San Francisco Bulletin, December 6, 1866.
To Red Dog and Back.
We visited the mining camps of Red Dog and You Bet, and returned to Nevada in the night, through a forest country cut up into innumerable roads. In our simplicity we depended on the horses to choose the route for themselves, because by many romantic books we had been taught a wild and absurd admiration for the instinct of that species of brute. The only instinct ours had was one which moved them to hunt for places where there wasn't any road, and it was unerring--it never failed them. However, our horses did not go lame. It was very singular. My experience of horses is that they never throw away a chance to go lame, and that in all respects they are well meaning and unreliable animals. I have also observed that if you refuse a high price for a favorite horse, he will go and lay down somewhere and die.
A Memento of Speculation.
We traveled by stage to Meadow Lake, over a villainous road, which usually led through beautiful picturesque mountain scenery, variegated with taverns, where they charge reasonable rates for dinners and get them up satisfactorily.
We reached the town of Meadow Lake at 9 P. M. It is built on a level plat of ground shut in by rugged mountains well clad with heavy timber. The lake itself is a handsome sheet of water a mile long and perhaps a quarter of a mile wide. Meadow Lake is the prettiest site for a town I know of; and the town already built there is the wildest exemplar of the spirit of speculation I have ever stumbled upon. Here you find Washoe recklessness and improvidence repeated: A lot of highly promising but unprospected ledges, and behold! on such guarantees as these they have built a handsome town and painted it neatly, and planned wide, long streets, and got ready for a rush of business, and then--jumped aboard the stage coaches and deserted it! And they have done all this on what? Why, if I am correctly informed, only three or four mines are barely opened, and all the bullion ever shipped from this place would not foot up $30,000. Yet all this bad business was the work of men who had done such things before, and been scorched at Kern River, Gold Lake, Washoe and other theatres of fierce mining excitement. Here is a really handsome town, built of two-story frame houses--a town capable of housing 3,000 persons with ease, and how many inhabitants has it got? A hundred! You can have a house all to yourself merely by promising to take care of it. The place is perfectly citified with signs. There are the inevitable "Bank Exchanges" and Metropolitan Hotels, and wholesale hardware stores, printing, and lawyers' and doctors' offices, and restaurants and billiard saloons of a pretentious city. One man has even had the temerity to build a large, handsome dressed stone house, at great expense. A bright, new, pretty town, all melancholy and deserted, and yet showing not one sign of decay or dilapidation! Inever saw the like before.
The people who are there have strong faith in the ultimate prosperity of the place, though, and from all I hear I am a good deal of their opinion myself. Their rock pays all the way from $15 to $50 in free gold, and the sulphurets (they seem to be of an unusually rebellious character,) are uncommonly rich. Machinery has lately been erected there for working them, and my opinion that experimenting on those things outside of Swansea is a frittering away of valuable time, is not entitled to consideration, and is nothing against the enterprise.
There are five quartz mills in Meadow Lake, and they are jogging
along comfortably and doing very well with the free gold. They shipped $4,000
one month, $6,000 another, and expected in October to yield $10,000. There
is no question but that the leads are good, and there is also no question
but that Meadow Lake can easily support its present population; but that they
should go and provide house-room for 3,000 people so very early in the day
was rather foolish. Wood is as cheap as dirt there, and water is plenty. Snow
falls to the depth of six feet in winter, but the mill men do not seriously
object to that, because it is easier to haul wood and quartz in sleds than
in wagons. The winter cannot be excessively cold, else the snow would not
fall so freely. It is expected that the camp will be as lively and populous
as ever in the spring.
An Aristocratic Turn-out.
