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Title: A History of the Comstock Silver Lode & Mines - Nevada and the Great Basin Region; Lake Tahoe and the High Sierras
Author: Quille, Dan de
Language: English
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                              A HISTORY OF
                      COMSTOCK SILVER LODE & MINES

                             DAN DE QUILLE
                            [WILLIAM WRIGHT]

                            PROMONTORY PRESS
                            New York • 1974

  Published by Promontory Press, New York, N.Y. 10016

  Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 73-92646
  ISBN: 0-88394-024-8

  Printed in the United States of America

  Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

  Wright, William, 1829-1898.
    A history of the Comstock silver lode & mines, Nevada and the great
              basin region.

    Reprint of the 1889 ed.
    1. Comstock Lode, Nev.
    2. Nevada—Description and travel. I. Title. II. Series.
  TN413.N25W9    1973    338.2′74210979356

                              A HISTORY OF
                      COMSTOCK SILVER LODE & MINES


                    LAKE TAHOE AND THE HIGH SIERRAS.




                           BY DAN DE QUILLE,
                               author of
                           “The Big Bonanza,”
                   The Wealth and Wonders of Washoe,
                   The Arid Zone and Irrigation, Etc.

                        PUBLISHED BY F. BOEGLE,
                        BOOKSELLER & STATIONER,
                           VIRGINIA, NEVADA.

       Entered According to Act of Congress, in the Year 1889, by
                               F. BOEGLE,
       in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

                      _NEW YORK AND SAN FRANCISCO,
                   Pacific Press Publishing Company,
                             Oakland, Cal.,
                  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 on 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
  The Discovery of Silver                                             32
  Placer Mining on Gold Canyon                                        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
  Additional Great Pipes                                              66
  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                                                   98
      Gold Hill                                                       99
      Silver City                                                    101
      Dayton                                                         102
      Sutro                                                          104
      Carson City                                                    105
      Empire City                                                    109
      Genoa                                                          110
      Reno                                                           111
  Other Towns in Washoe County                                       113
      Washoe City                                                    113
      Ophir                                                          114
      Franktown                                                      114
      Wadsworth                                                      114
      Verdi                                                          115
  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
      Glenbrook                                                      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
      Wabuska                                                        147
      Hawthorne                                                      148
      Luning                                                         148
      Bellville                                                      148
      Candelaria                                                     148
      Benton                                                         149
      Bishop Creek                                                   149
      Independence                                                   149
      Keeler                                                         150
  Owens Lake                                                         150
  Mono Lake                                                          151
  Eureka and Palisade Railroad                                       151
      Town of Palisade                                               151
      Eureka                                                         151
  Nevada Central Railroad                                            152
      Town of Battle Mountain                                        152
      Austin                                                         153
  Nevada and California Railroad                                     154
  Proposed Railroads                                                 154
  Salt Lake and Los Angeles                                          155
  Nevada, Central, and Idaho                                         155
  NEVADA A LAND OF GREAT POSSIBILITIES                               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 Nevada 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 Islands. 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 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 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
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 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

                         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.

                            HUMBOLDT RIVER.

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. 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 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.

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. 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
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.

                             CARSON RIVER.

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 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
remedy this evil large storage reservoirs should be constructed in the
mountains and higher foot-hill regions.

                             WALKER RIVER.

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.

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. 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.

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 RIVERS.

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 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

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 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

                      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
discovered. 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 or 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 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.

                        Agricultural Resources.

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 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 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. 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 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.

                      Placer Mining on Gold Canyon

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 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 vein. 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 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

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 diggings 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.

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, 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, _i. 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.

                    The Grand Rush over the Sierras

With the returns of the assays came a rush from California. The assays
were made at Nevada City, California, and the result 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.

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 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

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

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 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 contend. 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 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

                 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 silver. 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

                  Virginia City and its Surroundings.

Virginia City, the county seat of Storey County, is situated on the
eastern face of Mount Davidson, the 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.

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 included 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, 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 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

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.

                           CITY IMPROVEMENTS.

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 flumes and iron pipes, and
distributed to customers throughout the place. The supply of water,
however, at that time was not adequate to the requirements of the town,
and the quality was poor, being much impaired by the deleterious
minerals it held in solution. Mention of the present system of water
works will be made in another place.

Meantime, while the town was building up, good wagon roads had been
constructed in various directions at great cost. A number of fire
companies had been organized (provided at first with hand engines, but
afterwards with steamers), and Virginia City began to take on the
appearance of a real “city,” not only in the number and substantial
character of the buildings, and swarms of people it contained, but also
in the number of conveniences it afforded, its many societies, churches,
schools, theaters, clubs, orders, and organizations, usually considered
the necessary adjuncts and requirements of civilized and intelligent
communities. There were also several daily and weekly newspapers,
telegraph, express, and all other similar offices required by business
and mining men, and by the people at large. Indeed, in 1875 the area of
the city was as great as at present, and much more populous, as at that
time it was estimated to contain 20,000 people. Hundreds and thousands
of these, however, were mere birds of passage, being neither business
men nor owners of property. At and about Gold Hill at that time it was
estimated that there were about 10,000 souls. The two towns, originally
a mile apart, were connected by buildings—had grown together. Both towns
were filled with mills and mining works, that gave employment to many
thousands of miners, mechanics, and workingmen of all grades and

                            The Great Fire.

Everything was thus flourishing and prosperous—the “Big Bonanza” was
yielding its millions, and several other mines were working great and
rich bodies of ore—when Virginia City was overwhelmed by a great

On the morning of October 26, 1875, a fire broke out in a frame
lodging-house on A Street, in the western part of the town, just above
all the great business blocks, and in a few hours all in an area of half
a mile square was laid in ashes. Before the fire was subdued no fewer
than 2,000 buildings—including mills, hoisting works, churches, business
houses, and structures of all kinds—were swept away. Hundreds of
families were left homeless and destitute. Owing to the early hour at
which the fire started (six o’clock), and the fearful rapidity with
which it spread in all directions, few persons were able to save any of
their goods or valuables. In all, property to the value of over
$10,000,000 was destroyed. Many great and destructive fires had before
swept through and devastated the city, but this was the greatest ever
experienced in the place. Scores of buildings that had always been rated
as fire-proof melted away in the fervent heat like frost in the rays of
the morning sun.

Almost in the start the court-house, the building of the Washoe Club,
the International Hotel, and several other large buildings, were ignited
and began vomiting pillars of flame that scattered sparks and cinders
far and wide. As the fire progressed the millions of feet of lumber and
timbers and the thousands of cords of wood about the mining works made
fires that could not be successfully combated, and which nothing could
withstand. At the Consolidated Virginia Hoisting Works and Mill alone
there were on fire at the same moment, and in one mass, 1,250,000 feet
of lumber and timbers, and 800 cords of pine wood, not to speak of the
two great buildings, and all the stores they contained; also the
adjoining assay office, and contents. Across the street the freight and
passenger depots of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad Company were
sending up immense pillars of flame, while just south Piper’s Opera
House, an immense frame structure filled with all manner of very
inflammable material, was a volcano, vomiting destruction on all sides.
Between and about these large structures a score or more of smaller
buildings were belching flames. This was the scene at but one spot. A
few rods to the southward three tall churches (Catholic, Methodist, and
Episcopal) were sending tongues of flame into the very clouds, amid
whole acres of smaller buildings that formed a tumultuous sea of fire.
At the same time to the northward the Ophir works, with fifty smaller
structures, were wrapped in flame. In the same fierce way the fire was
raging over half a mile square of the very heart of the town. Although
there were scores of narrow escapes, only two persons lost their lives
in the fire, and two or three were afterwards killed by falling walls.

To rebuild the town at once was the universal determination. The
insurance on the property destroyed amounted to $2,500,000 (the loss at
the Bonanza Mines alone was $1,461,000), which was something to begin
with; besides many persons whose property was destroyed had plenty of
money left with which to rebuild. There was not a moment’s delay. The
next morning the work of clearing away ruins preparatory to putting up
new buildings was begun in all parts of the city, water being thrown
upon the red-hot bricks to so cool them that they could be handled.
Rebuilding began the morning after the fire, and hardly ceased day or
night until all the ground of the burnt district had been again covered.
The big mining companies were especially active. Although engaged in
rebuilding the mills and works destroyed, the Consolidated Virginia
Mining Company paid its regular dividends of $10 a share in November and
December, the two amounting to $2,160,000. In less than thirty days from
the time of the fire new works replaced those destroyed by fire, and the
machinery was in place and ore hoisted on Thanksgiving-day. In sixty
days after the fire the business streets of the city were rebuilt, and
with larger and finer structures than those that had been destroyed. The
whole burnt district was so soon covered with new buildings that
strangers arriving in the city looked about them in surprise and asked,
“Where was your big fire?” That was a busy time on the Virginia and
Truckee Railroad, no fewer than forty-five trains a day passing over the
road during the great building rush. But for the railroad the city and
mining works could not have been rebuilt that year.

                       Virginia City at Present.

Although Virginia City covers as much ground and contains larger and
finer buildings than before the great fire, it is not so populous as in
the old flush times of the “Big Bonanza.” In those days every hotel and
lodging-house was filled to overflowing; now most of those in the city
are permanent inhabitants and property owners—those who formerly
composed the grand army of “sports,” adventurers, and idlers have gone
to other fields. At present the city contains a population of only about
9,000 persons, but nearly all those now in the place have permanent
homes and some legitimate and remunerative employment. As about
one-fourth of the male population is constantly at work under-ground in
the lower levels of the various mines, the streets do not present so
thronged an appearance as those of a non-mining town containing the same
number of inhabitants. The place, however, presents a very different
appearance on a holiday when all the mining works are shut down and the
miners are on the surface.

The first care of the people of the city after rebuilding the place was
to guard against the recurrence of such a sweeping conflagration. A
number of huge water tanks were constructed high above the town on the
side of the mountain, with a proper system of mains and hydrants
extending through all parts of the city. The pressure is so great at
these hydrants that the firemen are able to throw a stream over the
flag-staff of the tallest building in the city through a nozzle of the
largest size. A few paid firemen now fight all the fires that occur in
the city. As the hydrants are always ready the firemen have only to get
to them, attach their hose, and at once they have powerful streams
steadily playing on the fire. “Promptness of action” is their motto.
They seldom allow a fire to get out of the building in which it
originates. Usually they have a fire out before a steam fire-engine
could get up steam.

The fire mains are distinct from those which supply water for domestic
purposes, and those again from such as furnish water for use at the
mills and hoisting works of the mines. There is a system of gates
whereby the water may be shut off from the hydrants of any block in the
city and turned to any other block or blocks of buildings. This system
is so perfect that employes of the water company working in conjunction
with the firemen are able to at once turn the water to any part of the
city in which it may be required, at the same time shutting it off from
all other parts.

All the churches, halls, district court-house, theater, and other public
buildings are finer than those destroyed in the big fire, and again are
seen trees and grounds of handsome appearance in various parts of the
city. In the city are several school-houses that cost from $20,000 to
$60,000, besides which there are a number of private schools, and the
fine school of the Sisters of Charity. There is also a hospital—St.
Mary’s, a commodious brick structure—under the charge of the Sisters, as
well as a large and well-conducted county hospital. Both are located
beyond the eastern suburbs in quiet and pleasant places. The halls
belonging to the many societies and secret orders are elegant and
costly. The city now has electric lights, two daily newspapers, and one

The mills and hoisting works are a striking and characteristic feature
of the place. The immense waste dumps, high trestle-work car tracks,
trains of ore cars on the railroad, clouds of black smoke belched from
many tall stacks, trains loaded with wood and timber, all tell that
mining is the great industry of the city; then much of the street talk
heard is of mines and mining stocks.

The International Hotel is the oldest in the city. It was founded in
1860, when it was a mere frame shanty fronting on B Street. The hotel
destroyed by the big fire was a commodious brick structure, but the
present building is far finer. It now extends from B to C Street, is
constructed of brick, stone, and iron, and is six stories in height. It
is capable of accommodating in excellent style a large number of guests.

                   Views from the City and Vicinity.

Though the landscape visible from the city cannot be called beautiful,
yet it is grand and picturesque. On all sides except the east, the town
is shut in by near ranges of high, rocky, and barren mountains. To the
eastward the eye reaches over a vast area composed of tracts of sandy
desert, valley lands, dark and rocky hills, and rugged and towering
mountain ranges. The chief of these is the Humboldt Range, seen blue or
purple in the distance, from 150 to 190 miles away. These mountains and
their snow-clad peaks stand out against the dark-blue of the sky far
beyond the green cottonwood groves that follow the meanderings of the
Carson River, far beyond the Forty-mile Desert and the lake and sink of
the Carson, and beyond Humboldt Lake and Sink.

To the northeast are seen several sharp and splintered peaks, while to
the southeast, from twenty to fifty miles away, rise the huge and grand
peaks of the Como Mountains. From the Divide (the dividing ridge between
Virginia and Gold Hill) may be obtained a magnificent view of the main
Sierra Nevada Range and its many mighty snow-capped peaks as they trail
and circle away from west to south till they are lost to view behind
lower interior ranges at a point over 150 miles away.

               The View from the Summit of Mt. Davidson.

From the peak of Mount Davidson may be obtained a grand and extensive
view of the country in all directions. To the westward is seen Washoe
Lake and the green meadows and fields by which it is surrounded.
Although Washoe Valley and its lake seem to be just at the foot of the
mountain they are from eight to ten miles distant. Beyond and high above
the valley tower the pine-clad Sierras, with, along their line, several
giant granite peaks, snow-capped the greater part of the year. Prominent
among these stands out Bald Mountain, just north of Lake Tahoe, and
within plain view Mount Lincoln, Job’s Peak, Silver Mountain, and many
other peaks that have names. Twenty miles to the northward are to be
seen the green pastures and alfalfa fields of the Truckee Meadows, while
to the southward we have the Sierra Range and Eagle and Carson Valleys.
Carson City is hid by intervening low hills. To the eastward are the
same deserts and mountains that compose the landscape viewed from the
city, but from the top of the mountain the eye ranges over a vastly
wider field.

                   The Virginia and Truckee Railroad.

From our elevated position on the peak of Mount Davidson we may trace
nearly the whole course of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad. This road
runs from Reno to Virginia City _via_ Carson City, and is fifty-two
miles in length. Besides being in one part the most crooked railroad in
the world, its whole course is a great curve. The distance from Virginia
City to Reno as the crow flies is only about seventeen miles, and but
twenty-two by wagon road, yet to connect the two points by rail required
a road fifty-two miles in length.

From Reno, where the road connects with the Central Pacific, its course
is southward through Truckee, Meadows, and Steamboat, Washoe and Eagle
Valleys, to Carson City, a distance of thirty-one miles. From Carson
City the road runs east down the Carson River about nine miles, when it
leaves the river and, turning to the north, begins to climb the
mountains to Virginia. From the river to Virginia the distance is
thirteen miles and the maximum grade is 116 feet. In climbing the
mountain there are many very short curves. The maximum radius of curves
is 300 feet. By adding together all these curves it is found that a
passenger on the road actually travels seventeen times round a circle
between Virginia and Carson City. On the road are six tunnels, whose
united length is 2,400 feet, and there are numerous deep cuts in very
hard rock. The only high bridge is the trestlework on which the road
crosses Crown Point Ravine, at Gold Hill. This bridge is eighty feet in

Ground was broken on the road February 19, 1869, and eight months
thereafter the most difficult part of it was finished and trains were
running to Carson—twenty-one miles. The construction of this twenty-one
miles of road cost $1,750,000, the greater part of which sum was
expended on the first thirteen miles. In round numbers the whole
fifty-two miles cost $3,000,000. The road does an immense business in
the transportation of Comstock ores to quartz mills on the Carson River,
and in carrying back from the valley wood, lumber, and timbers for the
mines; it also carries from Reno to Virginia great quantities of all
kinds of goods and merchandise—coal, ice, provisions, fruit, and
machinery—with mails, express, and many passengers daily. The road
connects with the Carson and Colorado Road at Mound House, eleven miles
below Virginia City. The road and its many side-tracks and switches
constitute a lasting monument to the engineering skill of the late I. E.

                       The Days of “Bull Teams.”

