for a 
few minutes they will come about us. They think we are miners 
sitting down to lunch. They come and sit near us on the ends 
of the timbers, and cock their heads this way and that, as they 
look inquiringly about. Evidently they do not at all understand 
it. Why we should be sitting there talking, with no dinner-pails 
in sight, seems to puzzle them not a little. 

There are frequently rats that are the pets of the men work- 
ing in a particular part of the mine a rat known to them by some 
mark, as his having lost a piece of his tail. To this rat they give 
some such name as " Bobby," or " Tommy," and feed and pet 
him until he becomes so saucy that he can hardly be kept out of 
the dinner-pails. 

When there is about to be a great cave in a mine, the rats 
give the miners their first warning. They become very uneasy, 


and are seen scampering about at unwonted times and in unusual 
places. The rats first discover that the mine is settling, and 
they start out in search of a place of safety. It is supposed that 
in settling, the waste rock and timbers pinch them in their usual 
holes and haunts, and they are obliged to go forth in search of 
new quarters, in order to escape being crushed to death. A fire 
in a mine kills them by thousands. The poisonous gases pene- 
trate to every part of the level, and not a rat is left alive. Some- 
times after a fire in a mine they are gathered up on the floors by 
bushels. In trying to jump across the main shaft, a rat occa- 
sionally miscalculates the distance, and falls to the bottom. A 
rat falling a thousand feet and striking a miner on the head is 
sure to knock him down. The rat is killed, of course, as he 
generally explodes wherever he strikes. Dogs are dangerous 
about a shaft. Some years since, at Gold Hill, a dog fell into a 
shaft across which he attempted to jump, and killed two men who 
were at work at its bottom, three hundred feet below the surface. 

So many men have been killed in all of the principal mines 
that there is hardly a mine on the lead that does not contain 
ghosts, if we are to believe what the miners say. 

'Some of the miners are very superstitious, while others are 
afraid of nothing living or dead, and lay plans for frightening 
those known to be timid. At times, the miner who is passing 
through unfrequented drifts in the old upper levels is almost 
paralyzed by the sudden breaking forth of most fearful groans 
and shrieks, all ending, perhaps, in a burst of fiendish laughter. 
These sounds sometimes follow him to a considerable distance, 
coming from various directions. When a timid man hears these 
ghostly salutations, he loses no time in making his way to the 
settled portions of the mine. 

The last troublesome ghost was one that haunted the yoo-foot 
level of the Ophir mine, where a miner was killed some years 
ago. The bells of the engineers and all the signal-bells in the 
Ophir are worked by electricity. Although there was no one at 
work on the yoo-foot level, troublesome signals often came from 
there. When the cage arrived at that point the engineer would 
be signalled to stop. Although confident that there was no one 
at the level, he could not do otherwise than obey the signal ; 
not to heed it might cost a life. 


Next would come a signal to lower to the level below ; then a 
signal to hoist to the top, and the cage which had thus been 
travelling about would come to the surface with nothing upon it 
but the car-load of ore with which it started from the bottom of 
the shaft. 

Sometimes there would come from the haunted level a perfect 
storm of signals, such as no man could understand ; then for a 
day or two there would be no trouble. A man who was set to 
watch at the level was frightened nearly out of his wits by groans 
and shrieks, flashing lights, and all manner of fearful things, 
and swore he would not go there again for the whole Ophir 
mine. He even went so far as to declare that a ghost crept up 
behind him and threw its arms about him. All this perplexed 
the electrician of the mine not a little. One day, therefore, 
when signals were coming from the haunted level, he took a 
dark lantern and went down to that point. He had hardly 
stepped off the cage before he was saluted with an awful groan. 
Advancing into the drift a blinding light flashed into his eyes, 
and he heard a low, gurgling laugh that almost froze the blood 
in his*veins. 

He had gone down to the level, however, to clear up the 
mystery of the disturbances at that point, and he determined 
that no ghost should frighten him away. 

He advanced towards where he had heard the laugh, and was 
again blinded by a flash of light. He then threw the light of 
his dark lantern before him along the drift, but it was empty. 
Far away, however, he heard groans, and then a fearful shriek. 

Pushing on and flashing his light this way and that, he pur- 
sued the ghost. Time and again the light was flashed in his 
eyes, and the low, mocking laugh was heard, but however quickly 
he might turn his own light in the direction whence came the 
sound, he could see nothing. A moment after, the whole mine 
would seem to be lighted up in the distance, and the laugh 
would be heard far away. 

Did he attempt to advance, the light flashed in his face from 
some nook near at hand, and a shriek was uttered almost at his 
side. Becoming desperate, the electrician charged about at 
random through the level, flashing his lantern in all directions. 
At length his light fell upon a man just as he was making into 



the mouth of an old drift. Keeping his light upon the spot, our 
electrician rushed forward, and pushing into the drift saw his 
man crouched behind some timbers at the further end. He was 
cornered at last. 

Finding that he was caught, the fellow rose up and coolly 
said : " Well, you don't scare worth a cent ! " In his hand the 
man held the bulls-eye lantern which he had been flashing in 
the face of the electrician, and he owned to having a confederate 
somewhere on the level who was similarly equipped, but refused 
to give his name. 

The mysterious signals from the level were now accounted 
for. This man and two or three other mischievous fellows, who 
were the only men employed in that part of the mine, had been 
ringing themselves up and down between the almost deserted 
levels, and had been frightening out of their wits all who ven- 
tured near the haunted yoo-foot level. Since the day of the 
electrician's adventure nothing more has been heard of the 
Ophir ghost. 



HAVING shown the reader what is to be seen in the 
underground regions of the mines, I shall now proceed 
to show him what is to be seen in a quartz-mill, ex- 
plaining the use of the machinery and various processes for 
the extraction of the silver from the ore. I shall begin with 
the ore as it comes from the mine, and follow it through the 
reduction-works until it makes its appearance in the shape of 
silver bars, stamped with their value, and ready for the mint 
or the market. 

The mills in which the ores of the Comstock lode are 
reduced, are all built on the same general plan. When the 
tourist has visited and examined one mill, he has seen them 
all, both great and small, so far as regards the processes in 
use for the reduction of the ore. Some mills are more con- 
veniently arranged than others, however, and while in some 
machinery is used which is somewhat behind the age, in 
others will be found in operation in every department machi- 
nery of the latest and most approved pattern. 

The model mill of the State, arid of the world, for the 
reduction of silver ore, is the new 6o-stamp mill of the Con- 
solidated Virginia Mining Company. In this mill is to be 
found all that is valuable in any mill, and much in the way of 
machinery that can be seen in no other works of the kind. 

In describing a quartz-mill, and the processes used in 
working the ores of the Comstock mines, I shall, therefore, 
select the Consolidated Virginia reduction-works as those 
through which to conduct the reader. The Consolidated 



Virginia mill stands about 200 feet north-east of the company's 
main shaft and hoisting-works. The ground was well chosen, 
there being a considerable incline toward the east, which 
allowed of a proper and regular descent from the battery- 
room on the west to the room containing the agitators on the 
east, so that the course of everything is downward, from the 
time of dumping the ore into the chutes at the top of the mill. 
The ground was graded out in regular terraces of the proper 
size for the several departments, as the initial step, and in 
their proper order were reared upon these, foundations for the 
various kinds of machinery, and the whole covered by one 
immense building or series of buildings, principally under 
one roof a vast aggregation of buildings and machinery. 

The battery-room, with ore-bin, etc., is situated on the west 
side of the mill, and is 100 feet in length by 53 feet in width. 
Immediately adjoining this, on the east, on a terrace a few 
feet lower, is the amalgamating-room, containing the pans, 
settlers, and other amalgamating apparatus. This room is 
120 feet in length by 92 feet in depth. East of this, and a few 
feet lower down, is the room containing the agitators and 
other apparatus connected therewith. This room is 92 feet in 
length by 20 feet in width. North of the amalgamating-room 
is the engine-room, containing the engine and boilers. This 
room is 92 feet long by 58 feet in width. Near the mill stands 
a handsome office, 20x30 feet in size ; and to the eastward, and 
distant from the mill some 30 feet, is the retort-house, built of 
brick, and 20x60 feet in size. 

To drive the whole of the machinery of the works there is a 
compound condensing-engine of 6oo-horse power. This en- 
gine has two cylinders, the first 24x48 inches, and the second 
48x48 inches in size. The steam is admitted to the first or 
"initial cylinder," where it is cut off at half stroke. It then 
passes into the second or "expansion cylinder," which, being 
twice the size of the first and having four times its capacity in 
cubical contents, gives an expansion of eight bulks twice in 
the first cylinder, and four times in the second. After the 
steam has left the expansion cylinder, instead of exhausting 
in the open air it exhausts into a condenser, where it gains an 
additional power equal to the atmospheric pressure at the 


altitude of Virginia. The main shaft from this engine is 14 
inches in diameter, and weighs 15,000 pounds. On this shaft 
is a fly-wheel (which is also a band-wheel and carries the 
large belt by which the batteries are driven) 18 feet in diam- 
eter and weighing i6 tons. On the extreme end of the main 
driving shaft is coupled a shaft n inches in diameter, which 
extends into the amalgamating-room and drives the pans and 
settlers indeed, all the machinery except that connected with 
the batteries. The whole weight of the engine is about 50 
tons, and it stands on a foundation of 450 cubic yards of 
masonry, laid in cement, the weight of which is over 600 tons. 
There are in this room four pair of boilers, eight in all, each 
of which is 54 inches in diameter, and 16 feet in length. All 
of these boilers can be used simultaneously, or each pair can 
be run separately just as may be required. From the floor 
of the engine-room to the ridge of the roof the distance is 50 
feet. The west side of this, and of some of the adjoining 
rooms, is formed by a stone wall 22 feet in height. In these 
walls there are in all, 4,000 perches of mason-work all trachyte 
rock. The of the boilers are four in number, 
and each is 42 inches in diameter and 90 feet in height. In 
this room are two large steam-pumps for use in feeding the 
boilers, or to be used for fighting fire, if need be ; each being 
supplied with hose of sufficient length to reach to any part 
of the building. 

About 28 cords of wood are used per day 10,080 per 
annum. This wood is brought to the mill from a side-track 
of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, on a truck which holds 
exactly one cord. Thus is the wood measured as it is de- 
livered. The truck dumps the wood into a chute, which 
carries it down into the boiler-room, and it is landed just in 
front of the furnaces, where it is wanted. 

We will now return to the west side of the mill and ascend 
to its extreme top, even above the roof. Here, above the roof, 
comes in a large car-track, leading directly from the main shaft 
of the hoisting-works at the mine. This track is 278 feet in_ 
length, and is housed in for its entire length. It is hand- 
somely finished off, contains windows its whole length, is 
painted a light brown color, and strikingly resembles a rope- 


When the cages bring to the top of the shaft the cars loaded 
with ore, a carman is standing ready, who takes the car from 
the cage and pushes it before him over an iron track to the 
chutes which lead down through the roof of the mill into the 
huge ore-bin below. This car-track, and the long building 
covering it, are supported upon a strong trestle-work con- 
structed of large square timbers, and rising forty-four feet 
above the surface of the ground in the highest part. To keep 
the stamps supplied with ore requires one car-load to be sent 
out from the shaft every five minutes during the day and 
night. Although the cars were at first pushed out over the 
track by hand, they are now made up into trains of ten, and 
are hauled by a mule from the hoisting-works to the mill. 

The ore, on being dumped into the chutes at the top of the 
mill, descends to the centre, from each side. The chutes have 
in their bottoms what are called " grizzlies" iron bars placed 
three inches apart so as to form a screen through which the 
fine ore drops into the bin below, while the coarse rock rolls 
on down and is dumped on a floor above the ore-bin, and 
about its centre, where stands the rock-breaker. 

The rock-breaker is a heavy piece of machinery, which in 
appearance, and the principle upon which it works, not a 
little resembles a huge nut-cracker or lemon-squeezer. It is 
the same kind of machine that is used in some cities for chew- 
ing up rock for macadamizing streets, and which is known as 
a " masticator." 

The coarse rock being crushed in the rock-breaker is carried 
into the ore-bin by a chute. In the main chutes above are 
what are called distributing chutes, which are chutes that 
carry the descending ore far away from the centre of the bin. 
But for this arrangement, all of the ore would fall in the 
middle of the bin, which is no feet in length. 

In the battery-room are ranged in a row, north and south 
through the building, six batteries of ten stamps each, or sixty 
stamps in all. Each stamp weighs 800 pounds. Each set of 
ten stamps works independently of each other set, and can be 
stopped and started at will by simply moving a sort of brake 
or clutch. The whole of the stamps and the apparatus con- 
nected therewith, are driven by a belt from the main fly and 


band-wheel (mentioned above), which belt is 24 inches in 
width and 160 feet in length. This runs the counter-shaft 
in front of the batteries, and from the pullies on this counter- 
shaft there are belts 14 inches in width and 60 feet in length? 
which run each battery of ten stamps. The main belt, which 
drives the whole of this machinery, runs at the rate of 3,600 
feet per minute. 

From the ore-bin the ore descends into the Tulloch self- 
feeders, one of which machines is required for every five 
stamps, or twelve in all. These do the whole work of feeding. 
The ore is not touched by anyone after it falls into the bin. 
Two men are able to keep watch over all the feeders supply- 
ing ore to the whole sixty stamps. The feeder is the invention 
of James Tulloch, of California, and is a very valuable labor- 
saving apparatus. The feeders are self-regulating, the motion 
of the stamps in dropping, operating them. When there is 
too much ore in the battery, the tappet of the stamp does not 
fall sufficiently low to strike the end of the rod attached to 
the feed-table, and no more rock enters the battery for a time; 
but as the rock is worked out, the feeder again begins to 
operate. In most of the mills the ore is still fed into the bat- 
teries, with shovels, by men known as " feeders." When the 
feeding is done by hand, the amount of ore reduced in a given 
time, depends much on the men who do the work. They 
must put under the stamps all the ore they can crush, and no 
more. This must be done constantly throughout the twenty- 
hours for weeks and months. 

In the Consolidated Virginia mill, the mortars the huge 
iron boxes in which the stamps work do not discharge the 
pulp or pulverized ore in front, as is usual, but at one side. 
This gives free access to the mortars in front for the purpose 
of putting in new shoes and dies. The " shoes " are the heavy 
blocks of iron or steel fastened to the lower end of the stamp. 
It is the shoes that fall upon and crush the ore when the 
stamp is dropped by the cam which raises it. The " dies " are 
much the same in shape and size as the shoes, and are fitte^ 
into the bottom of the mortar in such a position that one is 
exactly under the point where the shoe of each stamp strikes. 
Thus it is between the "shoes" and "dies "that the rock is 




A small stream of water is constantly running into the 
battery among the ore, which water, being strongly churned 
and agitated takes up and floats all of the finer particles of 
ore. Across the face of the mortar, just in front of the dies, 
are the screens, made of the best Russian sheet-iron, punched 
full of small holes. Through these holes the water and the 
finely powdered ore pass into a sluice or trough running to 
the settling-tanks in the amalgamating-room, where the ore, 
now in the shape of fine sand, is deposited, to be finally 
shovelled out and placed in the amalgamating-pans. The 
finer the screens the smaller the quantity of ore that can be 
put through a battery in a given time. 

The roar of Niagara is as a faint murmur compared with 
the deafening noise of sixty stamps, all in full operation. In 
the battery-room, and indeed throughout the mill, the noise is 
such that 'it is almost impossible to converse. Eve/y word 
must be shouted into your ear at the top of the speaker's 
voice, and in a tone that would be audible at the distance of a 
mile in the open air. There is little talking done in the 
battery-room ; except when ladies visit the works ; then you 
can see that their lips continue to move, and the presumption 
is that they are talking right straight along. 

Just in front of the battery-room, but having its floor some 
feet lower, is the amalgamating or pan-room, 92x120 feet in 
size. Into this room comes the pulp as it runs from the bat- 
teries. The pans stand in two long lines, running east and 
west, and back of the lines of pans are the settling-tanks, 
while in front of them are ranged the "settlers/' a large kind 
of pan into which the pulp passes from the pans proper the 
amalgamating-pans. On each side of the building, over the 
settling-tanks, are sluices bringing the pulp (mingled with 
water) from the batteries. Each sluice brings the pulp from 
thirty stamps, and supplies one row of settling-tanks there 
being spouts leading from the sluice to each tank. There are 
seventeen of these settling-tanks, and when the pulp has 
settled in them till it is of the consistency of thick mortar, it 
is shovelled out upon a platform which runs alongside the 
row of amalgamating-pans. There are sixteen pans in each 
row thirty -two in all and each pan is five and one-half feet 


in diameter, and holds a charge of 3,000 pounds of this pulp. 
In the bottom of the pans are thick plates of cast-iron 
called "dies," while revolving upon these are the mullers, 
which are furnished with other thick plates of iron called 
"shoes." It amounts to much the same thing as the shoes 
and dies in the batteries, except that in the latter the ore is 
pulverized by percussion, while in the pans it is done by a 
rotary motion by grinding. 

When the charge of pulp has been shovelled into an amal- 
gamating-pan, a certain quantity of water is added to thin it 
to the proper consistency for working, when the mullers are 
set in motion, and the work of grinding the ore in the pan 
begins. The pans have covers and double bottoms, and when 
they are at work, steam is not only let into the pulp, but also 
underneath, between the two bottoms. 

After, the pulp has been thus heated and ground for two 
and a half hours, there is placed in the pan 300 pounds of 
quicksilver, and it is run two and a half hours longer five 
hours in all. Besides the quicksilver, there is put into the 
pan with the charge a certain quantity of salt and sulphate of 
copper; also, when thought necessary, soda and some other 
chemicals are added. 

The foundation of this method of working silver-ore is the 
old Mexican patio process. When Americans came to engage 
in the working of silver ores, upon the discovery of the Com- 
stock lode, they found the Mexican plan of working too slow, 
and they began to study, in order to make improvements in 
it. In the Mexican patio process the pulverized ore is made 
up into a thick mortar on a floor of planks or stone (which is 
the patio), when salt and sulphate of copper are added and 
mixed in, and the pile of mortar is built up in the shape of a 
mound, and allowed to heat and sweat. 

After a proper time has elapsed the mound is pulled down 
and spread about, when quicksilver is sprinkled upon and 
well worked into the mass, and it is again made up into a 
mound-shaped pile, to heat. This pulling down and building^ 
up, spreading about, and airing, is several times repeated, and 
the whole operation lasts a number of days, when finally the 
mass of mortar is washed and the quicksilver and amalgam 


secured. By placing the pulp, or mortar, in large iron pans, 
heated by steam and stirred by machinery, we see that the 
time of bringing the ore to the metallic state, is reduced from 
five or six days to as many hours. The principle involved in 
the two processes pan and patio is essentially the same. 

On a platform below the amalgamating-pans, stand eight 
settlers, one for each pair of pans. The settlers are each nine 
feet in diameter, and five or six feet in depth. Into the set- 
tlers, at the end of five hours, the contents of the pans quick- 
silver and all are drawn. The pulp, quicksilver, and the 
amalgam (silver and quicksilver combined), remain in the 
settler about two hours, during which time the quicksilver 
and amalgam are drawn off through a pipe, at the bottom of 
the settler, and run into strainers, one of which stands in front 
of each settler, and all of which are provided with iron covers 
that are kept locked. 

The silver separates from the ore while in the amalgamating- 
pan, being changed from the chloride and sulphuret to the 
metallic form, by the action of the salt and sulphate of copper. 
As soon as it has assumed the metallic form, it unites or 
amalgamates with the quicksilver, but both in the pan and in 
the settler it is still mingled with the earthy matter of the ore 
from which it was produced. 

It is first seen freed from this gross and earthy matter 
pulverized rock, principally quartz when it passes from the 
bottom of the settler through the iron pipe into the top of the 
strainer. Then it is mingled with nothing more base than 

The strainers are bags of heavy canvas suspended in strong 
boxes, covered, as has been mentioned, with iron lids, some- 
what funnel-shaped, and perforated with holes through which 
the quicksilver and amalgam may pass to the straining-bags,. 
where we will leave them for the present. 



THE water and pulp discharged from the settlers runs 
through sluices to the lowest part of the building, where, 
some eight or ten feet below the level of the floor of the 
amalgamating-room, stand the agitators, four in number. These 
are huge tubs, having in them revolving rakes or " stirrers," and 
here is caught whatever valuable matter may have passed 
through the settlers. 

Twice in twenty-four hours, the heavy matter collected in the 
bottom of the agitators is cleaned out and placed in four small 
pans and two settlers that stand in the same room to be re-worked. 
Finally, the pulp leaves the agitators and, carried by a quantity 
of water to float it, passes out of the mill in a trough or flume 
through which it flows eastward to a considerable dfstance from 
the mill, when it reaches what are called the " blanket sluices," 
the working of which will be described further on. In speaking 
of the pans and settlers, I have described but one row or set. 
The two rows, one on the north and the other on the south side 
of the large room, are exactly alike. Each row of pans has its 
row of settling tanks, settlers and amalgam strainers. To these 
strainers, in which we left the amalgam and quicksilver, a few 
minutes since, we now return. 

While in the strainers a great quantity of the superfluous 
quicksilver mingled with the amalgam drains off, and flowing 
through pipes, is conducted to a large receiving-tank under the 
floor of the room. After it has thus drained till no more quick- 
silver will flow from it, the amalgam is removed from the ordin- 
ary strainers and is taken to the hydraulic strainer. 



It is now a pasty mass of fine particles of silver, held together 
by quicksilver, and* when pressed between the fingers gives out a 
peculiar squeaking sound. Although we may be unable to start 
a single globule of quicksilver from a lump of this amalgam by 
pressing it beneath our fingers, yet it is far from being as dry as 
it may be made by pressure. In this state it is placed in the 
hydraulic strainer, a heavy cylindrical cast-iron vessel, a good 
deal resembling a mortar such as bombs are fired from. Over 
the " muzzle " of the " mortar " is fastened, by means of bolts 
and screws, a lid of iron through which enters an iron pipe. 
This pipe is then connected with a water-pipe, and water under 
several hundred feet of pressure is turned into the strainer. 
The pressure exerted upon the amalgam in this strainer amounts 
to 150 pounds to the square inch. 

When taken out the amalgam has changed color and looks 
much less bright than before ; one would think that but little 
quicksilver now remained in it, yet three-fourths of the mass is 
still quicksilver. Though strained and pressed as thoroughly as 
possible by ordinary methods, amalgam yields but one-sixth or 
one-seventh in silver bullion when retorted, whereas by the 
hydraulic strainer the yield is one-fourth. 

The quicksilver pressed out by the hydraulic strainer is also 
conducted to the large receiving tank under the floor of the 
room. From this tank it is pumped up by powerful patent 
machinery a pump having valves which are india-rubber balls 
[Toy balls of india-rubber, such as children play with may be 
used when those furnished with the pump are not at hand] and 
goes to the distributing tanks. There are two of these tanks, 
one standing above each row of pans. Each distributing tank 
feeds eight quicksilver bowls, and each bowl supplies two pans, 
all by means of pipes. Thus, it will be seen, the quicksilver is 
in constant circulation. It passes through the pans, settlers, and 
strainers to the main receiving tank, from which it is pumped up 
into the distibuting tanks, from these flows into the quicksilver 
bowls, thence passing into the pans again. So it goes on con- 
stantly circulating until it is worn out and lost. 

The loss in quicksilver by grinding the "life "'out of it in the 
pans is very great. In the eight mills of the Consolidated 
Virginia Mining Company mostly mills of from ten to twenty 


stamps each the loss in quicksilver amounts to between $60,000 
and $70,000 per month. Much of this loss is occasioned by 
grinding quicksilver in the pans five hours, when it should only 
be subjected to this destructive process two and a half hours. 
The intention is to have quicksilver in the pans but the length 
of time last mentioned, but in drawing off their contents into the 
settlers a considerable quantity remains behind in the interstices 
of the dies in the bottom of the pans, and is thus subjected to 
the two and a half hours of grinding given the first charge of 
pulp, previous to the putting in of the usual dose of 300 pounds 
of quicksilver. Many millmen and amalgamators are experi- 
menting for the purpose of, if possible, devising means by which 
this extra grinding of quicksilver may be obviated. 

Through the whole length of the amalgamating-room, between 
the two rows of strainers, a car-track is laid upon the floor and 
on this runs the amalgam car, made wholly of iron, and capable 
of holding two tons of amalgam. When told that this car, so 
insignificant in size, holds two tons, we get some idea of the 
great weight of the amalgam. The car takes the amalgam from 
the hydraulic strainer and conveys it to the retort-house, stand- 
ing about 30 feet from the main mill building. 

The floor of the amalgamating-room is eight or ten feet above 
the level of that of the retort-house, and when the car, with its 
load, has reached the end of the car-track in the amalgamating 
room, it is run upon a hydraulic elevator by means of which it is 
quickly lowered to the level of the track running to the retorts. 

The retort-house is built of brick and is 24 x 60 feet in size. 
It contains six retorts, capable of retorting five tons of amalgam 
per day, but the amount retorted daily is but from two to two 
and a half tons. The retorts are cast-iron cylinders about six 
feet in length and eighteen inches in diameter, placed horizon- 
tally in brickwork, each having under it a small furnace. The 
row of retorts closely resembles a row of little steam boilers. 

In charging the retorts they are about half filled with the 
amalgam, which looks more like grey mud than silver or any 
other metal. It is very cheap-looking stuff. Although one can- 
not see a single globule of quicksilver in it, yet it is about 
three-fourths quicksilver. You can squeeze no quicksilver out. 
. Upon the application of gradual but intense heat, the mercury 


separates rapidly from the silver, which from the retort-house 
is taken to" the assay-office. All mining companies do not do 
their own melting and assaying. It is only a few of the leading 
companies that can afford to have assay-offices of their own. 

The assay-office of the Consolidated Virginia Mining Com- 
pany is a large and handsomely constructed building standing 
a short distance south of the main hoisting works. It is divided 
into a number of rooms, in which are the several departments of 
the business. In the melting-room are six furnaces ranged in a 
row in which are placed the melting-pots, which are made of 
plumbago. These pots are capable of holding 300 pounds of 
silver each, but the quantity melted is generally from 220 to 230 
pounds, sufficient to make two large bars or " bricks," as they 
are commonly called. 

After the" silver is thoroughly melted it is well stirred up, and 
the dross which rises to the surface is skimmed off. The pots 
are then lifted out of the furnace, and the molten silver is 
poured into iron moulds which form the bars, weighing a little 
over 100 pounds each. 

When the pots of molten silver are lifted out of the furnace, a 
small quantity of the liquid mass is taken from the surface in a 
little ladle. ' 

The silver thus taken out is thrown into water, when it scatters, 
and spreads out in a thousand fantastic shapes. Some of these 
sprays of silver resemble butterflies, flowers, or the leaves of 
plants all are very bright and beautiful. They are called 
" granulations " and it is from these particles of silver that the 
assays are made by which the value of the bar is known. 

As the molten silver is poured from the pot, in moulding the 
second and last bar, the little ladle is dipped quite down to the 
bottom of the pot and a small quantity of the liquid metal 
is taken out and thrown into cold water, as was the first. The 
resulting granulations are assayed, and the two assays must agree 
exactly, or all is to be done over again before the bars can be 
stamped with their value in silver and gold, All of the Corn- 
stock bullion contains a considerable percentage of gold. This 
percentage varies in different mines. Thus in the Belcher bullion 
it is often as high as 50 per cent., while in the Consolidated 
Virginia bullion it is as low as 10 per cent. 


On an average there are melted, moulded into bars and assayed 
at the Consolidated Virginia assay-office from 500 to 600 pounds 
of bullion per day. 

In making an assay of the granulated silver, a French gramme 
in weight is taken. This is wrapped up in a thin sheet of pure 
lead lead which contains no silver when it is put into a cupel, 
made of bone ashes, and the whole is then placed in a muffle- 
furnace. In the great heat of this furnace both lead and silver 
are soon liquified, when the lead is absorbed by the cupel, 
carrying with it whatever base metal there may be in the gramme 
of bullion. The " button " left at the end of this process of 
cupellation is weighed, when is ascertained the weight in fine 
metal gold and silver. 

The bullion is now hammered out till it forms a thin sheet, 
when it is placed in an annealed glass flask, called a matrass, 
and strong nitric acid is poured over it. The flask is then 
placed in a sand-bath (a sort of oven, the bottom of which is 
covered to the depth of an inch or more with hot sand) and the 
flattened button is boiled in the acid until all the silver in it is 
dissolved. The gold which remains in the bottom of the flask 
in the form of a fine powder, is collected in an unglazed porce- 
lain crucible. The crucible is placed in a warm place until the 
gold has dried ; when it is put into a furnace and annealed 
heated until the particles unite and form what is called " matte." 

It is then removed from the crucible and carefully weighed. 
The weight of this matter shows the gold contained in the button, 
and the loss in the weight that which was disolved out of the 
original button by the action of the nitric acid represents the 
silver. The bars being next accurately weighed, their value is 
determined from the amount of gold and silver found in the 
sample of one gramme taken from the silver of which the bars 
were moulded. The calculations here required are much facili- 
tated by the use of very comprehensive tables of values for all 
degrees of fineness of silver and gold a species of logarithms. 
Thus, for instance, when silver is 900 fine, an ounce of such 
silver is worth $1,16,36, and when gold is 900 fine an ounce of 
it is worth $i8,6o. This is seen at a glance by referring to the 
tables ; and the same is the case no matter what the degree of 
fineness of the metal may be. 


The scales used in assaying are wonderfully delicate and 
sensitive. The smaller ones will weigh a piece of hair only 
an inch in length, from the human head. There is a separate 
room in which the weighing is done and the calculations made. 
All in this room is as neat and clean as in the finest parlor. In 
another room are the muffle-furnace and sand-bath, and in still 
another the furnace where the assays are made, also a still for 
distilling water. In ore assays, 200 grains of finely powered ore 
are placed in a small earthen crucible; a proper quantity of 
flux is added, and the whole is then placed in the furnace and 
melted. After the mass has remained in the molten state a. 
sufficient length of time, the crucible is taken out and allowed 
to cool. When cold it is broken by a blow with a hammer, and 
the button deposited by the ore is found at its bottom. This 
button is then assayed in the same way as the granulations taken 
from the melting-pot, and from the result the value per ton of 
the ore is calculated. 

In the Consolidated Virginia assay-office from sixty to eighty 
assays of ore, tailings, and slimes are daily made. The finished 
bars of silver have stamped upon them their weight, fineness of 
gold and silver, value in gold and in silver, and the total value 
of the bars. They are then ready to be sent to one of the 
United States' Mints to be coined, or to be shipped to Europe,. 
China, or Japan, and sold. The total cost of the Consolidated 
Virginia reduction works was $350,000. 




AS the reader has been kept for some time in the " lower 
levels," and amid the roar of the machinery of the mills, 
I shall now give a few chapters illustrative of life in 
Virginia City, and along the Comstock lode. 

In Virginia City are found many odd, curious, and reckless 
characters. It would be strange, indeed, if such were not the 
case, in a city having a population of over twenty thousand souls, 
composed of adventurers from every land, all attracted thither 
by the great richness of the mines and the abundance of money. 
Hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid out on the first of 
every month to the miners and the workmen employed in the 
many mills, there have been attracted to the Comstock range 
hundreds of gamblers of all grades, and men of all kinds who 
live by their wits. There is always a small army of men who 
haunt the saloons and gambling rooms, and by begging a good 
deal and stealing a little, and playing all manner of tricks and 
dodges, manage to pick up a precarious subsistence. There are 
in Virginia City about one hundred saloons, all of which have 
their customers. The majority of these saloons are what are 
called " bit houses; " that is, drinks of all kinds and cigars are 
one bit twelve and one-half cents. The dime, however, passes 
as a ll bit " in all of these houses. 

The money in circulation is wholly gold and silver coin, and 
the smallest coin in use is the bit, ten-cent piece sometimes 
spoken of as a " short bit," as not being twelve and one-half 
cents, the " long bit." There being no smaller change in use 
than the dime, the bit passes for the half of twenty-five cents. 



Thus, whenever a customer throws down a quarter of a dollar in 
payment for a drink or a cigar, he gets back a dime, and so has 
paid fifteen cents for his " nip " or smoke. The new twenty- 
cent pieces, of which Senator Jones, of Nevada, is the father, 
will, however, cure this little ill. In the " two-bit," or twenty- 
five cent saloons, everything is twenty-five cents, even the same 
drinks that are sold in the bit houses for ten cents ; as lager 
beer, soda water, lemonade, cider, and the like. 

There is really but one hotel kept after the plan of hotels in 
other places in Virginia City. The people of the town eat at 
restaurants and have their rooms at lodging-houses. It is on the 
European plan, except that a restaurant is seldom found in the 
same building as a lodging-house. Those who live in lodging- 
houses patronize that restaurant which best suits them. Restaur- 
ants and lodging-houses are, therefore, even more numerous in 
the town than saloons. 

The grand army of. men who live by their wits are always at 
war with the restaurant keepers. Of late, however, the latter 
have formed an association for their mutual protection, and 
furnish each other lists of all swindling customers, which makes 
it no easy matter for one of the " dead beats " to get a " square 
meal," unless he first " puts up " his coin. These fellows can- 
not now rove from house to house as in former times. 

Some years ago a restaurant keeper had a number of these 
customers, who were eating him out of house and home. One 
day he seriously remonstrated with one of his patrons. He told 
him that unless he and others like him paid up, the house ^must 

Said the restaurant man : " Here, now, it has been two weeks 
since I paid my meat bill. If I don't pay up this week the 
butcher will shut down on me, and I can get no more meat. 
Don't you see, I shall be obliged to close my house ! " 

" O, no ! " said the customer, " don't close your house. Keep 
her open. We'll all stay by you. If you can't get any meat, 
we'll play you a string on vegetables ! '* 

v Even some such customers as pay are a terror to the restaur- 
ant keeper. When the check-guerrilla is eating his semi-weekly 
square meal, the landlord paces the room wringing his hands 
eyes red, face flushed, brows corrugated, general aspect venomous 


In his walk as steak after steak disappears he eyes his cus- 
tomer in a malignant, yet helpless manner. In case of fifteen 
or twenty such customers arriving in one day, the restaurant 
keeper generally goes out into his back yard and cuts his 

Pat Murphy had the name of being the biggest eater on the 
Comstock range. He was a very good sort of man, and tried 
his best not to make his appetite conspicuous, but it was a 
thing that could not be concealed. In order not to be too hard 
on any one man, Murphy was in the habit of changing his 
boarding place quite frequently. On one occasion a new res- 
taurant was opened, and nearly every morning the patrons of 
the place would ask the landlord if Pat Murphy had not yet 
come to board with him. The landlord would say that he had 
seen no man of that name. Finding that the " sports " who- 
were boarding with him continued daily to ask if he had yet 
seen Murphy, the landlord began to feel that he should like to 
know something about him. He asked what kind of man 
Murphy was, and how he would be able to recognize him in 
case he should come to the restaurant. 

"Never mind about how he looks," said the sports, "you will 
know him when he comes." 

One morning a tall, gaunt, middle-aged man came edging 
into the restaurant, and meekly took a seat. The landlord 
rather liked the appearance of the new customer, and at once 
went to take his order. 

" Landlord," said the man, " let me have a porther-house 
steak and onions, some liver and bacon on the side, six fried 
eggs, a bit of ham, a Jarman pancake, some fried pertaties, a 
cup of coffee, and a couple of doughnuts, and if ye have them 
a couple of waffles." When the sports came in to breakfast, 
the landlord said : " He has been here I've seen Murphy, the 
man who eats." 

Many of the emigrants from the older states arrive in Washoe 
with exaggerated notions and with eyes and ears open for strange 
things of all kinds. Being well aware of this, a Comstocker 
who dropped in at a chop-house where about a dozen new- 
comers had just settled in a flock, at two or three adjoining 
tables, concluded to have some fun with them. Seating himself 


near them, the Comstocker roared : " Waiter, how long does a 
man have to sit here before you come to take his order ? " 

" All right, sir ! " said the alert waiter, who was well acquainted 
with the customer, and saw that he was up to some kind of mis- 
chief. " All right ! What will you have, sir ? " 

The emigrants all turned to take a look at the man of sten- 
torian voice, who spoke so authoritatively. 

Straightening himself up, and speaking even louder than 
before, the Comstocker cried : " Give me a baked horned toad, 
two broiled lizards on toast, with tarantula sauce stewed rattle- 
snake and poached scorpions on the side ! " 

.Without the slightest hesitation or the least sign of astonish- 
ment, the waiter called out to the Chinese cooks in the kitchen : 
" Baked horned toad ; two briled lizards on toast, tarantula 
sauce; stewed rattlesnake and poached scorpions. Very nice 
and well done, for Mr. Terry ! " 

There was then a great buzzing among the emigrants as they 
laid their heads together, and many curious side glances were 
shot at that most incorrigible of jokers, Bill Terry. Even after 
Bill's breakfast had been placed before him his real order 
having been given on the sly the emigrants were unable to 
make out what he was eating, though they nearly twisted their 
necks out of joint with glancing over their shoulders at his 

The white sage which grows in great abundance throughout 
Nevada, is not only useful as a food for cattle, but from it has 
been manufactured a hair restorative a wash for making hair 
grow on bald heads. One day Bill Terry happened to be seated 
opposite a stranger at a table in a restaurant, when the stranger 
who was a side-whiskered, lisping man who showed a good 
deal of the dandy in his dress attracted the attention of 
" William " by opening a conversation as follows : 

STRANGER. " Deah me ! this is disgusting ! (Holding up his 
knife and gazing fixedly at its point.) This is either the second 
or the third hair that I have found in this buttah ! " 

BILL TERRY "You've not been here long, I judge? " 

STRANGER " No sir ; I arrived here yesterday morning." 

BILL TERRY " I thought so, otherwise you would not complain 
of hairs in the butter." 


STRANGER " Not complain of hairs in the butter? You sup- 
pwise me, sir ! How could I do otherwise ? " 

BILL TERRY "Those hairs, sir, are just as natural to Washoe 
butter as butter is a natural product of milk. They are just as 
good and just as clean as the butter." 

STRANGER " Impossible ! " 

BILL TERRY " Not at all, sir. All our butter comes from the 
great valley of our State where flourishes that most nutritious 
and truly wonderful plant, the white sage. On this white sage 
our cattle feed and fatten. The plant has many virtues. It is 
of an oleaginous nature and is good in lung diseases, and from it 
is also manufactured a most wonderful and very popular hair 

STRANGER " Ah, yes; I've heard something of the kind." 

BILL TERRY " Well, then, sir, in a country where all the cows 
feed on the white sage, do you think it likely that the butter will 
be bald-headed." 

Promontory is a new place out on the Central Pacific Rail- 
road. Out there they have no " Hotel and Restaurant-keepers' 
Mutual Protection Association," as they have in Virginia City. 
The place is too small and scattering for the advanced ideas 
that rule in the more metropolitan towns. A Comstocker went 
out to Promontory to prospect and look around for a time. He 
stopped at the principal hotel, which stood at the edge of the 
town. Our Comstocker liked the looks of things. The land- 
lord seemed a very agreeable and friendly sort of man, and he 
thought he would stop and board with him a while. 

When dinner was ready the landlord took a double-barrelled 
shot-gun from behind the bar, and, stepping out in front of his 
house, fired off one of the barrels. 

The Comstocker, who had followed him to the door to see 
what was up, said to him : " What did you do that for ? " 

" To call my boarders to dinner," said the landlord. 

" I see," said the Comstocker, " but why don't you fire off both 
barrels ? " 

" Well," said the landlord, " you see I keep the other to collect 

Having but a few " short bits " in his pocket our Comstocker, 
after getting his dinner, concluded to shoulder his carpet-bag 


and jog along. Speaking of short bits : A " hoodlum " went 
into a cigar store in Virginia City one day, aud after getting a 
"bit " cigar, laid a dime on the counter and picked up a twenty- 
five cent piec.e which he saw lying there, saying as he walked off: 
" Just the change ! " 

The astonished shop-keeper gazed at the lone bit, then at his 
box of cigars, and then in the direction taken by the young 
sharper, .^.t last he said : " Veil, now, how dat vas ? Dat vas 
make der right schange, sure ; but it look to me like it vas make 
emde wrong vay somehow. Veil, de next time what dare comes 
a bargain like dese, I make der schange mineselfs. Ven effery 
fool what come to der store make schange, it soon schpiles der 
piziness ! " 

The saloon-keepers as well as the keepers of restaurants have 
some very amiable gentlemen to deal with occasionally, but 
more frequently such as are "on the beat." 

One evening a tall wild-looking fellow rushed into a first-class 
saloon apparently in a terrible state of excitement. Throwing 
his hat on the counter he said to the bar-keeper : " There'll be 
the biggest row here in about a minute that ever you saw ! Give 
me a drink quick ! " 

The bar-keeper set out the bottle, and while the fellow was 
helping* himself, looked under the bar to see that his six-shooter 
was all right and his club handy. 

Leaving his hat on the bar, the fellow ran to the door, looked 
out, then rushed back and said : " Yes ; in less than half a 
minute there'll be a devil of a time here ! Give me another drink, 
quick ! " And seizing the bottle he helped himself to another 
rousing horn. He then took up his hat and was coolly marching 
away, when the bar-keeper called after him : " See here you 
fellow there ! What's all this about a row ? Do you know you 
haven't paid me for those drinks ! " 

" There you go ! " said the fellow. 

" Well, and there you don't go until you pay for your drinks. 
Come back here or I'll give you a taste of my club ! " 

" There you go again ! Didn't I say there 'd be a fearful row 
here in about a minute ? I knew it ; and there you go ! " 

The bar-keeper now saw the point and said : " Look here, 
you can come back here and take another drink if you like, but 


I wish it distinctly understood, my good fellow, that this is to 
be the last " row " you ever raise in this house ! " 

A man one day sauntered into a two-bit saloon and called for 
a drink of whiskey. The proprietor of the place was behind the 
bar and set out the Bourbon bottle. When the man had drank 
he threw a ten-cent piece on the counter and started off. 
v "This is a two-bit house, sir," said the proprietor, in a tone 
which showed that he felt some pride in the establishment. 

"Ah!" said the customer. "Two-bit house, eh? Well, I 
thought so when I first came in, but after I had tasted your 
whiskey I concluded it was a bit house." 

Some of the customers of the saloon-keepers are not only 
fellows of infinite jest, but are also men of such an agreeable 
disposition that it is pleasant to have them around. 

" Do you know Mr. Popper ? " asked a saloon-keeper of one of 
his customers. 

"I've heard of him," said the customer, "but I don't know 
that I ever met him." 

" No ; " said the saloon man. " Well, you ought to make his 
acquaintance. He's a nice agreeable gentleman. I never saw 
him until night before last when he came in here about 12 o'clock 
and took a drink. He is a man who makes himself at home 
with you at once. Why he had hardly been in here five minutes 
before he drew out his six-shooter and began shooting holes 
through the pictures, the lamp, and other little notions about the 
place, just as familiarly as though he and I had been boys 
together. Nothing cold and distant about him ! He's a charm- 
ing fellow ! charming ! " 

There is nothing at which these agreeable gentlemen are more 
likely to take a shot, than a large and costly mirror. A mirror 
is generally the first thing that attracts their attention when they 
are inclined to be sociable and good-natured, though a lamp, 
suspended in the middle of a room, very frequently draws their 
first fire. % Sometimes two or three marksmen take a hand in the 
sport. Then it's right jolly. 

Probably as preparatory to a more public performance, half <* 
dozen men went one night to a pistol gallery to practice. To 
snuff a candle with a pistol or rifle has always been a great feat 
among crack shots. These men were not only going to snuff the 


candle t but each man in turn was to hold the candle while the 
other snuffed it. At the first fire the man who held the candle 
got a bullet through his left hand. Although the wound was of a 
very painful character, he insisted on having his shot. He got it, 
and put a bullet through his friend's arm just below the elbow. 
After this the party did not feel that enthusiasm for candle- 
snuffing which previously animated their bosoms. They con- 
cluded that they were not candle-snuffers. 



