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Full text of "A peep at Washoe"

BANCROFT 
LIBRARY 

0- 

THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 






viii 



ILLUSTRATIONS. 



280. Acarus Megharina 610 

281. Acarus Muscida 611 

282. Acarus Contagiosus 612 

283. Hydrachna Geographica 613 

284. Hydrachna Globum 613 

285. Hydrachna Puteus 614 

286. Cruiser untamed 615 

287. Cruiser tamed 616 

288. Taming a Groom 617 

289. Cruiser bridled 618 

290. Cruiser's Bridle 619 

291. Untamed Groom 620 

292. Gentlemanly Horse 620 

293. Rarey's Swedish Medal 620 

294. Rurey's Kii-rlish Medal 620 

295. At Brandon's 669 

2lii5. Mr. Frog and Prince Ox 670 

L".'T. The Old Fogies 672 

298. Lying in Wait 676 

299. Sis and Pussy 717 

300. Sis in Powder 717 

301. Sis's Dream Land 717 

302. Sis and Bub 717 

303. Sitting up 717 

304. Washing Dolly 718 

305. Dolly's Bath 718 

306. Sis in full Dress 718 

307. Dolly in Disgrace 718 

308. At Night 718 

309. Spring Pelisse 719 

310. Morning Negligee 720 

311. An Expatriated Patriot 721 

312. On State Street, Boston 722 

B18. Worth a Million 723 

314. Feeding Pigeons 724 

315. The Kitten 724 

316. Boston Girl 725 

317. Lecture on Matrimony 726 

318. The Artist's Studio 727 

319. A Popular Orator 728 

320. Harbor of Cohasset 729 

P.21. A Haddock , 730 

322. Lobster Pot 731 



323. Pond near Cohasset 732 

324. The Apple-Peeler 733 

325. The Shoemaker 736 

326. The Good Old Times 737 

327. Recreation formerly 738 

328. Recreation nowadays 739 

329. Private Entrance to the Circus 740 

330. Between Hope and Fear 741 

331. Camp at Flatwater, Labrador 743 

332. Settler's Cabin 745 

333. Map of Esquimaux Bay 748 

334. Esquimaux Toupik 749 

335. Esquimaux of Ungava 751 

336. Rigolette 754 

337. The Doctor's Mishap 756 

338. Mealy Mountains 758 

339. Nascopies, or Mountaineers 759 

340. Parhelia at Tub Harbor 762 

341. Chateau Island 763 

342. Profile Rocks, Henley Harbor 764 

343. Fort at Chateau Bay 765 

344. Excavation at Carthage 766 

345. Cape Carthage 768 

346. The African Coliseum 7T0 

347. Ruins of Temple of Baal Hammon.... 771 

348. Punic Inscription 772 

349. OrleyFarm 796 

350. Sir Peregrine and his Heir 807 

351. Cynical 815 

352. Laura's Fireside 817 

353. A Riddle 818 

354. Little Daisy 858 

355. Brother Jones's Daughter 859 

356. A Fallen Politician 859 

357. A Coon Dog 859 

358. Little Fred 860 

359. Judge Mattocks 860 

360. A Happy New Year 861 

361. That Everlasting Smith 861 

362. Walkin 862 

363. No Feathers 862 

364. Spring Pardessus, No. J 863 

365. Spring Pardessus, No. 2 864 



MO 

ft Libnay 



HARPER'S 

SEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



NO. CXXVII -DECEMBER, 1860,-VoL XXII. 





WHEN I inform the reader that I hare 
scarcely dipped pen in ink for six years, 
save to unravel the mysteries of a Treasury 
voucher ; that I have lived chiefly among In- 
dians, disbursing agents, and officers a of the 
customs ; that I now sit writing in the attic 
of a German villa more than eight thousand 
miles from the scene of my adventures, with- 
out note or memorandum of any kind to re- 
fresh my memory, you will be prepared to 
make reasonable allowance for such a loose, 
rambling, and disjointed narrative as an Ex- 
Inspector-General can be ex- 
pected to write under such ad- 
verse circumstances. If there 
be inconveniences in being 



Entered according to Act of CongresK, in the year 1860, by Harper and Brothers, in the Clerk's Office of the Dis- 
trict Court for the Southern District of New York. 
VOL. XXII. No. 127. A 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



hanged, as the gentle Elia has attempted to 
prove, so likewise are there inconveniences in 
being decapitated ; for surely a man deprived of 
the casket which nature has given him as a re- 
ceptacle for his brains, is no better oft* than one 
with a broken neck. But it is not my present 
purpose to enter into an analysis of this portion 
of my experience. Nor do I make these refer- 
-nces to official life by way of excuse for any rusti- 
ness of intellect that may be perceptible in my 
narrative ; but rather in mitigation of those un- 
conscious violations of truth and marvelous flights 
of fancy which may naturally result from long 
experience in Government affairs. 

Ever since 1849, when I first trod the shores 
of California, the citizens of that Land of Prom- 
ise have been subject to periodical excitements, 
the extent and variety of which can find no par- 
allel in any other State of the Union. To enu- 
merate these in chronological detail would be a 
difficult task, nor is it necessary to my purpose. 
The destruction of towns by flood and fire ; the 
uprisings and downfallings of Vigilance Com- 
mittees ; the breaking of banking-houses and pe- 
cuniary ruin of thousands ; the political wars, 
Senatorial tournaments, duels, and personal af- 
t'rays ; the Prison and Bulkhead schemes ; the 
extraordinary ovations to the living and the dead, 
and innumerable other excitements, have been 
too frequently detailed, and have elicited too 
much comment from the Atlantic press, not to 
be still in the memory of the public. 

But numerous as these agitations have been, 
and prejudicial as some of them must long con- 
tinue to be to the reputation of the State, they 
can bear no comparison in point of extent and 
general interest to the mining excitements which 
from time to time have convulsed the whole Pa- 
cific coast, from Puget's Sound to San Diego. 
In these there can be no occasion for party ani- 
mosity ; they are confined to no political or sec- 
tional clique ; all the industrial classes are inter- 
ested, and in a manner too, affecting, either di- 
rectly or incidentally, their very means of subsist- 
ence. The country abounds in mineral wealth, 
and the merchant, tiie banker, the shipper, the 
mechanic, the laborer, are all to some extent de- 
pendent upon its development. Even the gen- 
tleman of elegant leisure, vulgarly known as the 
"Bummer" and there are many in California 
is occasionally driven by visions of cock-tail 
and cigar-money to doff his "stove-pipe," and 
exchange his gold-mounted cane for a pick or 
a shovel. The axiom has been well established 
by an eminent English writer, that " Every man 
wants a thousand pounds." It seems indeed to 
be a chronic and constitutional want, as well in 
California as in less favored countries. 

Few of the early residents of the State can 
have forgotten the Gold Bluff excitement of Y>2, 
when by all accounts old Ocean himself turned 
miner, and washed up cart-loads of gold on the 
bearh above Trinidad. It was represented, and 
generally believed, that any enterprising man 
could take his hat and a wheel-barrow and in 
half an hour gather up gold enough to last him 







THE BUMMER. 

for life. I have reason to suspect that, of the 
thousands who went there, many will long re- 
member their experience with emotions, if pleas- 
ant " yet mournful to the soul." 

The Kern River excitement threatened for a 
time to depopulate the northern portion of the 
State. The stages from Marysville and Sacra- 
mento were crowded day after day, and new 
lines were established from Los Angeles, Stock- 
ton, San Jose', and various other points ; but such 
was the pressure of travel in search of this grand 
depository, in which it was represented the main 
wealth of the world had been treasured by a 
beneficent Providence, that thousands were com- 
pelled to go on foot and carry their blankets and 
provisions on their backs. From Stockton to the 
mining district, a distance of more than three 
hundred miles, the plains of the San Joaquin 
were literally speckled with "honest miners." 
It is a notable fact, that, of those who went in 
stages, the majority returned on foot; and of 
those who trusted originally to shoe-leather, many 
had to walk back on their natural soles, or de- 
pend on sackcloth or charity. 

After the Kern River Exchequer had been ex- 
hausted the public were congratulated by the 
press throughout the State upon the effectual 
check now put upon these ruinous and extrava- 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 







Scarcely had the reverberation caused by the 
bursting of the Kern River bubble died away, 
and fortune again smiled upon the ruined mul- 
titudes, when a faint cry was heard from afar 
first Tow and uncertain, like a mysterious whis- 
per, then full and sonorous, like the boom of glad 
tidings from the mouth of a cannon, the in- 
spiring cry of FRAZER RIVER ! Here was gold 
sure enough ! a river of gold ! a country that 
dazzled the eyes with its glitter of gold. There 
was no deception about it this time. New Cale- 
donia was the land of Ophir. True, it was in 
the British possessions, but what of that ? The 
people of California would develop the British 
possessions. Had our claim to 5440' been in- 
sisted upon, this immense treasure would now 
have been within our own boundaries ; but no mat- 
ter it was ours by right of proximity ! The prob- 
lem of Solomon's Temple was now solved. Trav- 
j elers, from Marco Polo down to the present era, 
j who had attempted to find the true land of Ophir 
had signally failed ; but here it was, the exact lo- 
cality, beyond peradventure. For where else in 
the world could the river-beds, creeks, and canons 
be lined with gold ? Where else could the honest 
miner " pan out" $100 per day every day in the 
year ? But if any who had been rendered in- 
credulous by former excitements still doubted, 



v-*- 



GOING TO KEEN EIVEE. 



gant excitements. The enterprising miners who 
had been tempted to abandon good claims in 
search of better had undergone a species of purg- 
ing which would allay any irritation of the mu- 
cous membrane for some time. What they 
had lost in money they had gained in experience. 
They would henceforth turn a deaf ear to in- 
terested representations, and not be dazzled by ' 
visions of sudden wealth conjured up by monte- | 
dealers, travelers, and horse-jockeys. They were, | 
on the whole, wiser if not happier men. Nor j 
would the lesson be lost to the merchants and I 
capitalists who had scattered their goods and 
their funds over the pictui'esque heights of the 
Sierra Nevada. And even the gentlemen of 
elegant leisure, who had gone off so suddenly in 
search of small change for liquors and cigars, 
could now recuperate their exhausted energies 
at the free lunch establishments of San Fran- 
cisco, or if too far gone in seed for that, they 
could regenerate their muscular system by some 
wholesome exercise in the old diggings, where 
there was not so much gold perhaps as at 
Kern River, but where it could be got at more 
easily. 




BETUKNIMG FROM KERN KIVEB. 



HAKPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 




HO.! FOE FHAZER RIVER. 



they could no longer discredit the statements 
that were brought down by every steamer, ac- 
companied by positive and palpable specimens 
of the ore, and by the assurances of captains, 
pursers, mates, cooks, and waiters, that Frazer 
River was the country. To be sure, it was after- 
ward hinted that the best part of the gold brought 
down from Frazer had made the round voyage 
from San Francisco ; but I consider this a gross 
and unwarranted imputation upon the integrity 
of steamboat owners, captains, and speculators. 
Did not the famous Commodore Wright take the 
matter in hand ; put his best steamers on the 
route ; hoist his banners and placards in every 
direction, and give every man a chance of test- 
ing the question in person ? This was establish- 
ing the existence of immense mineral wealth in 
that region upon a firm and practical basis. No 
man of judgment and experience, like the Com- 
modore, would undertake to run his steamers on 



"the baseless fabric of a vision." The cheap- 
ness and variety of his rates afforded every man 
an opportunity of making a fortune. For thirty, 
twenty, and even fifteen dollars, the ambitious 
aspirant for Frazer could be landed at Victoria. 
I will not now undertake to give a detail of 
that memorable excitement ; how the stages, 
north, south, east, and, I had almost said, 
west, were crowded day and night with scores 
upon scores of sturdy adventurers ; how farms 
were abandoned and crops lost for want of 
hands to work them ; how rich claims in the 
old diggings were given away for a song ; how 
the wharves of San Francisco groaned under the 
pressure of the human freight delivered upon 
them on every arrival of the Sacramento and 
Stockton boats ; how it was often impracticable 
to get through the streets in that vicinity owing 
to the crowds gathered around the "runners," 
who cried aloud the merits and demerits of the 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



rival steamers ; and, strangest of all, how the 
head and front of the Frazerites were the very 
men who had enjoyed such pleasant experience 
at Gold Bluff, Kern River, and other places fa- 
mous in the history of California. No sensible 
man could doubt the richness of Frazer River 
when these veterans became leaders, and called 
upon the masses to follow. They were not a 
class of men likely to be deceived they knew 
the signs of the times. And, in addition to all 
this, who could resist the judgment and experi- 
ence of Commodore Wright, a man who had 
made an independent fortune in the steamboat 
business? Who could be deaf when assayers, 
bankers, jobbers, and speculators cried aloud 
that it was all true ? 

Well, I am not going to moralize. Mr. Nu- 
gent was appointed a Commissioner, on the part 
of the United States, to settle the various diffi- 
culties which had grown up between the miners 
and Governor Douglass. He arrived at Victoria 
in time to perform signal service to his fellow- 
citizens ; that is to say, he found many of them 
in a state of starvation, and sent them back to 
California at public expense. Frazer River, al- 
ways too high for mining purposes, could not be 
prevailed upon to subside. Its banks were not 
banks of issue, nor were its beds stuffed with the 
feathers of the Golden Goose. Had it not been 
for this turn of affairs it is difficult to say what 
would have been the result. The British Lion 
had been slumbering undisturbed at Victoria for 
half a century, and was very much astonished, 
upon waking up, to find thirty thousand semi- 
barbarous Californians scattered broadcast over 
the British possessions. Governor Douglass is- 
sued manifestoes in vain. He evidently thought 
it no joke. The subject eventually became a 
matter of diplomatic correspondence, in which 
much ink was shed, but fortunately no blood ; 
although the subsequent seizure of San Juan by 
General Harney came very near producing that 
result. 4 

The steamers in due course of time began to 
return crowded with enterprising miners, who 
still believed there was gold there if the river 
would only fall. But generosity dictates that I 
should say no more on this point. It is enough 
to add, that the time arrived Avhen it became a 
matter of personal offense to ask any spirited 
gentleman if he had been to Frazer River. 

There was now, of course, an end to all min- 
ing excitements. It could never again happen 
that such an imposition could be practiced upon 
public credulity. In the whole State there was 
not another sheep that could be gulled by the cry 
of wolf. Business would now resume its steady 
and legitimate course. Property would cease to 
fluctuate in value. Every branch of industry 
would become fixed upon a permanent and reli- 
able basis. All these excitements were the nat-r 
ural results of the daring and enterprising char- 
acter of the people. But now, having worked 
off their superabundant steam, they would be 
prepared to go ahead systematically, and devel- 
op those resources which they had hitherto neg- 




BETtTRNKD FROM FRAZER KIVE2. 

lected. It was a course of medical effervescence 
highly beneficial to the body politic. All mor- 
bid appetite for sudden wealth was now gone for- 
ever. 

But softly, good friends! What rumor is 
this? Whence come these silvery strains that 
are wafted to our ears from the passes of the Si- 
erra Nevada ? What dulcet ^Eolian harmonies 
what divine, enchanting ravishment is it 

"That with these raptures moves the vocal air? 1 ' 

As I live, it is a cry of Silver ! Silver in WA- 
SHOE ! Not gold now, you silly men of Gold 
Bluff ; you Kern-Riverites ; you daring explor- 
ers of British Columbia! But SILVER solid, 
pure SILVEK! Beds of it ten thousand feet 
deep ! Acres of it ! miles of it ! hundreds of 
millions of dollars poking their backs up out of 
the earth ready to be pocketed ! 

Do you speak of the mines of Potosi or Gol- 
conda ? Do you dare to quote the learned Baron 
Von Tschudi on South America and Mexico ? 
Do you refer me to the ransom of Atahualpa, 
the unfortunate Inca, in the days of Pizarro? 
Nothing at all, I assure you, to the silver mines 
of Washoe! "Sir," said my informant to me, 
in strict confidence, no later than this morning, 
"you may rely upon it, for I am personally ac- 
quainted with a brother of the gentleman whose 
most intimate friend saw the man whose partner 
has just come over the mountains, and he says 
there never was the like on the face of the enrtli ! 
The ledges are ten thousand feet deep solid 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



> 

- ~^ NX- 

,.; -3-y. -Cffl 5. ,s i?-- \V \V -.- 







UCJKKA1I FOB WASUOEI 



masses of silver. Let us be off! Now is the 
time! A pack-mule, pick and shovel, hammer 
and frying-pan will do. You need 'nothing 
more. HURRAH FOR WAPHOE!" 

Kind and sympathizing reader, imagine a man 
who for six years had faithfully served his gov- 
ernment and his country ; who had never, if he 
knew himself intimately, embezzled a dollar of 
the public funds ; who had resisted the seductive 
influences of Gold Bluff, Kern, and Frazer Riv- 
ers, from the purest motives of patriotism ; who 
scorned to abandon his post in search of filthy 
lucre imagine such a personage cut short in his 
official career, and suddenly bereft of his per 
diem by a formal and sarcastic note of three 
lines from head-quarters ; then fancy you hear 
him jingle the last of his Federal emoluments in 
his pocket, and sigh at the ingratitude of repub- 
lics. Would you not consider him open to any 
proposition short of murder or highway robbery? 



Would you be surprised if he accepted an invita- 
tion from Mr. Wise, the aeronaut, to take a voy- 
age in a balloon ? or the berth of assistant-man- 
ager in a diving-bell ? or joined the first expedi- 
tion in search of the treasure buried by the 
Spanish galleon on her voyage to Acapulco in 
1578 ? Then consider his position, as he stands 
musing upon the mutability of human affairs, 
when those strange and inspiring cries of Washoe 
fall upon his ears for the first time, with a real- 
izing sense of their import. Borne on the wings 
of the wind from the Sierra Nevada ; wafted 
through every street, lane, and alley of San 
Francisco; whirling around the drinking-sa- 
loons, eddying over the counters of the banking- 
offices, scattering up the dust among the Front 
Street merchants, arousing the slumbering in- 
mates of the Custom-house what man of enter- 
prise could resist it ? Washoe ! The Comstock 
i lead ! The Ophir ! The Central The Billy 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



Choller Companies, and a thousand others, indi- 
cating in trumpet-tones the high road to fortune! 
From the crack of day to the shades of night no- 
thing is heard but Washoe. The steady men of 
San Francisco are aroused, the men of Front 
Street, the gunny-bag men, the brokers, the 
gamblers, the butchers, the bakers, the whisky- 
dealers, the lawyers, and all. The exception 
wa to find a sane man in the entire city. 

No wonder the abstracted personage already 
referred to was aroused from his gloomy reflec- 
tions. A friend appealed to him to go to Wa- 
shoe. The friend was interested there, but could 
not go himself. It was a matter of incalculable 
importance. Millions were involved in it. He 
(the friend) would pay expenses. The business 
would not occupy a week, and would not inter- 
fere with any other business. 




WAbUOK AGENCY. 

Next day an advertisement appeared in the 
city papers, respectfully inviting the public to 
commit their claims and investments to the 
hands of their fellow-citizen, Mr. Yusef Badra, 
whose long experience in Government affairs 
eminently qualified him to undertake the task of 
geological research. He was especially prepared 
to determine the exact amount of silver contained 
in fossils. It would afford him pleasure to be of 
service to his friends and fellow-citizens. The 
public would be so kind as to address Mr. Badra, 
at Carson City, Territory of Utah. 

This looked like business on an extensive 
scale. It read like business of a scientific char- 
acter. It was a card drawn up with skill, and 
calculated to attract attention. I am proud to 
acknowledge that I am the author, and, further- 



more (if you will consider the information con- 
fidential), that I am the identical agent referred 
to. 

Many good friends shook their heads when I 
announced my intention of visiting Washoe, and 
although they designed going themselves as soon 
as the snow was melted from the mountains, 
they could not understand how a person who had 
so long retained his faculties unimpaired could 
give up a lucrative government office and engage 
in such a wild-goose chase as that. Little did 
they know of the brief but irritating document 
which I carried in my pocket, and for which I 
am determined some day or other to write a 
satire against our system of government. I bade 
them a kindly farewell, and on a fine evening, 
toward the latter part of March, took my depart- 
ure for Sacramento, there to take the stage for 
Placerville, and from that point as fortune might 
direct. 

My stock in trade consisted of two pair of 
blankets, a spare shirt, a plug of tobacco, a note- 
book, and a paint-box. On my arrival in Placer- 
ville I found the whole town in commotion. 
There was not an animal to be had at any of the 
stables without applying three days in advance. 
The stage for Strawberry had made its last trip 
in consequence of the bad condition of the road. 
Every hotel and restaurant was full to overflow- 
ing. The streets were blocked up with crowds 
of adventurers all bound for Washoe. The gam- 
bling and drinking saloons were crammed to 
suffocation with customers practicing for Washoe. 
The clothing stores were covered with placard? 
offering to sell goods at ruinous sacrifices to 
Washoe miners. The forwarding houses and 
express offices were overflowing with goods and 
packages marked for Washoe. The grocery 
stores were making up boxes, bags, and bundles 
of groceries for the Washoe trade. The stables 
were constantly starting off passenger and pack 
trains for Washoe. Mexican vaqueros were 
driving headstrong mules through the streets 
on the road to Washoe. The newspapers were 
full of Washoe. In short, there was nothing but 
Washoe to be seen, heard, or thought of. Every 
arrival from the mountains confirmed the glad 
tidings that enormous quantities of silver were 
being discovered daily in Washoe. Any man 
who wanted a fortune needed only to go over 
there and pick it up. There was Jack Smith, 
who made ten thousand dollars the other day at 
a single trade ; and Tom Jenkins, twenty thou- 
sand by right of discovery; and Bill Brown, forty 
thousand in the tavern business, and so on. 
Every body was getting rich "hand over fist." 
It was the place for fortunes. No man could go 
amiss. I was in search of just such a place. 
It suited me to find a fortune ready made. Like 
Professor Agassiz, I could not afford to make 
money, but it would be no inconvenience to draw 
a check on the great Washoe depository for fifty 
thousand dollars or so, and proceed on my trav- 
els. I would visit Japan, ascend the Amoor 
Eiver, traverse Tartary, spend a few weeks in 
Siberia, rest a day or so at St. Petersburg, cross 



8 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



through Russia to the Black Sea, visit Persia, 
Nineveh, and Bagdad, and wind up somewhere 
in Italy. I even began to look about the bar- 
rooms for a map in order to lay out the route 
more definitely, but the only map to be seen was 
De Groot's outline of the route from Placerville 
to Washoe. I went to bed rather tired after the 
excitement of the day and somewhat surfeited 
with Washoe. Presently I heard a tap at the 
door, a head was popped through the opening. 




u i BAY, CAP!" 

"I say, Cap!" 

"Well, what do you say?" 

" Are you the man that can't get a animal for 
Washoe?" 

"Yes, have you got one to sell or hire?" 

"No, I hain't got one myself, but me and my 
pardner is going to walk there, and if you like 
you can jine our party. " 

"Thank yon, I have a friend who is going 
with me, but I shall be very glad to have more 
company." 

11 All right, Cap ; good-night." 

The door was closed, but presently opened 
again, 

"I say, Cap!" 

"What now?" 

" Do you believe in Washoe?" 

' * Of course ; why not ?" 

" Well, I suppose it's all right. Good-night, 



I'm in." And my new friend left me to my 
slumbers. 

But who could slumber in such a bedlam, 
where scores and hundreds of crack-brained peo- 
ple kept rushing up and down the passage all 
night, in and out of every room, banging the 
doors after them, calling for boots, carpet-sacks, 
cards, cock-tails, and toddies ; while amidst the 
ceaseless din arose ever and anon that potent 
cry of "Washoe!" which had unsettled every 
brain. I turned over and over for the fiftieth 
time, and at length fell into an uneasy doze. A 
mountain seemed to rise before me. Millions 
of rats with human faces were climbing up its 
sides, some burrowing into holes, some rolling 
down into bottomless pits, but all labeled Washoe. 
Soon the mountain began to shake its sides with 
suppressed laughter, and out of a volcano on the 
top burst sheets of flame, through which jumped 
ten thousand grotesque figures in the shape of 
dollars with spider legs, shrieking with all their 
might, "Washoe! ho! ho! Washoe! ho! ho!" 




A 



Surely the sounds were wonderfully real. 
Tap, tap, at the door. 

"I say, Cap!" 

"Well, what is it?" 

".'Bout time to get up if you calklate to make 
Pete's ranch to-night." 

So I got up, and after a cup of coffee took a 
ramble on the heights, where I was amply com- 
pensated for my loss of rest by the richness and 
beauty of the sunrise. It was still early spring ; 
the hills were covered with verdure; flowers 
bloomed in all directions ; pleasant little cottages, 
scattered here and there, gave a civilized aspect 
to the scene, and when I looked over the busy 
town, and heard the lively rattle of stages, 
wagons, and buggies, and saw the long pack- 
trains winding their way up the mountains, I 
felt proud of California and her people. There 
is not a prettier little town in the State than 
Placerville, and certainly not a better class of 
people any where than her thriving inhabitants. 
They seemed, indeed, to be so well satisfied with 
their own mining prospects that they were the 
least excited of the crowd on the subject of the 
new discoveries. The impulse given to business 
in the town, however, was well calculated to 
afford them satisfaction. This was the last 
depot of trade on the way to Washoe. My ex- 
cellent friend Dan Gelwicks, of the Mountain 
Democrat, assured me that he was perfectly satis- 
fied to spend the remainder of his days in Placer- 
ville. Who that has ever visited the mountains, 
or attended a political convention in Sacramento, 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 




I GO IT, WASUOE!' 



does not know the immortal " Dan" the truest, 
best-hearted, handsomest fellow in existence; 
the very cream and essence of a country editor ; 
who dresses as he pleases, chews tobacco when 
he pleases, writes tremendous political philippics, 
knows every body, trusts every body, sets up his 
own editorials, and on occasions stands ready to 
do the job and press-work ! I am indebted to 
"Dan" for the free use of his sanctum ; and in 
consideration of his kindness and hospitality, do 
hereby transfer to him all my right, title, and 
interest in the Roaring Jack Claim, Wild-Cat 
Ledge, Devil's Gate, which by this time must 
be worth ten thousand dollars a foot. 

Before we were quite ready to start our party 
had increased to five ; but as each had to pur- 
chase a knife, tin cup, pound of cheese, or some 
other article of luxury, it was ten o'clock before 
we got fairly under way. And here I must say 
that, although our appearance as we passed along 
the main street of Placerville elicited no higher 
token of admiration than "Go it, Washoe!" 
such a party, habited and accoutred as we were, 
would have made a profound sensation in Hyde 
Park, London, or even on Broadway, New York. 

The road was in good condition, barring a little 
mud in the neighborhood of " Hangtown ;" and 
the day was exceedingly bright and pleasant. 
As I ascended the first considerable elevation in 
the succession of heights which extend all the 
way for a distance of fifty miles to the summit 
of the Sierra Nevada, and cast a look bac-k over 
the foot-hills, a more glorious scene of gigantic 
forests, open valleys, and winding streams sel- 
dom greeted my vision. The air was singularly 



pure and bracing every draught of it was equal 
to a glass of sparkling Champagne. At inter- 
vals, varying from fifty yards to half a mile, 
streams of water of crystal clearness and icy 
coolness burst from the mountain sides, mak- 
ing a pleasant music as they crossed the road. 
Whether the clay was uncommonly warm, or the 
exercise rather heating, or the packs very heavy, 
it was beyond doubt some of the party were 
afflicted with a chronic thirst, for they stopped 
to drink at every spring and rivulet on the way, 
giving rise to a suspicion in my mind that they 
had not been much accustomed to that whole- 
some beverage of late. This suspicion was 
strengthened by a mysterious circumstance. I 
had lagged behind at a turn of the road to adjust 
my pack, when I was approached by the unique 
personage whose head in the door-way had star- 
tled me the night before. 

"I say, Cap!" At the same time pulling 
from the folds of his blanket a dangerous-look- 
ing "pocket pistol," he put the muzzle to his 
mouth and discharged the main portion of the 
contents down his throat. 

" What d'ye say, Cap ?" 

Now I claim to be under no legal obligation 
to state what I said or did on that occasion ; but 
this much I am willing to avow : that upon re- 
suming our journey there was a glorious sense 
of freedom and independence in our adventurous 
mode of life. The fresh air, odorous with the 
scent of pine forests and wild flowers ; the crag- 
gy rocks overhung with the grape and the morn- 
ing glory ; the merry shouts of the Mexican ra- 
queros, mingled with the wild dashing of the 



10 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 







THE POCKET PISTOL. 

river down the canon on our right ; the free ex- 
ercise of every muscle ; the consciousness of ex- 
emption from all further restraints of office, 
were absolutely inspiring. I think a lyrical 
poem would not have exceeded my powers on 
that occasion. Every faculty seemed invigor- 
ated to the highest pitch of perfection. Hang 
the dignity of office ! A murrain upon party 
politicians and inspector-generals ! To the bot- 
tomless pit with all vouchers, abstracts, and ac- 
counts current ! I scorn that meagre and brain- 
less style of the heads of the Executive Depart- 
ments, " SIR, Your services are no longer " 
What dunce could not write a more copious let- 
ter than that ? Who would be a slave when all 
nature calls upon him in trumpet-tones to be 
free ? Who would sell his birth-right for a mess 
of pottage, when he could lead the life of an 
honest miner earn his bread by the sweat of 
his brow breathe the fresh air of heaven with- 
out stint or limit ? And of all miners in the 
world, who would not be a Washoe miner? 
Beyond question this was a condition of mind 
to be envied and admired ; and, notwithstand- 
ing the two pair of heavy blankets on my back, 
and a stiff pair of boots on my feet that gall- 



ed my ankles most 
grievously, I really 
felt lighter and 
brighter than for 
years past. Nor 
did it seem surpris- 
ing to me then that 
so many restless men 
should abandon the 
haunts of civiliza- 
tion and seek vari- 
ety and freedom in 
the wilderness of 
rugged mountains 
comprising the min- 
ing districts of the 
Sierra Nevada. The 
life of the miner is 
one of labor, peril, 
and exposure : but 
it possesses the fas- 
cinating element of 
liberty, and the 
promise of unlimit- 
ed reward. In the 
midst of privations 
amounting, at times, 
to the verge of starv- 
ation, what glowing 
visions fill the mind 
of the toiling adven- 
turer ! Richer in 
anticipation than the 
richest of his fel- 
low-beings, he builds 
golden palaces, and 
scatters them over 
the world with a 
princely hand. He 
may not be a man 

of imagination ; but in the secret depths of his 
soul there is a latent hope that some day or oth- 
er he will strike a " lead," and who knows but 
it may be a solid mountain of gold, spangled 
with diamonds ? 

The road from Placerville to Strawberry Flat 
is for the most part graded, and no doubt is a 
very good road in summer ; but it would be a 
violation of conscience to recommend it in the 
month of April. The melting of the accumu- 
lated snows of the past winter had partially 
washed it away, and what remained was deeply 
furrowed by the innumerable streams that sought 
an outlet in the ravines. In many places it 
seemed absolutely impracticable for wheeled ve- 
hicles ; but it is an article of faith with Califor- 
nia teamsters that wherever a horse can go a 
wagon can follow. There were some excep- 
tions to this rule, however, for the road was lit- 
erally lined with broken-down stages, wagons, 
and carts, presenting every variety of aspect, 
from the general smash-up to the ordinary cap- 
size. Wheels had taken rectangular cuts to the 
bottom ; broken tongues projected from the mud ; 
loads of dry-goods and whisky-barrels lay wal- 
lowing in the general wreck of matter ; stout 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 




CAKAMfJO ! CARAJA ! SACRAMENTO ! SANTA MARIA ! DIAVOLO 1 



beams cut from the roadside were scattered here 
and there, having served in vain efforts to extri- 
cate the wagons from the oozy mire. Occasion- 
ally these patches of bad road extended for miles, 
and here the scenes were stirring in the highest 
degree. Whole trains of pack-mules struggled 
frantically to make the transit 'from one dry 
point to another ; "burros," heavily laden, were 
frequently buried up to the neck, and had to be 
hauled out by main force. Now and then an 
enterprising mule would emerge from the mud, 
and, by attempting to keep the edge of the road, 
lose his foothold, and go rolling to the bottom of 
the canon, pack and all. Amidst the confusion 
worse confounded the cries and maledictions 
of the vaqueros were perfectly overwhelming ; 
but when the mules stuck fast in the mud, and 
it became necessary to unpack them, then it was 
that the vaqueros shone out most luminously. 
They shouted, swore, beat the mules, kicked 
them, pulled them, pushed them, swore again ; 
and when all these resources failed, tore their 
hair and resorted to prayer and meditation. 
Above is a faint attempt at the vaquero sliding- 
gcale. 

It will doubtless be a consolation to some of 
these unhappy vaqueros to know that such of 
their mules as they failed to extricate from the 
mud during the winter, may, during the ap- 
proaching summer, find their way out through 
the cracks. Should any future traveler be over- 
taken by thirst, and see a pair of ears growing 
out of the road, he will be safe in digging there, 
for underneath stands a mule, and on the back 
of that mule is a barrel of whisky. 

Owing to repeated stoppages on the way, 
night overtook us at a place called "Dirty 
Mike's." Here we found a ruinously dilapi- 
dated frame shanty, the bar, of course, being 
the main feature. Next to the bar was the 
public bedroom, in which there was every ac- 



commodation except beds, bedding, chairs, ta- 
bles, and wash-stands ; that is to say, there was 
a piece of looking-glass nailed against the win- 
dow-frame, and the general comb and tooth- 
brush hanging by strings from a neighboring 
post. 

A very good supper of pork and beans, fried 
potatoes, and coffee, was served up for us on very 
dirty plates, by Mike's cook ; and after doing it 
ample justice, we turned in on our blankets and 
slept soundly till morning. It was much in fa- 
vor of our landlord that he charged us only 
double the customary price. I would cheerful- 
ly give him a recommendation if he would only 
wash his face and his plates once or twice a 
week. 

The ascent of the mountains is gradual and 
continuous the entire distance to Strawberry. 
After the first day's journey there is but little 
variety in the scenery. On the right, a fork 
of the American River plunges down through a 
winding cauon, its force and volume augmented 




WHISKY BELOW. 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 




BOAKD AND LODGING. 

at short intervals by numerous smaller streams 
rhat cross the road, and by others from the op- 
posite side. Thick forests of pine loom up on 
each side, their tops obscuring the sky. A few 
patches of snow lay along our route on the first 
day, but on the second snow was visible on both 
sides of the canon. 

The succession of scenes along the road af- 
forded us constant entertainment. In every 
gulch and ravine a tavern was in process of 
erection. Scarcely a foot of ground upon which 
man or beast could find a foothold was exempt 
from a claim. There were even bars with 
liquors, offering a tempting place of refreshment 
to the weary traveler where no vestige of a house 
was yet perceptible. Board and lodging signs 
over tents not more than ten feet square were 
as common as blackberries in June ; and on no 
part of the road was there the least chance of 
suffering from the want of whisky, dry-goods, or 
cigars. 

An almost continuous string of Washoeites 
stretched " like a great snake dragging its slow 
length along" as far as the eye could reach. In 
the course of this day's tramp we passed parties 



of every description and col- 
or : Irishmen, wheeling their 
blankets, provisions, and 
mining implements on wheel- 
barrows ; American, French, 
and German foot-passengers, 
leading heavily-laden horses, 
or carrying their packs on 
their backs, and their picks 
and shovels slung across their 
shoulders; Mexicans, driving 
long trains of pack-mriles, 
and swearing fearfully, as 
usual, to keep them in or- 
der ; dapper-looking gentle- 
men, apparently from San 
Francisco, mounted on fan- 
cy horses ; women, in men's 
clothes, mounted on mules 
or "burros;" Pike County 
specimens, seated on piles of 
furniture and goods in great, 
lumbering wagons ; whisky- 
peddlers, with their bar- fix- 
tures and whisky on mule- 
back, stopping now and then 
to quench the thirst of the 
toiling multitude ; organ- 
grinders, carrying their or- 
gans ; drovers, riding, rav- 
ing, and tearing away fran- 
tically through the brush aft- 
er droves of self-willed cattle 
designed for the shambles ; 
in short, every imaginable 
class, and every possible spe- 
cies of industry, was repre- 
sented in this moving pa- 
geant. It was a striking 
and impressive spectacle to 
see, in full competition with 
youth and strength, the most pitiable specimens 
of age and decay white-haired old men, gasp- 
ing for breath as they dragged their palsied limbs 
after them in the exciting race of avarice ; crip- 
ples and hunchbacks ; even sick men from their 
beds all stark mad for silver. 

But the tide was not setting entirely in the 
direction of Carson Valley. A counter-current 
opposed our progress, in the shape of saddle- 
trains without riders, long lines of pack-mules 
laden with silver ore, scattering parties of weath- 
er-beaten and foot-sore pedestrians, bearing their 
hard experience in their faces, and solitary strag- 
glers, of all ages and degrees, mounted on skel- 
eton horses, or toiling wearily homeward on foot 
some merry, some sad, some eagerly intent on 
further speculation ; but all bearing the unmis- 
takable impress of Washoe. 

Among the latter, a lank, leathery-looking 
fellow, doubtless from the land of wooden nut- 
megs, was shambling along through the mud, 
talking to himself apparently for want of more 
congenial fellowship. I was about to pass him. 
when he arrested my attention : 
" Look here, stranger !" 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



ra 



I looked. 

" You're bound 
for Washoe, I reck- 
on?" 

I was bound for 
Washoe. 

"What line of 
business be you go- 
in' into there?" 

Was not quite 
certain, but thought 
it would be the 
Agency line. 

"Ho! the Agen- 
cy line stage agent 
maybe? Burche's 
line, I guess?" 

That was not it 
exactly; but no mat- 
ter. Perhaps I could 
do something for 
him in Washoe. 

"Nothing, stran- 
ger, except to keep 
dark. Do you know 
the price of grind- 
stones in Placer- 
ville?" 

I didn't know the 
price of grindstones 
in Placerville, but 
supposed they might 
be cheap, as there 
were plenty there. 

" That's my hand 
exactly!" said my 
friend, with an in- 
ward chuckle of sat- 
isfaction. I expressed some curiosity to know 
in what respect the matter of grindstones suit- 
ed his hand so well ; when looking cautiously 
around, he drew near, and informed me confi- 
dentially that he had struck a "good thing" in 
Washoe. He had only been there a month, and 
had made a considerable pile. There was a dread- 
ful scarcity of grindstones there, and, seeing that 
miners, carpenters, and mechanics of all sorts 
were hard up for something to sharpen their tools 
on, he had secured the only grindstone that could 
be had, which was pretty well used up when he 
got it. But he rigged it up ship-shape and Bris- 
tol-fashion, and set up a grinding business, which 
brought him in from twenty to thirty dollars a 
day, till nothing was left of the stone. Now he 
was bound to Placerville in search of a good 
one, with which he intended to return immedi- 
ately. I wished him luck and proceeded on my 
way, wondering what would turn up next. 

It was not long before I was stopped by an- 
other enterprising personage ; but this was al- 
together a different style of man. There was 
something brisk and spruce in his appearance, 
in spite of a shirt far gone in rags and a shock 
of hair that had long been a stranger to the 
scissors. What region of country he .came 
from it was impossible to say. I think he was 




GRINDSTONES. 

a cosmopolite, and belonged to the world gen- 
erally. 

"Say, Colonel!" this was his style of ad- 
dress " on the way to Washoe ?" 

"Yes." 

"Excuse me: I have a little list of claims 
here, Colonel, which I would like to show you ;" 
and he pulled from his shirt-pocket a greasy 
package of papers, which he dexterously unfold- 
ed. " Guess you're from San Francisco Colo- 
nel ? Here is let me see 

200 feet in the Pine Nut, 
300 feet in the Grizzly Ledge, 
150 feet in the Gouge Eye, 
125 feet in the Wild-Cat, 
100 feet in the Root-Hojr-or-Die 

50 feet in the Bobtail Hor?e, 

25 feet in the Hell Roaring; 

and many others, Colonel, in the best leads. 
Now the fact is, d'ye see, I'm a little hard up, 
and want to make a raise. I'll sell all, or a 
part, at a considerable sacrifice for a small 
amount of ready cash." 

" How much do you want ?" 

" Why, if I could raise twenty dollars or so it 
would answer my present purpose ; I'll sell you 
twenty feet in any of these claims for that 
amount. Every foot of them is worth a thou- 



u 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 







A 8PECTJLATOB. 

sand dollars ; but dye see, they're not yet de- 
veloped." 

Circumstances forced me to decline this offer, 
much to the disgust of the enterprising specu- 
lator in claims, who assured me I might go far- 
ther and fare worse ; but somehow the names 
did not strike me as attractive in a mineral point 
of view. 

I had by this time lost the run of all my com- 
rades, and was obliged to pursue my journey 
alone. Three had gone ahead, and the other 
was nearly used up. The dav had opened fair- 
ly, but now there were indications of bad weath- 
er. It was quite dark when I reached a small 
shanty about four miles from Strawberry. Here 
I halted till my remaining comrade came up. 
The proprietor of the shanty was going into the 
tavern business, and was engaged in building a 
large clap-board house. His men were all at 
supper, and in reply to our application for lodg- 
ings, he told us we might sleep in the calf-pen 
if we liked, but there was no room in the house. 
He could give us something to eat after his work- 
men were done supper, but not before. He had 
brandy and gin, but no tea to spare. On the 
whole, he thought we had better go on to Straw- 
berry. 



Now this was en- 
couraging. It was 
already pattering 
down rain, and the 
calf-pen to which he 
directed us was knee- 
deep in mud and ma- 
nure, without roof or 
shelter of any kind. 
Even the unfortunate 
progeny of the old 
cow, which ran bel- 
lowing around the 
fence, in motherly so- 
licitude for her off- 
spring, shivered with 
cold, and made pite- 
ous appeals to this 
hard-hearted man. I 
finally bribed him. by 
means of a gold dol- 
lar to let us have a 
small piece of bread 
and a few swallows of 
tea. Thus refreshed, 
we resumed our jour- 
ney. 

Four miles more of 
slush and snow; up 
hill nearly all the 
way, across rickety 
bridges, over roaring 
cataracts, slippery 
rocks, stumps, and 
brush, through acres 
of black oozy mire; 
and so dark a bat 
could scarcely recog- 
nize his own father! 

It was a walk to be remembered. The man in 
the shanty, if he possess a spark of humanity, 
will, I trust, feel bitterly mortified when he 
reads this article. He caused me some gloomy 
reflections upon human nature, which have been 
a constant source of repentance ever since. But 
consider the provocation. The rain poured down 
heavily, mingled with a cutting sleet ; a dole- 
ful wind came moaning through the pines ; our 
blankets were wet through, and not a stitch upon 
our backs left dry : even my spare shirt was soak- 
ing the strength out of the plug of tobacco so 
carefully stowed away in its folds, and my paints 
were giving it what aid they could in the way of 
color. 

Well, there is an end to all misery upon 
earth, and so there was to this day's walk. A 
light at length glimmered through the pines, 
first faint and flickering, then a full blaze, then 
half a dozen brilliant lights, which proved to be 
camp fires under the trees, and soon we stood in 
front of a large and substantial log-house. This 
was the famous "Strawberry," known through- 
out the length and breadth of the land as the 
best stopping-place on the route to Washoe, and 
the last station before crossing the summit of the 
Sierra Nevada. The winter road for wheel- 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



vehicles here ended ; and indeed it may be said 
to have ended some distance below, for the last 
twelve miles of the road seemed utterly imprac- 
ticable for wagons. At least, most of those I saw 
were fast in the mud, and likely to remain there 
till the beginning of summer. Dark and rainy 
as it was, there were crowds scattered around 
the house, as if they had some secret and pos- 
itive enjoyment in the contemplation of the 
weather. Edging our way through, we found 
the bar-room packed as closely as it could be 
without bursting out some of the walls ; and of 
all the motley gangs that ever happened togeth- 
er within a space of twenty feet, this certainly 
was the most extraordinary and the most mot- 
ley. Dilapidated gentlemen with slouched hats 
and big boots, Jew peddlers dripping wet, red- 
shirted miners, teamsters, vaqueros, packers, 
and traders, swearing horribly at nothing ; some 
drinking at the bar, some warming themselves 
before a tremendous log-fire that sent up a reek- 



! ing steam from the conglomerated mass of wet 
and muddy clothes to say nothing of the boots 

' and socks that lay simmering near the coals. A 
few bare and sore footed outcasts crouched down 
in the corners, trying to catch a nap, and here 
and there a returned Washoeite, describing in 
graphic language, garnished with oaths, the won- 
ders and beauties of Virginia City. But chiefly 
remarkable in the crowd was the regiment of 
light infantry, pressed in double file against the 
dining-room door, awaiting the fourth or fifth 
charge at the table. 

At the first tinkle of the bell the door was 
burst open with a tremendous crash, and for a 
moment no battle-scene in Waterloo, no charge 
at Besaca de la Palma or the heights of Chapul- 
tepec, no Crimean avalanche of troops dealing 
death and destruction around them, could have 
equaled the terrific onslaught of the gallant 
troops of Strawberry. The whole house actual- 
ly tottered and trembled at the concussion, as 




DINMEB AT 8TBAWBKEBY. 



16 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 








THE U LAY OUT." 



if shaken by an earthquake. Long before the 
main body had assaulted the table the din of 
arms was heard above the general uproar; the 
deafening clatter of plates, knives, and forks, 
and the dreadful battle-cry of " Waiter ! Wait- 
er! Pork and beans! Coffee, waiter! Beef- 
steak ! Sausages ! Potatoes ! Ham and eggs 
quick, waiter, for God's sake !" It was a scene 
of destruction and carnage long to be remember- 
ed. I had never before witnessed a battle, but 
I now understood how men could become mad- 
dened by the smell of blood. When the table 
was vacated it presented a shocking ^cene of des- 
olation. Whole dishes were swept of their con- 
tents ; coffee-pots were discharged to the dregs ; 
knives, forks, plates, and spoons lay in a con- 
fused mass among the bones and mutilated rem- 
nants of the dead ; chunks of bread and hot bis- 
cuit were scattered broadcast, and mince-pies 
were gored into fragments ; tea-cups and saucers 



were capsized; and the waiters, hot, red, and 
steamy, were panting and swearing after their 
superhuman labors. 

Half an hour more and the battle-field was 
again cleared for action. This was the sixth 
assault committed during the evening; but it 
was none the less terrible on that account. In- 
spired by hunger, I joined the army of invaders 
this time, and by gigantic efforts of strength 
maintained an honorable position in the ranks. 
As the bell sounded we broke ! I fixed my eye 
on a chair, rushed through the struggling mass, 
threw out my hands frantically to seize it ; but 
alas ! it was already captured. A dark-visaged 
man, who looked as if he carried concealed weap- 
ons on his person, was seated in it, shouting 
hoarsely the battle-cry of "Pork and beans! 
Waiter! Coffee, waiter!" Up and down the 
table it was one gulping mass, jaws distended, 
arms stretched out, knives, forks, and even the 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



17 



bare hands plunged into the enemy. Not a 
spot was vacant. I venture to assert that from 
the commencement of the assault till the capture 
and complete investment of the fortifications did 
not exceed five seconds. The storming of the 
Malakoff and the fall of Sebastopol could no 
longer claim a place in history. 

At length fortune favored the brave. I got a 
seat at the next onslaught, and took ample satis- 
faction for the delay by devouring such a meal 
as none but a hardy Washoeite could be expected 
to digest. Pork and beans, cabbage, beef-steak, 
sausages, pies, tarts, coifee and tea, eggs, etc. 
these were only a few of the luxuries furnished 
by the enterprising proprietor of the "Straw- 
berry." May every blessing attend that great 
benefactor of mankind ! I say it in all sincer- 
ity, he is a great and good man, a Websterian 
inn-keeper, for he thoroughly understands the 
constitution. I would give honorable mention 
to his name if I knew it : but it matters not ; 
his house so far surpasses the Metropolitan or the 
St. Nicholas that there is no comparison in the 
relish with which the food is devoured. In re- 
spect to sleeping accommodations there may be 
some difference in their favor. I was too late 
to secure a bed in the general bedroom up stairs, 
where two hundred and fifty tired wayfarers were 
already snoring in double-shotted bunks, 
2X6; but the landlord was a man of inex- 
haustible resources. A private whisper in 
his ear made him a friend forever. He 
nodded sagaciously and led me into a small 
parlor, about 15 X 20, in which he gave my 
company of five what he called a "lay-out," 
that is to say, a lay-out on the floor with 
our own blankets for beds and covering. 
This was a special favor, and I would have 
cherished it in my memory for years had 
not a suspicion been aroused in my mind 
before the lapse of half an hour that there 
were others in the confidence of mine host. 
Scarcely had I entered upon the first nap 
when somebody undertook to walk upon 
me, commencing on my head and ending 
on the pit of my stomach. I grasped him 
firmly by the leg. He apologized at once 
in the most abject manner; and well for 
him he did, for it was enough to incense 
any man to be suddenly roused up in that 
manner. The intruder, I discovered, was 
a Jew peddler. He offered me a cigar, 
which I smoked in token of amity ; and in 
the mean time he turned in alongside and 
smoked another. When daylight broke I 
cast around me to see what every body was 
doing to create such a general commotion. 
I perceived that there were about forty 
sleepers, all getting up. Boots, strongly 
scented with feet and stockings of every 
possible degree of odor, were lying loose in 
all directions ; blankets, packs, old clothes, 
and ragged shirts, and I don't know what 
all a palpable violation of the landlord's 
VOL. XXII. No. 127. B 



implied compact. True, he had not agreed to 
furnish a single bed for five, but he never hinted 
that he was going to put forty men, of all sorts 
and sizes, in the same general "lay-out," as he 
was pleased to style it, and that only large enough 
for half the number. Once, in Minnesota, I 
slept in a bed with eight, and gave considerable 
offense to my landlord when I remonstrated 
against his putting in a ninth. He said he like^ 
to see a man "accommodating" a reflection 
upon my good-nature which I considered wholly 
unwarranted by the circumstances. But this 
was even a stronger case. 

The Jew-peddler had not undressed, and, not 
to judge him harshly, I don't think he ever did 
undress. He was soon up, and left, as I sup- 
pose, while I was dressing. With him departed 
my stockings. They were not very fine per- 
haps, considering the muddy road, not very 
clean ; but they were all I had, and were valua- 
ble beyond gold or silver in this foot-weary land. 
I never saw them more. What aggravated the 
offense, when I came to review it seriously, was, 
that I remembered having seen him draw just 
such a pair over his boots, as a protection against 
the snow, without the remotest suspicion of the 
great wrong he was doing me. 

We shall meet this Stocking-Thief again. 




TUB 6TOOKING-THIE*. 



144 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



rr>HE OPERA CLOAK represented on the preceding 
J- page is one of the prime favorites of the season. 
The elegance of the sleeves in particular excites 
special admiration. The garment is composed of 
white merino, lined with pink taffeta, and orna- 
mented with tassels and fringe in colors to match. 
A style of garment very similar to this, adapted for 
the street, is made of black velvet. One of this 
description, with a crochet-headed fringe and black 
silk lining, has been much admired. 

FURS. The leading authority upon this important 
article of winter costume reports that there will be, 
this season, only slight modifications upon former 
styles : the chief variations being that full capes and 
victorines are somewhat deeper, and the number of 
tails are increased to eight or ten. The Russian 
Sable, of course, still retains its aristocratic position 
over the more common and less expensive materials. 
Next in order of precedency comes the Hudson Bay 
Sable ; while Mink, Stone-Martin, and Fitch follow 
in order of rank. From these varied materials our 
friends will find no difficulty in graduating their 
purchases in such a manner as to meet their special 
tastes and the exigencies of their porte-monnaies. 
We may add, by way of hint, that the Victorine may 
be safely chosen by those who, for any reason, do 
not choose to adopt the more ample, and therefore 
more expensive styles the Full Cape or the Half 
Cape. Our illustrations present all that need be 
specified respecting these various forms. As to 
Muffs, there is no change of exterior form ; but ac- 
cording to the latest mode the lining is arranged in 
such a manner that it is closed in the middle, form- 
ing separate compartments for the hands, so that the 
one which is in the muff is not liable to be chilled j 
on the withdrawal of the other. I 




FIGURE 2. HALF CAPE. 




FIGURE 3. VICTORINE. 



FIGURE 4. FULL CAPE. 






HARPER'S 

NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



NO, CXXVIIL-JANUARY, 1861,-VOL XXII, 

A PEEP AT WASHOE. 

BY J. ROSS BROWNE. 

[.SeconTr 




CAIISON CITY. 



(J 



PON taking an observation from the front 
door at Strawberry, we were rather startled 
to find that the whole place was covered with 
snow to the depth of two or three feet. The 



pack trains had given up all hope of getting ovei 
the mountain. It was snowing hard, and the 
appearance of the weather was dark and threat- 
ening. To be housed up hero with three or 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1860, by Harper and Brothers, in the Clerk's Office of the Dis- 
trict Court for the Southern District of New York. 

VOL. XXII. No. 128. K 



146 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 




THE TRAIL FKOM 6TBAWI3EKBY. 

four hundred men, and the additional numbers 
that might be expected before night, was not a 
pleasant prospect ; but to be caught in a snow- 
storm on the summit, where so many had per- 
ished during the past winter, was worse still. 
Upon reviewing the chances I resolved to start, 
and if the storm continued I thought there would 
be no difficulty in finding the way back. It was 
eight miles of a continuous and precipitous ascent 
to the summit, and three miles from that point 
to the Lake House in Lake Valley, where the 
accommodations were said to be the worst on the 
whole trail. 

A few miles from Strawberry one of the par- 
ty gave out in consequence of sore feet; the 
other two pushed on, despite the storm which 
now raged fearfully, but had not proceeded far 
when they were forced to turn back. I was 
loth to leave my disabled friend, and returned 
with him to Strawberry, where we had a repeti- 
tion of nearly all that has already been described, 
only a little intensified in consequence of in- 
creased numbers. The others of our party 
stopped somewhere on the road, and I did not 
meet them again until next afternoon at Wood- 
ford's, on theSother side of the mountain. 

As soon as it was light next morning I took 



another observation of the 
weather. It was still snow- 
ing, but not so heavily as on 
the preceding day. My re- 
maining partner was by this 
time completely crippled in 
his feet, and had to hire a 
horse at the rate of twen- 
ty dollars for twenty-five 
miles. 

I was delayed some hours 
in getting off, owing to the 
pressure of the forces at the 
breakfast-table ; but finally 
made a fair start for the 
summit. My pack had be- 
come a source of consider- 
able inconvenience. I was 
accustomed to walking, but 
not to carrying a burden 
of twenty or twenty -five 
pounds. My shoulders and 
ankles were so galled that 
every step had to be made 
on the nicest calculation; 
but the new snow on top of 
the old trail began to melt 
as soon as the sun came out, 
making a very bad trail for 
pedestrians. Two miles 
from Strawberry we crossed 
a bridge, and struck for the 
summit. 

Here we had need of all 
our powers of endurance. 
It was a constant struggle 
through melted snow arid 
mud slipping, sliding, 
grasping, rolling, tumbling, 
and climbing, up again and still up, till it verily 
seemed as if we must be approaching the clouds. 
The most prominent peculiarity of these mount- 
ains is, that a person on foot, with a heavy load 
on his back, is never at the top when he imag- . 
ines he is; the "divide" is always a little far- 
ther on, and a little higher up at least until he 
passes it, which he does, entirely ignorant of the 
fact. There is really no perceptible ' ' divide ; " 
you pass a series of elevations, and commence 
the descent without any apparent difference in 
the trail. 

The pack trains had broken through the old 
snow in many places, leaving deep holes, which, 
being now partially covered with recent snow, 
proved to be regular man-traps often bringing 
up the unwary pedestrian ' ' all standing. " The 
sudden wrenching of the feet in the smaller holes, 
which had been explored by the legs of horses, 
mules, and cattle, was an occurrence of even- 
ten or a dozen steps. In many places the trail 
was perfectly honey-combed with holes, where 
the heavily-laden animals had cut through the 
snow ; and it was exceedingly difficult to find a 
foothold. To step on either side and avoid 
these bad places would seem easy enough, but I 
tried it on more than one occasion and got very 






A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



147 



nearly buried alive. All along the route, at in- 
tervals of a mile or two, we continued to meet 
pack trains ; and as every body had to give way 
before them, the tumbling out and plunging in 
the snow were very lively. 

I walked on rapidly in the hope of making 
Woodford's the station on the eastern slope of 
the mountain before night, and by degrees got 
ahead of the main body of footmen, who had left 
Strawberry that morning. In a narrow gorge, 
a short distance from the commencement of the 
descent into Lake Valley, I happened to look up 
a little to the right, where, to my astonishment, 
I perceived four large brown wolves sitting on 
their haunches not over twenty feet from me! 
They seemed entirely unconcerned at my pres- 
ence, except in so far as they may have indulged 
in some speculation as to the amount of flesh 
contained on my body. As I was entirely un- 
armed, I thought it would be but common polite- 
ness to speak to them, so I gave them a yell in 
the Indian* language. At this they retired a 
short distance, but presently came back again as 
if to inquire the exact meaning of my salutation. 
I now thought it best not to .be too intimate, for 
I saw that they were getting rather familiar on 
a short acquaintance; and picking up a stick 
of wood, I made a rush 
and a yell at them 
which must have been 
formidable in the ex- 
treme. This time they 
retreated more rapid- 
ly, and seemed unde- 
cided about returning. 
At this crisis in affairs 
a pack train came 
along, the driver of 
which had a pistol. 
Upon pointing out the 
wolves to him he fired, 
but missed them. They 
then retreated up the 
side of the mountain, 
and I saw nothing more 
of them. 

The descent of the 
" grade" was the next 
rough feature in our 
day's journey. From 
the point overlooking 
Lake Valley the view 
is exceedingly fine. 
Lake Bigler a sheet 
of water forty or fifty 
miles in length by ten 
or fifteen wide lies 
embosomed in the 
.mountains in full view 
from this elevation ; 
but there was a driz- 
zling sleet which ob- 
scured it on this oc- 
casion. I had a fine 
sight of it on my re- 
turn, however, and 



have seldom witnessed any scene in Europe or 
elsewhere to compare with it in extent and 
grandeur. 

The trail on the grade was slippery with sleet, 
and walking upon it was out of the question. 
Running, jumping, and sliding were the only 
modes of locomotion at all practicable. I tried 
one of the short cuts, and found it an expeditious 
way of getting to the bottom. Some trifling ob- 
struction deprived me of the use of my feet at the 
very start, after which I traveled down in a se- 
ries of gyrations at once picturesque and com- 
plicated. When I reached the bottom I was en- 
tirely unable to comprehend how it had all hap- 
pened ; but there I was, pack and baggage, all 
safely delivered in the snow bones sound, and 
free of expense. 

At the Lake House a tolerably good-sized 
shanty at the foot of the grade we found a large 
party assembled, taking their ease as they best 
could in such a place, without much to eat 
and but little to drink, except old-fashioned tar- 
entula-juice, " warranted to kill at forty paces." 

The host of the Lake was in a constant state 
of nervous excitement, and did more scolding, 
swearing, gouging, and general hotel work, in 
the brief space of half an hour, than any man I 




'WE AEE WAITING FOK YOU.' 



148 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 




A 8IIOST CUT. 

ever saw. He seemed to be quite worn-out with 
his run of customers from a hundred to three 
hundred of a night, and nowhere to stow 'em 
all cussin' at him for not keepin' provisions : and 
how could he, when they ate him clean out every 
day, and some of 'em never paid him, and never 
will? 

I was not sorry to 
get clear of the Lake 
House, its filth, audits 
troubles. 

Upon crossing the 
valley, which is here 
about a mile wide, the 
ascent of the next sum- 
mit commences. Here 
we had almost a rep- 
etition of the main 
summit, except that 
the descent on the oth- 
er side is more grad- 
ual. 

At length we struck 
the beginning of Hope 
Valley. I shall al- 
ways remember this 
portion of the journey 
as the worst I ever 
traveled on foot. Ev- 
ery yard of the trail 
was honey-combed to 
the depth of two or 
three feet. On the 
edges there was no 
foothold at all ; and 
occasionally we had to 
wade knee- deep in 
black, sticky mire, 
from which it was dif- 
ficult to extricate one's 
feet and boots at the 
same time. I was glad 
enough when myself 
and two casual ac- 
quaintances succeeded 



in reaching the solitary log-house which stands 
near the middle of the valley. 

I little expected to find in this wilderness a 
! philosopher of the old school ; but here was a 
man who had evidently made up his mind to 
withstand all the allurements of wealth, and de- 
vote the remainder of his life to ascetic reflec- 
tions upon the follies of mankind. Diogenes in 
his tub was not more rigorous in his seclusion 
than this isolated inhabitant of Hope Valley. 
His log-cabin, to be sure, was some improve- 
ment, in extent, upon the domicile of that famous 
philosopher ; but in point of architectural style, 
I don't know that there could have been much 
advantage either way. 

A few empty bags, and a bar entirely desti- 
tute of bottles, with a rough bench to sit upon, 
comprised all the furniture that was visible to 
the naked eye. From a beam overhead hung a 
bunch of fox-skins, which emitted a very gamy 
odor ; and the clny floor had apparently never 
been swept, save by the storms that had passed 
over it before the cabin was built. A couple of 
rifles hung upon pegs projecting from the chim- 
ney, and a powder-flask was the only mantle- 
piece ornament. Diogenes sat, or rather re- 
clined, on the piie of empty sacks, holding by 




A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



140 



the neck a fierce bull-dog. The sanguinary 
propensities of this animal were manifested by 
repeated attempts to break away, and seize some- 
body by the throat or the leg : not that he 
growled, or snarled, or showed any puppyish 
symptoms of a trifling kind; but there was a 
playful switching of his tail and a leer of the eye 
uncommonly vicious and tiger-like. It certain- 
ly would _not have taken him more than two 
minutes to hamstring the stoutest man in the 
party. 



crossed in love. His style had the merit of be- 
ing terse, but his manner was sarcastic to the 
verge of impoliteness. 

"Well, I suppose we can warm ourselves at 
the fire?" 

"If you can," quoth Diogenes, "you can do 
more than I can;" and here he hauled his 
blanket over his shoulders, and fell back on the 
empty potato-sacks as if there was no more to be 
said on that or any other subject. 

The bull-dog seemed to be of the same way 



Between the dog and his master there was a of thinking, and quietly laid down by his master; 



very striking congeniality of disposition, if one 
might judge by the expression of their respective 
countenances. It would apparently have taken 
but little provocation to make either of them 
bite. 

Battered and bruised as we were, and hungry 
into the bargain, after our hard struggle over 
the mountain, it became a matter of vital im- 
portance that Ave should secure lodgings for the 
night, and, if possible, get something to eat. 
The place looked rather unpromising ; but after 
our experience in Lake Valley we were not easi- 
ly discouraged. Upon broaching the subject to* 
Diogenes, in the mildest possible manner, his 
brow darkened, as if a positive insult to his 
common sense had been attempted. 

" Stay here all night !" he repeated, savagely. 
"What the h 11 do you want to stay here all 
night for?" 

We hinted at a disposition to sleep, and 
thought he might possibly have room on the 
floor for our blankets. 

At this he snapped his fingers contemptuous- 
ly, and muttered, "Can't come that over me! 
I've been here too long for that!" 

"But we are willing to pay you whatever is 
fair." 

"Pay? Who said I wanted pay? Do I 
look like a man that wants money ?" 

We thought not. 

"If I wanted money," continued Diogenes, 
" I could have made fifty dollars a day for the 
last two months. But I ask no favors of the 
world. Some of 'em wants to stay here whether 
I will or no ; I rather think I'm too many for 
any of that sort eh, Bull ? what d'ye say ?" 
Bull growl eft, with a blood-thirsty meaning. 
"Too many altogether, gents me and Bull." 

There was a sturdy independence about this 
fellow, and a scorn for filthy lucre that rather 
astonished me as a citizen of a money-loving 
State. 

" Well, if you can't let us stay all night, per- 
haps you can get us up a snack of dinner?" 

"Snack of dinner?" and here there was a 
guttural chuckle that boded failure again "I 
tell you this ain't a tavern ; and, if it was, my 
cook's gone out to take a airing*" 

" But have you nothing in the house to eat?" 

"Oh yes, there's a bunch of fox-skins. If 
you'd like some of 'em cooked, I'll bile 'em for 
you. " 

This man's disposition had evidently been 
soured in earlv life. I think he must have been 



still, however, keeping his eye on us, as sus- 
picious characters. 

Nothing remained but to push on for Wood- 
ford's, distant six miles. 

Now, when you come to put six miles on the 
end of a day's journey such as ours had been, it 
becomes a serious matter. Besides, it was 
growing late, and a terrific wind, accompanied 
by a blinding sleet, rendered it scarcely prac- 
ticable to stand up, much less to walk. I do 
not know how we ever staggered over that six 
miles. The last three, however, were down- 
hill, and not so bad, as the snow was pretty well 
gone from the canon -on the approach to Wood- 
ford's. 

This is the last station on the way over from 
Carson, and forms the upper terminus of that 
valley. It is supposed to be in Utah, but our 
landlord could not tell us exactly where the 
boundary line ran. 

We found here several hundred people, bound 
in both directions, and passed a very rough night, 
trying to get a little sleep amidst the motley and 
noisy crowd. 

I had endured the journey thus far very well, 
and had gained considerably in strength and ap- 
petite. The next day, however, upon striking 
into the sand of Carson Valley, my feet became 
terribly blistered, and the walking was exceed- 
ingly painful. There are some good farms in 
the upper part of the valley, between Woodford's 
and Genoa, though the general aspect of the 
country is barren in the extreme. 

By sundown I had made only fifteen miles, 
and still was three miles from Genoa. Even- 
hundred yards was now, equal to a mile. At 
length I found it utterly impossible to move an- 
other step. It was quite dark, and there was 
nothing for it but to sit down on the road-side. 
Fortunately, the weather was comparatively 
mild. As I was meditating how to pass the 
night, I perceived a hot spring close by, toward 
which I crept ; and finding the water strongly 
impregnated with salt, it occurred to me that it 
might benefit my feet. I soon plunged them in, 
and in half an hour found them so much im- 
proved that I was enabled to resume my journey. 
An hour more and I was snugly housed at Genoa. 

This was a place of some importance during 
the time of the Mormon settlements, but had not 
kept pace with Carson City in the general im- 
provement caused by the recent discoveries. At 
present it contained a population of not more 
than two or three hundred, chiefly store-keepers, 



150 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



teamsters, and workmen employed upon a neigh- 
boring saw-mill. The inhabitants professed to 
be rich in silver lead, but upon an examination 
of the records to find the lead in which my San 
Francisco friend had invested, and which was 
represented to be in this district, I was unable to 
find any trace of it ; and there was no such name 
as that of the alleged owner known or ever heard 
of in Genoa. In fact, as I afterward ascertained, 
it was purely a fictitious name, and the whole 
transaction was one of those Peter Funk swin- 
dles so often practiced upon the unwary during 
this memorable era of swindles. I don't know 
how my friend received the intelligence, but I 
reported it to him without a solitary mitigating 
circumstance. Had I met with the vile mis- 
creant who had imposed upon <him, I should 
have felt bound to resort to personal measures 
of satisfaction, in consideration of the fund ex- 
pended by my friend on the expenses of this 
Commission of Inquiry. The deeds were so ad- 
mirably drawn, and the names written so legi- 
bly, that I don't wonder he was taken in. In 
fact, the only obstacle to his scheme of sud- 
den wealth was, that there were no such mines, 
and no such men as the alleged discoverers, in 
existence. 

I proceeded the next day to Carson City, 
which I had fixed upon as the future head-quar- 
ters of my agency. The distance from Genoa 
is fifteen miles, the road winding around the 
base of the foot-hills most of the way. I was 
much impressed with the marked difference be- 
tween the country on this side of the Sierra Ne- 
vada range and the California side. Here the 
mountains were but sparsely timbered ; the soil 
was poor and sandy, producing little else than 
stunted sage bushes ; and the few scattering farms 
had a thriftless and poverty-stricken look, as if 
the task of cultivation had proved entirely hope- 
less, and had long since been given up. Across 
the valley toward the Desert, ranges of mountains, 
almost destitute of trees, and of most stern and 
forbidding aspect, stretched as far as the eye 
could reach. Carson River, which courses through 
the plain, presented the only pleasing feature in 
the scene. 

I was rather agreeably surprised at the civil- 
ized aspect of Carson City. It is really quite a 
pretty and thrifty little town. Situated within 
a mile of the foot-hills, within reach of the main 
timber region of the country, and well watered 
by streams from the mountains, it is rather im- 
posing on first acquaintance ; but the climate is 
abominable, and not to be endured. I know of 
none so bad except that of Vii'ginia City, which 
is infinitely worse. The population was about 
twelve or fifteen hundred at the time of my visit. 
There was great speculation in town lots going 
on a rumor having come from Salt Lake that 
the seat of government of Utah was about to be 
removed to Carson. Hotels and stores were in 
progress of erection all about the Plaza ; but es- 
pecially drinking and gambling saloons it being 
an article of faith among the embryo sovereigns 
of Utah that no government can be judiciously 



administered without plenty of whisky, and su- 
perior accommodations for " bucking at Monte." 
I am not sure but there is a similar feature in 
the California constitution ; at least, the prac- 
tice is carried on to some extent at Sacramento 
during the sittings of the Legislature. Measures 
of the most vital importance are first introduced 
in rum-cocktails, then steeped in whisky, after 
which they are engrossed in gin for a third read- 
ing. Before the final vote, the opponents ad- 
journ to a game of poker or sledge, and upon the 
amount of Champagne furnished on the occasion 
by the respective parties interested in the bill 
depends its passage or defeat. It was said that 
Champagne carried one of the great Senatorial 
elections ; but this has been denied, and it would 
be dangerous to insist upon it. 

I had the pleasure of meeting in Carson an 
esteemed friend from San Francisco, Mr. A. J. 
Van Winkle, Real Estate Agent ; who, being a 
descendant of the famous. Rip Van Winkle, was 
thoughtful enough to furnish me with a bunk to 
sleep in. Warned by the fate of his unhappy 
ancestor, my friend had gone briskly into the 
land business, and now owned enough of town 
lots, of amazingly appreciative value, to keep 
any man awake for the remainder of his life. I 
think if I had as much property, doubling itself 
up all the time like an acrobate in a circus, I 
would never sleep another wink thinking about 
it. 

Chief among the curiosities of Carson City is 
the Territorial Enterprise a newspaper of an 
origin long anterior to the mining excitement. 
I was introduced to ' ' the Colonel, " who presides 
over the editorial department, and found him un- 
commonly strong on the ultimate destiny of Car- 
son. His office was located in a dirty frame 
shanty, where, amidst types, rollers, composing- 
stones, and general rubbish of a dark and literary 
aspect, those astounding editorials which now and 
then arouse the public mind are concocted. The 
Colonel and his compositors live in a sort of 
family fashion, entirely free from the rigorous 
etiquette of such establishments in New York. 
They cook their own food in the composition 
room (which is also the editorial and press room), 
and being, as a general thing, short of plates, use 
the frying-pan in common for that purpose. In 
cases of great festivity and rejoicing, when a sub- 
scriber has settled up arrearages or the cash is 
paid down for a good job of hand-bills, the Col- 
onel purchases the best tender-loin steak to be 
had in market, and cooks it with one hand, while 
with the other he writes a lettdr of thanks to the 
subscriber, or a puff on the hand-bill. But the 
great hope upon which the Colonel feeds his im- 
agination is the removal of the seat of govern- 
ment from Salt Lake to Carson City, which he 
considers the proper place. Mr. Van Winkle is 
also of the same opinion ; and, as a general thing. 
the proposition is favorably entertained by the 
citizens of Carson. 

As usual in new countries, a strong feeling of 
rivalry exists between the Carsonites and the in- 
habitants of Virginia City. I have summed up 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



151 



the arguments on both sides and reduced them 
to the following pungent essence : 

Virginia City a mud-hole ; climate, hurri- 
canes and snow ; water, a dilution of arsenic, 
plumbago, and copperas ; wood, none at all ex- 
cept sage brush ; no title to property, and no 
property worth having. 

Carson City a mere accident ; occupation of 
the inhabitants, waylaying strangers bound for 
Virginia ; business, selling whisky, arid so dull 
at that, men fall asleep in the middle of the street 
going from one groggery to another; productions, 
grass and weeds on the Plaza. 

While this fight is going on Silver City, which 
lies about midway between the two, shrugs her 
shoulders and thanks her stars there can be no 
rivalry in her case. If ever there was a spot 
fitted by nature for a seat of government it is 
Silver City the most central, the most moral, 
the most promising ; in short, the only place 
where the seat of government can exist for any 
length of time. 

This Kilkenny-cat fight is highly edifying to 
a stranger, who, of course, is expected to take 
sides, or at once acknowledge himself an enemy. 
The result, I hope, will be satisfactory and tri- 
umphant to .all parties. I would suggest that 
the government be split into three slices, and a 
slice stowed away under ground in each of the 
great cities, so that it may permeate the founda- 
tions of society. 

A few days after my arrival in Carson the sky 
darkened, and we soon had a specimen of the 
spring weather of this region. To say tliat it 
stormed, snowed, and rained would be ridicu- 
lously tame in comparison with the real state of 
the case. The wind whistled through the thin 
shanties in a manner that left scarcely a hope 
of roof or frame standing till night. Through 
the crevices came little hurricanes of snow-drift 
mixed with sand ; each tenement groaned and 
creaked as if its last hour had come ; the air was 
bitterly cold ; and it seemed, in short, as if the 
vengeance of Heaven had been let loose on this 
desolate and benighted region. 

Next day the clouds gradually lifted from the 
mountain tops, and the sun once more shone out 
bright and clear. The snow, which now covered 
the valley, began to disappear; the lowing of 
half-starved cattle, in search of the few green 
patches visible here and there, gave some promise 
of life ; but soon the portentous gusts of wind 
swept down again from the canons ; dark clouds 
overspread the sky, and a still more violent storm 
than on the preceding day set in, and continued 
without intermission all night. By morning the 
whole face 'of the country was covered with snow. 
A few stragglers came in from Woodford's, who 
reported that the trail to Placerville was covered 
up to the depth of six or eight feet, and was en- 
tirely impracticable for man or beast. Ap- 
prehensions were felt for the safety of the 
trains on the way through, as nothing could be 
heard from them. A large party had started 
out to open the trail, but were forced back by 
the severity of the weather. The snow-drifts 



were said to vary from twenty to thirty feet in 
depth. 

Here was a pretty predicament ! To be shut 
up in this desolate region, where even the cattle 
were dying of starvation, with seven or eight 
thousand human mouths to be fed, and the stock 
of provisions rapidly giving out, was rather a 
serious aspect of affairs. I do not know that 
actual starvation could have resulted for some 
time, certainly not until what cattle were alive 
had been killed, and soup made of the dead car- 
casses that covered the plain. Even before re- 
sorting to the latter extremity there were horses, 
mules, burros, and dogs, on hand, upon which 
the cravings of hunger might be appeased for a 
month or so ; and in the event of all these re- 
sources giving out, should the worst come to the 
worst, the few digger Indians that hung around 
the settlements might be made available as an 
article of temporary subsistence. 

In this extremity, when considerable suffering 
if not absolute starvation stared us in the face, 
the anxiety respecting the opening of the trails 
became general. Groups of men of divers occu- 
pations stood in the streets, or on every little 
rise of ground in the neighborhood, speculating 
upon the chances or peering . through the gloom 
in the hope of discerning the approach of some 
relief train. The sugar was gone ; flour was 
eighty dollars a sack, and but little to be had at 
that; barley was seventy-five cents a pound, and 
hay sixty cents ; horses were dying for want of 
something to eat ; cigars were rapidly giving out : 
whisky might stand the pull another week, but 
the prospect was gloomy of any thing more nour- 
ishing. 

In this exciting state of affairs, when even- 
brain was racked to devise ways and means of 
relief, and when hope of succor was almost at an 
end, a scout came running in from the direction 
of the Downerville trail with the glorious tidings 
of an approaching mule train. The taverns, 
billiard saloons, groggeries, and various stores 
were soon empty every body rushed down the 
street to have assurance made doubly sure. 
Cheer after cheer burst from the elated crowd 
when the train hove in sight. On it came at 
first like a row of ants creeping down the hill- 
side ; then nearer and larger, till the clatter of 
the hoofs and the rattling of the packs could be 
heard ; then the blowing of the tired mules ; and 
at last the leader, an old gray mule, came stag- 
gering wearily along heavily packed. A barrel 
was poised on his back doubtless a barrel of 
beef, or it might be pork, or bacon. The brand 
heaves in sight. Per Baccho ! it is neither beef, 
pork, nor bacon, but whisky old Bourbon whis- 
ky! The next mule totters along under two 
half-barrels. Speculation is rife. Every man 
with a stomach and an appetite for wholesome 
food is interested. Pigs' feet perhaps, or mack- 
erel, or, it may be, preserved chicken? But 
here is the mark brandy ; by the powers! no- 
thing but brandy ! However, here conies the 
third with a load of five-gallon kegs molasses 
beyond question, or lard, or butter? Wrong 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 




again, gentlemen gin, nothing but gin. On 
staggers a fourth heavily burdened with more 
kegs sugar, or corn meal, or preserved apples, 
I'll bet my head. Never bet your head. It is 
nothing but bitters Mack^s Bitters ! But sure- 
ly the fifth carries a box of crushed sugar on his 
back, he bears himself so gayly under his bur- 
den. And well he may! That box contains 
no more sugar than you do, my friend; it is 
stuffed choke-full with decanters, tumblers, and 
pewter spoons. But there are still ten or fifteen 
mules more. Surely there must be some pro- 
visions in the train. Nobody .can live to a very 
protracted period of life on brandy, whisky, gin, 
Mack's Bitters, and glass-ware. Alas, for hu- 
man expectation ! One by one the jaded ani- 
mals pass, groaning and tottering under their 
heavy burdens a barrel of rum ; two boxes of 
bottled ale ; six crates of Champagne ; two pipes 
of California wine ; a large crate of bar fixtures ; 
and a dozen boxes of cigars none of them nu- 
tritious articles of subsistence. 

As if to enhance our troubles, the party in 
charge of the train had been nearly starved out 
in the mountains, and now came in the very 
lankest and hungriest of the crowd. If they 
were thirsty, it was their own fault ; but none of 
them looked as if they had suffered in that re- 
spect. 

Before entering into the responsible duties of 
my agency I was desirous of seeing as much of 
the mining region as possible, and with this view 
took the stage for Virginia City. The most re- 
markable peculiarity on the road was the driver, 
whose likeness I struck in a happy moment of 
inspiration. At Silver City, eight miles from 
Carson, I dismounted, and proceeded the rest of 
the way on foot. The road here becomes rough 
and hilly, and but little is to be seen of the city 
except a few tents and board shanties. Half a 
mile beyond is a remarkable gap cut by Nature 
through the mountain, as if for the express pur- 
pose of giving the road an opportunity to visit 
Virginia City. 

As I passed through the Devil's Gate it struck 



me that there was something ominous in the 
name. " Let all who enter here " But I had 
already reached the other side. It was too late 
now for repentance. I was about to inquire 
where the devil Excuse me, I use the word in 







DEVIL'S GATE. 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



153 









' 




VlliUlNIA CITY. 



no indecorous sense. I was simply about to ask 
where he lived, when, looking up the road, I saw 
amidst the smoke and din of shivered rocks, 
where grimy imps were at work blasting for ore, 
a string of adventurers laden with picks, shovels, 
and crowbars ; kegs of powder, frying-pans, pitch- 
forks, and other instruments of torture all wea- 
rily toiling in the same direction ; decrepit old 
men, with avarice imprinted upon their furrowed 
brows ; Jews and Gentiles, foot-weary and hag- 
gard ; the young and the old, the strong and the 
weak, all alike burning with an unhallowed lust 
for lucre; and then I shuddered as the truth 
flashed upon me that they were going straight 
to Virginia City. 

Every foot of the canon was claimed, and 
gangs of miners were at work all along the road, 
digging and delving into the earth like so many 
infatuated gophers. Many of these unfortunate 
creatures lived in holes dug into the side of the 
hill, and here and there a blanket thrown over a 
few stakes served as a domicile to shield them 
from the weather. 

At Gold Hill, two miles beyond the Gate, the 



excitement was quite pitiable to behold. Those 
who were not at work, borrowing holes into the 
mountain, were gathered in gangs around the 
whisky saloons, pouring liquid fire down their 
throats and swearing all the time in a manner so 
utterly reckless as to satisfy me they had long 
since bid farewell to hope. 

This district is said to be exceedingly rich in 
gold, and I fancy it may well be so, for it is cer- 
tainly rich in nothing else. A more barren- 
looking and forbidding spot could scarcely be 
found elsewhere on the face of the earth. The 
whole aspect of the country indicates that it 
must have been burned up in hot fires many 
years ago and reduced to a mass of cinders ; or 
scraped up from all the desolate spots in the 
known world, and thrown over the Sierra Nevada 
Mountains in a confused mass to be out of the 
way. I do not wish to be understood as speak- 
ing disrespectfully of any of the works of crea- 
tion ; but it is inconceivable that this regi< n 
should ever have been designed as an abode for 
man. 

A short distance bevond Gold Hill we came 



154 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



in sight of the great mining capital of Washoe, 
the far famed Virginia City. In the course of 
a varied existence it had been my fortune to 
visit the city of Jerusalem, the city of Constan- 
tinople, the city of the Sea, the City of the Dead, 
the Seven Cities, and others of historical celebrity 
in the Old World ; and many famous cities in 
the New, including Port Townsend, Crescent 
City, Benicia, and the New York of the Pacific ; 
but I had never yet beheld such a city as that 
which now burst upon my distended organs of 
vision. 

On a slope of mountains speckled with snow, 
sage-bushes, and mounds of upturned earth, with- 
out any apparent beginning or end, congruity or 
regard for the eternal fitness of things, lay out- 
spread the wondrous city of Virginia. 

Frame shanties, pitched together as if by acci- 
dent ; tents of canvas, of blankets, of brush, of 
potato-sacks and old shirts, with empty whisky 
barrels for chimneys ; smoky hovels of mud' and 



stone ; coyote holes in the mountain-side forcibly 
seized and held by men ; pits and shafts with 
smoke issuing from every crevice ; piles of goods 
and rubbish on craggy points, in the hollows, on 
the rocks, in the mud, in the snow, every where, 
scattered broadcast in pell-mell confusion, as if 
the clouds had suddenly burst overhead and 
rained down the dregs of all the flimsy, rickety, 
filthy little hovels and rubbish of merchandise 
that had ever undergone the process of evapora- 
tion from the earth since the days of Noah. 
The interval^ of space, which may or may not 
have been streets, were dotted over with human 
beings of such sort, variety, and numbers that 
the famous ant-hills of Africa were as nothing 
in the comparison. To say that they were 
rough, muddy, unkempt and unwashed, would 
be but faintly expressive of their actual appear- 
ance ; they were all this by reason of exposure 
to the weather ; but they seemed to have caught 
the very diabolical tint and grime of the whole 








A QUESTION OF TITLE 



A PEEP AT WASHOE 







place. Here and there, to be sure, a San Fran- 
cisco dandy of the "boiled shirt" and "stove- 
pipe" pattern loomed up in proud consciousness 
of the triumphs of art iinder adverse circum- 
stances ; but they were merely peacocks in the 
barn-yard. 

A fraction of the crowd, as we entered the 
precincts of the town, were engaged in a law- 
suit relative to a question of title. The argu- 
ments used on both sides were empty whisky- 
bottles, after the fashion of the Basilinum, or 
club law, which, according to Addison, prevail- 
ed in the colleges of learned men hi former 
times. Several of the disputants had already 
been knocked down and convinced, and various 
others were freely shedding their blood in the 
cause of justice. Even the bull-terriers took an 
active part or, at least, a very prominent part. 
The difficulty was about the ownership of a lot, 
which had been staked out by one party and 
"jumped" by another. Some two or three 
hundred disinterested observers stood by, en- 
joying the spectacle, several of them with 
their hands on their revolvers, to be ready in 
case of any serious issue ; but these danger- 
ous weapons are only used on great occasions 



a refusal to drink, or some illegitimate trick at 
monte. 

Upon fairly reaching what might be consider- 
ed the centre of the town, it was interesting to 
observe the manners and customs of the place. 
Groups of keen speculators were huddled around 
the corners, in earnest consultation about the 
rise and fall of stocks ; rough customers, with 
red and blue flannel shirts, were straggling in 
from the Flowery Diggings, the Desert, and oth- 
er rich points, with specimens of croppings in 
their hands, or offering bargains in the "Kog- 
ers," the "Lady Bryant," the "Mammoth," the 
" Woolly Horse," and Heaven knows how many 
other valuable leads, at prices varying from ten 
to seventy-five dollars a foot. Small knots of 
the knowing ones wei*e in confidential inter- 
change of thought on the subject of every other 
man's business ; here and there a loose man was 
caught by the button, and led aside behind n 
shanty to be "stuffed;" every body had some 
grand secret, which nobody else could find out : 
and the game of " dodge" and "pump" was uni- 
versally played. Jew clothing-men were setting 
out their goods and chattels in front of wretch- 
ed-looking tenements ; monte-dealers, gamblers, 



13G 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



* thieves, cut-throats, and murderers were min- ( 
gling miscellaneously in the dense crowds gath- ' 
ered around the bars of the drinking saloons. 
Now and then a half-starved Pah-Ute or "VVashoe 
Indian came tottering along under a heavy press 
of fagots and whisky. On the main street, 
where the mass of the population were gathered, 
a jaunty fellow who had " made a good thing of 
it" dashed through the crowds on horseback, ac- J 
coutred in genuine Mexican style, swinging his j 
reata over his head, and yelling like a devil let 
loose. All this time the wind blew in terrific 
gusts from the four quarters of the compass, 
tearing away signs, capsizing tents, scattering 
the grit from the gravel-banks with blinding 
force in every body's eyes, and sweeping furious- 
ly around every crook and corner in search of 
some sinner to smite. Never was such a wind 
as this so scathing, so searching, so given to pen- 
etrate the very core of suffering humanity ; dis- 
daining overcoats, and utterly scornful of shawls 
and blankets. It actually seemed to double up, 
twist, pull, push, and screw the unfortunate bi- 
ped till his muscles cracked and his bones rat- 
tled following him wherever he sought refuge, 
pursuing him down the back of the neck, up the 
coat-sleeves, through the legs of his pantaloons, 
into his boots in short, it was the most villain- 
ous and persecuting wind that ever blew, and I 
boldly protest that it did nobody good. 

Yet, in the midst of the general wreck and 
crash of matter, the business of trading in 
claims, "bucking," and "bearing" went on as 
if the zephyrs of Virginia were as soft and balmy 
as those of San Francisco. 

This was surely No matter ; nothing on 
earth could aspire to competition with such a 




place. It was essentially infernal in every as- 
pect, whether viewed from the Comstock Ledge 
or the summit of Gold Hill. Nobody seemed 
to own the lots except by right of possession ; 
yet there was trading in lots to an unlimited ex- 
tent. Nobody had any money, yet every body 
was a millionaire in silver claims. Nobody had 
any credit, yet every body bought thousands of 
feet of glittering ore. Sales were made in the 
Mammoth, the Lady Bryant, the Sacramento, 
the Winnebunk, and the innumerable other 
"outside claims," at the most astounding fig- 
ures but not a dime passed hands. All was 
silver underground, and deeds and mortgages on 
top ; silver, silver every where, but scarce a dol- 
lar in coin. The small change had somehow 
gotten out of the hands of the public into the 
gambling saloons. 

Every speck of ground covered by canvas, 
boards, baked mud, brush, or other architect- 
ural material, was jammed to suffocation ; there 
were sleeping houses, twenty feet by thirty, in 
which from one hundred and fifty to two hun- 
dred solid sleepers sought slumber at night, at a 
dollar a head ; tents, eight by ten, offering ac- 
commodations to the multitude ; any thing or 
any place, evea a stall in a stable, would have 
been a luxury. 

The chief hotel, called, if I remember, the 
" Indication," or the " Hotel de Haystack," or 
some such euphonious name, professed to accom- 
modate three hundred live men, and it doubtless 
did so, for the floors were covered from the attic 
to the solid earth three hundred human beings 
in a tinder-box not bigger than a first-class hen- 
coop ! But they were sorry-looking sleepers as 
they came forth each morning, swearing at the 
evil genius who had directed them to this 
miserable spot every man a dollar and a 
pound of flesh poorer. I saw some, who 
perhaps were short of means, take surrep- 
titious naps against the posts and walls in 
the bar-room, while they ostensibly profess- 
ed to be mere spectators. 

In truth, wherever I turned there was 
much to confirm the forebodings with which 
I had entered the Devil's Gate. The deep 
pits on the hill-sides ; the blasted and bar- 
ren appearance of the whole country; the 
unsightly hodge-podge of a town ; the hor- 
rible confusion of tongues ; the roaring, rav- 
ing drunkards at the bar-rooms, swilling 
fiery liquids from morning till night ; the 
flaring and flaunting gambling-saloons, fill- 
ed with desperadoes of the vilest sort ; the 
ceaseless torrent of imprecations that shock- 
ed the ear on every side ; the mad specula- 
tions and feverish thirst for gain all com- 
bined to give me a forcible impression of the 
unhallowed character of the place. 

What dreadful savage is that ? I asked, 
as a ferocious-looking monster in human 
shape stalked through the crowd. Is it 
can it be the No ; that's only a murder- 
er. He shot three men a few weeks ago, 
and will' probably shoot another before 




A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



157 



night. And this aged and decrepit man, 
his thin locks floating around his hag- 
gard and unshared face, and matted with 
filth? That's a speculator from San 
Francisco. See how wildly he grasps at 
every "indication," as if he had a lease 
of life for a thousand years ! And this 
bull-dog fellow, with a mutilated face, 
button-holing every by-passer? That 
fellow? Oh, he's only a "bummer" in 
search of a cocktail. And this and this 
all these crazy-looking wretches, run- 
ning hither and thither with hammers 
and stones in their hands, calling one an- 
other aside, hurrying to the assay-offices, 
pulling out papers, exchanging mysteri- 
ous signals who and what arc all these ? 
Oh, these are "VVashoe millionaires. They 
are deep in "outside claims." The lit- 
tle fragments of rock they carry in their 
hands are "croppings" and "indica- 
tions" from the ' ' Wake - up - Jake, ". 
" Boot - Hog - or - Die, " ' ' Wild - Cat, " 
"Grizzly Hill," "Dry-up," "Same 
Horse," " Let-her-Rip," "You Bet," 
" Gouge-Eye," and other famous ledges 
and companies, in which they own some 
thousands of feet. Hold, good friend ! 
I am convinced there is no rest for the 
wicked. All night long these dreadful 
noises continue ; the ears are distracted 
with an unintelligible jargon of "crop- 
pings," "ledges," "lodes," "leads," "indica- 
tions," "feet," and "strikes," and the nostrils 
offended with foul odors of boots, old pipes, and 
dirty blankets who can doubt the locality? 
If the climate is more rigorous than Dante de- 
scribes it if Calypso might search in vain for 
Ulysses in such a motley crowd these apparent 
differences are not inconsistent with the general 
theory of changes produced by American emi- 
gration and the sudden conglomeration of such 
incongruous elements. 

I was grieved and astonished to find many 
friends here some of them gentlemen who had 
borne a very fair reputation in San Francisco, 
and whose unhappy fate I never could have an- 
ticipated. The bankers and brokers who had 
been cut off, after a prosperous career on Mont- 
gomery Street, had, of course, reached the goal 
toward which they had long been tending ; the 
lawyers, who had set their unfortunate* fellow- 
creatures by the ears, were now in a congenial 
element ; the hard traders and unscrupulous 
speculators, who had violated all the moral ob- 
ligations of life in their greedy lust for money, 
naturally abounded in large numbers ; in short, 
it was not a matter of surprise that justice had 
at length been dealt out to many sinful men. 
But when I recognized friends whom I had for- 
merly knpvvn as good citizens, the fathers of in- 
teresting families, exemplary members of society 
in San Francisco, I was profoundly shocked. 
It was impossible to deny that they must have 
been guilty of some grievous wickedness to en- 
title them to such a punishment. 




SAN FRANCISCO SPECULATORS. 

What surprised me most of all was to find 
Colonel R , to whom I had a letter of intro- 
duction, the leading spirit here. His assistance 
was sought by all. He was the best friend to 
any man in need of advice. Hospitality with 
him was a cardinal virtue. He had turned out 
of his own snug quarters long since to make 
room for the sick and disabled, and now slept 
about wherever he could find shelter. He was 
chief owner in the ' ' Comstock Lead, " and show- 
ed great liberality in giving a helping hand to 
others on the road to fortune. In fine, I am ut- 
terly unable to determine for what crime he was 
now suffering expiation. There was nothing in 
his conduct that I could discover the least unbe- 
coming to a good citizen. His benevolence, hos- 
pitality, and genial manners, were worthy any 
Christian. To me and to many others he proved 
the good Samaritan, and I still hesitate to be- 
lieve that he merited the hard fate now meted 
out to him. But who c*an fathom the judgments 
pronounced upon men ? 

The bare contemplation of the miseries suf- 
fered by the inhabitants of this dreadful place 
was enough to stagger all convictions of my 
identity. Could it be possible that I was at last 
in in' Virginia City? What had I done to 
bring me to this ? In vain I entered into a re- 
trospection of the various iniquities of my life ; 
but I could hit upon nothing that seemed bad 
enough to warrant such a fate. At length a 
withering truth flashed upon me. This must be 
the end of a Federal existence ! This must be 
the abode of Ex-Inspector-Gcnerals ! It must IK- 



158 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 




here that the accounts current of the decapitated 

are examined. Woe to the wretch who failed to 

profit by specie clause 

of the Independent 

Treasury Act while 

he had official claws 

on hand! Such laches 

of public duty can not 

be tolerated even in 

Virginia City. 

I slept, or rather 
tried to sleep, at 
one " Zip's, " where 
there were only twen- 
ty " bunks" in the 
room, and was for- 
tunate in securing a 
bunk even there. But 
the great Macbeth 
himself, laboring un- 
der the stings of an 
evil conscience, could 
have made a better 
hand of sleeping than 
I did at Zip's. It 
proved to be a gen- 
eral meeting - place 
for my San Francis- 
co friends, and as 
they were all very 
rich in mining claims, 
and bent on getting 
still richer, they were 
continually making 
out deeds, examining 
titles, trading and 
transferring claims, 
discussing the pur- 
chases and prospects 
of the day, and ex- 
hibiting the most ex- 



traordinary "indications" yet dis- 
covered, in which one or other of 
them held an interest of fifty or a 
hundred feet, worth, say, a thou- 
sand dollars a foot. Between the 
cat-naps of oblivion that visited 
my eyes there was a constant din 
of " croppings" " feet" " fifty 
thousand dollars" "struck it 
rich!" "the Comstock Ledge!'' 
' ' the Billy Choller ! " " Miller 
on the rise!" "Mammoth!" 
' * Sacramento ! " " Lady Bry- 
ant!" "a thousand feet more!" 
"great bargain" "forty dol- 
lars a foot!" crash! rip! bang! 
" an earthquake ! " " run for 
your lives ! " 

What the deuce is the matter ? 
It happened thus one night. 
The wind was blowing in terrific 
gusts. In the midst of the gen- 
eral clatter on the subject of crop- 
pings, bargains, and indications, 
down came our next neighbor's 

house on the top of us with a terrific crash. 

For a moment it was difficult to tell which house 




A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



1 .VJ 




THE OOMSTOCK. LEAD. 



was the ruin. Amidst projecting and shivered 
planks, the flapping of canvas, and the howling 
of the wind, it really seemed as if chaos had 
come again. But " Zip's" was well braced, and 
stood the shock without much damage, a slight 
heel and lurch to leeward being the chief result. 
I could not help thinking, as I turned in again 
after the alarm, that there could no longer be a 
doubt on the subject which had already occa- 
sioned me so many unpleasant reflections. It 
even seemed as if I smelled something like brim- 
stone; but upon calling to Zip to know what 
was the matter, he informed me that he was 
"only dryin' the boots on the stove." 

Notwithstanding the number of physicians who 
had already hoisted their " shingles," there was 
much sickness in Virginia, owing chiefly to ex- 
posure and dissipation, but in some measure to 
the deleterious quality of the water. Nothing 
more was wanting to confirm my original im- 
pressions. The water was certainly the worst 
ever used by man. Filtered through the Corn- 
stock Lead, it carried with it much of the plum- 
bago, arsenic, copperas, and other poisonous min- 
erals alleged to exist in that vein. The citizens 
of Virginia had discovered what they conceived 
Co be an infallible way of " correcting it ;" that 



is to say, it was their practice to mix a spoonful 
of water in half a tumbler of whisky, and then 
drink it. The whisky was supposed to neutral- 
ize the bad effects of the water. Sometimes it 
was considered good to mix it with gin. I was 
unable to see how any advantage could be gain- 
ed in this way. The whisky contained strych- 
nine, oil of tobacco, tarentula juice, and various 
effective poisons of the same general nature, in- 
cluding a dash of corrosive sublimate ; and the 
gin was manufactured out of turpentine and 
whisky, with a sprinkling of Prussic acid to 
give it flavor. For my part, I preferred taking 
poison in its least complicated form, and there- 
fore adhered to the water. With hot saleratus 
bread, beans fried in grease, and such drink as 
this, it was no wonder that scores were taken 
down sick from day to day. 

Sickness is bad enough at the best of times ; 
but here the condition of the sick was truly pitia- 
ble. There was scarcely a tenement in the place 
that could be regarded as affording shelter against 
the piercing wind ; and crowded as every' tent 
and hovel was to its utmost capacity, it was hard 
even to find a vacant spot to lie down, much less 
sleep or rest in comfort. Many had come with 
barely means sufficient to defray their expenses 



100 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



to the diggings, in the confident belief that they 
would immediately strike upon " something rich. " 
Or, if they failed in that, they could work a while 
on wages. But the highest wages here for com- 
mon labor were three dollars a day, while meals 
were a dollar each, and lodgings the same. It 
was a favor to get work for "grub." Under 
such circumstances, when a poor fellow fell sick, 
his recovery could only be regarded as a matter 
of luck. No record of the deaths was kept. The 
mass of the emigration were strangers to each 
other, and it concerned nobody in particular 
when a man " pegged out," except to put him in 
a hole somewhere out of the way. 

I soon felt the bad effects of the water. Pos- 
sibly I had committed an error in not mixing 
it with the other poisons ; but it was quite pois- 
onous enough alone to give me violent pains in 
the stomach and a very severe diarrhea. At the 
same time, I was seized with an acute attack of 
rheumatism in the shoulder and neuralgic pains 



in the head. The complication of miseries which 
I now suffered was beyond all my calculations 
of the hardships of mining life. As yet I had 
struck nothing better than " Winn's Restau- 
rant," where I took my meals. The Comstock 
Ledge was all very fine ; but a THOUSAND DOL- 
LARS A FOOT ! Who ever had a thousand dol- 
lars to put in a running foot of ground, when 
not even the great Comstock himself could tell 
where it was running to. On the whole, I did 
not consider the prospect cheering. 

At this period there were no laws of any kind 
in the district for the preservation of order. 
Some regulations had been established to secure 
the right of discovery to claimants ; but they 
were loose and indefinite, differing in each dis- 
trict according to the caprice of the miners, and 
subject to no enforcement except that of the re- 
volver. In some localities the originardiscover- 
er of a vein was entitled to 400 running feet ; he 
could put down the names of as many friends as 




>;LVEK, CERTAIN, 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



161 



he chose at 200 feet each. Notice had to be re- 
corded at certain places of record, designating 
the date and location of discovery. All "leads" 
were taken up with their "dips, spurs, and an- 
gles." But who was to judge of the "dips, 
spurs, and angles?" That was the difficulty. 
Every man ran them to suit himself. The Corn- 
stock Ledge was in a mess of confusion. The 
shareholders had the most enlarged views of its 
"dips, spurs, and angles;" but those who struck 



croppings above and below were equally liberal 
in their notions; so that, in fine, every body's 
spurs were running into every body else's angles. 
The Cedar Hill Company were spurring the Mil- 
ler Company ; the Virginia Ledge was spurring 
the Continuation ; the Dow Company were spur- 
ring the Billy Choller, and so on. It was a free 
fight all round, in which the dips, spurs, and 
angles might be represented thus after the pat- 
tern of a bunch of snakes : 




THE CLAIMS. 



The contention was very lively. Great hopes 
were entertained that when Judge Cradlebaugh 
arrived he would hold Court, and then there 
would be some hope of settling these conflicting 
claims. I must confess I did not share in the 
opinion that law would settle any dispute in 
which silver was concerned. The Almaden Mine 
case is not yet settled, and never will be as long 
as there are judges and juries to sit upon it, and 
lawyers to argue it, and silver to pay expenses. 
Already Virginia City was infested with gentle- 
men of the bar, thirsting and hungering for 
chances at the Comstock. If it could only be 
brought into Court, what a picking of bones there 
would be ! 

When the snow began to clear away there was 
no end to the discoveries alleged to be made ev- 
ery day. The Flowery Diggings, six miles be- 
low Virginia, were represented to be wonderfully 
rich so rich, indeed, that the language of every 
speculator who held a claim there partook of the 
flowery character of the diggings. The whole 
country was staked off to the distance of twenty 
or thirty miles. Every hill-side was grubbed 
open, and even the Desert was pegged, like the 
sole of a boot, with stakes designating claims. 
Those who could not spare time to go out ' ' pros- 
pecting" hired others, or furnished provisions 
and pack-mules, and went shares. If the pros- 
pecting party struck "any thing rich," it was 
expected they would share it honestly ; but I al- 
ways fancied they would find it more profitable 
to hold on to that, and find some other rich lead 
for the resident partners. 

In Virginia City a man who had been at work 
digging a cellar found rich indications. He im- 
mediately laid claim to a whole street covered 
with houses. The excitement produced by this 
" streak of luck" was perfectly frantic. Hun- 
VOL. XXII. No. 128. L 



dreds went to work grubbing up the ground un- 
der their own and their neighbors' tents ; and it 
was not long before the whole city seemed in a 
fair way of being undermined. The famous 
Winn, as I was told, struck the richest lead of 
all directly under his restaurant, and was next 
day considered worth a million of dollars. The 
dips, spurs, and angles of these various discoA-- 
eries covered every foot of ground within an area 
of six miles. It was utterly impossible that a 
fraction of the city could be left. Owners of lots 
protested in vain. The mining laws were para- 
mount where there was no law at all. There 
was no security to personal property, or even to 
persons. He who turned in to sleep at night 
might find himself in a pit of silver by morning. 
At least it was thus when I made up my mind 
to escape from that delectable region ; and now, 
four months later, I really don't know whether 
the great City of Virginia is still in existence, 
or whether the inhabitants have not found a 
"deeper deep, still threatening to devour." 

It must not be supposed, from the general 
character of the population, that Virginia City 
was altogether destitute of men skilled in scien- 
tific pursuits. There were few, indeed, who did 
not profess to know something of geology ; and 
as for assayers and assay offices, they were al- 
most as numerous as bar-keepers and groggeries. 
A tent, a furnace, half a dozen crucibles, a bot- 
tle of acid, and a hammer, generally comprised 
the entire establishment ; but it is worthy of re- 
mark that the assays were always satisfactory. 
Silver, or indications of silver, were sure to be 
found in every specimen. I am confident some 
of these learned gentlemen in the assay business 
could have detected the precious metals in ar. 
Irish potato or a round of cheese for a reasona- 
ble consideration. 



1G2 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



It was also a remarkable peculiarity of the 
country that the great " Comstock Lead" was dis- 
covered to exist in almost every locality, howev- 
er remote or divergent from the original direc- 
tion of the vein. I know a gentleman who 
certainly discovered a continuation of the Com- 
stock forty miles from the Ophir mines, and at 
an angle of more than sixty degrees. But how 
could the enterprising adventurer fail to hit upon 
something rich, when every clod of earth and 
fragment of rock contained, according to the as- 
says, both silver and gold? There was not a 
coyote hole in the ground that did not develop 
"indications." I heard of one lucky fellow 
who struck upon a rich vein, and organized an 
extensive company on the strength of having 
stumped his toe. Claims were even staked out 
and companies organized on "indications" root- 
ed up by the squirrels and gophers. If they were 
not always indications of gold or silver, they 
were sure to contain copper, lead, or some other 
valuable mineral plumbago or iridium, for in- 
stance. One man actually professed to have dis- 



covered "ambergris ;" but I think he must have 
been an old whaler. 

The complications of ills which had befallen 
me soon became so serious that I resolved to get 
away by hook or crook, if it was possible to cheat 

the corporate authorities of their dues. I 

had not come there to enlist in the service of 
Mammon at such wages. 

Bundling up my pack one dark morning, I 
paid "Zip" the customary dollar, and while the 
evil powers were roistering about the grog-shops, 
taking their early bitters, made good my escape 
from the accursed place. Weak as I was, the 
hope of never seeing it again gave me nerve ; 
and when I ascended the first elevation on the 
way to Gold Hill, and cast a look back over the 
confused mass of tents and hovels, and thought 
of all I had suffered there in the brief space of a 
few days, I involuntarily exclaimed, "If ever I 
put foot in that hole again, may the " 

But perhaps I had better not use strong lan- 
guage till I once more get clear of the DevilV 
Gate. 




ENDICA: IONS, SUEB J' 



THE BATTLE OF THE COWPENS. 




GOLD MEDAL AWARDED TO GENERAL MORGAN. 

THE BATTLE OF THE COWPENS. 

JANUARY 18, 1781. 

TO the Cowpens riding proudly, boasting loudly, rebels scorning, 
Tarleton hurried, hot and eager for, the fight; 
From the Cowpens. sore-confounded, on that January morning, 
Tarleton hurried somewhat faster, fain to save himself by flight. 

In the morn he scorned us rarely, but he fairly found his error, 

When his force was made our ready blows to feel; 
When his horsemen and his footmen fled in wild and pallid terror 

At the leaping of our bullets and the sweeping of our steel. 

All the day before we fled them, and we led them to pursue UP, 

Then at night on Thicketty Mountain made our camp; 
There we Jay upon our rifles, slumber quickly coming to us, 

Spite the crackling of our camp-fires, and our sentries' heavy tramp. 

Morning on the mountain border ranged in 
^g^5, ~. order found our. forces. 

Ere our scouts announced the coming of 

the foe; 
While the hoar-frost lying near us, and the 

distant water-courses, 

Gleamed like silver in the sunlight, seemed 
like silver in their glow. 

Morgan ranged us there to meet them, and 

to greet them with such favor 
That they scarce would care to follow us 

again : 
In the rear, the Continentals none were 

readier nor braver; 

In the van, with ready rifles, steady, stern, 
our mountain men. 

Washington, our trooper peerless, gay and 

fearless, with his forces 
Waiting panther-like upon the foe to fall. 
Formed upon the slope behind us, where, on 

raw-boned country horses, 
Sat the sudden-summoned levies brough; 
from Georgia by M'Call. 

Soon we heard a distant drumming, nearer coming, slow advancing 

It was then upon the very nick of nine 
Soon upon the road from Spartanburg we saw their bayonets glancing, 

And the morning sunlight playing on their swaying scarlet line. 




DANIEL MORUAN. 



HARPER'S 

EV MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



NO. CXXIX.-FEBRUARY, 1861,-VOL XIII. 

A PEEP AT WASHOE. 

BY J. ROSS BROWNE. 










CAESON VALLEY. 

S ill-luck would have it, a perfect hurricane I sometimes in gusts so sudden and violent that 
swept through the canon from Gold Hill ; | it was utterly impossible to make an inch of 

Entered .arrnrdin^ to Act of Congress, in the year 18G1, by Harper and Brothers, in the Clerk's Office of the Dis- 
trict Court for the Southern District of New York. 
VOL. XXII. No. 129. T 



A 



290 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



headway. Tents were shivered and torn to 
shreds all along the wayside. I saw one party 
sitting at breakfast, with nothing but the four 
posts which had originally sustained their tent 
and a few fragments of canvas flapping from 
them as a protection against the wind. No- 
thing could withstand its terrific force. Cabins 
with bush tops were unroofed ; frame shanties 
were rent asunder, and the boards flew about 
like feathers ; the air was filled with grit and 
drift, striking the face as if the great guns, which 
are sometimes said to blow, were loaded with 
duck-shot. Nor did the wind confine itself to 
one channel. It ranged up hill and down hill, 
raking the enemy fore and aft. In one place 
two tents were torn up, as one might say, by 
the roots, and carried off bodily to the top of the 
mountain ; in another, half a dozen might be 
seen traveling down hill, at the rate of forty 
miles an hour, toward the Flowery Diggings. 
What became of all the unfortunate wretches 
who were thus summarily deprived of their local 
habitations I never learned. Most likely they 
sought refuge in the coyote holes, which, in fact, 
appeared to be untenanted; for I don't think 
coyotes could live long in such a country. 

A short distance beyond Gold Hill a trail 
strikes off to the right, which is said to cut off 
four or five miles of the distance to Carson City. 
That would be a considerable gain to a traveler 
making his escape from Virginia City, and whose 
every step was attended with extreme physical 
suffering, to say nothing of the mental disquie- 
tude occasioned by his proximity to that place. 
Besides, it avoided the " Devil's Gate, "of which 
I had also an intense dread. What hordes of 
dark and inexorable imps might be lying in wait 
there, with pitchforks to impale a poor fellow 
upon, and kegs of blasting powder to blow him 
up; what accounts might have to be rendered 
of one's stewardship at head-quarters ; what par- 
ticular kind of passport, sanded over with brim- 
stone and stamped with a cloven foot, might be 
demanded it was not possible to conjecture. 
At all events, it was safer to incur no risk. The 
old adage of the "longest way round" did not 
occur to me. 

I took the trail, and was soon out of sight of 
Gold City. The mountains were covered with 
snow, not very deep, but soft and slippery. In 
my weak state, with a racking rheumatism and 
the prostrating effects of the arsenic water, the 
labor of making headway against the fierce gusts 
of wind and keeping the trail was very severe. 
Every few hundred yards I had to lie down in 
the snow and await some relief from the parox- I 
ysms of pain. After an hour or two I reached | 
a labyrinth of hills, in which the trail became 
lost by the melting of the snow. I still had 
some idea of the general direction, and kept on. 
My progress, however, was very slow, and at 
times so difficult that it required considerable 
effort of mind to avoid stopping altogether, and 
"taking the chances," as they say, in this agree- 
able region. Now all this may seem very ab- 
surd, as compared with the sufferings endured 



by Colonel Fremont in the Rocky Mountains, 
and doubtless is, in some respects. As, for in- 
stance : I was not shut up in a gorge of the 
mountains, a thousand miles from the habita- 
tions of man ; I was not in a state of starvation, 
though thin enough for a starved man in all 
conscience ; I was not at all likely to remain in 
any one position, however isolated, without be- 
ing "spotted" by some enterprising miner in 
search of indications. But then, on the other 
hand, I was thoroughly dredged with arsenic, 
plumbago, copperas, and corrosive sublimate, 
and had neither mule nor " burro" not even a 
woolly horse to carry me. Does any body pre- 
tend to say that the renowned Arctic explorers 
ever encountered such a series of hardships as 
this ? Four or five months of perpetual night, 
with the thermometer 80 below zero, may be 
uncomfortable ; but then the adventurer in the 
Polar regions has the advantage of being the 
furthest possible distance from certain other re- 
gions say, from Virginia City. 

About noon I came to the conclusion, that 
however willing the spirit might be the flesh 
had done its best, and was now quite used up ; 
so I stretched myself on the snow under a cedar 
bush, and resolved to await what assistance 
Providence might send me. I was not long 
there when a voice in the distance caught my 
ear. I rose and called. In a few minutes a 
mysterious figure emerged from the bushes at 
the mouth of a canon a few hundred feet below. 
I beckoned to him to come up. The nn<:;ulnr 
appearance and actions of the man attracted my 
attention. 

His face was nearly black with dirt, and his 
hair was long and shaggy. On his head he 
wore a tattered cap, tied around the chin with 
a blue cotton handkerchief. A tremendous blue 
nose, a pair of green goggles, and boots extend- 
ing up to his hips, completed the oddity of his 
appearance. At first he approached me rapidly ; 
but at the distance of about fifty yards he halted, 
as if uncertain what to do. He then put down 
his pack, and began to search for something in 
the pockets of his coat a knife, perhaps, or a 
pistol. Could it be possible this fellow was a 
robber, who had descried me from the opposite 
mountain, and was now bent upon murder? 
If so, it would be as well to bring the matter to 
an issue at once. I was unarmed having even 
lost my penknife by reason of a rent in my 
pocket. There were desperate characters in 
this wilderness, who would think nothing of 
killing a man for his money; and although I 
had only about forty dollars left, that fact could 
not possibly be known to this marauder. His 
appearance, to be sure, was not formidable ; but 
then one should not be too hasty in judging by 
appearances. For all I knew he might be the 
Old Gentleman himself on a tour of inspection 
from Virginia City. 

"Hallo, friend!" said I, assuming a con- 
ciliatory tone, "where are you bound?" 

Upon this he approached a little closer. I 
soon perceived that he was a German Jew, who 






A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



291 



had either lost his 
way or was prospect- 
ing for silver. As he 
drew near, he mani- 
fested some signs of 
trepidation evident- 
ly being afraid I would 
rob him of his pack, 
in which there was 
probably some jewel- 
ry or old clothes. It 
is hardly necessary 
for me to say that I 
had no intention of 
robbing him. I had 
not come to that yet. 
There was no telling 
to what straits I might 
be reduced; but as 
long as I had a dol- 
lar in my pocket, I 
was determined to 
avoid highway rob- 
bery. Besides, it was 
beyond my strength 
at this particular cri- 
sis a fact which the 
Jew seemed to recog- 
nize, for he now ap- 
proached confidently. 
His first exclamation, 
on reaching the spot 
where I stood, was 

"Dank Gott! Ish 
dis de trail ?" 

"Where are you 
bound?" 

"To Carson. I 
pe going to Carson, 
and I pe losht for six 
hours. Mein Gott ! 
It ish an awful country. You know the way ?" 

" Of course. You don't suppose I'd be here 
if I didn't know the way ?" 

"Datiszo." 

" Come on, friend ; I'm going in that direc- 
tion. But don't walk very fast I'm sick." 

" Zo ? Was is de matter ? " 

"Poisoned." 

"Mein Gott! mein Gott! Das is awful." 

" Very it makes a fellow so weak." 

"Mein Gott ! Did dey poison you for your 
money?" And here the Jew put his hands be- 
hind him to see if his pack was safe. 

"Oh no, it was only the water arsenic and 
copperas." 

"Zo!" 

This explanation apparently relieved him of 
a very unpleasant train of thought, for he now 
became quite lively and talkative. As we trudged 
along, chatting sociably on various matters of 
common interest, it occurred to me from time 
to time that I had seen this man's face before. 
The idea grew upon me. It was not a matter 
of particular importance, and yet I could not 
banish it. His voice, too, was familiar. Cer- 




AN OL1> FKIEND. 

tainly there was something about him that pos- 
sessed an uncommon interest. 

" Friend," said I, "it occurs to me I've seen 
you before." 

"Zo? I dink de same." 

Some moments elapsed before I could fix upon 
the occasion or the place. All at once the truth 
flashed upon me. It was Strawberry Flat! I 
had slept with the man ! This was the identic- 
al wretch who had robbed me of my stockings I 
In the excitement produced by the discovery and 
the recollection of my blistered feet, I verily be- 
lieve, had I been armed with a broad-sword or 
battle-axe, after the fashion of Brian de Bois 
Guilbert, I would have cloven him in twain. 

"Ha! I remember; it was at Strawberry! 
You slept with me one night," said I, in a tone 
of suppressed passion. 

" Das is it ! Das is it !" cried the Jew. " 1 
shlept mit you at Sthrawberry !" 

The effrontery of the villain was remarkable. 
Probably he would even acknowledge the theft. 

"Friend," said I, calmly and deliberately, 
" did you miss a pair of woolen stockings in the 
morning about the time you started?" 



292 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



"Look here!" quoth the wretch, suddenly 
halting, "was dey yours?" 

"They were!" 

At this the abominable rascal doubled him- 
self up as if in a convulsion, shook all over, and 
turned almost black in the face. It was his 
mode of laughing. 

' ' Well, I daught dey wos yours ! I daught 
to myself, mein Gott ! how dat fellow will shwear 
when he find his sthockings gone ! " 

And here the convulsions were so violent that 
he fairly rolled over in the snow, and kicked as 
if in the agonies of death. It was doubtless very 
funny to rob a man of his valuable property and 
cause him days of suffering from blistered feet ; 
but I was unable to see any wit in it till the Jew 
regained his breath and said : 

' ' Vel, vel ! I must sthand dhreat for dat ! I 
know'd you'd shwear when you missed 'em. Vel, 
vel! das is goot! Here's a flask of first-rate 
brandy dhrink !" 

I took a small pull medicinally, of course. 
From that moment my forgiveness was complete. 
I harbored not a particle of resentment against 
the man, though I never again could have enter- 
tained implicit confidence in his integrity. 

In due time we reached the banks of Carson 
River at a place called Dutch John's, distant 
about four miles from Carson City. I have an 
impression that John was an emigrant from Salt 
Lake. He had brought with him a woman to 
whom he was " sealed," and was the father of a 
thriving little family of " cotton-heads." Some 
of the stage-drivers who were in the habit of 
taking a " smile" at John's persuaded him that 
he was now among a moral and civilized people, 
and must get married. To be " sealed" to a wo- 
man was not enough. He must be spliced ac- 
cording to Church and State, otherwise he would 
wake up some fine morning and find himself 
hanging to a tree. John had heard that the 
Californians were terrible fellows, and had a 
mortal dread of Vigilance Committees. The 
stage-drivers were rather a clever set of fellows, 
and no way strict in morals ; but then they 
might hang him for fun. and what would be fun 
to them would be death to him. There was 
some charm in living an immoral life, to be 
sure ; yet it would not do to enjoy that disrepu- 
table course at the expense of a disjointed neck. 
On the whole, John took the advice of the stage- 
drivers, and got married. Next day he rode 
through the streets of Carson, boasting of the 
adroit manner in which he had escaped the 
vengeance of the Vigilance Committee. I am 
happy to add that he is now a respectable mem- 
ber of the community. Not that I recommend 
his whisky. I consider it infinitely worse than 
any ever manufactured out of tobacco-juice, Cay- 
enne-pepper, and whale-oil at Port Townsend, 
Washington Territory, where the next worst 
whisky in the world is used as the common bev- 
erage of the inhabitants. 

Leaving John's we came to the plain. Here 
the sand was heavy, and the walking very mo- 
notonous and tiresome. This part of Carson 



Valley is a complete desert. Scarcely a blade of 
grass was to be seen. Shriveled sage-bushes scat- 
tered here and there over the sand were the only 
signs of vegetation. Even the rabbits and sage- 
hens had abandoned the country. All the open 
spaces resembled the precincts of a slaughter- 
house. Cattle lay dead in every direction, their 
skulls, horns, and carcasses giving an exceeding- 
ly desolate aspect to the scene. Near the river 
it was a perfect mass of corruption. Hundreds 
upon hundreds of rotting carcasses and bleached 
skeletons dotted the banks or lay in great mounds, 
where they had gathered for mutual warmth, 
and dropped down from sheer starvation. The 
smell filled the air for miles. Thousands of 
buzzards had gathered in from all parts to the 
great carnival of flesh presenting a disgusting 
spectacle as they sat gorged and stupefied on the 
foul masses of carrion, they scarcely deigning to 
move as we passed. In the sloughs bordering on 
the river oxen, cows, and horses were buried up 
to the necks where they had striven to get to the 
water, but from excess of weakness had failed 
to get back to the solid earth. Some were dead, 
others were dying. Around the latter the buz- 
zards were already hovering, scarcely awaiting 
the extinction of life before they plunged in their 
ravenous beaks and tore out the eyes from the 
sockets. On the dry plain many hundreds of 
cattle had fallen from absolute starvation. The 
winter had been terribly severe, and the prolong- 
ed snows had covered what little vegetation there- 
was. Those of the settlers who had saved hay 
enough for their stock found it more profitable 
to sell it at &300 a ton and let the stock die. 
Horses, oxen, and cows shared the same fate. 
Many lingered out the winter on the few stunted 
shrubs to be found on the foot-hills, and died 
just as the grass began to appear. It was a 
hard country for animals of all kinds. Those 
that were retained for the transportation of goods 
were little better than living skeletons, yet the 
amount of labor put upon them was extraordi- 
nary. In Virginia City it was almost impossible 
to procure a grain of barley for love or money. 
Enormous prices were offered for any kind of 
horse-feed, by men who had come over on good 
horses, and who wished to keep them alive. At 
the rate of five dollars a day it required but a 
short time for the best horse to "eat his head 
off." Hay was sold in little wisps of a few 
pounds at sixty cents a pound, barley at seventy- 
five cents, and but little to be had even at those 
extravagant rates. A friend of mine from San 
Francisco, who arrived on a favorite horse, could 
get nothing in the way of feed but bread, and he 
paid fifty cents a loaf for a few scanty loaves 
about the size of biscuits to keep the poor ani- 
mal alive. It was truly pitiable to see fine horses 
starving to death. The severity of the weather 
and the want of shelter were terribly severe on 
animals of every kind. Good horses could 
scarcely be sold for a tenth part of their cost 
though the distance across the mountain could 
be performed under ordinary circumstances in 
two davs. But where all was rush and confu- 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



293 



sion there was little time to devote to the calls 
of humanity. Men were crazy after claims. 
Every body had his fortune to make in a few 
months. The business of jockeying had not 
grown into full vogue, except among a few who 
were always willing to sell at very high prices 
and buy at very low a remarkable fact con- 
nected with dealers in horse-flesh. 

The walk across Carson Valley through the 
heavy sand had exhausted what little of my 
strength remained, and I was about to give up 
the ghost for the third time, when a wagoner 
from Salt Lake gave me a lift on his wagon and 
enabled me to reach the town. Here my excel- 
lent friend Van Winkle gave me another chance 
in his bunk, and in the course of a few days I 
was quite recruited. 

The courteous reader who has followed me so 
far will doubtless be disappointed that I have 
given so little practical information about the 
mines. Touching that I can only say, as Mac- 
aulay said of Sir Horace Walpole, the constitu- 
tion of my mind is such that whatever is great 
appears to me little, and whatever is little seems 
great. The serious pursuits of life I regard as 
a monstrous absurdity on the part of mankind 
especially rooting in the ground for money. The 
Washoe mines are nothing more than squirrel- 
holes on a large scale the difference being that 
squirrels burrow in the ground because they live 
there, and men because they want to live some- 
where else. I deny and repudiate the idea that 
any man really has any necessity for money. 
He only thinks he does which is a most unac- 
countable error. 

But then you may have some notion of going 
to Washoe yourself just to try your luck. Good 
friend, let me advise you don't go. Stay where 
you are. Devote the remainder of your life to your 
legitimate business, your wife, and your baby. 
Don't go to Washoe. If you have no money, or 
but little, you had better go to any other place. 
It is no retreat for a poor man. The working 
of silver mines requires capital. A poor man 
can not make wages in Washoe. If you are rich 
and wish to speculate a word in your ear. 



"The undersigned is prepared to sell at reasonable 
prices" [this I quote from one of my advertisements] " val- 
uable claims in the following companies : 

The Dead Broke, The Fool Hardy, 

The Rip Snorter, The Ousel Owl, 

The Love's Despair, The Grab Game, 

The Ragged End, The Riff- Raff. 

The titles to all these claims are perfect, and the pur- 
chaser of any claim will have no .difficulty whatever in 
holding on to it." 

I hope it will not be inferred from the despond- 
ing tone of my narrative that I deny the exist- 
ence of silver in Washoe, for certainly nothing 
is farther from my intention. That there is sil- 
ver in the Comstock Lead, and in great quanti- 
ties, is a well-established fact. How many thou- 
sands of tons may be there, it is impossible for 
me to say, but there must be an immense quan- 
tity beyond all calculation in fact, as the ore is 
scattered all around the mines in great heaps, 
and every heap is said to be worth a fortune if it 
would only bear transportation to San Francisco 
at an expense of $600 per ton. The best of it is 
sorted out and packed off on mules every day or 
two, partly to get the silver out of it, and partly 
to show the speculators in San Francisco that 
the mines have not yet given out. The yield per 
ton is estimated at from $1200 to $2500. During 
the time of my visit to the mines but little work 
could be done on account of the number of specu- 
lators who were engaged in trying to sell out, 
few of them being disposed to engage in the slow 
operation of mining. Some said it was on ac- 
count of the weather, but I suspect the weather 
had very little to do with it. The following is 
a rough estimate of the Companies who claim to 
hold in the Comstock vein : 




Billy Choller 

Hill and Norcross 

Goold and Curry 

Savage 

Washoe 

Belcher and Best 

Sides Ground 

Murphy 

Kinney 

Central 

California 

Walsh and Bryan 

Central (again) 

Ophir 

Mexican 

Continuation of Ophir. . . 
Newman, Scott, and Co. . 

Miller Co 

Bob Allen and others 



1820 feet 
250 " 



800 

1200 

223 

500 

100 

60 

100 

250 

50 

150 

200 

100 

1200 

300 

3000 

900 



HOLDING ON TO IT. 



Besides about forty miles of out- 
side claims, said to be on a di- 
rect line with the Comstock, and 
to be richer if any thing than the 
original vein. 

When I left, the prices asked 
for a share in any of the above 
companies ranged from $200 to 
$2000 per running foot, and it 
was alleged that the purchaser 
could follow his running foot 
through all its dips, spurs, and 
angles. Some of these compa- 
nies numbered as high as two or 



294 



HAEPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 




CROPPING6. 



three hundred. I know a gentleman who sold 
out all his assets and invested the proceeds, $800, 
in 8 inches of the Central, and another who mort- 
gaged his property to secure five feet in the Billy 
Choller. These gentlemen are, in all probability, 
at this moment worth a million of dollars each. 
In short, the whole country looks black, blue, 
and white with silver, and where there is no sil- 
ver there are croppings which indicate sulphurets 
or copperas. 




HONEST MINER. 



The Flowery Diggings were in full flower ; and 
if they have since failed to realize the expecta- 
tions that were then formed of them it must be 
because the Mammoth lead gave out, or Lady 
Bryant did not sustain her reputation. 

To the honest miner I have a word to say. 
You are a free-born American citizen that is, 
unless you were born in Ireland, which is so much 
the better, or in Germany, which is better still. 
You live by the sweat of your brow. You are 
God's noblest work an honest man. The free 
exercise of the right of suffrage is guaranteed to 
you by the glorious Constitution of our common 
country. Upon your vote may depend the fate 
of millions of American freemen, nay, fate of 
Freedom itself, and the ultimate destiny of man* 
kind. I do not appeal to you on the present oc< 
casion for any personal favor. Thank Fortune, I 
am beyond that. But in the name of common 
sense, in the name of our beloved State, in the 
name of the great Continental Congress, I do ap- 
peal to you if you have a claim in California 
HOLD ON TO IT ! Don't go pirouetting about the 
country in search of better claims, abandoning 
ills that you are well acquainted with, and flying 
to others that you know nothing about. If you 
do, you may find it "a gloomy prospect." 




"A GLOOMY PB08PECT." 

I was now, so to say, permanently establishe 
at Carson City. In other words, it was question- 
able whether I should ever be able to get away 
without resorting to the intervention of friends, 
which was an alternative too revolting for hu- 
man nature to bear. The only resource left was 
"The Agency." I had forgotten all about it 
hitherto, and now resolved to call at the Express 
office, and see what fortune might be in store for 
me. Surely the advertisement must have elicited 
various orders of a lucrative nature. Nor was I 
disappointed. A package of letters awaited me. 
Without violating any confidential obligations, 
I may say, in general terms, that the contents and 
my answers were pretty much as follows : 



I 



A PEEP AT W A SHOE. 



295 



A. Wishes to know what the prospect would 
be in Washoe for a young man of the medical 
profession. Has a small stock of drugs, and pro- 
poses to engage in the practice of medicine, and 
at the same time keep a drug store. 

Answer. Doctors are already a drug in 
Washoe. Brandy, Whisky, and Gin are the only 
medicines taken. Bring over a lot of good li- 
quors, prescribe them at two bits a dose, and you 
will do ;vell. Charge, $10 please remit. 

B. Has about twenty head of fine American 
cows. Would like to sell them, and wishes a 
contract made in advance. 

Answer. Could find nobody who wanted to 
pay cash for cows. Money is scarce and cows 
are plenty. Have sold your cows, however, for 
the following valuable claims : 25 feet in the 
Root-Hog-or-Die ; 40 feet in the Let-her-Rip ; 
50 feet in the Gone Case ; and 100 feet in the 
You Bet. Charge, $25, which please remit by 
Express. 

C. Would like to know if a school could be 
established in Washoe with any reasonable pros- 
pect of success. Has been engaged in the busi- 
ness for some years, and is qualified to teach the 
ordinary branches of a good English education, 
or, if desired, Greek and Latin. 

Answer. No time to waste in learning here, 
and no use for the English language, much less 
Greek or. Latin. A pious missionary might find 
occupation. One accustomed to mining could 
develop what indications there are of a spiritual 
nature among the honest miners. No charge. 

D. Wishes to invest about $1500 in some 
good claims. Has three or four friends who will 
go in with him. Is willing to honor a draft for 
that amount. Hopes I will strike something rich. 

Answer. Have bought a thousand feet for 
you in the very best silver-mines yet discovered. 
They are all in and about the Devil's Gate. Sev- 
eral of them are supposed to be in the Comstock 
Ledge. The}' are worth 50,000 this moment ; 
but if you can sell them in S. F. for an advance 
of $2000 do so by all means, as the silver may 
give out. Charge, $400 or nothing. 

E. Has been in bad health for some time, 
and thinks a trip across the mountains would 
do him good. Please give him some informa- 
tion about the road and manner of living. How 
about lodgings and fare? Is troubled with the 
bronchitis, and wishes to know how the climate 
would be likely to aifect it. 

Ansiver. Hire a mule at Placerville, and if 
you are not too far gone the trip may beneMt 
your bronchial tubes. The road is five feet deep 
by 130 miles long, and is composed chiefly of 
mountains, snow, and mud. Lodgings from 
one to two hundred lodgers in each room, and 
from two to four bedfellows in each bed. Will 
not be troubled long with the bronchitis. The 
water will probably make an end of you in about 
two weeks. Charge nothing. 

F.~ Is a lawyer by profession, and desires to 
establish a business in some new country. Thinks 
there will be some litigation at Washoe in con- 
nection with the mines. Wishes to be informed 



on that point, and would be obliged for any gen- 
eral information. 

Answer. About every tenth man in Washoe 
is a lawyer. There will doubtless be abundance 
of litigation there before long. Would advise 
you to go to some other new country, say Pike's 
Peak, for instance. Respecting things general- 
ly, Miller and Rodgers are going up and whisky 
down. Charge, 50 cents. Please remit. 

G. Thinks of taking his family over to Wa- 
shoe. How are the accommodations for women 
and children ? And can servants be had ? 

Answer. Keep on thinking about that or 
something else, but don't attempt to carry your 
thoughts into effect. If you do, your wife must 
wear the excuse me she must wear male ap- 
parel. For accommodations, yourself and fam- 
ily might possibly be able to hii i one bunk two 
feet by six ; and you might seduce a Digger In- 
dian to remain in your domestic employ by giv- 
ing him $2 in cash and a gallon of whisky per 
day. Charge nothing. 

H. Has a house and lot worth about $10,000. 
Would like to trade it for some good mining 
claims. Can not sell the property for cash on 
account of a difficulty about the title; but this 
you need not mention, as it can probably be ad- 
justed for a reasonable consideration. 

Ansiver. Have traded your house and lot for 
100 feet in the Pine Nut, 50 do. in the Ousel 
Owl, 50 do. in the Salmon Tail, 25 in the Roar- 
ing Jack, and 25 in the Amador. These are all 
good claims, and it will make no difference about 
the title to your house and lot, as each claim ii! 
the above-mentioned companies has also several 
titles to it. Charge, $500. Please remit. 

/. Is in the stove business, and understands 
that cast-iron stoves bring a high price in Wa- 
shoe. Has some notion of sending over a con- 
signment. Please state expenses and prospect 
of success. 

Answer. Stoves are very valuable in Washoe, 
especially cooking-stoves. It costs from 25 to 
50 cents per pound to get them over on mule- 
back, at which prices they can be sold for claims, 
but not for money. If you have any very young 
stoves that can be planted, as the Schildbergers 
planted the salt, a good crop of them can be sold. 
Charge nothing. 

J. Is inventor of a process for extracting sil- 
ver out of the crude ore, without smelting. The 
machinery is simple, and would easily bear trans- 
portation. Could the patent-right be sold in 
Washoe? 

Answer. Nothing is more needed here than 
just such an invention as yours. Bring it over 
by all means. If you can extract silver out of 
the general average of the ore found here, either 
by smelting or otherwise, you will do a splendid 
business. Charge, $50. Please remit. 

A". Understands that lumber is $300 a thou- 
sand in Virginia City. Can be delivered at the 
wharf in San Francisco from the Mendocino 
Mills for about $20 a thousand. Would it be 
practicable to get any quantity of it over, so as 
to make the speculation profitable ? 



296 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



Answer. You are correctly informed as to the 
value of lumber in Washoe. A balloon might be 
constructed to carry over a small lot ; but in case 
you found that mode of transportation too expens- 
ive, I know of no other way than to remove a por- 
tion of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the rear of 
Placerville, or run a tunnel through underneath. 
It is possible that the price of labor might be an 
obstacle to the success of either of these plans, 
in which event, if you can contract to put one 
board on the back of each man leaving San Fran- 
cisco he may be able to earn his board, and you 
may be able to get your lumber over cheap. 
Charge, $25. Please remit. 

I have thus given an average specimen of the 
letters that came pouring in upon me by every 
mail. It kept me busy, as may well be supposed, 



to attend to the numerous requests made by my 
correspondents ; but the trouble was, no money 
came. There was a great deal, to be sure, for 
future collection, and as long as that was due it 
could not be lost by any injudicious speculation. 
It was some consolation, therefore, to reflect upon 
the large amount of capital that had accrued in 
the various operations of the Agency. 

At this crisis, when fortune had fairly begun 
to smile, the weather changed again, and for days 
it stormed and snowed incessantly, covering up 
the whole valley, and blocking up every trail. 
A relapse of rheumatism and my poison-malady 
now seized me with renewed virulence. I had 
scarcely any rest by night or day, and soon saw 
that to remain would be a sure way of securing 
a claim to at least six feet of ground in the vi- 
cinity of Carson. The extraordinary number of 




A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



297 







THE FLOWEEY DIGGINGS. 



persons who had invested in silver mines, and 
who were anxious to sell out in San Francisco, 
suggested the idea of changing my Agency to 
that locality. I therefore notified the public 
that there was a rare opportunity of selling out 
their claims to the best advantage ; and it was 
not long before I was freighted down with "in- 
dications," powers of attorney, deeds, and bills 
of sale. 

As soon as the weather permitted I set forth 
on my journey homeward, taking the stage to 
Genoa, in the hope of finding a horse or mule 
there upon which to cross the mountains. It 
was doubtful whether the trail was yet open ; but 
a thaw had set in, and the prospect was that it 
would be practicable to get over in a few days. 
The stage from Genoa to Woodford's had been 



discontinued, in consequence of the expense of 
feeding the horses. All the saddle trains had 
left before the late snow, and there was not an 
animal of any kind to be had except by purchase 
an alternation for which I was not prepared. 

In this unfortunate state of affairs there was 
nothing left but to try it again on foot. It was 
with great difficulty that I could walk at all, 
much less carry my blankets and the additional 
weight of a heavy bundle of " croppings." The 
prospect of remaining at Genoa, however, was 
too gloomy to be thought of. So I sold my 
blankets for a night's lodging and set out the 
next morning for Woodford's. By dint of labor 
and perseverance I accomplished about eight 
miles that day. It was dark night when I reach- 
ed a small farm-house on the road-side. Here 



298 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 




BETUEN FROM WASHOE. 



a worthy couple lived, who gave me comfortable 
lodgings, and cooked up such a luxurious repast 
of broiled chicken, toast, and tea, that I determ- 
ined, if practicable, to remain a day or two, in 
order to regain my strength for the trip across 
the mountain. 

The kindness and hospitality of these excellent 
people had the desired eifect. In two days I 
was ready to proceed. Fortunately an ox- wagon 
was going to Woodford's for lumber, and I con- 
tracted with the driver, a good-humored negro, 
to give me a lift there for the sum of fifty cents. 

I had the pleasure of meeting several San 
Francisco friends on the road, and gave them 
agreeable tidings of the mines. The trail had 
just been opened. A perfect torrent of adven- 
turers came pouring over, forming an almost un- 
broken line all the way from Flacerville. By 
this time the spring was well advanced and the 
excitement was at its height. The news from 
below was, that the whole State would soon be 



depopulated. Every body was coming women, 

children and all. Of course I wished them luck, 

but it was a marvel to me what they would do 

when they reached Washoe. Already there were 

i eight or ten thousand people there, and not one 

j in fifty had any thing to do or could get employ- 



ment for board and lodging. Companies were 



leaving every day for More's Lake and Walker's 
River, and the probability was that there would 
be considerable distress if not absolute suffering. 
But it was useless to talk. Every adventurer 
must have a look at the diggings for himself. 
There must be luck in store for him if for no- 
body else. For my part I had taken a look and 
and was satisfied. 

The ox-team traveled very slowly, so that 
there was a good opportunity of seeing people 
pass both ways. The difference in the expres- 
sion of the incoming and the outgoing was very 
remarkable ; being about the difference between 
a man with fifty dollars in his pocket and one 





OUTGOING AND INCOMING. 



I 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



299 



who wished to borrow that amount. There was 
that canny air of confidence about the former 
which betokens the possession of some knowledge 
touching the philosopher's stone not shared by 
mankind generally. About the latter there was 
a mingled expression of sadness and sarcasm as 
if they were rather inclined to the opinion that 
some people had not yet seen the elephant. 

As my ox-carriage crept along uneasily over 
the rocky road, I was hailed from behind, 
"Hello dare! Sthop!" It was my friend the 
Jew again ! I had lost sight of him in Carson, 
and now by some fatality he was destined to be 
my companion again. 

"Mein Gott! I'm tired valking. Can't you 
give me a lift?" The driver was willing pro- 
vided I had no objection. Now I had freely 
forgiven this man for the robbery of my stock- 
ings. I was not uncharitable enough to refuse 
help to a tired wayfarer ; yet I had a serious ob- 
jection to his company under existing circum- 
stances. His boots were nearly worn out, and 
mine had but recently been purchased in Carson. 
If this fellow could embezzle my stockings and 
afterward unblushingly confess the act, what se- 
curity could I have on the journey for the safety 
of my boots? I knew if he once started in 
with me he would never relinquish his claim to 
my company until we reached Placerville ; for 
the fellow was rather of a sociable turn, and 
liked to talk. It seemed best, therefore, under 
all circumstances, to have a distinct understand- 
ing at once. The treaty was soon negotiated. 
On my part it was stipulated that Israel should 
ride to Woodford's on the ox-wagon, provided 
he paid his own fare ; that we should cross the 
mountain together for mutual protection, pro- 
vided he would deposit in my hands his watch 
or a 810 gold piece, as security for the safety of 
my boots ; and, finally, that he would bind him- 
self by the most solemn obligations of honor not 
to steal both the security and the boots. To 
all of which the Jew assented with one of those 
internal convulsions which betokened great satis- 
faction in the arrangement. The watch was 







THE JEW'S J1OOT8. 



covered with pewter, as I discovered when he 
handed it to me ; but I had no doubt it was 
worth eight or ten dollars. Besides, the treaty 
made no mention of the quality of the watch. 
It might possibly be an excellent time-piece, and 
at all events seemed to be worth a pair of boots. 
Toward evening we arrived at Woodford's. 
Between two and three hundred travelers from 
the other side of the mountain had already got- 
ten in, and it was represented that there was a 
line of pedestrians all the way over to Straw- 
berry. The rush for supper was tremendous. 
Not even the famous Heenan and Savers contest 
could compare with it, for here every body went 
in or at least tried to get in. At the sixth 
round I succeeded in securing a favorable posi- 
tion, and when the battle commenced was for- 
tunate enough to be crushed into a seat. 

In the way of sleeping there was a general 
spread-out up stairs. By assuming a confiden- 
tial tone with the proprietor I contrived to get a 
mattress and a pair of blankets. The Jew slept 
alongside on his pack, with a covering of loose 
coats. Nature's balmy restorer quickly put an 
end to all the troubles of the day, notwithstand- 
ing the incessant noise kept up throughout the 
night. 

