Virginia, Nev., April 19, 1866.
Editor Memorial and Rock:
April Fool Day.
Being the last great holiday observed here, in this land of sage-brush and silver ledges, except Sundays, which are always celebrated in a great measure as such, among all Christian nations, I will speak of, by way of commencement to my letter. Not because it was the commencement of the month, particularly, or that I should have commenced this letter long before that date; but because I saw more people made "April fools" of by means of all sorts of foolish devices on that occasion, than I ever did before. First thing in the morning, in the local columns of the Enterprise, there appeared a very innocent looking, but somewhat startling item, to the effect that a large female cinnamon bear, with three cubs, had just been captured near the sink of Carson River, some twenty-five miles from here, by a couple of soldiers belonging to Fort Churchill, and brought to this city about 9 o'clock the previous evening, en route for San Francisco, and placed temporarily for safe keeping in a small building at the rear of Piper's saloon, which is a prominent place of resort in the heart of the city. The details of the capture were given, and the item wound up with giving the weight of the bears. The old she one weighed 1,300 pounds, and the cubs, which were but two months old, weighed 1,100 pounds each. Now the item looked reasonable enough, except that cinnamon bears always live in the mountains, and never fool away their time out in the deserts and plains. And then too, no one ever saw a bear of that species weighing half so much, to say nothing of those "hefty" little cubs; yet no one person in a dozen stopped to consider such points, but rushed up bald-headed to see "those bears." It is estimated that nearly a thousand persons, including several ladies, go thus humbugged. Passing through the saloon and opening the rear door, the bear-faced sell was made apparent, and shouts of laughter assailed the victims as they came out. Of course the saloon keeper did a very good business, for most of those who got sold took it in good part, and "stood the drinks" manfully. Some men came several miles to "see the bears." Then, too, there was an old scalaway of a Piute Indian, going begging round town, with a folded paper in his hand, which regaled the unsuspiciously benevolent who opened the document, with the following legend: "Youse an April fool, and the greenest kind of a d---d, long-eared donkey, at that; please give me two bits." Of course few could withstand such a heart-rending appeal to their generosity, and accordingly, to this warrior who called for "quarter," they gave it, and the heart of this fiery, untamed savage waxed exceeding glad at the continual increase of the funds in his treasury, while his four squaws followed in his train, subduedly rejoicing in the good fortune of their dusky lord and master. But yet, much good it didn't do them either, for the old ring-nosed, ham-colored old scrub, contrived, before dark, to allow himself to be cleaned out of every cent of it by two or three of his fellow warriors, at a quiet game of "draw poker," in a vacant lot near the outskirts of the city, which the Paiutes use as their gambling saloon, and to do them justice they imitate the virtues of their pale-faced brethren very well, in the playing of an excellent game of poker. Indeed, some of them are said to be hard to beat at that game. Our victimized savage has not been able to understand as yet why it is that his magic document won't bring him in a cent since the first, but on the contrary is productive of nothing but an occasional kick, instead of quarters.
It was not advisable on that day, to attempt to pick up a piece of money apparently dropped by some one on the side-walk, or on a floor anywhere, for it was sure to be nailed fast, and bogus at that; or it had a concealed string to it, and would suddenly disappear just as your hand was nearly upon it. Old Hats, placed in tempting positions, inviting a kick from passers by, were certain to have half a dozen bricks or a big stone concealed under them, as several deluded experimenters testify to their sorrow. I often feel glad that I was not born on the first of April, for I should be sure of being always in doubt as to my identity, thinking whether or no my mother hadn't been "April fooled" someway, and some ordinary scrub of an infant substituted for my real self, thus compelling me to assume a false position in society ever afterwards. Yes, and who knows but that I might even have turned out a pickpocket, chicken thief, burglar, copperhead, or even a member of the legislature, all in consequence of such substitution? Ugh! the very idea of the thing is terrific to contemplate. Why I have a friend in this city who is over thirty years old, and yet had his vote challenged at the last election by an Irishman, on the ground that he was not old enough; and all because he happened to be happened to be born on the 29th of February, 1836, and this Mick had heard him remark once that he had only seen eight birth-days. Mick was right enough, however; but parents ought to bear these little inconveniences in mind. A day sooner or a day later would be all right.
Since the close of the war of the salve-holders’ rebellion, everything in the line of politics has been comparatively quiet, although the people of Nevada always take a lively interest in the doings at Washington, and we certainly do realize the great advantage of the overland telegraph, for we get the news about as soon as you do from Washington, and therefore are as well posted in Congressional affairs as you are. Nevada has ever been truly loyal, and a clause in her constitution declares that all States owe paramount allegiance to the general government, and that no State has a right to secede from the Union. At the general election last Fall, the poor copperheads never got a taste of anything but defeat, although verily their souls did hanker "muchly" after the loaves and fishes of office. As I said before, they never got even a taste, neither will they at the coming city election on May 7th. We've got them right where we want them, and mean to keep them there. We uphold Congress, and don't go much on old Andy Johnson. If he had pardoned less and hung more of those throat-cutting bush-whackers, the whole country would have been better off, and the work of "reconstruction" very much facilitated. He would be doing about the right thing, and would recover some of his lost laurels even now in the estimation of Union men, here, if he would only just string up Jeff Davis for about half an hour. It would have a beneficial effect on the reconstructing of that old hook-nosed rebel chief. But then, after all, when we come to take a critical survey of the real status of the case, the Southern people have always had their own way in everything. They chose to be ugly in Congress, and talk bad to the other side of the house, and they were suffered to do so. They chose to make the Yankee members angry, and were suffered to do so. They chose to call us all "nigger-worshippers," "abolitionists," "slave-stealers," and dastardly cowards generally, of whom one common-sized chiv could whip five, easily, every morning, by way of exercise, before breakfast, and they were suffered to do so. They chose to keep niggers, buy and sell them, work, eat and sleep with them, and in fact go in for the most intimate kind of "negro equality," by mingling the races and infusing their high-toned blood into the veins of the black race, thus elevating the African at the expense of the Anglo Saxon, and they were allowed the blessed privilege of doing so. Look at the mulattos, quadroons, octaroons, and other degrees of races commingled, and there you see the true personification and actual illustration of "negro equality," about which they prate so much. Rut they would not be satisfied with miscegenation; they would have the negro free, so they stirred up one difficulty after another, and finally a big war, by means of which the negroes were freed pretty fast. They were told by the good and great Abraham Lincoln at one time, that if they would only lay down their arms within a certain specified period, they might keep what slaves they had left; but no: they were bound to free the last nigger, or get whipped, and they were suffered to do both. But they've not got enough yet: they will have their own way. Not satisfied with emancipating the negro, they are now bent on giving him the right of suffrage, and in order to force the Yankees to terms in the matter, they send nothing but blood-stained rebels to represent them at Washington in the Congress of the nation. Ah! there's where they've got us. We will have to knuckle to them yet once again, and the day is not far distant when we shall have to proclaim universal suffrage. Then, and not till then, will the South be represented by loyal men, and the United States be bound firmly together in one common bond of brotherhood, "one and inseparable" through ages to come. Yes, if they will force matters, and insist on having the whole loyal negro race in the South allowed to vote, and take an active, controlling part in the election of the rulers of the nation, in the name of Andrew Jackson, Anthony Wayne, Ethan Allen and old Miles Standish, let them have their own way. After this is done, send plenty of school-teachers down South, missionaries we may say, for the conversion of the heathen portion of that population, - the poor white trash, etc. Establish everywhere free schools, and educational institutions for the benefit and alleviation of the whites, leaving the negroes to work out their own salvation in that respect, with perhaps a little assistance, and believe me, the new lights and humanizing influences of education will do more towards refinement, amity of feeling, and consequent united power and advancement as a nation, than legislative enactments can do in all coming time.
Mineralogical – The Comstock Lode
The mines in the immediate neighborhood of this city are confined principally to the great and far famed Comstock ledge. This famous lode is being worked for the distance of about four miles in length. It is found to have a general "dip" or inclination east of about 42 degrees down through the surrounding strata, and is now being worked to the depth of over 700 feet perpendicular measurement; some shafts will attain a depth of 1000 feet this fall. The lower levels of the mines along it, are at the present time yielding as rich ore as ever, and in greater quantities, and there is every reason to suppose the ledge to be inexhaustible and extending towards the centre of the earth. In places it is nearly 400 feet in width. There are numerous other ledges of much smaller size hereabouts, but none of them are found to pay, as yet. The general yield of the Comstock ore is from $20 to $100 to the ton, although some of the richest yields $10,000 or more to the ton; such ore however, is not so very plenty. Ore that goes less than $20 per ton does not pay, with the present appliances and machinery, although we have as good as there are in the world.
This district is destined to become of much note in the world, by reason of its many rich gold-bearing ledges. It was principally discovered last summer, but owing to the shortness of the season, it was not much developed before the heavy winter snows fell and impeded all mining operations. It is situated on the western side of the summit of the Sierra Nevada, on the Henness Pass route, the regular stages between here and Sacramento passing directly through the southern portion of the district. It is within the borders of Nevada County, California, and is about 20 miles square, well watered, and heavily timbered, but they being so near the summit of the Sierra, snow remains in places all the year round. I was over there last September, reporting upon the district, and in my perambulations among the mines, cooled my tongue with snow from many a snow bank, although at the same time I was wearing a linen coat, and sweating from the heat of the sun. About 150 persons wintered there, but since the opening of spring, the population of the principal town, Meador Lake, has increased to over 400, including many families. A grand rush will be made for Excelsior within the next two months. There is about nine feet of snow there on a level, at present. It was rather of an open, poor winter for snow, otherwise there would have been about fifteen feet there, yet notwithstanding this great depth of snow, the atmosphere is so tempered by the sea breezes from the Pacific, and the balmy air of the valleys that it is not so cold there as it is here, where the deepest snow of the past winter was only a foot in depth. In fact it is much colder in Old Plymouth. The Pacific railroad will be completed across the Sierra in two years from now, and will pass where the stages do at present, through this district, which is well named Excelsior, for I believe it will prove the richest yet discovered on the coast.