OUT on the Divide, in the extreme southern part of Vir- 
ginia City, they do much better shooting than that 
mentioned in the last chapter also, much worse. Out 
there, one morning, a man fired six shots at his brother-in- 
law and missed him every time, though the practice all took 
place within the bounds of a small door-yard. During the 
afternoon of the same day some men at a saloon were dis- 
cussing the morning's shooting, and all agreed that it was 
scandalous was a discredit to their end of the town, and to 
Washoe. That to shoot at a man six times, and not hit him, 
was shameful. After awhile, with these things occurring, it 
would go abroad that a Washoe man could not hit the side of 
a barn. 

After much more talk about the disgraceful affair of the 
morning, a man from Pioche a lively camp in the eastern 
part of Nevada (they kill a man there every week or two) 
bantered a Comstocker, whom he knew to be a fine shot with 
a pistol, to go out into the back yard with him and do some 
shooting, just to show the "boys" how it should be done. 

In the saloon which also was a grocery-store was a box 
of eggs, and the Piocher proposed, that they each shoot 
two eggs off the bare head of the other, at the distance of ten 
paces, the one missing, to treat the crowd. The Comstocker 
was determined not to be bluffed by a man from the other 
end of the State, so to the back yard all hands adjourned. 
Each man used his own six-shooter. The Comstocker first 
" busted " his egg on the top of the Piocher's head, and the 
feat was loudly applauded by all present. 




It was then the Piocher's time to shoot, and an egg was 
produced to be placed upon the head of the Comstocker, but 
when he removed his hat, there was a general laugh, as the 
top of his head was as smooth as a billiard-ball. 

For full five minutes all hands tried to make an. egg stand 
on the smooth pate of the Comstocker. It couldn't be done. 
The Piocher then taunted the Comstocker with having gone 
into the arrangement knowing that he was safe. The latter 
told him to set up his egg, and it was all right he was there. 
The Pioche man stood contemplating the bald pate before 
him for a time, then turned, and went into the saloon. A 
moment after he came out with a small handful of flour, 
which he dabbed upon the bald head of the Comstocker, and 
then triumphantly planted in it his egg, fell back ten paces, 
and knocked it off. The Comstock man then told him to set 
up his second egg and shoot at it, as he didn't want to have 
his head chalked twice during the same game. This was 
done, and the wreck of the second egg streamed over the 
Comstocker's pate. 

The Piocher now stood out with his last egg on his head. 
The Comstocker raised his pistol and fired. The Piocher 
bounded a yard into the air, and the egg rolled unscathed 
from his head. 

" I've lost ! " cried the Comstocker. " Let all come up and 
drink. By a slip of the finger, I've put half the width of my 
bullet through the top of his left ear ! " and so it proved upon 

All Washoe men, however, do not stand fire so well as this 
pair of egg-shooters. On one occasion a " sport," of hercu- 
lean frame, and wearing a huge black beard that gave him a 
most ferocious appearance, cheated a miner out of four or five 
hundred dollars in a game of draw-poker. As he made his 
last losing, the miner saw the cheat, and demanded the return 
of all the money he had lost. The big gambler laughed in 
his face. The miner, who was quite a small man, left the 
place wearing an ugly look. Some of those present, who 
knew the miner, told the big sport that he had better leave, as 
his man had gone off to " heel himself," and there would soon 
be trouble. 


But the big man was not alarmed he was not going to be 
frightened away. He sat in a chair in a rear room of the 
saloon, near an open window, his head thrown back, and his 
legs cocked up. He didn't care how many weapons the 
miner might bring. 

"Why, gentlemen," said he, "you don't know me! you 
don't know who I am ! I'm the Wild Boar of Tehama ! The 
click of a six-shooter is music to my ear, and a bowie-knife is 
my looking-glass " Here he happened to look toward the 
door, and saw the miner entering the door with a shot-gun, 
when he said: "But a shot-gun lets me out!" and he went 
through the window behind him, head first. 

A very different sort of man from the " Wild Boar of Teha- 
ma" was Blazer. Blazer was a man who never felt himself 
at peace except "when at war." He would leave his dinner 
any day, if he thought he could find a fight. When unable to 
<l mix" in a " muss" of some kind, he was the most miserable 
dog alive. A week without a battle, and he began to think 
there was nothing in the world worth living for. 

Although Blazer seldom won more than one fight out of 
ten, it was all the same to him. He rather enjoyed a good 

One night some of Blazer's friends because they were his 
enemies happened to be passing through a part of Virginia 
City called the " Barbary Coast," on account of its being the 
roughest and worst place in the town the " Five Points " of 
the place. As Blazer's friends were passing through this 
region of blood and robberies, their attention was attracted 
to a " shebang " near at hand, by a terrible uproar within its 
doors. There was a smashing of glass, a crashing of chairs, 
bottles, and tumblers ; fierce yells, bitter curses, and, in short, 
a fearful commotion. 

Thinking one of the voices heard above the din had a 
familiar sound, Blazer's friends entered the place. As they 
pushed in at the door they saw Blazer surrounded by half a 
dozen " Coasters," who were giving it to him right and lef*, 
Blazer's nose was flattened; one eye closed; his upper lip laid 
open, his face covered with blood, and his clothes nearly torn 
off his back. A clip under the ear sent him to "grass," when 


those'nearest him began jumping upon him and kicking him 
in the ribs. His friends rushed to his rescue. The breath 
was completely knocked and kicked out of poor Blazer, and 
he lay stretched senseless on the floor. 

Some water dashed in his face revived him. Recognizing 
his friends, he smiled as amiably as was possible, with his 
distorted upper lip, and huskily whispered: "Boys, it's gor- 
geous! I've struck a perfect paradise ! " 

Somewhat of the same pattern as Blazer was the youth 
encountered on this same "Barbary Coast "one night by a 
policeman whose beat was among the "dives" in that region. 

" Where was that row just now ? " said the policeman. The 
question was addressed to a wall-eyed young hoodlum, who, 
with hands thrust nearly to his knees in his breeches pockets, 
lounged against a lamp-post. 

" Ro-o-ow ? " listlessly drawled the short-haired youth. " I 
hain't seen nuthin' of no row." 

"You hain't? " said the policeman, eyeing the young gen- 
tleman over. 

" N-o ; I hain't ! " reiterated the fellow, with a sneering 
Bowery drawl. " Do yer sup-pose I'd be a loafin' here if ther* 
was any row a-goin ? Not much ! " 

" I was told down street," said the policeman, " that there 
was a regular row in one of the shebangs up this way. Now 
I want to know where it was do you understand ? " 

"Wa-all, I dunno, but I guess maybe ther' mout a bin a 
little misunderstandin' or sumpthin' o' that sort in at Broncho 
Sail's saloon. 'Bout a minit or so ago I seed Wasatch Sam 
roll out 'er thare and seed him spit out some feller's ear, as he 
went 'long by here ; but I don't reckon there's bin any per- 

same policeman one night heard a sound of scuffling 
in a Barbary Coast " dive " and ran in to see was what going 
on. As he entered the place, he saw two men struggling 
upon the floor. The uppermost man arose from the prostrate 
and bleeding form of his antagonist as the policeman ap- 
proached, and said : " I'm a quiet man, a man who wouldn't 
harm a fly, but when I'm crowded too far, I will remonstrate ! " 
whereupon he spat out the nose of the man who was lying on 
the floor. 


Curious characters are frequently encountered in towns of 
the silver-mines queer customers from all parts of the world. 
A few drinks generally bring out the peculiarities of these 
men. One day an odd-looking, wiry old chap, evidently 
from some ranch in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and appar- 
ently a man rich in flocks and herds, made his way to the bar 
of one of the first-class two-bit saloons of Virginia City. His 
" keg " was evidently " full " to overflowing, yet he was still 
athirst. Cocking one eye upon the bar-keeper and the other 
on the array of bottles before him, he thrust his right hand 
deep into his breeches' pocket and there stirred up a stunning 
jingle of coin. Turning to a gentleman standing near, the 
little old man said : lt Stranger, excuse me, but will yer jine 
in a drink ? " 

" Please excuse me, sir," said the gentleman addressed, " I've 
just drank." 

" Stand another, can't yer?" 

" No ; I'm much obliged. I don't wish to drink." 

Turning to another gentleman, the old fellow said : " Take 
a drink, sir with me?" 

" No, sir; I thank you, I've just been to dinner," and this 
man turned and walked away. 

The little old man of the mountains looked annoyed and 
irritated, and turning from the bar, he walked across the saloon 
to where three or four gentlemen were conversing together : 
" Gentlemen," said he, " you must excuse me, I'm a stranger 
here, but I never like to drink alone. Now, will you oblige 
me by all comin' up and takin' a drink at my expense? I'm 
one of your sociable kind, and never like to go in a drove by 

Thinking the old fellow had drank about as much as was 
good for him, all declined the proffered treat. This exasper- 
ated the old chap. Jerking his cap off his head and slapping 
it against his thigh, he broke loose with : u Well, now, this 
beats my time ! Not a man in this room that will drink with 
me ! Damme ! I'll go forth into the street and bring in the * 
rabble ! I'll be like that old rancher down in the Valley of 
Galilee, that the Bible tells of. He was one of my kind. 
When he had a frolic he wanted to see things whiz ! " 


" Which of the old patriarchs was that ? " asked a gentleman 
present, who thought it might be worth while to draw the 
old fellow out. 

" I'm not much of a biblist," said the old man, " but I mean 
that jolly old cock that lived somewhere down in Galilee or 
Nazareth. The old gentleman, you know, that gave the big 
blow-out when his oldest gal got married. You recollect he 
killed a lot of oxen, and sheep, and calves, and goats, and had 
a tearin' barbacue, invitin' all the neighbors for miles round. 
But devil a one came near the house. All too durned high- 
toned ! Then what does that old chap do but git up on his 
ear and swear the thing shall be a success. So he sends his 
hired man out to gather up all of the old bummers and dead- 
beats, the lame, halt, and blind, sayin : * Bring 'em all in, and 
we'll have a regular tear the big blow-out of the season ! ' 

"Then the hungry and thirsty old bummers and gutter- 
snipes all came charging in from the back alleys, and tumb- 
lin' up from the lumber-yards, and they piled in and they 
made it hot for that lunch, and whiskey, and lager-beer, and 
they fiddled and danced till they all got blind drunk and 
broke up in a row. But the gal had a stavin' lively weddin* 
after all ! 

" Now that's the kind of man I am. Ef you gentlemen won't 
drink with me, damme, I'll go out and bring in the rabble and 
we'll eat up all the free-lunch, drink ourselves disorderly, and 
have a reg'lar weddin' feast right hyar ! " 

This little oration had the desired effect. All in the room 
shook hands with the old chap and took a drink with him, 
when he exultantly exclaimed, bringing his fist down upon 
the counter, as he emptied his glass: "Damme, you don't 
know Old Sol Winters down hyar; but he's a pretty big 
Injun when he's at home, up in Orion Valley ! " 

Another curious old 'coon was " Old Taggart." Old Tag- 
gart is dead. We planted him under the sod in 1874. Where 
the soul of Old Taggart has gone to, nobody knows. Old 
Taggart was a good sort of man, but had his "ways." Old 
Taggart didn't fear death. As he lay on his death-bed, he was 
conscious, calm, and serene to the last. Said he toward the 
close : 


" During these many years I have thought it all ever, and I 
am ready to take the chances." 

Being what is called a " pious " woman, Old Taggart's wife 
was a good deal disturbed by the thought of seeing her hus- 
band die without having " experienced religion." She wor- 
ried the old man a good deal toward the last on this account. 

Old Taggart said: "Wife, I'm as sorry for all the bad 
things I have done during my life, and as much ashamed of 
all the mean things, as any man could be." 

Still the old lady wanted to see him " experience a change 
of heart." So she sent for Deacon Dudley to come and talk 
to the old man. The deacon came, and, seating himself by 
the bedside, turned to the sick man and told him about the 
wonders and the glories of heaven. He told him all about 
the New Jerusalem, where the streets are paved with gold, 
and where angels "touch the soft lyre and tune the vocal 
lay." He then asked Old Taggart if he didn't think he'd like 
to go up there. 

"No;" said Old Taggart, "I don't think I should feel at 
home in the kind of place you tell about." 

" But, my dear friend," said the Deacon, " you are at the 
point of death you should not talk in this way about heaven !" 

"Well, Deacon, I'll jist die and trust to the Almighty. I'll 
jist settle down wherever he puts me. I don't know nothin* 
about the lay of the land in 'tother world myself, but I'll 
chance Him." 

"I'm surprised, my good friend, to hear that you don't 
want to be one of that heavenly band that sit before the 
throne, playing on golden harps, and singing praises forever 
and forever ! " 

"Me play on a harp, Deacon?" said Old Taggart, smiling 

"Yes; upon the wondrous golden harp!" briskly replied 
the Deacon. 

"There," said Old Taggart, doggedly, "I don't want to go 
to that part of heaven. The Lord will give me a place out in* 
some of the back settlements, like. He'll find a place for me, 
I'll be bound!" 

"It's wicked to talk as you are doing," said the Deacon. 


" You "have the worst ideas about heaven of any man I ever 
saw ! " 

" Can't help it, Deacon," said Old Taggart, " its all nonsense 
to talk about me playin* a harp. I tell you plainly, Deacon, 
that I don't want to go among the musicians up there. It 
wouldn't suit me! " 

" This is absolutely sinful ! " said the Deacon. 

"Can't help it," said the old man, "can't help it! It's no 
use of talkin'; I'll die my own way, and trust to the Almighty.. 
I've a notion that when Old Taggart comes to Him, He will 
make him comfortable somewheres up there in the kingdom." 

Here Old Taggart gave a gasp or two, and was dead. He 
has probably found a place " up there." 

Then there was Old Daniels, a queer old fellow who lived 
at Gold Hill. Old Daniels would sometimes get so drunk 
that he didn't know whether he was dead or alive. Very late 
one night some wags found Old Daniels lying in an alley so 
much intoxicated that they at first thought he was dead. They 
got a hand-barrow and carried him out to the graveyard. 
They there found the grave of a Chinaman that had been 
opened in order that the bones of the defunct might be sent 
back to China. The old shattered coffin of the Chinaman 
still lay beside the open . grave, and alongside of the coffin 
they laid Old Daniels. 

The wags then secreted themselves near the spot in order 
to see how the old fellow would act when he came to his 
senses, for he was sleeping like a log. They were obliged to 
wait a long time till very weary of it but about daylight, 
when the air began to grow cold, Old Daniels began to toss 
and tumble uneasily, and presently was fully awake. He arose 
to a sitting posture and began a deliberate survey of his sur- 
roundings the empty coffin by his side, the open grave, the 
tombstones all round. 

" The day of resurrection ! " said he solemnly, then took 
another survey of the graveyard. "Yes; " said he, "the day 
of resurrection, and I'm the first son of a gun out of the 
ground ! " 

In the early days, a Frenchman brought to Nevada half a 
dozen camels, which he placed on his ranche, on the Carson 


River, a few miles below Dayton. The climate and the 
herbage of the country appear to be well adapted to the 
requirements of the animals, and they have thriven and in- 
creased and multiplied until the herd now numbers about 
forty, of all ages. These camels are used in packing salt 
from the deserts, for carrying wood, hay, and freight of all 
kinds, and they carry quite as large loads as do the camels of 
Arabia. They are not allowed to be brought into the streets 
of Virginia City during daylight, for the reason that they 
frighten mules and horses, and cause dangerous runaways. 
Mules cannot endure the sight of them. Of nights, however, 
the camels come into town and pass along the back streets. 

One moonlight night, as the animals were solemnly stalking 
along an unfrequented street, a pair of Teutons, who had 
probably been enjoying themselves at some festival until a 
late hour, turned into the street through which the camels 
were passing: " O, Sheorge," cried one of the men, to his 
companion, " yoost see dem awful big gooses ! " 

The other took one look, and said : " Mine Gott, Levi, we 
petter run home quick. I dinks dare coomes der raisurrec- 
tion ! " and both took to their heels. 



OCCASIONALLY persons not usually found training in the 
ranks of the festive throng of Comstockers are out until 
the " wee sma' " hours, and meet with adventures quite as 
strange as was that of the two Germans who encountered a herd 
of camels at a time when they supposed that there were no 
animals of the kind nearer than the desert of Sahara. 

One of the pillars of the church, a powerful exhorter and a 
liberal disburser of psalmody before the Lord, went astray one 
Fourth of July night, and even got into a German dance-house 
before his patriotism was fully expended. However, he recol- 
lected himself presently, and took his departure. As he was 
meandering along the street, with his hat resting in a style of 
graceful bravado on his left ear, he was met by a policeman who 
knew him and advised him to get home. 

" Home ? No, sir ! no sir ! " cried the exhorter. " Live 
while you live. Life is short, sir; we are like flowers of the 
field, sir lilies of the valley. Let us not be proud nor puffed 
up, for we are all worms of the dust ! I'm not proud, sir 
nozur! I've been among the daughters of the Teuton, sir ; 
even among the cunning dancers whose feet are beautiful on the 
mountains whose feet twinkle as alabaster in the waters of the 
Jordan also have I been among the sons of Jubal, even such 
as handle the harp, the fiddle, and the psaltry. I have danced 
even as David danced, and drank wine even as Noah, when he 
began to be a husbandman. But tell it not in Gath, publish it 
not in the streets of Virginia ! " The policeman a " son of 
Belial," the fuddled pillar called him now began to talk very 



plainly, and the godly reveller caught a glimpse of the error of 
his ways, and changed his tune. 

"Woe is me ! " cried he, " how could I dare to burn incense 
unto Baal and walk after strange gods ! Silver spread into 
plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, but who 
shall be able to keep shekels of silver, wedges of gold, or rings 
of jasper from these greedy Delilahs Delilahs not to be 
appeased with hair, whose hands a whole wig would not stay ! 
For the mountains I will take up a wailing, and for the habita- 
tions of the wilderness a lamentation. I flee from the daughters 
of the Teuton ; they are as the tents of Kedar. How 
can I face that good woman, Hanner? bone of my bone and 
flesh of my flesh for in the day that I see her face will there 
come, that selfsame day, a blowing of trumpets, a breaking of 
seals, and a pouring out of vials ! No, sir; don't talk to me or 
wrestle with me, even as the angel wrestled with Jacob at the 
ford of Jabbok; whither thou goest I cannot go; whither thou 
lodgest I cannot lodge. I'm the speckled bird of the mountains 
of Gilboa a hungry pelican in the wilderness, sir ! I go to the 
unsealing to the breaking of seals, and the blowing of trum- 
pets yea, I go to face Hanner ! " and the " speckled bird of 
Gilboa " spread its wings and took its zigzag flight to meet the 
good Hannah, mighty blower of trumpets, breaker of seals, and 
outpourer of vials before the Lord. 

These matters churches and pillars of churches bring up 
the "old French Doctor," of Virginia City, who was one of the 
oddities of the place. Whole volumes of his curious sayings 
might be given. The old man is now dead, but he is still 
remembered and quoted along the Comstock by those who 
knew him in life. The old doctor for a wonder had been to 
church, and came away delighted. 

"Ah, my dear boy," said he, " I have to-day listen to one ver' 
excellent narratif by ze reverence preacher. It was about David 
and Nasap. You see Nasan he vish to make to David one 
grand reproof. So Nasan he come to David one day, and tell 
to him one ver' long, big sheep story. He fool David Nasan 
do wiz ze story of ze sheep and ze big rich man zat steal ze 
sheep of ze poor man, till by and by David become ver moche 
interest in ze narratif become ver' much enrage wiz ze rich 


man. % Wiz zat, and precisement at zat moment, Nasan he jump 
up on ze top of a bench and he proclaim to David: 'Zou art 
ze man! I see ze wool in you teef ! ' Ah, my boy, zat was one 
gran' reproof one ver' big what you call sell, on Monsieur 
David eh ? " 

"Uncle Pete," the curb-stone philosopher, always had his 
" say " on all topics of the day, and he also looked after the 
welfare of such of the rising generation as fell in his way. His 
disciples were generally of the genus "hoodlum." Propped at 
ease against a favorite lamp-post, with one of these before him, 
he would say : " Young man, don't you go to strivin' for a big 
name, or frettin' yourself to make a mark in the world. It's all 
wanity and wexation of spirit' Study to become a philosopher. 
Look at me ! Life has no terrors for me ; yet I toil not, neither 
do I spin. To live without cart is my philosophy. That's a 
motto to live up to. All else is wanity. What does a man get 
by doin' things, makin* inwentions and the like ? Nuthin. 

"Look at Christopher Columbus! What does he get for the 
trouble he had in discovering America? He gits called a 
swindler and a imposture. He had all his trouble for nuthin', 
for they have found out that he wasn't the feller that discoVered 
America after all. It was some Laplander one of them fellers 
away up north. But he never said nuthin' about it until lately. 
The next generation will find out that the Laplander was a 

" What does William H. Shakespeare git for the trouble he had 
in writin' them plays o' his ? He gits busted out intirely. They 
now say there never was no sich man as William H. Shake- 
speare, and I believe 'em. No one man could a-done it. 

What was the use of William Tell shootin' old Geyser? He 
run a big risk of passin' in his own checks, and now they say 
there never was no sich man. He'd better staid up in the moun- 
tains and prospected. 

" See the life that Robinson Crusoe led on that ' lone barren 
isle,' as the song says, and now they say there never was no 

'' "Young man, don't you never try to discover America, nor the 
steam-engine, nor the cotton-gin, nor the telegraft as old Moss 
did 'cause you'll find out when its too late to be of any benefit 


to you that it wasn't you at all, but some other jackass that died 
before you was born, and don't know whether he ever done 
anything or not. Lead the life of a philosopher, young man. 
Get all you can out of the world, and never do nothin' for the 
world then you are ahead of the world and are a true philoso- 
pher ! " The disciples of Uncle Pete are many and promising. 

The inebriated individual who took his friend by the button 
and read to him the following lecture on matrimony, was also 
something of a philosopher : " Now, don't get married, Afferd 
don't git married ! If you git married yer gone up the flume 
busted out. You won't be married a week 'fore yer wife'll 
put on her worst shoes and stick 'em rite up on the stove under 
your nose. When she gits all the clothes she wants, she'll have 
a sick sister down to San Jose ; wants two hunerd fifty dollar go 
see'r poor sisser. Goes ; sisser dies ; father-in-lor straitened 
sirkstances; wants two hunerd fifty more bury poor sisser. 
Goes into hunerd fifty dollar wuth mournin', then wants more 
money to come home on. Comes home'n calls you nassy, dirty, 
drunken beas' don't you git married, Afferd don't ! " 

This 'man should have had a dog such as that owned by the 
ranchman on Truckee Meadows. This rancher once brought 
his dog to Virginia City. The dog rode into town by the side 
of his master on a load of potatoes. He was not a pretty dog, 
He was a tall, gaunt, shaggy-haired, wild-eyed, brindle beast of 
unrecorded pedigree. When the wagon halted in town some 
men who were lounging in the neighborhood began to remark 
upon the ungainly appearance of the countryman's dog. 

" Fellers," said the owner of the animal, coming to the front, 
" that air ain't a purty dog, I know he's like me, makes no per- 
tentions tonat'ral beauty- 1 but he's jist the durndest knowenest 
dog what ever wore har. Now, he's got more instink, that dog 
has, an' more savey, an' pen'tration into human natur, right in 
that ugly old cabeza of his, nor can be found in the heds of a 
whole plaza full of eddicated town dogs poodles and sich. 

"Now, that's what I pride in him fur his reg'lar human 
sense. I tell yer, fellers, he's jist the durndest dog out ! Now, 
ef I come home from town perfectly sober (when I've left him 
to see after the ranch), it would do your hearts good to see that 
dog show off what a sense of appreciation he's got of me. 


Fellers, his gorgeous tail then stands aloft ; he skyugles about ; 
he runs on afore me, a-scrapin' up the yearth with his hind feet, 
sendin' the chips a-flyin'; he holds up his head and barks in a 
cheerful, manly tone of voice, escortin' me forward, and feelin 
prouder'n ef he'd holed a woodchuck ! 

"But let me come home full of tangle-leg, sheep-herder's 
delight, and tarant'ler juice, and that is the durndest shamedest 
dog above ground. He jist takes one look at me and he knows 
it all. Down goes his tail, he lops his years, hangs his head, 
squats his back, and slinks away, and crawls under the barn 
acturly ashamed to be seen about the primises for fear some- 
body'll find out I own him ! " 

Just previous to the Senatorial contest which resulted in his 
election, the Hon. J. P. Jones had the following funny adventure 
in Virginia City with a man who came to hire himself out as a 
" fighter " : 

Mr. Jones and several friends were in one of the first-class 
saloons, sipping their wine, smoking and chatting, when a rather 
strange-looking customer entered the place, and, sauntering up 
to the group, began the operation of " eying over " the gentle- 
men composing it. 

He was a man of middle age and medium height, with arms 
disproportionately long, great, spreading hands, and knotty 
fingers. His angular, ungainly form was poorly and scantily 
clad, and he was topped out with a curious little bullet-head, set 
upon a very short allowance of neck. From the sides of his 
little, round head stood leaning out two great pulpy ears, and 
all that appeared on his face in the way of beard was a jet-black 
stubbed moustache. This seemed to have been planted a hair 
at a time with a pegging-awl and hammer, the latter coming 
down on the defenseless nose as each bristle was inserted, and 
so intimidating said organ that it had ever since remained 
crouched out of sight behind the hairy stockade. A large, livid 
scar described a semi-circle round one of his projecting cheek- 
bones, and passing down entered the corner of his mouth, giving 
to the feature an ugly upward hitch on that side. Wabbling his 
little, glittering grey eyes over the party before him, until said 
orbs rested upon the rotund form and rosy face of Mr. Jones, 
he pulled off the hirsute ten-pin ball which he would have called 
his head, a scrap of hat, and making an awkward bow, said : 


"J. P. Jones, I believe?" 

" That is my name, sir," said Jones. 

" Correct," sententiously observed the strange visitor. 

" Do you want to see me ? " said Jones. 

"About three minutes, and in private, if you please." 

Mr. Jones led the way to a large private room in the rear of 
the saloon. 

" Mr. Jones, sir, you don't know me," said the fellow, " but 
when you lived in old Tuolumne, I war also in that part of Cali- 
forney in the adjinin' county. Mr. Jones, I'm the ' Taranterler 
of Calaveras ; ' I'm a war-hoss of the hills and a fighter from 
h 1!" 

" I don't dispute your word, sir," said J. P., " but how does 
your being ' war-horse of the hills ' concern me ? " 

"I'm here to tell you. Here, now, you are goin' into this 
here contest, and it's liable to be a very lively one. About 
'lection day it'll be all-fired hot. Now what you'll need will be 
a good fighter; a feller to stand up, knock down, and drag out 
for you ; a man what can go to the polls and knock down right 
an' left wade through everything ! " 

Mr. Jones said he had not thought it would be necessary to 
have such a man at the polls on election day. 

"Oh, but it will ! " cried the man of muscle. "You see you 
don't know about them things. I'll manage it all for you. 

" So you want me to hire you as my fighter ? " 

"Jest so!" 

" What would be your price from now till after election ? You 
see as I've never yet had occasion to hire a fighter, I dont know 
much about the value of such service. 

"Well, I couldn't undertake the job short of $1,000; there'll 
be lots of work to do." 

" Ain't that pretty high ? " 

" Of course its a considerable sum, but thar's a terrible rough 
set over here. These Washoe fellow are nearly h 1 themselves, 
and they are more on the cut and shoot than is healthy. You 
see $1,000 is no money at all when you calkerlate the risk. I'm 
liable to be chopped all to pieces, riddled with bullets, and 
either killed out and out or crippled for life. You see $1,000 is 
no money at all." 


" Well, come to look at it in that light, I don't know but your 
price is reasonable enough." 

" Cheap ! of course it is. I rather like your style or I wouldn't 
undertake the job at that rigger. Come is it a bargain? Am 
I your man, at the rigger named ? " 

" Well, not so fast. If I am to have a fighter, I want the best 
that is to be had. I don't want a fellow that will be kicked and 
cuffed about town by every bummer. I am able to pay for a 
first-class fighter, and I won't have anything else ! " 

" Ain't I a fighter ? " rolling his eyes fiercely and thrusting 
first his right, then his left arm, straight out from the shoulder, 
ducking his head comically about and poising himself on one 
foot; "will anybody kick and cuff me? me, the war-hoss of the 
hills ; the Taranterler of Calaveras ? Not much ! " 

" Have you ever whipped anybody ? " 

" Ever whipped anybody ? Me have I ever whipped any- 
body? Ha ! ha! ha! You make me laugh. Next you will be 
asking if I was ever whipped. Show me your man show me 
your men for I ain't perticular about 'em coming one at a time. 
Bring 'em on, and I'll whip all that can stand in this room in 
one minute by the clock ! " 

" Well," said " J. P.," " I think you'll do ; but, as I said before, 
I want the best man in the country. My fighter must be a reg- 
ular lightning striker. Now I have another man in my eye. 
He is something of a fighter. Has a graveyard of his own of 
considerable size. It lies between the pair of you. The best 
man is the man for my money." 

" D n your man ! Bring him on. D n me, I'll devour him ! 
Show him to the Taranterler ! " 

" Remain here two minutes and I'll bring him in." 

Now, before coming into the room with the fellow, Mr. Jones 
had observed James N. Cartter commonly known on the 
Pacific Coast as Big Jim Cartter sauntering around the saloon. 
As is well known to everybody in this city, and pretty generally 
throughout the towns and cities of Nevada and California, Jim 
Cartter is a powerfully-built man, standing over six feet in his 
stockings, a man who is " on the shoulder " and who is at home 
with either knife or pistol, as more than one grave can testify. 
Calling to Cartter, Mr. Jones briefly made known the situation 
and invited him in to interview the "war-hoss of the hills." 


This was as good a thing as Cartter wanted, and into the room 
they went. 

" Here," said Jones, as they entered the room, " is the man. 
Nobody will disturb you here, and after all is over the best man 
is the man for my coin." 

Jim waltzed into the room with his hat standing on two hairs 
and a wicked smile playing upon his features. Said he : 

" Is this the blessed infant that has come to eat me up ? Is 
this the Calaveras skunk that has come over here to set him- 
self up as ' Chief? ' Move back the chairs ! " 

With this Cartter began to wriggle from side to side in the 
effort to " shuck " himself of the long-tailed black coat he 
always wore, and in so doing he displayed on one side that 
famous old white-handled, sixteen-inch bowie-knife, his constant 
companion, and on the other the but of a navy revolver. 

" So this is the lop-eared cur of Calaveras who comes here to 
set up as a fighter ? Move the chairs to the wall ! " cried Cartter 
still wriggling at his coat. 

" Mr. Jones," cried the mighty devourer of men, " Mr. Jones 
this man is a friend of yours. I can't fight any friend of yours. 
With any friend of yours I am a lamb ; I could not harm a hair 
of his head! 1 ' 

" No friend at all. He is a fighter like yourself. Besides, 
what has friendship got to do with a transaction involving $1,000 ? 
I want the best man I can find. If you whip this fellow I hire 
you as my fighter. That's all there is about it." 

" That's fair and business-like, you skunk ! " cried Cartter. 
" Peel yourself and waltz out here ! " 

" Mr. Jones,"said the " war-hoss of the hills," in a mild con- 
ciliatory tone, " I am satisfied that this man is a friend of yours. 
You might insult me and banter me and tear me all to pieces, 
but against a friend of yours I'd never lift a hand. Now your 
friend is of the right stripe ; I like his looks. Thar's no use of 
two good men a-fightin for nothin, so I'll tell you what you best 
do. You give him $500 and me $500 an' we'll work together. 
The two of us could chaw up the town we'd be a terror to it." 

" No," said Jones, " you won't do. You ain't game, you" 

" He's a dunghill ! " chipped in Cartter. 

" I can't fight in a room," said the fellow ; " I have never yet 
had a fight in a room. I don't like it." 



" I guess you're not struck after it anywhere ! " said Cartter. 

" It is rather close to fight in a room,"said Jones. Then turn- 
ing to the fellow, whose eyes were still wandering in the direct- 
ion of Cartter's coat-tails, he handed him a twenty-dollar gold 
piece, saying ; " Take this : I hire you for my open-air fighter. 
You are never to fight for me except in the open air and where 
there is a good chance for you to run." 

" Thank you Mr. Jones," said the fellow, pocketing the coin 
and making for the door. ** Thank you, and if I ever see a 
show to put in a lick for you I'll not forget to do it." 

" Provided you have a chance to run," sneered Cartter. 

Turning as he was passing out of the door, the fellow said : 

" It's all very nice, Mr. Jones, but that is either Jim Cartter 
or the devil, and you can't ring him in on me ! " 


AS a rule the miners have no very exalted opinion of 
geologists, mineralogists, and other scientific persons 
who come into the ^country and claim to be able to tell 
all about each lead and stratum of rock, from the earliest ages 
down to the last Presidential election. 

In 1874, after a State Mineralogist had been elected in Nevada 
it was just previous to the transit of Venus a Comstocker 
gave the following information in regard to the duties of the 
newly-elected officer, they not being very well understood by 
the majority of the people: 

* I. He will calculate all eclipses of the sun, moon, and larger stars, as soon 
as he is reliably informed that any have occurred, sending in to the Board of 
Alderman on the following Tuesday evening his diagnosis, in order that it 
may be duly referred to the Committee on Fire and Water. 

2. He is to discover earthquakes and provide suitable means for the exter- 
mination of the same ; also, for book-agents, erysipelas, corn doctors, cerebro- 
spinal meningitis and the Grecian bend. 

3. He will be expected to foretell cloud-bursts, and to cause them to burst 
by degrees. 

4. He is to guard the State against irruptions of the grasshopper, and must 
at suitable intervals, put up petitions for the putting down of the potato-bug. 

5. When Venus transits he is to go up to the top of Mount Davidson, the 
day before, provided with a shot-gun and other nautical instruments with 
which to stop her, if, in his opinion, what she does on that occasion is liable 
to have a bad effect on any of the leading interests of this State particularly 
the anchovy-fields and the bologna marshes. 

6. In case of an aurora borealis he will let it take its course the same with 
comets and measles. 

7. In the spring, when the farmers have sown their cereals, he is to go down 
into the valleys and reduce the atmospheric pressure, in order that the grains 



may spfeut without painfully straining themselves in swelling ; also, in the 
fall he will perform the same duty, so that the pumpkins and cabbages may 
grow with less effort, 

8. He will assist the Fish Commissioner in the introduction into our State 
of the alligator and other improved breeds of shrimps ; will splice out short 
rainbows, cure warts free of charge, and furnish antidotes for harelip, night- 
mare, corners in stocks, twins, and Beecher-Tilton at the same price sending 
his bill in to the Board of County Commissioners. 

9. In case of foreign invasion, by the Piute Indians, or any other intestine 
foe, he is to so alter the boundary lines to our State, so as to throw the part 
containing the war into California reserving, of course, our right to the free 
navigation of the waters of Lake Tahoe. 

10. Should he at any time discover in any part of the State indications of 
milk-sickness, female suffrage, poison-oak or choke-damp, he will forthwith 
proceed to make an assay of the same, and, having extracted the cube root, 
will deposit it among the archives of the Pacific Coast Pioneers ; with a recom- 
mendation to the mercy of the Court. 

11. When a man is bitten by a mad dog, he is to kill the dog first the same 
if the dog bites anybody else. 

12. When not otherwise engaged, he is to keep our cows from giving bloody 
milk ; cause the water to run up hill in the Virginia City sewers ; bag the 
surplus of all " Washoe zephyrs " for use in the lower levels of the mines ; clip 
the ears of black-and-tans ; cause the sun to shine on cloudy days ; vaccinate 
for fits ; have the moon shine on dark nights, and cause all the leading mines 
on the Comstock range to pay monthly dividends every two weeks. 

In the eastern suburbs of Virginia City is situated the Chinese 
quarter of the town, commonly called " Chinatown." In this 
Chinese quarter live several hundred Mongolians of both sexes 
and all ages and conditions. In their part of the town they have 
stores of various kinds, shops, and markets, gambling-dens, a 
joss-house, where they worship their gods, and all other estab- 
lishments required by them either for business or pleasure. In 
their part of the town these people live much as they would at 
home in China. 

Many of the men are employed as servants in families in the 
city, generally in the capacity of cooks. In most of the restau- 
rants, Chinese cooks are also employed. Many of them are 
laundrymen, and the town is full of wash-houses. There are 
several Chinese-physcians in the city, some of whom are frequently 
consulted by white persons. Among the residents of China- 
town are a great number of wood-peddlers. During the summer 
months they collect wood among the hills surrounding the city, 
often scouting out several miles. They get wood where a white 


man would see nothing that he would think of attempting to 
convert into fuel. For many miles in all directions about the 
town they have dug up and hacked to pieces the stumps left by 
the white men who first denuded the hills of their sparse cover- 
ing of cedar and nut-pine. 

The Chinese wood-peddlers are a feature of the town in winter. 
They are to be seen on every street, patiently plodding along 
behind the donkey on which is piled their stock-in-trade. 
They utter no cry in passing along the streets, but expect to be 
called by those who want wood. The common price is one 
dollar for a donkey-load, but when the weather is very cold and 
stormy, or when a storm is imminent, if you say : " How much-ee, 
John ? " John, with a knowing look from his weather eye, in 
the direction of the approaching storm, glibly says: "One 
dolla quarty ! " If the storm is very bad he probably says : 
" One dolla hap ! " The price of wood goes up and down with 
the mercury. 

John also understands the art of piling wood. He cuts his 
sticks very short and piles them up to a great height. While he 
is trading with you he keeps the head of his donkey turned 
toward you, so you have but an end view of the commodity in 
which you propose to invest. To the casual observer this 
manceuver of the Mongolian may seem to be mere accident, but 
it is pure cunning and is. one of the tricks of his trade. Turn his 
donkey about broadside and view your load of wood edgewise, 
and it is not much thicker than a trade dollar. Take a rear 
view, and you find that the rotten ends of all the sticks of the 
load are pointing in the direction of the donkey's tail. When 
you see John approaching you he seems to have a monster load 
on his donkey, but when he is opposite there is little of it but 
"ragged edge." Take what appears to be quite a little "jag" 
of wood, as seen on the donkey, and when it is tumbled off, and 
lies on the ground, half of it seems to have disappeared such 
is their cunning in piling it on their donkeys. 

The Chinese are a curious people and have curious notions on 
all subjects. They are like Europeans in nothing. They are 
very superstitious, and believe in ghosts and all that sort of thing, 
yet they sometimes act as though Satan himself could not fright- 
en them. As showing their notions in regard to funerals, death, 


and a ftiture state, I am able to give the ideas of a very intelligent 
Chinaman, of the name of Wing Lee. 

On the 29th of June, 1875, at n o'clock at night, there occur- 
red in Virginia City an explosion of nitro-glycerine by which 
ten or twelve persons lost their lives, three buildings were torn 
to peices and then totally destroyed by a fire which broke out in 
them. The explosion occurred in a room accupied by General 
J. L. Van Bokkelen, in a large brick building. The General 
was agent for a giant-powder company, and at the time of the 
explosion was known to be experimenting, with a view to the 
invention of an explosive that should be far more powerful than 
anything known ; but nobody knew that he was conducting his 
experiments in the heart of the city, until after the mischief had 
been done. What it was that blew up was never exactly ascer- 
tained, but it was known that he had in his room a considerable 
quantity of gun-cotton saturated with nitro-glycerine. He also 
had in his room a pet monkey, and by many it was supposed 
that the monkey having seen the General experimenting, tried 
his hand among the chemicals. Man or monkey, the explosion 
killed ten or twelve persons, and destroyed property to the 
value of nearly $200,000. Among those killed were several 
leading citizens, and the funeral procession on the occasion of 
their burial was one of the largest and most imposing ever seen 
in the place. 

It was while this procession was passing through the town that 
the Chinaman referred to above gave me his views in regard to 
such matters. What he said can only be given in his words. 
Said he : " Suppose some big lich (rich) Chinaman die ; Chi- 
naman no get newspaper all same 'Melican, so he family send-ee 
some letter to everybody come bury. Everybody be belly glad 
for cause one big lich man die ; he all heap come two, tlee 
(three) thousand maybe all glad get heap eat-ee. Put many 
mat on ground ; 10 o'clock morning all begin eatee pake (pork) 
and licee (rice) ; all belly glad, heap eat-ee. 

Now all people, everyone, he 1 get tlee (three) piec-ee white 
cloth two yard-ee long, hap (half) yard-eewide. One piec-ee 
he tie 'bout he head; one piec-ee 'bout he waist, one piec-ee on 
arm all white ; no black same 'Melican man. Now, all go to 
take dead man ; all go foot, no wagon, no horse-ee, all go foot. 


Big lichmanhe get onebighousee make on top big hill ; housee 
all stone. Put he in he housee he sleep well, all set up in he 
chair make in stone ; all he fine dress put on, all he diamond, 
all he watch-ee, all he chain everything same one live man. 
Then he git all fasten up by heself in he housee ; then he family 
hire one man watchee every nightee all time, so no man he come 
dig. So everybody he go home belly glad, for because he got 
one big dinner, tlee piecee good clothee all Chinaman belly 
glad when one big lich Chinaman dies. Poor Chinaman, put he 
in one hole like 'Melican, all in mud no big dinner, no clothee. 
Some big lich Chinaman he funeral cost-ee ten, twenty thousand 

One dead Chinaman he all same one live Chinaman he heap 
eat all time, he come back to he hous-ee, to he bed, he walkee 
in house all same like when he no dead. Suppose you no put 
some pake (pork), some licee (rice) on he grave he come back 
in dark nightee, talkee in your ear, he pinch you toe. Dead 
Chinaman heap hungry, all same one live Chinaman heap want 

Chinaman no likee git bury this countlee he no git good 
feed likee be take back he own countlee to he father, he 
mother, he sister, he brother, so he git feed no likee die here. 
You say 'Melican man no come back when he die ? me no sabe 
why Chinaman he come back, sure. Dead Chinaman all same 
live Chinaman. 

One 'Melican man he die on one bed ; two nightee more you 
put one live 'Melican sleep same bed no good ! You put one 
live Chinaman in one dead Chinaman bed, dead Chinaman he 
makee some d d hot for live Chinaman you bet! Dead 
he all same live Chinaman Chinaman he never all dead: You 
know one Chinaman two, tlee year 'go, he git kill down China- 
town ? Well, he heap come back many Chinaman see him 
you bet.' He lookee all blood ; he say all time : * Oh ! oh ! ' 
and all time he say : 'You go catchee that one man what he kill 
me ! * He come walkee up and down belly much. One time he 
no come one hap (half) year ; all other time he come every week. 
When dead Chinaman he come back some people he much 
flaid, put-a blanket on he head ; some people heeno flaid, talkee 
to dead Chinaman : ' What matter ? You no sleep well ? ' 



Some Chinaman no got good eye, no can see dead Chinaman ; 
he only can hear dead man walkee, maybe talkee. Me hear 
belly good, me no got good eyes no see dead Chinaman. 

Dead Chinaman all the same like one live Chinaman ! Las' 
year one Chinaman git die here in this town, git bury over China 
bury-ground. Nex' night he come back he say to one man : 
* Me no can sleep ; my one leg he crook up, me belly (very) 
sore.' But that one man he will no go straight he leg, so he go 
to some other several Chinaman and all time say : ' Come fix 
me leg.' Well, when they can no do other way some Chinaman 
go dig up fix he leg ; he sleep belly well, he come back no more. 
Dead Chinaman he not get plenty eat, he come back, sure you. 
bet ! Dead Chinaman all same like one live Chinaman ! " 




IN Virginia City, as in all other places where there is 
a considerable Chinese population, are found opium-dens. 
These are sometimes on the first floor, but are generally 
in a cellar or basement. We will take a look at one not in 
any building: it is a subterranean opium-den a cave of 
oblivion : 

In the side of a little hill in the eastern part of the Chinese 
quarter of Virginia City is to be seen a low door of rough 
boards. An open cut, dug in the slope of the hill and walled 
with rough rocks, leads to the door. The boards forming 
the door and its frame are blackened by smoke, particularly 
at the top, for the den has neither chimney nor flue. The 
surface of the hill forms its roof. All that is to be seen on 
the outside is the door and the walled entrance leading up to 
it. Not a sound is heard within or about the place. The 
cave of the Seven Sleepers was not more silent. But gently 
pushing the door, it opens opens as noiselessly as though 
hinged in cups of oil. 

At first we can see nothing, save a small lamp suspended 
from the centre of the ceiling. This lamp burns with a dull 
red light that illuminates nothing. It seems more like a 
distant fiery star than anything mundane. Though at first 
we see nothing but the lamp, gradually our eyes adapt them- 
selves to the dim light, and we can make out the walls and 
some of the larger objects in the place. A voice says : " What 
you want ? " Looking in the direction whence proceeds the 
inquiry, we see a sallow old Mongolian seated near a small 
table. He is the proprietor of the den. " What you want ? " 




he repeats. We feel that we have no business where we are, 
but to speak the truth is always best, therefore we simply say, 
in pigeon-English: "Me comee see your smokee saloon." 
The old fellow settles one elbow on the table before him, and 
makes a remark which appears to be the Chinese equivalent 
for " Humph ! " 

Before this taciturn dispenser of somnial drugs are a num- 
ber of little horn boxes of opium, several opium-pipes, small 
scales for weighing, with beam of bone, covered with black 
dots instead of figures ; small steel spatulas, wire probes, and 
and other smoking-apparatus. 

We now observe that two sides of the den are fitted up with 
bunks, one above the' other, like the berths on shipboard. A 
cadaverous opium-smoker is seen in nearly every bunk. These 
men are in various stages of stupor. Each lies upon a scrap 
of grass mat or old blanket. Before him is a small alcohol 
lamp burning with a blue flame which gives out but little 
light only enough to cast a sickly glare upon the corpse- 
like face of the smoker, as he holds his pipe in the flame, and 
by a long draught inhales and swallows the smoke of the 
loved drug. These fellows are. silent as dead men, and seem 
unconscious of ojir presence. Occasionally, at a sign, the pro- 
prietor arises and furnishes the customer a fresh supply of the 
drug. The peculiar sweetish-bitter odor of the burning opium 
fills and saturates the whole place one can almost taste it. 

While the majority, lying upon their sides, and propped on 
one elbow, are calmly inhaling their dose, a few appear to 
have had enough. These lie with their heads resting upon 
short sections of bamboo, which serve this curious people 
as pillows, and move no more than dead men. The eyes 
of some are wide open, as in a fixed stare, while those of 
others are partially or wholly closed. If they have any of 
those heavenly visions of which we are told, they keep them 
to themselves; as, save in a few somniloquous mutterings, 
they utter no sound. The door is gently opened, and a gaunt, 
wild-eyed Mongolian slips stealthily in. The old man at the 
table merely elevates his eyes. The newcomer steps out of 
his sandals and, making no more noise than a cat, crosses the 
earthen floor of the room and creeps into a vacant bunk. The 


boss of this cavern of Morpheus now raises his elbows from 
the table, takes up a pipe and its belongings, sleepily lights 
one of the small alcohol lamps, and then places the whole 
before his customer. The old man then returns to his table 
and sits down. Not a word is spoken. 

Thus the business of the cavern goes on, day and night, and 
this is all of opium-smoking that appears on the surface, tales 
of travellers to the contrary notwithstanding. What shapes 
may appear to the sleepers, or what flight their souls may 
take into interstellar regions, we know not. To a looker-on 
it is all vapid, vacuous stupefaction. 

Not a few white men in Virginia City and a few women 
are opium-smokers. They visit the Chinese opium dens two 
or three times a week. They say that the effect is exhilara- 
ting that it is the same as intoxication produced by drinking 
liquor, except that under the influence of opium a man has 
all his senses, and his brain is almost supernaturally bright 
and clear. An American told me that he had been an opium- 
smoker for eighteen years, and said there were about fifty 
persons in Virginia City who were of the initiated. In San 
Francisco he says there are over five hundred white opium- 
smokers, many women among them. 

During summer, men who have for sale all manner of 
quack nostrums, men with all kinds of notions for sale, street- 
shows, beggars, singers, men with electrical-machines, appa- 
ratus for testing the strength of the lungs, and a thousand 
other similar things, flock to Virginia City. Of evenings, 
when the torches of these parties of peddlers, showmen, and 
quack doctors are all lighted and all are in full cry, a great 
fair seems to be under headway in the principal street of the 
town there is a perfect Babel of cries and harangues. 

The man with the electical-machine, for instance, leads off 

" Who is the next gentleman who wishes to try the battery ? It makes the 
old man feel young, and the young man feel strong. Remember, gentlemen, 
that a quarter of a dollar pays the bill. Try the battery ! Try the battery 1 < 
Bear in mind that there can be nothing applied equal to it, as it is one of 
nature's own remedies. A quarter of a dollar places you in a position to have 
your nervous system electrified. The small sum of one quarter of a Try the 
battery, sir ? The small sum of one quarter of a dollar pays the whole entire 


bill. Who is the next man to try the battery ? Try the battery ! Try the 
battery and improve your health while you have the opportunity. Who is 
the next man that wishes to Try the battery, sir ? Try the battery ! Try 
the battery ! Purifies the blood, strengthens the nervous system ; cures head- 
aches, toothaches, neuralgia, and all diseases of the nervous system. Can be 
applied to a child six months old as well as to a full-grown person. Try the 
battery ! Try the battery ! Re-e-emember, gentlemen, that the sma-a-all 
and tri-i-fling sum of o-one quarter of a dollar pays the whole entire Try 
the battery, sir ? Try the battery ! Try the battery ! Can regulate the 
instrument to suit all constitutions. Try the battery ! Re-e-member that 
electricity is life. It is what you, each and every one of you, require, and it 
is utterly impossible for you to live without it. Try the battery ! Try the 

The soap-root tooth-powder man next starts in with his 
little talk: 

" Gentlemen, I have here three little articles, and I start out by telling you 
that they are all three humbugs. But starting out with this proposition that 
they are all humbugs, I only do so in order that before I get through I may 
[Try the battery !] disprove said proposition to your entire satisfaction. I 
will first show you a little article called [Try the battery ! Try the battery !] 
the California Soap-root Tooth-powder. Years ago, gentlemen, about 75 
miles northeast of Waterville, in the State of California, I saw the Indians 
[Try the battery !] washing their clothes with this root. I examined it and 
found [One quarter of a dollar pays the entire bill !] it was a wonderful pro- 
duction of nature, gentlemen. I found that it [Makes the old man feel young, 
and the young man feel strong !] grew in abundance in the mountains. I 
procured a quantity of it and took it to [Try the battery, sir ?] San Francisco, 
when I began to [Try the battery !] to try [Try the battery !] experiments 
with it The result was, gentlemen, that I produced this beautiful article 
which [Purifies the blood, strengthens the nervous system, and improves your 
general health !] instantly removes all stains from the teeth and [A quarter of 
a dollar pays the whole entire bill !] leaves the breath pure and sweet. [Try 
the battery !]" 

The German ballad-singer now comes to the front : 
" Lauterbach hab' i mein' Strumpf verlorn, 
Ohne Strumpf geh' i not hoam, 
Geh' i halt weider auf Lauterbach, 
KauP mir an Strumpf zu dem oan. 

Tillee leari, oiko, hi oiko, hi oiko ! 
Tillee oiko, oiko. Tilli oi-i-oi-oiko ! 
Tillee leari [Try the battery !] hi oiko ! 
Z' Lauterbach hab' i mein Herz verlorn, 
Ohne Herz kann i.not [Try the battery !] leb'n." 
Clem Berry (Scipio Africanus) now takes the field: 
" Only two dollars, gentlemen, takes you to Reno by this splendid Concord 

394: HARD CASH. 

coach, landing you there at 6 o'clock in the evening, when you may [Try the 
battery !] sleep till the train arrives [Seventy-five miles northeast of Weaver- 
ville, in the State of California, where I saw the Indians ] from the East, 
when you [Try the battery !] get aboard [which removes all stains from the 
teeth] at the same time as the passengers by the Virginia and Truckee Rail- 
road [Tillee oiko,' hioiko !] and [Try the battery !] are perfectly fresh [Oi-i- 
oi-oiko !]" 

The spotted boy, dwarf, and big snakes now loom up, and 
we hear that : 

" This wonderful spotted boy was captured in the wilds of Africa [Seventy- 
five miles northeast of Weaverville ] with his strange companion [Lauter- 
bach], the huge boa constructor, which you see [Try the battery !] him handle 
with the greatest possible [Hioiko !] freedom [without causing the gums to 
bleed]. And here is the wonderful little Fairy Queen, 18 years of age, and 
only thirty-one inches in height. She was born [Ohne Strumpf] in Grand 
Rapids, [Seventy-five miles northeast of Weaverville], Wisconsin ; has a thor- 
ough education, and possesses [A splendid Concord coach !] the [Small sum 
of one quarter of a dollar] graces and manners becoming a [Lauterbach] lady 
of the highest [Hioiko !] standing in society." 

All hands round : 

" Get right aboard here, now, and at 6 o'clock I'll land you at Reno, seventy- 
five miles northeast of Weaverville, in the wilds of Africa, where I saw the 
Indian thirty-one inches in height, born at Grand Rapids, try the battery and 
take all th.e stains out of the wonderful spotted boy, who only eats once in 
four months, and sheds his skin twice a year. Having been educated in a 
convent in Milwaukee, geh i not hoam to try the battery, when the big white 
snake eats the little girl across the way you'll get a drink for a bit, and see 
the sea-lion try the battery free, up in the mountains this wonderful Lauter- 
bach soap-root climbs a tree and then hangs by the tail, tilee leari, oiko hi 
oiko ! which purifies the blood, strengthens the nerves of the spotted boy, 
cleanses the teeth, and does not fear to encounter either the lion or the tiger, 
being able to regulate the instrument to suit all constitutions." 

In Virginia City, as well as in all the towns and cities on 
the Pacific Coast, gold and silver coin is the only money in 
circulation. There are now in circulation at least two Amer- 
ican coins almost unknown in other parts of the Union the 
trade-dollar and the twenty-five cent piece as their coinage 
was not authorized until after greenbacks became a legal 
tender, and had taken possession of the Atlantic States to the 
exclusion of all coin, except copper and nickle. 

The trade-dollar was coined for our trade with China and 
Japan. It was coined expressly to supersede the Mexican 
dollar in the countries named. It contains a trifle more silver 


than the Mexican dollar, and the Chinese were not long in 
ascertaining this fact. Now the American trade-dollar is in 
great demand both in China and Japan, and the old Mexican 
dollar is thrown completely into the shade. The Chinese and 
Japanese are great lovers of silver, and the American trade- 
dollar, being pure silver, is preferred by them to the coin of 
any other nation. The end the final fate of the trade-dollar, 
however, is inglorious. It is sent to India by the Chinese for 
the purchase of opium. In India they are sent to the Calcutta 
mint and are there made into rupees, stamped with the value 
on one side and on the other outlandish heathen characters. 
Thus the silver of the big bonanza fills the opium-pipe of the 
Chinese mandarin. The amount of American silver sent to 
India to pay for opium is very great. 

The Chinese in Nevada and in all other towns on the Pacific 
Coast industriously gather trade-dollars which they send to 
the head men of their companies in San Francisco, by whom 
they are shipped to China. Persons who have but lately 
arrived from States where no coin is seen, are astonished at 
the abundance of silver in Virginia City, and delighted to be 
in a place where they may once again hear the almost forgot- 
ten jingle of gold and silver; though I once heard a New 
York lady say : " I never saw such a place. I hear nothing 
but the jingle of money from one end .of the town to the other. 
The people all go about jingling their money as though on 
purpose to show that they are able to pay their way ! " 

To the impecunious new arrivals the weary and tattered 
immigrants this jingling of coin must be still* more aggra- 

A gentleman in Virginia City one day told a story about 
slipping a silver half-dollar into the gaping coat pocket of a 
grasshopper sufferer who was gazing hungrily in at the win- 
dow of a restaurant. The man continued looking at the good 
things displayed in the window for some time, devouring them 
in imagination, then, heaving a sigh, turned away. As he 
was moving off, however, he carelessly, and through force of 
habit, as it we're, put his hand into his pocket. Bringing 
forth the silver coin the instant his hand came in contact with 
it, the fellow gazed upon it with a face which wore a look of 


astonishment comical to behold. Finally he seemed to con- 
clude that it was all right, the Lord had sent it, when he 
retraced his steps to the restaurant and soon was seated before 
that which was probably the first square meal he had faced in 
some days. 

A Comstocker, who heard this story told, relates that he 
concluded he would experiment a little in the same direction. 
If half a dollar had power to so astound an impecunious 
immigrant, he would try the effect of a trade-dollar. Procur- 
ing a bright, new trade-dollar, he sallied forth in search of a 
subject. He had not travelled far until he saw before him a 
young man of most rueful countenance an undoubted grass- 
hopper sufferer. The man was leaning against a lamp-post 
on a street corner, his face elongated, his mouth standing 
negligently open, and his half-closed eyes gazing wearily up 
among the fleecy clouds, as though he were wishing himself 
dead and taking his ease as an angel, far away in the realms 

The Comstocker saw that here was his man, and, passing 
near the dreamer, slily slid the trade-dollar into the capacious 
pocket of his butternut coat, then taking up a position a few 
paces distant, awaited developments. He had not long to 
wait. Soon, in shifting his position, the grasshopper man 
mechanically placed his hand in his pocket, and, as was to be 
seen by the general awakening of his features, was not a little 
surprised to find something where he had supposed there was 
nothing. When he brought out the big bright dollar, his 
eyes almost started from their sockets, and he looked as 
though about to fall down in a fit of some kind. However, 
after a gasp or two he appeared to recover somewhat, and 
glancing curiously, and in a bewildered sort of way, at all 
standing near him, started across the street, carefully fobbing 
the dollar as he went. 

By the time he had gone half across the street, he appeared 
to change his mind. After gazing back and scratching his 
head for half a minute, he returned to the post and taking up 
his old position, spread open the pocket of his coat to its 
fullest extent. He had concluded to set it again. 



DURING the prevalence of a big stock excitement, times are 
lively along the Comstock range. Virginia City then 
hums like a Brobdignagian beehive. All who failed to 
make fortunes on the occasion of previous excitements in stocks 
are going to do better this time. They have seen how these 
things work, and this time are going to sell when they can do so 
at a fair profit. They don't want the last cent-: they will give 
some one else a chance to make something. 

This is the way they talk at the start. As soon as there is a 
marked advance in stocks, however, they will be heard to say : 
"As soon as I can double my money I am going to sell." In 
three days from the time of their making this assertion, stocks 
have taken such a "jump " that they could sell and double or 
more than double their money. Everybody is saying, however, 
that they are not selling for half what they are worth ; that they 
will sell for twice or three times present prices before the end of 
another month. 

The men who were intending to sell whenever they could 
double their money cannot think of doing anything of the kind 
as things are now looking. Instead of selling they become 
excited, put up their stocks (which they had probably bought 
and paid for " out and out ") as a " margin," then put in all the 
money they can raise besides, and buy as many shares of their 
favorite stocks as they can in any way manage to secure. Stocks 
still go up, and each day these dabblers will be found counting 
their profits. They have invested largely in the low-priced 
stocks of " outside mines " mines in which nothing of value has 



yet been found, but mines in which, all are saying, grand devel- 
opments are liable to be made at any time mines, in short, 
which in dull times are generally designated as "wild-cat." 
The masses the servant girls, chamber-maids, cooks, hostlers, 
washerwoman, preachers, teachers, hackmen and draymen are 
wildly and blindly buying these low-priced stocks, and from day 
to day they are going up " with a rush," and everybody is get- 
ting rich. 

Our men who only " went in " to make a fair profit, now tell 
you that they made yesterday $10,000; to-day they have made 
$15,000, and in a week or two they will say that they are worth 
a quarter of a million, half a million or a million of dollars. 
But they are not going to sell yet : no, indeed the rise has only 
commenced. Pretty soon stocks fall off a little. Never mind, 
to-morrow they will do better. To-morrow they are still a 
"little off," as is said when stocks are going down. The next 
day they are rather " soft," which is the same thing as a " little 
off." However, that is all right. Our dealers amateur specu- 
lators have some points, given them by a friend who is on the 
inside. A development is about to be made in a favorite mine. 
The " bears " are trying to break the stock ; but they can't do 
it ; no, sir ! impossible. Too much merit in the mines at this 
time. All will be up and " booming " in a day or two, Next 
time you shall see them go higher than they have yet been seen. 

Our men who started in to make a fair profit might yet sell 
and double their money much more than double it but they 
are not going to do anything of the kind. They are going to 
wait till "things take a turn." The "bulls" will soon make a 
grand rally, and when things go up again our men will sell. 
They admit that they should have sold when their stocks were 
all up before, but, never mind ! they will go to the same figures 
again in less than a fortnight, when they will be sure to sell. 

There does come a " spurt," and for a day or two there is a 
cheering improvement in prices along the whole line. Faces 
brighten and everybody talks of all stocks going higher than ever. 

All at once everything is again " soft ; " the next day " softer," 
and the next decidedly " off." It is then said that some one in 
the " bear " interest has been telegraphing to the " Bay " (San 
Francisco) a pack of lies about the mines, and the " bears " 


" bek>w " (at San Francisco) have made use of these lies to get 
up a " scare." Never mind ! the scare will be over in a day or 

But stocks still go down, Then it is said that some big 
dealer is " unloading " and there is talk of a " crash." Still our 
men who started in but to make a " fair profit " do not feel like 
taking thousands, when they might a short time before have 
taken tens of thousands of dollars. They still hold on, saying 
that even though one or two big dealers are unloading, the big 
men among the bulls will "stand in " and take all the stocks 
that are offered. Also, they will have some points from a friend 
" on the inside " and developments are about to be made in one 
or two of the mines that will make all who have sold " very sick " 
particularly those bloodless demons who have " sold short." 
The " shorts " will have a merry time of it when they come to 
" fill." 

Thus matters stand, when suddenly there comes what looks, 
very much like the beginning of a " crash." The " bears " are all 
diligently crying, " stand from under." Many persons become 
frightened, and throw their stocks upon the market. Down go 
prices and soon "soft" is no name for it. The masses the 
tinker and tailor, the preacher and the teacher, the hostler and 
the waiter rush in to try to " save themselves " and there is 
seen a grand and unmistakeable crash. Brokers are calling on 
all sides for " margins " to be " made good," and men are rush- 
ing about trying to raise money to " put up " in order to prevent 
their stocks being sold at less than cost. 

They perhaps raise the money required, and for a few days 
breathe again, when there is a further decline in stocks, and the 
brokers are again sending notes to their customers telling them 
that if they do not put up more money they will be sold out. 
Sooner or later there comes a time when the customer can raise 
no more money, and his stocks are thrown into the market by 
the broker in whose hands they remain and are sold. Thus 
ends the grand speculation. 

Our men, who at the start were resolved to be content with a 
fair profit are generally found among the number of those who 
are sold out, when they are heard to say that if they ever have 
another such chance to make money they will not hold on for 


the last cent. They have said the same thing year after year 
ever since the opening of the Comstock mines. But whenever 
there is a grand upward movement in stocks they never fail to 
become excited and try to buy about ten times as much stock as 
they can pay for. In this way they lose all except what they 
may have happened to purchase at a fair price in a mine of real 

Persons who purchase mining-stocks on a " margin " pay 
their broker, as a rule, one-half the market value of the stock 
so" bought. The other half is advanced by 'the broker, the 
customer paying him interest on the amount at the rate of two 
per cent, per month. The broker also receives one per cent 
commission on all sales and purchases made for the customer. 
Stocks are nearly always bought and sold in the San Francisco 
Stock Board, the broker in Virginia City telegraphing to his 
agent " at the Bay " to buy or sell such a number of shares of a 
certain stock, and the bill for this telegraphing is paid by the 

In case of a decline in the price of the stock purchased, the 
customer must pay in to the broker enough money to make him 
secure for the amount he has advanced, taking into account the 
current price of the stock. Should there be a furthur and con- 
tinued decline, the customer must continue to put up money, in 
order to make his broker safe. If he is unable to do this his 
broker sells him out /. e. takes care of "number one." 

From this it will be seen that the broker who does a strictly 
commission business who is not himself a dabbler in stocks 
makes a very soft thing out of it. Sometimes, however, stocks 
drop so rapidly that the broker cannot sell in time to save him- 
self. This is generally when the customer has been allowed to 
buy stock on the presumed value of the stocks he already has 
in the hands of his broker, putting up stocks that have advanced 
at their current value as a margin on which to purchase still 
other stocks, and so running his purchases up on the compound- 
interest principle. 

When a broker calls for money to make margins good, " mud " 
is the slang word used among dealers in stocks, by which to 
designate the money so demanded. One frequently hears a man 
who is a dabbler in stocks cursing his luck, the condition of the 


market, and all else, concluding with : " And here is my broker 
calling for more mud ! " When the reports of the sales of stocks 
are received from San Francisco and prices are a " little off," 
one hears some person who has read the news sing out : " More 
mud, boys ! " 

The demand for " mud " often causes very long faces to be seen 
on the streets to many it means ruin. Yet men will continue 
to buy on margins, taking all the chances, and stretching what 
ready-money they have as far as the broker will allow them to 
go. Provided men buy on a margin at a time when stocks are 
very low and then shortly after comes a grand excitement, they 
are liable to make a little fortune with a very small amount of 
capital, but to buy in this way at a time when everything is 
high is dangerous business and the demands for " mud " are 
likely to be very numerous. 

The following letter received in Virginia City, from a French- 
man, in San Francisco, shows how he first became acquainted 
with this dreadful word, " mud " and how he relished the thing 

SAN FRANCISCO, CAL. April u 1875. 

Monsieur By zee advice of one goot friend who informed me zat he be on 
zee inside, and who make for me zee negoziazione, I have procure some 
time past on what you call " on zee time," many share of zee Bobtaile. Zee 
prix zat time be fortee dollaire on monnie d'or des Etats-Unis ; bote I buy 
on zee time and not pay zee prix. My friend on zee insides tell me Bobtaile 
one ver fine bargain for fortee dollaire. Ah ha ! Bobtaile one ver fine com- 
pagnie ! plenty mashine pour work ; grand nombre d'employes ; Superinten- 
dent un salaire plus grand, je suppose ! all ting ver fine. Me buy ? Vraiment, 
out I He mine friend who repose on zee insides express himself of zee 
mine wis moche enthousiasme. Zee mine be one merveille de la nature ; zee 
works, un chef-d'oeuvre de 1'art ! " Je suppose to purchase be une chance 
rare. I purchase, but now, pretty soon le diable ! Zee brokaire man use 
zee expression to me, as follows : " More mud." At zee first I not ver well 
comprehend. Sans doubte it be une expression, ver mysterieuse zis exclam- 
ation : "More mud." So many five, seex time have he, zee brokaire, 
desire of me some leetle more mud, zat now I mus make one grand sacrifice 
pecuniaire. It be now become scandaleuse ! Parbleu, c'est horrible, cette 
" mud ! '' For me to communicate wis my brokaire bah ! it was one grand 
plaiser, Of de mine, des minerals I be plenty sick. Under de circonstances 
I read no more wis enthousiasme of " Les compagnie's certificat d'incorpor- 
ation ; " " la Pussy Cat Wilde, objet : Operations dans 1'Etat de Nevada, etc." 
" Les directeurs sont : Bill Tubb, Sam Hobb, Jack Dobb, etc." " Capital 

402 GOING ur I 

social, $45,800,000,002 ; divise en 56,000,000,000,000,000 actions. Vraiment 
oui ! " More mud ! " Pretty soon you hear one crash financial, I gone bust 
me ! No more do I eat me my dennaire a de la restaurant du Poodle Dog, 
rue Duponte, but wis circomspection admirable I betake me to la cote de 
Barbaric, to zee Hell Kitchen zee cuisine de 1'enfer. Parole d'honneur 
monsieur, I be ver moche perplex wis zee stoke prices, He viggle up, he 
viggle down all zee time. Vill you have zee complaisance to inform me how 
soon he vill viggle high up and remain to pass some time up dare? * Mud ! " 
le diable ! zee word have for me un signification sardonique ! 

Your tres-humble and tres-obeissant servant, 


In the winter of 1874-75, owing to the wonderful develop- 
ments made in the Consolidated Virginia and California mines, 
there was a grand stock excitement throughout the towns of the 
Pacific Coast. San Francisco and Virginia City, however, were 
the two great centres of this excitement. As the vast and 
astonishingly rich deposits of ore in the California mine began to 
be drifted into and opened to view, the stock of the company 
rapidly and steadily advanced from about fifty dollars per share 
to nearly one thousand dollars. Consolidated Virginia stock 
advanced in about the same ratio, as in the mine of that com- 
pany the width and richness of the ore was far beyond anything 
that had ever before been seen on the Comstock lode. In the 
Ophir mine, the next north of the California, large and rich 
bodies of ore were being opened, and the stock of that company 
advanced with almost bewildering rapidity. Persons who 
happened to have twenty, fifty, or one hundred shares in either 
of these mines suddenly found themselves rich. The invest- 
ment of a few hundreds of dollars had brought them thousands, 
and the investments of thousands brought them tens of thousands 
of dollars. 

The great strike in the "bonanza " mines started up the stocks 
of all the adjoining mines, and, indeed, of all the mines along the 
Comstock range. The stock of mines that were rich in " great 
expectations " only were as eagerly sought for and as briskly 
dealt in, as were those in which ore was already being extracted, 
for many said : " It is just as well for us to double our money 
in a stock that costs but one or two dollars per share as in stocks 
that cost from one to five hundred dollars." And many did 
double and more than double their money in such stocks ; 


indeed, in some instances they sold for five or ten times what 
their stocks cost them. 

Every day there is a morning and an afternoon session of the 
San Francisco Stock Board, and the reports of the sales are 
telegraphed to Virginia City, Gold Hill and other Nevada towns 
as fast as the stocks are called. Thus, as soon as the Stock 
Board is in session and business begins, reports of sales begin to 
arrive in Virginia City and are placed in the windows or on the 
bulletin-boards of the various stock-brokers of the town, where 
all interested may see them. Therefore during a big stock 
excitement the bulletin-boards are the centres about which are 
seen large crowds of anxious dealers and nearly everybody in 
the city dabbles more or less in stocks, women as well as men. 

On very critical occasions, either when stocks are rapidly 
rushing or when they are rapidly " tumbling," then is a grand 
charge made upon all the bulletin-boards as soon as it is known 
that the reports have arrived. Dry-goods clerks yardstick in 
hand and scissors peeping from vest-pocket come running out 
bare-headed and bald-headed to catch a glimpse of the bulletin ; 
bar-keepers in their white aprons come ; bare-headed, bare- 
armed, and white-aproned butchers smelling of blood, come; 
blacksmiths, in leather aprons and hammer in hand, flour-dusted 
bakers, cooks in paper caps cobblers, tinkers, and tailors all 
come to learn the best and the worst. The miner on his way to 
or from work, carrying his dinner-pail and candlestick, halts for 
a moment to see how fares his favorite stodk, the teamster stops 
his long string of mules opposite one of the centres of attraction 
and, thrusting his " black snake " under the housing of his 
saddle-mule, marches to the board to read his fate. Ladies 
linger as they pass the groups at the bulletin-boards and try to 
catch some word of hope, or ensconce themselves in the nearest 
shops, and hence send messenger-lads to bring tidings of their 
favorite gamble. 

Even the Chinese dabble in stocks. Some of these are able 
to read the reports for themselves, while others ask white men 
to tell them the price of the stocks in which they are dealing. 
There was an old fellow who, for a long time was dealing in the 
stocks of the Belcher and the Segregated Belcher mines. The 
Belcher he called the "big Belch," and the Segregated Belcher 


the " little Belch." Crowding his way up to a bulletin-board he 
would say to some by-stander : " How much-ee to-day catch-ee 
big Belch ? " Being told, and finding the stock up, he would 
say : " Bully for big Belch ! " 

Next he would ask : " How much-ee to day catch-ee little 
Belch ? " 

Finding that stock a "little off" he would say: 

" Belly bad ! belly bad ! Little Belch too much-ee all time, 
bust me up ! " 

In passing the bulletin-boards one catches scraps of conver- 
sation like the following : " Didn't I tell you so ? I have said 
so all the time." " I saw a man this morning who is thoroughly 
reliable, and he says " " Yes, it may be a buy, but, confound it, 
I get sold so often ! " " I knew they would all be up to-day " 
" Now you raise the money ; I tell you it is just as I say. I have 
points that " " Dealing in stocks with these rings is just like 
playing poker with a man who knows both hands " " They have 
it awful in the " " They haven't got an ounce afore in the " I 
shan't sell yet. Stocks have only begun to go up." "I wish I 
had sold yesterday." "Well I have laid up my treasures above, 
where the bulls and bears can never come." The last speaker 
is generally a newspaper reporter or some other such holy person, 
who is seen standing aloof from the ungodly worshippers at the 
shrine of Mammon. 

The amount of " stock talk " heard in every saloon, public- 
house and shop, and on every street, is at times enough to 
render an easy-going Granger from one of the eastern or middle 
States, to whom it is all Greek a raving maniac or a drivelling 
idiot. The sidewalks on C street, the principal business street 
street of Virginia City, are generally so thronged that it is a diffi- 
cult matter to pass along them, except at the same slow pace at 
which the mass of the pedestrians is moving; therefore at times 
when there is an excitement in regard to stocks there are fre- 
quent blockades in front of the offices of the brokers, and persons 
wishing to pass are obliged to take to the streets. At times the 
police are obliged to clear passages through the throngs, as men 
become so interested in their stocks as to have neither eyes 
nor ears for anything else, and ladies and children find them- 
selves unable to pass. 



WHEN there is a grand upward movement in stocks, 
and all is excitement among the dealers, from the 
big operator worth millions, down to the little curb- 
stone broker whose fortune is yet to be made, early and 
reliable information in regard to what is going on in the 
lower-levels is valuable and is always in demand. 

On the Comstock there is a class of men, for whom there is 
no distinctive name, whose business it is to find out all that 
can in any way be learned in regard to the condition of the 
mines, and report the same to the dealers in stocks by whom 
they are employed. These mining reporters, they might be 
called as a class, are shrewd and eternally vigilant. They 
must always keep their employers, who are generally in San 
Francisco, well informed in regard to the condition of the 
Comstock mines at all times when a "strike "is anticipated 
or reported in any particular mine ; it is expected of them, by 
hook or by crook, to ascertain exactly in what part of the 
mine it was made or is about to be made. If made at all, they 
are to find out the value of the strike, probable extent of the 
body of ore found, its richness, direction, and many other 
things not easily ascertained. 

When a strike is reported made in a mine and all its gates 
and doors are closed, the strictest secresy enjoined on all the 
workmen, and admittance refused to all " outsiders," then is 
the time for the mining reporter to display his genius or give 
up his trade. By bribing workmen or by getting a man of 
his own into the mine to work, or in some other way he must 
find out what he wants to know. 
23 405 


On one occasion a rich strike was reported in a leading 
mine. Every avenue to the lower-levels was closed against 
the outside world. The superintendent was exceedingly close- 
mouthed and mysterious ; the miners were reticent and un- 
bribable nothing could be learned in regard to the strike, 
though strike there was, as all felt convinced. The gatherers 
of mining news scouted about the surface works, watching 
everything and making mental notes of all that occurred 
which appeared to be indicative of a rich body of ore below. 
Nothing, however, of the slightest value could be bored, 
pumped, or gouged out of anybody or anything, and finally 
all the newsgatherers but one drew off and gave it up as a 
bad job. One man still lingered, day after day, all eyes and 
ears. The superintendent came and went, and he was none 
the wiser for having seen him. 

At last a bright idea struck him. The superintendent came 
to the mine, and, as usual, went down into the lower-levels. 
Our man remained loitering about the works until he came 
out lingered until he had seen him take off and throw aside 
his muddy boots, his clay-besmeared overalls and shirt, and 
till he had finally taken himself off. Watching his chance, 
the hungry reporter of mining news darted into the dressing- 
room, and with his jack-knife scraped from the boots, overalls, 
felt hat, shirt, and everything, all the mud, clay, and earth 
sticking to them. Of this and the loose particles of ore found 
in the pockets of the shirt, he made a large ball, which was 
composed of a general average of the bottom, top and sides 
of the drift run into the new deposit; he had a little of 
everything the superintendent had touched, and this ball he 
had carefully assayed. By the result obtained he became 
satisfied that a strike of extraordinary richness had been made. 
He immediately telegraphed to his employers in San Francisco 
to buy all of the stock they could get. They bought largely, 
and made an immense profit, as the stock soon went up from 
a few dollars to high in the hundreds. 

At the time of the big excitement in 1875, a fine, motherly- 
looking old lady came up to Virginia City from Reno to see 
about the "big bonanza." She had in her pocket twenty 
shares of California stock which she had bought when it was 


selling at $30. At the time she made her trip to Virginia the 
stock was selling for over $600 per share. Her son accompa- 
nied her on her trip of inspection. Leaving the cars at the 
depot, mother and son walked down the railroad-track to a 
point where could be obtained a good view of the Consoli- 
dated Virginia hoisting-works, the big mill of that company 
and of the Ophir works. Some men of whom they inquired 
told them that the ground they saw between the Ophir and 
the Consolidated Virginia, was that of the California Com- 
pany, and was principally bonanza. 

On hearing this, the good old lady wiped her spectacles, 
placed them astride of her venerable nose, threw back her 
head, and long and carefully surveyed the lay of the land 
between the two sets of hoisting-works. This done, she took 
off and folded up her glasses, put them into their case, and 
carefully deposited them in her capacious pocket. She then 
brought forth her reticule, opened it, took out her stock, 
found it all right, replaced it, and drew the string as tight as 
her trembling fingers would allow of her doing. She then 
said to her son : " George, give me your arm. Let us go 
home it will go to $1,000." 

Nat Codrington was one of the unlucky speculators. He 
was always complaining about William Sharon, the great 
mining millionaire. Whenever things went wrong with Nat, 
"Uncle Billy" as Nat affectionately called Mr. Sharon was 
at the bottom of the business. When Nat bought stock it was 
sure to go down at once, then he would say: "That's Uncle 
Billy, he's turning the crank again!" As soon as Nat sold 
short on a stock, up it would go, and he would say : " Well, 
Uncle Billy's at it again grindin' of 'em the other way this 

As long as he could, Nat responded to the calls for "mud," 
but his pile of filthy lucre was not like the widow's cruse of 
oil, and at last it became a thing of the past, and Nat ceased 
to take even his former feeble interest in " Uncle Billy's " 

The last seen of Nat he was off for California. The iron 
had entered his soul and he had reached the seventh level of 
despair. No more mining no more mud-eating stocks for 


him. " Yes," said Nat, " I'm off for the pastoral regions, where 
the woodbine twineth and the dissolute grasshopper sitteth on 
the mullin stalk and assiduously raspeth his stridulous fiddle." 

Old Joe Staker is one of a class to be found both along the 
line of the Comstock and in San Francisco, on those streets 
where speculators in stocks most do congregate. Old Joe 
probably never owned the shadow of a share in any mine on 
the Comstock lode, yet he is always in the thick of every 
excitement, and claims to have shares in all the big mines. 

In 1875, Old Joe was in his element. His is a very sympa- 
thetic nature, and when California was booming up toward 
$1,000 per share, Old Joe was rushing about, ever in the midst 
of the mttee was ever with those who were drinking and 

Later in the season, when there had been a crash along the 
whole line when all stocks, good, bad, and indifferent, " tum- 
bled" Old Joe was to be found in the midst of the mourners, 
drowning his sorrows at every opportunity. He did not, 
however, at all times find those who were losing their thou- 
sands each hour by the fall so liberal as had been those who 
had been winning at the same rate by the rise, nor were they 
so goodnatured, and Old Joe frequently found himself el- 
bowed out altogether. 

One day half a dozen groups had given him the shake. He 
was exceedingly thirsty his throat as dry as a lime-burner's 

While he was disconsolately roving from saloon to saloon 
in search of a sympathetic being with whom to shed tears, he 
encountered a dilapidated-looking individual just arrived from 
the great West a Kansas sufferer, in short. Old Joe heard 
something of this man's story of the ruin wrought in the West 
by the grasshopper, and at once froze to him with his story 
of losses in stocks. After three drinks together the grass- 
hopper man appeared to have a thin stratum of greenbacks left 
in his wallet, toward which Old Joe cocked an occasional eye 
after about three drinks it was settled by the pair that 
grasshoppers and bonanzas were two of the worst plagues by 
which the world had ever been devastated. As more drinks 
were taken, grasshoppers and porphyry and bonanzas and 


beanstalks became fearfully mixed. At a late hour they were 
still mingling their tears and toasting each other. " Here's 
hoping," said the grasshopper man, " that yer cornstalks may 
always bear three full (hie!) ears and a nubbin!" "And 
here," said Old Joe, "is death and confusion to all (hie!) 
brasshoppers and gonanzas ! " 

Old Joe then encircled the neck of his new-found friend 
with his left arm, and said in his most kindly tone : " Now, 
ef you was perfec'ly des (hie!) destitute and I was perfectly 
des (hie !) tute, you'd soak everything you had for (hie !) me, 
and I'd spout everything I persessed for you ; (hie !) wouldn't 

The opening of the big bonanza at the nortn end of the 
Comstock occasioned a grand rush of prospectors to the 
northward of Virginia City, a region which had, strangely 
enough, never been prospected. 

There had been some surface-scratching done in that direc- 
tion in early times, and some shafts had been sunk to the 
depth of fifty to one hundred feet, but no regular scientific 
prospecting had been done. Claims were taken up in all 
directions, first-class shafts begun, machinery set up, and 
buildings of all kinds erected. In a few months quite a vil- 
lage was built up, to which was given the name of North 
Virginia. This place is about two miles north of Virginia 
City, and in case of the continuation of the Comstock lode 
being found in that neighborhood will be likely to be a place 
of considerable importance. Some excellent "prospects" are 
being found in the shafts that are being sunk in that direction, 
and the owners of several mines are confident that at no 
distant day they will find a big bonanza on their part of the 

At the time these claims were being located there was 
almost a revival of the scenes of early days. Men were out 
in the night staking off ground and posting notices, and there 
was a good deal of claim-jumping, with some fights, going 
on. Men were seen bringing pieces of rock into town as 
specimens from their mines, and these were passed from hand 
to hand and commented on, much as when the miners first 
began to roam the hills. Even the colored population, who 


seldom trouble themselves about mines, caught the infection 
and went out prospecting and locating mines became experts 
on ore. One of these coming into town with a big chunk of 
rock in his hand met a friend whose eyes began to dilate at 
what he thought might be a lump of solid silver. Said the 

First Expert "Wha -what yer got thar?" 

Second Expert " Look at dat, sah ! Dat's out'en de Day 
of Jubilee mine? Boy, I tell yer dat's gwine to be a mine. 
Wha what you say, now, dat's gwine to pay at de present 
prices of deduction, hey ? " 

First Expert " Fore de Lord, I doesn't know ! Gwine to 
pay, think ? " 

Second Expert " Gwine to pay? gwine to pay ? Now you 
makes me laugh. . Jes look at dat rock, Edward Arthur look 
at dat side of it ! See de pure chloroform dat's percolated all 
ober it ! Now ax me ef dat rock's gwine to pay. Look at de 
formation and de stratification ! Ax me ef dat rock's gwine to 
pay! Why, you see you doesn't know de fust principles 
'bout dem oldah prefatory periods when dis here yearf was a 
multitudinous mass, floatin' roun' in a chaotic hemisphere; 
time o' de propylites an jewrasic periods. Your ignorance 
perfectly affixes me." 

During the stock -excitement on the Comstock, in 1872, a 
shrewd operator in stocks found himself in possession of an 
immense number of shares of Alpha mining-stock many 
more shares than he cared to hold. He was a man who was and 
still is considered one of the sharpest operators on the lode. 
A word or even a hint from him was worth a whole mint of 
money. One day this "stock-sharp" said to his wife: "My 
dear, how much money have you got ? " 

" I have $6,000," said the wife. "Why? " 

" Put it all into the Alpha," said her husband. " Ask no 
questions, but buy all the Alpha you can get. Be careful, 
however, not to mention to a living soul that I told you to do 

The wife faithfully promised that she would " not even 
breathe the name of the mine." As soon as her husband was 
out of sight, she put on her hat and shawl and hurried away 
to the house of her married sister and gently murmured into 

TUsuxr OF iTsJ<EpyifG-(?J. " 



her ^ar the news that Alpha was a " big buy." That night 
the brother-in-law, Mr. Hornbeck, knew that there was a big 
speculation in Alpha; his folks and the Doolittles next heard 
of it, then the Turners, and Homers, and Huffs, and Howards 
all the relations of the speculator's wife, and the rela- 
tions of their relations, were in possession of the grand secret 
in about three days, and about the fifth day all the bosom 
friends of all these knew that Alpha was going to "boom sky- 
high" and all were buying Alpha right and left. 

Being in such great demand, the stock did "boom," sure 
enough. All the time it was booming, and the wife's relations 
were going for it, our shrewd manipulator and deep observer 
of human nature (feminine), was quietly feeding it out to them 
at the highest figures not only to them, but to hundreds of 
others, for by this time about half the population of Virginia 
City had been confidentially informed that Alpha was the 
" greatest buy on the whole lead." 

Just what was to happen in the mine no one knew no one 
pretended to know but the grand head authority away 
back so far along the line of knowing ones that few in the 
front ranks knew his name even could not be mistaken. The 
general idea was that a grand development was about to be 
made in the mine. Some went so far as to say that a big 
strike had been made in one of the drifts on the lower-level 
of the mine months before, but that the drift had been boarded 
up for reasons best known to the officers of the company. 
This bit of news, it was said, had come out through one of the 
miners who was of the secret shift engaged in the drift when 
the rich ore " almost pure silver," some now began to assert 
with a considerable degree of positiveness was struck. 

All at last being loaded down with the stock, and no new 
buyers coming in, Alpha began to tumble. The Homers and 
the Huffs and the Howards became frightened and began to 
sell. The stock then tumbled more rapidly than ever, and 
the Hornbeck's and Doolittles and Turners became panic- 
stricken and threw their stock upon the market, when from 
$280 per share it finally went down to $42 and stopped there 
dead and flat. 

One day, soon after this low price had been reached, our 



stock-sharp said to his wife : " By the way, my dear, how did 
you come out with that Alpha stock of yours ? You sold, I 
presume, while it was up ? " 

" Why, n-no, dear," hesitatingly answered his better-half, 
" I thought from all I heard that it would go to $500 and so 
I held on to it and have got it all yet." 

" Well, well," said the husband, " did I ever hear the like in 
my life ! Got all of your stock yet ? Tut ! tut ! then you've 
lost your $6,000 ! Well, dear, don't mind it. Here is a check 
for $6,000 ; take it, and don't you ever again try speculating 
in stocks. You don't understand it, my dear indeed you 



THE people of the land of the " big bonanza " do not toil 
always and without ceasing; but, as in other lands, give 
some time to pleasure and recreation. 

There are a number of places of summer resort to which all 
may flee for a few weeks each year during the hot weather of 
July and August. Most popular among these is Lake Tahoe, 
situated high among the grand scenery of the Sierra Nevada 
Mountains, and distant but thirty-five miles from Virginia City. 
No land can boast a more beautiful sheet of water than Lake 
Tahoe, and its surroundings form a fit setting for such a gem. 
Donner Lake, also in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and situated 
but a few miles north of Lake Tahoe, is almost as popular as 
the latter, though it is much smaller. Its surroundings are, 
however, grand and picturesque, turn which way we may. 

