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Eldorado Canyon - Lawlessness on the
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area surrounding Nelson and Eldorado Canyon
was first home to the ancient
and later the Paiutes and Mojave tribes. Living peacefully for hundred
of years, the
were intruded upon in 1775, when the Spaniards arrived in the canyon in
their constant quest for gold. Founding a small settlement at the
mouth of the
Colorado River, they called it Eldorado. However, these
early Spaniards somehow missed the rich gold veins just beneath the canyon’s
flanks, finding silver instead. They soon found that the silver was
not in high enough quantities to justify their operations, and moved on.
years later, in the 1850s, a new breed of prospectors began sluicing the
many streams feeding into the
area, April, 2005, David Alexander.
For a few years, the miners were able to keep their gold find a relative
secret due to the remoteness of the area. However, this all changed in
1858 when the first steamboats began to make their way up the Colorado
River from Yuma,
Arizona. Before long, word
spread and miners began to flood the area.
By 1861 miners had discovered the Salvage
Vein about five miles up from the
River. The rich, vertically stacked ribbon of gold ran through a
steep ridge along one side of the canyon. The miners began at the
top of a high hill, cutting down into the vein. Before long,
several of the miners formed the Techatticup Mine, supposedly through a
series of shady dealings. The name derives from the Paiute
word for hungry, a term often heard by early settlers from the starving
Indians inhabiting the dry hills. The Techatticup Mine was
once owned by Senator George Hearst of
California, father of William
Randolph Hearst of publishing fame.
Before long the Nelson
District was dotted with several mines, including the Gettysburg,
Duncan, Solar, Rand, Wall Street, Swabe and Golden Empire Mines in what
was to become one of the earliest and richest mining districts in
Nevada. The Techatticup Mine, along with the Gettysburg, were the first mines in
to be worked by white men.
Many of prospectors who find their way to
the gold field were reportedly Civil War deserters and disagreements and gunfights over gold and women became commonplace. Greed, claim jumping and vigilante justice fueled the fire. Meanwhile, the Techatticup Mine itself was in the midst of feuds over
ownership, management and labor disputes, which soon earned it a
notorious reputation. At one point the killings in the rowdy
canyon, called home to as many as 500 miners, became an almost daily
event where even lawmen refused to enter.
Despite the sinister reputation of the mine,
the Techatticup was to become the most successful in the area, mining
millions of dollars in gold, silver, copper and lead throughout the years. For the next 70 years, miners at the Techatticup
Mine dug deeper and deeper into the hard rock, working with picks and
shovels in chambers lit by candles.
As the gold played out in one tunnel, they
would carve a new one just beneath it using blasting powder, and then drag
out the broken rocks to be pulverized and treated with cyanide to separate
out the gold. Over the years, the miners excavated tiers of a dozen tunnels,
the lowest of which could be reached by a long tunnel cut into the hillside
some 500 feet below the upper entrance. The temperature remained constant in
the tunnels at around 70 degrees and it is said that some of the miners
slept inside their workplace to escape the desert heat.
The Techatticup Mine, along with dozens of
others engendered a number of settlements including Nelson and Eldorado at
the river’s edge. As the ore was extracted from the many area mines,
it was then transported to Nelson’s Landing along the
River and shipped by steamboat to Yuma,
overland shipment to San Francisco,
California. The river also served as the primary source of much needed supplies for the
camps along the canyon.
Mine today, April, 2005,
In 1864, when the area was
still a part of
territory’s first stamp mill was built near the steamboat landing. The
10-stamp, steam-driven mill, then processed the ore from the area mines
before shipping to Yuma.
Abandoned Mine in Nelson,
April, 2005, Kathy Weiser.
lawlessness continued as factions of Northern and Southern sympathizers
developed among the miners during the Civil War. The strife and
bitterness split the workers into two camps, severely hindering mine and
mill production. Before long, Federal troops stationed downriver
had to be brought in by steamboat to break up the factions before more
bloodshed occurred. The lawlessness got worse after the area became
when the nearest law officials were in Hiko,
some 300 miles away. Finally, a military post was established in
in 1867 to protect the steamboat traffic and to keep an eye on the local
who were beginning to raid the canyon.
1883, a railhead was developed at
and the long riverboat shipments to Yuma were rerouted to
Needles, where the ore was offloaded. Eventually, better overland routes eliminated the need for the steamboats.
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