November 6, 2005

Nevada's Online State News Journal

 

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Nevada History:

960      THE HISTORY OF NEVADA

CHAPTER LV.
NYE COUNTY.

BY P. E. KEELER.

[From The History of Nevada, edited by Sam P. Davis, vol. II (1912)]

 

 

            Nye County was; by act of the territorial legislature of Nevada, carved out of Esmeralda County, in the year 1864, and was named in honor of Gov. J. W. Nye. Esmeralda County at that time comprised the territory south of the thirty-ninth parallel and east of Mason Valley. Aurora was a thriving camp, but of the land to the east, little was known. True, some old maps showed the line through Smoky Valley marked "Fremont's Trail in 1845" and along it were the names of San Antonio Peak, Hot Springs, Twin Rivers and Smoky Creek.

            In 1862-3 the Reese River excitement brought in many settlers and the town of Austin was founded. Prospecting expeditions were undertaken southward along the Toiyabe range beyond the limits of Lander County. Discoveries were made and the districts of Washington and Marysville on the western slope and Twin River on the eastern were organized. Upon the precipitous slopes of this range, which extends from 8,000 to 12,000 feet in height, numerous streams arise and flow down to the adjacent valleys, and there sink; but Reese River runs for 100 miles to the north, and along its course ranches were located and settlements made. Continuing the exploration, the Shoshone range was next explored, and on the western slope silver-bearing rock was discovered in 1863. Union district was then organized and the town of Ione was founded, surrounded by supposedly rich mines. The causes which led to the organization of Nye County are partially set forth in the petition to the Territorial Legislature signed by a number of pioneers, and reads as follows :

            To his Excellency, the Governor and the Honorable members of the Legislature of the Territory of Nevada:

            We, the undersigned residents of Nevada Territory, respectfully represent that we are residents of a newly-discovered mining district, which is now known as "Union District," that the same is situated in the range of mountains lying between the valley of Reese River on the east and the valley of Smith Creek on the west.

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            We are distant from the city of Austin in Lander County, in a southerly direction about sixty miles, and from Aurora, in Esmeralda County, in an easterly direction, about 100 miles. Now, we your petitioners and residents of this district, pray your honorable bodies that you take into consideration the propriety of forming a county for us, believing that our ends and the ends of justice will be better sub-served by so doing.

            A protest by numerous residents of Lander County was forwarded to the Governor and Legislature, but a bill was nevertheless introduced providing for the creation of Nye County. In the favorable report on this bill we find the statement that the proposed county contained from 1,000 to 1,500 people.

            The bill became a law February 16, 1864. The territory embraced was thus described :

            "Beginning at the intersection of the thirty-ninth parallel of north latitude with the meridian of longitude 40° 30" west from Washington; thence running east along said thirty-ninth parallel of north latitude to the eastern boundary of the Territory of Nevada ; thence running south along said eastern boundary to the point of intersection with the thirty-seventh parallel of north latitude; thence running along said thirty-ninth parallel of north latitude west to the California line, and northwest along said California line to the point of intersection with the meridian of longitude 40° 30' west from Washington; thence running north along said meridian to the place of beginning."

            Subsequent to the original creative Act the boundaries of Nye County have been changed six times. On the ninth day of March, 1865, half a degree was ceded to Esmeralda County, making the eastern boundary of the county the meridian of longitude 40° 30' west from Washington. February 26th, 1866, a large part of the southeastern portion of Nye was formed into Lincoln County. May 5th, 1866, an Act was approved by the President of the United States extending the eastern boundary of Nevada sixty miles into Utah, and adding to this State all its present area south of the thirty-ninth parallel of latitude. This addition on the south increased the territory of Nye; but on March 2nd, 1869, a portion of Nye was added to White Pine. March 5th, 1869, the western boundary of the county was established as at present. In 1875 that part of Nye east of the one-hundred-and-fifteenth meridian west from Greenwich was added to Lincoln and White Pine. The area is 18,432 square miles. April 2nd, 1864, in accordance with the creative Act, the Governor issued his proclamation locating the county seat at Ione City, and appointing the first county officers. As evidence of the frugal character of the first officers, it is recorded that the modest sum of $800 was appropriated for the construction of a County Court House. The wisdom of this was shown when

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on February 6th, 1867, the Legislature passed an Act removing the county seat to Belmont. The numerous mines and rapid development being made, attracted wealth and population, and Belmont soon became an important center. The first bonded debt was created in 1875, at which time the valuation of property in the county was $1,500,000, and the population 2,000.

            The topography of the county differs little from that of the major portion of Nevada, consisting of valleys running north and south and of mountain spurs and ranges. In its earlier years, Nye was considered a fine grazing country and thousands of cattle grazed annually upon the bunch grass and white sage which grew profusely over large portions of the county, the white sage in particular constituting a very valuable winter feed. For many years, however, the greater portion has been looked upon as desert, inhabited by the lizard and horned toad, while the slinking coyote is monarch of all he surveys.

            Duckwater Valley commences about seven miles south of the north line of the county and runs southerly into Railroad Valley. It is three-quarters of a mile wide and about twelve miles long, and is well watered by Duckwater Creek. It consists almost entirely of meadow land, although all kinds of grains and vegetables may be produced. It is noted for the apples which are grown there.

            Hot Creek Valley runs nearly parallel with Railroad Valley, and is about eight miles wide and 200 miles long. Its water supply is insufficient, being obtained from small creeks and springs. Considerable numbers of cattle and horses range there at various seasons of the year.

            Monitor Valley lies to the westward of Hot Creek Valley and extends about seventy miles southerly from the northern boundary of the county, and is about eight miles wide. It is watered by Pine and Mosquito Creeks, and several other small streams. The raising of hay and cattle are the principal industries.

            Ralston Valley commences at a point sixty miles south of the northern line of the county near the town of Belmont, and runs to the southern line. It is about eight miles wide, contains no water and no attempts to settle it have ever been made. It was named in memory of Judge James H. Ralston who lost his life through starvation and exposure on the edge of the valley in May, 1864.

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            Railroad Valley lies between the White Pine Range and the Pancake range of mountains, and is twelve miles wide and 200 miles long. There is a lack of water, which is found only in occasional spots, but not in sufficient quantities for use in irrigation. Indications of potash here in 1911 have led to extensive location of the valley lands, and deep-boring has taken place with a view to discovering deposits of commercial value, but without complete success as yet.

            Reese River Valley, which extends south from Lander County and reaches thirty miles into Nye, is eight miles wide, well watered and produces abundantly.

            Smoky Valley also commences in Lander County, and for 140 miles runs southward through Nye, being about fifteen miles in width and watered by numerous small streams and springs.

            As one glances through the mining records of Nye County, the names of mining districts at this date almost forgotten are found. Blue Spring, Danville, Empire, Grant, Hot Creek, Jackson, Jett, Milk Spring, San Antonio, Silver Point, North Twin River, Springfield, Summit, Toiyabe, recall but a memory, and the traveler in those sections finds only the remnants of decaying cabins and abandoned workings. Belmont has been abandoned as a mining camp, and its few residents are connected with the cattle and farming industry in the vicinity, while its mills have been looted of all useful machinery and their walls have crumbled back to earth. Such was the condition of the mining industry when the new discoveries were made which have brought Nye into the lead of the mining counties of the State, following the discoveries of Tonopah. It will be noted that I have used the word in the plural, "discoveries," and the reason will become apparent later. The discovery of Tonopah by Butler on May 19th, 1900, was by far the most important event in the later history of Nevada, just as the discovery of the Comstock was the most important event in the State's earlier history, and all the information concerning it should, therefore, be told by those who hear or know the facts. Again, the usually accepted story of the Butler discovery probably does not state the whole truth.

            The ledges at Tonopah, out-cropping in a space less than three hundred yards square, but nevertheless prominent, must have been seen by prospectors and cowboys many times before Butler saw them, for they

964      THE HISTORY OF NEVADA

were in plain sight from the trail that led through the Sawtooth Pass from San Antonio Valley to Ralston Valley.

            There are other passes across the San Antonio range, but this was the least rough and certainly the lowest pass between the few inhabited points in that part of Nevada, particularly between the station at Stone Cabin, about forty miles east of Tonopah, and the cattle ranges along lower Peavine Creek in San Antonio Valley, which extends westerly toward Silver Peak, and Candelaria. The old name of the pass, for it is now called Tonopah Pass, was taken from the early name given by the cowboys quite appropriately to the high volcanic rim now known at Mt. Butler, which they called Sawtooth Peak, from its serrated summit. It can be seen from great distances in the desert, and is peculiarly a landmark easily distinguishable from all surrounding mountains.

