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    Chapter XXVI

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    Chapter 29
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    By and by I was smitten with the silver fever. "Prospecting parties"
    were leaving for the mountains every day, and discovering and taking
    possession of rich silver-bearing lodes and ledges of quartz. Plainly
    this was the road to fortune. The great "Gould and Curry" mine was held
    at three or four hundred dollars a foot when we arrived; but in two
    months it had sprung up to eight hundred. The "Ophir" had been worth
    only a mere trifle, a year gone by, and now it was selling at nearly four
    thousand dollars a foot! Not a mine could be named that had not
    experienced an astonishing advance in value within a short time.
    Everybody was talking about these marvels. Go where you would, you heard
    nothing else, from morning till far into the night. Tom So-and-So had
    sold out of the "Amanda Smith" for $40,000--hadn't a cent when he "took
    up" the ledge six months ago. John Jones had sold half his interest in
    the "Bald Eagle and Mary Ann" for $65,000, gold coin, and gone to the
    States for his family. The widow Brewster had "struck it rich" in the
    "Golden Fleece" and sold ten feet for $18,000--hadn't money enough to buy
    a crape bonnet when Sing-Sing Tommy killed her husband at Baldy Johnson's
    wake last spring. The "Last Chance" had found a "clay casing" and knew
    they were "right on the ledge"--consequence, "feet" that went begging
    yesterday were worth a brick house apiece to-day, and seedy owners who
    could not get trusted for a drink at any bar in the country yesterday
    were roaring drunk on champagne to-day and had hosts of warm personal
    friends in a town where they had forgotten how to bow or shake hands from
    long-continued want of practice. Johnny Morgan, a common loafer, had
    gone to sleep in the gutter and waked up worth a hundred thousand
    dollars, in consequence of the decision in the "Lady Franklin and Rough
    and Ready" lawsuit. And so on--day in and day out the talk pelted our
    ears and the excitement waxed hotter and hotter around us.

    I would have been more or less than human if I had not gone mad like the
    rest. Cart-loads of solid silver bricks, as large as pigs of lead, were
    arriving from the mills every day, and such sights as that gave substance
    to the wild talk about me. I succumbed and grew as frenzied as the
    craziest.

    Every few days news would come of the discovery of a bran-new mining
    region; immediately the papers would teem with accounts of its richness,
    and away the surplus population would scamper to take possession. By the
    time I was fairly inoculated with the disease, "Esmeralda" had just had a
    run and "Humboldt" was beginning to shriek for attention. "Humboldt!
    Humboldt!" was the new cry, and straightway Humboldt, the newest of the
    new, the richest of the rich, the most marvellous of the marvellous
    discoveries in silver-land was occupying two columns of the public prints
    to "Esmeralda's" one. I was just on the point of starting to Esmeralda,
    but turned with the tide and got ready for Humboldt. That the reader may
    see what moved me, and what would as surely have moved him had he been
    there, I insert here one of the newspaper letters of the day. It and
    several other letters from the same calm hand were the main means of
    converting me. I shall not garble the extract, but put it in just as it
    appeared in the Daily Territorial Enterprise:

    But what about our mines? I shall be candid with you. I shall
    express an honest opinion, based upon a thorough examination.
    Humboldt county is the richest mineral region upon God's footstool.
    Each mountain range is gorged with the precious ores. Humboldt is
    the true Golconda.

    The other day an assay of mere croppings yielded exceeding four
    thousand dollars to the ton. A week or two ago an assay of just
    such surface developments made returns of seven thousand dollars to
    the ton. Our mountains are full of rambling prospectors. Each day
    and almost every hour reveals new and more startling evidences of
    the profuse and intensified wealth of our favored county. The metal
    is not silver alone. There are distinct ledges of auriferous ore.
    A late discovery plainly evinces cinnabar. The coarser metals are
    in gross abundance. Lately evidences of bituminous coal have been
    detected. My theory has ever been that coal is a ligneous
    formation. I told Col. Whitman, in times past, that the
    neighborhood of Dayton (Nevada) betrayed no present or previous
    manifestations of a ligneous foundation, and that hence I had no
    confidence in his lauded coal mines. I repeated the same doctrine
    to the exultant coal discoverers of Humboldt. I talked with my
    friend Captain Burch on the subject. My pyrhanism vanished upon his
    statement that in the very region referred to he had seen petrified
    trees of the length of two hundred feet. Then is the fact
    established that huge forests once cast their grim shadows over this
    remote section. I am firm in the coal faith.

