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as presenting the appearance of having been the former bed of the American River-running parallel to it and not more than 50 feet above its present bed. These “strikes” are of almost annual occurrence in this locality.
The limited time at my disposal and the lateness of the season did not admit of a visit to this county. For all the information embodied in the following letter, I am indebted to Mr. E. Spaulding, for many years county surveyor of that county, who, in the prosecution of his official duties, has gained an extensive knowledge of the mining resources of Sierra county:
“Deep placer mining in this county is principally confined to the Blue Lead, which extends through the county parallel to the main range of the Sierra, and at right angles to the present streams. This body of blue gravel is usually covered several hundred feet deep with volcanic debris, and is about half a mile wide and fifty feet deep. The portion that pays for working is usually about three or four hundred feet wide, and from one to three feet deep, lying on and near the bed-rock. Very little of this deposit has been worked by hydraulic process; the principal method has been to work through tunnels, shafts, and inclines. When raised to the surface, the gold is easily washed out of the gravel through sluice-boxes. A few miners are receiving small returns for working portions of the deposit that were once considered worthless, and for working over again portions that paid very large returns for working before. There is about two miles of the deposit between Forest City and Rock Creek that has not been worked, owing to a want of drainage at the Rock Creek end and at the Forest City end, which is owned in small tracts, too small to justify the individual companies in opening it. At present the North Fork Mining Company, an incorporated company, whose place of business is at Forest City, own over a mile of mining ground, and have a tunnel in progress that will strike the deposit at about 3,000 feet from the place of beginning. This is one of the most promising mines in Sierra County. The Rock Creek end of the deposit is owned by the Adellia Company-not working. At Fir Cap there are two companies receiving good returns for their work. At Morristown and Cold Cañon the deposit is worked out. At the towns of Howland Flat, Gibsonville, and Whiskey, the deposit is wider, and pays less than at points where it is narrow. The width of the deposit and the regular yield gives a permanence to the work being done at these towns, and at present rates of progress it will probably take ten years to work out the deposit. North of the North Yuba River, and parallel to the Blue Lead, and about three miles below or west of it, are located the towns of Eureka, St. Louis, and Port Wine. The deposits at these towns have been worked by hydraulic process, and with the exception of about one claim at each town, that will yield good returns for two or three years to come, the ground is worked out. There is a deposit lying between Middle and North Yuba Rivers, and parallel to the Blue Lead, and about eight miles above or east of it, marked by mining camps, among which are the towns of American Hill and Nebraska; this deposit may be considered exhausted. The towns of Pike City, Indian Hill, Brandy City, and Scales district, and intervening camps, mark the course of a deposit that extends through the county parallel to the Blue Lead, and about twelve miles below or west of it. This deposit has been principally worked by hydraulic process."
I am under obligations to Mr. L. E. Crane, superintendent of the Alleghany City Gold Mining Company, Alleghany City, Sierra Couuty, for the following:
Smith's Flat, the development and subsequent exhaustion of which as a placer deposit led naturally to hydraulic mining first, and next to the conception and prosecution of the idea of following the gravel into the mountain by means of tunnels, lies to the south of Downieville, Sierra County, about eight miles.
The place was named in honor of the discoverer of the diggings, who, following a ravine up the mountain side from Kanaka Creek, and taking a fortune out as he went, reached a bench formation situated halfway from creek to summit, and opened on the southerly edge of one of the richest placer deposits ever worked in California. This was in 1850–51; and a prosperous mining camp attested the value of the ground during the period of its working. No vestige of the camp remains, but the town of Alleghany-with its outlying suburb, Cumber. land-has since grown into and maintained its existence in the close vicinity.
The first tunnel which entered the mountain was commenced early in 1853, and was named the “ Packard,” from Dr. Packard, one of its projectors and owners; it still retains its naine, and is yet used to work through, the graves paying fair wages to work again, and an occasional bit of undisturbed ground being discovered and worked very profitably.
The Packard tunnel paid from the start. No assessment, beyond the light contributions necessary to a commencement, were called for, and the owners received large individual fortunes from dividends. This was owing to the fact that no “rim rock” was encountered, but the tunnel was in the gravel of the famous Blue Lead from the time of erecting the first set of timbers. Whether the absence of rim rock may be accepted as conclusive evidence that the Blue Lead debouched from the mountain at this point, winding southerly through Chip’s Flat, Minnesota, Moore's Flat, etc., is by no means certain, but no other probable outlet for it has been noticed.
