November 10, 2005
Nevada's Online State News Journal
A HISTORY OF
COMSTOCK SILVER LODE & MINES
A HISTORY OF
COMSTOCK SILVER LODE & MINES
NEVADA AND THE GREAT BASIN REGION;
LAKE TAHOE AND THE HIGH SIERRAS.
THE MOUNTAINS, VALLEYS, LAKES, RIVERS, HOT
SPRINGS, DESERTS, AND OTHER WONDERS OF
THE "EASTERN SLOPE" OF THE SIERRAS.
MINERAL AND AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES
TOWNS, SETTLEMENTS, MINING AND REDUCTION WORKS, RAILWAYS,
LUMBER FLUMES, PINE FORESTS, SYSTEMS OF WATER
SUPPLY, GREAT SHAFTS AND TUNNELS,
AND THE MANY IMPROVEMENTS
AND INDUSTRIES OF
BY DAN DE QUILLE,
"The Big Bonanza,"
The Wealth and Wonders of Washoe. The Arid Zone and Irrigation, Etc.
PUBLISHED BY F. BOEGLE,
BOOKSELLER. & STATIONER,
Entered According to Act of Congress, in the Year 1889, by
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
NEW YORK AND SAN FRANCISCO,
PACIFIC PRESS PUBLISHING COMPANY ,
PRINTERS, STATIONERS, AND BINDERS.
THE central idea in the preparation of this little book has been to give, as concisely as possible, such information in regard to the silver mines of the Comstock as the visiting tourist is likely to require. In doing this it was thought best to begin by briefly introducing the whole State of Nevada. When shown a portion of a thing we generally have some curiosity in regard to the appearance of the whole. Though much more space has been given to the mines, mining works, towns, and industries of the Comstock Lode than to anything else, yet it has been found necessary to the plan of the work to include much of surrounding regions, both in Nevada and California. However, we have endeavored to keep on the "Eastern slope" of the Sierras—have poached very little on the California side. The Sierra Nevada Mountains are a towering, rocky range, which constitutes a natural dividing line between the regions of country on either side. All 0n the east side of the Sierras partakes more of the general character of Nevada
than of California—is characteristic of the Great Basin region. Although Owens River, Independence and Owens Valleys, Owens Lake and Mono Lake, are within the boundaries of California, yet they are essentially parts of that region the whole of which is known as the Great Basin.
In speaking of the Comstock Lode, after giving an account of its discovery and something of its early history, it has been necessary in noting the progress of our towns and the improvements made in mining and milling operations and methods to go up into the Sierras to trace our water supply to its sources. It is also from the great pine forests of the Sierras that we derive our supply of lumber and timbers, and the Sierras are our natural sanitarium—it is to the lakes, valleys, and wilds of the "High Sierras" that our summer pleasure trips are made. For this reason mention has been made of lakes, valleys, mountains, and creeks not strictly our own—though a large slice of Lake Tahoe lies within our boundaries.
In mentioning rivers, lakes, and railroads it has also been thought best to say something of all in the State. In the case of the railroads it became necessary to speak briefly of the towns they connect and pass through, with a passing glance at the country traversed.
Although the Comstock Lode, and mining and milling in Western Nevada, are the principal subjects of this book, yet it is not wholly a book on Nevada. "No pent-up Utica" has for a moment been permitted to "contract our powers." We have been guided more by the natural than the political divisions of the country, therefore our little book takes in the western edge of the Great Basin, climbing up to the top of the Sierras, and peeping over in a few places.
THE STATE OF NEVADA 11
BOUNDARIES AND AREAS. 11
PHYSICAL ASPECT OF THE STATE 13
THE RIVERS OF NEVADA 17
Humboldt River 17
Truckee River 19
Carson River 21
Walker River 23
Owyhee River 23
Reese River 24
Other Nevada Rivers. 24
MINERAL TREASURES OF NEVADA 26
AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES 28
THE COMSTOCK MINES 31
PLACER MINING ON GOLD CANYON 32
THE DISCOVERY OF SILVER 32
THE GRAND RUSH OVER THE SIERRAS 38
THE DISCOVERERS AND THEIR FATE. 39
EARLY MINING AND MILLING 40
MINING DIFFICULTIES AND INVENTIONS 42
VARIOUS MINING AND MILLING APPLIANCES 44
THE COMSTOCK AS A SCHOOL FOR MINERS 45
VIRGINIA CITY AND SURROUNDINGS 45
CITY IMPROVEMENTS 50
THE GREAT FIRE 52
VIRGINIA CITY AT PRESENT 55
VIEWS FROM THE CITY AND VICINITY 58
THE VIEW FROM THE SUMMIT OF MOUNT DAVIDSON 59
THE VIRGINIA AND TRUCKEE RAILROAD 59
THE DAYS OF BULL TEAMS 61
THE COMSTOCK SYSTEM OF WATER SUPPLY 63
THE VIRGINIA CITY AND GOLD HILL WATER WORKS 63
THE BIG WATER PIPES 65
THE SUTRO TUNNEL 68
THE REDUCTION WORKS OF EARLY DAYS 70
THE FIRST SILVER MILL 70
THE MANY MILLS OF THE EARLY DAYS 72
REDUCTION WORKS OF THE PRESENT DAY 74
DESCRIPTION OF THE PROCESS OF WORKING COMSTOCK
SILVER ORES 74
THE TWO CALIFORNIA MILLS 80
THE RIVER AND CANYON MILLS 81
THE COMSTOCK LODE 82
Hoisting Works, Shafts and Mining, Past and Present 82
The Three Lines of Hoisting Works 84
THE COMBINATION SHAFT 86
The Deepest Workings on the Lode 88
A Return to the Second Line of Works 89
The Old First Bonanzas 91
The New Departure.... 92
Present Yield of the Comstock Mines 93
Vicissitudes of Fortune in Mining 96
TOWNS OF WESTERN NEVADA 98
Virginia City 96
Gold Hill 97
Silver City 101
Carson City 105
Empire City 109
OTHER TOWNS IN WASHOE COUNTY 113
Washoe City 113
LAKE TAHOE AND SURROUNDINGS 115
Emerald Bay 121
Fallen Leaf Lake. 123
Silver Lake 123
Cornelian Bay 123
Agate Bay 123
Crystal Bay 123
Shakespeare Rock 123
Cave Rock 124
Cascade Mountain 124
Rubicon Springs 124
ROUTES TO LAKE TAHOE 125
THE ROUTE FROM TRUCKEE.. 125
DISTANCES FROM TAHOE CITY TO POINTS ON THE LAKE 126
THE ROUTE FROM RENO 127
THE TOWN OF TRUCKEE 128
DONNER LAKE 129
THE DONNER DISASTER 130
SURROUNDING POINTS OF INTEREST 131
INDEPENDENCE LAKE AND SURROUNDINGS 132
WEBBER LAKE WONDERS 133
PYRAMID LAKE. 134
WINNEMUCCA LAKE 136
WASHOE LAKE 138
THERMAL AND MEDICINAL SPRINGS 138
Steamboat Springs 139
Shaw's Springs 141
State Prison Warm Springs 141
Walley's Springs 142
Other Nevada Springs 143
RAILROADS IN NEVADA 144
THE CENTRAL PACIFIC 145
VIRGINIA AND TRUCKEE DISTANCES 146
THE CARSON AND COLORADO 146
Bishop Creek 149
OWENS LAKE 150
MONO LAKE 151
EUREKA AND PALISADE RAILROAD . 151
Town of Palisade 151
NEVADA CENTRAL RAILROAD 152
Town of Battle Mountain 152
NEVADA AND CALIFORNIA RAILROAD 154
PROPOSED RAILROADS 154
SALT LAKE AND LOS ANGELES 155
NEVADA, CENTRAL, AND IDAHO 155
The State of Nevada.
Boundaries and Area.
NEVADA is formed of the region of country formerly known as Western Utah. The whole of Utah, prior to its acquisition by the United States, was a portion of the Mexican Department of Alta California. All this vast region was acquired from Mexico under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which was consummated in 1848, and which treaty also gave to the United States, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and a part of Colorado. Nevada was constituted a Territory in March, 1861, and was admitted into the Union as a State in October, 1864. The State extends from the 35th to the 42d degree of north latitude, and from the 114th to the 120th degree west longitude from Greenwich. The State in its greatest dimensions is 420 miles long by 360 miles wide. Nevada is bounded on the north by Idaho and Oregon, east by Utah and Arizona, and south and west by California. Previous to its acquisition by the United States, the region now constituting the State of Ne-
12 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
vada was wholly occupied by tribes of wild Indians. The country was then known only to a few white men, trappers and Indian traders, whose business at certain seasons led them into what was then almost a terra incognito, and which was marked upon the maps of that day as the "Great American Desert," or the "Unexplored Region."
The area of the State is, by the most reliable estimate, 112,190 square miles, or 71,801,819 acres. This includes what is known as the "Colorado Basin," in Lincoln County, on the southern boundary of the State, and which embraces an area of about 12,000 square miles lying north of the Colorado River. This basin region was taken from Arizona and given to Nevada by an Act of Congress in 1866. Assuming the water surface of the numerous lakes in Nevada to cover an area of 1,690 square miles, or 1,081,819 acres, there remain 110,500 square miles, or 70,720,000 acres as the land area of the State. The vastness of this region is not at once grasped by the mind of the reader. It may be more readily realized by comparison with some of the well-known Eastern States. The area of Nevada is 2,578 square miles greater than the combined areas of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Indeed, after giving to each of the States named its full measure of acres, there would be left enough land to make two additional Rhode Isl-
THE PHYSICAL ASPECT OF NEVADA. 13
ands. In all this great territory, however, there are only about 62,000 souls. Belgium, with an area of 11,373 square miles, has a population of 5,253,821, or about 462 persons to the square mile, and there the rural population is to that of the towns as three to one. Were Nevada as densely peopled as Belgium it would contain 51,749,780 souls, a number almost equal to the present population of the whole United States. It will therefore be seen that before becoming as thickly settled as is Belgium, Nevada still has room for 51,687,780 persons within her boundaries.
The Sierra Nevada Mountains from the western boundary of Nevada for a distance of over 300 miles, constitute a stupendous snow-capped granite wall between the State and California. The mean height of this part of the Sierra Nevada Range is about 7,000 feet. This towering range has a marked effect on the climate of Nevada. But for its intervention the climate of the whole State would be much the same as that of California.
The Physical Aspect of Nevada.
Though the western edge laps up onto the Sierra Nevada Range, the greater part of the State of Nevada lies to the eastward and is embraced in that Great Basin region which extends to the western base of the Rocky Mountains. This interior region forms an immense plateau which has a mean elevation of
14 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
four thousand feet above the level of the sea. In Nevada, however, the average altitude of the plateau may safely be set down at five thousand feet. The altitude of White Plains Station, west of the sink of the Humboldt, is 3,894 feet, and it is the lowest point on the overland railroad between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains. Owing to this great elevation there is in all parts of Nevada an atmosphere pure, dry, and free from even the slightest malarial taint. It is such an atmosphere as in many other lands can only be found by going to the mountain tops. The average level of the State is higher than many of the noted mountain resorts in the Atlantic States. It is owing to this altitude that the nights in summer are always cool and pleasant, however warm the weather during the hours of daylight. The extremes of heat and cold are not great.
Running north and south through the elevated plateau which forms the general base or floor of the State are numerous parallel ranges of mountains. These interior ranges are quite regular in course and recurrence, and rise to a height of from one thousand to seven thousand feet above the general level of the country. Among these interior mountains are a few peaks that attain an elevation of from 9,000 to 12,000 feet above the level of the sea. Between these mountain ranges lie valleys ranging in width from one mile to thirty miles. As these valleys are hidden by the high, rocky ranges, and are not to be
THE PHYSICAL ASPECT OF NEVADA. 15
seen in a general survey of the country, even from an elevated position, the aspect of the country is sterile and austere, all being apparently a succession of barren, rocky hills.
The majority of the valleys lying between these rugged, parallel ranges are susceptible of cultivation, and many are wonderfully productive. The bench lands bordering the valleys are also exceedingly fertile and yield large crops wherever water for irrigation is led upon them. For all uses, those of the horticulturist as well as the agriculturist, these bench lands will yet be found the best in the State. The benches possess a warm and willing soil.
The interior mountains, rugged and timberless as they are, have their uses. From the summits of many of the ranges flow springs and small streams that afford a supply of water for the irrigation of the valley and bench lands below. They are also conservators of a supply of moisture. On the summits of the higher ranges snow falls in winter to a great depth, and from the melting of this in spring and summer is derived a considerable supply of water for use on the arable lands on either side. These reserves of snow are also of great benefit to the mountain pastures, causing grass to spring up along the courses of a thousand ravines and little valleys, or laps of land, on the slopes and tops of the hills. This water supply may be made infinitely more valuable than it is at present by the construction of suitable
16 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
reservoirs at proper points in the large canyons for storing it up till needed in summer.