            "Float" from the Valley View ledges was scattered all along that part of the pass at the base of Valley View, or Silver Top hill, and some of it was very rich. But it was all black or brownish black, and black ledges were held in no favor in southern Nevada, where there is a number of them running high in iron, but low in everything else but silica. So the cowboys and prospectors must have ignored the black-float and the black ledges it came from, thinking the coloring due to the presence of abundant iron compounds, instead of compounds of manganese and silver, the true coloring agents of the rock. Butler found location monuments on the ground, but they had partly fallen down and were weather-beaten and apparently old. He found no location notices.

            The nearest town to Sawtooth Peak was Silver Peak, about thirty-five miles westerly. Prospectors went out from that town in all directions. Along there in the nineties, was an old man who made several trips toward Sawtooth Peak, and who reported that he had found and located some ledges of black quartz near its base. It is supposed that he had some idea of the value of his discovery for he allowed no one to accompany him on his trips in that direction. After a time he was missing from Silver Peak, and has never been seen there since. Whether he left on a trip out into the desert and lost his life there, or whether he simply went away from Silver Peak to some more attractive place of abode, no one knows, for he was little given to talk and did not disclose his plans. What description he did give of the ledges he discovered, however, fits very closely those at Tonopah. Several years after the old man had

NYE COUNTY           965

disappeared, an Indian known as Charlie Fishman told the assayer at the Silver Peak Mine that he knew where there were some big black quartz ledges ; that they looked good and that he thought they might contain gold. This Indian is a half-breed from the Fish Lake Valley country at the foot of the White Mountains, and is more intelligent and restless than most Shoshones and Piutes. He knows something of prospecting, and was in the habit of making trips for that purpose on horseback. The assayer, who was generally known as "Van," to the whites, and "Mr. Van" to the Indians, was himself deeply interested in the country surrounding Silver Peak, and encouraged prospecting to the extent that he could afford. He asked Fishman how long it would take him to make the trip and prospect the ledges for gold. Fishman said he could do it in two or three weeks, if he had an outfit. The assayer supplied Fishman with a light wagon, a team of horses, and enough supplies for three weeks. The Indian said he knew where he could get what water he needed. Van's instructions to him were to pan for gold all along the ledges.

            Fishman returned in about three weeks and reported that he had panned the ledges as well as he could and that he had gotten but one color. He brought back none of the rock. He returned to the assayer what was left of the outfit and disappeared. In 1901, the assayer paid the newly discovered Tonopah a visit. He had heard wonderful tales of its mineral wealth, the activity of its leasers, and the great shipments that were furnishing employment for scores of teamsters and hundreds of horses, and wanted to see for himself. He inspected the leases on Mizpah Hill and then crossed over to the Valley View Hill. As he stood on the edge of the first lease he came to that side and looked down into the open cut where the ore was being broken, he spied Fishman working with a single-jack and drill. He called to him. The Indian looked up and said : "Hello, Mr. Van how are you? This is the place where I found the black quartz." Van turned away without replying ; walked rapidly down the hill ; hitched up his team without a word and left Tonopah, never to return.

            In the spring of either 1897, 1898, or 1899, Isador Sara, a sheep-owner was driving his band of sheep along the Monitor to the San Antonio range of mountains. The feed about the present site of Tonopah was good and springs between what is now known as Heller, Butte, and Mt. Butler furnished abundance of water. The sheep camp was established near the present site of the State Bank Building, and the sheep

966      THE HISTORY OF NEVADA

ranged on the slopes of Mizpah Hill. Sara's herder had done some prospecting and noticed the croppings as his sheep fed. He broke off some samples and tying them in his handkerchief hung them on the side of the camp burro. About this time the weather turned very warm and the springs dried up. It was necessary to move the sheep by forced marches. In traveling, the samples wore a hole in the handkerchief and into the burro's side. They tied them up again and hung them on the burro, but again the chafing wore the cloth through and Sara, becoming disgusted, threw the samples into the ditch. The herder thought the samples were very rich. They came from the Mizpah and Valley View croppings.

            Butler's discovery is generally attributed to the straying proclivities of his burros, but two facts should be considered as possibly having some bearing on it. Butler speaks the Shoshone dialect perfectly, and dearly loves to talk to any Indian or group of Indians he may encounter. He has always treated them well and is looked upon by them as a friend. Many a dollar of his Tonapah wealth has been spent upon them in late years. His trip was ostensibly taken for the purpose of visiting the Bell & Court strike at Klondike, in the range of low hills connecting the San Antonio mountains with the present Diamond-field region, a few miles northerly from Goldfield. The most direct route from Belmont, and in all respects the most feasible for him, was down Ralston Valley to the spring at Rye Patch, thirty miles to the south the first day, then the remaining twenty-five miles or so the next day, continuing on down the Ralston Valley to Cactus Lake, across the west edge of the lake to Klondike hills and across them to the Bell & Court property. Instead of this course, which lay before him like an open door, almost every foot of it in plain view from the mouth of the canyon at Belmont, he crossed the San Antonio Mountains, through a high, rough pass to Tonapah Spring, about four miles north of the present town of Tonopah, and then, after discovering the ledges, crossed the range again around Saw-tooth Peak and through what is known as Gold Mountain Pass. That is to say, he crossed the range twice, when, had he no other object in view than visiting the Bell & Court discovery, he need not have crossed it at all, and could have avoided its roughness and cut off eight or ten miles of travel with burros, which is not an easy and comfortable method of getting from place to place. The probability is that he was looking for ledges he had been told of by the Indians, and that he found them where he expected to

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find them, with a little assistance from the straying burros. None the less, however, the credit is and should be his, for the making of a discovery of mineral that has lifted Nevada out of the lethargy into which the State was slowly sinking into oblivion.

            In the years that have passed since this discovery, Tonopah has passed through the usual struggles of the desert mining Camp. Electric power has been brought in from Owens River, eighty miles away. Water has been piped in from Rye Patch, eighteen miles distant. A sewer system has been installed ; a five-story hotel, and five-story office building erected. A Masonic Temple has been secured by the Masonic bodies at a cost of $20,000. A High School building is being erected (1913) at a cost of $50,000. Five Stamp Mills, with an aggregate of 200 stamps, are dropping on the ores in Tonopah, while two mills at Millers, 14 miles away, with 160-stamps, also handle Tonopah ores, from ten producing miles with a monthly output of over $1,000,000. The population is at present about 7,000.

            Bullfrog—Following in the history of the later mining camps of Nye County, Frank (Shorty) Harris, a typical desert wanderer, returning with a companion and the inevitable burros of the prospector, from a trip to the Keane Wonder country, camped at Buck Springs. The next morning Harris started to prospect some boulders of quartz and in a few minutes had discovered samples of what afterward became known as the genuine green bullfrog rock, through which free gold was scattered with a lavish hand. He located only one claim, a mill-site and water-right, and proceeded to Goldfield, the nearest town, and the rush was on ; and properties were at various times sold for considerations reaching in the aggregate to over a million dollars, were soon located. But the original discoverer, in a moment of forgetfulness due to over-indulgence, parted with his interest in the initial discovery for $1,000. In its palmy days, Rhyolite, the principal town of the Bullfrog District, numbered 5,000 inhabitants, and the Montgomery-Shoshone Mine, with its large Stamp Mill, was one of the best known mines of the State. But again the desert has claimed its own.

            Manhattan—Popularly known as the "Pine Tree" camp of Nye County, probably attracted more attention and recorded greater progress during the year 1912 than any other district in Nevada. While Tonopah and

968      THE HISTORY OF NEVADA

Goldfield led by a wide margin in amount of wealth produced from the mines, Manhattan undoubtedly made greater advancement from its former position than was witnessed even by those greater camps. From a condition of comparative uncertainty and almost stagnation which had prevailed for several years, it solved the mining and milling problems before it, and hewed its way into public recognition, sustained by many new and important discoveries of ore and liberal shipments of gold to the United States Mints.

            The history of Manhattan has not been without its romantic and kaleidoscopic features. The first gold was discovered in April, 1905, by John C. Humphrey and partners, in a ledge of silicified lime that outcropped prominently near the base of what is now known as "April Fool" hill, and but a hundred feet from the old Belmont-Cloverdale wagon road. The scene of this discovery is now in the center of the town of Manhattan. Shipments from the apex of this ledge were later freighted to Sodaville, and gave returns of over $100 per ton. An influx of prospectors followed the original discovery, and a large area was located. New excitements elsewhere during the fall caused a general exodus, and in December the town had less than 100 inhabitants. A shipment of rich ore in January, 1906, created a new rush, and in March the district had 3,000 population. This boom attracted much San Francisco capital, and the principal properties passed into the control of men of the coast city. but the earthquake of April 18, which wrecked San Francisco, also ruined many of those who had invested in Manhattan, causing cessation of development and practical abandonment of the camp.

            Mining was at a standstill, except in the case of a few leases that were intermittently being operated in the western or lower end of the camp, around the Union No. 9 claim. Among those which helped to fill in the small activities of the camp were the Evans lease, the Lamb lease, the Shea & Putman lease and the Dexter Leasing company, all of which operated on the Union No. 9 claim of the Dexter company. Each of them were profitable producers from the standpoint of the leases.

            Discovery of rich placer diggings along the main gulch immediately below the town of Manhattan early in 1909, renewed interest in the district, and led to a revival of lode mining on a small scale, in addition to the extensive activities on the placers, which extend down the valley for several miles. To Thos. ("Dry-Wash") Wilson, who had pre-

NYE COUNTY           969

viously cleaned up about $40,000 in less than 90 days "dry-washing" on the Sunnyside ground of the Round Mountain Mining company's holdings at Round Mountain, belongs the credit of inaugurating successful operations on the Manhattan placers by installing equipment and methods capable of handling the water and gravel which varied from 40 to 70 feet to bedrock. The value of the gravel ranges from $8 to $30 per yard, and many large nuggets have been found.

            Lode mining by leases spread to the eastern portion of the camp and resulted in a number of good discoveries in Litigation Hill and on the White Caps. The Big Four, at the western edge of the town, also, in 1911, became a notable producer under the operation of the (Poak-Steen) Cicala lease, and gave added impetus to the district. This lease, when at a depth of 400 feet and with a production of approximately $400,000 to its credit, was taken over by the Big Four Mining company April 4, 1912, and the company immediately proceeded to sink the shaft to 500 feet, where the large ore bodies were again picked up by lateral development in July. A notable feature in the revival of Manhattan was the fact that it was brought about almost entirely by the activities and successes of lessees in various parts of the camp. All of the owning companies had been put out of business by the San Francisco earthquake and the panic of 1907, but there were men who still retained faith in the resources of the district, and their leasing operations brought results which justified their efforts, and again attracted capital for mining development and modern milling facilities.

            Although for several years handicapped by inadequate custom-mills and high milling charges, those problems have been gradually solved. The War Eagle mill, with to stamps of 50 tons daily capacity, was constructed in 1910, superseding the old Canyon mill as a market for ore. The treatment consists of stamp-crushing, amalgamation, and cyanide. In 1911 it passed into control of the War Eagle Mining and Milling company, with D. R. Finlayson as general manager. The Priest mill, of similar capacity, was practically completed in 1910, but became involved in debts and did not begin operations until January, 1912, when it was taken over under lease by the Poak-Steen-Cicala syndicate for treatment of ore from their lease on the Big Four. It was later purchased by the Manhattan Ore and Reduction company, headed by Jno. D. Williden, of Philadelphia.

970      THE HISTORY OF NEVADA

            The Associated mill, for which ground was broken in November, 1911, was completed and placed in operation April 1, 1912. It is controlled by prominent mining men of Tonopah and Manhattan, headed by John G. Kirchen, and conducted under the management of its designer, Chas. Kirchen. The mill is situated in the "upper" or eastern end of the camp, and was designed especially for the treatment of the refractory ores of that locality, in which are the Manhattan Consolidated and the White Caps. It has 10 stamps, or a capacity of 50 tons per day, and the values are recovered by cyanide, without amalgamation.

            Before the close of the year 1912, the Big Four company will have a 50-ton mill in operation, of its own construction. Mining operations by owning companies, were resumed in an energetic manner on a number of properties in the spring and summer of 1912, and considerable new capital was invested in the district, with excellent results to those who thus showed their confidence in the camp.