Following the Packard, and stimulated by prospects that were almost certainties, came the “ Alleghany,” “ Pacific,” “ Knickerbocker," “ Bay State," “ New York,” “Red Star,” “Excelsior," " Masonic,” “ Jenny Lind,” “ Hooking Bull,” “Buckeye,” “Blue Tunnel,” “Clipper,” and other companies—the famous “Live Yankee" penetrating the same mountain, but from the westerly instead of easterly side. The histories of these companies were uniformly the same; the tunnels penetrated the rim rock, the gravel on the front of the lead was worked at great profit, and when the main Blue Lead was reached, it was necessary to sink an incline and effect drainage by means of pumping. This method of working was expensive, difficult, and necessarily far from thorough or exhaustive; yet the yield of gold was enormous, and the mines were considered very valuable by their owners.
From the claims of the “Tremont," " Knickerbocker," and "Masonic," were taken respectively the sums of $10,000, $90,000, and $60,000 in the space of a month, and it was not difficult for any of the claims to procure credit for almost unlimited supplies and money. That every owner connected with either of the tunnels was not greatly enriched, was owing more to the fact that they all became entangled in expensive litigation regarding boundaries, and that much of what might have been profit went to pay lawyers and witnesses, than to any other cause. It is one of the unwritten jokes of the vicinity that, on the occasion of one of these trials of title at Downieville, an honest miner gave testimony descriptive of the situation and course of the Blue Lead. He
traced it as far north as that town, and when the attorney asked him, “Where does it go from here ?” he replied, “I think it comes right into the court-house here and don't go no further!”
Not one of these companies has worked out the ground reached by their tunnels. Various causes combined to induce cessations of work; mining excitements in distant localities attracted owners away; tunnels became first dilapidated, then ruined, and in 1858-59 the end of exciting rush and competition had been reached, and many of the claims were lying untouched. In several of them, however, work was still done by men who had succeeded to proprietorship, and it was proved that even ground which had once been worked would pay in these days of cheaper supplies and lower wages. In October, 1870, the owners of the “New York” claim discovered a very rich deposit of gravel, which had been passed under by the original tunnel when on its course to the channel. The weekly yield from this deposit where it was first opened was 104 ounces ($1,846) from the gravel got out by “four men at the pick." Its extent is not yet fully determined, but enough has been prospected to denote that there is a very large body of it. In 1868 several of the claims, with portions of others, were purchased, and are now being developed and worked by an incorporated company known as the “ Alleghany Consolidated Gold Mining Company." A tunnel was projected that should be low enough to afford sure drainage for all the ground it was designed to work, and, indeed, low enough to drain the Blue Lead at any point in the mountain. It was commenced near the starting-point of the Blue Tunnel, the course of which it followed for 900 feet, at which point it deviated to the east sufficiently to leave 20 feet between them. In December, 1870, this tunnel was near 2,000 feet into the mountain, and was close in the vicinity of a large body of unworked gravel of the Blue Lead. It is a key to the entire mountain, and there are strong probabilities that it will soon develop into a rich paying claim.
THE COMSTOCK MINES.
The aggregate yield of the mines on the Comstock lode was .considerably greater for the year 1870 than for 1869, closely approximating, indeed, the production of 1868; and, during the latter part of the year, the amount disbursed in dividends was notably large. This is partly due to the fact that a few companies extracted large quantities of ores, the costs upon which were kept low by the large scale of operations. Thus the Chollar-Potosi produced the enormous sum of $2,627,938, of which $658,000 was paid out in dividends, and the Hale and Norcross, producing $1,708,281, paid out $512,000 in dividends. The advantages of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad have been very evident in the cheapening of freights and timber. The explorations of the Bullion, Imperial, and Ophir have been barren of results up to the end of the year; on the other hand, the deep workings of the Gould and Curry, Yellow Jacket, and Crown Point, have furnished much reason for encouragement as to the future. Of especial significance is the discovery in the latter mine, at the close of the year, and at the deepest level, I believe, ever reached upon the Comstock lode, of a new, large, and valuable body of ore, which is apparently disconnected with any other hitherto worked. The San Francisco Weekly Stock Circular quotes from a letter dated January 15, concerning this discovery, as follows:
The winze in the soft ledge at cross-cut No. 1, on the 1,100 level, is down on the line of the incline, following the west clay, 44 feet. The face of it is in clear bright-looking quartz, showing spots here and there. The entire face on the raise of the east body, from cross-cut No. 1, 1,100 level, is in ore that will mill $50 per ton. The character of the ore is black sulphurets and chlorides mixed through it. The incline raise is four feet high, and it is safe to calculate that the ore extends two feet beyond, making an ore body six feet in width. The mine has never been prospected in this section from the 1,100 level up to the 300, and while this ore body may and doubtless will vary in size and quality, there is no doubt but that it will prove an extensive body of ore. The improvement in the quality and extent of the raise occurred at a point 30 feet up from track floor.
