Nevada Mining Tales

He went direct to Big Creek and found the men at work, and inflated with great expectations. He soon learned that his share, 50 feet, bought at $70 per foot, in a claim of 5,000 feet was an insignificant interest, unless it proved very rich. This checked his ardor not a little, for he had bought without investigation, in the fever of excitement, and in total ignorance of the value of silver mines; however, he consoled himself and determined to find out something of its value. He was doubtful of his richness, now that second sober thoughts returned, and getting choice specimens from various places in the so-called mine, he sent to a distance for an assay. In due time, the certificates were returned to him, showing not a trace of gold or silver in any of the samples sent. It was a cruel blow to Patrick’s hopes, as well as to the men who were working it, for it was evident that the local assayers had “salted” the returns to keep up the excitement. Patrick did not stop long nor try his luck in other mines; he simply d—-d the Sultana and the Sultan too, returned at once to California and resumed his occupation of a publisher on a scale limited by his losses, but improved by the experience bought so dearly.

White Headed Bill – A Stalwart Miner (Article first appeared in the Reno Evening Gazette, January 29, 1891)

Man working at entrance of gold mine, Goldfield, NV, Waldon Fawcett, 1907

L.P. Tenney was the Mining Recorder on Treasure Hill in the early days of the White Pine excitement during 1868 and ’69. Tens of thousands knew him, for Treasure Hill was plastered three feet deep with mining locations on top of each other, and Tenney recorded everything offered, leaving it to the courts and lawyers to settle the title of ownership afterwards. The extent of his patronage was so great that he waxed rich, and after the excitement subsided, he gathered up his golden gains and retired to San Francisco.

There, in the midst of a life of leisure, he would occasionally grow communicative and recount his early struggles in California, and one of his cherished reminiscences was to recount his first attempt at placer mining. In 1852, he landed in San Francisco and went at once to the mines, stopping at Grass Valley. Early the next  morning, he made his way up the creek and accosted the first miner by asking him how much he would charge to teach him how to mine. The miner put him to work transporting pay dirt in a bucket from an excavation to the rocker on the banks of the creek, and after a three-days’ apprenticeship, served without pay, Tenney located a claim for himself, and like all greenhorns, chose a spot that no one else would touch, and all looked on him as a d—–d fool for digging there.

But Tenney was in earnest and was going for pay gravel so eagerly that he soon had a shaft down fifteen feet and out of reach of further depth unless he got assistance. He formed a partnership with two strangers who aided in sinking it to a depth of 30 feet, and then said he could go on and if he struck anything they would divide with him, while they left for other fields. Tenney was discouraged, but learning of two strangers, one of whom was called White Headed Bill, that wanted an opportunity to engage in mining, he made a proposition and with their assistance resumed work, and in running a drift from the bottom of the shaft they struck it rich and began taking out from $200.00 to $300.00 a day.

Two weeks after his first partners departed, they returned, and while Tenney was at work in the drift, and White Headed Bill and his comrade were engaged in hoisting, they came to the shaft, and made a demand for their claim. Tenney heard an angry discussion going on, followed by blows and knock-downs, and as hurriedly as he could, he climbed the rope to the surface and found that the neighboring miners had rushed in and separated the two principle combatants at a time when White Headed Bill was giving one of the returned locators a severe thumping. The miners suggested an immediate trial of the rights of property, and forming a circle and choosing a judge and jury, proceeded at once with the trial, one from each side acting as attorney, and White Headed Bill acting for Tenney’s side. It was soon demonstrated that the original locators had abandoned the claim and been absent over ten days, which by the district laws then in force, gave the claim to Tenney and his last partners. They resumed their work, and at the commencement of the rainy season, they divided $15,000.00 as the result of their labors, and sold the claim for $1,500.00, supposing it exhausted. It afterwards proved to be the richest in the district, gained wide renown, known as the celebrated Coyote lead. The fighting attorney and stalwart miner known as White Headed Bill, later became the champion of free coinage, and known as the Honorable William M. Stewart.

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated December, 2015.

About the Author: Written by William Daugherty, for the Reno Evening Gazette in 1891. The Reno Evening Gazette was first published on October 12, 1876 and continued for the next 107 years. In 1977, it was merged with the Nevada State Journal, and continues to exist today as the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Note: The article is not verbatim as spelling errors,  minor grammatical changes, and editing have occurred for ease of the modern reader.

Also See:

Tales of the Overland Stage (Reno Evening Gazette)

Pioneers on the Nevada Frontier (Reno Evening Gazette)

Pioche Land Jumpers and the Death of Jack Harris (Reno Evening Gazette)

Violence on the Nevada Frontier (Reno Evening Gazette)

Historical Accounts of American History

Nevada Legends

Frank “Shorty” Harris  – Single Blanket Jackass Prospector

Swindle at the Gold Bar Mine, Nevada

Death Valley Ghost Towns & Mines

Mining on the American Frontier

Leave a Reply

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