            Among the active companies in 1912, were the Big Four, the Dexter-Union, the Toro Blanco, the Morning Glory, the Manhattan Amalgamated, the Manhattan Earl, the Manhattan Dorris, the Thanksgiving, and the Mineral Hill Consolidated. The most prominent leases, all of which were producing pay ore, were the White Caps Syndicate on the White Caps, the Steffner, the Mushett-Wittenberg, and the Kendall-Douglas on the Manhattan Consolidated, the Swanson, and the Bath Bros. leases on the Earl, the Green lease on Litigation Hill Merger, the Branson-Herd on the Dexter-Union, Tarash-Lindsay lease on Big Four, the Putman, Shea & Kelliher lease on the Union No. 9, and Stray Dog, the Rakestraw lease on Union No. 9, the Phillips lease on Indian Camp, besides a number of others of lesser note in various portions of the district. The placers were still receiving a great deal of attention and give promise to make a generous yield of gold for several years to come.

            Electric power, which was installed by the Nevada-California Power company by extending their lines into the camp in 1909, has played an important part in the larger development of the district. The camp has many natural advantages for mining operations, including a delightful climate, an abundance of water for milling and domestic purposes, a thick growth of pine timber on the surrounding hills, and ease of access by automobile and freight wagons, although located 45 miles from Tonopah, the nearest railway point. Most of the ore shoots come to the

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surface, and are easily found by intelligent and persistent prospecting, which makes the expense of preliminary work a very small item. The geological formation includes slates, limestones, quartzite, granite, porphyry and rhyolite, through which there has been extensive faulting, the faults being responsible in a large degree for the extensive ore bodies.

            Manhattan is one of the most picturesquely situated mining camps in Nevada. The little town nestles in the forks of two gulches that come down in a gentle slope from the rolling hills above, and from where the gulches join and continue down toward the Smoky Valley. The string of houses follow for half a mile or more. The town has an altitude of about 7,250 feet above sea level, and the narrow valley in which it is situated is followed by the old Belmont-Cloverdale wagon road, which has been one of the principal highways of the desert since the early sixties. The rounded hills on either side of this valley rise only 200 to 500 feet above its floor, but about 1 1/2 miles to the northwest, they grade into the rugged mountains forming the crest of the Toquima range, which extends northward about 80 miles further, paralleling the Toiyabe range to the west and separated from it by the Big Smoky Valley.

            Round Mountain.—One of the most interesting low grade but profit-yielding camps in Nevada is Round Mountain, located in Nye county, 65 miles north of Tonopah, and 20 miles from Manhattan. Among the several companies there, the Round Mountain Mining company is the leader, but it has some good neighbors in the Round Mountain Sphinx, the Round Mountain, Fairview, Round Mountain Daisy, and others of lesser note. The strike that first brought the attention of the public to Round Mountain was made in the spring of 1906, on ground located by Louis D. Gordon, and on a lease given by him to Scott, Morgan, and Scott on the Sunnyside No. 1 claim, which has been included in the holdings of the Round Mountain Mining company since its organization during that year.

            Round Mountain, after which the district and its leading company take their name, is a low, round top mountain of porphyry and rhyolite, on the east side of Smoky Valley, near the base of the Toquima range.

            The property of the Round Mountain Mining company, comprises 350 acres, which were acquired in 1906 and 1907. Since its incorporation, the company has mined and milled over 210,000 tons of ore of a

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gross value of approximately $2,000,000 and a net operating value of about $70,000, out of which it has paid dividends amounting to $328,404.17, and has in its treasury a surplus of more than $165,000. During the past year the company has added to its milling facilities, and is now milling about 5,000 tons a month as compared with 3,000 tons per month formerly. The ore averages between $6 and $10 per ton, but owing to the large ore bodies and the free milling character, mining and milling costs are very low. The property is developed to a depth of 900 feet on the vein and has more than seven miles of underground workings, with a very large tonnage of ore developed in the mine. The company is capitalized at 1,000,000 shares, par value $1, of which 870,000 shares have been issued. The officers and directors are : Jas. R. Davis, President; W. H. Webber, Vice-president; H. G. Mayer, Secretary; L. D. Gordon, and W. H. Bryant. The principal offices of the company are located at Goldfield, Nev. In addition to the values recovered from the mines, a large amount of gold has been recovered by lessees working the placer ground on the company's property below the outcrop of the big vein.