The construction of such reservoirs has already been commenced among the interior ranges, as well as in places along the main Sierra Nevada Range, and year by year more and still more such improvements will be made. Already Nevada holds a high place as an agricultural and stock-growing State, though for nearly the whole term of her existence mining for the precious metals has been the all-absorbing business of the majority of her people, and has been the business which has attracted the attention of nearly all the wealthy men of the country. The State annually produces immense quantities of hay, and the beef cattle of Nevada are the finest and fattest to be found on the Pacific Coast. A great part of the beef supply of California is obtained from Nevada. The horses of Nevada are also very fine and noted for their "staying" qualities, as they have much broader chests and larger lungs than the animals reared in valley regions near the level of the sea. The State is also beginning to make its mark in the business of wool-growing, not only on account of the quantity but also the quality produced. In price Nevada wool leads the wools of all the new regions of the West. Fine wheat and good grain of all kinds will everywhere be found in Nevada, and the apples, peaches, pears, plums, and all other kinds of fruit have a piquancy of flavor not to be found in that grown in the sweltering valleys of
THE RIVERS OF NEVADA. 17
California. The same may be said of all kinds of kitchen vegetables, strawberries, and other small fruits. In the way of potatoes the State produces such as have no superiors in any part of the world. This elevated region seems as much the natural home of the potato as were those high valleys in the Andes where it was first found growing wild, and where it is said the wild tuber is still to be seen.
The Rivers of Nevada.
Nevada has within her borders no large rivers. In the Middle and Western States, her so-called rivers would be rated as large brooks or creeks. In England and some other European countries her streams might pass for rivers. The largest river we have is but a rill in comparison with the rivers of the West and South. Our Nevada rivers, too, are peculiar in that they nearly all remain in the State. But one goes outside of our boundaries to wander away in search of the great ocean. Most of our streams stay at home. Rather than run away to be tossed about and lost in the sea, they go down into the ground or up into the air.
The Humboldt River rises in the northwestern corner of Utah, passes into the northeastern corner of Nevada, in Elko County, and thence through Eureka, Lander, and Humboldt Counties, to its terminus in its lake and sink, just across the line in Churchill County.
18 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
The total length of the river is nearly 350 miles, while its width is only about thirty or forty feet, and its average depth less than eighteen inches. The line of the Central Pacific Railroad follows the course of the stream a distance of about 320 miles, its channel forming a natural depression through the country which greatly facilitated the construction of the road. Down its course also lay the route followed by the emigrants who flocked across the "Plains" to California after the discovery of the gold mines. The water of the Humboldt is very bright and sweet toward the head, but near the "sink" the stream becomes rather sluggish and is somewhat tainted by the alkali absorbed in the lower part of its course. Owing to the increased use of water for the irrigation of bordering lands above, the quantity flowing into the lake each year grows smaller. The water carried out of the river by means of ditches to the valley ranches is dissipated by absorption and evaporation and never reaches the terminal lake. Thus it is seen as a result that the lake is gradually drying up. It will probably eventually become extinct, or survive as a mud marsh. In the spring, when the snow is melting about the head-waters of the river, Humboldt Lake has a length of about fifteen miles and a width of nine or ten miles. In summer and toward fall it becomes much smaller. At the south end of this lake is an outlet into a sink, or shallow lake, twenty-five or thirty miles long by about fifteen wide. This sink at times of high water
THE RIVERS OF NEVADA. 19
connects with a similar sink formed by the overflow from Carson Lake, the terminal basin of the Carson River. In these sinks are found in the alkaline waters myriads of small fish. These attract immense flocks of pelicans, gulls, cranes, and other fish-eating water fowl. At certain seasons the lakes, sinks, and surrounding tule marshes are filled with ducks and geese. Large flocks of swan are also often seen out in the middle of the lakes. There is much fine agricultural and grazing land along down the Humboldt River, and about the lake and sink.
Truckee River is one of the most beautiful of the streams of Nevada. It takes its rise in California and its head is an outlet from Lake Tahoe. This outlet is on the northwest side of the lake and is about fifty feet in width. It has an average depth of five feet and a velocity of six feet a second, which gives a flow of about 123,120,000 cubic feet in twenty-four hours. The head of the river is in Placer County, California, it runs nearly north into Nevada County, in the same State, to the town of Truckee, when it turns and flows northeast till it enters the State of Nevada at Verdi, in Washoe County. Its course from Verdi to Reno, the county seat of Washoe County, is nearly east, thence it is northeast to the town of Wadsworth, on the Central Pacific, when it suddenly turns to the north, and, after a course of about twenty-five miles, enters Pyramid Lake.
20 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
From the outlet of Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake the distance is about 100 miles.
After leaving Tahoe the Truckee receives the waters of many mountain streams. Below Verdi it passes through many beautiful and fertile valleys and meadows. Pyramid Lake has an elevation of 4,000 feet above the level of the sea; Lake Tahoe is 6,247 feet above sea-level, therefore between the two points the river has a fall of 2,247 feet, an average of a little over twenty-two feet to the mile. Along the river from end to end there is almost unlimited water power, there being a great volume of water, during several months, and an abundance of fall. This water-power is utilized at Reno to some extent, but what has been done there is merely a commencement toward what should be done. Large areas of land are irrigated by ditches leading out of the Truckee at several points. The stream is filled with beautiful trout of two or three species, and also contains other smaller fishes of several kinds. A kind sometimes seen in its waters at the spawning seasons is a large fish of the sucker tribe, which runs up from Pyramid Lake, and is called "koo-ee-wa" by the Piutes. It is half head, and in every respect is a very ugly fish. It is said that the "koo-ee-wa" is found nowhere else in the world. It is a palatable and wholesome fish, but its appearance is against it. The Piutes spear and cure (by drying in the sun) great quantities of this fish. Several kinds of Eastern fish have been planted
THE RIVERS OF NEVADA. 21
in the waters of the Truckee and have been found to flourish. Fish ladders have been placed at all the dams in the rivers to permit of the trout and other fish ascending toward the head-waters to spawn in the various tributary creeks.
The Truckee River is named after "Captain Truckee," a Piute chief who in the early days guided a party of emigrants from the Humboldt to the beautiful stream and thence through Henness Pass across the Sierras to California. Captain Truckee also acted as a guide for Colonel Fremont when he passed through the country in 1846. He died in the Como Mountains in 1860, from the bite of some poisonous insect, and was there buried by members of his tribe, and whites, with much sorrow. A description of Pyramid Lake will be given further along, as it deserves a separate notice, being the largest lake wholly owned by Nevada, and almost as large as the Great Salt Lake, in Utah, which is seventy miles in length by about thirty in width.
The Carson River rises in the Sierras and has several tributaries across the line in California, in Alpine County. The river is about 220 miles in length and ends in Carson Lake. It enters Nevada in Douglas County. It has two branches, known as the East Fork and the West Fork. These unite near the town of Genoa, the county seat of Douglas County. The river then plows through the center of Douglas County
22 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
into Ormsby, passing near Carson City, the capital of the State, thence into Lyon County, and finally finds its terminal "sink" in Carson Lake, in Churchill County. This lake has an outlet several miles in length into a second lake, or sink, which at times of great freshets is united with the lower sink of the Humboldt, as has already been mentioned. Carson Lake is circular in form and is about twelve miles long and eight or nine in width. It has a depth of forty or fifty feet, and its waters are quite sweet. The lower sink is about twenty miles long and from four to eight miles wide. Its waters, particularly toward the north end, where it is very shallow, are strongly alkaline. These lakes are at times resorted to by great flocks of all kinds of water fowl. It is a poor place for fish. Trout are not plentiful, and the other kinds—suckers and chubs—are soft and insipid.
The Carson River affords water for the irrigation of immense tracts of land in Douglas County, in Carson Valley, and other valleys below, and power for running many large quartz mills that work the ores of the Comstock Lode. The first of these mills are at Empire City, and they are thence found all along down the river to, and a short distance below, the town of Dayton.
Owing to the great quantities of water taken from it for the irrigation of ranches above in Carson Valley, the river becomes almost dry in the lower part of its course during the latter part of each summer. To
THE RIVERS OF NEVADA. 23 _
remedy this evil large storage reservoirs should be constructed in the mountains and higher foot-hill regions.
Walker River rises in Mono and Alpine Counties, California, and flows through Douglas and Lyon Counties, Nevada. Walker Lake, Esmeralda County, forms its terminal sink. The river is about 150 miles in length. Its waters are bright and sweet, and are filled with trout and good food fishes of other varieties. The river has two large branches, known as the East and the West Walker, which unite below Mason's Valley. The waters of Walker River serve to irrigate immense tracts of as fine land as is to be found on the Pacific Coast, lying in Antelope, Smith's, and Mason's Valleys. For the first half of its course the river flows northward, then it suddenly turns south and forms Walker Lake. This lake is a very bright, beautiful, and picturesque sheet of water. It is very irregular in form, being frequently widened and contracted between its rocky shores. It is about thirty miles long and has a width of from five to eight miles.
The Owyhee is the only Nevada river that finds its way to the ocean. It rises in Elko County, in the northwestern corner of the State, and, flowing north into Idaho, becomes a tributary of the Snake River. Through the Snake its waters find their way north into the Columbia River, and thence into the Pacific Ocean.
24 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
Every spring salmon ascend the Owyhee and afford the anglers of Tuscarora and other mining towns and camps in that part of the State excellent and profitable sport. The Owyhee irrigates many beautiful valleys. In this region prairie-chickens and sage-hens are abundant, and a few deer are also found. In the vicinity of the river are fine and extensive cattle ranges.
Reese River takes its rise in the Toyabee Range of mountains, in Nye County, near the center of the State. It runs through Lander County, near Austin, and continues its course northward (under-ground and on the surface) to near the Humboldt River, where it disappears in the tule marsh. Strictly speaking, it "empties" nowhere in particular. It has a channel that leads into the Humboldt a short distance below Argenta, but in summer its waters fall short of reaching that stream by twenty miles. Although Reese River is a narrow and shallow stream, it has a length of about 150 miles. There are many fine valleys and much excellent grazing land on the bordering benches and hills.
Other so-called rivers in Nevada are Quin River, a large creek which rises in Idaho and runs south in Humboldt County to a small terminal " sink" situated at the north end of a great range of mud flats and marshes that lie to the northward of Pyramid Lake. There are good stock ranges in the Quin River
THE RIVERS OF NEVADA. 25
country. The Rio Virgin is a small stream about eighty miles in length situated in Lincoln County, in the extreme southeastern part of the State. It takes its rise in Utah and empties into the Colorado River. It has a tributary of considerable rise called Muddy Creek, or the "Big Muddy," on and about which is much excellent land and several deserted Mormon villages. At one time there were 500 Mormon families settled in this part of Nevada, but they were called back to Salt Lake by Brigham Young, and abandoned their comfortable homes and fine and fertile farms. The mouth of the Rio Virgin is but 800 feet above the level of the sea, all this region being in what is known as the "Colorado Basin." The climate is much the same as that of Los Angeles, California. Oranges, figs, lemons, almonds, olives, pomegranates, and all other semi-tropical fruits grow to perfection; also cotton and tobacco. All the grains, vegetables, and fruits of the temperate zone flourish finely. This spot is the Eden of the great basin region.
The Colorado River forms the southeastern boundary of Nevada. Although it is not one of the rivers of the State system, yet it is one to which Nevada has some claim. Where it sweeps along the southern border of the State the stream is half a mile wide and has a depth of from ten to twenty feet. The river is navigable for steamboats from Callville, a short distance between the mouth of the Rio Virgin, to Port Isabel, on the Gulf of California, a distance of 600
26 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
miles. Callville is one of the towns (now almost deserted) founded by the Mormons during their occupation of that region of the country. The proposed railroad from Salt Lake City would cause this region to again become populous and prosperous.
Mineral Treasures of Nevada.
There are mines of the precious metals in every county in the State. There are mines of gold, silver, lead, copper, and other valuable metals in all the rugged, parallel ranges of mountains running through the great central plateau. Mining and agriculture are thus pursued side by side. Lying between the mountain ranges and running in the same direction are valleys containing arable land, while on the benches and lower hills are excellent grazing lands, on which grow nutritious bunch-grass and other valuable native grasses. In all parts of the State mining is being profitably pursued, and almost weekly new and valuable discoveries of the precious metals are somewhere being made. Although the country has been walked and ridden over in various directions for the past twenty-five years, there are still hundreds of sections where no real prospecting has ever been done. Even in the oldest and best-known mining camps, many discoveries yet remain to be made. Although explorations were made in the southern half of the State in the early days, and thousands of mining locations made, little real mining has been done on any of the hundreds of large and promising veins discov-
MINERAL TREASURES OF NEVADA. 27
ered. The work done has been mere surface scratching, and the majority of the claims have long since been abandoned by their locators. Lack of facilities for the transportation of ores and supplies made it impracticable to work mines situated at a great distance from lines of railroad. The men who prospected and made locations in wild and distant regions were men of little means, and when their small stocks of money and provisions were exhausted, they were obliged to abandon their claims and return to the settlements, as men of capital could not be induced to invest their money in mines out in the wilderness far from any means of transportation. Thus it happens that there are many sections of the country the mines of which are the same as unprospected —mines which will produce millions when lines of railroad shall furnish facilities for the transportation of ore, machinery, and supplies. In Lincoln, Nye, White Pine, Lander, Elko, and Humboldt Counties, there are hundreds of mining districts in which this is the case, and in these hundreds of districts are lying unworked thousands of quartz veins, all showing more pr less of the precious metals at the very surface, and even in the croppings above the surface.
A thousand years of mining will not exhaust the mineral treasures of the mountains of Nevada. Cheaper and cheaper means of mining and reducing ores will continue to be found, and presently it will be possible to work the mines of common metals
28 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
which cannot now be touched. Besides gold and silver the mountains of Nevada contain veins of copper, lead, iron, antimony, nickel, zinc, and many others, as cobalt, graphite, and the like. Not only are the mountains of the State rich in all kinds of metals, but the lower lands are also filled with valuable mineral treasures. In the basins of extinct lakes in all parts of the State, and aggregating hundreds of square miles, are inexhaustible deposits of borax, soda, salt, gypsum, glaubers, alum, sulphur, and many other mineral products of a similar character, which are only now beginning to be utilized at points near lines of railway.
In the limited space at command in a small book such as this it is not possible to more than give to the agricultural and horticultural resources of the State a passing glance, as has been done in the case of the mining and mineral products and resources. Although until within a very few years past Nevada has never been thought of outside of the State as being anything else than a region of mines, of metals, and beds of minerals, it is now evident that she has agricultural advantages and resources long unsuspected. Nevada is well calculated to become a great stock-growing State. Already she has her "cattle kings," and they are not as the roving cattle kings of other lands. They have struck their roots deep in the soil and are permanent residents. While the
AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES. 29
tillage of the soil alone will be found as profitable here as elsewhere for the small farmer whose ranch is within reach of a ready market, the real and great business of the Nevada land owner must be stock-growing. This is not a matter of choice or taste, but is a thing demanded by the configuration of the country, the climate, and the nature of the soil. In order that the natural resources of the country may be properly utilized the greater part of the valley regions (nearly all at a distance from towns) must be given up to the stock-grower. He must have valley lands on which to raise sufficient hay and other feed to tide his live-stock through any severe spells of cold weather or big snow-storms that may occur during the winter months. In order to utilize the vast surrounding grazing ranges the cattle king must have a "center stake" driven in some good, productive valley. This is required as a magazine of supplies for the winter season. While cattle, horses, and sheep will find a living on the ranges during the greater part of the winter, still the stock-grower who would not suffer occasional disaster must be provided against the accident of possible cold "snaps" and unusually heavy snow-falls. A glance over the physical features of the country shows that the proportion of arable to grazing land is very well balanced. When proper attention shall be given to the storage of water for irrigation it will be found that each valley will have sufficient capacity to produce hay, grain, and
3o THE STATE OF NEVADA.
root crops adequate to the requirements of the flocks and herds that can find pasturage on the surrounding range.
On the ranges are found several valuable native grasses, some of which are cut for hay. Those most valuable for hay are the blue-joint, red-top, one variety of bunch-grass, and several varieties of clover. All these grasses grow in the moist lands of the valleys and natural meadows, but some varieties of bunch-grass flourish on the hills and elevated benches. Among the native grasses of the country could no doubt be found one valuable variety at least that would grow without irrigation and that could be greatly improved by cultivation. Such a grass is probably that called "sand-grass," of which large fields are frequently seen in dry, sandy, and apparently utterly barren plains. It grows to a height of about fifteen inches and has many spreading branches on each stalk, which branches are loaded with a large black seed, that is very fattening, and of which all kinds of grazing animals are very fond. It would be well to sow the, seed of this grass, which is a species of bunch-grass, on properly plowed and prepared ground in order to ascertain its capability of cultivation. There are not fewer than forty varieties of native grasses found in Nevada and eight or ten kinds of clover. Alfalfa is the forage plant most cultivated for hay, and on a suitable soil has no superior. Timothy, red and white clover, and other tame grasses, do well.
THE COMSTOCK MINES. 31
A very valuable native forage plant, for the reason that it flourishes in even the most arid and sterile localities, is that commonly called "white sage." It is a plant of a whitish-ash color and does not belong to the "artemesia," or sagebrush, family. This hardy plant furnishes good winter feed for cattle. It is resinous and bitter until after the heavy frosts of early winter. Freezing renders it tender, sweet, and nutritious. Even human beings may support life on the white-sage. In hard winters, before the whites came into the country, at times when no game could be found, the Piutes were occasionally obliged to subsist for weeks at a time wholly on white sage cooked by boiling it in baskets by means of hot stones.
The Comstock Mines.
Having now given the reader some idea of the topography and physical aspect of the State, with a hasty general view of its mineral and agricultural productions and resources, we shall give a more particular account of the Comstock Lode, in which the first discovery of silver was made; where the deepest shafts have been sunk, and where mining for the precious metals is to be seen on a grander scale than anywhere else in the United States, or anywhere in the New World, taking into consideration the power of the machinery used and the examples of scientific mining engineering to be seen. A description of the mines and mining methods of the Comstock will answer for those of all other parts of the State, except
32 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
that in places where the ores are argentiferous galena, or otherwise very base, smelting furnaces take the place of the ordinary stamp and pan mills.
The Discovery of Silver.
The discovery of silver in Nevada in 1859 (then Western Utah), caused an immense excitement in California, and indeed throughout the United States. The excitement was one such as had not been before seen since the discovery of the gold mines of California. Permanency and ultimate value being considered, the discovery of silver undoubtedly deserves to rank in merit above the discovery of the gold mines of California, as it gives value to a much greater area of territory and furnishes employment to a much larger number of persons. It has given wealth and population to all the vast region lying between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountain Ranges.
Gold was first discovered in this region in the spring of 1850. It was found in what is now known as Gold Canyon, by a company of Mormon emigrants en route to California. Having arrived too early to cross the Sierras, they encamped on the Carson River, where the town of Dayton now stands, to await the melting away of the snow on the mountains. To while away the time some of the men of the party tried prospecting in a large canyon that put into the river near their camp. They found gold in the first pan of gravel they washed. Looking further they soon found that certain bars and gravel banks afforded much
THE DISCOVERY OF SILVER. 33
richer pay dirt than that first tried. They were able to make from $5.00 to $8.00 a day, but left as soon as the mountains were passable, as they anticipated taking out gold by the pound on reaching California. Other emigrants who followed the Mormons did some mining in the canyon while camped on the river. All made good wages, and one or two families stopped and went regularly to work at mining. However, when the supply of water in the canyon gave out toward the end of summer, they "pulled up stakes" and crossed the mountains to California.
What was told of the mines on Gold Canyon by these emigrants induced parties of miners working in and about Placerville to visit them. During the winter and spring months, while there was water, these men were able to make from half an ounce to an ounce a day. The camp had no permanent population, however, until the winter and spring of 1852-53, when there were over 200 men at work on the bars and gravel banks along the canyon, with rockers, toms, and sluices.