The next morning we started to Virginia. The stage was small (and had a wheel of questionable stability,) and the four horses were rather small for their age, especially the wheel horse on the port side, which had been staging some 38 years, it was said. We had 14 passengers, (there was comfortable room for 9,) and baggage for 150. That is a little extravagant--but we did have the hind boot full of trunks, (and a cooking-stove,) and the forward boot full of carpet sacks and rolls of blankets, and on the roof was a stack of valises, several chairs and a few joints of stove-pipe--and I think if a menagerie had offered, we would have tried to take it along. Take notice, I am not doing our stage man any injury with these remarks, because he has hauled his line off for the winter--otherwise, I would keep silence, for I would not wantonly injure so good-natured and accommodating a fellow as he was. We crossed little depressions very gently, on account of our shaky wheel, and got out and walked, when we were not going down hill, so as to give the horses a chance. We generally walked, anyway. Occasionally we would come back and encourage the driver a little, and then go off and leave him again. I thought the team we started with was rather a hard lot, but those were circus horses compared to what we had afterwards. Every change we made was for the worse. Or rather, the worse culminated in the next to the last change. They brought out a weird-looking, bow-legged crowbait, and the boys laughed; next a thoughtful, Senator-looking skeleton, that looked as grave as a hearse and had an expression of more than earthly wisdom in his lean face; next came a prodigiously long animal, whose ridgy backbone stood out prominently all the way from his shoulders to his tail, like the croppings of a quartz ledge; and the bridge of his nose was broken and he breathed with a blubbering snort that was exquisitely annoying; and last and most notable, came a horse with only one ear that stood boldly up, and the other had been chopped off close to his head--and if ever I saw a comical looking beast, it was he. Altogether, it was the most forlorn team I have come across yet. We only had one set of harness, and it had to be let out for the long horses and taken up for the short ones. The driver cracked his whip, and we started one horse galloping, another trotting, another pacing, and the long horse with the curb-stone backbone walking with a martial stride that defied all imitation except with stilts. The boys made so much fun of the earless horse that in self-defense the driver said he bought him especially to afford passengers an entertaining topic of conversation. They thought he might well have bought the others for the same purpose, and they conferred the title on the whole team. Wherefore, whenever anything went wrong, they observed, for instance, that "The topic of conversation with the broken nose has unshipped his check-rein." However, we had a right jolly trip of it and got into Virginia at about 10 o'clock at night.
I did not observe any very great changes in Nevada. There were many teams on the roads, and the towns looked about as they formerly did. Virginia bore quite a business-like aspect, and it was said that she was enjoying a very fair degree of prosperity. Business there now is on a good, firm, healthy basis, and is steadily recovering from the lapse brought upon her by speculation.
Gold Hill is doing far better than she was when I was there last. She is shipping an average of $800,000 a month in bullion-an increase of half a million since my time. The principal mine is the Yellow Jacket. It was a shaky affair for a long time, but good management has brought it out all right at last. On the first of July, 1865, its liabilities were $404,875.65, and its assets $256, 120.02. A year later, on the first of July, 1866, the Company were out of debt and had a cash balance on hand amounting to $142,915.38. The mine has been paying dividends regularly for several months, now, and a recent rich strike has sent the stock up to a high figure. During the year, $1,895,228.70 in bullion has been produced from the mine and shipped.
The Silver City rnills are doing profitable work. Dayton, like Virginia, has suffered from a disastrous fire, but the native energy of her people has not been crushed by the misfortune. I could not discover any change in Carson, scarcely. It was never much of a speculative town, and its business affairs seem to go along about as smoothly as ever. The new Mint building is being rapidly erected--Abraham Curry is the Superintendent, and his energy is not of a flagging nature. The Mint will be an exceedingly ornamental edifice when completed, and will add considerably to the appearance of Carson. It is being constructed partly of brick and partly of a fine species of granite found near the city. The Mint is to cost $150,000 in greenbacks.
The mills around Washoe City are driving ahead and doing a lively business, especially those of the New York and Nevada and the Savage. The Savage is an excellent mine now, even in its deepest levels, and has the pay streak (at a depth of some 700 feet,) which has made the Hale and Norcross such a valuable property since I got out of it. If I were mean enough to bear malice, I would buy in again and kill that mine.
I cannot see but that all these towns are getting along well enough, and I cordially wish their prosperity may increase. They have always treated me well. I had heard that Nevada was as good as dead, and I am glad to know it was false.
Some of my friends in Virginia met me on the Divide one night and robbed me--for fun, they said--and I forgive them, because they returned the stolen property, whereas, when they blew up Wells Fargo's stage and robbed it they kept the proceeds. I have been told that these were two different parties, but I think not. I never saw such hang-dog countenances in my life as the gang wore that captured me. And besides, they transacted the business with a degree of artistic excellence that could only have been attained by long experience. I know them, and they are none too good to dig up a grave and carry it off, if they had any use for such an article.