Before the Virginia and Truckee Railroad was built all freight was
transported by teams. Ore was hauled to the mills by teams, and teams
brought to the mines all the wood, lumber, and timber required. Teams
also hauled over the Sierras all the mining machinery and supplies
required by the mines and mills, and all the goods and merchandise
needed by various kinds of stores, shops, and business houses. When the
Central Pacific was completed this hauling of merchandise was from Reno,
_via_ the Geiger grade wagon-road. Hundreds of teams of all kinds were
required to handle the goods and merchandise, other hundreds the ore,
wood, lumber, and timbers, and still others to do the miscellaneous
hauling of the country. When the big reduction works of the Ophir Mining
Company were in operation near Franktown, in Washoe Valley, lines of
teams from one to three miles in length were to be seen moving along the
Ophir grade. On all other roads it was much the same. Teams of from ten
to sixteen horses or mules hauled trains of from two to four loaded
wagons. At times so many teams thronged Virginia City that blockades
occurred which could not be broken for hours. Stages, omnibuses,
delivery wagons, drays, carts, buggies, carriages, and all kinds of
vehicles were inextricably mingled in a jam that filled the principal
streets for blocks. With all the cursing of “mule-punchers,” “swampers,”
and “bull-teamsters,” it would often be two or three hours before the
wheels of traffic again began to revolve. When these blockades occurred
about noon, teamsters would often get out their dinner pails, spread
their meal on their load of wood, brick, or lumber, bring out from the
nearest saloon a measure of beer, and in a leisurely way partake of the
midday repast. Then all passengers and all mail and express matter were
carried by stages, and so great was the rush of travel and business that
the coaches went out and returned in droves, five and six in a string.
In 1859, 1860, and 1861, great quantities of goods were transported
across the Sierras from California on the backs of mules. Some of the
pack-trains were composed of fifty, eighty, and even as many as one
hundred mules. They brought over all kinds of freight, even huge casks
of liquor and large pieces of mill machinery. On the return trip they
often carried passengers. In those days the “hurricane deck” of a mule
was not to be despised.


              The Virginia City and Gold Hill Water Works.

When silver was first discovered on the Comstock, the flow of water from
natural springs was sufficient to supply all the wants of the small
communities then constituting the towns of Gold Hill and Virginia City.
As the population increased, wells were dug in many places (distant from
springs), and the domestic needs of many families were for a long time
supplied by water-carts that peddled the water of both wells and
springs. Presently the water of several tunnels added to the available
stock, but as mills and hoisting works multiplied, the demand for water
for use in steam boilers became so great that it was impossible to
supply it without creating a water famine among the people of the two
towns, now thousands in number, with hundreds of new arrivals every
week. In this emergency the Virginia City and Gold Hill Water Company
was formed. Outside of mining companies it is the oldest incorporation
on the Comstock Lode. The only available supply of water at that time
was that flowing from a few tunnels that had been run into the mountain
above the city for mining purposes. This was collected by means of
ditches and wooden flumes, and stored in large wooden tanks, whence it
was distributed about the city through iron pipes. When this supply
became insufficient, as it soon did, tunnels were run for the express
purpose of tapping water. As these drained out the hills and failed, new
ones were run in the range both north and south of the city for a
distance of several miles.

Finally every device was exhausted, and the hills above the level of the
city were thoroughly drained. It then became necessary to look to the
main range of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In those mountains was an
inexhaustible supply of the purest and best water to be found in the
whole world, but between the lakes, creeks, and sparkling fountains of
the Sierras and the range on which stood Virginia City, lay Washoe
Valley, an immense trough nearly 2,000 feet in depth. How to get water
over such a depression was the question. Mr. H. Schussler, an engineer
of great repute, and who had planned the Spring Valley Water Works of
San Francisco, was brought to Nevada to view the situation. He said the
deep valley could be crossed, and in the spring of 1872 surveys were
made and an order given Eastern manufacturers for the construction of a
large wrought-iron pipe. The first section of the big pipe was laid June
11, 1873, and the last on the twenty-fifth day of July of the same year.

                          The Big Water Pipe.

The total length of the pipe is 7 miles and 134 feet. The pipe has an
interior diameter of 12 inches, and is capable of delivering 2,200,000
gallons of water in twenty-four hours. The inlet of the pipe is on a
spur from the main Sierra Nevada Range, and the outlet is on the crest
of the Virginia Range of mountains. The pipe lies across the valley in
the form of an inverted siphon. At the lowest point, the perpendicular
pressure on the pipe is 1,720 feet, or about 800 pounds to the square
inch. The inlet being 465 feet higher than the outlet, the water is
forced through the pipe under tremendous pressure. The water is brought
to the inlet from the sources of supply in two large covered flumes, and
at the outlet end of the pipe is delivered into two large flumes, which
carry it to Virginia City, a distance of twelve miles.

This pipe was constructed of sheets of wrought iron riveted together.
Each section was fastened with three rows of rivets. At the point of
greatest pressure the iron was five-sixteenths of an inch in thickness,
but near the ends, upon the sides of the two opposite mountains, it
tapered down to one-sixteenth of an inch. In the construction of the
pipe there were used 1,150,000 pounds of rolled iron and 1,000,000
rivets, while 52,000 pounds of lead were used in securing the joints of
the sections. At each joint the sections were inserted into cast iron
sleeves, and it was within these sleeves that the lead was used. The
total weight of the sleeves was 442,500 pounds.

The first flow of water through this pipe reached Gold Hill and Virginia
City on the evening of August 1, 1873, amid the greatest rejoicings of
the people of both towns. Cannons were fired, rockets sent up, and bands
of music paraded the streets. Never before in any part of the world had
water been conveyed under a pressure so great; and it still remains the
greatest. Previous to this, 910 feet was the greatest perpendicular
pressure under which water had ever been carried through an iron pipe.
This had been accomplished by Mr. Schussler, at Cherokee Flat,

                        Additional Great Pipes.

In 1875 the water company laid alongside the first pipe a second having
an inside diameter of ten inches. This pipe is lap-welded, and, there
being no friction of rivet heads upon the water, the flow through it is
equal to that through the twelve-inch pipe,—2,200,000 gallons every
twenty-four hours.

Before 1875 the supply of water was obtained from creeks on the eastern
slope of the mountains lying east of Lake Tahoe, but in the year named,
the water company pushed their main supply flumes through to Marlette
Lake, which lies inside of the Tahoe basin. To do this it was necessary
to run a tunnel 3,000 feet in length through the dividing ridge, or rim,
of the Tahoe basin. The sheet of water known as Marlette Lake is almost
entirely artificial, and owes its existence to a big dam—is in reality a
large reservoir. The water covers an area of over 300 acres, and in the
middle is about 40 feet deep. The reservoir holds 16,000,000,000 gallons
of water.

The second pipe was laid under the supervision of Capt. J. B. Overton,
Superintendent of the works of the water company, who also extended the
flumes, constructed the tunnel through the mountain ridge, and made all
the other improvements. In 1887 a third iron pipe of twelve inches
inside diameter was laid across the valley alongside the first two. It
was also a welded pipe and delivers much more water than either of the
others. The inlet pressure has been raised on all three pipes, and they
now deliver a total flow of about 10,000,000 gallons in twenty-four
hours. In 1887, also, a branch flume was run to the northward (Marlette
Lake lying to the southward) a distance of nine miles, which taps a
number of creeks tributary to Lake Tahoe on the east and northeast
sides. In the same year a reservoir capable of holding 20,000,000
gallons was constructed on Hobart Creek, on the east side of the
dividing ridge. In and near the city are reservoirs holding from
3,000,000 to 10,000,000 gallons, and a number of tanks along the side of
Mount Davidson of from 60,000 to 80,000 gallons, capacity. The water is
brought a distance of from twenty-five to thirty-seven miles, and the
supply (aided by the several storage reservoirs) is ample for all
present uses. The total cost of the works of the company has been about
$2,500,000. Each of the three pipes has its separate inlet and outlet,
from two flumes and into two flumes. Between the outlet and the city the
water passes through a large storage reservoir.

                           The Sutro Tunnel.

While there was a scarcity of water on the surface at Virginia City,
there was a superabundance of it, both hot and cold, under-ground in all
the mines. Levels were flooded so suddenly that oftentimes the miners
narrowly escaped being drowned by the vast subterranean reservoirs that
were unexpectedly tapped. Great delays in mining were caused by these
floods, and to pump out the water that filled the lower levels cost
immense amounts of money. Several tunnels from 1,000 to 5,000 feet in
length were run into the mountain, but they were of only temporary
utility, as the shafts of the mines were soon below their level. In
order to overcome these water troubles, Adolph Sutro early conceived the
idea of running an immense drain tunnel under the Comstock Lode from the
lowest possible point. A survey was made by Mr. H. Schussler, and work
was commenced on the great drain tunnel (since known as the Sutro
Tunnel) October 19, 1869. It starts at the edge of the valley of the
Carson River, at a point nearly east of Virginia City, and has a length
of 20,145 feet—nearly 4 miles. It taps the central parts of the Comstock
Lode at a depth of about 1,650 feet. The tunnel is 16 feet wide and 12
feet high. Drain flumes are sunk in the floor and over these are two
tracks for horse-cars. It required nearly eight years to construct the
tunnel, and the total cost was about $4,500,000. Although the leading
mines had their shafts down nearly 3,000 feet before the tunnel was
finished, yet it was of great use, as it saved 1,600 feet of pumping.

From the main tunnel branches were run north and south along the east
side of the vein for a distance of over two miles, with which the
several companies connected by drain drifts from their mines. The flow
of water through the tunnel has at times been over 10,000,000 gallons in
twenty-four hours. Between the mouth of the tunnel and the Carson River
there are 155 feet of fall, but it has never been utilized for driving
reduction works. New connections are still being made with the tunnel
for drainage. Though it never paid anything near what was anticipated by
Mr. Sutro, the tunnel still brings in a snug sum annually. Last year
(the fiscal year that ended February 29, 1888) the receipts for
royalties amounted to $237,258.33. It costs a considerable amount
annually to keep the main tunnel and branches in repair. This great
drain at a depth of 1,600 feet below the surface allows of Pelton water
wheels being set up in the shafts of the several mines and worked under
immense pressure, there being a free discharge from the wheels. At the C
and C shaft of the Consolidated California and Virginia, such wheels
have been put in every 500 feet from the surface down to the Sutro
Tunnel level. The water used on the first wheel on the surface, in the
stamp-mill, is caught up, led to the shaft, and used on the second 500
feet below, and so on down to the tunnel level, the power being brought
from wheel to wheel to the surface by means of a system of steel wire
cables. Thus is transmitted to the surface the power developed by the
whole series of wheels.

                 The Reduction Works of the Early Days.

In the early days the building of quartz-mills kept pace with the
building up of the towns. As early as October, 1859, Logan & Holmes had
a four-stamp horse-power mill in operation at Dayton, and Hastings &
Woodworth had two water-power arastras at work, which reduced six tons
of ore a day. This ore was not worked as silver ore. It was from the
surface of the Comstock Lode, at Gold Hill, and was worked for gold
only. In the spring of 1860 many mills for working silver ore began to
be erected.

                         The First Silver Mill.

The first silver-mill that went into operation was the “Pioneer,”
erected by Almarin B. Paul, on Gold Canyon, at the north end of Silver
City, just below the Devil’s Gate. It was a steam mill and contained
twenty-four Howland rotary stamps and twenty-four amalgamating pans. The
work of erecting the mill was commenced May 24, 1860, and it began work
August 13, the same year. Some others have claimed the honor of starting
the first quartz-mill in Nevada, but this was undoubtedly the first
silver-mill. In it were operated the first silver amalgamating pans ever
seen anywhere. The iron amalgamating pans were the result of experiments
made by Almarin B. Paul before he began the erection of his mill. He
thought the German barrel process and Mexican patio too slow, and began
to make experiments with some small iron pans that had been in use at
some of the quartz-mills in California for grinding and working the
sulphurets saved by concentrating machines in working the quartz of the
gold mines. The best of these was found to be the “Knox Improved Pan,”
in which was a false bottom that formed beneath the pan a steam-tight
heating chamber. By the use of this kind of pan, and by treating the
heated pulp with certain quantities of salt, sulphate of copper, and
some other chemicals, before adding quicksilver, it was found that a
charge (whatever amount of crushed silver ore the pan would hold) could
be amalgamated in about three hours. The results obtained with Knox’s
Improved Pan were so satisfactory that Mr. Paul placed pans of that
pattern in his new mill. Soon after a score of pans of different styles
were invented, and to this day pans of new patterns are still being
invented and patented.

The Coover & Harris Mill, Gold Hill, was the first mill in the country
to start up with steam. It blew its steam whistle a day before that of
Paul’s “Pioneer” was heard, but it could not then be called a
silver-mill as it was working gold quartz, the same as was worked, in
October the year before, at Dayton, by Logan & Holmes and Hastings &
Woodworth. The mill had a fifteen horse-power engine that drove an
eight-stamp Howland rotary battery and crushed six tons of ore a day. At
first it was a dry crusher, but soon Paul’s Concentrators and Knox’ pans
were used. The Harris of the firm was Dr. E. B. Harris, now a resident
of Virginia City.

                   The Many Mills of the Early Days.

Very soon after these first mills went into operation several others
started up. By the spring of 1862 no fewer than eighty-one quartz-mills
were at work, the majority of them on ore from mines situated on the
Comstock Lode. These mills were located in Virginia City, on Six and
Seven-mile Canyons, at Gold Hill, Silver City, Dayton, at Empire City,
and all along the Carson River below that town; two or three near Carson
City (on Clear Creek and Mill Creek), and a dozen or more about Washoe
Valley and down toward Steamboat Valley. Many of these mills were of
small capacity, having only from two to ten stamps, but there were
already a few first-class reduction works, as regards capacity, though
their methods and processes were defective. The reduction works of the
Ophir Company, in Washoe Valley, cost $500,000, contained thirty-six
stamps, were driven by an engine of 100 horse-power, and was capable of
working 100 tons of ore a day. The Gould & Curry Mill then building on
Six-mile Canyon was of still greater capacity, and the Land, Bassett,
Winfield, Empire State, Central, Marysville, Trench, Swansea, Phœnix,
Succor, Rock Point, Merrimac, Vivian, and several other mills, contained
from fifteen to twenty-five stamps each. After the completion of the
Virginia and Truckee Railroad the majority of the outside mills (mills
to which it was necessary to transport ore, wood, and other supplies by
wagon) were pulled down and removed to new mining camps in various parts
of the State. The greater part of the ores of the Comstock were then
reduced in steam mills near the mines or in water mills on the Carson
River on the line of the railroad; and this is still the case.

We now have fewer mills than in the early days, but they are of greater
average capacity, and are in every respect more effective than were
those first erected. More ore is crushed to the stamp, and the time
required for the amalgamation of the pulp has been very materially
reduced. All the present mills are so constructed that there is very
little handling of the ores operated upon, and labor-saving apparatus
has been introduced into nearly every department. Even the old oil lamps
are being thrown out of the mills and the electric light introduced.


       Description of the Process of Working Comstock Silver Ore.

In speaking of the works at present in use for the reduction of silver
ore, it will only be necessary to describe the process in use in one
mill, as all work after the same system. Being the most recently
erected, and quite perfect in all its arrangements, the new mill of the
Nevada Mill and Mining Company, commonly called the Chollar Mill (as it
stands near the Chollar old shaft), shall furnish the illustration
necessary to an understanding of the method of working Comstock ores now
generally in use. The mill covers nearly an acre of ground, and the
machinery is at present (March, 1889) driven in part by a Pelton water
wheel 11 feet in diameter, and in part by power electrically transmitted
from the Sutro Tunnel level. The mill building stands in a depression
near the head of a small ravine. Such a site was selected in order that
from the time the ore enters the mill its course at each stage necessary
to its complete reduction, shall be downward—that there shall be no
lifting or hoisting of ore or pulp.

The mill stands a little over one hundred yards south of the Chollar
shaft. From the shaft the ore is run in the same cars in which it is
hoisted from the mine directly into the upper story of the mill. It is
there dumped through openings in the floor into the ore bins. Over these
ore bins are placed in a slanting position iron bars three inches apart,
forming screens called “grizzlies.” Through these screens the fine ore
falls into the bins, while the large lumps of rock roll down upon a
floor in front of the rock-breaker, an apparatus that works much on the
same principle as a lemon-squeezer. Between the jaws of this powerful
machine the largest and hardest piece of quartz rock is at once chewed
into fragments sufficiently small to be fed into the batteries, where
the heavy stamps reduce it to pulp. The ore is delivered into the
batteries by self-feeders, which are so regulated as to keep constantly
under the stamps the proper quantity of rock to do well the most work.
At the Chollar (or Nevada) Mill there are sixty stamps,—twelve batteries
of five stamps each. Each stamp weighs about eight hundred pounds. On
the end of each stamp is a heavy head or block of iron or steel called a
“shoe,” and in the bottom of the mortar (a long iron box in which the
stamps of each battery work) is a similar block of iron called a “die,”
upon which the shoe of the stamp strikes when it pulls. It is between
these two blocks of steel that the quartz is crushed.

A small stream of water flows into each battery, and as the ore is
reduced to a powder the water floats it out through the fine screens
that are fitted into the face of each mortar. The pulverized ore and
water, on passing through the screens, falls into a small trough, or
sluice, which carries the muddy mixture down to the settling tanks, on a
floor below, in the amalgamating room. In the tanks the crushed ore
settles and the water runs off. From the tanks the pulverized ore, which
resembles thin mortar, is shoveled out upon the floor alongside the
amalgamating pans, into which it is shoveled whenever they are to
receive a fresh charge of ore.

The pans are of iron and each holds a “charge” of about 3,000 pounds of
the mortar-like pulp. In the bottom of each pan are thick plates of
chilled iron or steel called “dies,” while revolving upon these are
other heavy pieces of steel, called “shoes” or mullers. In the pans the
pulverized ore is ground till it is much finer than when it passed
through the screens of the battery.

When a pan has received its charge of pulverized ore (“pulp”) a small
amount of water is added to render it sufficiently thin to be readily
stirred by the mullers. The pans have tight covers and double bottoms.
The double bottoms are steam chambers by means of which the pulp in the
pan is kept hot while it is ground and agitated. After a charge has been
ground about two hours, some 300 pounds of quicksilver are added (for
3,000 pounds of pulp), also a certain quantity of salt and sulphate of
copper; and sometimes soda or caustic potash and other chemicals, if
thought necessary, when the agitation in the pan is continued two hours
longer. The time of working in the pan varies from three to five hours.

The Chollar Mill has thirty of these pans. On a platform below that on
which stand the pans are fifteen settlers. These are about twice the
size of the pans. At the end of three or five hours each settler has
drawn off into it the contents of two pans. In the settler the pulp,
quicksilver, and amalgam are kept in motion for about two hours. During
this time water is let in and the pulp made very thin. The quicksilver
and amalgam settle to the bottom of the “settler,” and are drawn off
through a pipe and pass into a strainer—a strong canvas bag. There is an
iron box around each strainer, and this is kept locked.

It is in the pan that amalgamation takes place. There the sulphuret and
chloride of silver is changed to the metallic form by the chemical
action of the sulphate of copper (bluestone) and salt, and when it takes
the metallic form it at once unites with quicksilver. The gold contained
in the ore (generally one-third of its whole value) being always in the
metallic form, is amalgamated as soon as it is ground out of its
inclosing shell of quartz, or pyrites of iron.

The thinned pulp—mere muddy water in appearance—on leaving the settlers
passes into large wooden tubs called “agitators,” in which are revolving
rakes. In these tubs is caught some valuable material—principally
amalgam and quicksilver. From the “agitators” the pulp flows out of the
reduction works through a small flume which conducts it to the blanket
sluices, fifty yards away in the open air. The blanket sluices are
broad, shallow flumes in the bottom of which are placed strips of coarse
woolen blanketing. In passing over these blankets the pulp deposits
pulverized iron pyrites containing gold, some fine particles of amalgam,
and quicksilver; also such silver sulphurets as escaped being
amalgamated in the pans. From time to time the blankets are taken out of
the sluices and rinsed in a large tank, in which operation is saved
whatever of value they may have caught.

The amalgam collected in the strainers standing below the settlers is
placed in a press and as much quicksilver as possible pressed out, when
it is placed in retorts, which are heated till all the mercury is driven
off. There then remains behind the silver and gold, in a dull,
rough-looking mass. This “crude bullion” is then broken up and placed in
the melting pots, to be made into “bricks” and assayed. The bars or
bricks made weigh about 100 pounds each. From the top and bottom of each
pot or crucible of molten gold and silver is taken a small quantity of
the fluid metals from which assays are made to determine the value of
the bars. About thirty per cent of the value of the Comstock bullion
bars is in gold, though it has at times run up to fifty per cent in some
mines, and as low as ten per cent in others.

Though the Nevada Mill is in part driven by water, half the power used
is electrically transmitted from six forty-inch Pelton water wheels set
up in a large chamber excavated on the Sutro Tunnel level of the Chollar
Mine, 1,630 feet below the surface. These small Pelton wheels drive six
Brush dynamos, which generate the current that passes over the copper
wires to the electric motors in the mill. The electric apparatus
transmits to the main driving shaft of the mill about sixty-five per
cent of the power developed by the Pelton wheels. Each Pelton wheel
drives a dynamo, and one, two, four or all the dynamos may be run at the
same time, just as may be required, each Pelton and dynamo being
independent of the others.

After the water is used on the large-surface Pelton wheel in the mill it
is caught up and by means of a small flume is conducted to the shaft of
the Chollar Mine, near at hand, down which two large iron pipes carry it
to the six small Peltons below. By thus twice using the same water a
saving of one-half is made. The pressure on the lower Pelton wheels is
immense. Never before has any water wheel been operated under a vertical
pressure of 1,630 feet.

The Nevada Mill was built to work the ores of the Hale and Norcross,
Chollar and Potosi Mines. It is one of the most substantial mills in the
country, and no mill in the State is better arranged. It is lighted with
electricity, and the grounds in front are illuminated by means of an arc
light on a tall mast.

                       The Two California Mills.

The California stamp and pan-mills in Virginia City reduce the ores of
the Consolidated California and Virginia Mine. The stamp-mill is
situated immediately east of the C and C shaft of the mine. It contains
eighty stamps. The ore crushed in this mill is amalgamated in the
pan-mill, which stands about 1,500 feet further east. The crushed ore is
conducted from the stamp-mill to the pan-mill through an iron pipe four
inches in diameter. The process of amalgamation is much the same as at
the Chollar Mill, except that the pulp goes directly into the
amalgamating pans instead of being first received in settling tanks. It
flows from pan to pan—the outflow of the first pan passing into the
second through a pipe, thence into a third, and so on and from settler
to settler, being in all about three hours in passing through the
series. This is called the Boss Continuous Process. It is in use in no
other mill on the Comstock, as yet. In connection with the Rae
electrical process of amalgamation (in which a current of electricity is
passed through the settlers) it is found to work satisfactorily. The
electric current prevents loss of “floured” quicksilver. Both mills are
driven by Pelton water wheels. A single Pelton wheel eleven feet in
diameter, placed on the surface, drives the eighty stamps of the
battery-mill, and also twelve Boss grinding pans. The water used on the
surface Pelton is caught up and conducted to the C and C shaft, where it
is used on a series of Pelton wheels of the same size. These wheels are
placed in chambers made for their reception 500 feet apart from the top
of the shaft down to the Sutro Tunnel level (there 1,500 feet), and by
means of steel wire cables, used as belts, the power of all the lower
wheels is brought to a main driving shaft on the surface. The whole
power is then transmitted to the pan-mill (about 1,600 feet) by means of
steel wire cables passing over pulleys placed on a series of tall wooden
towers. The cables pass over a considerable depression between the top
of the C and C shaft and the pan-mill; three high towers are required in
the middle portion.

                        River and Canyon Mills.

The Mexican Mill, on the Carson River, contains forty-four stamps and a
corresponding number of pans, settlers, and other amalgamating
machinery. The Morgan Mill has forty stamps. It works ore from the
Consolidated California and Virginia Mine. The Brunswick Mill contains
seventy-six stamps, the Vivian sixteen, Santiago thirty-eight, and
Eureka sixty. All these mills are about and below Empire City, and all
work Comstock ores. The Eureka Mill is run on ore from the Consolidated
California and Virginia. The Rock Point Mill (thirty stamps), at Dayton,
and the Douglas Mill (ten stamps), in Lower Gold Hill, also work
Comstock ores.

At and about Silver City are two or three small mills that work the ores
of mines in that neighborhood, and on the Carson River are the Douglas
and Woodworth Mills, which work tailings.

On Six-mile Canyon, below Virginia City to the east, are several small
water mills having an aggregate of about thirty stamps. These work ores
from the mines on the canyon and in Flowery District. On the canyon are
also one or two small mills that work tailings and the concentrations
from blanket sluices.

The Alta Mining Company has a ten-stamp mill, with concentrators,
immediately adjoining the hoisting works at their mine. The Justice
Company have a new ten-stamp mill near their mine.

Owing to the fact that many mines are now at the same time producing
large quantities of ore, a lack of milling facilities is being felt. To
meet this demand the Nevada Mill has been enlarged one-third, and the
capacity of other mills will be increased, and perhaps some new mills
will be erected. Processes by means of which low-grade ores may be
profitably worked will no doubt yet be invented or discovered, which
will cause many new works to be erected either on the Carson River or in
the neighborhood of the mines producing large quantities of such ores.

                           THE COMSTOCK LODE.

         Hoisting Works, Shafts, and Mining, Past and Present.

The Comstock Lode crops out along the eastern face of Mount Davidson
about 1,200 feet below the summit, and just above the western suburbs of
Virginia City. To the northward and southward the vein runs along the
east side of other and smaller mountains of the same range. The face of
Mount Davidson slopes to the east at an angle of about twenty-five
degrees, and the vein dips in the same direction at an average
inclination of forty-five degrees. It was at first supposed that the
vein dipped to the west (into Mount Davidson), and the first hoisting
works were erected on or near the croppings, where shafts were sunk and
inclines sent down. For the first 400 to 500 feet the vein did pitch to
the west into the mountain. Mount Davidson was then supposed to be the
great central magazine, or nucleus, of all the silver found near the
surface, and claims located on the slope of the mountain below to the
eastward found but little favor in the eyes of mining men and would-be
purchasers. Suddenly all this was changed, and there was a general
“right-about-face.” It was discovered in the Gould & Curry and the Ophir
Mines that at a certain depth the lode became perpendicular, then turned
and took a regular dip to the east, of about forty-five degrees,
following as a footwall the syenite slope of Mount Davidson. It was then
seen that the false dip above was caused by the top of the vein being
bent over under the pressure of sliding material on the slope of the
mountain at and near the surface.


However, much ore was mined at the first line of works, particularly at
the Ophir, Mexican, California, Gould & Curry, Savage, and Hale &
Norcross Mines. But, as the dip of the vein was away from these first
works, it presently became necessary to move to the eastward about 1,000
feet. As very deep shafts would there be required in order to intersect
the lode, larger and much more powerful hoisting works and pumping
machinery must be erected. Indeed, the new works required to be
first-class in every respect, as the shafts would be far deeper than any
yet put down on the lode, and it was by this time known that there would
be immense quantities of water to handle.

Accordingly, the second line of fine and powerful first-class works,
seen at present, and again in active use, was constructed. The shafts of
the new line of works all cut into the heart of the vein, and in several
the “bonanzas” found were so large and so rich as to astonish the whole
mining world and create a much greater and far more widespread
excitement than was seen when silver was first discovered in the
croppings of the vein at the Ophir Mine. All the leading mines were soon
taking out their tens of millions, but when the “big bonanza” was struck
in the Consolidated Virginia and California the yield of gold and silver
bullion soon became a matter of scores of millions. It was then that the
fame of the Comstock spread to every corner of the world, and the rush
of speculators, fortune-seekers, and adventurers of all ages, sexes, and
classes was greater than ever before. Though what is called the “Big
Bonanza” was struck in the Consolidated Virginia in October, 1873, at a
point on the 1,167-foot level, it was not until October, 1874, that the
excitement in regard to it reached fever-heat. The main shaft had then
reached the 1,500-foot level, and the ore disclosed by drifts and
chambers was of such extraordinary and astonishing richness that experts
could hardly believe their eyes or assayers their figures.

The Comstock Lode had a width (between the syenite wall on the west and
the propylite on the east) of from 1,000 to 1,200 feet at the point
where the “Big Bonanza” was struck. The space between the two walls was
filled with what is locally termed “vein material” (gangue), and in this
was found the ore body or “bonanza,” which was in one place over 300
feet in width. This mass of ore yielded from $100 to $700 per ton, but
in places were found masses of pure native silver and spots of ore so
rich in black sulphuret and gold that to make assays of it was much like
making assays of the pure metals. From the “Bonanza Mines” alone from
1873 up to 1882 were taken $111,975,761.39; but in 1879 the yield began
to fall off as the vein was followed downward, and in 1882 the amount of
bullion taken out was small, not paying expenses.

In the meantime (while the big bonanza of the Consolidated Virginia and
California companies was being worked out) most of the leading companies
had exhausted their second bonanzas. Instead of prospecting further in
their immediate neighborhood, they all determined to go still farther
east, sink a new line of shafts, and tap the vein at a still greater
depth. This time they went out about 2,000 feet beyond their second line
of hoisting works, or 3,000 feet east of the croppings of the lode. As
it would be necessary to sink shafts to a depth of about 3,000 feet to
intersect the vein, the hoisting works, hoisting machinery, and all else
was made much larger, more powerful, and on a grander scale in every
respect, than the second line. The principal works on this third line
are those of the Combination shaft, New Yellow Jacket shaft, Osbiston
and Union shafts, and the Forman shaft. In sinking these several
companies united, the work was prosecuted with the greatest energy, and
no expense was spared as regarded machinery and appliances.

                         THE COMBINATION SHAFT.

Of these shafts, that which attained the greatest vertical depth was the
Combination—the joint shaft of the Chollar, Hale & Norcross, and Savage
Companies. Before work on it was discontinued it had reached the great
depth of 3,250 feet. There is but one deeper vertical shaft in the
world. This is the Adalbert Shaft, in the silver mines of Bohemia, which
is 3,280 feet deep. There is no record of the time when work on this
mine in Bohemia was commenced, though its written history extends back
to 1527. The Combination Shaft was sunk at the rate of three feet a day,
even in rock as hard as flint. The whole shaft is sunk in very hard rock
(andesite), every foot of which had to be blasted. It is thirty feet by
ten feet in size and is divided into four compartments for the
accommodation of the hoisting and pumping apparatus.

The shaft was sunk to the depth of 2,200 feet before more water was
encountered than could be hoisted out in the “skips” with the dirt. Down
to the 2,400 level two Cornish pumps were used, each with columns
fifteen inches in diameter. A drift run west into the vein tapped more
water than the Cornish pumps could handle, when the management
introduced hydraulic pumps. These pumps are run by the pressure of water
from the surface through a pipe running down from the top of the shaft,
whereas the Cornish pumps were run by huge steam engines. The shaft is
connected with the Sutro drain tunnel at the depth of 1,600 feet, and to
that point it was necessary to pump all the water. At the 3,000 level
were placed a pair of hydraulic pumps, the deepest in the world. In
Europe the deepest point at which a hydraulic pump has ever been worked
is 2,700 feet. This is in the Hartz Mountains, in Germany.

When one stood at the 3,000 level and looked up a compartment of the
shaft (five feet by six feet in size) the little spot of daylight seen
at the top appeared to be about four inches square. At this great depth
even the smallest bit of rock falling from the top whistles like a
rifle-ball before reaching the bottom, and, striking a man on the head,
would instantly kill him. Should a man fall that distance little would
remain on which to hold an inquest—his body would be quite “dissipated.”
The Cornish and the hydraulic pumps working together had a daily
capacity of 5,200,000 gallons—a small river! Hydraulic pumps were placed
at the 2,400-foot level, the 2,600 and the 3,000 levels. Some idea of
the great size of these engines and pumps may be formed when it is
stated that the stations excavated for them were eighty-five feet long,
twenty-eight feet wide, and twelve feet high. All this space was so
filled with machinery that there was only room left to move about among
it. Drifts were run to the west to the lode at the 2,400, 2,800 and
3,000-foot levels. On the 3,000 level the distance from the shaft to the
east wall of the vein was found to be only 250 feet. The lode at this
depth (3,000 feet) was found to be of great width and well
mineralized—indeed the Hale & Norcross folks had a good showing of ore.

                         The Deepest Workings.

Although the Combination Shaft is the deepest vertical opening on the
lode, it is not the point of deepest mining. The deepest workings are in
the mine of the Union Consolidated Company, toward the north end of the
lode. There long drifts were run and much prospecting done at the great
depth of 3,350 feet. This depth was obtained by running a drift from the
bottom of the vertical shaft and then sinking a winze from the drift.

The Yellow Jacket (new) shaft has a vertical depth of 3,050 feet, and
much prospecting was done in the mine at a depth of 3,000 feet; also in
the Belcher and Crown Point. In the Belcher excellent prospects were
being obtained when the company were obliged to discontinue work. By
connecting adjacent shafts by means of drifts and otherwise maintaining
a proper system of ventilation miners experience no difficulty in
working at any depth yet attained on the Comstock Lode.

                 A Return to the Second Line of Works.

February 13, 1882, a flow of water was tapped on the 2,700 level of the
Exchequer Mine, that flooded not only that mine, but also the Alpha,
Imperial, Yellow Jacket, Kentuck, Crown Point, Belcher, Overman,
Segregated Belcher, and Caledonia. The water rushed to the Yellow Jacket
Shaft, where the pumping was done which drained the advanced workings
(most eastern) of all the mines named. The Yellow Jacket folks pumped
and bailed an average flow of 110 miners inches a day for seven days.
Though they were raising 1,320 gallons every minute the water gained on
them and raised to the level (2,700) on which it was tapped by the
Exchequer. The water had then filled all the drifts, cross-cuts, and
winzes of the whole group of mines from the Bullion south to the
Caledonia. Pumping was still continued, for the purpose of exhausting
the subterranean reservoir in the Exchequer, till March 28, when the
water had been so far reduced that there was a depth of only 950 feet
above the 3,000 level of the Yellow Jacket Shaft. Then, as no combined
arrangement could be made among the several companies interested to
continue the work and drain all the mines, the Yellow Jacket Company
stopped pumping and shut down their works. This stopped all work below
the level of the Sutro drain tunnel, and the works have never since been
started up. Had all the companies “stood in” for a time longer all the
flooded mines would have been thoroughly drained.