As the gold found in the canyon came from quartz veins toward its head, about Silver City and Gold Hill, these early miners were even then on the track of the great Comstock Lode, but without once even suspecting the existence of such a large and rich veins. The trading-post, or little hamlet near the junction of the canyon and the Carson River, which at first served as a base of supplies, was presently left far behind as
34 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
the miners worked their way up the stream from bar to bar, and they founded a town of their own, on a plateau near the canyon, called Johntown. This town was situated a short distance below where Silver City now stands, and was then the "mining metropolis " of Western Utah. One dilapidated stone chimney yet stands as a monument to mark the site of this now ruined mining town.
Johntown constituted a center from which prospectors occasionally scouted forth. These prospectors had no thought of anything except placer mines—native gold in gravel deposits. In 1857 some of these Johntown miners struck paying gravel in Six-mile Canyon. This canyon is about five miles north of Gold Canyon, for the greater part of its course, but the heads of the two canyons are only about a mile apart, and both are on what is now known as the Comstock Lode. The pay found on Six-mile Canyon began only about a mile below the massive croppings that tower above the Comstock; still these early miners never once thought of going up to the head of the ravine to look for and prospect the quartz veins; all they thought of was free gold in deposits of earth and gravel.
In January, 1859, James Finney, or Fennimore, better known by his popular soubriquet of "Old Virginia" (he being a native of the State of Virginia), John Bishop, and a few others of the Johntown miners, struck a rich deposit of free gold in placer dig-
THE DISCOVERY OF SILVER. 35
gings in a little hill at the head of Gold Canyon. From this hill the town of Gold Hill derives its name. These mines were so rich that most of the Johntown people moved to them. The gold was in a deposit of decomposed quartz mingled with soil, and the miners were really delving in a part of the Comstock Lode without at first knowing that they were at work on any quartz vein. These diggings yielded gold by the pound, at times.
In the spring of 1859 several Johntowners returned to the diggings they had discovered on Six-mile Canyon two years before. With these men went Peter O'Riley and Patrick McLaughlin, but finding all the paying ground already claimed they went to the head of the canyon and began prospecting on the slope of the mountain with a rocker, leading in a small stream of water from a neighboring spring. They found but poor pay in the light top dirt they were working (for there was no washed gravel), and they had about concluded to abandon their claim when they made the grand discovery of the age. They had sunk a small pit in which to collect water for use in their rockers. It was deeper than they had yet dug. Seeing in the bottom of this hole material of a different appearance from any they had yet worked, they were tempted to try some of it in their rocker. When a bucket of this dirt was rocked out, to their great delight the two men saw that they had made a "strike." The whole apron of their rocker was covered with a layer of bright and glittering gold.
36 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
In that little prospect hole, silver mining in America, as now known, was born. At that moment the eyes of these two men, standing alone among the sagebrush of the rugged mountain slope, rested upon the first of many hundreds of millions in the two precious metals that have since been taken out of the Comstock Lode; for in the rocker along with the gold was a quantity of rich black sulphuret of silver. This "heavy black stuff," which not a little puzzled the two uneducated miners, was almost pure silver. They thought it was some worthless base metal, and were very sorry to see it, as it clogged their rocker and interfered with the washing out of the fine gold-dust.
HENRY COMSTOCK.—Henry Thomas Paige Comstock, as he gave his name—has by many persons been credited with the discovery of the Comstock, but it is an honor to which he was not entitled. The credit of discovering silver in Nevada belongs to Peter O'Riley and Patrick McLaughlin. The grand discovery had been made several hours before Comstock knew of it. Toward evening on the day the "find" was made, Comstock, who had been out hunting his mustang, came to where the two men were at work. They were taking out gold by the pound and decomposed silver ore by hundreds of pounds. Comstock saw the gold and realized that a great strike had been made. He instantly determined to have a share. He at once declared that he had a claim upon the ground. He said he had located it some time before,
THE DISCOVERY OF SILVER. 37
also the water of the spring. He so blustered about his rights and so swaggered about what he could and would do that rather than have any trouble the two quiet miners agreed to take him in and give him a share of the mine.
No sooner had Comstock been made a partner in the mine than he placed himself at the front in everything about it. He constituted himself superintendent, did all the talking and none of the working, and was always ready to tell strangers about the mine. When visitors came it was always my mine and my everything. Thus people came to talk of Comstock's mine and Comstock's vein; then it was the Comstock vein—as persons making locations asserted that they were on the same vein as Comstock, e., the Comstock vein—and in that way the name of Comstock became fastened upon the whole lode. As the first claim was called the Ophir, that would have been a more fitting name for the whole vein than the one it now bears. For a long time Comstock no more appreciated the heavy black material that accompanied the gold, and in lumps of which much of the gold was embedded, than did O'Riley and McLaughlin. It was not until returns had been received from samples of it sent to California for assay that anyone in Nevada knew that the "heavy black stuff" was almost pure silver. With the returns of the assays came a rush from California. The assays were made at Nevada City, California, and the result
38 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
so astonished the assayer that he could hardly believe his figures or his eyes. But other assays verified those first made, and the immense richness of the ore in both gold and silver could no longer be doubted. A few men were let into the secret, they let in a few more, and at once the great news spread far and wide. Soon miners, speculators, and adventurers of all kinds came over the Sierras to the silver mines in swarms. A town of tents, brush shanties; and canvas houses began to appear on the side of Mount Davidson—then known as "Sunrise Peak," as it caught the first rays of the morning sun. It was about the 1st of June when the silver was first struck, and, the weather being warm, many persons camped in the open air—cared for neither tent nor brush shanty.
There were about 1,000 persons in Western Utah at the time silver was discovered, and all were living under Mormon rule. Most of those in the country at that time were engaged in farming and cattle growing, in trade with the emigrants, or in gambling and running off stock; only about 200 were engaged in mining, and all these were working gold placers. A number of ranchers from surrounding valleys took up claims on the line of the lode when they heard that it was a silver vein, but neither the placer miners, the ranchers, nor any one else that was in the country at the time the great discovery was made, ever got more than a few hundreds or thousands of dollars out of it.
THE FATE OF THE DISCOVERERS. 39
The Fate of the Discoverers.
Although Comstock was not a discoverer, he was one of the original locators on the lode. He sold his interest for $10,000. With this he opened a store in Carson City for the sale of such goods as the trade of the country demanded; also a similar store, but with a smaller stock, at Silver City. Knowing nothing of business, having no education, and being unable to keep books, he was soon "flat broke." After losing all the property he possessed in Nevada, Comstock struck out into Idaho and Montana, where he prospected for some years without success. In September, 1870, while encamped near Bozeman, Montana, en route to prospect in the Big Horn country, he committed suicide, blowing out his brains with his six-shooter.