    Have no fears of the mineral resources of Humboldt county. They are
    immense--incalculable.

    Let me state one or two things which will help the reader to better
    comprehend certain items in the above. At this time, our near neighbor,
    Gold Hill, was the most successful silver mining locality in Nevada. It
    was from there that more than half the daily shipments of silver bricks
    came. "Very rich" (and scarce) Gold Hill ore yielded from $100 to $400
    to the ton; but the usual yield was only $20 to $40 per ton--that is to
    say, each hundred pounds of ore yielded from one dollar to two dollars.
    But the reader will perceive by the above extract, that in Humboldt from
    one fourth to nearly half the mass was silver! That is to say, every one
    hundred pounds of the ore had from two hundred dollars up to about three
    hundred and fifty in it. Some days later this same correspondent wrote:

    I have spoken of the vast and almost fabulous wealth of this
    region--it is incredible. The intestines of our mountains are
    gorged with precious ore to plethora. I have said that nature
    has so shaped our mountains as to furnish most excellent
    facilities for the working of our mines. I have also told you
    that the country about here is pregnant with the finest mill
    sites in the world. But what is the mining history of Humboldt?
    The Sheba mine is in the hands of energetic San Francisco
    capitalists. It would seem that the ore is combined with metals
    that render it difficult of reduction with our imperfect mountain
    machinery. The proprietors have combined the capital and labor
    hinted at in my exordium. They are toiling and probing. Their
    tunnel has reached the length of one hundred feet. From primal
    assays alone, coupled with the development of the mine and public
    confidence in the continuance of effort, the stock had reared
    itself to eight hundred dollars market value. I do not know that
    one ton of the ore has been converted into current metal. I do
    know that there are many lodes in this section that surpass the
    Sheba in primal assay value. Listen a moment to the calculations
    of the Sheba operators. They purpose transporting the ore
    concentrated to Europe. The conveyance from Star City (its
    locality) to Virginia City will cost seventy dollars per ton;
    from Virginia to San Francisco, forty dollars per ton; from
    thence to Liverpool, its destination, ten dollars per ton. Their
    idea is that its conglomerate metals will reimburse them their
    cost of original extraction, the price of transportation, and the
    expense of reduction, and that then a ton of the raw ore will net
    them twelve hundred dollars. The estimate may be extravagant.
    Cut it in twain, and the product is enormous, far transcending
    any previous developments of our racy Territory.

    A very common calculation is that many of our mines will yield
    five hundred dollars to the ton. Such fecundity throws the Gould
    & Curry, the Ophir and the Mexican, of your neighborhood, in the
    darkest shadow. I have given you the estimate of the value of a
    single developed mine. Its richness is indexed by its market
    valuation. The people of Humboldt county are feet crazy. As I
    write, our towns are near deserted. They look as languid as a
    consumptive girl. What has become of our sinewy and athletic
    fellow-citizens? They are coursing through ravines and over
    mountain tops. Their tracks are visible in every direction.
    Occasionally a horseman will dash among us. His steed betrays
    hard usage. He alights before his adobe dwelling, hastily
    exchanges courtesies with his townsmen, hurries to an assay
    office and from thence to the District Recorder's. In the
    morning, having renewed his provisional supplies, he is off again
    on his wild and unbeaten route. Why, the fellow numbers already
    his feet by the thousands. He is the horse-leech. He has the
    craving stomach of the shark or anaconda. He would conquer
    metallic worlds.

    This was enough. The instant we had finished reading the above article,
    four of us decided to go to Humboldt. We commenced getting ready at
    once. And we also commenced upbraiding ourselves for not deciding
    sooner--for we were in terror lest all the rich mines would be found and
    secured before we got there, and we might have to put up with ledges that
    would not yield more than two or three hundred dollars a ton, maybe. An
    hour before, I would have felt opulent if I had owned ten feet in a Gold
    Hill mine whose ore produced twenty-five dollars to the ton; now I was
    already annoyed at the prospect of having to put up with mines the
    poorest of which would be a marvel in Gold Hill.
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    Chapter 29
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