Nevada Mining Tales

Celebration in a mining camp

Most of us took no note of time, and simply entered into the spirit of the day with a feeling that was usually gauged by our environments, or checked by the scarceness in our purse and yet, nearly everybody enthuses on the Fourth of July the same as they do when an election comes around, and nearly everyone derives satisfaction at sight of the starry emblem that represents his country, a nation that is admired all over the world, and possessing strength sufficient to command respect from those that envy it.

In the lifetime this writer has spent in the sagebrush, it is interesting to recall these celebrations. The first was in the last and fiercest year of the war, when news came slowly on the Overland Stage and all we had to cheer us, was the grim message from Grant. The little mining camp had representatives from all sections, and while the undercurrent of feeling was intense, a spirit of mutual forbearance seemed to possess all alike, and the few flags that floated from saloon staffs told us the country was not yet dismembered. The only demonstrations were the gatherings in congenial groups, where some indulged in songs led by that lover of melody, genial Dan Morgan. We were discussing statehood then and ways for inducing capital from the east to invest in our mines, mill sites and wood ranches and the natural meadow lands of the Reese River Valley. Then, in 1865, a year later, we celebrated in Austin. The mines were yielding, eastern capital was building mills and money was easy for all who worked. In 1866 we observed the day in rock-ribbed Ophir Canyon, where the operations of the Twin River S.M. Co. furnished occupation and a living to some 500 laborers, miners and millmen. We had no orator nor poet, but flags floated; a general holiday was indulged in, and the canyon echoed with song led by that old stalwart Billy Smith, now the U.S. Postmaster of Eureka, and his brothers, in melodious voice that rings in memory yet. The celebration was a success, but we all went hungry the next day, for all the cooks got drunk and rations were short until they sobered up.

Inaugurating the glorious Fourth, C.S. Reinhart, Harper’s Weekly, 1878

In 1867 we all celebrated in Ophir again much in the same style, winding up with a stag dance, for there wasn’t but three white women in camp. In 1868, everybody celebrated in Austin, And, to accommodate all, instead of one procession, we had two in the forenoon, another in the afternoon. The first were intensely partisan, one being led by Major Bradley and the other by Major Sherman, and each was elaborate and imposing, made so by all the means at command and regardless of expense. Party feeling was intense, angry looks were on every face, and when the two processions countermarched past each other, the moment was fraught with critical interest. Each held its literary exercises separate and apart from the other but sober counsels prevailed and no conflict occurred. A happy inspiration took possession of the minds of representative men, who, to placate the bitter feeling of the factions, suggested a burlesque parade for the afternoon. The proposition took like wildfire; everybody was in for it; the news spread rapidly, and by 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the procession formed and all those in the rival processions of the forenoon joined in making the afternoon parade the opportunity for fraternizing in a devil-may-care spirit of brotherly love that was infectious and contagious.

The immense procession, for it was immense, burlesqued everything contained in the two former, and each new and comical feature as it passed was cheered with wildest mirth by the spectators that swarmed on the sidewalks. And, when the roundup was made in front of the National Bank and the reader, poet, orator and president, all in mask, were, however, recognized by their voices and manners, and the crowd discovered that they included such prominent men as Judge W.H. Beatty, Colonel Harry I. Thornton, John Dennis, Judge John H. Boalt, Mayor J.S. Slanson, the Honorable Tom Wren and others, then and since then, known to fame, the jollity spread and swept away every vestige of the ill feeling that marked the commencement of the day.

A circus was in town, a little one-horse affair that had wandered across on the Sand Springs road from Virginia City , and entertained the people of Austin every night for a week and with an afternoon matinee, until everybody was cloyed with the spangles and gauzy skirts, the clown and the sawdust. But that, the last night of the season, saw the tent again crowded from the simple announcement made by John Dennis from the platform of the burlesque Fourth of July speakers, which was given at the close of the exercises, and which was in effect, that there would be, among the other attractions of the mammoth acrobatic and arenic aggregation, a tight rope performance by the brothers — Majors Bradley and Sherman. And so ended one of the most remarkable celebrations that ever occurred in Nevada, and never afterward has partisan feeling interfered with a proper observance of this anniversary — the dearest of all to the American people.

Developing Panamint (Article first appeared in the Reno Evening Gazette, April 15, 1891)

The government explorations in Death Valley and the Panamint Range of mountains bordering it on the west, bring to mind the exploits of one of the boldest adventurers among the early mining operators of the Great Basin, as this arid region was called when we were boys and studied geography back in the “States.”

The Panamint mines are situated on the Western slope of the range, and some of them on the lateral spurs running from the main summit, and at an elevation of about 9,000 feet above sea level. The summits are from 10,000 to 11,000 feet in height, and the descent on the eastern slope being very abrupt into Death Valley, which is, about opposite Panamint, 240 feet below sea level, and gives the mountains an appearance of bold and rugged grandeur.

20 mule team crossing Panamint Valley

The Panamint mines were discovered in 1872, but not brought into any notice until the summer of 1873. Some of the early prospectors bore very unsavory reputations and did not dare make much effort to attract outside capital, except through some trusted middle men. The reasons were made obvious in concluding one of the first sales when the owners went to San Francisco to get their money. Wells, Fargo & Co’s agents were watching one of them for an old stage robbery and when the money was ready they demanded from him the restoration of $12,000, to cover losses sustained by his depredations, or an arrest would be the immediate result. He very coolly assented and asked for a receipt, and the money was paid.

The success of selling the mines was almost wholly due to the efforts of E.P. Rains, a man who possessed the daring and dash of a Jim Fisk and who would have rivaled his achievements in finance, had he been favored with any educational attainments; but in this, he was deficient and the knowledge of it bred in him a reckless waste that was only equaled by his natural prodigality and generous impulse. He coveted money only for the pleasure of spending it and he squandered it with a recklessness that was born of the spirit of ’49 and his early associations in California.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *