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The preliminary report, submitted in answer to these inquiries, embraced such information as could be obtained within the brief period allowed for its preparation. Although imperfect in many respects, it was received by the people of the Pacific coast as an indication of a growing interest on the part of government in the development of our mineral resources. It was a source of gratification to the miners to find that, after years of unprofitable toil, during which they had contributed largely to the national wealth, the peculiar character of their occupation was beginning to be understood, and its influence in promoting settlement and civilization to be better appreciated.
The report which I now have the honor to submit is the result of many years of labor and exploration. It contains the aggregated experience of the ablest statisticians and experts on the Pacific coast. If there be any merit in the work, it belongs chiefly to my co-laborers, who have devoted themselves with such unselfish zeal to the promotion of the objects designed to be accomplished by this commission. The fund appropriated by Congress was insufficient to admit of compensation adequate to such labor; but assistance was cheerfully given, as a matter of public benefit, without regard to personal or pecuniary considerations. When it is taken into view that this inquiry extends over the Territories of Utah, Arizona, Montana, Idaho, and Washington, and the States of Oregon, California, and Nevada, embracing an area of country stretching from the Rocky mountains to the Pacific, and from Mexico to British Columbia; that in many parts of this vast mineral range travel is still difficult and expensive; that the business of mining is new to the American people, and the collection of statistics unsystematized in this department of industry, it will be conceded that as much has been accomplished as could reasonably be expected.
An erroneous idea prevails that the collection of mining statistics involves original explorations and detailed personal examinations of every mine throughout the vast range of our mineral regions, with scientific and practical deductions relative to the treatment of ores; and it is expected by some that the information obtained shall be entirely new, and furnish a complete index for the purchase, sale or working of every mine in the country. Apart from the fact that such an investigation would require the employment for many years of a large scientific force at great expense, it would be difficult even then to present statistics which had not already been made public. The same sources of information are open to all. The mining press of the country, closely connected with that interest, directly identified with its progress, in daily and familiar contact with its details, makes it a special duty to keep up the current record of cost and production, success and failure. There may be misstatement or exaggeration, but not more so on the part of the press, which is held to a certain accountability by public sentiment, than on that of individuals who may be prejudiced or irresponsible. Statements publicly made and thoroughly criticised are as likely to be correct as casual examinations made by persons visiting a special locality, unfamiliar with its growth and progress, and compelled after all to depend upon information derived from others. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that there are difficulties in the way of absolute accuracy.
Every miner naturally desires that his mine should be carefully examined and reported upon in detail, especially if, as in the majority of cases, it be unproductive. Without reflecting that a mere list of the unproductive mines would fill a volume, the miner is disposed to estimate the value of a report by its mention or omission of that in which he is most interested. However disposed a government agent may be to meet the wishes of the mining community in this respect, it is equally important to bear in mind that this inquiry is not designed for speculative purposes or the promotion of special or individual interests. The public desire reliable statements, and herein lies the difficulty-a spirit of exaggeration on the one hand, a demand for facts on the other. To afford satis
faction to all is impossible. I have therefore relied upon my own sense of fairness, and endeavored to present the truth impartially.
That errors may have been committed, and false statements given by interested parties, is probable, but precaution has been taken to guard against them. The selection of assistants was made with reference to their integrity and capacity. Instructions were given to them in detail, enjoining careful scrutiny and verification of every statement. The revision of their work, under these precautions, has occupied more than four months. There is no subject upon which greater difference of opinion exists than that of mining statistics. It is an open field in which there is room for discrepancy under any existing circumstances. No two persons rate the product of the precious metals alike. The superintendent of a mine often furnishes information which when submitted to the board of directors is pronounced incorrect. Representatives from the mining districts are apt to rate both population and products higher than persons who have made them special subjects of inquiry, but whose opportunities for judging may not be so favorable.
A fruitful source of error is in supposing that the ordinary channels of transportation cannot be relied upon as a clue to the gross product of the mines. It is alleged that large quantities of the precious metals are carried away in the pockets of the miners. Even if this were so, it is not reasonable to suppose that the miners continue to burden themselves with their treasure after arriving at their place of destination. It must find its way into the mint or branch mints for coinage or the custom-house manifests for exportation. It cannot be assayed without paying its internal revenue tax. The gross yield of all the mines can be determined with approximate accuracy. It is more difficult to arrive at a subdivision, when it comes to the product of each State and Territory. In California, for example, during the early days of placer mining, before the transportation of bullion by organized companies had become a business entitled to confidence, a large proportion of the gold derived from the mines was carried out of the country by private hands. There was comparatively little danger of loss. The routes to San Francisco were short, public, and protected by general interest. From that point to New York the passengers usually combined for mutual protection, and the risk was inconsiderable. It was not until the idle and the profligate began to obtain an ascendency, the business of transportation by express more firmly established, and the mines more difficult to work with profit, that the increase of risks and reduction of charges resulted in the general abandonment of this system. It doubtless prevails to a limited extent now, but the transportation of bullion by private hands in California is exceptional. It probably does not exceed seven per cent. in the aggregate, and this applies only to the routes by which it reaches San Francisco. In reference to silver it is impossible that any considerable amount can escape notice in this way. The yield of Nevada can be determined with more accuracy than that of other States. Silver predominates in the mines; and where gold is obtained it is not in an uncombined form. When we come to Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon the greatest difficulty is experienced.
Shipments of treasure from Montana and Idaho may become incorporated with others before reaching their destination. From Montana most of the bullion goes east. Two main routes are open to examination-one by the Missouri river, the other by Salt Lake City. Indian disturbances and the insecurity of the roads have during the past year almost entirely closed the latter; so that the chief exit is by the former route. Shipments from Idaho are made chiefly by way of Portland and the inland stage route through Humboldt and across the Sierra Nevada. On both of these routes it is alleged that they are liable to become merged with the products of other States and Territories. It has been impossible to obtain an account of the shipments from each agency at the express office of Wells, Fargo & Co., at San Francisco. For reasons of private expe
diency they refrain from giving the desired information. We have, however, the aggregate receipts at their office, and knowing very nearly what amount can fairly be credited to California, Nevada, and British Columbia, tish Columbia, can draw reasonable conclusions as to the proportion derived from Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. From the best information available the following is a near approximation to the total gold and silver product for the year ending January 1, 1867: California.
Add for bullion derived from unknown sources within our States and Territories, unaccounted for by assessors and express companies, &c..
Total product of the United States..
The bullion product of Washington is estimated by the surveyor general at $1,500,000 That of Oregon is rated as high as $2,500,000. Intelligent residents of Idaho and Montana represent that the figures given in the above estimate, so flo as these Territories are concerned, are entirely too low, and might be doubled without exceeding the truth. The product of Idaho alone for this year is said to be from $15,000,000 to $18,000,000. That of Montana is estimated by the surveyor general at $20,000,000. Similar exceptions are taken to the estimates of Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. As I have no grounds. for acceptin these statements beyond the assertion that most of the bullion is carried away in the pockets of the miners, I am inclined to rely upon the returns of the assessors, express companies, and official tables of export. Admitting that a fraction over seven per cent. may have escaped notice, although reasonable allowance is made for this in the estimate of $70,000,000, and that a considerable sum may be derived from sources not enumerated, I feel confident the additional allowance of $5,000,000 is sufficient to cover the entire bullion product of the United States for the year 1867, thus making the aggregate from all sources $75,000,000, as stated in the report of the Secretary of the Treasury.
I have endeavored to obtain returns of the annual product of each State and Territory since 1848; but, for the reasons already stated, and in the absence of reliable statistics, it has been impossible to make the necessary divisions with more than approximate accuracy. As nearly as I can judge from the imperfect returns available, the following, in round numbers, is not far from the total pro
New Mexico and Arizona.
In jewelry, plate, spoons, &c., and retained for circulation on Pacific coast..
$25,000,000 20, 000, 000
Add for amounts buried or concealed and amounts from unenumerated sources, and of which no account may have been taken..
6,500,000 1,000,000 2, 000, 000 2,500,000 500,000 500,000
70, 000, 000
5, 000, 000 75, 000, 000
$900, 000, 000
90, 000, 000 65, 000, 000 45, 000, 000 10, 000, 000 20, 000, 000 25,000,000 5, 000, 000 45,000,000
1,205, 000, 000
50, 000, 000
1, 255, 000, 000
This statement requires explanation. Up to 1855 a considerable portion of the gold taken from California was not manifested. In 1849 the actual yield was probably $10,000,000; in 1850, $35,000,000; in 1851, $46,000,000; in 1852, $50,000,000; in 1853, $60,000,000; and in 1854, $53,000,000. The amount unaccounted for by manifest was not so great after the last date. In 1861 Nevada and Idaho commenced adding their treasure to the shipments, so that after that date a deduction for the amounts produced from these sources would be necessary, if the manifest alone were taken as a criterion, in order to arrive at the product of California.
An addition should be made for the amount retained for currency, estimated by some as high as $45,000,000, but probably not exceeding $35,000,000 or $40,000,000; and for plate, jewelry, &c., of California gold, say $2,000,000, and Nevada silver, $3,000,000,
Incorporated in these shipments are the amounts received from Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Arizona, Washington, and British Columbia; but these cannot be deducted from the manifest of exports, according to the express returns, since the proportions are not accurately known of the amounts, retained and shipped, derived from separate sources.
The general condition of the mining interest on the Pacific slope is encouraging. There have been fewer individual losses than during past years, and the yield of the mines has been comparatively steady and reliable.
Fluctuations in mining stock have not been so great as usual, and those wild and injurious speculations which have impaired confidence in this great interest are gradually becoming narrowed down to individual operators, whose influence in the community is limited.
Legitimate mining has been as prosperous as other pursuits, though it cannot be denied that there are uncertainties attached to this peculiar business which render it hazardous and require more than ordinary profits to make it remunerative under the most favorable circumstances. It may seem strange in this view that the gross product of bullion has been gradually diminishing for some years past, but a brief reference to the history of mining operations on the Pacific coast will explain this apparent anomaly.
The existence of gold in California was known long before the acquisition of that territory by the United States. Placers had long been worked on a limited scale by the Indians; but the priests who had established the missionary settlements, knowing that a dissemination of the discoveries thus made would frustrate their plans for the conversion of the aboriginal races, discouraged by all means in their power the prosecution of this pursuit, and in some instances suppressed it by force. As early as December, 1843, however, Manuel Castanares, a Mexican officer, made strenuous efforts to arouse the attention of the Mexican government to the importance of this great interest.
It is not my purpose to enter into a detail of the events preceding the discovery by Marshall on the 19th of January, 1848, or the subsequent excitement which resulted in the opening of the great placer mines, and the rush of immigration in 1849. Reference is made to these incidents in the history of California. merely to show. the changes in the character of the business. At first gold was easily found, and required but little skill in separating it from the loose gravel or sand in which it was imbedded. Frequently it lay so near the surface in such quantities and in grains of such form and size, that a simple pan or rocker comprised all the means necessary, with ordinary labor, to insure extraordinary profits. Mere will and muscle were sufficient. Our people were inexperienced, but ingenious in devices for saving labor, energetic and industrious.
Unskilled as they were, nearly all who went into the business realized handsome profits; and the reports of their success induced a rapid immigration from the Atlantic States, South America, Australia, and other parts of the world.
Thus towns were built up; a new and extensive commerce sprang into existence;
lands were cultivated to supply the miners; roads were cut through the difficult passes of the mountains; steamboat and stage lines were established; and the country from the western slopes of the Sierra Nevadas to the shores of the Pacific, for many hundred miles north and south, became suddenly filled with an industrious, intelligent and enterprising population. Even in those early days, however, as the surface placers receded towards their sources, time and money were expended in the rediscovery of inventions which had been known to the old world for centuries.
With all the genius and enterprise of the American people, no important discovery in the way of machinery for mining was made which had not been long in use in South America, Mexico, or Europe. The same necessities gave rise to identical contrivances for saving labor, and it is sufficiently creditable to our miners to say that without any knowledge of what others had done, they frequently improved upon the originals. The fact demonstrates very clearly that want of knowledge, even in the preliminary stages of mining, is a source of loss. the precious metals are easily obtained, and the profits of individual labor are large, less injury results from ignorance than in the subsequent stages of the business, when capital is required and the process of reduction is more complicated. Mining differs essentially from every other branch of industry. Unlike agriculture, there is but one crop in a mine. As the work progresses the stock of mineral is decreased, and can never be replenished by any human art. There is no opportunity of recovering what has been lost or wasted.
The farmer changes his crop or his system of cultivation; and his land can be improved and his profits increased by experience. So also in manufactures and other pursuits. Hence it is important that the experience of mankind should be preserved so that error may be avoided.
Comparatively little progress was made in vein or quartz mining prior to 1860. Quartz veins containing the precious metals were discovered in California in 1850, and for several years experiments were made in working them, generally with loss. The Mexicans with their arastras were the only successful quartz miners. Experience in their own country enabled them to realize fair profits upon their labors. Their system of mining, however, was too slow for an American popu lation, to whom large investments of capital were of no consequence, provided there was a prospect of immediate and abundant returns.
The discovery and development of the Comstock lode in Nevada gave the first impulse to this kind of mining. The wonderful richness of that vein attracted attention at once, and drew from all parts of the world men of scientific attainments. By the developments made in working it, the principle was established that quartz veins could be rendered a profitable source of supply on the Pacific coast. The experience thus gained impelled the adventurous miners of California to attempt new systems, and devote themselves with greater vigor to the opening and working of the gold-bearing veins in that State.
In 1860 the product from this source in California did not exceed $2,000,000. As the surface diggings gave out, a resort to vein mining became indispensable.
The proportion of bullion now derived from various sources within the limits of the State is about as follows: from surface diggings, $3,000,000; from cement or deep-lying placers, $18,000,000; from quartz mines, $9,000,000-total, $25,000,000.06
Professor Ashburner estimates that about 80 per cent. of the gold is produced from the mines lying north of the Mokelumne. The production of the southern mines is diminishing every year, and the surface diggings will soon be exhausted. Wherever the latter predominated a sudden but ephemeral prosperity was engendered. General stagnation now prevails; towns are depopulated; real estate is of little value; business is depressed. The population consists of hundreds in many counties where it formerly consisted of thousands. Reference to the accompanying reports will show the present condition of these