The cost of the new works on the advanced line had been so much, and the
expense incurred in hoisting and pumping from such great depths was so
heavy, that stockholders in all the mines along the lode now became
discouraged. They declared that what had happened in the case of the
Gold Hill group of mines was liable to happen in the other deep
workings, and began to clamor for a general return to the works at the
second line of shafts, where it was known that pay ore had been left
behind in the race after depth. When stockholders found that the deep
shafts did not at once cut into pay ore, when they tapped the vein, they
had no patience to wait for much prospecting to be done. They demanded
that paying deposits be sought for at once in the old levels above the
Sutro Tunnel, where there could be no trouble from water. Thus it
happens that along the whole lode all the mining now being done is at
the works situated over the second line of shafts, and above the level
of the Sutro Tunnel. These shafts are by no means shallow, as they range
in depth from 2,000 to 2,900 feet. The return has been fortunate. The
vein being from 400 to 1,000 and even in places 1,400 feet in width
between walls, it was very little explored in the neighborhood of the
works of the second line of shafts. When the bonanzas in sight were
exhausted, the universal cry was: “Get away to the east! Strike the lode
at greater depths! Another 1,000 feet of depth will give us a third
fertile zone—a third line of bonanzas!” Now it is being discovered that
large and rich deposits of ore had been left behind—that they are
scattered in all directions in the great breadth of vein material like
plums in a pudding. Again dividends are the order of the day along the
famous old lode.

                        The Old First Bonanzas.

Out of the first “bonanzas” great fortunes were taken. The bonanza of
the Ophir, into which the first discoverers of silver—O’Riley and
McLaughlin—accidentally dug, yielded about $20,000,000 before it was
exhausted; the Savage, $16,500,000; Hale & Norcross, $11,000,000;
Chollar and Potosi, $16,000,000; Gould & Curry, $15,500,000; Yellow
Jacket, $16,500,000; Crown Point, $22,000,000; Belcher, $26,000,000;
Overman, $3,250,000; Imperial, $2,750,000, and the Kentuck, Sierra
Nevada, Justice, and many other mines sums running from hundreds of
thousands up into millions. In all, the yield of the mines on the
Comstock Lode from the discovery down to the present time has been
between $350,000,000 and $400,000,000. Of much of the silver and gold at
first taken from the lode, both at Gold Hill and Virginia City, there is
no record; and in many instances since that time much gold and silver
bullion has been obtained from ores, tailings, slimes, and sulphurets
that was never fully accounted for.

                           The New Departure.

In the new departure, of which a return to the second line of hoisting
works was the leading feature, the two bonanza mines—the California and
the Consolidated Virginia—were consolidated and incorporated as one mine
under the name of the Consolidated California and Virginia. Work was
resumed in the old upper levels and soon small streaks of low-grade ore,
that had formerly been passed by, led to deposits of fair milling ore.
In working these deposits other bodies were found, and finally many new
and valuable ore bodies were developed. A fire which had been
smouldering for about ten years in a section of the old workings was
extinguished by the use of carbonic acid gas, and this gave access to
large deposits of milling ore that had not before been available. This
and the new discoveries soon gave the company large bodies of ore in a
number of places above the Sutro Tunnel level. Again many miners were
employed, and the output of ore became sufficient to keep many stamps in
constant operation.

The total yield of the “Big Bonanza,” in the California and Consolidated
Virginia, was as follows: Consolidated Virginia, $65,116,822.69:
California, $46,858,938.70, making a total of $111,975,761.39. Out of
this the Consolidated Virginia paid dividends amounting to $42,930,000,
and the California a total of $31,320,000 in dividends.

                    Present Yield of Leading Mines.

Since the consolidation of the two mines, the Consolidated California
and Virginia has yielded $8,001,856.95, and has paid dividends amounting
to $2,440,800, up to and including December, 1888. The total yield of
the great ore deposit known as the “Big Bonanza,” from the time of its
discovery to the end of December, 1888 (under both incorporations), was
$119,977,618.34, and the total amount of dividends to the same date was
$76,690,800. To give an idea of the rate of the present yield of the
mine the following details are furnished: For the quarter that ended
March 31, 1888, the mine produced 39,552 tons of ore, yielding
$921,903.77 in bullion, an average of $23 30 a ton. In April (1888)
there was worked a total of 13,893 tons of ore, yielding bullion to the
value of $418,729.43. The average assay value a ton was $36.83, and the
average yield a ton was $30.13. In May the yield was $411,173.13; in
June, $405,834.08; July, $206,672.26; August, $352,554.97; September,
$267,386.18; October, $339,814.45; November, $220,373.74; and in
December, $260,320.56. The falling off in the month of July and
thereafter throughout the year was due to the dry season in the summer
and a phenomenally dry fall and winter. In January, 1889, there was a
fair milling stage of water in the Carson River the greater part of the
time, and the yield of bullion rose to $267,847.51.

The mine has kept the Morgan and Eureka Mills going to their full
capacity whenever there was sufficient water to run them at all. Owing
to a scarcity of water at the sources of supply in the Sierra Nevada
Mountains, the Virginia and Gold Hill Water Company have for some months
been unable to furnish water for the two California Mills in this city;
to furnish water to the Nevada Mill has been a heavy draft on the
reservoirs. With proper storage reservoirs in the Sierras the mills on
the Carson River might be run the year round. At present eighty per cent
of all the water flows into the “sinks” and is lost.

More mines on the Comstock are at the present time producing paying ore
than ever before in the history of the lode. The following mines are now
ore producing: Consolidated California and Virginia, Gould & Curry,
Occidental, Ophir, Andes, Savage, Hale & Norcross, Chollar, Potosi,
Confidence, Challenge, Yellow Jacket, Belcher, Crown Point, Alta,
Justice, Overman, Baltimore, and Kentuck. Several other companies who
own mines on the lode have quartz that yields promising assays in the
precious metals, and are liable at any time to find paying deposits.

To show the rate at which some of the mines have been paying during the
past year, though handicapped by an unusually dry season and a lack of
milling facilities, I give a few statistics, as follows: During the
quarter that ended March 31, 1888, the Chollar Company milled 1,415 tons
of ore that yielded $21,795.70 in bullion; the Confidence 1,722 tons,
yielding $42,541.72; Hale & Norcross, 7,958 tons, yielding $236,047.32;
Kentuck, 1,027 tons, yielding $13,055.50; Potosi, 3,050 tons, yielding
$56,461.16, and the Yellow Jacket, 16,780 tons, yielding $121,027.82.

For the quarter ending June 30, 1888, the Hale & Norcross yielded 18,075
tons of ore, that produced $451,740 in bullion; the Chollar, 4,750 tons,
yielding $74,507; Confidence, 17,285 tons, yielding $401,293; Yellow
Jacket, 7,080 tons, yielding $55,022.

For the quarter that ended September 30, the Hale & Norcross yielded
6,365 tons of ore, that produced $173,941.80 in bullion; Confidence,
9,207 tons, yielding $176,064.93; Yellow Jacket, 1,370 tons, yielding

For the quarter that ended December 30, 1888, the Chollar milled 2,835
tons that yielded $38,130.81: Challenge, 1,875 tons, yielding
$31,096.16; Confidence, 6,195 tons, yielding $105,970.59; Yellow Jacket,
3,388 tons, yielding $25,856; Savage, 5,292 tons, yielding $66,422.75;
Hale & Norcross, 4,820 tons, yielding $90,015.59, and the Alta, 946
tons, yielding $23,330.

The Consolidated California and Virginia has steadily paid $108,000
monthly in dividends. The Confidence and Hale & Norcross also paid
dividends during 1888 at the rate of from $49,000 to $50,000 a month.
And during the year the pay rolls of the several companies have
aggregated from $250,000 to over $300,000 a month.

During 1888, new bodies of ore were found in the Consolidated California
and Virginia, Hale & Norcross, Confidence, Yellow Jacket, Crown Point,
Gould & Curry, Savage, Chollar, Potosi, Best & Belcher, and some others.
Crown Point and Belcher have made connection with the Sutro drain
tunnel, and are again working below that level. Eventually the leading
companies will get back into the deep workings now deserted.

                   Vicissitudes of Fortune in Mining.

The vicissitudes of fortune are probably more striking in mining for
silver than in any other kind of mining. In all silver-producing
countries we are told of mines being again and again abandoned because
it was thought their rich “bonanzas” had been exhausted, but they have
again and again been reopened and new and rich bodies of ore discovered.
The Valenciana Mine, on the Veta Macbee (mother vein), of Guanaguato,
Mexico, was reopened in 1760, on a part of the vein where work had been
done in the sixteenth century, and which had afterwards lain as
worthless for 200 years, and in 1768 a bonanza was struck at a depth of
only 240 feet, from which $1,500,000 was extracted annually. And from
1788 to 1810 the annual average was still $1,383,195. At a depth of
1,200 feet the ore was considered too poor for extracting, and the mine
was allowed to fill with water. Afterwards it was again opened and again
paid immensely by working the almost inexhaustible quantities of
low-grade ore.

The Veta Grande, at Zacatecas, which from 1548 to 1832 yielded
$660,000,000, occurs in propalite, as does the Comstock, and has a
similar structure, the vein branching out toward the surface, and
dipping at an angle of forty-five degrees. It is, however, much smaller
than the Comstock. It averages only about thirty-three feet, and eighty
feet is its greatest width. In the upper part the ore was found
concentrated in chimneys, but at depth it was found to be distributed
through nearly the whole width of the vein. At first this low grade
material could not be made to pay, but since it has been profitably
worked and the bullion product has reached a high figure. Scores of such
examples may be found in all silver-producing countries, as chronicled
by Humboldt, Ward, Von Cotta, and others.

Even when no more large deposits of rich ore are to be found on the
Comstock, there are immense and almost inexhaustible areas of low-grade
ore upon which to fall back. In working these small bonanzas are sure to
be encountered—scattered plums in the pudding—which will assist in
sending up the average. New processes for working and concentrating ores
are constantly being discovered, new methods in mining are being
introduced, and new labor-saving machinery is almost daily being
invented. Water-power, steam, compressed air, and electricity are fast
taking the place of muscle. Each year machinery guided by mind is
lessening the work to be done by mere power of muscle. Already the cost
of milling has been greatly reduced, as has the cost of transporting
ores and the cost of wood, lumber, and mining timbers. Present expenses
will shortly be still further reduced.

                        TOWNS OF WESTERN NEVADA.

                             Virginia City.

Virginia City having been sufficiently well described in connection with
the Comstock Lode, it now remains to briefly mention the other towns of
Western Nevada. These all lie near the Sierras within a space of
territory forty-four miles long and twenty-five miles wide—under the
“eaves” of the mountains.

                               Gold Hill.

The town of Gold Hill was originally about one mile south of Virginia
City—a mile south of where silver was first struck in the Ophir Mine.
Buildings now unite the two towns. The boundary line between the two
places is on the ridge called the “Divide,” but at that point there is
no break in the rows of buildings on the streets. Gold Hill is built
along the deep and narrow gorge that forms the head of Gold Canyon. From
the north line on the Divide it straggles down the hill and along down
the canyon for a distance of about two miles—almost down to Silver City
indeed, the main business street following what was formerly the channel
of the ravine.

There were houses and settlers in Gold Hill before there were either in
Virginia City, therefore it is the older town. Here it was that the
Comstock Lode was first struck—though not the silver ore—by “Old
Virginia” (John Bishop) and others, who were prospecting for placer
mines. The town is 6,000 feet above the level of the sea, and, being
shut in on the east and west sides by hills, it is always two or three
degrees warmer than Virginia, 1,000 feet above on the mountain-side.

The first miners at Gold Hill were really at work in a “chimney” of the
Comstock, a little hill sometimes called “Gold Hill proper,” to
distinguish the hill from the town. Much gold was taken out of the top
of this chimney, and at depth it yielded many millions in silver.
Although scores of millions have been taken out of the vein beneath the
foundations of the town, it is still yielding its millions, and still
new ore bodies are being developed in the great vein.

Under the town are situated the world-famous Crown Point, Belcher,
Yellow Jacket, Imperial, Kentuck, Confidence, and other mines, while
farther down the canyon (under Lower Gold Hill) are the Overman, Alta,
Benton, Justice, and several other well-known mines. The mining works in
the town are in every respect first-class and are lighted with electric
lamps. In the town are many fine buildings, both public and private.
There is a handsome Catholic Church, and the High School building is one
of the best buildings of the kind in the State. The Miners’ Union have a
commodious hall on Main Street, and the other societies and orders have
fine halls. Conspicuous among the private residences of the town is that
of U. S. Senator J. P. Jones—the “Jones mansion,” as it is familiarly
called. The town has an abundant supply of water (from the Virginia and
Gold Hill Water Company’s works), and is well supplied with fire
hydrants; it also has electrical lights. In 1878 the population was
about 8,000, but it is now less than half that number. About the town
are many handsome private grounds. Shade and ornamental trees begin to
abound, and to the north, towering hundreds of feet above the town, are
picturesque castellated piles of bare granite rocks. The Virginia and
Truckee Railroad passes through the town.

                              Silver City.

Silver City is situated on Gold Canyon, a short distance below Lower
Gold Hill. The two towns are separated by a rugged ridge of porphyritic
rock, through which is a pass only three or four rods wide, known as the
Devil’s Gate. About and below Silver City much gravel mining was done by
the Johntowners in the early days. It was at Silver City that the first
silver mill (Paul’s Pioneer) was built. It had a newspaper—the _Washoe
Times_—before a newspaper was published in Virginia, the _Territorial
Enterprise_ being then (1860) published in Carson City. At one time it
had many big silver mills and promised to be the big town of the State;
but the tide turned and all crowded in about the big mines at Virginia
City. The town contains at present a population of only about 600. There
is a fine public-school building, church, Miners’ Union Hall, and many
handsome and comfortable dwellings, with an adequate supply of saloons,
stores, and shops.

About the town are an immense number of small veins of gold-bearing
quartz that pay from the surface down. Nearly every head of a family in
the town has his own mine, and when he wants money he shoulders his
pick, goes out to his mine, and digs it, as a farmer in the East digs a
“mess” of potatoes. Of late some large veins have been opened up in and
about the town—as the Oest, Hawood, and others—and Silver City bids fair
soon to become a busy mining center. The people have lived off their
home mines for thirty years, and constitute the most thoroughly
independent mining community to be found in Nevada.


Dayton, the county seat of Lyon County, lies five miles below Silver
City, on the Carson River, at the mouth of Gold Canyon. The beginning of
this town was a log building, erected as a dwelling and trading-post by
John McMarlin, in the fall of 1849. Being on the overland wagon road
passing over the Sierras by the Placerville route, there was a good deal
of trade with incoming immigrants, as well as with the miners, who soon
began to earn from $8.00 to $12 a day in the gravel bank and bars of
Gold Canyon. In 1856, about fifty Chinamen came over the mountains and
began mining on the lower part of the canyon, working over the banks and
bars left by the white miners. In 1858, nearly 200 Chinamen were at work
in the canyon from its mouth up toward Johntown. These had their
shanties about McMarlin’s store, and the place took the name of
“Chinatown,” by which name it was known at the time of the discovery of

In 1861 an attempt was made (many whites having then settled there) to
give the place the name of “Nevada City.” This did not take, as there
was already a Nevada City in California, and for a time the town was
called “Mineral Rapids,” but this finally gave way to the present name
of Dayton. The place grew apace, it being then expected that nearly all
the ore of the Comstock would be worked at and near the town in mills
driven by water-power. This hope was not realized, though several fine
mills were built near the town. It had in 1878 a population of about
1,200, and has since held its own very well. Though not a very large
town, it has always been a very pleasant and flourishing one.

The Carson and Colorado Railroad passes through the town, and from this
a branch built in 1888 extends down the river to the Rock Point Mill.
Here (at Dayton) is to be the scene of the operations of the Carson
River Dredging Company, an Eastern incorporation headed by Dr. J. H.
Rae. The object is to pump up from the bottom of the Carson River the
millions in gold and silver, amalgam, and quicksilver, washed into the
river and lost with the tailings running from the many mills. No doubt
the “millions” found their way into the river, but whether they can be
brought out of its bottom by means of a big suction pump remains to be
seen. It is the universal wish that the dredger may prove a success. All
will be in readiness to try it this season on a large scale.

Dayton contains good public buildings of all kinds required, both county
and town, has several mills, and many handsome private residences,
surrounded with gardens and fruit and shade trees. In summer the place
is completely embowered.

The acid works of J. M. Douglass & Co. manufacture daily two tons of
sulphuric acid. The sulphur used is a native product of Nevada, and is
brought from the mine in Humboldt County at a cost of $40 a ton. Dayton
is surrounded with a fine agricultural and grazing region. A
narrow-gauge railroad five miles long runs down the river from the
Douglass Mill to a large tailings reservoir.


Sutro is a town laid off at the mouth of the Sutro Tunnel by Adolph
Sutro. Mr. Sutro claimed that his town would kill Virginia City, as all
the reduction works would be located there, and all the miners would
reside there, passing to and from their work through the tunnel. As
there would no longer be any need of anyone remaining in Virginia, the
place would be given up to bats and owls—coyotes would sit upon the peak
of Mount Davidson and “bay the moon.” Believing Mr. Sutro to have got
hold of the mantle of some ancient financial prophet, many persons were
induced to flee the “wrath to come” (bats, owls and coyotes), and settle
down at the mouth of the tunnel. There was quite a brisk little town
there for a few years, but when the tunnel was completed and the miners
discharged Sutro’s “bats and owls” came home to roost—they found no rest
for the soles of their feet at Virginia. Once the men who had been
engaged in driving the tunnel went away, there was nothing more to make
or keep up a town than at any other point along the edge of the valley;
for the big reduction works promised by Mr. Sutro were never built.

                              Carson City.

Carson City is the county seat of Ormsby County and the capital of
Nevada. It is situated in Eagle Valley, immediately east of the
high-timbered hills forming the eastern base of the main range of the
Sierra Nevada Mountains. Unlike the majority of Nevada towns, it has a
dry, level plain for its site. The city was laid out in 1858 by Major
Ormsby and others. The streets conform to the cardinal points of the
compass. There being no lack of level land, the streets were made
sixty-six and eighty feet wide. Previous to 1858 there was no town where
Carson now stands, and only one house, which was at Eagle Ranch, which
ranch gave its name to the valley in which it was situated. Afterwards
this ranch became better known as King’s Ranch.

Carson City grew rapidly from the start, for it was not only pleasantly
situated, but also occupied an advantageous position as a center of
trade. For several years in its infancy it derived a good deal of
benefit from its trade with the great immigrant trains that yearly
rattled in across the “plains;” besides, it was a halting-place for
people rushing to the silver mines from the California side of the
mountains. In nearly all directions it is surrounded by excellent
agricultural and grazing lands. With the regular and scientific opening
of the mines Carson became the headquarters of an enormous trade in
wood, lumber, and mining timbers, a business it still retains. The city
has at present a population of about 4,100.

Carson contains many fine and costly buildings, both public and private.
The pride of the city is the State Capitol. It is the most striking
structure in the place. The building is handsome architecturally, being
well proportioned in all its parts. It also has a very substantial
appearance, as it is constructed of stone throughout. This stone is a
beautiful, fine-grained sandstone obtained from a quarry at the State
prison, about a mile and a half east of the town. The building was
erected in 1870. The Capitol occupies the center of a square several
acres in extent. This square is surrounded with a handsome and
substantial iron fence. The grounds are handsomely laid out and well
kept. They are well swarded and contain a great variety of shade and
ornamental trees, shrubbery, and flowering plants. The whole is a credit
to the State.

The U. S. Branch Mint building is a large, substantial, and imposing
structure. It is also of stone, from the State Prison quarry. The
building was completed in July, 1869. It has done and is still doing a
great deal of work.

The State Orphans’ Home is a large and well-arranged building with a
small farm in connection therewith. In this institution a great number
of orphan children from all sections of the State are cared for. The
home is governed in a paternal way, and the children are well clothed,
well fed, and well educated both morally and intellectually.

The town contains several churches of leading denominations, excellent
school-houses, and a number of halls of various societies, orders, and
lodges. There are half a dozen fine hotels, many large fire-proof stores
and business houses, with the usual proportion of neat and attractive
retail shops of all kinds, saloons, and the like.

The buildings of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad Company are a
noticeable feature of the town. The depot buildings are commodious and
conveniently arranged, and are always kept neatly painted and in good
repair. In the town they have an immense car shop. The building is in
large part constructed of iron. In it are a foundry, machine shop,
roundhouse, and car manufactory.

Carson has a large box factory and other manufacturing establishments of
several kinds. The place has both electrical lights and gas. It is well
supplied with pure mountain water, which is led through all the streets
under a heavy pressure. The town site has sufficient slope to the
eastward to afford good drainage. The city supports two daily
newspapers, the _Appeal_ and _Tribune_, and has a good theater.

A fine large brick building has this year (1889) been erected in the
town by the United States Government. It will contain several public
offices. It fills a gap in the center of the town that long stood as a
staring vacancy—supplies a “long-felt want.”

There are pleasant drives in all directions from Carson, with smooth and
level roads. A mile west of town are Shaw’s Hot Springs, with every
convenience for either bathing or swimming. The swimming bath is 60 by
24 feet, 4½ feet deep at one end and 5½ at the other.

All visitors to the town of a scientific turn of mind will wish to visit
the State prison and grounds, situated a mile and a half east of the
place. A portion of the building now occupied as a State prison was
built for a hotel by Col. Abe Curry (of whom the State purchased the
property), and was of stone, two stories high, 32 feet wide, and 100
feet long. Colonel Curry also excavated and walled up the magnificent
swimming bath now connected with the prison and fed by warm springs.

In the floor of the quarry, beneath from fifteen to twenty feet of
strata of sandstone, is a stratum of fine-grained stone that is filled
with the tracks of all manner of animals and birds, and even one set of
tracks supposed to have been made by some prehistoric giant of the human
species. There are tracks of elephants, horses, deer, lions, tigers,
panthers, giant cranes, and all manner of creatures. The tracks supposed
to be human present the appearance of having been made by a large man
wearing moccasins of the undressed hide of some animal. All the tracks
tend toward a common point, which must have been a spring or small lake.

Omnibuses run to the Hot Springs and the State prison, and stages leave
for Lake Tahoe and Genoa on the arrival of trains.

There are several lumber flumes near Carson that are worthy of

                              Empire City.

This town is situated on the banks of the Carson River, three and a half
miles east of Carson, and on the line of the Virginia and Truckee
Railroad. Empire is pre-eminently a milling town. Here are located the
Mexican, Morgan, Brunswick, and Merrimac Mills, all first-class silver
reduction works. The town is in Ormsby County, and contains about 700
inhabitants. Each year thousands of cords of wood floated down the
Carson River from Alpine County, California, are taken out here.
Formerly no fewer than 150,000 cords of wood came down to this town in
the drives of a single season. On account of these wood drives Empire
was jockularly termed the “seaport” of Nevada. The wood “drives” and the
landing of them for a time each year gave employment to a great number
of men and teams.

The town contains a number of handsome residences and a few good public


Genoa is the oldest town in Nevada, and is the place where the first
white settlement was made. These settlers were Mormons, and they
established a station there as early as 1848. For this reason the place
was long known as “Mormon Station.” For several years most of the
settlers in the valley and about the town were Mormons. Genoa is the
county seat of Douglas County, and is situated in Carson Valley, at a
point about 13 miles south of Carson City. Although in a beautiful
valley it lies close in against the Sierras, at an altitude of 4,335
feet above the level of the sea. To the westward the main timbered
Sierra Nevada Mountain Range rises to a great height, while above its
ridge tower many bald, granite peaks. Among these (to the southward)
Job’s Peak rises to the height of 10,639 feet.

The town contains a fine court-house, and other handsome public
buildings, as school-houses, churches, and halls. There are in the place
several good, substantial stores, and business houses and shops. There
are many neat dwellings and cottages surrounded with fine gardens and
grounds. In the town is published the Genoa _Courier_, a sprightly
weekly paper devoted to the interests of the people of the town and
county. In this town was first published (in 1859) the _Territorial
Enterprise_, the pioneer newspaper of Nevada. The paper was moved to
Carson in 1860, and thence in a short time to Virginia City, where it
was soon made a daily, and where it has ever since been published as

Fine ranches lie up and down the valley. A mile and a half south of the
town are Walley’s famous hot springs, of which more particular mention
will be found in another place. Lake Tahoe forms part of the western
boundary of Douglas, and both Glenbrook and Cave Rock are in the county.
The Carson River passes near Genoa and through the heart of the county.
Genoa contains about 1,000 inhabitants.


Reno, on the line of the Central Pacific Railroad, and pleasantly
situated on the banks of the beautiful Truckee River, is the county seat
of Washoe County. Reno began to be a town in 1868, and under the
influence of the Central Pacific Railroad, it grew very rapidly. The
town at once became the shipping-point of all goods, machinery, and
supplies destined for the Comstock Mines, and for all parts of Storey,
Lyon, Ormsby, and Douglas Counties; also for Susanville, Honey Lake
Valley, and a great scope of country to the northward. In the days
before the completion of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, Reno was
filled with teams and stage coaches. The place was a sort of teamsters’
paradise. This was good for the town, but it could not be expected to
last forever. The present ambition of the place is to become a railroad
and manufacturing center. It has the Virginia and Truckee Road leading
southward, while to the northward the Nevada and California is fast
advancing to completion.

Reno is the center of one of the finest agricultural and grazing
sections in the State, and is a point for the shipment to California of
immense numbers of beef cattle. Although there are in the town large and
fine reduction works for smelting refractory ores, and two flouring
mills, it may be said that hardly a commencement has been made toward
the utilization of the immense water-power afforded by the Truckee River
at and near the town.

Here is located the Nevada Insane Asylum, the building and grounds of
which do credit to the town and State. The State University is also now
located at Reno (having been removed from Elko), and is in a more
flourishing condition than ever before. The buildings, and grounds, and
teachers are all that could be desired. This institution has recently
been made an Agricultural Experiment Station. Here is located Bishop
Whitakers’ excellent school for young ladies, and also a similar school,
first-class, in charge of the Sisters of Charity. There are, besides,
five public schools. The town is well supplied with churches and public
buildings of all kinds adequate to present requirements.

The town contains many first-class fire-proof business houses, five
depots and railroad buildings, many attractive retail stores and shops,
excellent and commodious hotels, “palatial” saloons, and handsome and
comfortable private residences. It is lighted with electrical lamps, has
good water works, and almost everything else that its public-spirited
citizens have thought it necessary to provide. It has two excellent
daily newspapers, the _Gazette_ and _Journal_, and a first-class
theater. This spring (1889) there has been in the place a boom in town
property, and much building is in progress. Not only is the town on the
highway of the nations of the world leading East and West, but is on the
highway of the Pacific Coast leading North and South, along the great
range of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, from Oregon to Arizona. The
present population is estimated at 5,000 souls.

                     OTHER TOWNS IN WASHOE COUNTY.

It may be worth while for the satisfaction of persons traveling
southward from Reno on the Virginia and Truckee, to mention some once
promising towns in Washoe County that now only exist as sleepy hamlets:—

                              Washoe City.

Washoe City.—This place is situated at the North end of Washoe Valley,
sixteen miles south of Reno. It was formerly the county seat of Washoe
County, and contained about seven hundred inhabitants. There was in the
town a substantial brick courthouse, Masonic and Odd Fellows’ Hall,
Methodist Church, public school building, good hotels, and many stores,
shops, and saloons.


Ophir.—This town, three miles south of Washoe City, on the west side of
Washoe Lake, at one time contained two or three hundred inhabitants.
Here was situated a big seventy-stamp mill erected by the Ophir Mining
Company at a cost of over $500,000. To reach this mill with ores from
the Ophir Mine a bridge a mile in length was built across the north end
of Washoe Lake, at a cost of $75,000. The ores were amalgamated by the
barrel or Freyburg process, and everything was on a grand scale, the
buildings covering over an acre of ground.


Franktown.—This town, one mile south of Ophir, was originally settled by
Mormons (about the same time of the settlement at Genoa). Mormon
fashion, it was laid off in four-acre lots, and small streams of water
ran through all the streets. Here John Dall had a thirty-stamp water
mill, and there were several other mills on Franktown Creek. The town
had over two hundred inhabitants in 1869.

At one time there were in operation in Washoe County ten mills (four or
five near Washoe City), having an aggregate of 281 stamps, but the
completion of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad to the Carson River was
sudden death to all the mills, and killed all the towns. All the ore
went to the river.


Wadsworth, on the Central Pacific, thirty-four miles east of Reno, is a
bright and growing little town. It is situated at the “Big Bend” of the
Truckee River, a place well known to those who toiled across the plains
in the early days. The place contains about 600 inhabitants. In it are
the machine shops, round-house, and freight depot of the Central
Pacific, and many good and substantial buildings, both public and
private. Before the Carson and Colorado Railroad was built, Wadsworth
was a shipping-point for many mining towns and camps to the southward.
It still has a very fair trade.


Verdi, eleven miles west of Reno, on the Central Pacific, is a pleasant
little lumbering town on the Truckee River, at the eastern base of the
Sierras. It is a town of saw-mills and of manufactories of articles made
of wood. In the way of mills and machinery Verdi contains a large amount
of valuable property.

                              LAKE TAHOE.

                    Surrounding Objects of Interest.

All visitors to the Pacific Coast who are lovers of the beautiful and
picturesque in natural scenery, will endeavor to spend some time at Lake
Tahoe. Taking into consideration the surroundings, there is nowhere in
the world a more grandly beautiful mountain lake. The lake lies between
the eastern and western summit ridges of the main ridge of the Sierra
Nevada Mountains, at an elevation of 6,247 feet above the level of the
sea. Its length is a little over twenty-one miles, and its width about
twelve miles. Roughly it has the form of a parallelogram, lying nearly
north and south, about one-third in Nevada and the remainder in
California. It has an area of 204 square miles, as is shown by
measurements made in four places across its width, and longitudinally
(north and south) in three places. Its greatest depth is 1,800 feet.

It is shut in and surrounded on all sides by mountains that rise to a
height of from 2,000 to 5,000 feet above its surface. The lake evidently
occupies an extinct volcanic crater of great size. Soundings show in the
bottom a deep channel or crevice which extends nearly the whole length
of the lake in a north and south direction. In this the depth is
everywhere from 1,500 to 1,700 feet. The deepest spot (1,800 feet) is
toward the south end of the lake, in front of Mount Tallac. The water is
of great purity and crystal clearness, and never freezes.

The lake receives the waters of fifty-one creeks and brooks, the largest
of which is the Upper Truckee, which falls in at the south end. It also
receives the aqueous contributions of almost innumerable ravines,
gorges, and canyons. It drains an area of over 500 square miles,
composed largely of lofty mountains on which the snow falls to a depth
of many feet, and by the melting of which the numerous streams are fed.
There are also many living springs on the sides of the surrounding
mountains, with a great number (both hot and cold) along the shores of
the lake, and doubtless a much larger number deep beneath its surface.
The only outlet of the lake is the Truckee River, at its northwest
corner. This outlet, which forms the head of the Truckee River, is fifty
feet in width, has an average depth of five feet, and a velocity of six
feet a second, making the discharge 123,120,000 cubic feet in
twenty-four hours, in early spring when the snow in the mountains is
rapidly melting.

Since it was first seen by white men the lake has been given several
different names. Tahoe is popularly supposed to be a Washoe Indian word,
that means “big water.” Some say the word means “deep water,” “clear
water,” “elevated water,” or “bright water.” The Washoe Indians
themselves say they know nothing about the word. Fremont saw it in 1844,
and simply called it “Mountain Lake.” It was once mapped as “Lake
Bonpland,” and in 1859 was mapped by Dr. Henry De Groot as “Lake De
Groot.” It was also once known as “Lake Bigler,” being so named by some
in honor of a Democratic Governor of California, and the name is still
used by some of the strait-laced among the Democracy. Tahoe, whatever it
may mean, is a name now so universally acknowledged and so firmly fixed
that it is not likely that it will ever be supplanted by any other.

Lake Tahoe is surrounded on all sides by mountains that have an
elevation of from 3,000 to 5,000 feet above its surface. Mount Tallac
towers to a height of 11,000 feet above the level of the sea; Pyramid
Peak, 10,000; Monument Peak, 10,000; Rubicon Peaks, fifteen miles west
of the lake, 9,284; Job’s Peak, 10,637; Sand Mountain, back of
Rowland’s, 8,747 feet; and Bald Mountain, Mount Pluto, Mount Anderson,
Old Hat, Mount Ellis, Barker’s Peak, Table Mountain, the Cliffs, the
Needles, and many other peaks, rise to a height of over 8,000 feet. On
all sides great old peaks stand about gazing down forever upon their
reflected images in the lake below. It is a grand convocation of
mountains, a convention of granite peaks, gray and ancient. In a circle
about the lake stand pine-clad mountains, snow-clad mountains, and
unclad mountains that are merely stupendous piles of granite—granite
cathedrals piled up by nature for the delectation of those of her
votaries that ever gladly worship at her shrine.