In the morning I awoke much refreshed. It 
was about seven o'clock and time to start. I 
turned to arouse my friend Israel, but to my 
surprise found that he had already taken his de- 
parture. A horrible suspicion seized me. Had 
he also taken Yes! of course! my boots were 
gone too ! And the security ? The watch ? I 
looked under my pillow. Miserable wretch ! he 
had also taken the watch. I might have known 
it ! I was a fool for trusting him. When I 
picked up the old pair of boots bequeathed to me 
as a token of remembrance by this depraved 
man when I held them up to the light and ex- 
amined them critically when I reflected upon 
the journey before me, it was enough to bring 
tears to the sternest human eye. 

No matter ! I would catch the dastardly wretch 
on the trail. If ever I laid hands upon him 
again, so help me But what is 
the use of swearing. No man 
ever caught another in this world 
with such a pair of boots on his 
feet and here I examined them 
again never! One might as 
well attempt to walk in a pair of 
condemned fire-buckets. 

There was no help for it but 
to await some chance of getting 
over on horseback. Fortunately, 
a saddle-train which had passed 
down to Genoa during the previ- 
ous day returned a little after 
daylight. For the sum of 30. 
cash in advance, I secured an un- 
occupied horse the poorest ani- 
mal perhaps ever ridden by mortal 
man. There is no good reason 
that I am aware of why people en- 
gaged in the horse-business should 



300 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



always select for my use the refuse of their stock ; 
but such has invariably been their practice. I 
have never yet been favored with a horse that 
was not lame, halt, or blind, or otherwise physic- 
ally afflicted. 

I had not ridden more than a mile from Wood- 
ford's before I discovered that the miserable 
hack upon which I was mounted traveled diago- 
nally like a lugger beating against a head-wind. 
His fore feet were well enough they traveled on 
the trail ; but his hind feet were continually 
undertaking to luff up a little to windward. 
When it is borne in mind that the trail was over 
a bank of snow from eight to ten feet deep, and 
not more than a foot wide, the inconvenience of 
that mode of locomotion will at once be perceived. 
Every few hundred yards the hind feet got off 
the trail, and went down with a sudden lurch 
that kept me in constant apprehension of being 
buried alive in the snow. Another serious diffi- 
culty was, that my horse, owing perhaps to the 
defect in his hind legs, had no capacity for short 
turns ; so that whenever the trail suddenly di- 
verged from its direct course he invariably 
brought up against a rock, stump, or bank of 
snow. 

I appealed to the captain or commander of the 
train to give me a better animal, but he assured 
me positively this was the very best in the whole 
lot ; and that I would find him peculiarly adapted 
to mountain travel, where it was often an ad- 
vantage for an animal to hold on to an upper 
trail with his fore feet while his hind ones were 
searching for another down below. In short, on 
this account solely he had named him. " Guyas- 
cutas." 

As there seemed to be no way of impressing 
the captain with a different opinion of the merits 
of Guyascutas, I was obliged to make the best 
of a bad bargain, and jog on as fast as spurs, 
blows, and entreaties could effect that result. 

In reference to the Jew, whom I expected to 
overtake, and for whom I kept a sharp look-out, 
it may be as well to state at once that I never 
again put eyes on him. Whether he secreted 
himself behind some tree or rock till the saddle- 
train passed, or, overcome by remorse for the 
dastardly act he had committed, cast himself 
headlong over some precipice, I have never been 
able to ascertain. He is a miserable wretch at 
best. In view of the future I would not for all 
the wealth of the Rothschilds stand in his 
Well, yes, for that much money I might stand 
in his boots, provided no others were to be had ; 
but I should regret extremely to be guilty of such 
an act toward any fellow-traveler as he had com- 
mitted. 

It was four o'clock when we got under way 
from the Lake House. A mule-driver from the 
other side of the divide had cautioned us against 
starting. There had been several snow-slides 
during the day, and it was only a few hours 
since the trail had been cut through. A large 
train of mules heavily laden must now be on the 
way down the grade, and fifteen other trains 
had left Strawberry since noon. 



Those who have passed over the " Grade" can 
best appreciate our position. Two of our horses 
had already died of starvation and hard usage. 
There was no barley or feed of any kind to be 
had at the Lake House. The snow was rapidly 
melting, and avalanches might be expected at 
any moment. Only a day or two ago one of 
these fearful slides had occurred, sweeping all be- 
fore it. Two mules and a horse were carried 
over the precipice and dashed to atoms, and the 
driver had barely escaped with his life. 

It was considered perilous to stop on any part 
of the Grade. The trail was not over a foot 
wide, being heavily banked up on each side by 
the accumulated snow. Passing a pack train 
was very much like running a muck. The 
Spanish mules are so well aware of their privi- 
leges when laden, that they push on in defiance 
of all obstacles, often oversetting the unwary 
traveler by main force. I was struck with a 
barrel of whisky in one of the narrow passes 
some time previously and knocked nearly sense- 
less, so that I had good cause to remember their 
prowess. 

It was put to the vote whether we should 
make the attempt or remain, and finally, after 
much discussion, referred to our captain. He 
was evidently determined to go on at all haz- 
ards, having a stronger interest in the lives of 
his horses than any of the party. 

At the word of command we mounted and 
put spurs to our jaded animals. 

"Now, boys," said the captain, "keep to- 
gether ! Your lives depend upon it ! Watch 
out for the pack trains, and when you see them 
coming hang on to a wide place ! Don't come 
in contact with the pack-mules or you'll go over 
the Grade certain." 

There was no need of caution. Every nerve 
was strained to make the summit as soon as pos- 
sible. It should be mentioned that the " Grade" 
is the Placerville state road, cut in the eastern 
slope of the Sierra Nevadas, and winding upward 
around each rib of the mountain for a distance 
of two miles. It was now washed away in many 
places by the melting of the snow, and some of 
the bridges across the ravines were in a very bad 
condition. From the first main elevation there 
is still another rise of two or three miles to the 
top of the divide, but this part is open and the 
ascent is comparatively easy. In meeting the 
pack trains the only hope of safety is to make 
for a point where the road widens. These places 
of security occur only three or four times in the 
entire ascent of the Grade. To be caught be- 
tween them on a stubborn or unruly horse is al- 
most certain destruction at this season of the 
year. 

The only alternative is to dismount with all 
speed, wheel your horse round, and if possible 
get back to some place of security. 

In about half an hour we made a point of rocks 
where the trail was bare. Our captain gave the 
order to dismount, and proceeded a short distance 
ahead to reconnoitre. The whole space occu- 
pied by our twelve horses and riders was not 






A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



301 




8NOW SLIDE. 



over six or eight feet wide by about thirty in 
length. Should any of the animals become 
stampeded they were bound to go over. The 
tracks of several which had recently been pushed 
over the precipice by the pack trains were still 
visible. Our captain returned presently with 
news that a train was in sight. Soon we heard 
the tinkling of the bell attached to the leader, 
and then the clattering of the hoofs as the mules 
descended with their heavy burdens. One by 
one they passed. Whisky, gin, and brandy 
again ! Barrels, half-barrels, and kegs ! The 
vaqueros made the cliffs resound with their 
Carambas and Carajas, their DoiTa Marias and 
Santa Sofias! a language apparently well un- 
derstood by the mules. This was a train of forty 
mules, all laden with liquors for the thirsty 
miners. The vaqueros reported another train 
within half a mile of twenty-five mules, and 
others on the Grade. 



After another train had passed, our captain 
gave the word to mount and " cut for our lives !" 
Scarcely five seconds elapsed before we were all 
off, dashing helter-skelter up the trail. The 
horses plunged and stumbled over the rocks, 
slush, and mud in a manner truly pitiable for 
them and dangerous for us. In some places 
the mules had cut through for hundreds of yards, 
and the trail was perfectly honey-combed. But 
there was no time for humanity. Dashing the 
spurs into the bleeding sides of our animals, we 
pushed on as if all the evil powers of Virginia 
City were after us. 

" Go it, boys !" our captain shouted ; " neck 
or nothing! I see the train! Two hundred 
yards more and we're all safe ! Caraja ! Here's 
another train right on us!" 

It was a palpable truth ! The pack-mules 
came lumbering down around a point not fifty 
yards from us. 



302 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 



"Dismount all! Wheel! and cut back for 
your lives !" This was the order. In a moment 
we were all plunging rantically in the snow. 
Some of the horses were stampeded, and one 
man had gotten his riata around his leg. The 
mules had also commenced a stampede, when, 
by dint of shouting, plunging, and struggling, 
we got clear of them, and went tearing down the 
trail to our old station. The train soon passed 
us. Whisky again, of course. " How many 
trains more, Sefior?" to the vaquero. " Ca- 
rambo ! muchos! muchos!" and on he went 
laughing. This was hard. We could not stand 
here much longer, for the tremendous bank of 
snow above us began to show indications of 
breaking away. Two trains more passed in 
rapid succession, and then our captain rode 
ahead again to reconnoitre. It was growing 
dusk. The prospect was any thing but cheering. 
At a given signal we mounted once more. Now 
commenced a terrible race. Heads, necks, legs, 
or horse-flesh were as nothing in the desperate 
struggle to reach the next point. This time we 
were in luck. The haven was attained just soon 
enough, to avoid a train of forty mules. From 
the vaquero we learned that another was still on 
the Grade. We might be able to pass it, how- 
ever, half a mile further on. At the word of 
command we again mounted, and put spurs to 
our jaded animals. It was not long before we 



heard the tinkling of a bell. Now for it ! halt ! 
The mules were on us before we could turn; 
and here commenced a scene which baffles all 
description. Some of us were overturned, horses 
and all, in the banks of snow. Others sprang 
from their horses and let them struggle on their 
own account. All had to break a way out of 
the trail. The mules were stampeded, and 
kicked, brayed, and rolled by turns. The va- 
queros were in a perfect frenzy of rage and 





THE GRADE. 



I 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



terror combined shrieking Maladetto ! Caram- 
bo ! and Caraja ! till it seemed as if the rever- 
beration must break loose the snow from above 
and send an avalanche down on top of us all. 
Bridles got foul of stray legs and jerked the own- 
ers on their backs ; riatas were twisted and 
wound ai-ound horses, mules, and whisky-bar- 
rels ; packs went rolling hither and thither ; 
men and animals kicked for their bare lives ; 
heads, legs, and bodies were covered up in the 
snow-drifts ; and nobody knew what every body 
else was doing, or what he was doing himself. 
In short, the scene was altogether very lively, 
and would have been amusing had it not been 
intensified by the imminent risk of slipping over 
the precipice. It was at least a thousand feet 
down into Lake Valley, and a man might just 
as well be kicked on the head by twelve frantic 
horses and twenty-five vicious mules as under- 
take a trip down there by the short cut. 

All troubles must end. Ours ended when the 
animals gave out for want of breath. Upon 
picking up our scattered regiment, with all arms 
and equipments used in the melee, we found the 
result as follows : Dead, none ; wounded by 
kicks, scratches, sprains, and bruises, six : mor- 
tally frightened, the whole parry, inclusive of our 
captain ; lost a keg of whisky, Avhich some say 
went down to Lake Valley ; but I have my sus- 
picions where that keg went, and how it was 
secreted. 

From this point over the summit we met sev- 
eral more pack trains, and had an occasional 
tumble in the snow. Nothing more serious oc- 
curred. It was quite dark as we commenced 
our descent. The road here was a running 
stream of mud, obstructed by slippery rocks, 
ruts, stumps, and dead animals. It was a mar- 
vel to me how we ever reached the bottom with- 
out broken bones. My horse stumbled about 
every hundred yards, but never fell more than 
three-quarters down. Somehow people rarely 
get killed in this country, unless shot by revolv- 
ers or bad whisky. 

The crowds were thicker than ever at Straw- 
berry. From all accounts the excitement had 
only just commenced. Five thousand were rep- 
resented to be on the road from the various dig- 
gings throughout California. I had bargained 
for a bed, and was enjoying the idea of a good 
supper the savory odor of which came through 
the cracks of the bar-room door when our cap- 
tain announced that he could get no feed for his 
animals, and we must ride on to " Dick's," four- 
teen miles more. This was pretty tough on a 
sick man. The ride since morning had been 
quite hard enough to try the strength and tem- 
per of a well man ; but add fourteen miles to 
that, of a dark night and raining into the bar- 
gain, and the sum total is not agreeable. It 
was useless to remonstrate. The captain was 
inflexible. He could not see his horses starve. 
Qua was just giving his last kick, and three 
more were about to "go in." I might stay if I 
pleased, suggested the captain, but the horses 
must go on. As I had paid thirty dollars for 



the ride, and had barely enough left to get to 
San Francisco, there was no alternative but to 
mount. By this time three of the party were 
so ill as to be scarcely able to sit in their sad- 
dles. 

It is wonderful how much one can endure 
when there is nobody at hand to care a pin 
whether he lives or dies. I rather incline to 
the opinion that many people in this world die 
from the kindness and sympathy of friends, who, 
if thrown upon their own resources, would weath- 
er it out. 

I have an impressive recollection of the four- 
teen miles from Strawberry to "Dick's." My 
horse, Gyascutas, broke down about half-way. 
The rest of the party pushed on. About the 
same time the old tortures of rheumatism and 
neuralgia assailed me in full force. It was 
pitch dark. There was no stopping-place near- 
er than " Dick's." The weather was cold, and 
a drenching rain had now penetrated my clothes 
to the skin. 

A distinct recollection of my feelings a month 
ago, as I tramped along over this road with my 
pack on my back, afforded rne ample material 
for philosophical reflection. Was it now some- 
body else some decrepit old fogy who had lest 
his all, and had nothing more to expect in this 
world ? Or could it possibly be the glowing en- 
thusiast, just freed from the trammels of office, 
and inspired by visions of mountain life, liberty, 
and wealth ? If it was the same and there 
could hardly be any mistake about it, unless 
some mysterious translation of the spirit into 
some other body had taken place at Virginia 
City the visions of mountain life, liberty, and 
unbounded riches were certainly of a very differ- 
ent character. 

In addition to the peculiarity in the hind- 
quarters of Guyascutas, which caused him al- 
ways to take two trails at the same time, I had 
now reason to suspect that he was entirely blind 
of one eye, and afflicted with a cataract on the 
other. Every hundred yards or so he walked 
off the road, and brought up in some deep cav- 
ity or against a pile of rocks. The mud in 
many places was up to his haunches, and if 
there was a comparatively dry spot any where in 
existence, he was sure to avoid it. I think he 
disliked me on account of the spurring I gave 
him on the Grade, and wanted to get rid of me 
in some way ; or perhaps he considered his own 
course of life beyond further endurance. 

The result of all the stumbling, and running 
into deep pits, banks of rock, and mud-holes, 
was that I had to get down and walk the re- 
mainder of the way. If a conviction had not 
taken possession of my mind that the captain 
would compel me to pay for the horse, in the 
event of failure to produce him, I would cheer- 
fully have left him to his fate, and proceeded 
alone ; but under the circumstances I thought it 
best to lead him. At last the welcome liphts 
hove in sight. It was not long before I was 
snugly housed at Dick's, where a good cup of 
tea brought life and hope back again. This, I 



304 



HARPER'S NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. 




BETDEN TO SAN FBANCISCO. 



may safely say, was my hardest day's experience 
of travel in any country. 

Next day poor Guyascutas was so far gone on 
his long journey that I had to leave him at a 
stable on the road-side, and proceed on foot. 
By night I was within six miles of Placerville. 
Here I overtook a fellow-traveler, and bargain- 
ed with him for his horse. From Placerville, 
by stage to Sacramento, the journey is devoid 
of interest. I arrived at San Francisco in due 
time, a little the worse for the wear, but still 
equal to any new emergency that might arise. 

The citizens of San Francisco were on the 
qui vive for news from Washoe. Almost every 
man with a dollar to spare, and many who had 
nothing to spare, had invested, to a greater or 
less extent, in claims from thousands of feet 
down to a few inches. Conflicting accounts 
had recently come down. The public mind 
was in a state of feverish excitement. Was 



Washoe a humbug, or was it not ? Was there 
silver there, or was it all sham ? What was the 
Ophir worth at this time ? How about the Billy 
Choller and the Miller ? These were but a few 
of the questions asked me on Montgomery Street. 
It required an hour to walk fifty yards, so great 
was the pressure for news. Could I tell any- 
thing about the Winnemuck, or the Pine-Nut, 
or the Rogers ? Did I happen to know what 
the Wake-up-Jake was worth in Washoe ? 
What about the Lady Bryant was it true that 
it had gone down ? Whereabouts was the Jim 
Crack located, and what was Dead Broke worth ? 
In short, I looked over more deeds, and answer- 
ed more questions of a varied and indefinite na- 
ture, in the brief space of three days, than had 
ever been put to and answered by any one man 
before. 

The editor of the Bulletin, who had made a 
flying visit to Washoe, and in whose company 1 



A PEEP AT WASHOE. 



305 



had traveled down from Placerville, commenced 
about this time a series of articles, in which he 
told some startling truths. Base metal had been 
found in the Comstock ; to what extent it pre- 
vailed nobody could tell. If the Comstock 
should prove to be worthless, what hope was 
there for the " outside claims ?" 

The news spread like wild-fire. A panic 
seized upon the multitudes whose funds were 
invested in Washoe. Men hurried about the 
streets in search of purchasers of Washoe stock ; 
but purchasers were nowhere to be found. Ev- 
ery body wanted to sell. The Comstock sud- 
denly fell from one thousand down to five dol- 
lars per foot, and no sales at that. Miller went 
down fifty per cent. ; and the Great Outside 
could scarcely be given away at any price ! 
Alas ! had it come to this ? The gigantic 
Washoe speculation "gone in," and none so 
poor to do it reverence ! 

Softly ! A word in your ear, reader ! They 
are only "bucking it down" for purposes of 
speculation. The keen men who know a thing 
or two are buying up secretly. The silver is 
there, and it must come out. All this cry about 
base metal is " a dodge" to frighten the timid. 
If you have claims, hold on to them ; they will 
be up again presently. 

For my part, I thought it best to leave San 
Francisco before my correspondents for whom, 
it will be remembered, I had executed some 
business in Washoe retracted their good opin- 
ion of my sagacity. There was no chance at 
this crisis to sell the various claims with which 
I had been commissioned at Carson City. Cap- 
italists were short of funds. The money mark- 
et was laboring under a depression. The liver 
of the body politic was in a state of collapse. I 
went to the principal bankers, but failed to ac- 
complish any thing. They even refused to lend 
money on unquestionable security. 

In view of all the circumstances, I determ- 
ined to visit Europe. If the moneyed men of 
the Old World could only be satisfied of the ex- 



tent, variety, and magnificence of the invest- 
ments to be made in the New, they would not 
hesitate to open negotiations with an agent di- 
rect from Washoe. 



, January, 1861. 
You will perceive from my address, most es- 
teemed reader, that I am now established at one 
of the best points for pecuniary transactions on 
the Continent of Europe. I have seen many 
of the wealthy burghers of Frankfort, and am 
pleased to say that they manifest a very friendly 
disposition. As yet they do not quite under- 
stand the nature of the proposed securities ; but 
I have great confidence in their sagacity. My 
negotiations with the Rothschilds have been of 
the most amicable character. They have gone 
so far as to express the opinion that Washoe 
must be a remarkable country ; and yesterday, 
when I proposed to sell them fifty feet in the 
Gone Case, and forty in the Roaring Grizzly, 
for the sum of one hundred thousand florins, 
they smiled so politely, and withal looked so 
completely puzzled, that I considered it best not 
to force an immediate answer. You are aware, 
of course, that in important negotiations of this 
kind it is judicious to let the opposite party sleep 
a night or two over your proposition. That the 
Rothschilds are at present a little wary of any 
investment in Washoe is quite natural. The 
nomenclature is new to them. They have never 
before heard of Roaring Grizzly and Gone Case 
silver mines. But if that should prove to be their 
only objection, I have no doubt they will ulti- 
mately purchase to the extent of several mill- 
ions. If they do, I shall be happy to negotiate 
sales for a reasonable commission, to be paid 
strictly in advance. My publishers will, I am 
confident, forward any letter to my address. 
The postage must be pre-paid. The rates, 
which are somewhat high, can be ascertained 
by inquiry at the post-offices in San Francisco, 
New Orleans, Saint Louis, Boston, and New 
York. 




VOL. XXII. No. 129. U 



BEADING EXTRA BXTLLETIN.