November 15, 2011
Nevada's Online State News Journal
[Albert S. Evans, Letter from White Pine, Alta California, May 6, 1869]
LETTER FROM WHITE PINE.
[SPECIAL CORRESPONDENCE OF THE ALTA CALIFORNIA.]
A Final Opinion of White Pine The Base Range Smelting Outside Prospecting Sales of White Pine Property Domestic Trade Death of a Promising Young Man Etc.
TREASURE CITY, May 1st, 1869.
Editors Alta: Nearly two and a half months have elapsed since my third arrival in this district, and I am becoming thoroughly wearied of climbing day after day over these terrible hills mountains they would be called but for the presence of the ten thousand feet giants, who raise their bald white heads against the blue sky all around the horizon. Grandly beautiful in its grim desolation is the scenery of this weird land, but one tires of the grandly beautiful in time, and amid Alpine heights pines White Pines, I may say for the petty prettiness of the flower garden in the cramped city, and all the little comforts and amenities of civilized life, the value of which we learn to appreciate in their absence, as Mrs. Partington learned to enjoy good health while she was sick abed. Thank heaven there is such a place as "home," and to-morrow I am off for it for a little time.
A Final Opinion.
Do I think more, or less, of this region after seeing so much of it, I am constantly asked. I will answer frankly more than ever before. Its riches have not been overstated, and it is not "worked out," nor yet even half developed. Every day's experience confirms more and more this opinion. It is a wonderful district, and despite the swindles which wildcat dealers have palmed off upon the public to the depletion of the pockets of many an unthinking and unwary Californian, San Francisco will have abundant cause to thank an All Wise Providence for its discovery before the end of 1869. Nevertheless, trade of all kinds will be overdone. Many will lose money, instead of making it here, and not a few who come here without money or means of obtaining a livelihood by their labor will curse the day they refused to take sound advice and stay away, leaving to men of capital and muscle the development of the district. Many, too, will die many have died already, and they are sinking down, day by day in this region, from the effects of disease contracted by even slight exposure, aggravated by the peculiarities of the atmosphere at this great altitude and the discomforts and inconveniences incident to life in a wild new region, far from markets and sources of supply, and poorly provided with material for building and protecting oneself from the rigors of a terrible climate. For the bare chance of striking anything approaching an Eberhardt, Hidden Treasure, Aurora or California, I would be willing to endure a tolerably long exile here in person, but under no circumstances would I bring my family and settle down to live here, while as for dying here well, I can only say I would rather die here and go to any other place you can name, than to die anywhere else and be sent here to spend eternity. As I am coming back again, D. V., I trust that no one will think I am giving the district a bad name on the eve of my departure. White Pine will be a mine of wealth to the nation for at least three years to come.
The Base Range.
Since my last I have visited the Base Range once more, and taken a further look at some of its mines. I don't think that I know quite so much about them since seeing them as I did before. I know that I am less positive in my opinion of them. There are an immense number of rich deposits, or ledges, as their owners invariably call them, and an almost unlimited supply of ore, such as it is, is to be found in them. Of this much we are certain. But as yet not enough has been done anywhere to show positively whether the popular theory, viz: that the base ores at the surface will soon run out, and give place to free mill-working ore of higher grade, or the theory of the croakers, that they are mere superficial deposits, which will give out altogether as the stopes are sunk deeper down upon them, is correct. It will take some months yet to settle this question definitely. I confess to having entertained an unfavorable opinion of these base metal deposits, but am bound to admit that popular opinion is against me, and growing stronger every day, as the mines are more and more opened.
Among the best of the base metal mines which I have visited are the Vulcan, below the Hearst Mine, west of the lower point of Pogonip Flat; the Osceola, southwest of the Eberhardt, and the claims of the Continental Silver Mining Company. These latter are being thoroughly opened and are well worthy of a visit and careful examination. They are situated on a northeasterly spur of Treasure Hill, known as Central Hill, and are about 1,000 feet below Treasure City, near the Hamilton and Shermantown roads. One of these, the Central Ledge, has been opened at many points along the claim of 1,200 feet, and everywhere shows fine smelting and milling ore. The Fay Ledge, belonging to the same Company, is still better opened, and work is low going on vigorously upon it under the direction of the Company's Superintendent, B. F. Bivins, Esq. The ore assays $200 to $300 per ton on the average, and a smelting test yielded $175 per ton in silver per 2,000 pounds. The ledge pitches well into the hill to the northeast, and has every indication of permanency. Here I find something which greatly puzzles me. We have long since demonstrated that a limestone formation may contain magnificent silver veins; the demonstration is as conclusive as that in the case of the man in the stocks on the point of the ability of the English magistrate to put him there. The ore is here. But it has always been supposed that limestone itself was necessarily barren of the precious metals. Here is proof to the contrary. Mr. Bivens showed me tons on tons of great masses of apparently barren limestone, which, on being broken open, was found to be impregnated and permeated everywhere with chlorides of silver. Now, how did the silver get there? That is what puzzles me and knocks all geological theories higher than a kite. If it is the result of the action of metallic exhalations rising from below, it is certain that the body of metal from which it came must be immense and the vapors wonderfully penetrating. It is hardly possible that it can have been deposited in the middle of blocks of solid, seamless limestone by the action of water from above, since the rock appears to be of too fine a grain to admit of the water acting upon it in the least degree. It is too hard a nut for me to crack; let somebody else try it on. The Company has ore enough in sight to last them many a month, however it came there.
The Coyne Mine, on the east side of the ravine which here separates Central Hill from Treasure Hill proper, is another fine, large and well developed claim, and belongs to an association of San Francisco capitalists. I am told that the average of ten assays of the ore from this mine was over $900 per ton, and that a milling test, before the smelting works were in operation, yielded $280 per ton in silver alone, which would make the mine a very valuable one in any event. They are taking about five tons of high grade ore per day out of this mine.
The Smelting Problem.
Now comes the great question affecting the ultimate success and value of these base metal mines more deeply than any other, viz. Can the ore from these mines be worked economically and profitably by the smelting process? Some of the Base Range mines, like the Coyne and Fay, undoubtedly could be made to pay by mill process, but the majority cannot, and the question whether smelting is to be a success or not is of primary importance to this part of the district. Smelting works, which were expected to produce great results, have been erected at Silver Springs, but as yet stand idle for some reason which I cannot give; certainly not for want of ore to work upon.
At Swansea, at the base of the great White Pine Mountain, to the left of the road from Shermantown to Hamilton, Messrs. A. Savage & Co., have erected a rude and very cheap furnace, with only a very poor horse-power fan, to furnish a draft for the smelting, and last week they fired up for the first time. They worked four thousand pounds of base metal ore from the Galena Mine at this first run, and produced from it 1,100 pounds of base bullion. Having no moulds for bars they ran the metal out into rude impressions in the sand, and got out some very fair pigs in that manner. One of these bars or pigs has been presented to me by L.P. Tenney, Esq., Recorder of this District, and I propose to put it in the Alta office cabinet. It shows an assay of $300 in silver, and $100 in lead per ton. Messrs. Savage &Co. are thus entitled to be considered the pioneer smelters of White Pine. They claim that with an improved blower run by steam, so as to supply a steady draft, and some slight improvements in the furnace, they can smelt base metal ores for $20 per ton, which, at the same rate of yield, would be $75 per ton of bars.
Much of the ore from the Base Range would yield a higher percentage of silver than the above, and if transportation and the cost of parting the silver from the lead and copper are not too heavy, the smelting experiment may prove a decided success. At present I can only "report progress, and ask for further time" on this subject.
For the last few days we have had pleasant weather again, and there is a constant stream of prospectors pouring out of Treasure City, Hamilton and Shermantown, for the outside districts in all directions. There are many restless spirits who are never contented long in one place, and who will sell out the best mine on earth for less than the value of the ore in sight, to rush off to buy new districts from which come reports of the discoveries of the precious metals. Of course the population of these districts is made up in a large degree of this class of population, and perhaps it is well for the country that it is so. They are the true pioneers of civilization, these shaggy-haired and big-bearded men of the pick-axe and revolver, and where they sow, others will come after and reap the harvest. I know men here who are selling for anything they can get, really valuable mines, and starting off for Northeastern Arizona, Utah and Southern Nevada and California, to prospect fur new districts, at the risk of life and health, and with the certainty of enduring great hardships and privations, and they will sell out again when they make a new strike, and push on as before. One day the excitement is over a new district north of Hamilton; next day it is Grant or May, or Reveille, or Patterson; but it is always somewhere ahead the farther off the better.
I notice in Treasure City this week, Langley, the Directorian; Dr. Beverly Cole and others from San Francisco, who are interested in the new district to the westward, towards Austin, called Pinto, concerning which I wrote you some days since. They have acquired large interests in mines, mill sites and town lots there, and have assays showing that the ore from some of these claims is wonderfully rich. And then only to think, that six months ago I rode along within a quarter of a mile of the big ledge of the district, pointed it out to a chance companion, told him to prospect it if he ever had time, showed him what a glorious stream there was for mills, and rode off without ever getting off my horse ! Bah ! I am disgusted !
Notwithstanding the temporary depression caused by the swindling operations of wild-caters, there are occasional sales of White Pine property at immense figures. I saw a despatch from New York, a day or two since, announcing the sale of the North Eberhardt really the West Extension of that wonderful mine in that city for five hundred thousand dollars in cash, and an equal amount in stock. This claim is as yet undeveloped, but the regularity and continuity of the walls of the Eberhardt proper lead to the almost inevitable conclusion that it will be found to embrace a section of that great deposit, and the fact that next west, ore almost identical with that in the Eberhardt has been struck this week in the Glacier at a considerable depth, makes it a matter of doubt whether the buyers in this instance have not got the best of the bargain.
The Bull Springs, nine miles southwest of this place, have been sold this week by T. L. Green to M. J. Storer and George Freeland for $6,000. It is said that these springs furnish a constant stream of 160 inches of water, miners' measurement, the year round, and that the best mill sites in the district are to be found there. The property will be cut up into mill sites, and offered for sale to mill owners.
The scattering of so many hundreds of people in all directions, in pursuit of new mining districts, has caused a temporary depression in trade, and our streets now present a comparatively dull appearance. Real estate is at a standstill, and business generally, aside from mining, not lively. Nevertheless, building in all three towns, especially in Hamilton and Treasure, is going on with daily increased vigor; streets are being graded and roads built at immense cost, and everything indicates an abiding faith in the permanence of the cities which have sprung up here in the clouds as if by a trick of enchantment. Among the old San Franciscans I see opening in business here, I notice Isadore Blum, "Little Blum" of Montgomery street, who is wholesaling fine wines and liquors: Captain H. A. Gorley, who becomes a partner in the large grocery, provision and dry goods house of Berry & Hitchcock; Finley, late of Leidesdorff street, who has opened a first-class saloon and sample-rooms in the Pacific Union Express Company's building, and added a capital restaurant thereto; Captain Wright, who has opened a fine, large two-story frame lodging-house, known as the "Treasure City;" and many others, more or less promising. At Hamilton any number of new stores are being opened, and at Shermantown many comfortable residences and some good buildings for business purposes are being erected.
Death Strikes a Shining Mark.
Among those who have recently succumbed to the rigors of this climate and gone down to untimely graves, I know of none more widely regretted and mourned than Richard Poston, a graduate of the College at Oakland last year, and a young man of great promise, with such sterling qualities of mind and heart as commended him to the admiration and esteem of all who met him. He came here only a few weeks since in the vigorous health of early manhood, was stricken down with fever, lingered two weeks, and sank away to his rest at last as peacefully as an infant to its slumbers. Loving hands wrapped him in the garments of the grave and laid him gently in his coffin, and at the prayer for the widowed and now doubly bereaved mother, whose pride and stay in life he was, went up from the midst of the little throng of mourners, tears flowed from many eyes, albeit unused to weep. His mother, who had started from Marysville on being informed of the serious illness of her son, was notified of his death at Elko, and carried fainting from the cars to a hotel to await the arrival of his remains.
I meant to have written something to-day about the recent rich strikes in this district, but the last subject has unfitted me for doing so, and I close.