PATRICK MCLAUGHLIN sold his interest in the Ophir (the, discovery claim) for $3,500, which sum he soon lost, and he then worked as a cook at the Green mine, in the southern part of California, for a time. He finally died while wandering from place to place and working at odd jobs, generally as a cook.
PETER O'RILEY held his interest until it brought him about $50,000, a part of which he received in the shape of dividends. He erected a stone hotel on B Street, Virginia City, called the Virginia House. He then began dealing in mining stocks and soon lost everything. Under the guidance of spirits—he was a
40 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
Spiritualist—he finally began running a tunnel into a bald and barren granite spur of the Sierras, near Genoa, in Douglas County, expecting to strike a richer vein than the Comstock. However, the spirits talked so much to him about caverns of gold and silver that he became insane and was sent to a private asylum at Woodbridge, California, where he soon died.
The men who made millions were those who came after the mines had been pretty well prospected, as Mackay, Fair, Sharon, Jones, and others.
Early Mining and Milling.
Once people became convinced of the richness, extent, and permanency of the ore deposits on the Comstock, towns were built up on the lode and at points in the valleys as if by enchantment. Machinery was brought over the Sierras under all manner of difficulties by teams, and soon mills for working the ores were built by scores. In 1859 the Americans, as a people, knew nothing about silver mining. At that time there were probably not a dozen American miners on the Pacific Coast who had ever even seen a sample of silver ore. In the California placer mines, however, were quite a number of Mexicans who had worked in silver mines in their own country. These men at once deserted their gold placers in California and came -flocking over to the Sierras when the cry of " Plata! mucha plata !" was raised among them. "A gold placer," said they, "is soon worked out, but a silver mine lasts for generations and generations."
EARLY MINING AND MILLING. 41
At first the word of the Mexicans was law in the new silver mines, both as regarded ore and the methods of mining and working it. Every American miner endeavored to secure a Mexican partner, or at least a Mexican foreman to take charge of his mine. Mexican methods, however, soon proved to be too slow for the Americans. Their arastras, patios, and little adobe smelting furnaces were the primitive contrivances of a non-mechanical people, and of a race of miners working as individuals, and on a very small scale at that.
The Americans at once introduced stamp mills for crushing the ore, and next introduced pans to hasten the process of amalgamation. The operation of amalgamating the crushed ore, which required days by the patio process, was reduced to hours by the use of steam-heated iron pans.
The Mexican miners were no better underground at working in the vein than they were on the surface, at extracting the precious metals after the ore was mined. In the Mexican mine, where everything was managed according to their own notions—the owner being a Mexican named Gabriel Maldanado—they carried the ore out of the mine in rawhide sacks, the miners climbing to the surface by means of a series of notched poles. Their timbering was also very defective. In ore bodies so large as those of the Comstock, they did not know how to support the ground.
Among the miners working in the gold placers of
42 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
California at the time of the discovery of silver on this side of the Sierras, were a few Germans who had worked in the silver mines of their " Vaterland," and among these were some half dozen who had been educated in the mining academy of Freyberg, and had received regular scientific and practical training in the art of mining. The mining and metallurgical knowledge of these men was the best then existing in any part of the world, as regarded the working of argentiferous ores. The Germans introduced the barrel process of amalgamation and the roasting of ores. While the barrel process was a great improvement on the patio, it was found not so well adapted to the rapid working of the Comstock ores as the newly invented pan process. It has also been found that the free milling ores of the lode do not require to be roasted.
Philip Deidesheimer, a German who had been appointed superintendent of the Ophir Mine, however, invented a method of timbering in "square sets," which is perfect in every respect, and which is still in use in all Comstock mines. By this method of building up squares of framed timbers an ore vein of any width may be safely worked to any height or depth; a vein 300 feet in width may as rapidly be worked as one only 10 or 20 feet wide.
Mining Difficulties and Inventions.
Early in the mining history of the Comstock there began to be heavy flows of water with which to con-
MINING DIFFICULTIES AND INVENTIONS. 43
tend. This called for pumping machinery and apparatus; and as greater and greater depth was attained, larger and larger pumps were demanded. The best and heaviest machinery in use in Europe was examined, and upon this improvements were from time to time made as increased flows of water required increased capacity. All the inventive genius of the Pacific Coast was called into play, and the result has been the construction of some of the most powerful and effective steam and hydraulic pumping apparatus to be found in any part of the world.
At first the water with which the Comstock miners had to contend was cold, but it was not long before the deeper workings cut into parts of the vein where were tapped heavy flows of hot water—water actually hot enough to cook an egg, or to scald a man to death almost instantly. Several miners have lost their lives by falling into large tanks, or sumps, of this water, hot from the vein. The hot water called for fans, blowers, and all kinds of ventilating apparatus, as men working in heated drifts had to have a supply of cool and fresh air sent in to them. Great improvements have also been made in hoisting cages, though the first idea of these came from Europe.
In California at the time of the discovery of the Comstock, were many men who had worked in the mines of Cornwall, England. These men thoroughly understood all manner of under-ground work, and were able to successfully carry through many undertakings in
44 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
the way of sinking shafts, inclines, and winzes, and in making raises and running drifts in ground where the difficulties at first sight seemed almost insurmountable.
Various Mining and Milling Appliances.
Compressed air for running power drills, and for driving fans and small hoisting engines at depths varying from 1,000 to 3,000 feet below the surface, was early adopted in the Comstock mines, as also were the several new explosives for blasting. Diamond drills for drilling long distances through solid rock were also at one time in general use, but have been discarded for prospecting purposes, being found unreliable. The existence of ore may be ascertained by means of the diamond drill, but the amount found is a matter of uncertainty in all cases.
By the pan processes in the early days there were immense losses in the precious metals and in quicksilver. While the pans might be much alike in construction almost every millman was making experiments with some secret process of his own for the amalgamation of the ore. It now seems ridiculous, but some millmen were actually using sagebrush tea in their pans, and others a decoction of cedar bark. They tried all manner of trash, both mineral and vegetable. It was at that time that untold millions in gold, silver, and quicksilver were swept away into the Carson River with the tailings; for the ore on which all these experiments were tried was almost pure sil-
COMSTOCK, A SCHOOL FOR MINERS. 45
ver. Although scores of amalgamating pans of various patterns have been invented and patented, there is still room for improvement. The improvements made from time to time have resulted in saving a large per cent of the precious metals contained in the ores operated upon, and also in a smaller loss of quicksilver, yet none of the apparatus in use is perfect. Experiments having in view further savings are still constantly being made.
The Comstock as a School for Miners.
The Comstock is the mother of silver mining in America. In this lode hundreds of men have obtained a thorough practical knowledge of mining in all its forms and departments. Men who were graduated on the Comstock are now to be found in all parts of the world. They early went to Idaho, Montana, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and British Columbia. Old Comstock foremen and superintendents are to-day in charge of mines in Mexico, Central America, South America, Australia, Africa, China, Japan, and all other regions where there is mining for the precious metals. Already they are in the gold fields of the Amoor River—having pushed their way across from Alaska—and they are ready to push their way to the ends of the earth in search of the precious metals.
Virginia City and its Surroundings.
Virginia City, the county seat of Storey County, is situated on the eastern face of Mount Davidson, the
46 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
culminating peak of a range of rocky hills running northeast and southwest, and having a length of about thirty-two miles. Mount Davidson rises to a height of 7,775 feet above the level of the sea, and is a rocky, treeless peak. On the slope of this mountain, about 1,775 feet below its summit, lies Virginia City. It may be said that the city occupies a position about midway between the base and the apex of the mountain, as the Carson River, which flows along near the eastern foot of the range, is 1,700 feet below the town. It is literally "a city set on a hill."
From the tents and brush shanties set up near the Ophir Mine immediately after the discovery of silver was made, the growth of the town was rapid. The first structure worthy of the name of "house" was erected in the summer of 1859, by Lyman Jones, a pioneer miner of Gold Canyon. It was of canvass and was 18x40 feet in size. Soon several frame structures were removed from Johntown and from Dayton (then called " Chinatown ") to the "new diggings" of "Ophir." Lumber from saw-mills in the foot-hills of the Sierras was then procured and a few small houses and offices erected. As there was then no wagon road up the mountain to where the city now stands it was necessary to carry lumber up to the new diggings on horses, half packing and half dragging it from the valley, where it was delivered by wagons. Very soon, however, a wagon track was made up the mountain, and building then progressed more rapidly.
VIRGINIA CITY AND SURROUNDINGS. 47
At first the new mining camp had no fixed or acknowledged name. It was variously spoken of as "Ophir," "Ophir Diggings," "Pleasant Hill," and "Mount Pleasant Point," though at that time there could have been nothing very "pleasant" about the place, except the sight of the gold and silver then being dug out by the pound and by the ton almost at the surface of the ground—less than a yard below the roots of the sage-brush. Even as late as October, 1859, the place was called Ophir Diggings. About that time James Fennimore, known among the miners as "Old Virginia," was in the camp one night, having a "little run with the boys," when he fell and broke his whisky bottle against a rock. Old Virginia picked up the bottom part of the bottle, in which still remained a small quantity of the precious liquid, and, solemnly pouring it upon the ground, said, "I christen this camp Virginia!" He called upon those present to bear witness to the fact that he had duly named and christened the town in honor of himself and his native State.
Old Virginia was a favorite among the miners, and one and all declared that Virginia should be the name of the town. At first the place was called "Virginia Town," but soon the word city was tacked on to Virginia, the name by which it was christened, and Virginia City it has remained. Old Virginia had some right to name the town. He was one of the first to mine on Six-mile Canyon, working at a point now in-
48 THE STATE OF NEVADA
cluded in the eastern suburbs of the city, and he was the first man in the country to locate a quartz vein in the vicinity. This vein was a large one lying west of the Ophir, and known as the "Virginia Vein," or " Virginia Croppings." This back lead contained a vast deal of "base metal," but very little paying ore. The location was made February 22, 1858, more than a year before the discovery of silver. In July, 1861, "Old Virginia" was thrown from a " bucking " mustang, in the town of Dayton, and killed. At the time of his death he was possessed of about $3,000 in gold coin.
The first buildings were erected pretty much at random in the new town, but soon streets were laid out. Those nearest the Ophir Mine were first built on—A and B Streets. In the spring of 1860, B Street was the principal business street of the town, and there were several places of business on A Street, while many new buildings were going up on C Street —the principal business street at present.
The first winter (1859-60) many persons lived in holes excavated in the side of the mountain and roofed with sagebrush and earth. There were then no hotel accommodations worthy of the name. Peter O'Riley's stone hotel, on B Street, was not yet completed, and the International Hotel, owned by Bateman & Paul, was a little frame structure, capable of accommodating only a small number of persons, and those in the roughest style imaginable. In May, 1860,
VIRGINIA CITY AND SURROUNDINGS. 49
a war broke out with the Piute Indians that lasted a month. This trouble caused a grand stampede of the white settlers, and gave the new town a temporary backset, but the people soon recovered from their fright, and in another month building was as lively as before the war broke out.
During the years 1860-61 the town built up very rapidly, and in 1862-63 brick and stone "fire-proof" buildings were erected in all directions, as already fires began to be of frequent occurrence. Year by year the city grew in area, population, and wealth. Building went on both summer and winter, and at times was pushed almost day and night. As the mines were opened and worked their immense richness attracted hundreds and thousands of persons from California, and all parts of the Atlantic States and Canada. Money was more plentiful and the prices paid for skilled and all other kinds of labor were far higher than anywhere else on the American continent; all articles of merchandise also brought greater prices than could anywhere else be obtained. Gold coin jingled in the pockets of all in the city—those of the drones as well as those of the workers.
With the honest, industrious, and peaceable came the sharper, the idler, and the desperado. Adventurers of every class and every grade of wickedness, both male and female, swarmed in the town. There were many desperate affrays, robberies, and murders. "Cutting and shooting scrapes " were of almost daily
50 THE STATE OF NEVADA.
and nightly occurrence in the streets and in the saloons. At one time the nightly killings were so frequent that residents expected each morning to hear that there was "a man for breakfast."
Finally murders, robberies, and incendiary fires became so frequent that a "Vigilance Committee," known as "601," was organized and became active in the spring of 1871. It was the object of the organization to rid the town of all manner of evil-doers, and particularly of such desperate characters as almost without provocation killed peaceable citizens. After there had been two or three hangings by "601," and after many bad characters had received "notices" to leave (which all at once obeyed), the city again became quiet and orderly.
Owing to the steep slope of the mountain, the site of the town was by no means favorable, but, at great cost for grading, many fine, level streets were constructed. The principal streets were then filled in to the depth of a yard with waste quartz and other hard, flinty rock from the mines. This work was so well done that to this day the streets are hard, smooth, and dry. The Virginia Gas Company was early organized, and the streets and business houses lighted with gas. As early as 1862 a water company organized and brought a supply of water from several tunnels run into the Virginia Range west of the city. This water was conveyed to the town by means of wooden
VIRGINIA CITY AND SURROUNDINGS. 51