In places towering rocks stand quite near the water, and around the
shores are so many bays and inlets, so many jutting points and tongues
of land, that there is a constant change of views—an endless succession
of either grand or picturesque effects. A single cliff—as Shakespeare
Rock—seen from different points and distances, takes a dozen different
shapes, and so of all prominent capes and caves. The distance round the
shores of the lake is 144 miles, and may be said to represent that many
miles of landscape panorama of unrivaled beauty and grandeur. Volumes
have already been written descriptive of the wonders and the beauties of
Lake Tahoe, and innumerable volumes will still be written as the ages
pass, yet to comprehend the place it must be seen and _felt_.

It speaks well for Lake Tahoe that its beauties are appreciated and
prized by persons living near by in California and Nevada, and that it
is a favorite place of summer resort with the people everywhere on the
Pacific Coast. In the Bible it is said: “A prophet is not without honor,
save in his own country and in his own house,” and the same may
generally be said of celebrated natural objects, but it is different in
the case of Tahoe—the grand and picturesque scenery of the lake is
admired and esteemed at home. It is not only looked upon as being a
great sanitarium of the Pacific Coast, but also as a grand store-house
of all the delights of mountain scenery. In Tahoe the careworn and
debilitated find a cure for both mind and body.

The water of the lake is as cold and pure as that of the best living
springs, and it possesses wonderful charms—almost the transparency of
the atmosphere. Near the shore, when shallow, it is of an emerald green
here; in deep water, in the sunshine, it is of an ultramarine tinge, and
in the shade an indigo blue. Tossing, distant, deep water in certain
lights assumes tints of purple and violet, with beautiful flashes of
ruby. Seated in a boat on the lake in a calm, one may see the stones and
pebbles at the bottom, with trout cruising about, where the sounding
line shows seventy-five feet of water. The whole dome of the sky, with
every fleecy cloud, is there perfectly reflected. We are midway between
the heavens above and the heavens below, gently rocking upon the waving
veil of blue that separates the two firmaments.

It is difficult to swim in the lake. Some have supposed this to be on
account of the great elevation and reduced atmospheric pressure on the
water, rendering the lake less buoyant than bodies of fresh water at sea
level. This, however, is a mistake. Water is only very slightly
compressible. The great purity of the water of course renders it less
dense than that of lakes holding minerals in solution, but it is the
coldness of the water and the variety of the atmosphere that render
swimming difficult and laborious.

The bodies of persons drowned in the lake (unless very near shore) are
never again seen. The bodies of no fewer than ten or twelve white men
are known to lie at the bottom of the lake; and no doubt among them lie
the skeletons of not a few Indians. The lake is in some respects
treacherous and dangerous. It is subject to sudden and heavy squalls.
Fierce gusts of wind at times rush down the big canyons, and, striking
the water, cause it to boil like a pot. These squalls are liable to
capsize a sail-boat. Unless an experienced boatman be of the party, it
is best to have the sail in hand, that it may be let go in a moment. The
squalls generally plunge down the canyons and gorges on the west side of
the lake.

The route of the passenger steamers round the lake is near the shores.
These are in some places rocky and in others level. In the mountain
gorges and on the ridges are pines and various other evergreen trees,
but down near the edge of the water are small groves of quaking asp,
willow, and other trees of deciduous foliage.

At the Hot Springs is a good hotel, bathing houses, and other
accommodations. At Tahoe City will also be found good hotels, boats,
fishing tackle, and all such little sporting supplies as the visitor is
likely to require. McKinney’s, at Sugar Pine Point, on the west side of
the lake, is a popular place of resort and possesses many attractions.
At Glenbrook, on the east side of the lake, are good hotel
accommodations, and there may also be had boats, fishing tackle, and all
ordinary supplies. In many charming nooks and valleys around the shores
are hotels and cottages for the accommodation of visitors.

                              Emerald Bay.

Emerald Bay.—One of the most beautiful spots about Lake Tahoe is Emerald
Bay. It is the gem of the place. The bay is situated at the south end of
the lake. It is 2½ miles long and 1¼ wide, nearly as large as Donner
Lake. The entrance to it is through a channel less than 200 yards in
width, but containing a depth of water sufficient to float a man-of-war.
Emerald Bay is surrounded by grand and picturesque mountains, the peaks
of which are 9,000 feet above the level of the sea, and some of which
rise precipitously to a height of 4,000 feet above the surface of the
bay. The water is nearly always of a beautiful emerald green. In the bay
is a rocky and romantic little island of about three acres, on which is
a handsome little cottage. On the island is a tomb excavated in the rock
by an old boatman known as “Captain Dick.” Captain Dick fondly hoped
that this tomb would be his last resting-place, but his body lies at the
bottom of the lake. In October, 1873, his boat was capsized in a furious
squall, and Captain Dick was never seen again.

Emerald Bay, with 519 acres of surrounding land, belongs to the estate
of the late Dr. P. T. Kirby, of Virginia City, who at the time of his
death was about to build a fine and commodious hotel. Before his death,
however, he had built over a dozen neat cottages. Heretofore, owing to
lack of accommodations there, many tourists have failed to visit this
bay, the most beautiful nook about the lake, but it will now at once
become a favorite haunt of all lovers of the grand, picturesque, and
beautiful. The island is a little gem, and has about it a style that
gives it almost the appearance of being a toy constructed by a landscape
gardener. It has been very appropriately named “Coquette Island.” It
rises to a height of about 200 feet above the surface of the bay. At the
south end of the bay are the “Lovers’ Falls.” These falls are high up on
the side of a steep and rocky mountain. They are on a small creek which
makes many leaps down perpendicular terraces of rock. The falls are
supposed to have been the favorite tryst of a Digger chief and his
Washoe lady-love.

                           Fallen Leaf Lake.

Fallen Leaf Lake.—This lake lies one mile south of Lake Tahoe, and about
three miles south of Emerald Bay. It is a beautiful sheet of water two
miles in length and a mile in width. It has an outlet into Lake Tahoe.

                              Silver Lake.

Silver Lake.—Silver Lake is a perfect little beauty in its way, but is
seldom visited; as it lies high on the side of a mountain which is
covered with chaparral. It is about half as large as Fallen Leaf Lake,
from which it is distant two miles in a northwest direction.

                             Cornelian Bay.

Cornelian Bay.—This bay lies north of Tahoe City, and has a smooth,
pebbly beach, where are found agates, cornelians, and jasper of several
colors. To sail along the shore the distance from Tahoe City is seven

                               Agate Bay.

Agate Bay.—Agate Bay is a place similar to that just described. It lies
a short distance west of the Hot Springs.

                              Crystal Bay.

Crystal Bay.—This beautiful cove forms the extreme north end of Lake
Tahoe. It lies northeast of Hot Springs.

                           Shakespeare Rock.

Shakespeare Rock.—In sailing round the lake from Tahoe City to Glenbrook
several picturesque rocky points, studded with stately pines, will be
seen, also Shakespeare Rock, which is a cliff towering high above the
level of the lake. On the face of this cliff are seen ridges, fissures,
and patches of color which at a distance resolve themselves into the
likeness of the face of the immortal dramatist.

                               Cave Rock.

Cave Rock is passed before reaching Glenbrook. It is about 300 feet in
height and seen from the deck of the steamer, towers upward like the
castle of some “Blue Beard” giant of the Sierras. It has in its face a
yawning cavern some 80 feet in depth. In this dark cave one might
suppose the giant to live.


Glenbrook is on the east side of the lake near a large cave. Here are
several large saw-mills, owned by Yerington, Bliss & Co., which
manufacture an immense quantity of all kinds of lumber. The mills are
furnished with electrical lights. The mill company have here a
narrow-gauge railroad nine miles in length, which carries their lumber
and timber to the flumes at the top of the mountain (Eastern Summit),
whence it is floated down to the valley near Carson City.

                           Cascade Mountain.

Cascade Mountain, at the south end of the lake, is 9,500 feet in height.
Near it are beautiful cascades, and from the top are to be seen a number
of small lakes, and much wild and grand mountain scenery.

                            Rubicon Springs.

Rubicon Springs, which lie just over the Western Summit of the Sierras,
are easily reached by a good stage road from McKinneys’. Here, on the
headwaters of the Rubicon River, is some of the most charming scenery to
be found anywhere in the mountains. There are innumerable nooks, in
which the disposition and proportions of water, foliage, and rugged
granite rocks is such that all would seem to have been arranged for the
special delectation of the artist and the lover of nature. The water of
the springs at this place possesses wonderful curative powers. No
invalid ever left them with a feeling of disappointment, however highly
they might have been recommended to him.

Besides the places named there are scores of nooks and corners, cliffs,
streams, fountains, canyons, and gorges that are not even honored with a
name, which in almost any other part of the world would be lauded to the
skies, and which would attract swarms of visitors from great distances.
There is not a spot about the lake that would not astound the dweller in
the prairies of the West were he placed before it.

                         Routes to Lake Tahoe.

                        THE ROUTE FROM TRUCKEE.

Persons in California, or tourists bound East, who wish to visit Tahoe
will leave the Central Pacific at Truckee. The distance to the lake is
but fourteen miles, over a good stage-road, which passes along up the
Truckee River, amid grand and beautiful scenery. High, rocky, and
picturesque mountains wall in the gorge through which winds the river
and the road, and on all sides are groves of stately pines. In places
where the walls recede from the stream are charming little nooks,
valleys, and meadows. Indeed, at every turn in road and river new
beauties are disclosed.

There are fresh surprises on every furlong of the road from Truckee to
Tahoe City, which town is situated at the outlet of the lake which forms
the Truckee River. At Tahoe City will be found good hotels and
accommodations of all kinds. Here, too, will be found in waiting a
steamer to carry the visitor round the lake to Glenbrook, passing near
the principal points of interest on the way, or to make the circuit of
the lake. While to follow every projection and indentation of the
shore-line would require a sail of 144 miles, a circuit of about 75
miles carries the visitor sufficiently near for a satisfactory view of
the more charming and picturesque points.

Below are given the distances from Tahoe City to the principal points
around the lake on the route usually taken by the steamers:—

                       Distances from Tahoe City.


  Tahoe City to McKinney’s                 7
  Sugar-Pine Point                         9
  Emerald Bay                             16
  Tallac Mountain and Hotel               20
  Rowlands                                24
  Glenbrook _via_ Rowlands                34
  Glenbrook, direct                       14
  Cornelian Bay                           7½
  Observatory                             2½
  Hot Springs                             10
  Round the lake                          75

On his arrival at Glenbrook, the tourist that came _via_ Truckee will
find stages in waiting to carry him to Carson City, where he will take
the Virginia and Truckee Railroad to the Central Pacific at Reno.

                          The Route from Reno.

The traveler from the East who wishes to view the wonders of Tahoe in
passing across the continent, or to see the Comstock Silver Mines, will
leave the Central Pacific at Reno, allowing his baggage to go on to his
point of destination in California. The Virginia and Truckee will then
take him to Carson City, a distance of thirty-one miles to the
southward, passing through an interesting region all the way.

At Carson stages for Lake Tahoe will be found in waiting. The distance
from Carson to Tahoe is fourteen miles. The road is fine, and the
mountain scenery wild and beautiful. In passing up Clear Creek Canyon,
the tourist will travel for a considerable distance alongside the big
lumber flume of the Carson and Tahoe Lumber Company. This flume is in
the shape of the letter V. It has a length of twenty-one miles. Through
it runs a small stream of water, and a stick of timber, billet of wood,
or piece of lumber dropped into the V-shaped trough at the summit at
once darts away at race-horse speed, and very shortly thereafter is
dumped at the wood and lumber yard at Carson. In one day may thus be
sent down the flume 700 cords of wood, or 500,000 feet of mining
timbers. Hank Monk, the famous stage-driver who for a long time drove
over this piece of road, and who once “hurled” Horace Greeley from the
summit of the Sierras down into Placerville, is now dead, and lies
buried at Carson City.

On arriving at Glenbrook, the traveler will find ready a steamer which
will take him round Lake Tahoe to Tahoe City, whence he will take a
stagecoach fourteen miles down the Truckee River to the Central Pacific,
at the town of Truckee.

                          The Town of Truckee.

Truckee is situated in a heavily-timbered basin, lying between the two
ridges, or summits, of the Sierras. In this basin is contained an area
of over 250 square miles of as fine pine forest as is to be found in the
mountains. The town is the center of a great and flourishing lumbering
industry, and immense quantities of ice are each winter harvested and
stored in the immediate vicinity. In 1883 it was estimated that the
forests of Truckee Basin contained 5,000,000,000 feet of lumber, and
that 50,000,000 feet might be cut every year for 100 years. The town has
an elevation of 5,866 feet, or over a mile above the level of the sea,
yet for eight months of the year the climate is pleasant. Where the town
now stands was formerly “Coburn’s Station,” on the old Dutch Flat
wagon-road. The place was named Truckee, and began to build up in 1865,
with the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad at that point. It
is a brisk and thriving place, and, besides its lumber and ice
industries, has a good trade with an extensive farming and grazing
region. It is wonderful that so large a town exists as is now seen, in
view of the fact that since 1868 it has seven times been swept by
terrible fires, and by two or three of these it was, in different years,
almost wiped out of existence.

                              Donner Lake.

This beautiful little sheet of water is but three miles from the town of
Truckee, and is reached by a delightful drive over a smooth and level
road. Donner Lake is about three miles long and from a mile to a mile
and a half wide. It is about 200 feet in depth in the deepest place, and
lies at an elevation of 5,938 feet above the level of the sea. It has
for feeders several sparkling trout-brooks, and has an outlet called
Donner Creek, which is an affluent of the Truckee River. The lake is
full of trout of the same species as are found in Lake Tahoe, with
minnows of several kinds, known as “chubs” and “white fish.” It is a
safe and beautiful lake on which to row or sail. As regards the matter
of safety it may be set down as the “family lake” of the mountains—is as
reliable and devoid of tantrums as the old “family mare.” The lake is
surrounded with grand old mountains. Lake Ridge, to the southward, rises
to the height of 8,234 feet, and its lower part is covered with pine and
other evergreen trees. To the west rise huge, bare granite mountains.
The track of the Central Pacific Railroad runs along the side of the
ridge to the southward, and presently disappears in a tunnel under the
bald mountains in the west. Owing to the track being covered with
snow-sheds, passengers get only occasional glimpses of the lake.

At the upper and lower ends of the lake are patches of meadow land,
groves of pine and tamarack, and handsome clumps of willow and quaking
asp. Donner is a favorite place of resort for camping parties from
Nevada and California. There are grand views in all directions. Artists
here find constant use for their sketching tools. A fine picture of the
lake was painted by Bierstadt in 1872. He chose the month of August for
his picture.

                          The Donner Disaster.

At the foot of the lake is the scene of the sufferings of the Donner
party. The spot is marked by a tall wooden cross. At this little
mountain-begirt lake, in October, 1846, arrived a party of emigrants
(mostly from Illinois), under the leadership of George Donner. There
were with the train seventy-six men, women, and children. That winter
the snow fell a month earlier than usual, and in a single night the
party found themselves overwhelmed, caught in a _cul-de-sac_. It was
impossible to attempt the mountains when the snow in the lower ground
about the lake was so deep that the wagons could not be moved; besides,
it snowed without ceasing. In one night, when their cattle were
scattered about, snow fell to such a depth as to completely cover and
hide them from sight. It was then decided to build cabins and winter on
the spot. Being short of provisions, they at once killed all the cattle
they could find, using the hides to roof the cabins. In December all
provisions were exhausted, and parties were sent out one after another
to reach California and there make known the condition of those left in
the camp. Most of those thus sent out perished, but finally one or two
persons reached Sutter’s Fort, at Sacramento. The first relief parties
failed, and it was not until February that a party reached the starving
people of the camp. These, meantime, had been reduced to such extremity
as to cook and eat the raw hides covering their cabins and the bones
thrown away earlier in the season. Toward the last there was at least
one instance of cannibalism. Of the seventy-six persons but forty
survived, some perishing in the mountains (where the snow was thirty
feet deep) in trying to get through to California, and others dying in
the cabins. Those found in the cabins were mere skeletons. A thick
volume would be required to give a full account of all the sufferings
and trials of the ill-fated Donner party. It was a disaster that shocked
all California for years, and which created a profound sensation of
horror and pity throughout the whole United States. The history of what
occurred at Donner Lake that winter has never been fully written, and
never will be, as there were happenings that the survivors were never
willing to talk about.

                    Surrounding Points of Interest.

Donner Peak, to the west of the lake, a towering pile of granite, rises
to a height of 8,154 feet above the level of the sea, and Glacial Point,
in the same direction, is 7,708 feet in height. Fremont’s Peak—sometimes
called Castle Peak, or Mount Stanford—towers in the northwest to the
height of 9,237 feet above sea level. It is seen about four miles north
of Summit Station. At this peak heads Pioneer Creek. From its granite
pinnacle, on a clear day may be seen the Downieville Buttes, Marysville
Buttes, the Coast Range, and many mountains and valleys in California;
and looking eastward, Mount Davidson, the sinks of the Carson and
Humboldt, are seen, with many other mountains and deserts. Near Summit
are about a dozen small lakes, some of them charming both in themselves
and in their surroundings of rocks and trees.

                           Independence Lake.

This beautiful lake is nineteen miles distant from Truckee, and is
reached by stage or carriage. It is three miles long and three-quarters
of a mile wide. The lake was named by Lola Montez (when a resident of
Grass Valley, California) on the occasion of a visit to it on a picnic
excursion, July 4, 1853. It is held up toward the heavens to a height of
7,000 feet by a circle of grand old peaks. It is very deep, and in
places has never been fathomed. Owing to its great depth, the lake is
supposed to occupy an extinct volcanic crater, whereas Donner Lake was
formed by a moraine deposited across the valley by a glacier. The lake
is alive with trout of a peculiar species, a good deal resembling brook
trout, and for which they are often sold. The surrounding scenery is as
wildly beautiful as the imagination can picture. From the peak of Mount
Lola, 4 miles north of the lake and 11,000 feet high, can be seen Mount
Shasta, distant 180 miles to the northward; Mount Diablo, 140 miles
distant; all Sacramento Valley, and scores of peaks of note in all
directions. There is a hotel at the lake and good accommodations of all
kinds. Bear, deer, and grouse are to be found in the chaparral, mountain
glades, and pine forests. The lake has an outlet which is the head of
one of the principal branches of the Little Truckee.

                              Webber Lake.

This lake lies twenty-five miles north of Truckee, and is reached by
stage over a road bordered with charming scenery. The lake is circular
in form and about a mile in diameter. It is 6,925 feet above sea-level.
It is surrounded with mountains of graceful outline, nearly all of which
are wooded to their tops. The deepest spot to be found measures only 80
feet. The lake is of glacial origin. It abounds in trout—a very game
variety, introduced nearly thirty years ago. About the lake are numerous
attractions. About a mile south from the lake, on a tributary creek, are
falls over 100 feet in height; a mile north is a little gem of a lake,
with an area of 50 acres, which is called the Lake of the Woods, and
which is 7,500 feet (nearly a mile and a half) above the level of the
sea; near at hand is Prospect Peak, from the top of which, in a clear
day, mountain peaks distant 300 miles may be made out, while all about
are other tall peaks and objects of interest. Small mountain game is
plentiful near the lake. Bear may be found by those anxious to see them
by taking a tramp in the chaparral thickets of the higher peaks. There
is a good hotel at the lake, yet it is a great place of resort for
campers. Where the greatest depth of water is only 80 feet, no one is
afraid of drowning. The lake has an outlet, which is one of the
affluents of the Little Truckee.

                             Pyramid Lake.

We have now to speak of a few Nevada lakes not mentioned in connection
with the rivers of the State. The greatest of these, and the largest
lake between the Sierra Nevada Range and the Rocky Mountains, except
Great Salt Lake, Utah, is Pyramid Lake. It is fed by the Truckee, the
course of which river has already been traced, and the head of which has
been particularly described as the outlet of Lake Tahoe. Pyramid Lake
lies in Washoe County, on the west line of Humboldt County. The lake is
nearly 40 miles long by from 15 to 20 miles in width, and has an
elevation of 4,000 feet above the level of the sea. It has no outlet. It
is the most picturesque sheet of water in all the Great Basin region,
owing to its numerous rocky islands. As it lies off the usual lines of
travel and traffic it is seldom visited, yet it is well worthy of the
attention of the tourist. Pyramid Lake lies about 25 miles north of
Wadsworth, a brisk and thriving town on the Central Pacific Railroad. It
is at Wadsworth that the traveler by rail from the East first reaches
the Truckee River, and is where the traveler from California takes his
leave of the stream. At Wadsworth the river turns abruptly to the north,
which course it holds to the lake.

A vehicle for a trip to the lake can always be found at Wadsworth. The
road lies down along the timbered banks of the river, and here and there
will be seen the cabins of the Indians of the Pyramid Reservation. Most
of the groves seen are of cottonwood and willow trees. The Truckee River
has two mouths, one of which empties into Pyramid Lake and the other
into Winnemucca Lake. The branch which feeds Pyramid Lake is only about
one mile in length, whereas the more meandering branch, which is the
feeder of Winnemucca Lake, has a length of six miles.

Pyramid Lake contains several islands. Some of these, near the middle of
the lake, are pyramidal in shape, and gray in color. They rise to a
height of several hundred feet above the surface of the water, and it is
from these natural pyramids that the lake takes its name. Far away
toward the north end of the lake is seen a tall, slender pyramid that is
perfectly white. Some of the isolated rocks seen are egg-shaped, and 300
to 400 feet high. Fremont’s Pyramid is the name borne by one of the
taller of the pyramidal rocks near the head of the lake. One of the
largest islands contains large flocks of goats, the progeny of a few
pairs of the animals turned loose there many years ago. The island has
an area of about five square miles, and is well covered with vegetation,
being less precipitous and rocky than the others. The only picturesque
addition needed to this island is a “Crusoe” and his hut.

One small, rocky island is wholly given up to rattlesnakes. It is the
home of thousands of the venomous reptiles. They have their dens in the
rocks, and live upon the eggs and young of water-fowl, and such small
fish as are cast ashore.

Pyramid Lake is of immense depth. No one knows its depth in the deepest
part. At the last attempt to sound it, 600 fathoms (3,600 feet) of line
were run out without finding bottom. Where it enters the lake the water
of the Truckee River is as pure and sweet as where it leaves Lake Tahoe,
yet the water of Pyramid Lake is slightly brackish. However, myriads of
trout are found in Pyramid Lake. The Piute Indians of the Reservation
every year catch and sell thousands of tons of trout, deriving a snug
sum from this source. The lake never freezes, and is generally very
rough. The Indian fishermen, however, navigate its waters at all times
quite fearlessly, even when seated astride of a bundle of tules.

                            Winnemucca Lake.

This lake lies to the east of, and parallel with, Pyramid Lake, from
which it is separated by only a single ridge of gray rock and sand. It
lies principally in Humboldt County, though a part reaches south into
Churchill County. The lake is now about sixty miles long, with an
average width of twelve miles. Of late years it has been rapidly
increasing in size, as more water has been flowing through its feeder
than formerly. It has on the east side a high rocky ridge, like that
which separates it from Pyramid, therefore it lies in a trough between
two ranges of hills. Though so near to each other, the surface of the
water in Winnemucca Lake is forty feet lower than that in Pyramid. The
Piutes remember a time when all was one lake. Were the waters of these
twin lakes now united they would make a lake quite as large as the great
Salt Lake of Utah. The inlet to Winnemucca Lake contains several old
rafts of drift-wood, which prevent a free flow of water through it. Some
years ago a freshet lifted these rafts from the bed of the stream, and
the water found a channel beneath them. Since that occurred Winnemucca
Lake has been steadily increasing in size. There are many Indian
traditions connected with these lakes, one of which is in regard to
immense animals that once herded in the neighborhood. This seems to be a
tradition of the elephant or mastodon. All this region was once covered
by an inland sea of fresh water, over 200 miles in length, and 80 or 90
miles in width.

                              Washoe Lake.

Washoe Lake is situated in Washoe Valley, and is seen in going by rail
from Reno to Carson. The lake proper is about four miles long, and from
a mile to a mile and a half wide. On the west and north extend large
tule marshes, which at times contain a considerable depth of water. The
lake is fed by small streams from the Sierras, and it has an outlet into
Steamboat Creek. The lake is filled with perch and catfish, planted a
few years ago; also contains swarms of native fish of the “chub”
species. It is a favorite resort for anglers from Carson and the towns
of the Comstock. At certain seasons the lake is visited by great numbers
of ducks, geese, and other water-fowl. It is shallow, and having a muddy
bottom, it is not a suitable sheet of water for either brook or lake
trout. Carp, however, would flourish in its muddy depths and tule

                     Thermal and Medicinal Springs.

The hot springs of Nevada are numbered by thousands and tens of
thousands, and scores of them in all parts of the State possess more or
less medicinal value. Hot springs are found from the Oregon and Idaho
lines southward to the Colorado River, and from the eastern base of the
Sierras across the whole breadth of the State. No one has ever attempted
to number the many warm and hot springs, and they are literally
innumerable. Springs which would attract great attention in the Atlantic
States, and which would be worth fortunes, here pass unknown, unnamed,
“unhonored and unsung.” All the hot springs possess curative properties
in the case of rheumatic and various skin diseases. Not one in a
thousand of the springs on this side of the Sierras has been analyzed,
for which reason the waters of only a few are used internally.

                           Steamboat Springs.

The most noted hot springs in the western part of Nevada are those known
as the Steamboat Springs. They were so named by the first white men who
visited them, on account of the puffing sound some of them then emitted,
and because of the tall columns of steam they sent up. These springs are
in Steamboat Valley, ten miles south of Reno. The Virginia and Truckee
Railroad passes close alongside the springs. They are situated at the
eastern base of a low range of basaltic hills, and occupy the top of a
flat ridge that is over a mile in length and has a north and south
course. This ridge is about half a mile in width and is composed of a
whitish silicious material evidently deposited by the waters of the many

The temperature of the principal springs is 204 degrees, which is as hot
as water can be made at that altitude (5,000 feet above the level of the
sea). Some of the springs rise through circular openings from a foot to
three feet in diameter and are surrounded by conical mounds of silicious
matters deposited by the waters, whereas others flow from fissures,
which are evidently rents formed by earthquakes. Out of some of these
fissures rush great volumes of hot gases that have a strong odor of
sulphur. These fissures are perfectly dry, and the jets of hot air are
invisible. From other dry crevices issue great clouds of very hot steam.
Steam rises in great volumes from all the boiling springs, and of
mornings when the air is cool and calm from 60 to 80 tall pillars of
steam may be counted, rising to a height of 100 feet or more above the
low, bare ridge. The air everywhere about the springs is strongly
charged with sulphurous vapors in gases. The crevices have the same
course as the great quartz veins of the country, _i. e._, northeast and
southwest. Here is no doubt a huge metallic vein in process of
formation; indeed, various minerals are deposited by the gases, notably
cinnabar. Some of the fissures may be traced from 1,000 to 3,000 feet,
and have a width of from 16 inches to 3 feet. In places where nothing is
seen to issue from these fissures at the surface, indications of
tremendous subterranean activity are distinctly audible. Far down in
under-ground regions are heard thunderous surgings and lashings as of
huge volumes of water dashed to and fro in vast hollow, resounding
caverns. In other places are heard fearful (dry) thumpings and
poundings, as though at some flaming forge below a band of sweating
Cyclops were at work at hammering out thunder-bolts for old Jove.

Small springs in places send jets of hot water into the air to the
height of two or three feet, with a hissing and sputtering sound, but
for some years past none of them have thrown water to any great distance
above the surface. In 1860, and for a few years thereafter, two or three
of the springs rivaled the geysers of Yellowstone Park, sending columns
of water a yard in diameter to a height of sixty or eighty feet once in
from six to eight hours. Some springs sent columns of water from three
to six inches in diameter to a still greater height. Even now the water
is seen to rise and fall in some of the fissures in a threatening
manner. At the springs is a fine and commodious hotel, bathing-houses
for vapor baths, and every desirable accommodation. The springs are very
beneficial to persons afflicted with rheumatic complaints, and are also
useful in some cases of cutaneous diseases.

                            Shaw’s Springs.

These springs are situated about a mile west of Carson City. They are
also much frequented by persons afflicted with rheumatism and kindred
complaints, though more well than sick persons use the baths, as
connected with them is a large swimming pool, 60 by 24 feet and from 4½
to 5½ feet deep. One of these springs is what is called a “chicken-soup”
spring. By adding pepper and salt to the water it acquires the taste of
thin chicken soup.

                       State Prison Warm Springs.

About a mile east of Carson City, at the Nevada State prison, is a warm
spring of great volume. Here Col. Abe Curry, who owned the property
before it was acquired by the State, constructed the first swimming bath
to be found on the Pacific Coast. It is 160 feet long by 38 feet wide,
and is walled up with stone, and over it is erected a building, also of
stone, of which there is a fine quarry on the spot. The water in the
pool is from three to five feet deep, and is of about blood heat. This
bath is not now open to the “world at large,” but is kept for a little
world that is “not at large.”

                           Walley’s Springs.

There are in hundreds of places along the eastern base of the Sierras
groups of hot springs of more or less celebrity, but none of which are
more highly esteemed for their curative properties, or as a more popular
place of resort for the afflicted, than Walley’s Springs, a mile and a
half south of Genoa. Persons who are troubled with rheumatism, or are
afflicted with scrofula and like disorders, are much benefited by the
baths at these springs. Here are also excellent mud baths, the hot,
mineral-impregnated mud being found very efficacious in many cases of
chronic rheumatic complaints. In the vicinity are many objects of
interest, and near at hand may be found good hunting and fishing. There
is a fine hotel, and the best of accommodations of every kind for both
sound and sick, at the springs. The springs are fourteen and a half
miles south of Carson and may be reached either by stage or private
conveyance. The road lies through Carson Valley, and is fine and smooth.

                             Other Springs.

Near Elko are several hot springs, with fine springs of cold water in
their immediate vicinity. Here, too, is a “chicken-soup” spring. The
springs are situated to the northwest of the town, and a bathing-house
has been erected for the accommodation of the rheumatic public.

At Golconda are some very large hot springs, near which are others of
ordinary temperature. Some of the hot springs are occasionally utilized
for scalding hogs. In the cool pools connected with the flow from the
hot springs, carp and some other kinds of fish have been planted. It is
said that the carp grown in the ponds often venture upon darting through
places where water almost boiling hot is bubbling up. These springs are
near the Central Pacific Railroad station. Also half a mile south of the
track of the Central Pacific road there are, at Hot Springs Station,
near the sink of the Humboldt, several springs that send up columns of

There are only a few of the hot springs that are situated near main
lines of travel. In Thousand Spring Valley, on the Upper Humboldt, there
are literally thousands of springs, some of which send out whole brooks
of water. The majority of these, however, are cold. In Churchill County,
north of the Sand Springs salt marsh, are hot springs which are 50, 80,
and even 100 feet in diameter. They are on the edge of a desert at the
foot of a range of rocky hills burnt to a brick-red by volcanic fires.
Here, too, are seen thick veins of pure native sulphur. There are hot
springs and scalding pools and brooks in every county in the State. In
Nye County there are many hot springs in Hot Creek Valley, in Big Smoky
Valley, and Lone Valley. There is also in this county the Cabezon Valley
Hot Spring, which is medicinal. On the Rio Virgin, in Lincoln County, is
one of the finest purgative springs on the Pacific Coast. With other
ingredients amounting to 311 grains of solid matter to the gallon, it
contains 67 grains of sulphate of soda, 54 grains of sulphate of
magnesia, and 3 grains of sulphate of potassa.

                          Railroads in Nevada.

Although Nevada would appear at a first glance a difficult region in
which to construct railroads, the fact is that it is quite the contrary.
Between the parallel ranges of mountains running north and south, there
are long level valleys, tracts of desert land, requiring very little
grading. These valleys and deserts are linked together and connected by
plains from the northern to the southern boundary of the State. As these
valleys and deserts once formed the beds and connecting channels of
chains of lakes now extinct, it is evident that in following their
course a line of railroad might be very cheaply constructed. In many
places for miles on miles there would be little to do but put down the
ties and rails. In many places, too, there are remarkable passages
leading east and west from valley to valley, called “gates.” There are
clean level east and west cuts through ranges of mountains running north
and south. The only difficulty to be encountered in railroad building in
Nevada is in running roads to special points (as to mines) high above
the general level of the country, as in the case of the Virginia to
Truckee when it leaves the valley region to climb the Mount Davidson
Range to the Comstock Lode. The whole plateau through which was upheaved
the north and south ranges of mountains has a mean elevation of 5,000
feet above the level of the sea in all central Nevada; to the southward
it gradually slopes downward, until at the south line of the State, on
the Colorado River, the altitude above sea-level is only 800 feet.

                          The Central Pacific.

The largest stretch of railroad in Nevada is the Central Pacific. Its
length within the boundaries of the State, from where it enters, near
Verdi, to where it passes out, near Tecoma, is a little over 450 miles.
Though this is an east and west road (the course across the interior
parallel mountain ranges), yet no great difficulties were encountered in
crossing the State. The road enters Nevada from California along the
course of the Truckee River, which stream it follows as far east as
Wadsworth. Leaving Wadsworth the road traverses a level, sandy plain
till the Humboldt River is reached. The road then follows the course of
the Humboldt to Cedar Pass, not far from the Utah line.

                       The Virginia and Truckee.