There are, besides, Webber and Independence Lakes, which 
are in the same neighborhood, and which are easy of access. In 
Hope Valley on or near the summit of the Sierras, where many 
pleasure-seekers go, there is found fine trout-fishing in all the 
brooks, and excellent quail and grouse-shooting everywhere 
among the hills. Indeed, for those who have the time and means 
to spend a few weeks in the bracing atmosphere and amid the 
wild and picturesque scenery of the mountains, there is no lack 
of attractions. The man of meditative disposition, who is weary 
of the bustle and strife and the noise and crowds of towns, will 
wander along by himself and be happy in many and many a 
place away up by the tall peaks in the grand solitudes, where 
whispers from heaven seem to come down through the pines. 



Lake Tahoe lies one mile and a quarter above the level of the 
sea, and is surrounded on all sides by most romantic and pictur- 
esque mountain scenery. The lake is about thirty miles in length 
from north to south, and from eight to fifteen miles in width. 
It lies partly in California and partly in Nevada. Its waters are 
of extraordinary purity and clearness and, in places, have been 
sounded to a depth of over two thousand feet. 

There are several fine bays around the lake, the largest and 
most beautiful of which is that known as Emerald Bay, which is 
over two miles long. This bay is about four hundred yards wide 
at its mouth, but rapidly widens inland. It is completely land- 
locked and is surrounded with timbered hills, many of which are 
covered with rugged and picturesque rocks, which tower among 
and above the pines, and other evergreen-trees. There are some 
small islands in the bay which add much to its beauty, and on all 
sides are to be obtained fine views of immense rocky canons. 
Eagle Canon contains some vast piles of rocks, with clumps of 
pines scattered here and there among them, and a whole day 
might be spent in rambling through it without exhausting its 
many beauties. Cave Rock, on the eastern shore of the lake 
is a huge pyramid of granite which occupies a very picturesque 
position and which contains on one side a cavern of considerable 
extent. In the neighborhood of this rock tall and beautiful pines 
are seen quite down to the shore of the lake. 

The view from what is called Rocky Point, on the eastern 
shore, looking toward Cave Rock is also very fine. Another 
fine view in the direction of Cave Rock is obtained from the 
Sierra Rocks. The view to the northward from Sierra Rocks, 
toward Rocky Point, is one in which are found several pictur- 
esque tree-covered points of rocky land, extending far out into 
the waters of the lake. Indeed, there are new beauties to be 
found in all directions. 

Zephyr Cave, also on the eastern shore of the lake is a most 
romantic spot and the scenery is such as to set the artist 
thinking of his pencils the moment he enters the little bay. The 
Shakespeare-Rock, plainly visible from the Glenbrook House, on 
the southern shore of the lake, is so called on account of there 
being in the rugged outlines of its face a striking resemblance 
to the features of the immortal poet. All who visit the lake 


desire"' first of all to see this rock. Like many other things of 
the kind, there is much in the position from which it is viewed, 
and not a little in the imaginative powers of the person viewing 
it. The water of the lake is so transparent that pebbles on its 
bottom can be distinctly seen at the depth of fifty or sixty feet. 
When out upon the water in aboat during a time when it is per- 
fectly calm, one seems suspended in mid-air. It is not easy to 
swim in the waters of the lake. Owing to the great altitude and 
consequent decrease of atmospheric pressure, the water is much 
less dense then the water of a lake or stream at the level of the 
sea. On account of this lack of density and buoyancy, the bodies 
of persons drowned in the lake never rise to the surface. Many 
have been drowned in Lake Tahoe, but a body has never yet 
been recovered. 

Leaving the lake and rambling off into the surrounding country, 
much that is grand and romantic is to be found. From the 
western summit is to be had a magnificent panoramic view of 
the lake and the valley or basin in which it is situated, with all 
the surrounding mountains. The tourist may extend his rambles 
above Lake Tahoe to Fallen Leaf Lake, one of the most beati- 
ful little lakes in the mountains. Cascade Lake and other small 
lakes will also be found worthy of a visit. About the shores of 
Lake Tahoe will frequently be encountered the huts of the 
Washoe Indians. They are generally found in some romantic 
spot, and, with their uncouth occupants, add not a little to the 
picturesqueness of the region. Some of the old saw-mills are 
also of a rather unsual style and will attract the attention of the 
tourist and the artist. 

At " Yank's Station," on the Placerville road, a short distance 
from the shore of the lake, is to be seen a most singular freak 
of nature to which the name of " Nick of the Woods " has been 
given. It is a large knot in a crotch of a cedar-tree, which forks 
a few feet from the ground, but it looks like a work of art. It 
startlingly resembles the head of an old man. In looking upon 
this marvel of nature we can very easily imagine it to be some 
hoary-headed old sinner thus wedged into the crotch of the tree 
and imprisoned for all time on account of some grievous offence 
committed about the time that he was thus placed in the stocks. 
So natural and perfect is this head of an old man, and such an 


expression of patient suffering is seen in every feature of the face, 
that many persons will not believe that it is wholly the work of 
nature until after having closely examined it. "Yank's and all 
of the other stations along the Placerville road, were places of 
much importance during the early days of Washoe, when all the 
machinery and supplies of every kind came over the mountains 
on wagons. 

When the teamsters stopped at night or noon, the road in front 
of the stations at which they halted would be blockaded for a 
great distance, and it looked almost as though all the teams in 
California were crossing the Sierras in one grand caravan. Now, 
since the completion of the Central Pacific, and Virginia and 
Truckee Railroads, the travellers on the old mountain-roads are 
few, and nothing of the old life and bustle is seen at the once 
famous stations. Even the old Lake House, at Tahoe, though 
it was built of good pine-logs and was very warm and substan- 
tial, has given way to more stylish structures. Times are 
changed and few but pleasure-seekers are now seen on the old 
road where once the sounding " blacksnake " awoke the echoes 
far and wide among the hills. 

The tourist who wishes to see as much as possible of the 
mountains may go to the Big Tree Grove, Calaveras county, 
California, from Lake Tahoe, by taking what is called the Big 
Tree Road. On this road he will find many beautiful valleys, 
and much romantic scenery at an elevation of from seven to 
nine thousand feet above the level of the sea. At Lake Tahoe 
there are large and well-kept hotels at several points, two or 
three small steamboats and a great fleet of sail and row-boats, 
with fishing-tackle of all kinds, as trout abound in the waters of 
the lake. Tourists from the East who desire to visit the lake 
while on their way to California can do so very conveniently by 
leaving the Central Pacific Railroad at Reno and taking the 
cars of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad to Carson City, a 
distance of thirty-one miles, thence by stage to the lake, a dis- 
tance of fourteen miles. 

On this stage-line (Benton's) from Carson to Lake Tahoe will 
be found Hank Monk, one of the best known and most famous 
stage-drivers of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He it was who 
gave Horace Greeley his memorable ride across the Sierras on 
the occasion of his visit to California. Mr. Greeley was anxious 


to reach Placerville as early in the evening as possible, as he 
was expected to make a speech to the people of the town, 
and once or twice expressed a fear that he should be behind 
time. Monk said nothing, as he was then on a long up-grade. 
At length the top of the mountain was reached, and Monk 
started on the down-grade at a fearful rate of speed. Mr. 
Greeley bounded about the coach like a bean in a gourd, and 
soon became greatly alarmed. He thrust his head out at the 
coach window and tried to remonstrate, but Monk only cried : 
" Keep your seat, Horace, I'll take you through on time ! " 

Mr. Greeley then remained quiet for a time, when he again 
became alarmed as they whirled at lightning speed around some 
short curve in the road, and out would come his head, and 
again Monk would shout : " Keep your seat, Horace." 

It is safe to say that the philosopher never took a wilder ride, 
than that in the Sierras with Hank Monk for his driver. 

Monk, in common with all his tribe, hates the sight of one of 
those ponderous specimens of architecture in the trunk-line 
known as the " Saratoga bandbox." On one occasion a lady 
who was stopping at the Glenbrook House, Lake Tahoe, had a 
" Saratoga " of the three-decker style at Carson City, which she 
wished brought up to the lake. The trunk was about as long 
and wide as a first-class spring mattress and seven or eight feet 
high. The lady had managed to get it as far as Carson by rail, 
but the trouble was to get it up into the mountain. Monk had 
two or three times promised to bring it up " next trip," but always 
arrived without it. At last he drove up in front of the hotel one 
evening, and, as usual, the lady came out on the veranda to ask 
if he had brought her trunk. 

f ^Like the immortal Washington, Monk cannot tell a lie, and so 
he said : " No, marm, I haven't brought it, but I think some of 
it will be up on the next stage." 

" Some of it ! " cried the lady. 

" Yes ; maybe half of it, or such a matter." 

" Half of it ? " fairly shrieked the owner of the Saratoga, 

" Yes, marm ; half to-morrow and the rest of it next day or 
the day after." 

" Why, how in the name of common sense can they bring half 
of it?" 


"Well, when I left they were sawing it in two, and " 

" Sawing it in two ! Sawing my trunk in two ? " 

" That was what I said," coolly answered Monk. " Two men 
had a big cross-cut saw, and were working down through it 
had got down about to the middle, I think." 

" Sawing my trunk in two in the middle ! " groaned the lady. 
" Sawing it in two and all my best clothes in it ! God" help the 
man that saws my trunk I^God help him I say! " and in a flood 
of tears and a towering passion she rushed indoors, threatening 
the hotel-keeper, the stage-line, the railroad company, the town 
of Carson, and the State of Nevada with suits for damages. It 
was in vain that she was assured that there was no truth in the 
story of the sawing that she was told that Monk was a great 
joker she would not believe but that her trunk had been cut in 
two until it arrived intact ; even then she had first to examine its 
contents most thoroughly, so strongly had the story of the saw- 
ing impressed itself on her mind. Monk's " Saratoga " joke is 
still remembered and told at Lake Tahoe, but the ladies all say 
that they can't see that there is " one bit of fun in it.'-^ 

Just here I may say that when at Carson City, by taking the 
cars of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad to Virginia City, the 
"big bonanza ''and all of the big mines, and mills on the 
Comstock lode may be seen and explored. The distance is but 
twenty-one miles. 

In passing down the Carson River by rail, the tourists will see 
a number of water-mills that are at work on silver ores, and after 
leaving the river, and beginning the ascent of the mountain to 
Virginia, he will see many miles of the crookedest railroad in the 
world. Were these wonderful silver-mines in Chili and Peru, 
all Americans who found themselves anywhere within five 
hundred miles of them would visit and examine them, even 
though obliged to bribe a dozen squads of guards in order to 
attain their object; but being here on American soil, where 
they may be reached in a ride of three hours by rail from the 
main line of travel, few take the tr@uble to visit them. Ladies, 
as well as gentlemen, may visit and explore the mines, even to 
the lowest of the lower levels. 

Travellers may leave the Central Pacific Railroad at Reno, 
take the Virginia and Truckee Railroad and run up to Virginia 


City, ''examine the mines and mills, return to Carson City 
and take the stage-line to Lake Tahoe, cross the lake on a 
steamer, then take another line of stages, nine miles, to Truckee, 
on the line of the Central Pacific again, when the journey to 
San Francisco may be resumed. 

In passing by stage from Carson City to Lake Tahoe a fine 
view will be obtained of the huge lumber-flume of the Carson 
and Lake Tahoe Lumber Company, which is twenty-one miles 
in length and through which seven hundred cords of wood, or 
half a million feet of lumber or mining timbers can daily be 
delivered at Carson from the eastern summit of the Sierras. 
The altitude of the eastern summit is 7,312 feet; of Lake Tahoe, 
6,220 feet; and of the western summit, 7,315 feet; consequently 
the lake lies in a basin about 1000 feet in depth. 

At the north end of the lake, near Tahoe City, stands the 
mountain selected for the Lick Observatory. This astronomical 
observatory is to be built with money donated for the purpose 
by James Lick, a San Francisco millionaire, and on it is to be 
mounted the finest and most powerful telescope that can be 
manufactured in the world. At Truckee, on the Central Pacific 
Railroad, the altitude is 5,860 feet ; at Summit Valley, seven- 
teen miles further west, it is 6,800 ; and ten miles beyond, at 
Cisco, it has decreased to 5,950. Here is the great snow-belt on 
the summit of the Sierras. It is here that snow falls to such a 
depth as to almost cover up the houses, and here it is that the 
people travel on Norwegian snow-shoes in winter, when they 
travel any other way than by rail. 

About Cisco the snow appears to fall to a* greater depth than 
at any other point on the mountains. It is a very difficult 
matter to keep the track of the railroad open at this place in 
winter, and at times the trains are almost buried in the snow. 
The snow-banks are frequently so high on both sides of the 
track that even the smoke-stack of the engine is hidden when a 
train passes along. 



ON his arrival at Truckee, the pleasure-seeker will do 
well to spend a few hours in the examination of the 
beauties of Donner Lake, a lake much resorted to by 
the people both of California and Nevada, and a perfect little 
gem. Those who are afraid to venture out upon the broad 
waters of Tahoe, will be quite at ease on Donner. 

From the town of Truckee, Donner Lake is reached in 
travelling a distance of but two miles, over an excellent 
carriage-road. The lake is about three miles in length and 
from a mile to a mile and a half in width. It is shut in on 
all sides by lofty and picturesque mountains. To the south 
and west these are very imposing mountain piled on moun- 
tain. While the mountains to the southward are co\ 7 ered to a 
considerable extent, in their lower ranges, with pine, fir, 
spruce, and other evergreen trees, those on the west, toward 
the summit, are principally bald and barren piles of granite ; 
though there are scattering pines clinging in places where 
their roots find a hold in the crevices of the rocks. 

The track of the Central Pacific Railroad passes along the 
face of the mountains on the south side of the lake, hundreds 
of feet above its placid waters. From the lake the trains are 
seen moving along the sides of the great cliffs, where they 
seem to run on a track laid in the air or to cling to the rocks 
"by their eyebrows," as an old "mountain man " once sug- 
gested, on looking up at the trains. At numerous points 
along the track there are snow-sheds which greatly interfere 
with the view of the lake from the cars, yet in many places 



picturesque glimpses of it are obtained, and of the mountain 
scenery in all directions. 

Through the bare granite mountains walling in the lake on 
the west, passes a tunnel, into which it is a relief to see the 
trains plunge as they dart through the last of the snow-sheds 
and glide round the last of the cliffs. 

From the top of the great mountain through which passes 
the railroad-tunnel, is obtained a grand and comprehensive 
view of Donner Lake and all its surroundings. The valley in 
which the little sheet of water lies is so small that, seen from 
above, it presents much th6 appearance of the crater of an 
extinct volcano. At each end, east and west, are seen dark 
groves of small pines, a few acres in extent, and these, with 
the waters of the lake, occupy all the level land in the basin. 

To the eastward of the lake, days of mountain climbing 
distant, rise the snowy peaks of the eastern summit of the 
Sierras, glittering in the sunlight and dimly seen ; to the west- 
ward, on the western summit, rises Donner Peak, crowned 
with black and rugged rocks, necked with patches of snow, 
and tufted here and there with a few scattering and stunted 
pines. The water of Donner Lake is as clear, cold, and sweet 
as that of any mountain-spring. At the lake are good hotels 
and both sail and row-boats for the accommodation of visitors. 
Those who are lovers of the sport so lauded by ^ood old 
Isaak Walton, will find an abundance of trout in the small 
brooks putting down from the mountains. The lake has an 
outlet at the east end which forms a stream of considerable 
size, called Little Truckee River. This unites with the main 
Truckee River, which is the outlet of Lake Tahoe. There is 
good trout-fishing in the Little Truckee, which is a bright 
and rapid stream. 

It was on the banks of the Little Truckee, in the groves of 
pine at the foot of the lake, that occurred the horrible Donner 
disaster, some years before the discovery of gold in California. 

The unfortunate Donner party, numbering seventy-six souls, 
principally emigrants from Illinois, reached the Sierra Nevada 
Mountains, October 3ist, 1746, a month later in the season 
than was safe at that time to be found in such a region. That 
year the winter snows set in about three weeks earlier than 


usual, and with unusual severity, and in a few days fell to the 
depth of several feet. 

When the snow began falling, the train had crossed what is 
known as the eastern summit of the Sierras, and had entered 
Summit Valley, in which lies Donner Lake. The train was 
pushed' on through the storm until the foot of the lake was 
reached. Here the snow fell so rapidly, day and night, that 
it was soon several feet in depth, and it was impossible to 
proceed ; indeed, so great was the fall of snow that the cattle 
and horses of the train were soon buried beneath it in all 
directions about the camp. 

The emigrants then built a number of log-houses in which 
to winter, and moving into these from their wagons, began a 
season of suffering unprecedented in the history of the Sierras, 
where many men have perished in the snow. Though many 
individuals and small parties have lost their lives in these 
mountains, as a horrible scene of suffering, starvation, and 
death, the disaster which befel the Donner party stands alone 
in the history of the Pacific Coast. 

The stumps of the trees cut by the party still stand, and are 
from fifteen to eighteen feet in height, showing the great 
depth to which the cabins and all in the camp lay buried. At 
first the unfortunate people lived on the cattle they were able 
to dig out of the snow, but there came a time when no more 
of these could be found, and then the pangs of hunger began 
to be felt in the dreary camp. It was seen that unless relief 
could be obtained from some quarter, all must soon die of 

In this emergency a Mr. Reed, a man of iron frame, pro- 
vided with a scanty stock of such provisions as could be 
gathered in the huts of the castaways, struggled through 
the snow till he had crossed the western summit of the Sier- 
ras, when he made his way as speedily as possible to the 
village of Yerba Buena, now San Francisco ; the first place 
where he could look for relief. Here he made known the 
perilous position of his friends in the mountains. As soon as 
his story was heard, a meeting was called, provisions were 
contributed, and a relief-party was organized. When the 
relief-party arrived at the camp on Donner Lake and entered 


the cabins of the unfortunates, forty persons were found to be 
still alive and were rescued. Thirty-six were dead, and the 
snow formed for them a winding-sheet. 

When the relief-party started on their return from the cab- 
ins, they were obliged to leave behind Mr. Donner, a farmer 
from Illinois, who was very ill ; also, his wife, who refused 
to be saved if her husband must be left behind. Keysbury, a 
German, for some reason for which no satisfactory explana- 
tion has ever been given, was left behind with the Donners. 
These three persons were left to winter in the camp, such 
provisions as could be spared by the relief-party being given 
them. What passed in the lone camp during the dark and 
dreary months that followed, will never be known. 

In April, a party, under General Kearney, was sent out to 
bring these persons over the mountains. On entering the 
camp, only Keysbury was found alive. The party found the 
body of Mr. Donner in a tent, where it had been carefully 
laid out by his wife. Nothing could be seen of Mrs. Donner, 
however. Old Keysbury was found reclining at his ease upon 
the floor of one of the cabins, calmly smoking his pipe, and 
apparently engaged in watching the smoke-wreaths as they 
curled upward. He sat near a wide fireplace on the hearth 
of which blazed a fire, on which hung a camp-kettle, found 
to be half filled with human flesh. Near at hand stood a 
bucket partly filled with blood and pieces of human flesh, 
while pieces of human flesh, fresh and bloody, were strewn 
about the floor. 

Old Keysbury himself presented a most repulsive appear- 
ance no ogre or ghoul, feasting in his den, could have been 
more hideous. His beard was of great length, and spread in 
tangled strings over his breast, his hair in a great, matted 
mop, hung about his shoulders and stood out over his eyes, 
while the nails of his fingers had grown to such a length that 
they resembled the claws of a wild beast. He was ragged to 
an indecent degree, exceedingly filthy, and as ferocious as he 
was filthy. When confronted in his den and discovered in 
the very act of indulging in his cannibal feast, he roused up 
and glared upon those who approached as though he were a 


After some trouble he was secured and was then charged 
with having murdered Mrs. Donner for her flesh and money. 
He stoutly denied the charge, but a rope having been placed 
about his neck and one end of it thrown over the limb of a 
tree, the old fiend began to beg for his life, and, being released, 
showed where he had hidden a portion of the money. In 
pity of his miserable condition he appearing not wholly in 
his right mind and in view of the apparent fact that he was 
driven to the deed by the pangs of hunger, Keysbury's life 
was spared, but he was driven forth from the society of his 
kind, and became a wanderer on the face of the earth, spurned 
and avoided wherever he became known. 

A young son and daughter of the Donners were rescued by 
the first relief-party. They were carried over the deep snow 
that lay in the mountains, on the backs of men. When these 
children reached San Francisco they excited universal smpa- 
thy and in order to do something toward giving them a start 
in the world, they were granted a loo-vara lot each. Many 
years afterwards, when the village of Yerba Buena became 
San Francisco, and a great and rich city, these lots became 
the subject of a lawsuit of much importance. The remains of 
the Donner cabins were to be seen until a few years since. 
In some of the cabinets of the curious, in Virginia City, are 
bones collected at the old Donner camp, about the sites of the 
decayed cabins, and some of these may even have been 
gnawed by old Keysbury. 

At no great distance from Virginia City, there are in several 
localities hot springs, all of which possess medicinal virtues 
and are much frequented by persons afflicted with rheuma- 
tism and kindred disorders. The most wonderful of all these 
are the Steamboat Springs, in Steamboat Valley, on the line 
of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, about midway betwee* 
Reno and Carson City. The springs are situated on a low 
mound, about a mile in length and six hundred feet in width, 
formed of rocky incrustations deposited by the mineral waters. 
Running north and south through this low ridge are several 
large crevices from which arise columns of steam, heated air 
and gases. 

Early in the morning, when the air is cool and calm, as 


many, as sixty or seventy columns of steam may be seen rising 
along the ridge, many of which ascend to the height of over 
fifty feet. Far down in the crevices, which are over a foot in 
width, may be heard the surging of billows of boiling water. 
At the sides and ends of the crevices are a great number of 
boiling springs, some of which spurt water to the height of 
two or three feet above the surface. A string smell of sul- 
phur pervades the atmosphere, and pure sulphur is found in 
many places along the line of the large crevices. 

At times, some of these springs spout water to a great height. 
In 1860, one about the diameter of an ordinary well, threw a 
column of hot water three feet in diameter to the height of 
over fifty feet. This spring was intermittent. After spouting 
steadily for an hour it would suddenly cease with a sound as 
of a great sigh, as the direction of the internal force changed 
and the water seemed sucked back into the regions below. 
The eruptions of this spring occurred once in about eight 
hours. After the water was sucked back into the ground, a 
hole about nine feet in depth was seen, the bottom of which 
was covered with sand. The withdrawing of the water through 
this sand appeared to be the cause of the sighing sound heard 
at the end of each eruption. 

When a grand season of spouting was about to begin, a 
heavy rumbling would be heard below, there was a hissing 
sound at the bottom of the well, bubbles came 1 up through 
the sand, and presently boiling water surged in. This water 
would rush, foaming and hissing, to within two or three feet 
of the surface, when it would suddenly withdraw with a great 
sigh. In about a minute the hissing and rumbling would 
again begin, and again the water would rush almost to the 
top of the well. When this had been three or four times 
repeated, the preliminary performance notes of preparation, 
as it were had ended. A rumbling much louder than any- 
thing before heard began, the ground for many rods about 
the spot was violently shaken, and on a sudden, with a great 
roar, a huge column of water darted into the air. Had this 
spring continued these eruptions, it would have been one of 
the lions of the country, but after a season of activity in the 
Spring of 1860, it became closed up, and has since been one of 


the tamest springs along the line. In 1862 a spring for a 
time spouted water to the height of fifty or sixty feet, through 
an orifice about three inches in diameter. 

In June, 1873, the then proprietor of the Steamboat Springs 
and hotel, lost his life in one of the springs. He was engaged 
in the erection of a new bath-house over a large pool of 
boiling water, some five feet in depth, for use in giving steam 
baths. Timbers for the foundation had been laid across the 
pool, and the man walked out on one of these to arrange a 
cross-timber, when he slipped and fell into the scalding water. 
The water was so deep as to reach nearly to his neck, and so 
hot that eggs could be cooked in it in two minutes. 

When he fell into the pool, he was either so much fright- 
ened or felt such pain that for a time he seemed in a manner 
paralyzed, and did hardly anything toward trying to make 
his escape. He was in the spring at least half a minute before 
he got out, which he at last did principally through his own 
exertions, though a man who was working near the place ran 
to his assistance and lent him a helping hand when he had 
reached the bank of the pool. When his clothes were taken 
off, the greater part of the skin slipped from his body. He 
was literally cooked alive, and lived but a short time. 

At certain seasons of the year, many of the millionaires of 
the Comstock are to be found rambling in California, taking 
their ease in that land of sunshine and flowers. Los Angeles, 
Santa Barbara, and other places on the sea-coast are much 
frequented by those who are weary of the eternal sameness 
and the light and dry atmosphere of the mountains, and who 
wish to find some pleasant place in which to rest and re- 
cuperate. Said an enthusiastic Comstocker, who had just 
returned from a visit to the "Golden State": " California, 
sir ! It is the land of the palm, arid the banana ! Look abroad 
on her vine-clad hills, sir! Beautiful ! Observe her glorious 
gardens gardens such as were not in Eden the propped 
trees of her orchards; her fields of golden grain; her giant 
eucalyptus ; and see, towering over all and overshadowing all 
with one hand resting on the peaks of the Coast Range 
and the other on the summit of the Sierras her hoodlum ! 
Beautiful, sir, beautiful ! " 



NOW that we have had a ramble among the lakes and 
the valleys of the Sierras, and are rested and recuper- 
ated by reclining under the tall pines, and breathing the 
cool air of that region of eternal snow, we return once more to 
the mines and the miners. A few chapters on the tricks of 
miners, and their characteristics, good and bad, may prove of 
interest to readers residing in regions purely agricultural. 

The " honest miner " is sometimes a little trickish. Should 
he find that he has made a bad bargain in taking a contract, he 
will sometimes resort to "ways that are dark " in order to "play 
even." A trick of rather an original character was some years 
since successfully played by some roving miners who had taken 
a contract to extend a certain tunnel at Virginia City, a distance 
of ten feet, v The tunnel .already extended a distance of five or six 
hundred feet, and in exceedingly hard rock. The miners, four 
in number, contracted to drive the tunnel forward ten feet, at 
$30 per foot, but soon found they would make nothing at this 
price, owing to the extreme hardness and stubbornness of the 

When they took the contract an officer of the mine caused a 
hole to be drilled in the rock, and a wooden plug inserted just 
even with the face of the tunnel. The plug was shown the 
contractors as their starting point the point from which they 
were to advance the work a distance of ten feet. All this was 
quite satisfactory, but when the men began work they soon 
found that they had undertaken a very unprofitable job a job 
that would not pay their " grub." 



As soon as they became fully aware of this, the men began to 
consider how they might best find their way out of the trouble 
into which they had involved themselves. That way they were not 
long in hitting upon. They drew out the wooden plug which 
had been placed in the rock as the mark from which they were 
to start, then putting a blast in the hole, blew it out, completely 
obliterating all trace of the place where it had been drilled. 
They then measured back from the face of the tunnel a distance 
of ten feet, good strong measure, and drilling a hole in the rock 
drove into it the plug. This done, the four men took their ease 
about town for some days about the length of time that would 
have been required to do the work when they waited upon the 
officer from whom they had taken the contract and informed him 
that they were ready to receive their pay : also, putting in a 
great deal about the hardness of the rock and the very poor 
speculation the job had proved. The secretary, if it was that 
officer, hunted up a tape-line and went out to the tunnel with one 
of the men to measure the work. 

Mr. Secretary found the peg all right. Placing the end of 
his line upon it, he measured back to the face of the tunnel and 
found the distance to be ten feet, good and strong. The honest 
sons of toil received their $300, immediately slung their blankets 
across their shoulders and " lit out " in search of a new camp 
and another profitable contract.'/, 

The trick was not discovered until a "doubting Thomas," a 
member of the company some days after the money had been 
paid called for a measurement of the tunnel from its mouth 
back to its face. The whole tunnel was then found to be exactly 
the same length, to an inch, as before the last contract was let. 
The language of the members of the company who were present 
when this last measurement was made, as they groped their way 
out of the tunnel, was such as would be discountenanced in any 
Sabbath School in the land. 

" Doctoring the tape-line " is a trick that strolling miners have 
sometimes been known to perform, when the opportunity was 
found. This operation is simple enough. All that is to be 
done is to get hold of the foreman, superintendent, or whoever 
is likely to measure the work ; and cut out a few feet. The line 
is then neatly sewed together again. In order to succeed in 


this game it is necessary for those playing it, to " doctor " the 
line a few hours before their work is to be measured at night, 
for instance, when they know their work is to be measured the 
first thing in the morning. 

x A mining superintendent, on the Comstock range, one day 
said to me : " I had my tape-line ' doctored ' the other day, 
and, confound the fellows ! they got away with their trick 

" How was that ? " I asked. 

" Well, I had let a contract to some boys who came along to 
sink a small shaft to the depth of 50 feet. One morning they 
told me the shaft was finished, and asked me to go out and 
measure the work. 

One of the men got into the bucket and was lowered into the 
shaft, holding the end of the line, which was reeled off as he 
descended. When he got down he held his end of the line on 
the bottom of the shaft, and, looking at my end, I found the 
shaft exactly 50 feet in depth. I paid the men their money, 
and they left. In a day or two I had .occasion to measure 
something a stick of timber and was astonished to find it 
much longer than it looked. Overhauling my tape-line, I found 
that just six feet had been cut out of it and tl\e two parts neatly 
sewed together again. I knew then that my shaft was exactly 
44 feet deep, and, I tell you, I never was more ashamed of 
anything in all my life ! " 

In 1861, a miner who had been out on a prospecting expedi- 
tion, upon his return to Silver City, the place whence he started, 
showed several business men of the town some very fine speci- 
mens of ore taken, as he said, from a lead he had discovered in 
the foothills of the Sierras, a few miles below Carson City. He 
proposed to put the names of the business men down in his 
notice of location, informing them that all he asked of them 
was a trifle monthly to be used in. the purchase of provisions, 
powder, fuse, and other supplies. He was ready to do all the 
work, provided these things were furnished him. As the speci- 
mens shown contained a considerable percentage of gold and 
silver, a number of men allowed their names to be used, and agreed 
to be assessed for the amount that would be required in pushing 
the proposed mining enterprise. This was in the fall of the 


year. From the time of perfecting the arrangement for working 
his claim, and all through the winter, the miner was punctually 
at hand every month for his assessments. He reported the 
work progressing favorably, and brought specimens of ore that 
showed steady improvement ; each month the ore was just a 
little better than the last. 

The men who had been taken into the company by the honest 
miner, paid the assessments willingly and smilingly; each man 
expecting at no distant day he would be able to sell for several 
thousand dollars that which cost him but a few dollars per month. 

About the middle of the winter the assessment was more than 
doubled, but none of the stockholders found fault with this, as 
the miner informed them that his tunnel had attained such a 
length that he had found it necessary to hire two assistants, to 
help about the blasting and wheeling out of the earth. As it 
would have looked a little mean to have found fault with the 
miner about the manner in which he was doing the work, after 
he had as good as given them their shares in the mine, all spoke 
well of the plan of rushing along the work by hiring assistance. 

All went on swimmingly until late in the spring, the honest 
miner appearing punctually on the first day of each month for 
his regular assessment. As it was no unusual thing at that day 
to locate as many as fifteen or twenty men in one claim, each 
man being set down in the notice for 200 feet of ground, the 
assessments, when they were all gathered in, amounted to quite 
a ^iug little sum. Finally, when the snow was all gone from 
the hills, and wild-flowers began to bloom in the little valleys on 
the side of the mountains, the honest miner came no more for 
his assessment. The stockholders wondered, yea, marvelled 
greatly at this the man had heretofore been as true to his time 
as the planets in their course. They began to think some acci- 
dent had befallen their honest friend feared he might have been 
hurt by a cave in the tunnel, There were some, however, who* 
held other views. " If this man was hurt by a cave," said these, 
" his assistants would most assuredly have come up to Silver 
City and made known the fact." Their idea was that their man- 
had suddenly drifted into a bonanza of immense richness and 
that he was going to manage in some way to cheat them out of 
their share. 


Finally, one of the party holding this opinion volunteered to 
spare sufficient time from his business to go and look after the 
mine, which, by the way, was called the " Royal George." He 
arrived in the neighborhood in which the mine was understood 
to be situated, and after two days of inquiry at last found a man 
who said he could point out the Royal George location. This 
man led the way to a rugged hill and in its side, where there 
was a small streak of decomposed granite, pointed out a little 
open cut, such as any man of ordinary industry might dig in half 
a day. The stockholder thought his guide mistaken : "Where 
was the tunnel, where the dwelling of the men, the ore-dump 
and the rest of the works ? " The guide, however, pointed to a 
notice posted on the trunk of a small cedar, a short distance 
above the cut ; and proceeding thither, the stockholder read th$ 
name of the claim the Royal George and below it his own 
name and the names of fifteen or twenty of his business friends 
as the locators of " this silver lode or lead, with all dips, spurs, 
angles and variations." 

During his journey back to Silver City, the stockholder had 
plenty of time in which to swear, and he doubtless made the 
most of the opportunity. It was afterwards ascertained that 
the honest miner who was the discoverer and original locator of 
the Royal George, never went near the claim after making the 
location, but was all the fall and winter engaged in cutting wood 
on a ranche he had taken up in the Palmyra Mountains, many 
miles away, and quite in a different direction from the region in 
which was located the Royal George. The assessments collect- 
ed were sufficient to keep the honest fellow in provisions, to 
enable him to hire some assistance, and, indeed, to keep his 
wood-ranche running very nicely until he found a purchaser at a 
good round sum good wood-ranches being at that time in 
brisk demand. 



IN the early days the roving, prospecting miners who 
swarmed the country were given to tricks of all kinds. 
Not being able to " salt " quartz veins as easily as they had 
salted the placer-mines of California, where they frequently 
planted gold in the gravel, to the taking in and undoing of 
Chinamen and greenhorns, they often showed rich specimens 
of ore obtained from mines on the Comstock, and, pretending 
that they were obtained in some wild region in distant moun- 
tains, soon had about them men of capital from San Francisco 
and other cities, who were only too glad to accommodate 
them with loans of from $20 to $50 or $100. 

These men were always about to return to the place wherein 
was situated their " big finds," but were able to find no end of 
excuses for not going at once. They must have money with 
which to pay up their landlords before leaving; they must 
have money with which to procure a proper outfit, and when 
this had been given they pretended to have discovered that 
they were being watched that there were parties dogging 
them day and night for the purpose of following them out 
into the mountains and crowding in and gobbling up the 
lion's share of the "big thing" discovered. 

Thus these pretended prospectors, who probably never 
went outside of the town, would linger and delay, living on 
the fat of the land. They carried a memorandum book of 
considerable size, in which they could be induced, after much 
persuasion, to place the name of a man of means as one whose 
good fortune it would be to have a share in the wonderful 




silver discovery when the mine came to be duly located. 
Once he was thus fairly hooked, the man of money was never 
to refuse the jolly prospector any favor, was always to stand 
ready to hand out any sum that might be called for, from a 
four-bit piece to a double eagle; otherwise, the prospecting 
man might bring out that little stub of a pencil which he 
always carried in his vest pocket with which he was to be 
seen figuring most industriously, as though trying to estimate 
the millions in his mine and at a single sweep scratch out 
the name of the moneyed man and his chance for. an interest 
in one of the biggest things of the age. This kind of game 
the pretended prospector would play till found out by all 
with whom he had dealings, when he would find it necessary 
to start business afresh in some other camp. 

In the early days the Indians were supposed to know the 
whereabouts of many rich mines, and men were ready to 
follow wherever they might lead. A man who always had an 
eye open for the main chance, one day saw a Piute Indian 
strolling about Virginia City with a piece of very rich silver- 
ore in his hand. He at once secured that Indian's undivided 
attention by enticing him out to a vacant lot. 

Would Jim tell where he found the ore? Well, Jim might 
tell. Could he find the place again? O yes; Jim could find 
the place, sure. Was there more ore of the same kind in the 
place Jim had seen? Heap more. Finally, Jim agreed to 
point out the place in consideration of his receiving a big red 
blanket and two new shirts. Jim then led his white acquaint- 
ance up the side of the mountain to the dump of the Ophir 
Mining Company, and pointing out a great heap of ore said: 
" Me ketch um there. You see, heap plenty more all same. 
Injun man heap good, he no lie!" It was a fair transaction, 
still the white man was not happy. 

The paradise of the roving class of miners for many years 
was the gold-fields of California. There was his "happy 
home," the place where he roamed and howled when he felt 
inclined to howl. Put him in a gulch where there was free 
water, water for the use of which in his mining operations he 
was obliged to pay no man a cent, and he asked nothing more 
except that the distance to the nearest place where grub 


and grog could be obtained should not exceed six or eight 
miles; just a nice Sabbath day's journey for him. 

The real simon-pure, "honest miner" was pretty apt to 
"peter" (fail to pay, become unproductive) a short time before 
his mine had " petered," as he laid by treasure with which to 
tramp away in search of fresh fields. In case of his becoming 
" dead broke," he often had a hard time of it with the dealers 
in grub and "tarantula juice," for if he had not "played them 
a string" some of his friends of a feather had, and in order to 
get trusted it was necessary for him to do big talking and 
show big prospects. It was not so in the "days of '49," for 
then all had money, or if they had not, no man was refused 
credit for provisions, as those who had no gold to-day were 
liable to have thousands to-morrow. In the days of the roving 
class to which the "honest miner" belongs, however, many 
of the diggings were of the kind spoken of by the Chinaman, 
who said that in his claim you " wash um one pan, catch um 
one color." 

When silver was discovered in Nevada, there was a grand 
rush of the roving miners of California to the Comstock 
range, but they did not like the hard work requisite to insure 
success in quartz-mining, and it was not long before the 
majority of them made their way back to their old haunts in 
the foothills of California, where they could find patches of 
ground in which to use their rockers and sluices. While they 
remained in Nevada, these were the fellows who carried mem- 
orandum books and talked of wonders in distant wilds, big 
things they had found, but had not yet fully appropriated. 

I shall conclude my account of the honest miner by giving 
" A Tribute to the Goddess of Poverty," by George Sand, and 
a parody on the "good goddess," in which I shall try to do 
justice to the "honest miner." The tribute to the " Goddess 
of poverty" runs as follows : 

Paths sanded with gold, verdant heaths, ravens loved by the wild goats, 
great mountains crowned with stars, wandering torrents, impenetrable forests, 
let the good Goddess pass through the Goddess of Poverty ! Since the world 
existed, since men have been, she travels the world, she dwells among men ; 
she travels singing, and she sings working the Goddess, good Goddess of 
Poverty ! Some men assembled to curse her. They found her too beautiful, 
too gay, too nimble, and too strong. ' Pluck out her wings,' said they ; 


4 chain her, bruise her with blows, that she may perish the Goddess of 
Poverty ! ' 

They have chained the good Goddess ; they have beaten and persecuted 
her ; but they cannot disgrace her. She has taken refuge in the soul of poets, 
in the soul of peasants, in the soul of martyrs, in the soul of saints the good 
Goddess, the Goddess of Poverty ! She has walked more than the Wander- 
ing Jew ; she has travelled more than the swallows ; she is older that the 
egg of the wren : she has multiplied more upon the earth than strawberries 
in Bohemian forests the Goddess, the good Goddess of Poverty ! She 
always makes the grandest and most beautiful things that we see upon earth ; 
it is she who has cultivated the fields, and pruned the trees ; it is she who 
tends the fields, singing the most beautiful airs ; it is she who sees the first 
peep of dawn, and receives the last smile of evening the good Goddess of 
Poverty ! It is she who carries the sabre and gun ; who makes war and 
conquest ; it is she who collects the dead, tends the wounded, and hides the 
conquered the Goddess, the good Goddess of Poverty ! 

Thy children will cease, one day, to carry the world on their shoulders ; 
they will be recompensed for their labor and toil. The time approaches 
when there will be neither rich nor poor ; when all men shall consume the 
fruits of the earth, and equally enjoy the gifts of God. But thou wilt not be 
forgotten in their hymns oh, good Goddess of Poverty ! 


Two-bits to the pan on the bed-rock, bed-rock pitching, 
nuggets loved by the dead-broke, great chunks of gold in the 
ground-sluice, fine dust in the boxes, oceans of free water, 
hardest granite rim-rock, let the Honest Miner pass through 
the bully Honest Miner ! 

Since "indications" have existed, since miners have been, 
he tramps the mountains, he dwells in brush-shanties, he 
packs his blankets, he whistles as he works his rocker the 
Honest Miner, the bully Honest miner ! The grub dealers 
assembled to curse him. They found him on his muscle, too 
strong, too much sinew, too handy with his six-shooter. 

" Seize him by the coat-tails," said they ; " roll him in the 
mud, let into him with pick-handles, that he may be knocked 
into a cocked-hat, that he may kick the bucket the Honest 
Miner ! " 

They have kicked the bully Miner ; they have ducked him 
in the ditch, but they can't make him pungle. He has fallen 
back on his " dig," swears by the soul of a beggar, by the soul 
of a Chinaman, by the soul of a Digger, by the soul of a nig- 
ger he has nary red the Honest Miner, the bully Honest 


Miner ! He has out-packed the Dutch peddler ; he has trav- 
elled more than a candidate for Congress ; he is older than 
Washoe butter, he is younger than the beef ; he has drunk 
more cocktails than there are shares on the Comstock the 
Honest Miner, the bully Honest miner ! 

He it is that makes it hot for the free-lunch tables ; it is he 
that bucks at monte; plays draw-poker; fights the tiger; 
patronizes the Hurdies; sings like a " Washoe canary ; " it is 
he who sees the first peep of dawn through the bottom of a 
tumbler through the same cocks his eye on the last smile of 
evening the bully Honest Miner ! It is he who carries the 
pick, pan, and shovel ; who digs about croppings ; who picks 
up " indications," pounds them in a mortar, and " salts " the 
"prospect" the Honest Miner, the bully Honest Miner! 
Thou wilt, one day, cease to carry sacks of " specimens" on 
thy shoulders ; thou'lt go into thy last " prospect hole ; " six 
feet will be the extent of thy last claim on earth ; the stakes 
bearing thy last " notice " will be no further apart six feet 
only ; but six feet is a big " interest " in the " Eternal lead," if 
properly " recorded ; " the " pay-streak " there is broad, the 
bullion pure no base metal. Every miner claiming on this 
lead shall find pay, even unto the farthest " extension." 
Honest Miner, we shall think of thee as we halt and read thy 
last " notice." So long as thou art remembered, thou shalt 
not be forgotten oh, bully, Bully Honest Miner ! '' 



THE majority of the miners at present working in the silver- 
mines of Nevada are honest in the true and best sense of 
the word, and are the most charitable men, as a class, to 
be found on the continent ; and the same will apply to the owners 
and officers of mines. 

The money annually donated by the miners of the leading- 
mines on the Comstock must aggregate a very large sum. When 
a brother miner is accidentally killed it is not at all unusual for 
the men of the mine in which he worked to make up a purse of 
from $1,000 to $1,500 for his widow and orphans. 

A small sum is generally given at once say, two or three 
hundred dollars then on the first of the next month, which is 
always pay-day in the mines, each man, as he receives his wages, 
leaves in the hands of the officer who is " paying off" from one 
to two dollars, to be given to the person to be assisted. There 
being in the leading mines from five hundred to eight hundred 
or one thousand men, a large sum is in this way speedily raised. 
Each man gives cheerfully and as a duty, for he does not know 
but that on the next pay-day his brother-miners may be giving 
a share of their wages for the support of his own widow and 
her children. 

When men are hurt in the mines the companies always render 
them assistance and they are also assisted, if long disabled, 
by their comrades. There are three Miners' Unions, one at 
Virginia City, one at Gold Hill, and the third at Silver City, the 
object of which is the protection of the interest of the working 
miner and the keeping up of wages to the standard of four 
25 439 


dollars per day eight hours. These Unions have handsome 
and commodious halls in which they hold regular meetings, and, 
thus far, the principal officers and leading spirits of the several 
organizations have been men of such honesty of purpose and 
have shown such fairness in all of their demands that there has 
been no trouble between miners and mine-owners. 

These Unions always have money with which to assist the 
distressed in case of emergency. The excursions of the Unions, 
and balls and benefits of all kinds, are always very liberally pat- 
ronized by all classes of citizens, and thus, when their treasury 
has been depleted by some calamity in the mines as a fire 
large sums of money are speedily placed in their hands, 

The relations existing between the miners and the superin- 
tendents are generally very cordial. The men are always 
respectful and obedient and the superintendents by no means 
haughty or austere in theii* intercourse with their men, convers- 
ing as freely with a miner upon all subjects, when conversation 
is in order, as though he were a millionaire. The same may be 
said of the foremen of the mines, most of whom have been 
raised from from the ranks, as also, have not a few of the 
superintendents. The miners always have it as an incentive to 
good conduct and the acquiring of skill and knowledge in 
mining, that they may one day be promoted. 

Most superintendents take a good deal of pride in their men 
in having men who are industrious, skilful and reliable in 
every emergency and they not infrequently take an interest in 
the pecuniary affairs of those who are found to be deserving, 
lending them a helping hand occasionally and always advising 
them as well as they are capable of doing, when their advice is 
sought in regard to any little investments they may think of 

The miners in return take a considerable degree of interest 
and feel a certain pride in a mine in which they are at work in 
the richness of its ores, the power and perfection of its machi- 
nery, and, in short, in all connected with it. As sailors are proud 
of belonging to a first-class ship, so miners are proud to be able 
to mention a first-class mine as that in which they are employed. 
In short, thus far the relations of miner and mine-owner have 
been all that could be desired, and there seems to be no danger 


of an)f trouble in the future, as it is generally conceded that the 
miner who risks his life in the mines and toils in the sweltering 
lower levels should receive at least four dollars per day. 

The mining superintendents themselves lead no easy life, as 
they make daily visits to the mines in their charge, descend into 
the lower levels, and pass through and inspect all manner of 
dangerous and disagreeable places. Often they are in the lower 
levels for hours at a time, and sometimes are obliged to descend 
into the mine three and four times in one day. 

As a rule the superintendents of the mines on the Comstock 
lode are men much above the average in understanding, culture, 
and education men of marked ability and such as would be 
leaders in any line of business in which they might engage 
captains among men, as it were. The foremen are men of 
much the same class as the superintendents, but are generally 
less prominently before the public. Their time is spent in the 
mines among the men, and though they do not labor with their 
hands, they have by no means an easy time of it, as they must be 
almost constantly on their feet, and are obliged to climb and 
crawl into all manner of dangerous and difficult places. When 
anything is going wrong in a mine ground settling, and timbers 
giving way, a fire or a rush of water they have little rest until 
all is again secure. 

But for the better wages and the honor of the position, the 
ordinary miner has a more desirable place in a mine than that 
occupied by a foreman, as he has nothing to do but work his shift, 
of eight hours, when he can go home and leave care behind he 
has no responsibilities, nothing about which to worry. To do 
an honest day's work is all his care. 

The engineers, station-tender, pump-men, and the watchmen 
on the lower levels, all occupy positions to which are attached 
grave responsibilities, the lives of their fellow workmen being 
constantly in their hands. The miners receive their pay $4 
per day regularly every month, from the first to the third day 
of the month. Pay-day is a happy day with the men. They 
go to the office of the time-keeper as they come up out of the 
mine, at the change of shifts, and " get their time " for the 
month that is they get a slip of paper on which is an account 
of the number of days they have worked during the month. 


With this they go to the office of the secretary or head-clerk of 
the mine where they form in a line, as lines are sometimes formed 
in a post-office or at the polls on an election day, and each man 
in his turn receives his wages. 

Over half a million dollars are paid out on the first of every 
month along the Comstock, to miners, mechanics, and others 
who are employed in and about the mines. The monthly pay- 
rolls of some of the leading companies are as follows : Consoli- 
dated Virginia,$9o,ooo ; Crown Point, $90,000 ; Belcher, $65,000 ; 
Ophir, $33,000; Savage, $22,000; Chollar-Potosi, $25,000; 
Hale & Norcross $20,000 ; and a long list of companies whose 
pay-rolls amount to from $10,000 to $15,000 per month. Even 
at mines where they are merely sinking a prospecting-shaft, from 
ten to fifteen men are employed and there is paid out per month 
in the shape of wages from $1,500 to $2,000 as mechanics, 
carpenters, blacksmiths, and engineers, receive from five to 
seven dollars per day. 

Besides the money that is paid out monthly to the men about 
the mines, the wages of the men employed in the many mills 
about Virginia City, and Gold Hill, and along the Carson River 
amount to a large sum. There may be added to this the wages 
of the men employed on the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, 
over which ore is sent to the mills, and lumber, timber, and 
wood are brought to the mines; also, the men employed in the 
saw-mills and in other branches of the lumbering business in 
the mountains are paid monthly, and all this money is expended 
in the towns along the Comstock. 

Such large sums paid out every month to working men who 
scatter it broadcast in the land causes money to be quite plen- 
tiful in all the towns. In case of business being a little dull 
toward the close of any month, merchants, shopkeepers, and 
others do not grumble. They merely say : " Never mind, the 
pay-days are near at hand ! " It is not as in agricultural com- 
munities, where when a bad crop is made all must wait for 
another year before good times can be expected. 

Besides the money paid out every month in the shape of wages, 
dividends are paid each month by such companies as are in a 
sufficiently flourishing condition to thus gladden the hearts of 
their stockholders. The Consolidated Virginia alone pays 
$1,080,000 per month in dividends. 

1 STEAMER DA V." 445 

In 'many kinds of business the persons employed are paid 
every week, and the merchants, and business men in general, 
square all accounts of transactions among themselves every 
Monday ; hence Monday in Virginia City is sometimes jocularly 
termed " steamer day," as corresponding to the old *' steamer 
day " of San Francisco the day when the steamer sailed for 
New York, and when all business men were expected to make 
good all their coin contracts. 

When the miners receive their wages the first business of the 
unmarried men is to pay the rent of their lodging room, and the 
next is to pay their bill at the restaurant, while the married men 
settle their bills at the meat-markets, the grocery and provision 
stores, and the dry-goods stores. Happy is the man who can 
square up every month and have a few dollars to put by for a 
rainy day. Some, as in every country, are always behind, but 
the most miserable of the miners are those who gamble. Much 
of the time they are working to pay for a " dead horse," for when 
they have lost their wages they borrow as long as they can find 
friends to lend. But whether gambled away or judiciously and 
economically expended, the money paid out each month to 
laboring men makes lively times for a fortnight or more all 
have coin jingling in their pockets, even check guerillas and 



"/CURBSTONE brokers" and many other dabblers in 

\^>1 stocks rely a good deal upon "points" obtained from 
miners, in regard to what is going on in the lower 
levels of the mines. It probably happens once in a while 
that a miner gives some friend on the " outside " early news 
of a rich strike in the mine in which he is employed, but it is 
generally on condition that the " outsider " purchase and 
carry for him a considerable amount of the stock of the mine. 

In order to keep himself well informed in regard to the 
mines, in this way, the speculator must not only have a man 
in each mine but must have a man on nearly every level of 
each mine, as the miners are not allowed to ramble about at 
will in the lower levels of any of the leading mines. To fee 
a man on each level of half a dozen mines, even, would be a 
very expensive means of obtaining early information. 

As the miner who is merely receiving a fee occasionally for 
such " points " as he may be able to 'furnish is desirous of 
receiving a " price" as frequently as possible, he is somewhat 
addicted to the manufacture in a dull time. 

Men working in a large and strictly-regulated mine have 
little opportunity of knowing when a development has been 
made at a particular point in a mine, or anything about the 
value of any body of ore that may be encountered. 

When a cross-cut is being run at a point where it is thought 
that ore will be found, the work is carried on by what is 
called a "secret shift." This shift is composed of the oldest 
and most trustworthy men in the mine men who will work 



for weeks in a drift that sparkles with native silver and yet 
remain as mute as the same number of oysters , when above, 
circulating among those of the surface-world. These secret- 
shift men generally find their silence profitable. They are 
helped to a few shares of the stock at the low figure at which 
it is probably selling when the ore is found, and pocket what- 
ever advance there may be in the stock when the nature and 
extent of the new development have been made known. 

The men working on a secret shift are not sworn to secrecy, 
and it is seldom that they are even pledged they know why 
they are selected, and what is expected of them. When a 
secret has been divulged and the guilty person cannot be 
discovered, every man on that shift is discharged, and not one 
of them will again be employed on a secret shift in any mine 
until the real culprit has been found. Men working in any 
kind of place in the mines are very cautious about telling 
what is going on underground, as any valuable information 
given on the surface is soon sown broadcast, and is not long in 
reaching the ear of the superintendent, foreman, o.r some 
other officer of the mine, when it is quickly traced to the man 
who brought it up from the lower levels. This being the 
case, many of the men, when "pumped" for "points," invent 
some story of a rich development at some point in the mine 
where all is country rock or mere barren porphyry. These 
stories circulate as rapidly as the others, but a quiet smile is 
all the attention they receive from the officers of the mine 
they, at such times, remain mute and neutral. 

During the great stock excitement in 1872, a gentleman 
who had several tho*usand dollars that he desired to invest in 
stocks, cultivated the acquaintance of a man who had the 
appearance of being a miner, and soon gave him to under- 
stand that in case he could give him any points in regard to 
what was going on in certain mines, they would invest and 
divide the profits. The man thus "approached" was a miner, 
but was out of employment, was at work in no mine on the 
lead. However, he was willing to do something. He saw 
that the gentleman in search of points was a stranger in the 
town, and felt that a good thing to do would be to take him 
in. Therefore points were promised. In a day or two the 

448 "BOOMING? 

alert miner made his appearance at the hotel of the stranger, 
and beckoning him out, furnished him a big point in regard 
to a grand development in a certain Gold Hill mine, and a 
large number of shares were at once purchased. 

This was just at the beginning of the excitement, and the 
next day there was a considerable advance in the price of the 
stock. The man of points said the newly-discovered ore-body 
was improving. Day after day the stock continued to rise, 
and the pseudo-miner swore it was the richest thing he ever 
saw in any mine on the Comstock. He seemed greatly ex- 
cited, and was not made easy in mind until he had sworn the 
gentleman to secrecy, saying that if even a whisper in regard 
to the strike got abroad he would lose his place would 
almost be kicked out of the mine. 

What the fellow said about the strike seemed to be gospel 
truth, as the next day after he had described the appearance 
of the silver-caverns in which he was daily delving, the stock 
went up like a rocket in the San Francisco Stock Board. 

"Aha!" cried the gentleman, "they have found it out 
already down at the Bay ! " 

For two or three days the stock " boomed " for every 
stock was just then booming then it began to go down a 
little and "see-sawed" for a day or two. As soon as the 
latter symptom became manifest, the well-informed miner 
came to his stranger friend wearing a long face and told him 
to sell at once. The gentleman was inclined to think that 
by holding on a day or two the stock would go to a higher 
figure than it had yet reached, but on hearing this the miner 
came out with another great secret, and the stranger was 
again sworn. The ore-body had pinched out in porphyry, 
and in cross-cutting through what at first appeared to be a 
vast body of immensely rich ore, it had been found a mere 
shell, all the rest was barren quartz. Hearing this, the gen- 
tleman sold at once, and the pair of speculators divided over 
$6,000 profit. The joke of the whole affair was that no work 
was being done in the mine whose stock they had been deal- 
ing in, nor had a pick been struck in any part of it for over 
two years. 

Some of the pranks of the miners are quite amusing. The 



following is an instance: At the time that the i,4oo-foot 
level of the Crown Point mine was being opened, and while 
it was boiling hot, a Frenchman, a stranger and a very suave 
and enthusiastic young man withal, called at the hoisting- 
works and asked permission to descend and examine the 
lower-levels. The foreman was very busy at the time, and 
would have refused the request had it been preferred in lan- 
guage less polite or manner less eager and earnest. But, 
seeing the man's soul in his eyes, and that he was almost 
trembling with excess of desire, he thought it would be posi- 
tive cruelt-y to deny him the favor he craved. After some 
hesitation, with the Frenchman's pleading eyes still fixed 
upon him, the foreman said it was not a proper time for 
admitting visitors; that he was particularly engaged at the 
moment and could not accompany him; yet, some miners 
being about to descend to the lower levels, he might, if so 
inclined, go down in their company. The little Frenchman 
was delighted. It was just the arrangement that suited him, 
and he was profuse in his thanks. 

Leaving the native of "sunny France"" for a moment, the 
foreman advanced to where the workmen were preparing to 
descend the shaft, and told them he was going to send a 
Frenchman down with them to see the lower levels, and that 
one of them could bring him up after he had satisfied his 
curiosity. Being somewhat vexed at having to send the man 
down at all, the foreman added to his other instructions: 
" And, confound him, put him into the hottest hole you can 
find ! " 

" All right, sir," cheerily answered the men. 

The Frenchman was told to get aboard the cage, when down 
he was sent in the same clothing in which he came to the 
mine coat, hat, and all. Now the miners in whose hands 
the Frenchman had fallen, were all fellows pf " infinite jest" 
ready for any kind of deviltry. They considered that in 
the parting words of their foreman" Put him into the 
hottest place you can find," they were given permission to 
play the Frenchman almost any trick their humor might 

On arriving at the i,4oo-foot level, while moving about 


lighting candles, the plan hit upon for "doing" their French 
friend was whispered among the miners. They showed their 
man about for a time, greatly to his delight. He admired 
everything; yet he could but exclaim occasionally: "Begar 
zee atmosphere which exist here be fearful intemperate ! " 
At length the miners informed the visitor that they were 
about to conduct him to the most interesting point in the 
mine to the most advanced drift, the place in which all the 
hopes of the company were centered. They honestly stated 
that the place was very hot, but if he could stand the heat he 
should see a spot the eye of no "outsider" had yet viewed, 
but which many would give thousands of dollars to behold. 

" Oh," cried the Frenchman, " it will be one grand plaisir ! 
I sail be ver delighted ! Nossing could be more agreeable. 
Bote, now zat I sink of it, I would prefer zat I have leave me 
coat at zee surface." 

The miners led the way to a long drift, in the end of which 
had been bored a deep drill-hole, from which flowed a stream 
of water so hot that eggs had actually been boiled in it in a 
few minutes. All of the rock forming the walls of the drift 
was so hot that to place the naked hand upon it was painful. 
The crowbars and drills lying back near the face of the drift 
were so -hot that they could not be handled. 

Into the very end of this drift the miners led the enthusi- 
astic little man, and began showing him the ore there to be 
seen. Soon the perspiration poured in streams from his face 
and a small rill ran from the end of his nose. He opened his 
vest and clutched at his necktie to get air, but still he was not 
utterly discouraged. Said he, rubbing the water from his 
eyes : " How ver true it is for you gentlemen vich vork in 
zee mines what is observe in zee Bible, in zee curse to the 
first parent ' In zee perspiration of you forehead sail you eat 
of zee loaf of bread!'" 

About this time, in some unaccountable way, all of the 
candles at once went out. Pitchy darkness prevailed. The 
miners charged their French friend to stand perfectly still 
and they would go out and re-light their candles. The poor 
devil only said : 

" Veil, veil, ziz is to me incomprehensible and must be one 


chance extraordenaire for all zee candaile to become extin- 
guish so very instantaneous. Je suppose it was one accident. 
Make all zee dispatch vich is possible. Zee heat of zee 
atmosphere is indescriptible ! " Soon after this little scene 
in the drift, Sam Jones, superintendent of the mine, came 
along through the level with a lantern in his hand. Much to 
his surprise, he found several men standing in the dark before 
a drift, the mouth of which they had carefully closed with 
" logging " and pieces of boards. 

" Hello ! " cried he, " what are you all doing here in the 
dark ? And why is the mouth of this drift closed ? " No one 
volunteered a remark, each waiting for the other probably. 

" Have you seen a young Frenchman on this level ? " asked 
the superintendent, " the foreman above tells me he sent him 
down here." 

Now some one had to speak. 

" Yes ; " said one of the men, " he is here." 

"Here! Where?" 

" Back in the end of the drift." 

" What in thunder is he doing there ? " 

" Waiting for a light, I think." 

" In the devil's name ! what trick is this ? " cried the super- 
intendent. " Don't you know that the man is an ex-count 
and a big French banker a man of note ? " 

" Can't help that. The foreman told us to show him the 
hottest place in the mine, and we're a-showin' it to him and 
makin' it as hot for him as we know how." 

In an instant the superintendent had torn away the planks 
and logging, and was making his way back, lantern in hand, 
to where the poor devil of a Frenchman was roasting liter- 
ally roasting, for the whole drift was as hot as a furnace seven 
times heated, and the man was more dead than alive. Ele- 
vating his lantern, to get a view of the foreign gentleman, 
the superintendent fo^nd him standing with coat and vest 
across his arm, and collar and necktie in his hand. He was 
wilted till as limber as a dish-rag. 

"Ze Cod on 'bove be praise," he cried, " zat you have come! 
I am just on zee point to expire. Zee distemperament of zee 
place have increase immediatement after you retire in more 


as ten-fold progression." Then, wiping the blinding perspi- 
ration from his eyes, he surveyed Mr. Jones for a moment in 
surprise. " Ah ! pardon me monsieur," he cried, " I have not 
first zee plaisir to behold you before. I mistake you for zee 
gentlemen who have depart wis the purpose to re-enlight 
zee candaile. Excuse me zat I trouble you wis zee narra- 
tion, bote we meet here wis one leetle accident, sare; one 
leetle accident which have, how you call it? exterminate, 
estinguis' zee entire of the candaile, sare." 

"I am sorry that anything so unpleasant should have 
occurred," said the superintendent, " and I assure you, sir, I 
shall look into this matter." 

" You are too kind, monsieur too kind ! I assure you 
sare, zat I have remain here until zis moment in parfaite tran- 
quilety; bote now, sare, I vill depart, if you please. Vill you 
have zee complaisance to put me on zee machine, and elevate 
me to zee surfaice immediatement? My God, sare, I expire 
wis zee heat ! Elevate me, monsieur, wis dispatch wis all 
dispatch. I vill not remain for zee gentleman who have go 
wis zee purpose to re-enlight zee candaile. Some ozzaire time 
I vill make zem my apology." 

In all haste the superintendent led the way to the main shaft, 
the polite little Frenchmen hurrying after, saying: Yes, some 
ozzaire time I moos make to zem my apology." They were 
soon aboard the cage, and, a minute after, at the noo-foot 
level. Here the superintendent was obliged to stop a few 
minutes, but told the Frenchman that if he would get off and 
wait, they would go up together on the next cage. But to 
this the half-dead man would not listen. He stuck to the 
cage like grim death, and said : 

"Let zee machine continue to ascend up, if you please, sare, 
I vill be elevate on zee surfaice promptment wis all despatch, 

The superintendent then sent a trusty miner up with the 
roasted ex-count. When daylight was reached the little 
fellow was himself again. 

" Ah ! " cried he, * how ver' beautiful is zee cool air, zee 
light of zee glorious sun, and all of God's work, how grand ! 
I have make one terrible experience ; bote I would not have 
miss him, sare, no, not for many dollaires!" 


He then tried to make the man who came up the shaft with 
him accept a five-dollar gold piece. Not succeeding in 
this he made him go with him to the nearest saloon and get a 
glass of beer. Not satisfied with this, and the men below 
again coming into his mind, he paid the barkeeper for two 
buckets of beer, telling the miner with him that he wished it 
given to the men who went to light the candle. 

" I have," said he, " been ver impolite to come away before 
zee return of zee gentlemen who have gone to re-enlight zee 
candaile. Veil, zat was one ver curious accident and bring 
to me one ver terrible experience of zee discomfort of zee 
heat at zat place of remarkable interest." 

Although the French count doubtless suffered terribly 
while shut up in the drift, with boiling water and heated rock 
all about him, his " discomfort," after all, was not much greater 
than was that of the miners who played him the trick while 
drinking the beer he sent them though their torture was of 
a different kind. Most amply, yet most innocently, had the 
Frenchman avenged himself. 



IN the early days of Washoe, fights between rival claimants 
of mining ground were frequent, and often stubbornly con- 
tested and bloody. These fights sometimes occurred upon 
the surface, sometimes far down in the bowels of the earth one 
company having broken into ground claimed by another with a 
drift or a tunnel. On such occasions the rival companies armed 
and fortified underground as well as upon the surface. 

Sometimes a company tried to smoke their rivals out, and in 
this they generally succeeded, but were, in most instances, them- 
selves smoked out as well, by their own bonfires and stink-pots. 
Of late years, however, most difficulties in regard to the owner- 
ship of mining property have been settled in the courts. Men 
at last began to realize that battles with guns, pistols, and knives 
settled nothing; no matter how many lives were sacrificed, 
matters had to be brought before the proper tribunal at last. 
Yet a little of the old warlike spirit is occasionally manifested 
even at the present day. 

The last mining fight, of any importance, on the Comstock 
lode, occurred at the Justice mine on the evening of Saturday, 
October 3, 1874, which resulted in the death of five men in about 
as many minutes. 

It may be of interest to give the particulars in regard to the 
last affair, as it will serve to illustrate the manner in which these 
battles in the mines are fought, and show in what way they are 
sometimes brought on. The fight .occurred at about 6 o'clock 
in the evening, at what is known as the Waller's Defeat Shaft 
of the Justice mine, situated on Gold Canon, between Gold Hill 



and Silver City. The battle was between two factions of the 
Justice Mining Company, contending for possession of the mine. 
There had for some time been trouble among the trustees of the 
company, and on the day of the fight the president of the com- 
pany appointed a new superintendent and instructed him to 
take possession of the mine. 

It was the talk that the old superintendent would not give up 
the mine, and there were rumors during 'the afternoon that a 
fight might be expected, and many were talking about going 
dowrf to the Justice to " see the fun." Finally the brother of 
the newly-appointed superintendent, as a deputy, and accom- 
panied by a number of men, went down to the mine, and had a 
talk with the foreman in charge about taking possession of the 
works. The foreman said he was ready to give possession 
whenever the other came with proper authority, but as things 
then stood he would prefer to hear from his superior, the old 
superintendent, before doing anything. 

Meantime the newly-appointed superintendent was in Virginia 
City looking for the old superintendent, in order to show him 
the dispatches he had received from San Francisco, instructing 
him to take possession of the mine ; but he failed to find him and 
left the city. About this time the old Superintendent, who was in 
Virginia City, sent a note to his foreman at the mine instructing 
him to give the newly-appointed officer possession of the works 
at both shafts the old Justice and the Waller's Defeat Shaft. 

Before this note reached its destination and before the two 
superintendents the old and the new had met, the men them- 
selves had precipitated the fight. There were with the deputy 
superintendent twelve men who were to be used in holding 
possession of the two shafts in case of their being given up by 
the men in charge. All of these men were armed with pistols, 
and some of them had been drinking enough to make them feel 
inclined to have things go about as they wished. They grew 
impatient on account of the delay in giving possession of the 
works and presently left the Justice shaft, and started for the 
Waller's Defeat, two or three hundred yards distant. 

The deputy superintendent had started to go to Gold Hill, 
when, looking back, he saw his men moving in a body toward 
the Waller's Defeat Shaft. Fearing trouble, he turned and 


hastened after them. When he overtook them they were close 
to the building over the shaft and were still advancing. It was 
well understood that there were in this building several armed 
men, and he ran before his men and tried to induce them to halt. 

At the same time a voice from the hoisting-works over the 
shaft commanded them to stop. It was now growing dark, and 
the persons in the building could not be seen. As the deputy 
was still trying to keep his men back, two of them pushed past 
him and advanced toward the building. One of these raised 
his revolver as he moved forward, and instantly a volley was 
fired from the building. Three men fell, two of whom died on 
the ground, while the third, who was shot through the spine and 
abdomen, lived but a few hours. 

A short parley now ensued. The deputy superintendent told 
those within the building that he desired to have a talk with 
them ; to tell them what he wanted to do. He said that such 
work as they were having must not go on ; that he did not come 
there to have a battle with those in possession of the works. 
He then asked if he might enter the building. A voice said he 
might come in, if he came alone ; but if another man attempted 
to follow him they would fire on the whole party. The deputy 
then advanced to the bifilding, and had just raised his foot to 
step into the door when those inside fired, and he fell dead in 
his tracks. One of his men ran up to bring away his body and 
received a'charge of buckshot in the breast that laid him dead 
beside the deputy. During this time several shots were fired 
into the building by those on the outside, but without effect. 
After these, scattering shots there was an entire cessation of 
hostilities on both sides, and outside parties persons not 
belonging to either faction were allowed to approach and 
carry away the dead. 

A gentleman who was on the ground through the whole affair, 
considered the advance of the deputy's party as being very ill- 
advised, and quite against the wishes of the deputy himself, as 
that gentleman did all in his power to keep his men back. 
Much rashness and hot-headedness was exhibited on both sides. 
It was said that the reason the deputy was fired on was that as 
he advanced to the door of the works some of his men moved 
forward behind him. The dead were carried to a small cabin 


near at hand, and when they had been decently composed, with 
handkerchiefs tied over their heads and under their chins, they 
presented a ghastly spectacle, as they were still in the clothes 
in which they fell, all of which were soaked in blood. Their 
shirts were open, and the wounds of those shot in the breast were 
exposed to sight. To stand in the little cabin, twelve by four- 
teen feet in size, and see the whole floor covered with dead 
bodies, one seemed to be on the edge of a field whereon had 
just been fought some great and bloody battle. 

The news of the fight brought not less than a thousand persons 
to the spot, but all gave the building over the Waller's Defeat 
shaft a wide berth. All was dark and silent as the grave within 
the building. This stillness and darkness seemed ominous. 
No one wished to venture near it, as all said it was quite certain 
that the men within would not be taken alive. A guard was 
placed about the works and all night men armed with muskets 
patrolled before and around the building. 

When daylight came a cautious advance was made, and finally 
the building was entered. Not a man was found within it. All 
had escaped some time during the previous night, probably imme- 
diately after the last shooting, and long before the guard was 
set. Though no men were found in the building, there was 
found a Henry rifle, a double-barrelled shot-gun, three revolvers, 
and a smaller pistol, together with several powder-flasks and a 
quantity of ammunition ; also, about one hundred cigars, and twa 
demijohns partly filled with whisky "fighting whisky," no 
doubt. An inquest was held by the coroner of Storey County, 
and the following verdict found : 

We the undersigned jurors, summoned by Coroner Homles of Storey 
County to make due inquiry into the cause of the deaths of William Kellogg, 
Michael Riley, John Brown, Michael Cain, and W, D. Shifiett, on being 
duly sworn do find that the true names and ages of deceased were as follows : 
Michael Cain, a nativejof Ireland, aged 35 years; W. D. Shifiett, a native of 
Virginia, aged 47 years ; W. P. Kellogg, a native of New York, aged 42 years ; 
Michael Riley, a native of Ireland, aged 37 years, and John Brown, a native 
of Pennsylvania, aged 37 years : and we do find that they came to their deaths 
at Waller Defeat shaft of the Justice mine in Gold Hill, Storey County, 
Nevada, on Saturday October 3, 1874, from gunshot wounds inflicted by the 
hands of parties to us unknown. 

Four men were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in 



the shooting, but these were finally discharged by the grand 
jury, and so ended the last mining battle on the Comstock lode. 
The men who were in the Waller's Defeat building, and 
handled the guns, were not regular miners such as work in the 
lower levels, but belonged to a class that generally toil on the 
surface at about ten dollars per day, taking " fighting interests " 
in mines that are in dispute, or hiring out keep possession of 
property that has more than one claimant. In former times 
they were a class of laborers that were in brisk demand. 



SILVER was known to the ancients as far back in the dim 
and distant ages of the past as any record extends. It 
was undoubtedly one of the first metals mined by man- 
kind. In writings, both sacred and profane, mention is made 
of silver in the earliest ages of the world. 

Gold being a metal that is found native, and silver being 
very frequently found in the native state, these were doubtless 
among the first metals with which the primitive races of 
mankind became acquainted. Dative silver being found 
mingled with various ores of silver, it was probably not long 
after the metal became known and valued that men conceived 
the idea of smelting these ores and thus obtaining a larger 
supply of the metal than was yielded in the native form. In 
the Bible frequent mention is made of silver, from the very 
beginning. Silver was more highly prized than gold by all 
the primitive peoples of the earth. Even the sacred writers 
speak of it with gusto. To this day we find that savages and 
semi-civilized nations prefer silver to gold. It is the case 
with the negro tribes of Africa, the Indians of the American 
Continent, and with the nations of China and Japan. The 
human animal must be educated up to a just appreciation of 
gold, but silver by its brilliant white lustre and flash in the 
light of the sun recommends itself to him as soon as its sheen 
strikes his eye. 

All metals were no doubt first extracted from their ores by 
smelting, yet it appears that the process of extracting silver 
from its ores, and gold from its matrix, by means of quicksilver 



was not unknown to the ancients. Pliny and Vitruvius 
speak of quicksilver being used for this purpose. In ancient 
times, if Pliny is to be believed, the art of mining was well 
understood, as he speaks of silver-mines being worked to the 
depth of a mile and a half. If this be true, our modern mines 
have little to boast of. To have done such mining the 
ancients must have possessed hoisting and pumping machi- 
nery, or their equivalents, with appliances for ventilation 
equal to if not surpassing any known to the mining engineers 
of the present age. There is every evidence that silver-mines 
were worked in many countries in the Old World at a very 
early day, and not a few are still being worked, in regard to 
the date of the discovery and opening of which there is no 
record. All that is known is that they seem to have always 
been worked. 

Fuller, in his treatise on silver-mines, says: 

" Wherever in any part of the world silver-mines have been worked they 
are worked now, unless for some unexplainable cause, such as the lack of 
machinery, the existence of war, the invasion of Indians, etc. We know of 
no silver-mining regions in the world that have given out. Mexican mines, 
worked by the Aztecs before the conquest, are still worked as profitably as 
ever ; the old Spanish mines openfcd long before Hannibal's time, are still 
worked with enormous profits ; the South American mines have constantly 
yielded their wealth for more than three hundred years, and are as produc- 
tive as ever ; mines in Hungary, that were worked by the Romans before the 
Saviour's time, still yield abundance of ore ; the silver-mines of Freiburg, 
opened in the eleventh century and worked continually ever since, yield 
their steady increase. So in Norway, Sweden, and Russia, and indeed 
wherever silver-mines have been opened, we believe without exception, they 
continue to be worked at the present day, and generally are more productive 
than at any time in their past history. For permanent and rich returns,, 
silver-mining has no parallel in any other business. 

In regard to the yield of the silver-mines in Spain in ancient 
times little can now be ascertained. By many persons the 
Spanish peninsula is regarded as the Tarshish of old, and 
through such traditions as have come down to us it is quite 
certain that Solomon drew much of his wealth from the 
Spanish mines at the time it is said, " it was nothing accounted 
of, for the King made silver to be as stones in Jerusalem." 

Among the fabulous stories of the ancients in regard to 
the silver-mines of Spain is that of Diodorous, who relates 



that 'the shepherds of the Pyrenees set fire to the forests in the 
neighborhood of their camps, when by the burning of the 
fallen timber the minerals of the earth were fused and the 
molten silver ran upon the ground as water in a brook. 
Among the modern silver-mines of Spain are those of Sierra 
de Almagrera, which were discovered and opened in 1839, and 
which in 1845 gave employment to eight thousand miners. 
The most important silver-mines in Spain at the present 
time are those of Hiendelaencia, which were discovered about 
thirty years ago and which have been productive ever since 
their average annual yield for twenty years was 31,577 
pounds troy. The whole silver yield of Spain is at present 
about one hundred thousand pounds troy per annum. 

In Germany, the silver-mines discovered in the Hartz 
mountains and at Frieberg, Saxony, in the tenth century 
are still being worked as vigorously as ever. Much of the 
silver-ore worked fn Germany is of no better quality than is 
thrown away on the Comstock as " waste rock." In Norway 
and Sweden silver-mines known before the discovery of 
America, are being worked. The mines of Sala, Westmania, 
which are yet being worked were known and worked over 
500 years ago. The Cero de Pasco mines, Peru, discovered 
in 1630, from which no less than five million pounds of silver 
were taken out in forty-three years, are still productive. The 
famous mines of Potosi (Cerro de Potosi), Bolivia, formerly 
included in the territory of Peru, discovered in 1544, are said 
to have yielded $1,200,000,000. The total annual yield of 
Bolivia at present is about 450,000 pounds. 

The Zacatecas mines, in Mexico, were opened in 1548, and 
the mines of Guanajuata in 1558. The principal mines of 
Mexico are those of Guanajuata, Catorce, Zacatecas, and Real 
del Monte. The yield of the Mexican mines since the con- 
quest of the country by the Spaniards, up to 1860, amounted 
to $2,039,100,000. The following is the yield of some of the 
older silver-mines of Mexico and South America: Sierra 
Madre mines, $800,000,000. Veta Madre, $235,934,636; Rio 
Grande, $650,000,000; Royas, $85,421,015; Valencia, $31,813, 
486; Santa Anna, $21,347,210; Biscania, $16,341,000. These 
are, in most instances, not single veins, but mining districts 


in which there are numerous veins of various sizes and 
degrees of richness. They are groups of parallel veins. The 
Veta Madre, of Mexico, is however, situated much the same 
as the Comstock lode of Nevada. It fills a similar fissure 
and is in a similar formation. Although other mines in 
Mexico contain much richer ores, the Veta Madre (Mother 
Vein), has been more extensively worked than any other 
mine in that country. It has been steadily worked for over 
three hundred years, yet during the three centuries there has 
been taken from it but little more silver than has been taken 
from the Comstock during sixteen years. 

Humboldt says the silver sent to Europe from Mexico and 
South America, from the discovery of the New World by 
Columbus to 1809, would make a solid ball eighty-three and 
seven-tenths Paris feet in diameter; at the present rate of 
production the Comstock lode alone should roll up a tolerably 
large ball, as in sixteen years it is estimated the yield of the 
vein has been $220,000,000, or an average annual yield of 
$13,750,000. This is a good showing when we consider that 
our people did not know what the silver-ore was when they 
found it, and that during the first two or three years after they 
began working the ores much time was spent in trying experi- 
ments with all kinds of processes, and with machinery of an 
inferior character. 

In 1874 the yield of the Comstock mines was $21,940,123,96; 
in 1874, it was $22,242,274,95; and for 1875 it will be much 

According to recent estimates the total silver product of the 
world from 1850 to 1875 was $1,025,000,000 and the Comstock 
mines are now yielding one-tenth of the entire amount pro- 
duced in the world. The latest estimates of German and 
American authorities give the total product of all the gold 
and silver-mines in the world, from the year 1500 to 1874, as 
follows: Pounds of silver 364,000,000, valued at $8,175,000 
ooo. Pounds of gold 17,000,000, valued at $6,450,000,000. 
Total pounds of gold and silver 381,600,000; valued at $14, 
625,000,000. These figures are probably not very exact. It 
is a hard matter to get the exact yield of even such mines as 
are worked by regularly organized companies, and almost 


impossible to get figures at all where gold is being mined 
from placers. 

v It would not be of general interest to trace the progress of 
mining events on the Comstock year by year from the dis- 
covery of silver up to the present writing/'' It is sufficient to 
say that in 1862-3, up to which time operations on the lode 
have been pretty fully described, there began to be an abun- 
dance of tolerably efficient mills, and hoisting-works that 
were sufficiently powerful to do the work at the depth to 
which the shafts of the principal companies had then been 
sunk. Even as late as 1866 the greatest depth which had been 
attained in any mine on the Comstock lode was 923 feet. 
This was in the Chollor-Potosi mine. The Gould & Curry 
were then working at a depth of 900 feet, Belcher, 850 ; Bul- 
lion, 800; Hale & Norcross, 783 ; Savage, 614; Ophir, 547, and 
other leading companies at a depth of from 500 to 600 feet. 
Ever since the setting up of the first steam-hoisting and 
pumping machinery on the lode, and ever since the starting 
of the first mills for the reduction of the ores extracted, 
improvements have been made and still continue to be made. 
The mills and hoisting-works at present in operation would 
astound the miner and millman of 1862-3, though he doubtless 
flattered himself that the mills and hoisting-works of that day 
had attained a degree of perfection beyond which there was 
little room for improvement. 

During these years there were numerous changes in the 
fortunes of the companies along the lode. Some that had 
rich ore upon the surface had worked down to the bottom of 
their deposit and had found themselves in clay or barren 
porphyry, while others who had started in with no ore on the 
surface, as the Hale & Norcross and some others, found them- 
selves in "bonanza" at the depth of six or seven hundred 
feet ; and when ore began to grow thin with these last the first 
companies, by drafting east from the point where their pay 
pinched out in clay and porphyry, had again found ore and in 
larger and richer bodies than at first. Thus the bonanza and 
luck shift, and will probably so continue to shift as long as 
the mines are worked. It never but once happened which 
was in 1865 that so many mines were at once in barren as to 


depress business and cause a feeling of distress in regard to 
the permanence of the mines. 

No sooner had some of the more timid taken their depart- 
ure, however, and raised the cry that the country was " played 
out," than longer and richer bodies of ore began to be found 
than ever before. Those who had run away then came back, 
bitterly regretting the want of faith which had caused them to 
leave just at a time when a fortune might have been had for 
a mere song. In 1862, the Reese River mines, 150 or 200 
miles east of Virginia City, were discovered, a rush to these 
occurred, and the town of Austin was built up ; then came the 
White Pine excitement, and the towns of Hamilton and 
Treasure City were built; afterwards Eureka and Pioche 
were built by the discovery of rich mines in their neighbor- 
hood. The camps named still flourish, though they have 
their "ups and downs" are sometimes in "bonanza" and 
sometimes in "borrasca." 

It may be well just here to explain these words. Both are 
Spanish. "Bonanza" signifies prosperity, * success that all 
is well. At sea it is used by sailors when the weather is fair 
and they are sailing with a fair wind when all is well with 
them. Among miners it means that they are working in a 
body of ore, that they are in luck, and all with them is pros- 
perous. "Borrasca" means just the opposite of "bonanza." 
At sea it means tempestuous and dangerous weather, bad 
fortune all going wrong; among miners it means that they 
are in barren rock, that they are in a bad streak, out of luck. 
Among miners, borrasca is suggestive of long faces, sad 
hearts, and empty pockets, while bonanza shows us faces 
wreathed in smiles, hearts that are merry, and purses that are 
plethoric. Along the Comstock the mining companies are 
sometimes in bonanza and sometimes in borrasca. So long 
as they are in the great fisssure, however, and have a good 
width of '* vein-matter " they are not utterly cast down even 
though they may be drifting in barren rock they are liable 
to run into ore at any time and often do so when such 
good fortune is least expected. Some have compared the 
vein-matter of the lode to a great pudding into which has 
been stirred raisins, currants, and plums ; sometimes you find 


a currant, sometimes a raisin, and sometimes a plum, while 
again you are blessed with nothing better than the matter of 
which the mass of the pudding is composed. 

To multiply examples would be tedious, but an example or 
two will probably not be out of place. Although there is ore 
in the Crown Point mine, Gold Hill, at the depth of 900 feet, 
their first great bonanza was not found until they had at- 
tained a depth of 1300 feet. This was a magnificent body of 
ore, and yielded many millions of dollars. The very rich ore 
was confined to a space about two hundred feet in length 
lying just north of the line of the Belcher mine, but the vein 
contained a considerable amount of low-grade ore for a dis- 
tance of about 350 feet further north. Finally, in 1873, they 
had worked down through this rich deposit to the i4oo-foot 
level and there started a cross-cut east in search of ore. When 
this cross-cut had passed through the west clay wall of the 
vein a deposit of very rich ore was found some feet in width. 
Passing through the cross-cut next encountered, a streak of 
white and almost barren quartz about two feet in width, and 
beyond this reached ore worth from $45 to $75 per ton. This 
body of ore proved to be twenty-four feet in width. The 
cross-cut being continued east across this suddenly struck a 
solid wall of porphyry. The whole face of the cross-cut was 
in this barren rock, and it was at first thought that the east 
wall of the ledge had been reached, but after passing through 
a few feet of porphyry a very large body of ore assaying from 
$250 to $600 per ton was reached. As the mine continued 
to be worked this search for ore was repeated at intervals, and 
thus far the search has never been in vain. In 1875 ore was 
being extracted everywhere from the 900 down to the 1500- 
feet level, though much of that obtained in the upper-levels 
was of low-grade, yet too rich to be left behind. 

In May, 1873, in the Belcher mine, adjoining the Crown 
Point on the south, was found the continuation of the same 
rich deposit worked on the i3oo-foot level of the last mine 
named. Afterwards, other bodies were found at a still greater 
depth, and to the eastward, and so the work of sinking and 
searching for new bonanza still goes on, while at the same 
time ore is being extracted from those already found. In the 


Savage, Gould & Curry, Hale & Norcross, Chollar-Potosi, 
Yellow- Jacket, Imperial, Empire, Overman, and a score of 
other mines this is the work which is constantly going on. 

Some persons will no doubt think that if there is a deposit 
of ore in a mine it should be found in a short time and with 
but little trouble, but miners can see no further into the 
ground than persons who have their homes and business on 
the surface. Place a man in the bottom of^a shaft one thou- 
sand feet in depth ; then tell him to drift off and find a body 
of ore, and he is much the same as a man groping about in a 
dark cellar. He knows which way to go to reach the vein, 
but when once he is in the vein he may almost touch that of 
which he is in search without finding it. 

If mining men knew the exact spot in which the rich de- 
posits are located, it would be an easy matter to sink a shaft 
or run a drift to tap them. Thus it happened that it was 
fourteen years after the discovery of silver, and the Comstock 
lode before what is now known as the " Big Bonanza," the 
chief of all the bonanzas was found. For fourteen years men 
daily and hourly walked over the ground under which lay 
the greatest mass of wealth that the world has ever seen in 
the shape of silver ore, yet nobody suspected its presence. 
The ground on the surface presented the same appearance as 
the soil in other places in the same neighborhood, and roads 
were dug in it, houses were built upon it, and all kinds of 
things were done on, in, and about it without anybody 
thinking any more of, or about it, than of any other ground in 
the town. 



WHAT are now known as the " bonanza mines " are in 
great part made up of small mines that were located to 
the southward of the Ophir soon after the discovery of 
silver. The big bonanza lies in the Consolidated Virginia and 
California mines, and its northern extremity extends into the 
Ophir, as is supposed ; it is also thought that it will be found to 
extend into the Best and Belcher, which is the first mine south 
of the Consolidated Virginia. 

The north end of the vein is divided into claims at this point, 
as is shown in the accompanying diagram. 

The California mine contains 600 feet on the length of the 
ledge, and is of whatever width the vein shall prove to be, as 
the owners have a right to follow it, wherever it may go. It 
consists of the original California of 300 feet to which has been 
added by purchase the Central mine No. i, containing 150 feet; 
the Central No. 2, 100 feet, and the Kinney ground 50 feet. 
There are 900 shares to the foot, or 540,000 shares in the whole 

The Consolidated Virginia mine contains 710 feet of ground 
along the lode, and is made up of the Dick Sides ground, 500 
feet, and the White & Murphy ground, 210 feet. There are 
108,000 shares in the mine. The Ophir, which lies next north 
of the California mine, contains 675 feet and is divided into 
100,800 shares. In 1874, 600 feet were taken off the north end 
of the Ophir and incorporated as a separate mine, which was 
called the Mexican. The Mexican contains 108,000 shares. 