I learn that subsequent developments still further enhanced the importance and extent of this discovery, and I regard it as a striking demonstration of the continuance of ore-bearing character on this vein in depth. Especial significance is attached to the fact that the level in which this body has been struck is but three or four hundred feet above that of the proposed Sutro tunnel—the 1,100 feet level of the Crown Point being 1,563 feet below the croppings of the Gould & Curry. (According to the Virginia Enterprise, the Sutro tunnel level would coincide with the 1,300 foot level of the Crown Point; but this is probably erroneous, since Mr. Carlyle's survey makes the tunnel intersect the Savage claim 1,922 feet below the floor of the Savage works, or about 1,960 feet below the croppings of the Gould & Curry. The rise in drifting 6,900 feet, from Savage through Crown Point, would not be more than 6 feet.) Since much doubt has been thrown upon the enterprise of Mr. Sutro, on account of the alleged barrenness of the Comstock in depth, it is fortunate that this development has occurred in time to encourage the prosecution of the much-needed deep tunnel.
This tunnel is now in process of construction, and has been carried in about 1.900 feet, through various alternations of rock, and cereral veins, none of which, so far as I am aware, bare been prospected. A good deal of water has been met with, which may be considered. so far as it goes, a favorable indication of the existence of fissure-reins in the neighborhood, though, at the inconsiderable depth thus far attained, the sig. nificance of its occurrence is not important. My opinion as to the necenity and value of this tunnel remains unchanged, except so far as it has live strengthened by recent developments upon the Comstock. Asa means of exploring that rein to a depth heretofore unattained in metalmiling, it will be indispensable. Some of the shafts in the Comstock are now approaching the level of the tunnel-survey; but the expense and difficulty of going deeper will be well nigh insurmountable, without an adit as a new basis of operations. The effect of a tunnel, adequate for drainage, transportation, and ventilation, is to create a new, artificial surface, with the added advantage of a hydraulic power, measured by the quantity of water and the height of its fall above the tunnel level. A few months ago, suggestions of this nature were met with the reply that the Comstock shafts were not finding ore in depth, and that nobody was likely to desire to go much deeper in barren ground. In successive reports I have uniformly regarded this barren ground as a zone, beyond which ore bodies would again be found; and this opinion is now so far confirmed that I presume no one will now discourage further esplorations in depth, up to the limits of mechanical practicability.
As it is understood that Congress will order an examination of this subject by a commission of military and mining engineers, the further discussion of it upon the present occasion is unnecessary. The report of that commission would be rendered, probably, in the winter of 1871. Meanwhile, I trust that the tunnel may be pushed forward. This is one of the few localities in the country where such a work is really required.
The prospects of the Comstock mines are certainly better than they were a year ago. Prices in all departments have never been so reason. able as now; and the general economy of management has never been better. The reserves in the Chollar, Hale & Norcross, Savage, and Yellow Jacket are understood to be still large, and those of the two former are in their lower chambers. The Washoe stocks have shown, in a general advance in price, the effect of this encouraged aspect of affairs.
Among the casualties of the year were two, which claim particular attention, as indicating special sources of danger in the mines upon this lode. The first was a cave between the 800 and 900 foot levels of the Yellow Jacket mine, caused by a flake of ore and vein matter falling from the hanging wall. Three sets of timbers in length, two in height, and two in pidth, were crushed, and four miners were buried under the mass. The following extract from a local paper vividly describes the vain attempt to rescue the only victim who was not iinmediately killed:
As soon as the cave occurred in the Yellow Jacket mine, several brave men from the floors below hurried up the ladders to the rescue, knowing full well that some of their comrades must bo there, and in need of immediate help. The danger was great, for the timbers were still cracking and pieces of ore falling; yet they ventured close to the ruins, and the light of their candles revealed one man jammed aniong the debris, and still alivo. This man was Hanson. They could get near enough to touch him, and be was able to freely converse with them. A heavy timber across lis hips and otbers about his legs held him fast. Only one or two men could work in the narrow space at a time, and very cautiously, by reason of danger from the still moving mass. They worked with saw and axe, and for over two hours the poor fellow talked with them as thoy worked. He called for water, which they gave him three or four times. He was