Nevada Mining Tales

He was a greater favorite than ever, though some of the boys teased him unmercifully and suggested that he ought to run for constable. He consented, and to their surprise, was elected. Alas! for human vanity. Those store teeth had led him from the path of honest toil into the filthy pool of politics. Time hung heavy on his hands and he soon became an expert poker player.

His income permitted an elegant life of leisure, during which the leading men of the county, including the judge and all the county officials who played poker became more or less indebted to him. At the next election, he was a man of “influence,” and for his aid in electing the sheriff, he was appointed under sheriff and obtained many of the sureties for the sheriff’s bond. In consideration, he was made custodian of the office, books, safe, papers and coin, and played poker with much brilliance and as much success as formerly.

Tehachapi Mountains

But, as duty called him away frequently, none but himself knew how often he lost. Over the next few months, he was absent from the county seat much of the time, and when he started after some stage robbers, which took him over the Mojave Desert into Tehachapi , it was noticed that he looked more serious than usual, and his lips closed tightly over his store teeth. The reward was large for the capture. The sheriff of an adjoining county got on the trail first and caught the robbers. Sugar Foot reached Tehachapie at midnight, and heard of it as he took a drink with the barkeep. He was shown a room, and in the morning he was found dead, with a bullet in his brain, his revolver in his hand, and a brief note on the table to his principal stating the amount of his embezzlement.

Making Footprints (Article first appeared in the Reno Evening Gazette, June 13, 1891)

It was in 1864 that this Gazette local lived in the town of Washington, Lander County, Nevada. Whew! the town of Washington!! No longer on the maps. Few, outside of Lander’s boundaries, can recollect it even. And yet, it was a mining town of some pretensions then, and a rival to Austin for the honor of becoming the capitol of the Territory. A daily stage and a fleet running the Pony Express line brought and carried the news to and from our hated rival for capitol honors, and Austin was regarded as a presumptuous village, with nothing but a few razor blade ledges of phenomenally rich quartz on the surface, to oppose to Washington’s mammoth ledges of silver like the New Hope Mine, or the astounding deposits of galena like the St. Helena of Alvarez in Cottonwood Canyon.

Lander County, NV, Arthur Rothstein, 1940

We cheerfully paid 25 cents for every letter received and 12 ½ cents for every one sent out by our limited mail, and treated our postmaster with a distinguished consideration that would make any U.S. Postmaster of the present day green with envy. Really, our “was a bigger man than old Grant,” and it was regarded as an impious sacrilege to disturb his slumbers, or even speak to him, until he chose to come out in the middle of the street at a late hour in the morning, just up and partly dressed, in his shirt sleeves, with his fancy suspenders hanging by the back buttons, down to his heels, and with a yawn and yahoo, ask if that d—-d stage had been around yet; and then, in loud tones of reckless defiance say, it could wait and be d—-d, if it come, he was going first over to Patroni’s to get a cocktail. Ah! but we treated that autocrat so well that we spoiled him. He became a bloated aristocrat and in less than six months, the town wasn’t big enough to hold him; and, one morning he startled the camp by boarding the stage, after appointing a deputy postmaster and mining recorder, and an agent for his real estate and mining interest, and left for Chicago overland, saying life was too short and that d—-d camp too small for a rustler of his kind to waste time in. And so, our respected postmaster, Charlie Dodson, jumped the camp and none ever heard from him afterwards. And yet, there were some who watched each National Convention for some years after, and would have expressed no surprise had Charlie come to the surface as a candidate for President. Oh, those were times of great possibilities, and there wasn’t one of us that didn’t expect to be as rich as Michael Reese in a few months, and we built castles in the air that rivaled, in magnificence, anything in the Arabian Nights.

But, there came a rude awakening after the first quartz mill, engineered by Jimmy Middlemiss, made its first run on New Hope ore and, without any explanation, shut down. The ore didn’t pay. The town was pretentious in proportions. It was strung up and down the canyon for a distance of a mile, with additions that reached clear out of sight. Corner lots were held at a figure that put negotiations for their purchase out of all consideration.

The removal of the post office was schemed for and watched after with more interest than the events of the war. We were simply a set of lunatics building extravagant hopes on the myths and freaks of fortune. And when the dream ended with the shut-down of the quartz mill and cessation of work on the New Hope Mine, those of us who could shake the magnificent hopes and great expectations out of our heated imaginations, folded our tents and silently stole away. The town quietly shrunk up and finally was never heard of except in the mail contracts, when that important town was reported in petitions for a daily service to the Postmaster-General as the central point in the great Reese River Valley. Where the mail contractor obtained signers to his petition was known only to himself. And yet, we all filled an important part while wasting time in misplaced efforts. We were as Clint Patchen of Pioche used to say, “making footprints,” and aiding in the development of a nation’s royal domain, and perhaps building better than we knew.

Mining Above the Timberline (Article first appeared in the Reno Evening Gazette, March 11, 1891)

Kearsarge Pinnacles

On Mt. Kearsarge, one of the high peaks of the Sierras in Inyo County, California, and near its summit, at an elevation of 13,000 feet above sea level, is located a gold mine that was known some years ago as the Rex Montez. It was far above the timber line, in the region of perpetual snow, and in consequence, quite expensive to work for all supplies were transported on pack mules; which included wood for domestic purposes, while water was obtained from melted snow. The boarding and lodging houses were made comfortable, for during the winter for three and four months, the miners were cut off from all communication with the town of Independence, only eight miles distant and in plain sight from the mine. Work, however, was prosecuted nearly as well in winter as at any time, for even in the month of August the tunnels and drifts of the mine were like refrigerators, as their walls were covered with ice all the year through. The mill was at the foot of the main peak, five miles down, and was run only in the summer when the pack trail was open.

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