Longitudinal Section of the North End of the Com stock Lode. 


Sierra Nevada. 

Union Consolidated. 




Consolidated Virginia. o 

Best & Belcher. 

Gould & Curry. 





THe bonanza mines are situated in the northeast part of Vir- 
ginia City, and many buildings stand on the ground under 
which they lie. Small bodies of paying ore were found in some 
of the mines composing the California mine in the early days, 
but they were soon worked out, and for a number of years the 
ground lay idle. In the Dick Sides and White & Murphy, the 
two mines from which was formed the Consolidated Virginia, 
very little ore of any kind was found on the surface or even at 
the depth of three ar four hundred feet, and these claims had 
also lain idle several years before they were purchased by 
Messrs Mackey & Fair and their associates Messrs Flood 
O'Brien, of San Francisco. However, on what, is now the Con- 
solidated Virginia ground, a shaft had been sunk to the depth of 
six or seven hundred feet from the bottom of which had been 
run a drift of considerable length. 

Ore was first found in the Consolidated Virginia, in March, 1873 
at the time when Captain S. T. Curtis (in 1875 superintendent. 
of the Ophir) was in charge. The ore then found was a body 
about twelve feet in width, which was encountered at the depth 
of 1,167 feet below the surface in adrift run from the correspond- 
ing level of the Gould & Curry mine. At the same time two 
other bodies of ore the largest seven feet in width were found, 
which yielded assays averaging $60 per ton. At this time 
their present main shaft was down 710 feet, and was being sunk 
at the rate of three feet per day. 

In October, 1873, tne main shaft had reached the i,i67-foot 
level and in drifting southeasterly a distance of 250 feet a very 
rich deposit of ore was reached the top of the big bonanza, in 
in fact. The work of breasting out and regularly extracting 
ore from this body was commenced October 16, and by the 29th 
a chamber had been opened in it from six to nine sets of timbers 
in width (the sets are five feet apart each way) and four floors or 
sets in height, with solid masses of ore in sight on all sides. A 
drift had then been run lengthwise through the ore a distance 
of one hundred and forty feet, while the nine sets of timbers 
showed it to be fifty-four feet in width. Although all this wealth 
was in sight in the mine, the people of the town, walking over 
and around the mine knew nothing of it. What was in the 
mine was only known to those at work there, and to the officers 


of the company. I had the satisfaction of being the first " out- 
sider" to descend into the mine and inspect the deposit in 
regard to which the mine being closed to visitors there had 
been a thousand surmises, favorable and unfavorable. I took 
samples from all parts of the ore-body and had them assayed. 
The highest assay obtained was $632,63 per ton, and the 
lowest, $93,67, seven samples being tested. Thus it will be 
seen that even the top of the bonanza was wonderfully rich. 

The company continued to explore this body of ore in all 
directions, running drifts and cross-cuts through it, sinking 
winzes upon it and making upraises. They followed it down 
to the 1200, the 1300, 1400 and to the i5oo-foot levels, with 
the same rich ore everywhere. Although people knew in a' 
general way that there was an abundance of rich ore in the mine, 
they did not get excited about it, nor did they trouble them- 
selves much about it in any way, further, perhaps, than to say : 
" Well, I am glad to hear that the Consolidated folks have a big 
body of ore ; it will be a good thing for the town." The mine 
did not attract more attention than many others, until in October 
1874, when the work of opening out on the i5oo-foot level was 
begun. The ore then found was of such extraordinary richness, 
and the ore-body appeared to be of such unprecedented extent 
that people began to talk about it, and then some few began 
to visit and examine it, all coming to the surface greatly aston- 
ished at what they had seen. The reports in regard to the 
great wealth in sight in the^iiine, brought to the people of the 
upper world by scores of reliable men and capable mining 
experts, soon caused not a little excitement, and everywhere in 
the streets persons were to be heard talking of the wonderful 
wealth that was being developed in the Consolidated Virginia 
mine. Day after day the excitement grew as the reports came 
from the visitors to the mine that the cross-cuts had been 
advanced fifty feet, seventy-five, then one hundred feet into the 
big bonanza and still no signs of getting through it were seen. 
The cross-cuts still contained in a solid mass of ore of the rich- 
est description and each day found them advancing in the same, 
even after they had gone one hundred and fifty and two hun- 
dred feet. 

At this time no cross-cuts had been made into the California 


ground, but the most northerly cross-cut in the Consolidated 
Virginia was but a few feet from the California south line, 
therefore this would serve very well to test that portion of both 
mines. All who comprehended the situation being now confi- 
dent that the great body of ore which was slowly being explored 
in the Consolidated Virginia must extend far northward into 
the ground of the California Company, the stock of said com- 
pany was soon in brisk demand. As drifts extended southward 
from the Ophir mine into the California and they encountered 
rich ore in two or three places, it was considered certain that 
a mass of ore extended all the way from the Consolidated Vir- 
ginia to the mine first named, a distance of six hundred feet. 
Although the stock of the California was but $30 or $40 per 
share in the beginning, it finally reached $750, for the old shares 
afterwards increased five for one. 

At this time, although there were no cross-cuts in the Cali- 
fornia section of the bonanza, there was a main north and south 
drift extending from the Consolidated Virginia mine to the 
Ophir, through the west-country rock, and, from this, cross-cuts 
had been started, and at no distant day reached the ore. 

As the progress of these cross-cuts in the rich ore of the 
bonanza was made known from time to time the excitement 
gradually increased until it reached fever heat, both in Virginia 
City and San Francisco. Never were the people more fairly 
treated on the occasion of any big strike on the Comstock lode 
than they were by the Consolidated Virginia and California 
Companies during the time the big bonanza was being opened 
and explored. All who desired to do so were allowed to 
descend into the mines and see for themselves what was being 
done. Often there were such crowds of visitors as to very 
seriously interfere with all underground operations. There 
were times when for days together the miners did not do more 
than two or three hours work on a shift, so frequent were the 
interruptions caused by persons visiting the drifts and cross- 
cuts that had penetrated the ore -body. One party had no 
sooner been shown through the two mines than another arrived. 
All were allowed to dig into and examine the ore, to carry away 
samples for assays, and, in short, to try whatever experiments 
they chose in order to satisfy themselves in regard to the value 
of the deposit. 

474 PANIC! 

The men who visited the lower levels and made themselves 
most familiar with the developments thereon, were the men who 
purchased more freely, and those who were experts in mining 
matters were those who were most astounded at the great 
richness and vast extent of the body of ore opened into. These 
men bought on their judgement while the mercurial masses 
bought at random, and under the influence of contact with 
persons as much and as blindly excited as they themselves were 

It was the coming in of the multitude, as, indeed, it always 
is, that sent not only the stock of the bonanza mines, but also 
all other stocks rushing sky-ward with rocket-like celerity. 
When the people start in en masse to buy stocks they to use a 
very elegant illustration shut their eyes and rush in like a hog 
going into battle. They exhibit startling vigor, activity, and en- 
thusiasm, for a short time, but the moment they stop to " get their 
wind," that moment they are in a fit condition for a panic. 
The least thing now startles them, and they take wing and are 
off like a flock of pigeons ; or, to carry out the simile, turn tail 
with a snort, and make for the canebrakes. As many of these 
unusual dealers in stocks have bought at the highest figures, 
and on margins to a ruinous extent taking all manner of desperate 
chances, a panic among them speedily demoralizes the money- 
markets, and persons who have made their purchases with the 
best of judgement lose, as all stocks are driven as much below 
as they were before forced above their real value. 

In the time of a grand panic the coolest of persons and men 
of best judgment are forced to sell their stocks in self-defence, 
or because it is, as they say, "business " to sell when it is plainly 
to be seen that the tendency of prices is irresistibly downward; 
and in this way the crash is made still more complete and 
sweeping. Men no more take into consideration the real value 
of a stock at a time when there is a crash in the market than 
th^y do when the market is unduly excited and everything is 
going up with a " rush." The condition of the mines is not 
taken into consideration on the occasion of a panic. Rich 
developments in the mines undoubtedly are the prime cause of 
an advance, and this advance is generally such as is justified by 
the mineral wealth brought to light until the people "rise up in 
their might " and take a hand in the business, after which time 
no man can say what will happen. 


As the masses purchase without knowing anything of the mines 
except what they have heard, so they sell in spite of all that may 
be told them. Having never seen or examined the mines into 
which they have bought, when a panic occurs they are more 
ready to believe that there are no mines at all than to believe 
that they still exist and remain the same as when they made 
their purchases. Thus at the time of the panic, in 1875, there 
was actually a vast deal more ore in sight and 'the mines were 
looking better than at the time that the highest figures were 
reached that was daily being brought to light the existence of 
which had formerly only been surmised. Men, however, were 
not dealing in the big bonanza as it existed in Nevada, but as it 
appeared on California street, San Francisco. They had lost 
their interest in the mines and were thinking only of their money. 

At the time of the panic men who had seen and examined the 
great bodies of ore developed in the Consolidated Virginia and 
California mines, not only held on to their stock but continued 
to purchase as long as they had money buying more and more 
as the stock receded, and in this way some of even the best- 
informed " came to grief," as, looking only at the mines and not 
at California street, they bought on margins, and the call of the 
brokers for " mud " soon distressed them and forced them to 
make ruinous sacrifices. In sjpeaking with Mr. John Mackey, 
the mining millionaire and one of the principal owners in the 
bonanza mines, about this time (February, 1875), he said to me : 
" We have not yet fairly started in upon the California. It will 
require steady work for at least six months to show what that 
mine really is." 

In regard to the Consolidated Virginia (then yielding at the 
rate of $1,000,000 per month), he said: "Some persons think 
that the stock has already sold for more than it is worth. The 
truth is that it has never yet sold for one-half of its value; but 
all this will be seen in good time. People will see it after a 

Speaking of the crash in stocks, Mr. Mackey said ; " It is no 
affair of mine. I am % not speculating in stocks. My business 
is mining legitimate mining. I see that my men do their work 
properly in the mines, and that all goes on as it should in the 
mills. I make my money here out of the ore. Had I desired 


to do so, I could have gone down to San Francisco with ten 
thousand shares of stock in my pocket, and, by throwing it on 
the market at the critical moment, I could have brought about 
a panic and a crash, just as has been done. Suppose I had done 
so, and had made $500,000 by the job what is that to me ? 
By attending to my legitimate business here at home I take out 
$500,000 in one week." 

Mr. Mackey, indeed, troubles himself very little with the ups 
and downs of the stock-market or with the chicanery and wire- 
pulling of the stock manipulators. As he says, he is content to 
see that all goes well in his mines and mills, and, as it were, 
scoops his coin directly from the lower levels into his pockets. 
He wants to make no money by engineering crashes in stocks 
which ruin thousands on thousands of industrious and worthy 
persons. During a short conversation with him, Mr. Mackey 
repeatedly said : " My business is square, legitimate mining, 
I make my money here from the mines from the ore itself. 
Both here and in San Francisco," continued he, " persons are 
constantly coming to me, or writing to me, to ask ' What shall 
I buy ? ' I say to all that come to me ' Go and put your money 
in a savings bank/ " 

Indulging in a quiet laugh, at this point, Mr. Mackey said : 
" You should see some of them stare at me when they hear this 
advice. They evidently consider me a strange kind of mining- 
man. But in speaking so I mean just what I say, and my advice 
is good. I never advise people to buy mining-stocks of any 

In this Mr. Mackey is right. He can never know what jobs 
may be put up by the "stock-sharps" to break the price of 
almost any stock on the list, merit or no merit. By giving no 
advice he escapes all reproach, and pursues the even tenor of 
his way, digging his dollars out of his mines, regardless of the 
fluctuations in stocks and the machinations of the " manipula- 



AS by this time "the general reader will have heard as 
much as he will care to know about excitements in 
stocks, crashes, the tricks of the manipulators, and the 
troubles of the manipulated, I shall now turn to the Big 
Bonanza itself. 

A description of a trip down a deep shaft being given else- 
where, I shall with the reader's permission, drop at once to 
the bottom of the shaft of the Consolidated Virginia mine, 
landing among the miners at a station 1,500 feet below the 
surface of the earth, on what is known as the " i5oo-foot level." 

Although many bodies of ore that have yielded millions of 
dollars have been found on the great lode, here has at last 
been discovered what appears to be the heart of the Comstock. 
At the point where the big bonanza was found the fissure in 
which is formed the Comstock lode is of unusual width. 
Measuring, from the country-rock (syenite) on the west to 
the east country rock (propylite), the distance is from one 
thousand to one thousand two hundred feet. This space 
between the two country-rocks represents the width of the 
fissure, and is filled with a "vein-matter" or gangue composed 
of quartz, clay, and porphyry. In this gangue has been 
formed the ore. As the vein-matter or gangue appears to be 
the "matter" of the ore, in order to produce so great a deposit 
as is seen in the Consolidated Virginia and California mines, 
an immense mass of it was required. In a place where the 
fissure is narrow and the vein-matter is pinched, no great 
breadth of ore may be looked for it will be in proportion to 
the vein-matter. 



As we have seen, the Consolidated Virginia folks reached 
the crest of the subterranean silver-mountain in 1873, at the 
depth of 1,167 f eet > but it was not until in the fall of 1874 that 
they began to open out on the i5oo-foot level, running cross- 
cuts into the mass of ore that produced an unprecedented 
sensation among the mining men of both Europe and America. 

Leaving the station into which we dropped with the cage 
from the hoisting-works, standing 1500 feet above, we advance 
a few steps eastward along a broad gallery, the sides and roof 
of which are composed of a mass of heavy timbers and thick 
planks, when we reach the main north-and-south drift, which 
is the great highway of the mine. It is a grand gallery, nine 
feet in width by about the same in height, and over one thou- 
sand feet in length. It extends through the whole length of 
the California (600 feet) to the Ophir mine. From the Ophir 
to the north line of the Consolidated Virginia it was made of 
double height in order to carry a great volume of air; as the 
air, fresh and pure from the surface, is drawn down the Ophir 
shaft and passing through that mine enters the great mai.n 
drift which it follows through the California and the Consoli- 
dated Virginia to the shaft of the mine last named, where it 
ascends and again mingles with the atmosphere of the upper- 
world. In passing from shaft to shaft, however, this air has 
been turned from its direct course in various places (by means 
of doors closing drifts and cross-cuts) and carried to where it 
has refreshed and given life to many miners digging down the 
ore in the breasts of the several heated stopes. 

Crossing this thoroughfare of the i5oo-foot level and ad- 
vancing a few steps further to the eastward, we reach the vast 
deposit of ore known as the " Big Bonanza." Cross-cuts pass 
through the ore, east and west, and cross-drifts from north to 
south, cutting it into blocks from fifty to one hundred feet 
square, as the streets run through and divide a town into 
blocks. It is indeed a sort of subterranean town, and is more 
populous than many towns on the surface, as it numbers from 
800 to 1,000 souls, and nearly all are voters. 

Passing to the south end of the bonanza, to the place where 
it was first crossed by a drift, we find it to be one hundred 
and forty-eight feet in width all a solid mass of ore of the 


richest description. Here a large stope is opened, and we see 
the miners at work in the vein, blasting and digging down 
the ore. They are working upward from the floor of the 
level, and as they progress they build up square sets of 
supporting timbers in the cavities or chambers cut out in 
extracting the ore from the bonanza. Even here, well toward 
its south end as far as explored the ore-body is by no 
means small, being over nine and one half rods in width! 
This is not a mixture of ore and worthless rock, but is a solid 
mass of rich silver-ore which is sent to the mills just as it is 
dug or blasted down ore that will pay from $100 to $300 per 
ton. As thirteen cubic feet make a ton of ore, we -have here 
for every block of ore three feet square from $200 to $600 in 
pure silver and gold. 

We may take our stand here, where the miners are digging 
out the ore, and for a distance of seventy-five feet on each 
side of us all is ore, while we may gaze upward to nearly that 
height to where the twinkling light of candles shows us 
miners delving up into the same great mass of wealth. On 
all sides of the pyramidal scaffold of timbers to its very apex, 
where the candles twinkle like stars in the heavens, we see 
the miners cutting their way into the precious ore battering 
it with sledge-hammers and cutting it to pieces with their 
picks as though it were but common sandstone. Silver-ore 
is not as many may suppose a bright and glittering mass. 
In color the ore runs from a blueish-grey to a deep black. 
The sulphuret ore (silver glance) is quite black and has but a 
slight metallic lustre, while what is called chloride ore is a 
kind of steel-grey, with, in places, a pale green tinge the 
green showing the presence of chloride of silver. Through- 
out the mass of the ore in very many places, however, the 
walls of the silver-caverns glitter as though studded with 
diamonds. But it is not silver that glitters. It is the iron 
and copper pyrites that are everywhere mingled^ with the ore, 
and which, in many places, are found in the form of regular 
and beautiful crystals that send out from their facets flashes 
of light that almost rival the fire and splendor of precious 
stones. There are also often found in the mass of the ore 
great nests of transparent and beautiful quartz crystals that 


are almost as brilliant as diamonds. Many of these crystals 
are three or four inches in length. Some of the nests of 
crystals are of a light blue color, and then they may be classed 
among the precious stones, as they are amethysts. Some of 
these are almost as handsome as the precious amethyst. The 
miners always like to find these nests of crystals, as they 
indicate life and strength in the vein. 

On the i5oo-foot level the bonanza extends into the Con- 
solidated Virginia ground over three hundred feet. How 
much further it may extend in that direction on the levels 
below remains to be ascertained. The "chimneys " of ore, or 
bonanzas, everywhere on the Comstock have had a southward 
inclination, in addition t to dipping eastward with the vein. 
The dip of the vein is to the east, at an angle of from 30 to 45 
degrees, while the inclination of the chimneys of ore to the 
southward is at an angle of from 60 to 75 degrees. This 
southern dip or inclination will, as many suppose, carry the 
southern part of the bonanza into the Best & Belcher ground 
at a certain depth. To reach the Best & Belcher the ore must 
pass entirely through the lower-levels of the Consolidated 
Virginia mine. At the depth of 1700 feet a drift has been run 
southward into the Best & Belcher ground from the Gould 
& Curry, and the work of cross-cutting commenced. Even at 
this depth it is not unlikely that they will tap the bonanza. 

Two hundred feet north of the bonanza we have been 
examining (the stope at cross-cut No. 3), another stope has 
been raised (on cross-cut No. i) toward the i4oo-foot level, and 
here large quantities of rich ore are being extracted. Cross- 
cut No. 2, about half way between the two stopes mentioned, 
shows the bonanza to be three hundred feet in width, all of 
this great distance being a mass of rich ore, and ore that can 
be sent to the mills without assorting. Think of a mass of 
silver-ore over eighteen rods in width ! In many places a 
vein of ore three feet in thickness is considered large, and in 
California veins of gold-bearing quartz that are only from one 
to six inches in thickness are profitably worked. Compared 
with such deposits the bonanza is not a vein at all but a field, 
a district of ore ! 

No such breadth of silver-ore has ever before been found 


in any mine in the world. The silver-bearing veins of Europe 
are but a few feet in width, and to speak to a German miner 
of a mine in which the breadth of ore was measured by rods 
would cause him to suppose that he was talking with a crazy 
man. Even in the richest mines of Mexico and South Amer- 
ica they have never had any such astounding width of bonanza. 
Then they have always been able to keep up their ground 
with single timbers posts and caps which they could not 
have done with bodies of ore more than a few feet in width. 
On the Comstock hardly one bonanza has been found that 
could have been worked by timbering with posts and caps. 
In order to work the ore-bodies of the Comstock it became 
necessary to invent a new and special system of timbering. 

In this broadest part of the bonanza we find at work a great 
number of miners, but they are so distributed that we see but 
a few in any one spot. They work on separate floors, and 
floor above floor they are digging down the ore. The pyra- 
mids of timbers rise to the height of fifty or seventy-five feet, 
and, as all the heated air of the level ascends to the highest 
point, it is very hot where the upper gangs of men are at 
work. In addition to the natural heat of the mine, coming 
from the heated rock and hot water, the flame of the hundreds 
of candles and lamps does much to heat the limited atmos- 
phere of the level ; besides, the air is vitiated by the breathing 
of so many men. Candles and lungs rapidly consume the 
oxygen contained in a given amount of air. In order that 
the miners in the upper part of the stope may work in some- 
thing approaching to comfort, there are here small blowers 
which send up to them through tin tubes a supply of fresh 
air. Without fresh air from the surface men can no more 
work in a mine than they could work under the sea in a 
diving-bell, were no air sent them. These blowers are all 
driven by small engines run by compressed air, there being 
in constant operation on the surface two powerful air-com- 
pressors that force air down through mains, under a great 
pressure, for the supplying of the Burleigh drills and the 
engines in various places on the several levels of the mine. 

Besides the air-engines that run the blowers in this part of 
the mine there are other engines, driven by compressed air, 


that hoist all of the timbers to the men working in the upper 
part of the slopes. Nothing is done by hand that can be done 
by machinery. As the miners always work upwards in ex- 
tracting ore, there is little heavy handling of the ore itself 
after it is dug out of the breasts. It is sent down to the floor 
of the level in chutes, which land it in bins, from which it is 
drawn out through gates into the cars which convey it to the 
main shaft, up which it is hoisted to the surface. 

In the centre of this part of the bonanza we have on each 
side of us a width of over nine rods of silver-ore that will 
mill from $100 to $250, and in many parts of which ore is 
found that assays five or six hundred dollars. Not only have 
we this mass of ore on all sides of us, but it also extends to a 
great height above. On the 1,400, 1,300, 1,200, and the 1,167- 
foot levels men are at work as we see them here. From the 
level last named, when the ore was first found, in 1873, they 
have followed it up to the looo-foot level and even above. 
Fifty feet below the level on which we stand, or on the 1550- 
foot level, a long drift has been run through rich ore toward 
the Ophir mine, and from this drift a number of cross-cuts 
have been run into the bonanza. On this i55o-foot level a 
winze has been sunk to the depth of over two hundred feet, 
all the way in excellent ore. This shows the bonanza to 
extend, at least, to a depth of over 1,750 feet. Near the stope. 
on cross-cut No. i, about the California line, is seen some of 
the richest ore found in the great bonanza. At this point 
comes in what is called a "horse," which is a huge mass of 
propylite (generally spoken of as porphyry in the mines), 
which tumbled into the vein from the upper or hanging wall 
at the time of the formation of the fissure. This "horse" 
crowds the ore into a smaller space, and the ore-body is here 
only about twelve rods in width, but the greater part of it is 
immensely rich such as will yield from $300 to $600 per ton. 

Here are frequently found deposits of stephanite, or silver 
in the form of crystals. This is almost pure silver. In the 
places where the stephanite occurs there are frequently found 
nests of pure, malleable silver in the shape of flattened wires 
that look as though they had been pulled in two, and in 
springing back after breaking had coiled up against the pieces 


of b*re on which they are found. Some of these wires have 
the lustre of metallic silver, but the greater part are blackened 
as though by the fumes of sulphur. Some of the smaller and 
finer wires on being unrolled and straightened out are found 
to be a foot or more in length, and often have several branches, 
when they somewhat resemble sea-moss, or some similar veg- 
etable production. The old Mexican mine was particularly 
rich in specimens of this kind. In that mine they were found 
in a kind of yellow clay in the crevices occurring in the mass 
of the ore. 

Free gold, in glittering spangles, is also very frequently 
found in the places where the rich deposits of black sulphuret 
of silver, and native silver occur. A large percentage of the 
value of the ores of all the mines on the Comstock is in gold. 
In many instances the bullion extracted is fifty per cent. gold. 
In that part of the bonanza through which passes the line 
between the California and the Consolidated Virginia Com- 
panies, it is an easy matter to find ore that assays from $1,000 
to $5,000 or $10,000 per ton, but this is, of course, only in 
places where the strength of the vein appears to have con- 

At the time that the first cross-cut (No. i) was run through 
this part of the bonanza, at a point about fourteen feet south 
of the California line, a chamber about ten feet square was 
opened (at a point marked "winze down to 1550" on the map) 
the walls of which were a solid mass of black sulphuret ore 
flecked with native silver, while the roof was filled with Ste- 
phanie, or silver in the form of crystals. This was one of 
the richest spots found in that part of the bonanza, and the 
masses of ore taken out were almost pure silver. Many 
magnificent specimens for cabinets were taken from this 
chamber and parts of the mine adjoining, some of them little 
else but stephanite and wires of native silver. The whole 
cross-cut through this part of the mine showed an average 
assay of $600 per ton. Bottom, top, sides were all the same. 
Look where you might you saw but a solid mass of black 
sulphuret ore mingled with the pale green ore containing 
chloride of silver. 

Two mining superintendents were one day discussing the 



bonanza, wh,en one of them said to his brother silver-hunter: 
" Supposing the Almighty to have given you full power and 
authority to make such a body of ore as you pleased, could 
you have made a better than this? " 

" I don't know that I could," said the other, " but I should 
have made it still bigger." 

"Well," said the first speaker, "you have more cheek than 
any man I ever saw ! " 



IN the California ground the bonanza extends through to the 
Ophir, the next mine north, and by the cross-cuts run into 
it every one hundred feet, it is shown to be as far as 
explored fron one hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty 
feet in width, and everywhere are found the rich chloride and 
sulphuret ores. At the present writing (August 1875,) no ore 
has been extracted from the California, except that taken out in 
running drifts and cross-cuts. The ground, however, as far as 
developed, has been laid off in large blocks by means of drifts 
and cross-cuts, therefore is ready to be mined whenever it is 
necessary to extract ore for reduction, which will be whenever 
the company's new mill is completed. 

In the California ground are found the same nests of steph- 
anite and other extraordinarily rich ores as are seen in the 
Consolidated Virginia mine. While these form no large part of 
the bonanza, they are sufficiently large and numerous to very 
materially swell the average value of the deposit. 

The Consolidated Virginia Company extracts five hundred 
tons of ore per day. This is the average daily yield from all 
parts of the mine from the i5oo-foot level, and from the levels 
above. Although much of the ore from the upper levels is of 
low grade, yet the whole averages $100 per ton in the mills. 
The yield of the mine has regularly been $50,000 per day, or 
from $1,500,000 to $1,600,000 per month ever since the work 
of reaching ore from the bonanza began. Much of the ore on 
the isoo-foot level is too rich to be economically worked alone 
by pan process, therefore it is mixed with poorer ore from 



certain parts of the upper levels. Much more than 500 tons of 
ore per day might be extracted were it necessary, but that is 
all that is required to keep the mills of the company in operation. 

Opened as it now is, there can easily be extracted from the 
California mine as many tons of ore per day as are being taken 
out of the Consolidated Virginia, and ore that will average even 
higher, as the upper levels of the California are all intact. 
There is not the slightest doubt that when the California mill 
shall be started up, these two mines will produce $3,000,000 per 
month, or $34,000,000 per year ; and not for one or two, but for 
many years ten years at least, in which time would be ex- 
tracted $360,000,000. A single foot of ground taken out across 
the whole width of the bonanza in its widest part would contain 
a fortune for any man of moderate desires. Should we go into 
the centre of the Consolidated Virginia ground and take a slice 
from the bonanza 250 feet in width and extending one level 
below and two levels above the i5oo-foot level we should then 
have a section of ore 300 feet long, 250 feet in width, and one 
foot thick. This would contain 75,000 cubic feet, and containing 
thirteen cubic feet to the ton would weigh a trifle over 5,769 tons, 
which at $100 per ton would amount to $576,900 for a single 
slice of the bonanza one foot in width. By continuing to cut 
off such slices until we had reached the California line say 230 
feet we should have in all $132,687,000. 

At a time when the Consolidated Virginia mine was much less 
extensively developed than at present, Mr. I. E. James, a mining 
engineer who has been engaged on the Comstock for many 
years, made an estimate of the ore contained in the mine at the 
time. He took from the working plans of the mines the actual 
length of each drift and the cross-cuts measured by sections, and 
measured all triangles separately. The winzes were measured 
no lower than they had been sunk, and in no place did he 
estimate ore which had not yet been opened. The amount of 
ore thus found was 20,669,500 cubic feet. The usual calcula- 
tion is thirteen cubic feet of ore to the ton, but in order to make 
ample allowances for "horses" and waste rock two feet were 
added and fifteen cubic feet reckoned to a ton, giving 1,377,966 
tons, which at $100 per ton amounts to $137,796,600, and at 
$200, as many estimate, the average of the ore in the bonanza 


projfer, would amount to $275,593,200. Mr. James G. Fair, 
superintendent of the mine, puts the cost of milling and mining 
at $17 per ton, but calling it $18, it cost to mine and mill the 
number of tons mentioned $24,803,388. Substracting this from 
the gross amounts at $100 and at $200 per ton, and dividing the 
product by the number of shares in the mine, namely 108,000, 
and it is found that if the ore averages $100 per ton, each share 
of stock will receive in net dividends $1,046 and at $200 per ton 
will receive $2,322 in dividends. The stock is selling at about 
$400 per share, and a dividend of $10 per share $1,080,000 in 
all is paid regularly every month. 

Whatever amount of wealth there may be in the Consolidated 
Virginia and California mines it is evident that their owners are 
quite confident that they will continue to yield as at present for 
many years to come, otherwise they would not expend money 
as lavishly as they are doing in preparations for their long 
continued and more extensive working. They are sinking a 
new and very large shaft 1000 feet east of the present main 
shaft of the Consolidated Virginia, the machinery to be set up at 
which will cost $200,000. Through a drift run from this shaft 
ore will be extracted from both the California and the Consoli- 
dated Virginia mines. The two companies are equally interested 
in the shaft. The new mill being erected by the California 
Company will cost $400,000. The mill containing the stamps 
will be near the mine, and the crushed ore as it runs from the 
batteries will be conveyed in a flume to the pan-mill, nearly 
half a mile below on Six-mile Canon. 

Besides these heavy expenditures the two companies have 
bought 12,000 acres of timber-land high in the Sierras, to which 
has been constructed a flume through which to float wood, 
lumber, and timber, and the cost of this flume (twenty-one 
miles in length) was $250,000. These grand and expensive 
preparations show that the companies in question are but 
getting ready to mine. 

Notwithstanding that this Comstock bonanza is the largest and 
richest deposit of silver in the world, none of the scientific men 
of America have yet taken the trouble to visit and examine it. 
It has been visited by many mining men from Europe, however. 
The majority of the European visitors are Englishmen, though 


many Germans and Frenchman, and a few Russians, have come 
to see and inspect this wonder of the modern mining world. 
All these foreigners are not only astounded at the great size 
and richness of the vein, but are also forced to admit that the 
mining and milling machinery of Nevada is far superior to 
anything of the kind to be found in Europe. 

The northern extremity of the bonanza penetrates the Ophir 
ground where, however, it as yet appears to be somewhat broken 
and is found to lie in huge detached masses, between the 1300 
and the i6oo-foot levels. Much of the ore found is exceedingly 
rich, carrying a large percentage of gold. Stopes have been 
opened in several places in the Ophir, and ore is being extracted 
at the rate of three hundred tons per day. Here, too, are being 
made very extensive preparations for future mining operations. 
Hoisting-machinery for the incline is being erected that will be 
capable of sinking to the depth of 4,000 feet well on toward a 
mile. Machinery for the pumping from the same great depth is 
also being erected. Their present greatest depth is 1700 feet, 
at which point they are drifting for the vein. Their present 
shaft is on a line, north and south, with the Consolidated Vir- 
ginia, and Gould & Curry shafts, and is about one thousand feet 
east of the old shaft, and the point where silver was first 
discovered in 1859 by Pat M c Laughlin and Peter O'Riley. 

It is a circumstance worthy of note that fourteen years after 
the discovery of silver, the big bonanza, the mammoth deposit 
of the lode, should be found near where the first silver ore was 
turned up to the light of day. About one thousand feet east- 
ward from the spot where O'Riley and M c Laughlin first saw and 
wondered at the strange "blue stuff" in the bottom of their 
rocker we now have the bonanza, a second wonder. Still to 
the eastward one of these days a third will be found. Out of 
the first bonanza, into the top of which O'Riley and M c Laughlin 
luckily struck their picks, was taken about $20,000,000 before 
the deposit was exhausted; out of the Consolidated Virginia 
mine alone has already been taken $15,500,000 and as yet they 
have hardly begun working in real earnest, What they have 
worked out in the bonanza is as one room to a whole block of 
buildings. In regard to what is still below, they only know 
that at the greatest depth yet attained they still have the same 
rich ore that is found on the i5oo-foot level. 


By refering to the map of the i5oo-foot level it will be seen 
that the Consolidated Virginia Company still have a great 
amount of unexplored ground lying to the southward of where 
they have drifted and opened slopes in the great ore-body. 
What is in the ground remains to be seen, but undoubtedly 
it contains a vast amount of rich ore. As is to be seen, the Cali- 
fornia Company have to the eastward a vast unexplored region 
into which no less than five cross-cuts, one hundred feet apart, 
are being extended. All of these are in ore of the richest 
character, and the width of the bonanza at that point is likely 
to prove as great as at cross-cut No. 2, in the Consolidated 
Virginia, namely eighteen or twenty rods. To cut off and 
estimate " slices " through the whole length of the California 
ground would count up more hundreds of millions of dollars 
than I dare name. When the new mill of the California Com- 
pany shall have gone into operation, silver will be produced so 
rapidly, and in such amount as to astonish the world, and may 
perhaps reduce the market value of the metal. When they 
begin the work of extracting ore they will be able to take out 
all that they can reduce in their own mill and as many other 
mills as they can secure, whether the amount required be five 
hundred or one thousand tons per day. 

In the Mexican and Union Consolidated mines, lying just 
north of the Ophir, the work of prospecting has but recently been 
commenced, yet very promising assays are obtained. The 
Sierra Nevada mine, which lies next to the Union Consolidated, 
on the north, has yielded a large amount in gold from surface 
earth, and from decomposed rock and earth extracted a short 
distance below the surface, but as yet nothing that could be 
called a bonanza has been found. In the early days, about 
1862, a great deal of gold was extracted from the surface earth 
by washing with the hydraulic apparatus, as the placer-mines of 
California are worked. As at Gold Hill, and at the head of 
Six-mile Canon were found great bonanzas where were at first 
found gold-diggings oh the surface ; so the Sierra Nevada Com- 
pany may yet expect to find a bonanza in some part of the 
large mountain on which their mine is located. To the east- 
ward of the mines in which is situated the big bonanza a score of 
new claims have been located, and on many of these, machinery 



has been set up, and large shafts are being rapidly sunk. A new 
bonanza is liable to be found in this direction, as it is a part of 
the silver belt that has been but little explored. 

The excitement in regard to the grand development in the 
Consolidated Virginia and California mines had the effect of 
sending up the price of stocks along the whole line of the Corn- 
stock. Mines that could show no manner of improvements in 
their prospects went up with the rest, under the pressure of the 
excitement. The aggregate value of mines in Virginia and 
Gold Hill districts, whose stocks are called in the San Francisco 
Stock Board, was about $93,000,000 November 22, 1874. On 
the same day of the following month their market value was as 
follows : 
Andes, ,,..... 

Arizona and Utah, ...... 

Alpha, ....... 

American Flat, ...... 

Baltimore Consolidated, . . , 

Bacon, ....... 


Best & Belcher, 

Bullion, . , 

Caledonia, . 

California, . 



Consolidated Virginia, 

Consolidated Gold Hill Quartz, 

Crown Point, . . 

Challenge, . . 

Crown Point Ravine, 

Dardanelles, . . 

Eclipse, . . , 

Empire Mill, . . 

Exchequer, . , 

Globe, . . 

Gould and Curry, . , 

Hale and Norcross, . 

Imperial. . , 


Justice, . < 


Carried forward, 







"' Brought forward, $141,241,200 

Knickerbocker, ...... 120,000 

Kossuth, ....... 216,000 

Lady Washington, ...... 75,ooo 

Leo, ....... 40,000 

Mexican, ....... 3,456,000 

New York Consolidated, ..... 144,000 

Ophir, ....... 18,900,000 

Overman, . . . . . 2,944,000 

Rock Island, ....... 125,000 

Savage, ....... 2,000,000 

Segregated Belcher, ..... 960,000 

Silver Hill, ...... 540,000 

Sierra Nevada, ...... 340,000 

Succor, ....... 114,000 

Trench, . . . . . . 50,000 

Union Consolidated, ..... 1,400,000 

Utah, ....... 160,000 

Whitman, ...... 150,000 

Woodville, ...... 252,000 

Yellow- Jacket, ...... 1,920,000 

Total. ........ $175,147,200 

By the above it will be seen that the appreciation in the value 
of forty-nine mines was over $82,000,000 in thirty days. 
Besides the mines given in the above list there were a score 
more that have a market value, all of which were more or less 
affected by the excitement, and were bought by persons who not 
having money to purchase bonanza stocks were yet determined, 
to get into mines of some kind. 

The body of ore in the California and Consolidated Virginia 
mines, known as the " Big Bonanza " is by no means the only 
bonanza found on the Comstock that was worth having. From 
the first Ophir bonanza was extracted, all told, about $20.000,000 ; 
from the Savage, $15,750,000; Hale & Norcross, $8,000,000; 
Chollar-Potosi, $16,000,000; Gould & Curry, $15,550,000; 
Yellow-Jacket, $15,000,000; Crown Point, $20,000,000; Belcher, 
$25,000,000; Overman, $3,000,000; Imperial, $2,500,000, and 
many other mines sums running into millions, or well up in the 
hundreds of thousands. The Belcher and Crown Point mines 
are still yielding about 500 tons of ore each per day. The 
Belcher mine has paid its stockholders dividends to the amount 


of $14,135,000; the stockholders of the Crown Point have 
received $i 1,588,000 ; the Consolidated Virginia has paid $9,720, 
ooo ; Chollar-Potosi, $3,080,000; Gould & Curry, $3,826,800; 
Hale& Norcross, $1,598,000; Savage, $4,440,000 ; Yellow-Jacket, 
$2,184,000 ; and many others sums ranging from fifty thousand 
to one million dollars. 

There is, of course, a vast deal of money paid out in the shape 
of assessments levied for the purpose of opening new mines, and 
sometimes on mines already opened, when they get into a "bad 
streak " are in " borrasca " but, taking all kinds of mines 
together, the dividends have far exceeded the assessments. 
From first to last, on all the mines the stock of which is bought 
and sold in the San Francisco Stock Board, there have been 
levied assessments amounting to $54,258,500 ; showing a balance 
of $28,256,708 in favor of the mines; there is also the present 
market value of the mines to be taken into consideration, which 
is a grand item. 

The mines of the Comstock give life to the whole Pacific 
Coast, and are the main-spring, so to speak, of all kinds of trades 
and every kind of business. They furnish to the California me- 
chanic that employment which gives him his bread, The army 
of workmen of all kinds, who were employed in the building of 
the famous Palace Hotel, of San Francisco, the largest and 
most costly structure of the kind in the world, were all paid 
with money taken out of th'e mines of the Comstock. Washoe 
money also reared the Nevada Block, and scores more of the 
finest and most costly buildings in San Francisco buildings 
which are the pride of the city. 

All the foundries and machine-shops of San Francisco and 
other large towns on the Pacific Coast are running day and 
night to fill orders from Nevada for engines, boilers, pumps, and 
all manner of mining machinery ; but for the Washoe silver-mines 
nearly all the workmen employed in these foundries and ma- 
chine-shops would be obliged to migrate to some other land. 
The ranchmen and fruit-growers of California would find times 
very dull with them but for Nevada, as in the towns of the silver- 
mines, they always find a market for all their products at high 
prices in ready coin. Without the "big bonanza," and the 
many other silver-mines of all classes in Nevada, times would 



be very different from what they now are in San Francisco, and, 
indeed, throughout California and over the whole Pacific Coast. 
The influence of the Washoe silver-mines does not stop on 
the Pacific Coast, but extends throughout the United States and 
is also felt in Europe. Not only are manufacturing establish- 
ments in California running to fill orders for machinery for the 
mines of Nevada, but many establishments in the Atlantic States 
and a few in European countries are also at work on certain 
kinds of machinery required in the silver-mines; as steel-wire 
cables, air-compressure power-drills, and the like. Not alone to 
the deposit of ore in one or two mines, but to the whole Corn- 
Stock lode should be given the name of the " Big Bonanza." 



t LTHOUGH something has already been said of the 
ventilation of mines and of subterranean water, I shall 
now devote a chapter or two to these matters, else they 
may not be thoroughly understood. 

The proper ventilation of a mine is a matter of the first 
importance. Without ventilation no mine can be worked. 
Without ventilation the whole mine, even to the mouth of the 
shaft, would be filled with stagnant and foul air, in which men 
could not live for half a minute. No mine can be worked 
unless air from the surface of the earth is introduced into it. 
It is even impossible to sink a straight shaft to the depth of 
one. hundred and fifty or two hundred feet all the circum- 
stances being the most favorable possible without carrying 
fresh air down to the men working in its bottom. When 
mining was first begun on the Comstock, wind-sails were used 
to carry air down into the shafts. This is a contrivance of 
cotton-cloth, and is a cross between a sail and a bag. The 
mouth of the baggy sail is turned to the wind, and when it 
fills, air is forced down a tube that leads from its lower end. 
Sometimes air was forced into a shaft by means of a common 
blacksmith's bellows slow and hard work. When water and 
a proper amount of fall can be obtained, a water-blast is 
sometimes used. In this the water falling through a tube 
carries down with it and forces into the shaft or mine a cer- 
tain amount of air. 

At the present time, however, the only manner in which air 
is forced into mines is by means of rotary blowers or fans 



precisely the same as those used at the foundries for furnish- 
ing a blast to the cupolas in which iron is melted. At all of 
the mines along the Comstock these blowers are seen in 
operation. The best, cheapest, and most thorough means of 
ventilation is by making connection with the shaft of an 
adjoining mine. The moment such connection is made, the 
air from the surface goes down one shaft and comes up the 
other. In passing to the shaft through which it again rises 
to the surface, the air, of course, takes the most direct route, 
yet a great volume of pure air is introduced into the two 
mines. By means of doors fitted to the connecting drifts 
between the two mines, the air thus introduced may be dis- 
tributed pretty evenly through the principal levels, as it can 
be made to circulate at a considerable distance from what 
would be its direct and natural route. 

In all mines, however, there are always drifts, cross-cuts, 
winzes, and upraises in remote places to which it is impossible 
to convey the air circulating in the body of the mine. To 
provide a supply of air at these points the blowers are used. 
They send a column of air down into the mine through a 
large iron pipe, and on the several levels are smaller pipes 
.which convey it to where it is required. In many of the 
mines there are small blowers on the lower-levels that are 
run by engines driven by compressed air. These are very 
useful in furnishing a supply of air in out-of-the-way places. 

It is not only necessary to furnish pure air for the miners 
to breathe, but fresh air is required in great volume to cool 
off the rock and keep down the heat in the drifts and cross- 
cuts of the lower-levels. As the shafts and inclines increase 
in depth there is a constant and corresponding increase of 
heat in the rocks into which the works are advanced. At the 
depth of from 1,500 to 2,000 feet the rock is so hot that it is 
painful to the naked hand. In many places, from crevices in 
the rock, or from holes drilled into it, streams of boiling 
water gush out. In these places the thermometer often shows 
a temperature of from one hundred and twenty to one hun- 
dred and thirty degrees. It is as hot as in the hottest Turkish 
bath. In these places men could not live but for the supply 
of cool air that is pumped into the drift or other place in 


which they are at work; even then the temperature often 
remains as high as one hundred and ten degrees. The rock 
in a newly opened level retains its heat for months, however 
much air may be brought into the mine. Nearly all the 
leading mines on the Comstock are down to where the rock 
is exceedingly hot. The Crown Point and Belcher Compa- 
nies are down 1,700 feet; Yellow- Jacket, 1,740; Bullion, 1,700 ; 
Imperial-Empire, 2,100; Gould & Curry, Best & Belcher, 
Consolidated Virginia, and Ophir, each 1,700 ; while the Savage 
Company are down nearly 2,300, and the Hale & Norcross, 
about 2,200. In the two mines last named they find it fear- 
fully Hot. As the Savage Company have started up machinery 
capable of sinking to the depth of 4,000 feet, they will pres- 
ently be in danger of dropping into the great central fires of 
the earth. 

