Imagens das páginas

Chapter Dineteenth.



To give the reader a more definite idea of the success attending mining, I will detail the result of the different operations in the vicinity of my place of business, commencing one mile above and extending four below; this is said to be as rich as the same extent on any river in the country. The Manhattan Bar was canalled and dammed by the Manhattan Co., being a party of New Yorkers, including Gen. Winchester and brother. After expending a large amount in turning the water from the bed of the river, they purchased several quicksilver machines at one thousand dollars each, and immediately put them in motion. It required but few days to convince them of the failure that must attend the enterprise; the machines did not collect enough to pay the men who worked them, and they were immediately abandoned for the common rocker, which, in their turn, were abandoned together with the entire work.

The next in order was the Vigilance Bar; here a large amount of money was expended, and almost the entire summer devoted to the construction of a dam and canal, all of which proved an entire loss to the parties concerned; they did not get enough to pay for the provisions consumed during the construction of the work. In the immediate vicinity of this was the Union Bar; a still greater amount in money and labor was expended here, but, as in the case of the Vigilance Co., it proved a total failure. In these two cases, sixty men had spent the entire summer in hard labor, and now were obliged to encoun: ter the rainy season, many of them in debt, and but few with sufficient means to buy a month's provisions. In the latter company were several young Philadelphians, sons of the first men of that city; an adventurous spirit had induced them to leave their homes, and they were now encountering the realities of active life. Lacy's Bar was next in order; there were many rich private leads in the vicinity of this bar, and it contained within its bounds many rich deposits. Soon after the completion of the canal the bar was offered for sale-a fire or flood at St. Louis making the proprietors' return to the States imperative. I was unable to learn whether said fire or flood abovementioned had actually transpired or was merely in anticipa. tion, nor am I prepared to name the precise amount of net profits made by the purchasers of the above bar. Next is the Mormon Bar; the details as well as the result of this enterprise have been heretofore given. The next is Kentucky Bar; this undertaking paid to each stockholder seven hundred dollars, which was good wages. Next was Neptune's, commonly known as "dead man's bar,” the body of a miner having been found upon it; this bar was worked by sailors, and was the most productive in the country. It was said by those concerned, that they generally took out one pound ($200) per day to the man. The rainy season, however, destroyed their works before they had accumulated fortunes. The next bar was small, and without a name; operations here were unsuccessful, and soon abandoned.

The next bar I will name Woodworth's Bar; when I visited it three men were working a machine made by a Mr. Woodworth, of New York city; its construction was somewhat on the plan of, and much resembled, a large sized coffee-mill. For mining purposes the coffee-mill would have been decidedly preferable. Fortunately for miners but few of the machines made in the States ever found their way into the mineral regions; this being the only one I saw during my stay in the country. Immense numbers were shipped, and arrived in the bay of San Francisco; but, being pronounced entirely worthless, they were thrown overboard, not worth even the lighterage. This bar also proved a failure. The next below was Lehigh Bar; this was canalled, and immediately abandoned as worthless. Then came Little and Great Horse-Shoe Bars, neither of which paid for the



[ocr errors][ocr errors]

labor bestowed upon them. Not to mention the small intervening bars, I will pass on and mention, lastly, Smith's Bar; this was one of the most gigantic works undertaken on the river. During its progress the feelings of those concerned were of the most sanguine character; in digging the canal they frequently came upon rich deposits, which would throw all into a phrensy of excitement, and some realized small fortunes by selling out during the progress of the work: after the completion of the work machines were put in operation, and all were expecting to reap golden harvests; some of the machines produced most bountifully, and others almost nothing. A few days convinced them that, as a party, they could not make wages, and the result was similar to those mentioned above.

In all the bars mentioned there were points of extreme richness. The calculations of those engaged in canalling were based upon a false, though somewhat plausible theory; the margin being rich, they very naturally came to the conclusion that the bed of the river must be much more so. It appears, however, that gold does not settle in the channel, but is borne along until some abrupt bend in the river checks the current, when it settles, together with the stone and earth, forming bars, which have been described in a former chapter. It is understood that these bars are formed during the rainy season. Torrents rush down the mountains, and on reaching the stream unite in bearing along the precious freight. It may seem strange that the current can convey gold to any considerable distance; it is nevertheless true, and it may seem less strange to one who has known the river to rise from twenty to thirty feet in as many

hours. In such freshets the natural channel has no influence, the torrents claiming for their boundaries the mountains that tower up on either side. What is rain in the moderately elevated regions, is snow as you advance higher up into the mountains. This causes a long season of high water. The snow does not dissolve during the rainy season, the sun being obscured—but at its cessation torrents rush down the side of the mountains, and, not unfrequently, huge masses of snow, as if impatient of their slow dissolution, will break loose from their fastenings, and with a terrific sweep dash into the chasm below. At this season of the year the rise and fall of the rivers are as uniform as the tides.

[ocr errors]

As the sun approaches the meridian, streams become swollen, frequently rising several feet, and fall as it disappears behind the mountains. It ceases to rain about the first of March, but in consequence of the immense quantities of snow on the mountains, streams do not resume their natural channels until the first of July, at which time, deposits made during the flood are found, as a general thing, above water-mark. One cause and perhaps the main one, of the almost universal failure of canalling operations is, that the facilities attained do not counterbalance the enormous expenditures requisite. Another difficulty is that a company of thirty men cannot, in the mines, operate with the same economy of time that they can when working in pairs. As I had lost on my stock in the Mormon Bar I determined to make it up by buying in the balance, which I did at from ten to fifteen dollars per share, and eventually sold it at several hundred per cent. advance to a company designing to operate upon it with quicksilver machines. Gen. Winchester & Co. became joint owners, and soon several of the machines were in successful operation, propelled by water drawn from the canal. The success of the experiment was placed beyond a doubt. The machines used were called the “Burk rocker.” They were placed on an inclined plane, and in the upper riffles, which were of iron, was placed a quantity of quicksilver. Dirt was thrown in at the upper end of the machines, and as it was washed through, the rocking motion would bring it in contact with the quicksilver, which having a strong affinity for the gold, carefully collects it without including any other substance. After the quicksilver has taken up, or freighted itself to its utmost capacity, and become a solid mass, or amal. gam, it is taken out and its place supplied.

In separating the gold and quicksilver the amalgam is put into a retort, to the top of which is screwed a crooked iron tube, . the end passing into a vessel of water. A heat is raised under the retort of six hundred degrees, which causes the quicksilver to evaporate and pass up into the tube, when it condenses and passes down into the water. This operation is performed at a loss of only two and a half per cent. of the quicksilver. These machines were purchased at a cost of one thousand dollars each, although in the States they are worth less than forty. Their

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »