Early Mining Discoveries
Sam P. Davis
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The story of the
first discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill,
California, was the beginning of
a marked event in the history of the United States which led to the mad
rush of fortune hunters to the Pacific Coast, and gave the world a romance
of sudden wealth which has never been duplicated in the history of mining.
For the next ten years, the record was one of tragedy and greed, of gilded
adventure and extraordinary happenings, in which the soldiers of fortune
from the uttermost parts of the earth plunged into the seething
melting-pot of fate and fought for spoils so vast and so easily acquired
that it made the tale of Aladdin's Lamp a jest and mockery.
The romance of California
gold mining needed a sequel, and the opening chapter was written when the Grosh
brothers, of Philadelphia, first discovered silver in
Nevada, on the
eastern slope of Mt. Davidson.
Now and then, a hand reaches down and brings
up some fragment which calls to mind the incidents which cluster about
that tremendous discovery which helps make a new State and contributes a
page to the history of the world.
After the bloom had worn off the gold excitement in California, some of the men who had rushed to the Coast doubled back along
the trail and began to hunt for the precious metal in Nevada.
Gold is not a modest metal. It makes its presence known
whenever it can and is always seeking recognition. When, in its original
location, it is always subject to dislodgment from the attrition of the
elements, the convulsions of nature, and the thousand and one disturbances
arising from the industry of man. The moment it is loosened from its
original home it becomes subject to the law of gravitation, and every
movement is downward. Every storm which beats upon it helps to
disintegrate its prison walls, and at every turn, the stones of the stream
fall upon it and hammer it flatter, while the wear of the water takes away
its sharp edges, so that when a practiced prospector picks it up from the
bottom of his pan scores of miles from the original ledge, the appearance
of the little grain of gold gives him a tolerably good idea of the
distance it has traveled.
Early in the 1850s, prospectors found gold in the Carson
River, near present-day Dayton, and they followed the indications up the
ravine which carried away the wash of Mt. Davidson. They found the
precious metal in paying quantities all along this gulch, which were
washing out gold on the eastern slope of the mountain. Gold hunters from
Placerville, California had come to the river as early as 1854 and earned
good wages with pick and pan in what is now known as Six-Mile Canyon.
The Grosh Brothers
In 1857 E. Allen Grosh and Hosea B. Grosh, sons of Reverend
A. B. Grosh, a Unitarian clergyman of Philadelphia, were working on the
Comstock. From the testimony of many miners who knew them, they were men
of considerable scientific attainments, being chemists, assayers and
metallurgists. In addition to all this, having quite an outfit of assaying
implements, they also brought with them to a spot afterward occupied by
the Trenck Mill, quite a formidable library of scientific works. Captain
Gilpin and George Brown were also regarded as partners of the Grosh
They went to the
Comstock region from Mud Springs, California in
1857, and prospected for nearly a year. When they came across a young man
named McLoud, they took him along with them. He was a Canadian, about
twenty years of age, and had crossed the plains with some Mormon
The Mormons, who were the early settlers of Nevada, wanted
McLoud to remain with them, but he declined to accept their religion, and
so, cast his fortunes with the miners. The Grosh brothers occupied the
cabin along with young McLoud, and Henry Tompkins Paige Comstock, after
whom the ledge was named, was a frequent visitor to their little home.
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this time, there was considerable mining done about Mt. Davidson, but it
was all for gold. The black sulphurets, so rich in silver, were regarded
as of no value and thrown away. In fact, the presence of these sulphurets
was regarded everywhere with disfavor by the miners.
There is no authentic record of any assay made by the Grosh
brothers, but they had the necessary appliances for the work and must have
made the assay, for in the fall of 1857, they told Comstock that they knew
of rich silver mines in the vicinity and were going back to Philadelphia
to secure capital to work them.
They at once staked off several claims, but
there being no mining district there at the time, naturally they could not
have recorded them. They asked Comstock to remain at their cabin during
the winter with McLoud, who had been engaged to cut
wood, and take care of the cabin until they returned.
While preparations were being made for the
departure of the Grosh brothers to Philadelphia, Hosea, while prospecting, ran a pick in
his foot, which eventually resulted in lockjaw, from which he died from on
September 2, 1957. He was buried near their camp and his grave marked by a
few large rocks. Years later, his father would send a slab from
Philadelphia to mark the grave.
With his brother, Hosea, dead, Allen didn't go to
Philadelphia, but would soon travel along with McLoud to Last Chance,
About November 1st the pair started across the mountains for Mud Springs by
way of Georgetown. They crossed into California by way of Lake Tahoe, then known as Lake Bigler.
While they were crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains, they were caught in
a succession of snowstorms, suffering terribly and nearly freezing to
death. However, they finally reached Last Chance, in Placer County. By
this time, both men's feet were frozen. McLoud had his feet amputated but
Grosh refused. He died in December, 1857 and was buried in the area.
Neither one of the Grosh brothers, nor their families, ever realized a
dollar from their discovery which added to the world's wealth over seven
hundred million dollars and saved the American Union in the
McLoud; however, survived to tell the tale of the first
silver assay made on the Comstock. What it amounted to, the Grosh brothers
kept to themselves. But McLoud told the storekeeper in Last Chance, that he saw
the Groshes "pour some of the silver ore in a glass after pounding it in a
pot and wetting it," and that after that "they got very much excited." The assay
thus described by McLoud was unquestionably the first assay ever made of
the silver deposits of the Comstock. McLoud later moved to Montreal, Canada, where he
What a subject this scene would have made for a
painter's brush -- in the interior of a miner's camp at night, the faces
of two fortune-seekers lit by the ruddy glow of the cupel-furnace, as they
eagerly held up the glass where the silver-button had dissolved in the
On the result of that assay, the fortune of
thousands hung. Out of that assay sprang the millionaires of the Coast, blocks of the
finest buildings which now adorn San Francisco, the great enterprises that
have made Nevada and California famous, and along with it, a landslide of
misery and bankruptcy that carried thousands to the foot of the hill
to be covered with the debris of shame and oblivion. Out of the little
glass came a giant more powerful and relentless than the awful shape that
sprang from the pan in the Arabian story, and this giant continued to live
to make and unmake the destinies of thousands.
A man named George Brown, who was out on the Humboldt
River, was in some way a partner of the Grosh boys, but in what way has
never been clearly stated. He was murdered at Gravelly Ford on the
Humboldt River shortly before Hosea Grosh injured his foot. He was mentioned by
the Grosh boys as "our partner," and they said that he was coming to help
them with $600. When they heard of his death they were very despondent.
They learned the news of Brown's death from a Mrs. Louisa M. Ellis, whose
name at that time was Mrs. Ellis. She would later state that she first met
the Grosh brothers in
Nevada as early as 1854.
They told Mrs. Ellis in 1857 of their discoveries, and also
pointed to Mt. Davidson, saying that the big silver ledge was at the foot
of the mountain, and that in locating their claims, they had put her down
for 300 feet. Mrs. Ellis became quite interested in the
discoveries, and made a proposition to sell her property in California and
put $1,500 into the scheme of developing the discovery. However, when
winter came on, Mrs. Ellis went to California
and never had the opportunity to make the investment.
A man named Johnson Simmons, of Oakland, California, who was stopping temporarily
at Last Chance at the time, gave the following account:
Hoisting Works of the Comstock Lode,
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