Having already given a description of this road, it will not be
necessary in this place to do more than to mention the distance from
point to point between Reno and Virginia City. Soon after leaving Reno
the dumps of the flumes that bring wood and lumber down from the pine
forests of the Sierras will be seen to the right of the road. The first
of these is four miles from Reno; three miles farther on, near
Huffaker’s Station, is another, and at Brown’s is a third. Others will
be seen about Washoe Valley and Franktown. They are from ten to twenty
miles in length, and of the same V-shape as that at Carson City.
Steamboat Springs Station is eleven miles from Reno; Washoe, sixteen
miles; Franktown, twenty-one miles; Carson City, thirty-one miles;
Carson to Empire, three miles; Mexican Mill, three and one-fourth;
Morgan Mill, four; Brunswick, five; Merrimac, five and one-half; Vivian,
six; Santiago Mill, seven miles; Mound House, ten; Silver Switch, twelve
and three-fourths; Scales, sixteen and one-half; Baltic Switch,
seventeen and one-half; Crown Point, eighteen; Gold Hill, nineteen;
Virginia City, twenty-one miles from Carson and fifty-two from Reno.

                          Carson and Colorado.

At Mound House, ten miles from Carson City, the Carson and Colorado
Narrow Gauge Railroad connects with the Virginia and Truckee. This road
runs southeasterly through Lyon and Esmeralda Counties, in Nevada, then,
turning more south, passes through a corner of Mono County, California,
and enters Inyo County in the same State. It has a total length of 293
miles, and its present southern terminus is at Keeler, at the south end
of Owen’s Lake, Inyo County. The road passes through regions of very
diverse products and industries. Agricultural and grazing sections
alternate with those in which the ruling pursuit is mining for the
precious metals, and these with others where are immense salt, soda, and
borax marshes.

Six miles from Mound House is Dayton, on the Carson River. It is a
milling town with agricultural surroundings. The road runs eastward near
the course of the Carson River through a fine agricultural and grazing
country, then turns southward through Churchill Canyon to the town of
Wabuska, thirty-eight miles.


Wabuska is a thriving little place at the edge of Mason Valley, one of
the finest agricultural and grazing regions in the State, the Walker
River affording excellent facilities for irrigation. After leaving
Wabuska, Walker Lake is soon reached. The road passes along the eastern
shore of the lake nearly its whole length, affording many fine and
picturesque views. It is a beautiful sheet of water, but lacks trees and
vegetation, hardly a green thing being seen on its shores, except at the
upper end, at and about the mouth of the Walker River.


Hawthorne, 100 miles from Mound House, is situated about 3½ miles beyond
the foot of the lake. Although only a little more than eight years old,
the town is beginning to present a comfortable appearance. It stands on
a plain the soil of which at the time the town was laid out seemed to be
nothing better than pure sand, yet on such a foundation has been
conjured an oasis of shady groves, blooming grounds, and productive
gardens. The town has a population of about 600. There are many small
veins of gold and silver-bearing quartz in the surrounding mountains
that are rich and easily worked. Here stages leave for Aurora, 26, and
Bodie, 37 miles to the southward. Much freight is taken by team from
Hawthorne to the two mining towns named. The Walker Lake _Bulletin_, a
good local paper, is published weekly in the town.


Luning, 125 miles from Mound House, is in the midst of a mining region
the veins of which have about the same characteristics as those about
Hawthorne. Stages and teams leave the town for Downieville, Grantsville,
and Belmont.


Belleville, 150 miles from Mound House, is a thriving mining and milling


Candelaria, 158 miles from Mound House, is a brisk mining town of about
600 inhabitants. It contains several mines of note, and has yielded
great quantities of bullion. The Mt. Diablo Mine is at the present time
the leading bullion producer. The town has several mills, some good
buildings, and a good system of water works. Stages leave the town for
Columbus, Silver Peak, Montezuma, Alida Valley, and Gold Mountain.

Leaving Candelaria, the road soon passes into California, striking down
into Independence Valley near the White Mountains, the highest peak of
which stands 12,000 feet above the level of the sea. The line runs
through a rich agricultural and grazing region, with high mountain
ranges on either hand, in which are found many veins rich in the
precious metals.


Benton, in Mono County, California, is 193 miles from Mound House. It is
situated in a rich section of Independence Valley and is a fine
fruit-growing region. In the neighborhood of the town, which contains
about 200 inhabitants, are many good farms, orchards, and vineyards.

                             Bishop Creek.

Bishop Creek is a flourishing agricultural settlement, 224 miles from
Mound House. It is in Inyo County. The lands and surroundings are much
the same as those of Benton. The hamlet constituting the trading-post at
the railroad, and the farms in the neighborhood, have a population of
about 250.


Independence, 267 miles from Mound House, with the farms in its
immediate neighborhood, has a population of about 400. The town stands
in the midst of a fine farming, grazing, and fruit-growing region.
Bordering the valley are mountains in which are many good mines of the
precious metals, though these have been but little worked and many have
not been opened at all, the settlers in the valleys who discovered them
being devoted to agricultural pursuits. Here is published weekly the
_Inyo Independent_, an excellent local paper.


Keeler, the present terminus of the Carson and Colorado Railroad, is 293
miles from Mound House. The town is situated on the east side of Owens
Lake and near its south end. It is a new place and contains only about
200 inhabitants. Stages leave the town for Cerro Gordo, Darwin, and

                              Owens Lake.

Owens Lake, which is the “sink” of Owens River, has an area of about 110
square miles. Its waters are heavily charged with salt and alkaline
minerals. One United States standard gallon (8⅓ pounds, or 231 cubic
inches) of the lake water contains 4,422.25 grains of solid matter,
sodium carbonate and sodium chloride predominating and aggregating
2,561.83 grains.

The water of the lake contains only a trace of borax. It is evaporated
on a large scale near Keeler, for the valuable alkaline minerals it
holds in solution. The water of Owens Lake contains a much greater
quantity of mineral matter than that of the Dead Sea. In Dead Sea water
there is only 1,680 grains of solid matter to the United States gallon.
Dead Sea water is evidently less salt than that of many of the lakes of
the Great Basin region, as fish are found in it at and near the mouths
of tributary streams, and in places along its shores shell-fish are to
be seen.

                               Mono Lake.

Mono Lake, about 100 miles north of Owens Lake, in Mono County, has an
area of 85 square miles. Its water is almost precisely similar in every
respect to that of Owens Lake.

Owens River, over 100 miles in length, flows through the valley nearly
its whole course, and, with its many tributary creeks, affords water
sufficient to irrigate a great area of land. The whole region is rapidly
being taken by settlers. The soil is exceedingly fertile and the climate
very fine. To the west of the chain of valleys the snow-clad Sierras
tower to a vast height. Above all surrounding peaks Mount Whitney rises
to a height of 15,000 feet. The Carson and Colorado road will eventually
be extended southward to a connection with the railroad system of
Southern California.

                          Eureka and Palisade.

This railroad is ninety miles in length. It is a narrow gauge and
connects Eureka with the Central Pacific at Palisade. It was constructed
to transport machinery and supplies to the mines and town of Eureka, and
to carry out the products of the smelting furnaces.


Palisade contains about 250 inhabitants.


Eureka is a town of smelting furnaces. It is situated in the midst of a
region in which very rich smelting ores are mined. The mines at Eureka
were discovered in 1864, but not much was done with them until, two
years later, and in 1869 the place began to boom and the yield of the
mines soon became from one to three millions of dollars annually. Like
other mining towns, Eureka has its ebbs and flows of fortune. For a year
or two it was in “barrasca,” but since the beginning of 1888 it has been
again getting into “bonanza.” It is the county seat of Eureka County,
and has a population of about 2,500. In 1880 it had a population of
4,207, but in 1886-87 it lost inhabitants. Now it is once more gaining.
It is the point from which many interior mining towns and camps receive
their supplies. There are many fine and substantial public and private
buildings in the town, and a good system of water works. In the
_Sentinel_, published weekly, the place has a good local paper. Eureka
is the Pittsburg of Nevada. In all directions its furnace chimneys vomit
volumes of black, sulphurous smoke—when Government officials do not
“pester” the people on account of their cutting scrub timber.

                            Nevada Central.

This road is a narrow gauge, 93 miles in length, and connects Austin
with the Central Pacific at Battle Mountain. From Battle Mountain the
road runs nearly south up the valley of the Reese River. There are many
good farms in Reese River Valley, and good grazing ranges on the higher

                            Battle Mountain.

Battle Mountain is a town of about 500 inhabitants, situated very
pleasantly, and cheaply supplied with water by means of artesian wells
of trifling depth. Its business is derived from the surrounding farming
and grazing regions, from the Central Pacific Railroad, and from the
several mining sections with which it has communication. It contains
many good public and private buildings, and handsome cottages are
numerous. _The Central Nevadan_, a sprightly weekly paper, is published
in the town.


Austin is the oldest town in Eastern Nevada, and the mother of mining in
that part of the State. It is the county seat of Lander County. Austin
was laid out in February, 1863. It is situated nearly upon the summit of
the Toyabee Range of mountains, about six miles from Reese River, and is
nearly in the geographical center of the State. It contains many good,
substantial public and private buildings of brick and stone. Before the
completion of the Central Pacific the overland stages passed through the
town, when it had about 5,000 inhabitants, as it was also then the
center of a rich mining region. The mines at and about Austin have
produced many millions in gold and silver bullion. Like all other mining
towns, Austin has had her periods of elevation and depression—her
“streaks of fat and streaks of lean”—and this year (1889) seems to be
getting out of a lean streak into a streak that shows a considerable
amount of “fatty” matter. August 18, 1874, the town was nearly ruined by
a cloud-burst which tore up the roadway and sidewalks of the main
street, flooded buildings, and filled them with mud and sand to the
depth of several feet. The damage done was estimated at $100,000. As the
people had warning of what was coming, no lives were lost. In this the
Austinites were more fortunate than were the people of Eureka in the
month of July, in the same year, as there a cloud-burst not only did
immense damage to the town, but also drowned fifteen persons. An
excellent daily paper, the _Reese River Reveille_, is published at

                         Nevada and California.

This narrow-gauge railroad starts at Reno and runs northward into Lassen
County, California. It has now attained a length of about eighty miles,
and is still in process of construction. It is penetrating a region of
country containing vast forests of pine timber, good mines, and many
fine mountain valleys. Eventually it will be run northward into the
interior of Oregon. It will presently bring to Reno great quantities of
lumber and timber to be shipped eastward into the timberless regions of
the Great Basin country.

                          Proposed Railroads.

A section of railroad of narrow gauge has been constructed through the
Beckworth Pass westward. It connects with the Nevada and California road
at Moran, and is called the Sierra Valley and Mohawk Railroad. After
rails had been laid through the pass and a short distance down the
western slope of the Sierras, work was discontinued. It is supposed that
the section of road was laid in the interest of some one of the great
Eastern roads now heading toward the Pacific Ocean in order to hold the
pass. The Beckworth Pass is nearly 2,000 feet lower than that through
which the Central Pacific Railroad is laid.

                     The Salt Lake and Los Angeles.

The Salt Lake and Los Angeles is a proposed railroad on which surveying
parties have been engaged for nearly a year. It is intended to start at
Milford, on the Utah Central, pass through Lincoln County, Nevada, and
connect with the railroad system of Southern California at Barstow. This
road would tap a rich mining and a fine agricultural and grazing region
in Southern Nevada. It would give life to an immense region of country
that has long lain as dead.

                       Nevada, Central, and Idaho

Another proposed road is an extension of the Nevada Central from Battle
Mountain northward into Idaho.

                 Nevada a Land of Great Possibilities.

Notwithstanding its sterile and forbidding appearance, Nevada is capable
of supporting an immense population. The soil, which to the eyes of
strangers appears so poor and barren, is one of the strongest and
richest in America. It is formed of decomposed lava and various kinds of
volcanic rocks, and contains large quantities of all the various mineral
constituents necessary to a strong and healthy growth of every kind of
farm produce known to the temperate zone. All that is required to
produce a rank growth of vegetation of every kind is a supply of water;
all other life-giving agents are contained in the soil. On the mountain
slopes and the bench-lands, which look so arid and worthless, the soil
is even stronger and more kindly than in the valleys. With water all the
mountain-sides may be made veritable hanging gardens. Until within the
past year agriculture (as regards irrigation) has been left to take care
of itself. It has been left to individuals, each working after a plan of
his own. There has been no established system of irrigation, and, save
in one or two instances, no attempt at storing water in order to
maintain a large and regular supply. The water used is taken as it flows
from the mountains, as the snow banks deposited in winter melt away in
the early spring and first summer months. Then, in average seasons,
there are for a month or two floods of water pouring down all the
rivers, creeks, and canyons. This great rush of water passes down into
the interior lakes and “sinks” without being utilized for any purpose,
and is lost. Were this water caught up in storage reservoirs ten times
the area of land at present irrigated could be brought under

At last a movement has been made toward the systematic reclamation of
the arid lands of Nevada, and the proper storage and utilization of all
the available water in the State. In November, 1888, a corps of U. S.
Engineers began a hydrographic survey on the headwaters of the Truckee,
Carson and Walker Rivers. This survey—interrupted by the cold weather of
winter—will be completed this year. Already a survey of 800 square miles
has been completed. Major Powell says Lake Tahoe constitutes an immense
natural storage reservoir of almost incalculable value. He estimates
that in it may be stored sufficient water (with a four-foot dam) to
irrigate 500,000 acres of land. If this be true, then Donner Lake may be
made to contain water sufficient to irrigate from 150,000 to 200,000
acres. On the headwaters of the Carson and Walker Rivers are many lakes
and basins of extinct lakes that may be turned into vast storage
reservoirs at small cost.

Among the mountain ranges of the interior of the State many reservoirs
may be profitably constructed. Also in the interior valleys and basins
artesian wells will be of great value. Already there are in the State
110 flowing wells. Though the flow from some of these is strong it is
trifling to what might be obtained at greater depth, the present wells
being only from 100 to 300 feet deep. Artesian water has been found to
exist everywhere in the valleys lying between the mountain ranges of the

Last winter the State government for the first time took hold of the
irrigation question and made a move toward the establishment of a system
of reservoirs and other works, appropriating $100,000 therefor.

To the southward of the line of the Central Pacific lies a region of
country large enough to make half a dozen New England States, that is
almost unoccupied. There tens of thousands of families might find homes.
Lack of transportation facilities at present prevents settlers from
going into that portion of the State, but the building of the Salt Lake
and Los Angeles, or any other of the proposed railroads, would cause a
rush to its semi-tropical valleys.

A beginning having been made, the time is not distant when Nevada will
no longer be branded as a land whose soil is only capable of supporting
the jackrabbit, the lizard, and the horned-toad.

                            By Dan De Quille

At a time when most mining companies and maverick prospectors had fanned
out from California in pursuit of richer gold claims, three uneducated
miners accidentally stumbled upon the world’s richest silver deposit in
Nevada. The year was 1859 and it marked the beginning of the West’s most
exciting era in mining history. De Quille’s account of this startling
discovery (on what was subsequently to be called the Comstock Lode) and
his eyewitness report on Virginia City in the heydays of the 1880’s is
one of the most fascinating and detailed to be found on the subject.

After describing the events surrounding the initial discovery, the
author traces the rapid development of the earliest makeshift towns and
mills that were erected on the site. Most notable during this period are
the years between 1860 and 1863 when Virginia City emerged and grew
uncontrollably in wealth and population as thousands of miners from
California, the Atlantic seaboard and Canada converged on the city to
labor for the highest wages paid on the American continent. Other key
events, such as The Great Fire of 1875 which wiped out a large section
of the city, and its miraculous rebuilding in 60 days are covered as

The major portion of the book, however, is devoted to the author’s
first-hand experience in Virginia City during its biggest boom period of
the 1880’s. The vivid composite he creates of the manners and habits of
this society is surpassed only by the astounding wealth of facts and
figures he provides on the mining companies’ record-breaking profits,
the lengths and depths of the Comstock veins, and the multitude of
methods utilized for extracting and refining crude silver. Reliable
information such as this, and in such bulk, was even scarce in its day.

A general description of the major towns of Nevada, the physical
characteristics of the State and its mineral and agricultural resources
rounds out the text.

                            ABOUT THE SERIES

No other nation has ever expanded as rapidly as the United States
between the years 1820 and 1860. Marching onto immense stretches of
territory belonging to Mexico, the Indians and foreign powers, America’s
pioneers brought with them a new language, new religions and new
concepts of society. Within the brief span of 40 years they had spread
political unity and cultural uniformity over this vast new land.

Few will deny that the pioneers who subdued that last, great West
between the Rockies and the Pacific braved a more hostile country,
endured more gruelling hardships and faced greater dangers than did any
other settlers in the three-century-long conquest of the continent.

_America’s Pioneer Heritage_ is comprised of scarce and long
out-of-print books that detail our western saga. Among the works
included in the series are eyewitness accounts, journals, letters and
other primary source materials which are so crucial to an understanding
of the American character.

                            PROMONTORY PRESS

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Silently corrected a few typos.

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

—Collated Table of Contents against chapter headings; added chapter
  headings or TOC entries to correspond.

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