As depth is attained it is found necessary to increase the 
size and capacity of the blowers used and the main pipes 
through which the air is forced into the mines have now been 
increased to about two feet in diameter, whereas the diameter 
of those first used was only about six inches. With a small 
pipe the air backs up on the blower and there is a waste of 
power. The pipe should be so large that there is no longer 
any perceptible back-pressure so large that all the air blown 
into it finds an abundance of room in which to advance without 
encountering the resistance of its own elasticity. The pipes 
should be enlarged until the air goes through without any 

It is a question in many minds whether the miners of Nevada 
have gone the right way about the ventilation of their mines; 
whether instead of forcing air into the lower-levels they 
should not pump the foul and heated air out, when pure air 
would rush down and fill the vacuum thus created. In the 
mines of Germany they practice this plan of pumping out the 
foul air. In Nevada, however, it is not likely that it would 
answer so good a purpose as the plan of pumping in fresh air. 
By blowing in air as is now practiced there is always more or 
less good air at the face of a drift about the end of the pipe, 
but by the pumping-out plan the air surrounding the end of 
the pipe would be sucked into it, and that which would reach 

DOWN DEEP. . 499 

the men would be such as flowed a long distance in contact 
with the heated rock forming the walls of the cross-cut or 
drift. American miners work so fast that the rock does not 
have much time in which to cool behind them. Therefore 
the better plan for them seems to be the reverse of that prac- 
ticed in the Old World. 

It remains to be seen what effect the Sutro Tunnel will 
have in creating a circulation of air in the lower-levels of the 
mines when it shall have been completed. This tunnel, about 
which so much has been said in Congress and elsewhere, 
starts at the edge of the valley of the Carson River, in a 
southeasterly direction from Virgina City, and is intended to 
tap the Comstock lode at the depth of 200 feet. Its total 
length will be 20,145 feet. Work was commenced on it in 
October, 1859, and it has now been extended a distance of 
between nine and ten thousand feet.. About 1,100 feet of the 
tunnel, from the mouth in, has been made of full size, twelve 
by sixteen feet ; the remainder, what is called the header, is 
six by seven feet in size. 

There are along the line of the tunnel, which runs under 
several mountains of considerable size, four shafts. These 
were designed to be sunk down to the level of the tunnel, 
when work on the tunnel might be prosecuted in two direc- 
tions from the bottom. Shaft No. i is located at a distance 
of 4,915 feet from the mouth of the tunnel; shaft No. 2, 9,065 
feet from the mouth of the tunnel; No. 3, 13,545 feet from the 
mouth of the tunnel; and shaft No. 4, 17,695 feet from the 
same point, and 2,450 feet from the point where the tunnel 
will intersect the Comstock lode. Shafts Nos. i and 2 are 
down to the level of the tunnel and work has been done 
through them. Shaft No. i is 523 feet, and shaft No. 2, 1,041 
feet in depth. Shafts Nos. 3 and 4 are not yet down to the 
level of the tunnel, the "header" of which is progressing 
between shafts Nos. 2 and 3. When the tunnel shall have 
been completed, there will be a connection between the Com- 
stock lode and shaft No. 4 through which there will be a 
circulation of air. This shaft (No. 4) will be 1,485 feet in depth, 
and when the connection is made the air will either pass down 
it, along the tunnel a distance of 2,450 feet and out through 


the mines at the point of intersection, or will pass down 
through the mines and out through the shaft. Which way 
the draught will be, no man can say, as the course of currents 
of air underground is governed by laws not yet well under- 
stood. Whichever way the draught may be, however, there 
will be a great improvement in the circulation of the air in 
the lower-levels of the adjacent mines, to the depth of 2,000 feet. 

However diligently work may be prosecuted on the Sutro 
Tunnel, it must be some years yet before it can be completed 
to the point of intersection with the Comstock lode. Mean- 
time there is being sunk at the distance of about 2,000 feet 
east of the lode, and about 450 or 500 feet west of shaft No. 4 
of the Sutro Tunnel, a shaft which will be the largest and 
most perfect in every respect ever sunk in that country. This 
shaft is being sunk by a combination of three leading mining 
companies the Chollar-Potosi, Savage, and Hale & Norcross. 
It will be ten by thirty feet in size, divided into four compart- 
ments by stout plank partitions, and the machinery placed 
over it will be of a capacity to sink it to the depth of one mile. 

Rapid progress is being made in the sinking of this great 
shaft. At proper intervals drifts will be run from it to the 
Comstock lode. The first drift will probably be run at the 
depth of 2,000 feet, and it will reach the lode long before the 
completion of the Sutro Tunnel, and as regards ventilation, 
will do all that could be expected of the tunnel. As two or 
three of the leading mines are already working at a depth of 
nearly 2,500 feet, the big shaft must be looked to for ventila- 
tion everywhere below the depth of 2,000 feet ; therefore below 
this depth drifts will doubtless be run between the lode and 
the shaft at frequent intervals. 

Owing to the lead dipping to the east at an angle of from 
thirty to fifty degrees, the distance necessary to be run to 
connect the lode and shaft will constantly decrease until at a 
certain depth the shaft itself will cut the lead, after which 
time the drift to reach and ventilate the vein must be run to 
the eastward. A branch-track connects this shaft with the 
main Virginia and Truckee Railroad. 



IN countries where no mining is done it is the prevalent 
opinion that at a certain depth the earth is full of water, 
and that the deeper we go the more water will abound. 
This is a mistaken notion. After delving beyond certain bounds, 
water ceases to be generally disseminated in the earth. This is 
after we have gone below the " scalp " or surface-water of the 
country. Until we have passed through this scalp, water is 
found almost everywhere. This being the case, it is quite 
natural that persons residing in countries where wells sunk in 
search of a supply of water are the deepest works of the kind 
undertaken, should imagine overwhelming floods of water to 
exist everywhere far down in the bowels of the earth. 

In Nevada and the rule probably holds good in every 
country after passing the more open and softer matter drift 
and rock there is reached the solid rocky mass forming what 
might be termed the " skull " of the earth the hard shell lying 
between the comparatively spongy exterior strata, and the molten 
interior mass. This intermediate shell of hard rock is where 
the miners along the Comstock are now delving in all the 
deeper mines. Here we find that solid rock takes the place 
of water in most situations solid rock is the rule. When the 
rock is not solid and perfectly homogeneous, there water finds 
its way and forms subterranean reservoirs of all sizes and shapes, 
which, in mining parlance, are called "pockets." 

These pockets may be of almost any shape, but are generally 
in the form of a crevice. As a rule, the crevices are not open 
spaces like caverns, but are filled with some permeable material 



into which the water may find its way and settle, as in the 
ground composing the " scalp " above. 

The water at the depth of from 1,000 to 2,000 feet lies in 
detached bodies. In the country-rock (the rock lying on each 
side of a vein and forming the general rock of the country) there 
are fewer of these pockets of water than within the bounds of a 
vein, as the solidity and homogenous character of the outside 
rock leaves no space in which water may be contained. The 
Comstock lode occupying an immense fissure, extending into the 
intermediate crust of the earth to an indeterminate depth, 
there are naturally many openings in it, through which water 
may descend ; besides, the material of which the vein is com- 
posed is in general much softer, and therefore more pervious 
than the great mass of rock outside of the vein. The pockets of 
water are confined within walls of clay or hard, impervious rock. 
Thus drifts may be run on all sides of, and even under, these 
subterranean reservoirs, and no water is seen until the confining 
walls are cut. When a body of clay is encountered and there is 
reason to suspect that a body of water is being approached, a 
long drill is used with which to feel the way in advance of the 
drift, and let the water out, if any there be, in a controllable 
stream. Were the miners to push ahead with a drift of full 
size, the pressure of water would presently burst in the whole 
face of their opening, tear down the timbers, cause extensive 
caving of the ground, and perhaps flood everything, and drown 
the men before they could escape. 

When once the works of a mine have been carried down into 
the solid shell of the earth, the work of draining any body of 
water that may be encountered is a mere question of time. If 
the underground cistern is small it is soon pumped out; if large 
it takes a proportionally longer time, the same pump being used 
in each case; but, sooner or later, it must be exhausted. If 
water were not thus found in detached bodies (instead of being 
universally diffused) in that zone of the earth under consideration, 
there could be mining under seas, lakes, and rivers, as is now 
successfully practiced in many countries. 

In illustration of the manner in which miners often drift under 
and around bodies of water, I may give an incident of the early 
days of Washoe, when drifts and tunnels had not yet drained off 


the "surface-water, and wells were yet a possibility in Virginia 

A lady resident of the town one day went to a well in her 
door-yard to draw some water. Being in haste, she let the 
bucket go down from the windlass " by the run," and the instant 
it struck the water out dropped the whole bottom of the well. 
Every drop of water instantly disappeared and nought was seen 
where it had been, but a black, yawning chasm in which hung 
and dangled the bucket. Amazed almost beyond the power 
of speech, the lady for a time stood and gazed into the bottomless 
well, then rushed to the house. She had considered the matter 
and comprehended it. 

" What did I tell you ? " cried she, addressing her rather easy- 
going husband. " I knew that the men who dug that well were 
taking no pains with their work ! " 

"What is the matter now? " said the husband. 

" Matter ? matter enough ! The bottom has dropped out of 
the well ! " 

" Bottom dropped out of the well ! " exclaimed the husband,, 
beginning to become interested. 

"Yes: the bottom has dropped out of the well, and I am not 
at all surprised I am not one bit astonished ! I knew when I 
saw the men putting the bottom in that well that it would never 
be of any account ! " 

The cause of the accident was simple enough. The well had 
been dug in the line of a tunnel advancing from a distant point 
below. The miners, all unconcious of the presence of the" well, 
had drifted under it, and at no great distance below its bottom. 
Being without adequate support the bottom must soon have 
fallen out, of its own accord, but the sudden jar of the bucket on 
the surface of the water undoubtedly precipitated the eVent. A 
peculiar kind of clay is found in many places on the Comstock 
lode which is not a little curious on account of its creeping pro- 
pensities. A stratum of this clay will be seen to crawl out into 
tunnels and other openings in a manner much resembling the 
action of the toy known as Pharaoh's serpents You are unable 
to see where it is coming from or what moves it, yet it is con- 
stantly crawling out into all the openings that reach it. 

In places where drifts have been run into this clay it is 


necessary to keep one or two men constantly at work at 
cutting it away in order to keep the drifts open and passable. 
This is not owing to the slaking and swelling of the exposed 
surface, as in that case after a few removals of the surplus 
material a hole would be left, and there would be no more 
trouble. The whole body of the clay appears to be creeping. 
It has the almost imperceptible motion of the glacier, irresistibly 
advancing, crushing everything in the shape of timbers that may 
be placed before it. All that can then be done is to set men to 
work at cutting it off as fast as it comes out. The cause of this 
creeping is probably to be found in the pressure of the superin- 
cumbent or surrounding strata of rock. Its motion is not 
unlike that seen in the straightening out of a piece of pith that 
has been compressed. There is a limit to this creeping power 
of the clay, but it is not reached till many feet have crept out 
into the drift, tunnel, shaft, or chamber, and have been cut off 
and removed. Its action is so mysterious that some of the 
miners are ready to explain it by saying that the clay comes out 
and fills up the drifts because "Nature abhors a vacuum." 

If left to its course the clay would very soon close up the drift, 
as completely as if none had ever been made. Thousands of 
feet of drifts and tunnels in the mines are closed in this way. 

In the Caledonia mine, American Flat, much trouble was 
experienced with this creeping clay. On one occasion a streak 
of it two or three feet in width continued to rise from the floor 
of a tunnel until over thirty feet had thus come up and been cut 
off. It is bad anywhere, but is most mischievous in the main 
shaft. For this reason mining men always seek a spot in which 
to put down such shafts, where they are likely to pass through 
solid " country-rock " to a great depth below surface. The sad 
experience of early days taught them this lesson. The clay is 
generally found within the w r all of the vein. It abounds in the 
mines south of Gold Hill, about American Flat. The ordinary 
clay found next to the foot, and hanging walls in all mines is 
liable to swell on account of the lime it contains when exposed 
to atmospheric action, but after the pressure on the timbers has 
been eased by cuttting away behind them a few times, there is 
no more trouble. 

The power of this swelling, slacking clay is immense. It 


crushes in, and splinters all the timbers that can be placed 
before it : it somewhat resembles the power exerted in the expan- 
sion and contraction of large masses of iron, as seen in iron 
bridges and similar structures. The following curious Comstock 
" find " may be of interest to some readers. 

In working out the first or upper bonanza of the Ophir mine, 
there was brought to light a human skull of a very ancient and 
curious type. The skull was dug out where a drift was being 
run in the ore-body at a depth of about three hundred feet 
below the surface. It was brought out, and dumped with a car- 
load of ore, not being observed by the miners. United States 
District Judge A. W. Baldwin, since killed by a railroad acci- 
dent in California, happened to be present when the car-load of 
ore was dumped. Seeing an object of peculiar shape roll 
toward his feet among the ore dumped from the car, the Judge 
picked it up, and found it to be a human skull of a peculiar form 
and thickly crusted over with sulphuret of silver. He carried it 
into town and presented it to Wm. Shepard, of the firm of Tinker 
& Shepard, who placed it in a cabinet of curiosities, where it 
still remains. 

The skull attracted no attention outside of Virginia City until 
1874, when, mention being made of it in the newspapers, the 
Academy of Sciences, of San Francisco, sent for it for the 
purpose of making a critical examination of it. While it was in 
San Francisco a plaster cast was made of it, and at a meeting of 
the Academy of Sciences, Dr. Blake exhibited the cast and 
spoke of it as follows : " There is in this skull a peculiarity that 
is seen in some of the ancient Peruvian skulls, namely, on inter- 
parietal bone. The general contour 01 the skull is of a very low 
type; the anterior portion is very slightly developed and 
receding; the hinder portion is largely developed. It bears a 
similarity to the skull of the carnivorous apes, the cavity for the 
lower jaw-bone being very deep and not allowing of any grind- 
ing motion of the jaws. The skull when found was covered 
with a metallic layer. It is of a different type from any that 
have been found, and belonged to a carnivorous man, who could 
walk easier on all fours than on two feet." Several ancient 
Peruvian skulls were then produced In order to show the inter- 
parietal bone. 



Professor Whitney was very anxious to be allowed to send the 
skull to the Atlantic States and Europe, but the owners would 
not part wi}h it for that purpose. The plaster cast taken was 
sent to Dr. J. Wyman, of Cambridge. It would seem that the 
conclusion arrived at in San Francisco was that the skull was 
that of a man belonging to a pre-historic race. He probably 
was adorned with a tail. At the time the great fissure was 
formed in which the Comstock lode was deposited, or perhaps 
at the time the fissure was being filled with its rich ores, this 
pre-historic creature was probably fooling about the edge of the 
chasm, looking down into it to see what discoveries he could 
make, when the earth crumbled beneath his weight, and he 
rolled down and was incorporated in the heart of the vein. His 
sad fate must have proved a salutary warning to all others of 
his tribe, as his skull is the only thing in the way of ancient 
human remains that has ever been found in any mine on the 



are in operation, in all, in the vicinity of the 
Comstock, mills, the aggregate of whose stamps is over 
one thousand. 

The Consolidated Virginia Company give employment to 
the following mills: Consolidated mill, sixty stamps and 
crushing capacity of 230 tons per day; Sacramento mill, 50 
tons; Mariposa, 12 stamps, 40 tons; Hoosier State, 18 stamps, 
50 tons; Devil's Gate, 10 stamps, 35 tons; Kelsey, 15 stamps, 
45 tons; Bacon, 20 stamps, 50 tons; Occidental, 20 stamps, 50 
tons; total, 195 stamps, 600 tons per day. The pay-roll of the 
men employed in these mills amounts to $35,000 per month. 

At Silver City, about five miles below Virginia City, on 
Gold Canon, are a considerable number of fine mills (some of 
those mentioned above among the number) Fn all of which 
steam is the motive power. A branch of the Virginia and 
Truckee Railroad runs to Silver City and supplies these mills 
with ore, wood, and all other articles required. Near the 
town are several mines the Silver Hill, Dayton, Kossuth, 
Daney, and Buckeye on which are in operation first-class 
hoisting-works, and the southern continuation of the Com- 
stock is supposed to pass through the ground on which the 
village stands. It is already a lively camp, boasts a tri-weekly 
newspaper the Lyon County Times and should the hopes 
of the mining-companies now at work in that vicinity be 
realized, will soon be one of the leading mining-towns of the 

On the Carson River are a large number of first-class 



reduction-works that are driven by water-power. The Eu- 
reka mill, of the Union Mill and Mining Company, of which 
company Mr. Sharon is a principal stockholder, is one of the 
finest mills on the river. It contains sixty stamps (the same 
number as the Consolidated Virginia mill) and is provided 
with a proportionate amount of amalgamating-machinery. It 
is run on ore from the Belcher mine. It is connected with 
the Virginia and Truckee Railroad by a tramway over two 
miles in length. The Brunswick mill, also on the river, con- 
tains fifty-six stamps and works Crown Point ore. The 
Merrimac, Santiago, Morgan, and Mexican mills are all on 
the Carson River and receive their supplies of ore over the 
Virginia and Truckee Railroad. Some of these mills are 
very picturesquely situated, being surrounded by high, rocky 
hills and having near them, on the bars of the river, handsome 
groves of willow and cottonwood trees. 

Carson City contains no mills, but the interests of her 
business men are identified with those of the mining towns 
above. The town, which contains about 8,000 inhabitants, is 
situated in Eagle Valley, at the base of the Sierra Nevada 
Mountains, and contains many fine buildings, both public 
and private. Carson City is the capital of the State. The 
capitol building and the United States' Mint are imposing 
structures, built of a handsome grey sandstone obtained at 
the State Prison quarry, about one mile east of the town. 
The Virginia and Truckee Railroad Company have large 
machine-shops and other large and substantial buildings at 

At Carson trees are grown, and about the town are to be 
seen some very handsome private grounds. The plaza sur- 
rounding the State House, some ten acres in extent, is inclosed 
by a handsome wrought-iron fence, the successful bidder for 
the construction of which was an enterprising New England 

Although Carson is an oasis where something in the shape 
of verdure refreshes the eye, yet to the eastward, northward, 
and in all directions but westward where the Sierras rise 
all the landscape is made up of brown and sterile hills and 
mountains capped with piles of grey granite. These hills are 


not only barren and dreary in aspect, but are, in fact, as deso- 
late as they appear. In travelling among the rocky hills and 
desert valleys there is apparent an absence of animal life that 
causes one to feel very lonely. Out in the great wilds all is 
silence. Not the note of a bird is heard not a bird is seen. 
Although the wind may be blowing a gale, nothing is stirred 
by it, for there is nothing to stir. It seems strange to feel the 
force of the wind, yet hear no sound from it nor see anything 
moved by it. In these wild regions we find basking upon the 
rocks or gambolling over the barren ground great numbers 
of lizards. They are seen in great variety, and some of them 
are very handsome, being striped in red, yellow, black, white, 
brown, and many other colors. Some kinds are over a foot 
in length. All are very active, and it is a difficult matter to 
catch them. Some of the larger kinds have long and sharp 
teeth and know how to use them. I have never heard of any- 
one being bitten by one of them, but th Mexicans say that 
the bite of one variety, which has a black ring round its neck, 
is fatal. 

On one occasion I assisted a gentlemen in catching a dozen 
or more of all kinds, the object being to preserve them in 
alcohol. They were placed in a sack as caught. On getting 
home with them, after carrying them about two miles, it was 
found that they had torn each other to ribbons. 

A curious little reptile is found everywhere throughout the 
country, which is called a horned toad. It grows to be four 
or five inches in length and looks like a cross between a 
lizard and a terrapin. What are called its horns are nothing 
more than several diamond-shaped scales that grow on its 
head, and which it has the power to erect or depress. It is of 
a buff color, sprinkled with spots of dull red. Like the cha- 
meleon, it appears to live on air. Specimens have been kept 
for months in glass jars and have never been seen to eat, 
though flies and other insects in abundance were furnished 
them. Persons in Nevada sometimes send these pets to friends 
in the Atlantic States through the mails. They generally go 
through all right. Scorpions abound among the loose rock 
on the sides of the hills. They have a sting in the end of the 
tail with which they are very handy. Their sting is very 


painful, but not fatal. The antidote is ammonia, taken inter- 
nally, and rubbed upon the wound. These unpleasant crea- 
tures are from three to five inches in length, and present 
much the appearance of a shrimp or a craw-fish. When the 
prospector is camped in the hills the scorpion is fond of 
crawling down his neck as he lies sleeping on the ground. 
When objection is made to this familiarity the scorpion uses 
his sting. 

A few centipedes are found in the country, but they are not 
very large or venomous, and are not much boasted of. In the 
spring of 1875, a lady residing in Silver City awoke one night 
to find something crawling about in her bed, and getting a 
light discovered it to be a centipede about eight inches in 
length. She was stung in two or three places by the insect, 
but eventually recovered. In countries further south the 
centipede is more dreaded than the rattlesnake. 

Tarantulas are abundant in Nevada, but persons are seldom 
bitten by them. They are sometimes so large that they stand 
three inches high when walking, and their legs and bodies 
covered with hair as long as that of a mouse. Their fangs 
are about the length of those of a rattlesnake, and the little, 
round mouth from which they project is blood-red. When 
the end of an iron ramrod is presented to them their fangs 
may be heard to grate upon it. They make a nest in the 
ground about four inches in diameter, which is lined by a 
fabric, spun by the creature itself, which is as fine and glossy 
as white satin. A lid, made of small bits of rock and soil 
glued together, covers the entrance to the nest. The under 
side of the lid is also lined with the satin-like substance, and 
is hung on a hinge of the same. Although the tarantula 
travels slowly, yet when it has reached its nest it darts within 
it and closes the lid so quickly that the eye can hardly follow 
its motions. When the lid of the nest has been closed it is a 
difficult matter to distinguish it, as its upper side presents 
precisely the same appearance as the pebbles and earth sur- 
rounding it. Once it is within its nest the tarantula is able 
to hold the lid down and to resist any small force used for 
the purpose of raising it. When the lid is raised the creature 
shrinks back in its nest and there sits with its malignant 
little eyes shining like two beads of jet. 


By using great care the nest of the tarantula may be ex- 
tracted from the ground, when it is found to be a ball about 
four inches in diameter composed of agglutinated pebbles, 
bits of clay, and other components of the soil in which it is 
built. In this shape they are sometimes placed in cabinets 
with the tarantula imprisoned within, a thread being tied over 
the lid of the nest. A tarantula, however, is not a very desi- 
rable pet. The tarantula has an enemy in a large wasp, of 
which he stands in mortal fear. When the tarantula goes out 
for a quiet stroll this wasp frequently finds him, and if he is 
more than a few feet away from his nest he never reaches it. 

As vultures appear to drop out of the sky when an animal 
has fallen dead in the desert, so this wasp, the deadly enemy 
of the tarantula, comes upon the scene. Straight as an arrow 
from the bow, and as swift as light, he comes from the upper 
air and pierces the tarantula through the body/ The taran- 
tula turns upon his back and in mortal terror claws the air, 
but the wasp has disappeared can nowhere be seen. After 
watching for a time, with his legs in the air, the tarantula gets 
upon his feet and travels at his best pace for his nest. 
Almost instantly there is a whiz, and the wasp has given him 
another thrust perhaps two stabs, as he is quick as lightning. 

Although I have called the enemy of the tarantula a wasp, 
it is not a wasp, though looking much like one. The lance 
which it thrusts into the tarantula is not a sting, but an ova- 
positor, and at each stab an egg is deposited in the body of 
the tarantula. 'All this appears to be well understood by the 
tarantula himself and from the time the first egg has been 
planted in his back he seems to feel that his days are num- 
bered ; as the egg will soon hatch a grub a worm that will 
devour his vitals. At each encounter the tarantula throws 
himself upon his back and tries to fend off or to grasp his 
antagonist with his claws, but the wasp patiently waits some- 
where high in the air, till he gets upon his feet, then darts 
down and pierces him with his lance. The tarantula soon 
grows weak, and then the wasp thrusts into his body half a 
dozen eggs at each visit. Soon the tarantula is unable to 
move and after a few stabs is quite dead. The wasp then digs 
a hole in the ground two or three inches in depth, crams the 



dead tarantula down to the bottom of it, and then closes it up. 
When the eggs of the wasp hatch, the young grubs find their 
food at hand in the body of the dead tarantula. 

Another agreeable insect found in the hills of Nevada is an 
ant that is armed with a sting. It is black in color, and has 
a few scattering orange-colored hairs on its back. It is sel- 
dom seen, and appears to lead even a more solitary and 
secluded life than does the tarantula. 




A CHAPTER giving a few words in regard to persons 
prominently connected with the big bonanza and the 
Comstock lode may be of interest to some readers. I 
cannot undertake to give more than the outlines in each instance. 
The biography of almost any man who has been ten years on 
the Pacific Coast would make a larg volume, were all of his 
experiences written up 

John Mackey Esq. the millionaire miner of the " big bonanza," 
was born in the city of Dublin, Ireland, and served his time as 
a ship-carpenter. He came to California soon after the discov- 
ery of gold, and mined at and near Downieville, Sierra county, 
for many years. In the placer-mines he had his "ups and 
downs " the same as other miners, and often did a vast amount 
of hard work for a small amount of gold. Mr. Mackey came to 
the silver-mines of Washoe in the early days, and for a time 
after his arrival worked for wages at the Mexican and other 
mines swinging a pick and shovel as an ordinary miner. It 
was not long, however, before he began tc get ahead financially, 
and, it is said, made his first " raise " in the Kentuck mine, 
Gold Hill. He finally obtained a large interest in the Hale & 
Norcross mine, Virginia City. Here he took Mr. Fair in as a 
partner and the two men secured control of the mine, rescinded 
an assessment that had been levied, and began paying dividends. 
The Hale & Norcross being " in bonanza," the partners soon 
had money with which to secure other mines. Finally, in com- 
pany with Messrs Flood & O'Brien, of San Francisco, they 
purchased the Consolidated Virginia ground, getting it for about 



$80,000, and eventually acquired a controlling interest in the 
California mine. 

Although Mr. Mackey is now worth fifty or sixty million 
dollars, yet, like Mr. Fair, he spends much of his time, when at 
Virginia City, in the lower levels. Almost every morning at six 
o'clock he descends into one or another of his mines, and often 
remains underground for several hours, passing through all the 
levels where work is being done, when there is anything that 
requires his attention. In passing through a level he sees all 
that is going on at a glance. Mr. Mackey is one of the most 
modest and unassuming of men, yet he is a shrewd observer of 
character, and of all that is going on in the world about him. 
Generally he has but little to say, but that little is to the point 
goes directly to the bull's-eye. He is not often misunderstood. 
He most thoroughly understands mining in all its branches, as 
there is nothing required to be done in a mine that he has 
not done with his own hands. No man is more ready to adopt 
improvements than Mr. Mackey. He is ever ready to spend 
money for labor-saving machinery. Those of his men who 
imagine they have discovered a new plan of doing any kind of 
work whereby a saving in time or muscle can be effected, always 
find an attentive listener in Mr. Mackey, and all the encourage- 
ment they require. He frequently stimulates their inventive 
faculties by telling them of certain things for which he desires 
some new mode of working to be thought out, or some new 
machine to be constructed. 

Although one of the most kind-hearted and generous of men 
as the hundreds he has befriended can testify I may here 
state, for the benefit of a certain class of persons, that he pays 
no attention to the bushels of silly begging-letters which he 
receives from all parts of the United States and even from the 
remotest corners of Europe all are tumbled into his waste- 

Notwithstanding that Mr. Fair is the superintendent of the 
mine owned by the firm, Mr. Mackey also does duty as super- 
intendent, and the pair generally hold a grand council on all 
matters of moment. When this council is in session in the 
private office at the works, the miners in passing back and forth 
hold up their fingers to one another as a sign that no noise is to 



be made that will interfere with the deliberations that are in 
progress near at hand. No man in Nevada more thoroughly 
understands the Comstock lode than Mr. Mackey. He has made 
it his study for years. No change of rock can occur but that 
he knows what it portends. He appears to know almost every 
clay-seam, and streak of quartz, and porphyry that runs through 
the vein. By looking at a sample of ore he can tell the amount 
of silver it contains almost as well as if he had seen it assayed. 
He is particularly at home in the northern part of the Comstock, 
where he has had most acquaintance with the mines, and may 
be said to have that part of the lode by heart. As regards 
mining knowledge, Mr. Mackey is the " boss " of the big bonanza. 

The Hon. William Sharon, who for many years figured so 
prominently in the mining and milling interests of the Comstock 
lode as to earn for himself the title of the "King of the Com- 
stock," was born in Jefferson county, Ohio, in 1821. His 
family were Quakers and his ancestors were among those who 
settled at Philadelphia with William Penn. When a boy of 
seventeen Mr. Sharon thought that the life of a boatman would 
suit him. He purchased an interest in a flatboat, and started 
down the Ohio River, bound for New Orleans, but " landed his 
boat " when he reached Louisville. At this point the boat 
struck a rock in crossing the falls, and was left a total wreck. 
Mr. Sharon then returned to his native town disgusted with a 
" seafaring " life, and went to college a few years, then studied 
law and practiced for a time in St. Louis, Missouri. 

Giving up the practice of law on account of bad health, he 
figured as a merchant, at Carrollton, Illinois, until the discovery 
of gold in California. He was among those who crossed the 
Plains in 1849, and in August of that year reached Sacramento, 
where he purchased a stock of goods and opened a store. The 
floods of the winter of 1849-50 swept his stock into the Pacific 
Ocean, leaving him about as he was left when he struck the 
falls at Louisville, on the Ohio River. 

After his store had been carried away by the flood he went 
down to San Francisco and opened a real-estate office. He 
continued in this business until 1864, and had accumulated a 
fortune of $150,000, when he began speculating in mining-stock. 
In this he again struck the Louisville Falls and again " landed 


his boat," a total wreck. Being once more foot-loose and ready 
for anything that might offer in the way of business, he was 
sent over the Sierras to Virginia City, Nevada, by the Bank of 
California to look after certain of the affairs of that institution 
which required attention. After reaching Virginia City he soon 
arranged all the affairs of the Bank of California, and while 
looking about and probing into matters in so doing, was shrewd 
enough to see that he had at last reached the place where all 
the money on the Pacific Coast was coming from* He at once 
urged upon the officers of the Bank of California the necessity 
of opening a branch at Virginia City, which was done and Mr. 
Sharon was placed at the head of the new institution, with un- 
limited powers. He remained in Virginia City a number of 
years as the head of the branch bank in that place, and finally 
resigned in order to look after affairs of his own, leaving in his 
place an excellent and capable man in the person of Mr. A. J. 

Mr. Sharon is the father of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, 
undoubtedly the crookedest railroad in the world, and a wonder- 
ful road in many other respects. In building fhis road Mr. 
Sharon secured a subsidy of $500,000 from the people of Washoe 
in aid of the project, constructed as much of the road as the 
sum would build, then mortgaged the whole road for the amount 
of money required for its completion. In this way he built the 
road without putting his hand into his own pocket for a cent, 
and he still owns half the road worth $2,500,000 and bringing 
him in as Mr. Adolph Sutro says, $12,000 per day. On this 
trip he got his boat over the falls in good shape. The road, 
however, has been of great benefit to the country, and Mr. 
Sharon was a good man for the country while he was at the 
head of the Virginia branch of the Bank of California, as he had 
the nerve to advance money for the development of mines and 
the building of mills at the time when no outside banking-house 
would have ventured a cent. He saw that, though some of the 
mining companies were in " borrasca " there was every likelihood 
of their being in " bonanza " soon again, provided they were 
furnished with a sum sufficient to make proper explorations. 

Mr. Sharon is the principal owner of the Palace Hotel, San 
Francisco, the largest and most costly hotel in the world, and 

(Supt. California and Consolidated Virginia JHnes.) 


of a vast deal of other property in the city named, and in various 
places in California and Nevada. In all he is probably worth 
seventy or eighty million dollars. In 1874, he was elected 
United States' Senator from Nevada, for six years, to take the 
place of Mr. Stewart. Mr. Sharon has a very clear head, a 
thorough understanding of financial questions, is a shrewd busi- 
ness man, and a man of large capabilities in all the walks of life. 

James G. Fair Esq., one of the principal owners and the 
superintendent of the Consolidated Virginia and California 
mines, was born in the north of Ireland. He came to the 
United States in his youth and settled in Illinois. Upon the 
discovery of gold in California he determined to try his "luck" 
as a miner. He left Illinois, in 1849, an< 3 reached California, in 
August, 1830, when he went to Long's Bar, Feather River, 
called by the Mexicans el Rio de los Plumas the river of 

On Feather River, Mr. Fair learned the art of mining for gold 
in the bars and river channels, among boulders so large that to 
look at them made one sick at heart. In 1860 he gave up 
mining for gold, and made his way across the Sierras to Virginia 
City, where he has ever since made his home, and where he has 
constantly been engaged in mining and other enterprises. In 
1857 he became the partner of John Mackey in the Hale & Nor- 
cross mine, when both he and Mr. Mackey made a " snug bit " 
of money. 

Since becoming partners, Messrs Mackey & Fair, and their 
associates, Messrs Flood & O'Brien, of San Francisco, who are 
interested with them in many speculations, have acquired con- 
trolling interests in the Gould & Curry, Best & Belcher, Consol- 
idated Virginia, California, Utah, and Occidental mines; also, of 
the Virginia City and Gold Hill Water-Works, of a large number 
of quartz-mills, of the Pacific Wood, Lumber, & Fluming Com- 
pany, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and are concerned in 
various enterprises in California. Messrs Mackey & Fair also 
have mines in Idaho, Montana, and Utah have even reached 
down into Georgia and taken hold of some of the gold-mines in 
that region, sending old and reliable Comstock mining superin- 
tendents to examine and test the mines. They have probably 
also viewed the New Hampshire silver-mines through their 


agents, and weighed and estimated Silver Isle, Lake Superior. 

At the time of the Arizona diamond excitement, and swindle, 
Mr. Fair had a man there and all over the ground as soon as the 
first whisper in regard to the finding of precious stones in that 
region had gone abroad. While nobody in Virginia City knew 
that he was taking the slightest interest in the diamond excite- 
ment, or that he had even heard of it, Mr. Fair had " prospected " 
the whole thing and found out all about it. Still he said 
nothing, and probably not five men on the Comstock range to- 
day know that Mr. Fair was close upon the heels of the men 
who -put up the great Arizona diamond swindle and prospected 
their " salted " ground about as soon as the " salt " was sown. 
He now has in his house at Virginia City a whole drawerful of 
stones of all kinds that were brought to him by the agent he sent 
down into the diamond-fields. 

Mr. Fair is a man who never talks when he is acting, and no 
one knows exactly what " Uncle Jimmy," as the " boys " call him, 
is up to. You see the hole by which he goes into the ground, but 
when once he is down out of sight you never know in what direct- 
ion he is drifting. Mr. Fair is worth thirty or forty million 
dollars, yet he spends as much time in miners' garb, down in the 
seething lower levels, and "poking about " in all manner of old 
abandoned drifts, and tunnels, as though he were working for 
four dollars per day, and had a very hard and exacting "boss." 
He is a shrewd and enterprising business man, and thoroughly 
understands mines and mining. In his mills he is as much at 
home as in the mines, and perfectly understands the reduction 
of silver ores, and all the operations connected therewith. He 
is quite unassuming, and always has a cheerful word for the 
" boys " of the lower levels when passing through his mines. 
Like Mr. Mackey he is ever ready to give all kinds of machinery 
a trial and to adopt it if it is found useful. 

Captain Samuel T. Curtis, superintendent of the Ophir mine, 
is a miner of great experience both in the silver-mines of Nevada 
and the gold-mines of California. He was born in the south of 
Ireland, but came to the United States when quite young, 
settling in Western Virginia, where he lived many years. From 
Virginia he went to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he resided until 
the discovery of gold in California. 

(Supt. Ophir Mine.) 

THE HON. J. P. JONES. 529 

In common with thousands of others of an adventurous dis- 
position, he caught the gold-fever, and in April 1849 started 
across the Plains. After many hardships and adventures of 
all kinds, he landed at Lassen's Ranche, in the northern part of 
California, in November of the year named. His party started 
across the Plains with saw-mills, and an immense train of 
wagons loaded with all manner of machinery and stores, but 
abandoned everything, and were glad to reach California alive. 
Mr. Curtis at once made his way to Feather River, where he 
mined until 1858 when he went to Nevada county and engaged 
in mining in that place. In 1859 he was elected to the Cali- 
fornia Legislature, and when he went to Sacramento to take 
his seat was the first time that he had been out of the mount- 
ains for ten years he had seen no towns larger than the mining 
camps of the Sierras. 

At the time of the Indian trouble in Washoe, in 1860, Mr. 
Curtis raised a company of volunteers in Sacramento, and, as 
captain of the company so raised, brought over the Sierra 
Nevada Mountains a timely supply of arms and Ammunition. 
Being obliged to provision his company for some time after 
arriving in Nevada, the part he took in the " war " cost him 
over $3000. It was no better as a speculation than bringing 
saw-mills across the Plains. During his residence in Washoe,, 
Captain Curtis has had the superintendence, of the St. Louis, 
Empire Mill Mining Company, Union Consolidated, Sierra 
Nevada, Mexican, Savage and several other mines, and now is 
in charge of the Ophir. As a mining superintendent he has 
always been very fortunate, and, from his many years of experi- 
ence in various mines along the Comstock, he knows almost 
every foot of the vein. He has given much attention to the 
stratification of the vein, and to the crystalization and other 
characteristics of the rocks found within its walls. So fortunate 
has he been in hitting upon bonanzas that when he has taken 
charge of a mine the men say : " If there is anything in the 
claim the Captain will find it ! " When in charge of a mine he 
is indefatigable. He is about as much underground, and about 
as much at home there as upon the surface. 

The Hon. J. P. Jones, United States Senator from Nevada, 
is a man who had much mining experience in California, 


previous to his crossing the Sierras and taking up his residence 
on the Comstock lode. He has long had' control of the Crown 
Point mine, at Gold Hill, and from its several bonanzas has 
extracted many millions of dollars. He thoroughly understands 
the business of silver-mining and is an excellent judge of the 
ores of the Comstock. He is not only well acquainted with 
that portion of the great lode which passes through Gold Hill, 
but also with the mines on all parts of the vein, He owns a 
controlling interest in the Savage mine, in Virginia City, and 
still retains the Crown Point mine which is yielding as largely 
as ever, though the ore extracted is less rich than that which 
was being extra^ed some years since. 

The mills of 'the Nevada Mill Company, nine in number, and 
containing 222 stamps, are owned by Mr. Jones and Hon. Wm. 
Sharon, and are capable of crushing 650 tons of ore per day. 
The Rhode Island mill, 24 stamps, belongs to the Crown Point 
Company. Besides his many interests along the Comstock 
range, Mr. Jones has a large number of mines and much mining 
property at Panamint, has town-sites down on the coast of 
California, and is engaged in enterprises of various kinds in all 
parts of the Union. " No pent-up Utica contracts his powers," 
he has a genius for mining and for surface business of all 
kinds, and when he rises in his place in the United States 
Senate can make a good talk is about as much at home as 
though among the men on the lower levels of one of his mines, 
giving directions for the opening of a new stope. Mr. Jones 
counts his dollars by millions. It is said that he has about five 
times as many millions as he has fingers and toes. 




AS it may be of interest to persons who have never been 
in the mining-regions of the Pacific Coast, I shall give 
an account of a prospecting trip which I took in Washoe, 
in 1860, just after the Indian troubles. Although no grand 
discovery was made, a sketch of the trip will serve to show 
the manner in which such expeditions were at one time 

I was at that time camped at Silver City. One day a miner 
came to my cabin in a great state of excitement and said he 
had just learned that some men had struck placer-diggings of 
extraordinary richness on El Dorado Canon, a large canon to 
the southward of the Carson River. He said: "They are 
getting gold as large as peas, and are making from $10 to $20 
per man with rockers." A dozen or more in the camp were 
let into the secret, and we soon had several mules packed with 
" grub " flour, beans, bacon, tea, and sugar and were ready 
for a start. We wished to reach the new gold-region in time 
to get good claims and in advance of the rush of prospectors 
that was likely to occur as soon as news of the new strike 
should leak out. Not a soul in the camp knew where we 
were going, and as we marched down Gold Canon, the miners 
pushed aside the blankets which were hung up as doors to 
their cabins and gazed in wonder upon our caravan. Each 
countenance said more plainly than words could have ex- 
pressed it : " A big strike has been made somewhere. Those 
fellows know where it is and are going to it. I must find out 
about it and be off after them ! " With a great clatter of pots, 



kettles, gold-pans, and frying-pans, our mules trotted into 
Chinatown (now Dayton). In this camp our "grand entry" 
created something of a sensation, and curiosity was seen in 
every face. Even the unimpressible Chinamen gazed upon 
us in almond-eyed astonishment. We were nearly all on foot 
and carried picks and shovels upon our shoulders, and long 
knives and six-shooters slung to our belts. 

All who saw us were dying to ask us what was up; but, 
evidently feeling that it was a secret expedition, no man ven- 
tured to question us. Already we were rich, in imagination, 
and all felt as jolly as so many millionaires setting off on a 
pleasure excursion. Indeed, miners generally make these 
trips a sort of pleasure excursion and give about as much 
time to deviltry, and to curiously wandering about and view- 
ing the wonders of the wilds, as they do to the real business 
of the journey. 

Passing through Chinatown, we were soon at the Carson 
River, where we found trouble that we had not thought of. 
The river was high and swift; nearly all of our party were on 
foot; the mules were heavily packed, and there was but one 
horse without a load. This horse, however, was a large and 
powerful animal. Tom Lovel, his owner, finally rode across 
the stream and found that the water just reached to the horse's 
back. The pack-mules were driven across the stream after 
Tom by means of clubs and stones thrown after them. All 
got safely over but one puny and unlucky beast that was 
carried down the stream. The little rascal never attempted 
to swim until he had been swept some distance down the 
river, when he turned his head against the current and pad- 
dled away like a good fellow, for about ten minutes, without 
gaining or losing an inch, then with a mournful, despairing 
groan he gave up and floated ashore on the same side from 
which he started. Tom then came back on his horse, and 
throwing a lasso about the neck of the dripping little beast, 
towed him to the other shore, despite his meanings, and 
sundry other expostulatory demonstrations. Next we foot- 
men were, one at a time, mounted behind Tom and borne 
across the stream, all but myself landing in shape. I was 
the last to cross, and, on mounting the opposite shore, Tom, 


having overmuch confidence in the strength and activity of 
his horse, insisted upon trying to ascend a perpendicular 
bank. The consequence was that we both slid back upon the 
horse's rump, causing his hind feet to sink into the mud until 
he assumed a perpendicular position. 

The next thing I saw was that horse's head coming straight 
into my face. There was then a dull splash and a surging 
sound, and I was at the bottom of the Carson River, with Tom 
and horse a-top of me. I did some lively work for a time, 
and finally came to the surface with my mouth full of black 
mud. Tom got out in some way before I came to the surface. 
While I was pouring the water out of my boots, wringing 
out my shirt, and firing off and reloading my revolver, the 
majority of our party moved on, Tom allowing a friend to 
ride his horse. Only Tom, myself, and a Missourian known 
as " Pike " (the man who found the " stuff compasses are made 
of") remained behind ; and when we finally started the others 
were nearly a mile away. We had not travelled half a mile 
before we came to a bayou or slough, half as large as the 
river itself and of which it was a sort of a cut-off. Here we 
halted. The " boys " had gone on with the animals, and, 
seeing that there was no other way and being about as wet 
as water could make me I plunged in and waded across, the 
water coming almost to my armpits. Tom hesitated and 
hallooed to try to make those in advance come back with his 
horse, but they were beyond hearing. Finally he offered 
Pike half a dollar to carry him across the slough on his back, 
which offer Pike gladly accepted. When Tom mounted 
Pike's back he settled him down in the mud nearly to his 
knees, and when he got out into the stream, Pike floundered 
about alarmingly. 

Tom drew up his legs and wrapped them about Pike's hips, 
hugging to him as closely as a young Indian. 

All on a sudden Pike began to shout: "Snake! snake! 
For God's sake, Tom, get off my back, a snake is biting me 
all to pieces ! " 

" What in thunder do you mean ? " cried Tom. " Don't you 
try foolin' with me about a snake ! " 

" Snake ! snake ! " cried Pike, striving to run, but Tom 


clung to him like the Old Man of the Sea, thinking that he 
was putting up a job to throw him into the water. 

" Stop your foolin' or I'll hit you !" said Tom. 

But Pike still plunged furiously, and then began calling 
upon Tom to put down his legs. " Put down your legs, con- 
found you ! Don't you see that you are killing me that you 
are cutting me all to pieces with " But Pike was not 
allowed to finish the sentence, as Tom, who was by this time 
blind with rage, drew back his fist as well as he was able and 
struck Pike in the mouth. 

The unexpected blow caused Pike to throw his head back 
so far that both went over backwards and disappeared under 
the water. They came up about four feet apart, and as soon 
as Tom got his hair out of his eyes he made for Pike. The 
latter was on his guard and stepped aside, at the same time 
grasping Tom and giving him such a plunge as must have 
sent him to the depth of a foot into the mud at the bottom of 
the stream. Pike then broke for the shore with such furious 
strides as to nearly lift the waters from their bed. By the 
time Tom had reached shore Pike was at a safe distance, yet 
when Tom began snapping his revolver at him he danced 
about at a lively rate. 

" Hold on ! hold on ! "' cried Pike, " stay where you are ! 
Don't shoot till I tell you about it! Blast it, don't you know 
that down in the water thar you was jist cuttin' me all to 
pieces with them infernal spurs of yours ! " 

Tom glanced down at his heels and saw it all. There were 
his huge Spanish spurs, sharp as needles, and there he had 
been digging into poor Pike's flesh while riding him through 
the water, causing him to think he was being bitten on all 
sides by water-snakes. 

" Haw ! haw ! " laughed Tom. " Why Pike, you fool, why 
didn't you tell me that I was hurtin' you with my spurs ? " 

" I didn't know what it was myself, at fust ; then when I did 
find out you wouldn't give me time to say it." 

After these explanations Tom and Pike shook hands and 
called it even. Peace being restored, we set forward along 
the trail on which our companions had preceded us, but did 
not overtake them until we had reached the mouth of El 


Dorado Canon, the gulch on which we expected to find the 
diggings. Up this canon we travelled a considerable dis- 
tance, when we found our friends had halted for dinner. 
Most of the way we had found the canon but a few rods in 
width and walled in by almost perpendicular piles of granite 
and slate, but where our party had halted there was a beau- 
tiful little valley, several springs, and two or three small 
groves of willows and cottonwoods. 

It does not take long for a party of prospectors to prepare 
a meal. The mules are first unpacked and turned out to 
graze; wood is then collected and a fire built, and by the 
time this is blazing several cooks are getting ready for busi- 
ness. Self-rising flour is placed in the same pans that are 
used in prospecting for gold ; water is then added, and the 
whole is then stirred up with a spoon until of the proper 
consistency for pancakes. Soon two or three men, each with 
a frying-pan, are at work baking slapjacks, while as many 
more are frying the savory bacon ; tea is being made in a 
coffee-pot, and soon all is ready. Each man then hunts up 
his tin plate, puts a handful of earth upon it and scours away 
all traces of the last meal, when he is ready for his allowance 
of bacon and slapjacks. Tin cups are used for the tea. 
These meals in the wilds of the mountains are eaten with a 
relish by the hardy prospector. There are generally a few 
raw onions to go with the bacon, and when a camp is made at 
night beans are cooked. 

Of nights, too, when there is more time for cooking than 
during the noon halt, bread is baked. In making bread the 
miner mixes it in his prospecting-pan, as for slapjacks, and 
when it has been properly kneaded, takes it between his huge 
paws, and hammers it out in the shape of a large flat cake. 
This cake he places in his frying-pan and then stands it in 
front of his fire to" bake, turning it over when one side is done. 

Sometimes a regular loaf is made. When a loaf is decided 
upon, a large hole is dug in the ground, and a fire made in it. 
By the time the fire has burnt down and there is nothing left 
but a bed of coals, the loaf is manufactured. The coals are 
raked out of the pit, and the loaf is placed in a gold-pan and 
set in its bottom. Another gold-pan is turned over that 


containing the loaf, when the whole is covered with live coals, 
hot ashes and earth. In this way is made a loaf that is as sweet 
as any that ever came out of the oven of the baker. Beans 
after they have been boiled until soft are often baked in the 
same way, the camp-kettle containing them being buried in a 
pit in which a fire has been made. 

.., In making slapjacks a miner considers himself a green- 
horn if he is not able to turn them without doing it with a 
knife, after the fashion of a woman. He shuffles the cake 
about in the pan till it is loosened, then deftly tosses it into 


the air, catching it, batter side down, as it descends. This 
way of turning slapjacks is a trick, however, that some men 
find it impossible to learn. I once had a partner whose one 
dream of life it was to be able to turn a slapjack in this way. 
If he could but flip a flapjack into the air and catch it all 
right, he thought he would be perfectly happy, whether the 
diggings paid or not. One day, while in the cabin cooking 
slapjacks, he announced that he would turn one in the air or 
die. He was a man who weighed about one hundred and 
eighty pounds and had somehow got it into his head that in 
order to successfully perform the feat a great outlay of 
strength was required. 



Taking hold of the handle of the frying-pan with both 
hands and getting out into the middle of the floor, where he 
could have plenty of room, he hustled the cake about in the 
pan until he found it was loose on all sides. He then squatted 
nearly to the floor, and, giving a mighty heave, sent the pan- 
cake flying upward. This done, he stood, frying-pan in hand, 
waiting for the cake to come down, in order that he might 
catch it. But that pancake never came down, it struck batter 
side against the ceiling, and there it stuck as fast as the wafer 
on a love-letter. 

I have heard of men who were able to throw a slap-jack up 
through the chimney, then run outside of the house and catch 
it before it struck the ground, but I have never had the good 
fortune to see the feat performed. // 



IN the place where we had encamped for dinner there was on 
one side of the ravine, and at the height of about fifty feet 
above its bed, a long bench of rocks on which were piled, 
tier upon tier, rocks that bore a striking resemblance to sacks of 
grain. Always having the "evil one " in their winds when not 
in the wilderness, the boys called this place the " Devil's Levee." 
Another place, on the opposite side of the canon, where a dozen 
or more huge, egg-shaped boulders, set on end, stood nodding 
this way and that, they christened the " Granite Polka. 

Continuing our journey up the canon, we presently arrived at 
the place where the miners were at work who were reported to 
be making from $10 to $20 per day. They seemed much sur- 
prised to see our party and told us that they were making 
nothing. None of us believed this, and, without waiting to 
unpack their animals, two or three of our men rushed off up 
the ravine to secure claims. I asked to see the kind of gold 
they were getting, and was shown a pan in which were five or six 
specks about one fourth as large as the head of a pin. The man 
who had told me in Silver City, about the big strike, and who 
had induced me to join the expedition, said the men were 
fooling us ; he was sure they had rich diggings. Taking the 
pan, this man got down into the hole that had been dug by the 
miners, and got a panful of the best-looking gravel he could 
find. Winking for me to follow, he started down the stream to 
a small pool. When we were out. of hearing he said he thought 
the men were trying to " play us." " They don't want it known 
that there is anything here," said he, " until their friends are all 



on hand to gobble up the ground. You can bet high that I'll 
get a good prospect out of this pan of dirt. It looks like the 
right stuff." 

Meanwhile he was washing it down, stopping once in a while 
as he neared the bottom to flit the water over it in the expecta- 
tion of seeing a " chispa " or a " nugget." The less sand there 
was in the pan the longer grew his face. At last all was panned 
out, even to the last grain of "black sand," and nought remained 
but the few little specks of gold (" colors ") originally in the pan. 

" Skunked, by the holy spoons," cried he. I then washed out 
the pan and filled it with earth out of a crevice the best I 
could find panned it down, and had three small colors. 

We then went back to the camp of the miners who had dug 
the prospect-hole and asked how the story got started that they 
had found gold of the size of peas and were making from $10 
to $20 per day. They knew nothing about it, but one of them 
finally recollected that when he went to Silver City for a rocker 
he had said to some one that from the number and shape of 
the " colors " they were finding on the surface he did not 
doubt they would find them as big as peas when they reached 
the bed-rock. Some one then remarked ' If you do you'll be 
able to make from $10 to $20 per day,' from this grew the 
story of the rich strike in El Dorado Canon. We all felt rather 
" cheap " when we heard this explanation, the perfect truthful- 
ness of which we could not doubt. I have known many grand 
mining excitements that had even less foundation. Even this 
little " sport " did not end with our visit to the canon. 

After we had been at home a week, and when we supposed 
it was well understood that the diggings were too poor to pay, 
parties were still rushing thither. Presently the story crossed 
the Sierras, and the California papers said that, "in the El 
Dorado Canon diggings, Nevada, miners are making from $20 
to $40 per day with rockers; and the gold is of fine quality, 
being worth $17 per ounce." Though our ardor was a good 
deal cooled by what we had learned in regard to the diggings, 
we were not altogether discouraged. The boys got their picks, 
pans and shovels, and dividing into small parties, struck out in 
various directions, up and down the canon, and among the 
small ravines putting in from the hills ; agreeing that wherever 


the best prospects were found, claims should be staked out for 
all. At night all hands returned, and nothing had been found 
that would pay a few small colors was all that could be found, 
and they could be obtained almost everywhere. It was some- 
thing like the present Black Hills mines. Lighting our camp- 
fire we baked our slap-jacks, fried our bacon, and made a glori- 
ous meal, after which pipes were lighted, and many stories told 
of the good old days of " 49," when the pockets of every honest 
miner overflowed with gold. When each man had spun his 
yarn it was time to think of sleep, and every man rolled himself 
in his blankets and stretched himself in the best and softest 
spot he could find, looking up at the stars in the ceiling of his 
bedroom until he fell asleep. At daylight we were astir, Pike 
was among the first up. Tom did not " unroll " till breakfast 
was almost ready. He then crawled out and proceeded to pull 
on his boots, taking a seat on a pack-saddle. 

About this time I observed that Pike was closely watching 
Tom's movements. Tom had got one boot on and his toes 
started in the other, when he stopped and yawned lazily. 
Rousing himself, he then drew his boot on with a "chuck." 
His foot had hardly struck bottom before he gave a yell and 
turned deadly pale. Grasping his foot he tried to pull his boot 
off, but lost balance and rolled to the ground. 

" Pull off my boot, quick, somebody ! There is a scorpion in 
it ! " cried Tom. 

Pike managed to be the first to reach Tom, and catching him 
by the ankle began tugging desperately, dragging Tom here and 
there, with nothing but the top of his head touching the 

"Your foot is swelled, Tom, and this boot can't be got off! ' r 
said Pike. 

"Yes, it can," cried Tom. " Pull, confound you, pull! He 
is stingin' me all the time. Pull, Pike confound you, pull ! 
He's stingin' me to death ! " 

Pike gave several desperate plunges, lifting Tom clear of the 
ground each time ; then stopped. 

"I tell yer, Tom," said he, " it ain't no use ; it'll never come 
off, your foot is swelled so bad." 

" Cut it off then ! " roared Tom, " cut it off, I can't die this 


Pike drew his bowie-knife and had ripped the leg of Tom's 
boot half way down when, thinking the joke had been carried 
far enough for I was satisfied Pike had been playing a trick 
of some kind I pushed Pike aside, and pulled the boot off at 
once. When the boot was off, behold ! sticking to the bottom 
of Tom's stocking, a small prickly pear. ' 

On seeing the prickly pear, where there should have been a 
scorpion, all hands laughed, and all were pretty well satisfied 
that the trick was Pike's, as a good deal of sport had been made 
of him in regard to his having been snake-bitten. To the 
surprise of all Tom neither raved nor swore said not a word, 
in fact but set quietly to work at extracting the spines which 
had penetrated his foot in fifty places. He then examined his 
boot, which was cut down almost to the heel, drew it on and 
took his seat in silence at the camp breakfast. This conduct 
on Tom's part gave Pike great uneasiness, as all could see. At 
last he said : 

"Who in thunder do you suppose put that air cussed par in 
your boot, Tom ? " 

" I suppose you know as much about it as anyone here," said 

" Me ! good Lord I don't purtend to know. I can't account 
for it nohow, without one of them mountain rats might of done 

" Yes," said Tom, dryly, " mountain rats are mighty fond of 
runnin' about with prickly pears in their mouths, so we'll say 
no more about it." 

Pike felt very uneasy about the matter. He didn't like the 
way Tom was acting. After breakfast, when we were alone, he 
asked me if I didn't think Tom would watch his opportunity 
and shoot him. When all had breakfasted it was concluded to 
scout out and prospect at a greater distance from camp than we 
had yet done. While some of us prospected the ravines others 
were to take the animals and go out into the hills to look for 
quartz ledges. Pike wished to go with the quartz-hunters, but 
had no animal to ride. To the surprise of all, and almost to 
the terror of Pike, Tom offered him his horse. Pike stammered 
his acceptance and turned away, looking very quiet. In passing 
off it fell out that Tom and myself were to prospect certain 


ravines. We dug a number of holes down to the bed-rock and 
washed and washed out many pans of earth, but a few small 
colors was all the gold we could find. 

During the day Tom said : 

" Do you know that was a villainous trick that Pike played 
me? To pretend, too, that he couldn't get my boot off, when 
all the time he had hold about my ankle. Then to go and cut 
my boot! " 

"But you told him to do that." 

"Yes, I know I did, for between you and me, I was awful 
scared. I thought I was gone in sure. I'd have bet my life on 
there being a scorpion in my boot." 

" Do you know that Pike thinks you intend to kill him ? " 
said I. 

" No. Is he such a fool as that ? " 

" You know men are killed in this country for more trifling 

" I don't want to kill any man, but I do want to play even 
on Pike. It was mean on him to put that thing into my boot 
after we had shook hands down at the river." 

After a time Tom said : " Pike is a great coward and I'll 
watch my chance and scare the life out of him before this trip 
is over." 

" So be it," said I. 

As we could find no gold we turned our attention to pros- 
pecting for the beauties of nature. In one place, standing high 
and dry at some distance from the canon, we found a very 
handsome natural bridge or arch. It was about eighty feet 
high, with a span or opening thirty feet in width by fifty feet in 
height, and beautifully set off with turrets and spires which rose 
from the top of the arch. Near this natural arch we found a 
cave, but it proved to be of no great depth. From the remains 
of fires in it, it appeared to have been used by the Indians as a 
place of shelter. 

After wandering about in the hills for some hours we started 
for camp, and as we neared it saw a great bustle there among 
the men. They had brought in all of the animals and were 
busily engaged in packing up. As soon as they saw us approach- 
ing they called to us to make haste. Pike came running towards 


us, and laying his hand alongside of his mouth, sang out in a 
hoarse whisper : " Injuns ! " 

" Injuns ? " said we. 

" Yes," said Pike, " Injuns ! Hills full of 'em ! Hurry up, 
we're goin' to light out o' here ! " 

The long and short of the story was that Pike and his partner 
had crossed the mountain into what was called Sullivan district, 
when they found all the miners packing up and leaving for 
Carson City, on account of Indians having been seen watch- 
ing them from the rocks. One of our boys who was lying in 
the shade of a bushy cedar, with his boots off, cooling his feet, 
had also seen Indians and had rushed into camp. His story 
was that, as he was lying under the tree, eleven Indians, all in 
war-paint, and each armed with a minie musket and revolver, 
passed along a trail about five rods away. They were in single 
file and were going eastward at a dog-trot. Thus were the 
Indians running one way and the whites another the opposite 
direction. On reaching camp we tried to prevent this stampede, 
telling the men that the Indians seen were merely a scouting 
party, and were probably then many miles away in the direction 
of Pyramid Lake, but several said they would bet any money 
that the redskins were even then watching us from the tops of 
some of the surrounding rocky hills. They could see rocks 
on the hills that looked like the heads of Indians, and by watch- 
ing these some said they could see them move. 

The miners whom we found on the canon had pulled up stakes 
and left on the first alarm. After much talk, a majority of our 
party declared in favor of remaining on the canon another day, 
but the minority owned the mules, and swore they were going to 
leave at once. They said they did not imagine the Indians 
would attack us, but they were tired of prospecting and were 
going down to Carson River to fish. Pike was very anxious to 
try his luck at fishing, and was ready to start at once for China- 
town to buy hooks and lines, if anyone would furnish him a 

After much talk, Tom came to me, and said : " Let us go 
down the canon a few miles with these fellows, and then make 
them camp, where we can have a night-attack by the Indians, 
and scare Pike out of his wits." This was agreed to, and off we 


all started. About sundown we reached an open, grassy spot 
calling a halt proposed to camp there. The minority would not 
hear of such a thing. Pike was the most determined of any, 
and was bound to go to the river. The joke of the night-attack 
had been whispered among our men, and they determined to 
keep Pike with us. One of them took him aside and told him 
that we had reason to believe that the Indians were lower 
down the canon; that, in fact, they were lying in wait for us in 
the rocky hills about its mouth, and that all who went down 
that night would be killed. 

" Good Lord ! " cried Pike, " you don't say so. Well, if that's 
the case I'll be dogoned if you ketch me goin' down thataway ! " 
But Pike presently had a doubt about this plan. Said he : " If 
we stop here won't the cussed Injuns get tired of waitin' and 
come up here after us ? " 

"Well," said our man, "but you see we'll let these fellows go 
that want to go so bad, and when the Injuns git them they'll 
think they've got us all and so will be satisfied. However, it is 
almost too bad to let them go down there and be killed. I 
guess I'll go and tell them where the Injuns are." 

" No, no ! " cried Pike, " what are you about. If you tell 
them and stop them from goin' down, thar won't be no place 
safe ! Don't talk so loud or they may take the hint and not go." 

" Come, Pike," called the fellows who were so anxious to go 
fishing, " if you intend to go with us, hurry up, or we'll leave 
you ! " 

" Leave me and be dogoned to you ! " cried Pike. " I've got 
a pistol now (a lie) and I'm goin' to stay here and have some 
fun a fightin' Injuns 'fore mornin'. Go along with you. I'm 
all right now ! " 

Pike's friend were evidently amazed at this sudden exhibition 
of courage on his part. They whispered together for a time ; 
then one of them said : " Gentlemen you may think that you 
are exhibiting bravery ; but, gentlemen, it is not bravery, it is 
madness." This earnest speech was greeted with a laugh from 
our side of the house, and the " fishermen " turned the mules 
into the trail and were soon out of sight. 



AS SOON as we were left to ourselves we built a roaring 
fire, in spite of all Pike's remonstrances. "It's jist as 
good a thing as the Injuns want/' said he. " It's jist 
showin' 'em whar we are. We'll all lose our skelps afore 

When we began to think of supper, we found that we had 
played a little joke on ourselves, in our hurry to get the other 
fellows away in order to make sure of Pike. We had nothing 
in the shape of provision except a few pounds of rice, which 
happened to be on Tom's horse. We put some of this into a 
gold-pan and boiled it, but it was rather poor eating without 
either butter or salt. As we were sitting about the pan 
scooping up this rice with knives and wooden paddles, Pike 
said : " I allers knowed I didn't like rice as well as I thought 
I did, and now I'm sure of it." But we had plenty of tobacco 
and what we lacked in "grub" we made up in smoke. As 
soon as it grew dark Pike became very restless. 

" What was that ? " he would say. " Did you hear the rocks 
rattle upon the hillside ? " and he would peer out into the 

Tom now began to sing as loud as he could roar : 
" My name it is Joe Bowers, I've got a brother Ike, 
I come from old Missouri, yes, all the way from Pike." 

" Stop singin' so loud, Tom," cried Pike in alarm. " Don't ! " 

But Tom roared the louder 

" I'll tell you why I left thar, and how I came to roam, 
And leave my poor old mammy, so far away from home." 



" Tom ! Tom ! Good Lord don't ! " begged Pike. 
" I used to love a gal thar, they called her Sally Black, 
I axed her for to marry me, she said it was a whack, 
But says she to me : * Joe Bowers, before we hitch for life, 
j You'd orter have a little home, to keep your little wife.' " 

" If you've got a little home, Tom," said Pike, " I wish to 
God you was now in it ! " 

" Says I, ' my dearest Sally, Oh ! Sally for your sake, 
I'll go to Californy, and try to raise a stake." 

"That thar's a fool song," said Pike, "and nobody but a 
fool would sing it! " 

" But one day I got a letter, from my dear brother Ike, 
41 It came from old Missouri, sent all the way from Pike." 

"Whar I wish to the Lord I was now!" groaned Pike. 
" It brought the goldarndedst news that ever you did hear, 
My heart is almost bustin', so pray excuse this tear, 
It said my Sal was fickle, that her love for me had fled, 
That she'd married with a butcher, whose har was orful red." 

"Thar'll be butchers here 'fore long," groaned Pike. 
" It told me more than that, Oh ! it's enough to make one swear ! 
It said Sally had a baby, and the baby had red hair." 

"Now, cuss yer pictur ! " said Pike, "yer done, air yer? 
I'll bet thar'll be red har enough here before mornin*. Your 
singin' has played thunder with us, sure as thar's wool on a 
nigger, but you'll not have a bit on the " 

" Top of his head, where the wool had orter be," roared Tom. 

Pike was now at his wits' end, and went off a rod or two 
from the fire and sat down by a dark clump ot bushes, sullen 
and thoroughly disgusted. Tom called out to him : " Say, 
Pike, are you loadin' that revolver o' your'n ? " but Pike 
had the sulks and would not condescend to answer. It was 
soon time to " turn in " for the night, and each man took his 
blankets and sought the smoothest place to be found. Pike 
and one of our party known as " Hank," spread their blankets 
together at some distance from the fire, which was now quite 
low, while the rest of us found places for our beds among 
some willows. 

Pike lay awake a long time listening for Indians, and would 
rise to his knees at the slightest sound, pulling the blankets 


off "Hank, who was trying to make him lie still, so that he 
could get to sleep. There was a high hill on the east side of 
the canon, covered on the side next to us with shelly slate 
rock, and whenever a fox, coyote, or even a rat ran over this 
it caused a great clatter, the scales of slate ringing like pieces 
of pottery. This was a place fruitful of alarms and caused 
Pike to be upon his knees about every five minutes, but 
about midnight he could keep his eyes open no longer. 
Hank made the signal agreed upon, by holding up his hat, 
when two of the boys crept cautiously out of the camp with 
six-shooters in their hands. By following up a little ravine 
they were able to gain the summit of the slaty hill without 
making the slightest noise, as there was no loose rock except 
on the slope. Presently they started down the slope through 
the loose rock, leaping and making as much noise as though 
old Winnemucca and half the Piute tribe were coming down 
the mountain. At the same time they began yelling and 
firing their revolvers. At the first racket made on the hill 
Pike was on his feet and came running toward us, who were 
returning the fire of the supposed Indians, and yelling as we 
fired, making altogether enough noise for half a dozen small 
battles. When Pike reached us two or three of our men fell, 
crying out that they were killed, and at the same time Hank 
fell and caught him about the legs, crying: " I'm wounded. 
Carry me off and hide me in the bushes ! " 
"Let go of me, Hank, there's five hundred of 'em comin' ! " 
" I'll never let go of you," said Hank. " Carry me off! " 
Pike then lifted Hank who was groaning at a terrible rate, 
and carrying him about two rods, pitched him, neck and heels, 
into a clump of thorny bushes. This done, Pike rushed down 
the canon at the speed of an antelope. Tom rolled on the 
ground and laughed until he almost smothered himself. 
"I'm even with Pike on the prickly-pear business! " cried he, 
as soon as he was able to speak, " he shall never hear the 
last of this Injun fight ! " For my part, now that the fun was 
all over, I began to feel quite miserable over the whole affair. 
I feared that in his great fright Pike might dash his brains 
out against a tree or break his neck among the rocks. I 
firmly resolved never to take part in another affair of the 


kind, calling to mind several sham fights and other deviltry 
in California that had been attended by fatal results to the 

In the morning we were ready for a start at sunrise. The 
first thing I saw was Pike's hat, lying near the place where 
he had spread his blankets the night before. The sight gave 
me quite a shock, as it seemed to be the hat of a dead man. 
I soon found that the others were beginning to feel much as 
I did about the matter, for, as Pike's blankets were being 
rolled up to be packed on Tom's horse, one of the boys said : 
" I hope nothing has happened to Pike." Another said : " O, 
he's all right ! " but at the same time it was easy to see that 
the speaker feared that he was not "all right." 

As we passed down the canon, I could not help thinking 
that we should presently find Pike lying wounded or already 
dead in some rocky pit or pile of boulders near the trail, and 
most of our party looked quite solemn. The man who carried 
Pike's hat looked as though he were in a funeral procession, 
carrying a portion of the corpse. At length we were through 
the canon, and having reached the level plain without finding 
Pike's remains, we all felt quite jolly again and immediately 
set to work and planned another surprise for him, when we 
should find him. Instead of fording the river, as we had done 
in going out, we went some two miles further down and 
crossed at a ferry. We inquired of the colored man in charge 
if anyone had crossed during the night. He assured us that 
no one had crossed, as he found the boat tied up on the west 
bank, as he had left it the evening before. 

We now knew that Pike must have crossed at the ford and 
again began to feel uneasy, fearing that reaching the river 
in a state of exhaustion, he had plunged in and had been 
swept under by the current. One of two things was certain : 
he was either safe across, or was drowned, as the Mississippi 
itself would not have stayed his flight. On turning into the 
main street of Chinatown we came suddenly upon a group 
of men with minie muskets in their hands and in their midst 
stood Pike, with a handkerchief tied about his head. He 
had a musket in his hand and was the centre of attraction. 
We could see that he was telling those about him of the 


dreadful affair of the previous night. All those surrounding 
him were listening so intently that we approached without 
being observed. Pike was just saying : " Yes; Hank may be 
alive. I carried him about two miles on my back, with the 
red cusses yellin' at my heels, then laid him down and kiv- 
ered him up with brush. But all the rest" Here Pike 
turned and saw our party. His jaw dropped, and his eyes 
almost started from their sockets. 

" Well, what of the rest ? " said one of his auditors. 

"Why, my God! they are all here!" said Pike. "There 
they all stand ! " 

The crowd now turned to us, and began to ask : " Who 
was killed ? " " Were there many Indians ? " and many other 
like questions. Not a word of this, however, could we be 
made to understand. We had seen no Indians; we had never 
dreamed of any danger from Indians. The whole crowd at 
once turned to Pike for an explanation. Some of the men 
hinted that unless he gave a pretty satisfactory explanation of 
his strange stories he would get into trouble. Pike was 
thunderstruck and gazed at us with a look of utter helpless- 
ness. At last he stammered: "Tom, wasn't you killed? " 

" If I was killed I wouldn't be here, would I? " 

" I thought I saw you fall," and Pike's face wore the most, 
puzzled look imaginable. His fingers sought the yellowish 
tuft of hair on his chin and gazing at one and another of us 
he sighed: " I don't understand it all." 

" We none of us understand it," said one of the crowd, 

" All here all here ! " said Pike, his countenance wearing 
the look of an insane person. 

"Pike," said I, "you must have dreamt all this about 

Pike's face brightened for a moment, but soon resumed its 
old look of despair. " No, no," said he, " no dream. I saw 
them all killed." 

" But, Pike, look at us ; we are all here all alive and well ! " 

Pike looked vacantly about him at the boys, and said: 
* Yes, I know, but I don't understand it at all." 

"Well," said I, "all there is about it is that you were 


dreaming and suddenly rose up shouting 'Injuns! Injuns! ' 
and before we could stop you, you ran away down the canon." 

" Yes," said Pike, " it must have been a dream. You are 
all here it must have been a dream. But it don't seem that 
way at all." 

"Don't seem what way? " 

"Why, the way you tell it." 

" Well, how does it seem. Let us hear you tell it. Let us 
have your dream." 

" Give us the dream ! " Let's have yer dream ! " cried the 

" Well, you see I was a layin' thar in my blankets But I'll 
be dogoned ef I believe I did dream it ! " cried Pike. " I 
can almost hear the guns crack now! " 

"Of course you dreamt it. Ain't we all here? " 

"Yes; I know. But how did I act what did I do?" 

" Why, I've just told you all you did. You know that after 
you went to bed you was bouncing up on your knees every 
five minutes, and at last you bounced up and took to your 

"Yes; I know I was a little oneasy like. I kept a-hearin' 
somethin' rattle up on that hill, so I kinder kept on my guard 

" Well, let us have the dream," all again cried. 

" Well," began Pike, " at first I was a-dreamin' along kinder 
nice and easy like, when all at once I heard the rocks clatter 
I mean I thonght I heard 'em clatter. Then bang, bang! 
pop, pop! went the guns, and O! sich yells sich yells! I 
thought my hair riz straight on end, and I seed more'n five 
hundred Injuns, all a-hoppin' down the hill like turkeys. All 
this time 1 thought that you fellers was a blazin' away at 
about two hundred of 'em that was all round you, and about 
five hundred on the hill. Then I thought I grabbed up a 
pick and went right inter the thick of the cusses and fit and fit 
till I'd wore out the pick, and then fit a long time with the 
handle. By this time I thought you fellers was all killed and 
I thought I'd git up and dust. But jist then I thought that 
Hank got holt round my legs and said he was wounded, and 
wouldn't let go of me 'thout I'd carry him off. I thought I 


tuck him on my back and carried him 'bout four miles, and 
hid him in some brush. Then I thought I run on and waded 
across the river " 

"No, no! you didn't dream that! You did actually wade 
across the river." 

" Well, then what part of it did I dream ? Can anybody 
tell me that?" and poor Pike looked more puzzled than ever. 

" You must have waded the river, you know, or you would 
not be here." 

"Well, yes; I s'pose I did, but that don't seem a bit plainer,, 
nor hardly half as plain as the shootin' and yellin' part- 
That was the dogonest plainest dream I ever did hev ! " 

"Yet, as we are all here, alive and well ; it must have been 
a dream? " 

" Oh, yes, it was a dream, sartain and sure, but what gits 
me was its bein' so astonishin' plain jist the same as bein* 
wide awake ! " 

Pike continued to tell his dream for some years, constantly 
adding new matter, till at last it was a wonderful yarn. He 
enlarged greatly on the part he took in the fight, and after 
wearing out the pick on the skulls of the Indians, wound up 
by thrustirfg the handle down the throat of a brave, as his last 
act before beating a retreat. Tom more than once told him 
the truth about the whole affair, bringing in half a dozen of 
the "boys" to corroborate what he said, but not a word of it 
would Pike believe. 

" Do you think," he would say, " that I was fool enough to 
believe that sich things actually happened? No, it was all 
a dream from fust to last, and the biggest and plainest dream 
I ever had ! " 

The account I have given of our prospecting trip is a fair 
sample of all such expeditions though this trip " panned 
out" rather more than the usual amount of deviltry. Parties 
of men frequently travel two or three hundred miles to pros- 
pect a certain region, and when they reach it, merely scratch 
about on the surface for a day or two and if nothing is then 
found they curse the place and strike out for some other 
section, when the same surface scratching is repeated. With 
prospectors the "big thing "is always just ahead, never in 


the place where they are. Of course good miners are fre- 
quently found, but in nine cases out of ten a prospecting trip 
results about as did the little scout given above. 

When we were prospecting there were things worth looking 
after, but we did not pay any attention to them. We saw in 
the canon abundant indications of coal, but we were looking 
for gold alone. The coal, the croppings of which we saw, is 
now being extracted by a company and their mine is one of 
great value. Near where we camped while prospecting in the 
canon now stand the steam-hoisting works of the coal com- 
pany. It may look as though we did very little work for a 
prospecting party, but I have known a party of men to travel 
three hundred miles without having washed a pan of dirt; half 
the time they did not even dismount from their horses when 
looking at mining ground. Large parties do less work than 
small ones, as they can never agree in regard to where they 
are to set in or what is to be done.' If one or two men wish 
to stop and prospect, the others are pretty sure to say : " Con- 
found the place ! there is nothing there. I know by the looks 
of the ground that it is of no account," and so the whole party 
moves on, and a good place in which to set to work is never 

A majority of those who go on prospecting expeditions do 
not want to find a place where there is going to be much hard 
work to be done. They prefer rambling through the country 
and viewing new and curious sights to sinking shafts and 
running tunnels. If they can't find gold or silver in rock 
that shows itself on the surface, they continue to travel. The 
novelty of delving in the earth for the precious metals has 
long since passed away in the case of the old miner or pros- 
pector. New-comers known as " pilgrims " or " greenhorns " 
are much more likely to do real work when on a pros- 
pecting trip than any of the old miners. In the case of the 
pilgrim there is a fascination in the bare fact that he is 
digging for silver or gold which drives him on and lends 
strength to his muscle. 


[OCTOBER, 1875.] 

MANY large fires have at various times swept through 
Virginia City, but the greatest and most destructive 
that ever occurred in the town was that of October 26, 
1875. At 6 o'clock on the morning of that day a fire started in 
a little wooden lodging-house on A street, in the western part of 
the town, which in a few hours destroyed all the buildings stand- 
ing on an area of ground half a mile square, in the heart of the 
city. Most of the public buildings and the hoisting-works, and 
many other buildings of the bonanza mines, were burned. In 
all, property to the value of over $10,000,000 was swept away. 
About two thousand buildings were reduced to ruins, and hun- 
dreds of persons left homeless and destitute. 

The fire started at an hour when few persons were abroad. 
Only the butchers, bakers, marketmen, and other early risers 
were astir. The " owls " of the city, birds of prey that haunt 
the place all night, had disappeared with the grey of dawn and 
were in their first deep sleep ; the time was an hour too early for 
the change of shifts in the mines, therefore at no other time, day 
or night, could the streets have been found more completely 

When the first fire-bells rang few persons heeded, even though 
they heard them. Soon, however, the mournful and long-drawn 
wail of one steam-whistle after another, in quick succession, was 
heard to join in sounding the alarm till the fierce clangor of the 
bells was almost drowned. The bells, loudly as they rang, only 
said : " There is a fire," but in the fierce, wild shriek of the 
whistles there was that which thrilled all, and which said as 



though with a human voice: "There is a fire/and a great and 
most dangerous one ! " In the sounding of the whistles it was 
to be noted that there was no hesitation or timidity anywhere 
shown ; each engineer pulled open the valve of his whistle to 
its full extent, at the first grasp of his hand. 

The fire started in the midst of scores of wooden buildings, 
and seemed to dart above all the surrounding roofs at the first 
bound. In addition to their being constructed of wood, nearly 
the wh61e of the buildings in the neighborhood were lined with 
cotton cloth, on which was pasted paper, as on a plastered wall. 
The partitions dividing the room, and the ceilings of all the 
rooms, were also constructed of muslin and wall-paper. Hardly 
a drop of rain had fallen during the preceding summer months, 
and the whole town was as inflammable as scorched flax. 

Almost instantly the column of fire that was at first seen to 
arise began to assume the form of a pyramid. The base of this 
pyramid rapidly extended into the sides- of houses in all direct- 
ions the glass falling in showers from the windows to give 
ingress to the flames and structure after structure burst out in 
sheets of fire more rapidly than could be counted or noted 
down. Shouts of men and womeri rang through the halls of all 
the large hotels and lodging-houses in the neighborhood, and 
loud rappings, to arouse the sleepers, were heard at the doors of 
rooms. Nearer the scene of the fire, persons of all ages, both 
sexes, and every condition were fleeing for their lives in all 
stages of dress and all manner of undress. Many of those 
nearest the building in which the fire broke out had only time to 
leap from their beds and rush into the streets, as their houses 
were wrapped in fire before they were aware of their danger. 

At the time the fire burst forth a fierce gale was blowing from 
the west. This carried great sheets of wall-paper, blazing 
shingles, and a great shower of fiery missiles of all kinds high 
into the air and far to the eastward, kindling fresh fires in 
advance of the main roaring mass of flame. The main body of 
the fire streamed before the gale as fierce as the flame from a 
blow-pipe. It stopped for nothing. It was seen resting against 
the side of a stone or brick building for a minute, then black 
smoke began to roll up through the roof, and a moment after the 
smoke became flame flame that joined the main stream and 
darted on and through all that stood in its way. 


Many of the buildings destroyed were such as had always 
been thought fire-proof; but they fell before the fire as quickly 
as though they had been the commonest of wooden structures. 
There was apparently much fire in the midst of the streets as 
within the buildings; indeed the whole air seemed on fire. 
Water thrown into the midst of the flames produced no effect 
unless, as many thought, it added to their fury and fierceness. 
Although the firemen we're at work with both hand-engines and 
steamers, while yet but few buildings were involved, the water 
they threw upon the burning buildings might as well have been 
as much oil, for any effect it had in checking the flames. The 
firemen were driven back from every point where they at- 
tempted to make a stand, and it soon became evident that no 
efforts of theirs could check the progress of the fire. It was such 
a fire as that which swept Chicago and Boston a fire as fierce 
and uncontrollable as though belched up from the bottomless 
pits of the lower regions. 

When it' was seen that the fire was wholly beyond control, 
that it must take its own course and burn its way out through 
the city, the wildest confusion ensued. It was as when a beaten 
army begins its retreat. All took what they could conveniently 
carry in their hands, those things they most prized, and fell back 
out of the track of the fire. Men, women, and children thus 
leaving their homes, and house after house being thus deserted, 
a great human wave was pushed back on all sides toward the 
suburbs of the city. Hundreds moved their goods again and 
again, each time losing something, until at last they found them- 
selves driven far up on the open face of the mountain, empty, 
handed, panting for breath, and parched with thirst. While the 
whole face of the mountain seemed a sea of fire, with great 
billows tossing to and fro, the sounds that reached the ear were 
as fearful as the scene spread before the eye. From the 
armories of the various military companies, from the gunsmith 
shops and from many of the variety-stores, there came a constant 
roar of exploding cartridges, guns, pistols, fire-crackers, bombs, 
rockets, and all manner of fireworks, sounding like the steady 
discharge of small arms in a great battle. Amid and above all 
this din were heard the frequent and startling discharges of 
giant-powder, gunpowder, and Hercules powder, as building after 
building was blown up in various parts of the town. 


As the fire began to approach the great mining-works these 
heavy reports became more frequent and terrific. The miners 
carried into buildings, not a few cartridges only of the powerful 
explosives they were using, but whole boxes of them, and when 
there were fired they seemed to shake Mount Davidson from 
base to peak. By the blowing up of buildings, and by almost 
superhuman exertions at carrying water and wetting the roofs 
and sides of houses, the progress of the fire was stayed at a few 
important points, and a great amount of valuable property saved 
that would otherwise have been destroyed ; yet, in the main, 
the flames held their course through the heart of the town. 

Thus in a few short hours was swept away the best part of 
what at dawn had been a fair city a city filled with elegant 
and comfortable homes, handsome and costly public buildings, 
large stores, packed with all manner of valuable goods, and mills 
and mining-works the most complete of the kind in the whole 
world. All these were licked from the face of the mountain, and 
but a wilderness of toppling walls and smoking ruins showed 
where they had been. 

This great fire was started in a low lodging-house kept by a 
woman known as " Crazy Kate " Kate Shea by the breaking 
of a coal-oil lamp in a drunken row, as is asserted by those who 
occupied the adjoining houses. 

In its march to the eastward down the slope of the mount- 
ain, the Court-house was the first large public building that was 
destroyed ; the building and rooms of the Washoe Club, filled 
with elegant furniture and costly paintings, was the next to fall. 
Devouring at a gulp a score of smaller buildings, the Inter- 
national Hotel, the principal hotel of the city and a huge brick 
structure, filled with stores, saloons, and other places of business 
on its first floors, was soon reached by the flames and became 
a volcano of fire. About the same time, further to the south- 
ward, the Bank of California, the Enterprise (newspaper) build- 
ing, and many large brick and stone structures, from three to 
five stories in height, were vomiting fire from every window and 
door from roof to basement. Soon Pipers Opera House, a huge 
frame building, like some great fire-ship was spreading terror 
through the neighborhood ; while to the right the southward 
the Methodist, Catholic, and Episcopal Churches were towering 


pillars of fire, with seas of fire below and about them. To the 
left and northward the freight and passenger depots of the Vir- 
ginia and Truckee Railroad Company, with many smaller build- 
ings, were pouring great streams of fire to the eastward into the 
hoisting-works of the Consolidated Virginia Mining Company 
which in turn, with over a million feet of lumber, sent a broad 
river of flame into and over the big mill of the company a mill 
the most costly and complete then in operation in any part of the 
world. Not only this mill, but also the California stamp mill, 
near at hand, was here swegt away. The buildings of the new 
" C and C " (California and Consolidated Virginia) shaft were 
saved through the most strenuous exertions of many miners, and 
after blowing up many houses. 

To the northward at this time, the City Hall and scores of 
large and costly private residences were wallowing in a lake of 
flames, which lake overflowing on the east, inundated the several 
buildings constituting the works of the Ophir Mining Company, 
sweeping them from the face of the earth. Building after 
building was hurled hundreds of feet into the air to prevent the 
fire reaching these works, but nothing stayed its advance. 
Shattered buildings seemed to burst into flames in mid-air and 
their wrecks served but as trains laid to lead the fire more 
surely to the doomed works. 

At times great whirlwinds came down the side of- the mount- 
ain and waltzed about in the midst of the burning buildings, 
carrying spiral columns of flame and fiery missiles thousands of 
feet into the air. The tops of some of these pillars of fire were 
seen by persons fifteen or twenty miles away. An Indian who 
was on the opposite side of Mount Davidson, and on the west 
side of Washoe Valley, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mount- 
ains, fifteen miles distant, observed one of these whirlwinds of 
fire, which he said " looked like an augur," and started for the 
city to see what had befallen it. Jonah-like he wanted to see 
whatever trouble there might be in store for the place. He 
reached the top of Mount Davidson in time to see the churches 
all aflame. A grand view of the burning town he must have 
had from the top of the mountain ! 

At first, while but a few houses were on fire, there was heard 
some wailing among the half-dressed women and children, but 


as block after block became involved, the ruin being wrought 
was on a scale so grand that the excitement and terror of the 
scene forbade all thought of anything so small that tears could 
prove a solace for its loss. 

When all was over, the people for a time seemed stupified, or 
rather drunk, with the excitement of the day, and it was almost 
night before many of them remembered that they were without 
homes. All the houses left standing were soon filled; many 
young men, who could do so, went by rail to neighboring towns, 
while, for one or two nights, persons camped out on the sides of 
the hills the school-houses and other public buildings remaining 
being filled to overflowing. The next morning after the fire, relief 
came pouring in from all quarters, for over two thousand buildings 
were destroyed, and hundreds of people were left homeless and 
destitute. Carson City sent two or three car-loads of provisions-, 
ready cooked, early the next morning after the fire, to supply 
the immediate wants of the sufferers, and San Francisco and 
other towns and cities of California, at once telegraphed money 
and started clothing, blankets, bedding, and provisions over the 
Sierras, by express. A Relief Committee was organized in the 
city, and similar committees in San F