This district, which has been recently discovered, lies away in the extreme southern portion of this State, on the Colorado river. The ledges are said to be small, but rich in the precious metal. The State lines, on the east and south, have been recently extended, so that the extreme south embraces a small portion of the Colorado at a point which it is said to be the head of navigation. By reference to a map of that portion of the country you will see where the river Virgin empties into the Colorado, at which point the Colorado takes a sharp turn to the southward. This is the point of which I speak, which is considered quite an important one to this State, for being the head of navigation on the Colorado, it gives us direct water communication with the Pacific Ocean, by means of this river, and the Gulf of California, and freight to Salt Lake, Reese River or the southern part of this State can be landed there in Pahranagat, saving an immense amount of land transportation. Pahranagat is distant about 500 miles from this city, and between here and there, as you can see by the map, lies a large unexplored region of country; a tract embracing some 250 miles in extent of the southern part of the State. It is as far as known, about as barren and utterly sterile a scrap of country as lies out of doors anywhere, being pretty much destitute of water, wood or vegetables. It includes Death Valley, so called by reason of a party of men who perished there in trying to explore its desert fastnesses. Some two weeks ago, the Governor of this State Gov. Blasdell - started with a party of some thirty persons, escorted by a company of cavalry, and well provided with everything necessary for their arduous journey, to explore this unknown region, and go through if possible to Pahranagat. They were last heard of four days ago, by means of a regular correspondent of the Enterprise who accompanies the expedition. They were then on the borders of the great unknown, and had sent scouting parties out ahead, who reported finding no water. The Governor also writes back, saying that there appears to be so many difficulties and dangers in the way, that he may have to take some other route. He goes to see for himself of what advantage to the country this important point on the Colorado really is or can be made. Pahranagat Valley is said to be small but fertile, as well as rich in mines, and a town is already started there. But we shall know more about it when the Governor gets back.
With the first starting in of spring, large numbers of ambitious people started out for the far-off territory of Montana, which the map tells you is in the Rocky Mountains, near the source of the Missouri River. Rich reports, and a few lucky persons coming in from there with lots of gold, induced this exodus of the floating population; but the excitement is pretty much over, and the rush has subsided. Rich placer mines undoubtedly exist there, same as were in California, but the season for working is very short. The sun in winter lies to a great depth, and the frost is so very intense that the mercury not only freezes, but men are often found frozen to death there. This winter weather is said to last for about eight months in the year, and the most comfortable places to be found there, are in heavy log houses with big fireplaces and plenty of wood, or in dwellings excavated in hillsides. Decidedly an uncomfortable prospect for an unmarried man. Well, whatever may be the real truth of the matter, it is most undoubtedly rather of a hard old country to reside in, let the mines be ever so rich.
New Granada, Ho!
About the same time that the rush commenced for Montana this spring, exciting news also came from New Granada. The richest kind of placer gold mines were reported to have been discovered there, on the Barbacoes river. Straightway and forthwith, numerous of our most excitable fortune seekers shovel their clothes into their old carpet sacks, and the next steamer from San Francisco took them down to Panama, on their way to the land of promise.
The mines in question are situated about 300 miles south of Panama. An English steamer plying between Panama and Lima, twice a month, touches at Tumaco; fare - cabin $45 - deck $25. From Tumaco 150 miles up the river, you go in canoes, pro-poled by big naked buck niggers, to the town of Barbacoes, where the mines are.
This town contains two or three hundred houses, built of bamboo, leaves, mud, etc., and raised on poles, to get out of the way of the snakes, scorpions, mud, and such like commodities. It rains there every night, but the temperature only varying a few degrees from infernal hot at any time the year round, no sides to the houses are required - nothing but a floor and roof. They get into their houses by means of ladders; so when a man desires to lock up for the night, all he has to do is simply to pull up his ladder after him.
The whole country is described as being covered with an almost impenetrable tropical undergrowth, so that a person has to cut his way through, wherever he goes. The mines are on the western slope of the Andes, but as to how rich they are, is the great question at present. Two friends of mine, both reliable men of much practical experience, who went down there, have just written back. One of them says it is the richest country he ever saw, and considers his fortune made. He speaks in glowing terms of the stores of wealth within the grasp of any energetic American who will take hold of any portion of the mines and work them, and says the country is a very agreeable one to live in, healthy, temperate, etc., etc. My other friend says it is the cussedest country the Lord ever made, and not fit for a white man to go to, much less live in; deadly unhealthy, malarious, damp, but a few degrees cooler than Tophet, knee deep in snakes, centipedes, tarantulas, scorpions, jiggers, and other little atrocities, to say nothing of vampire bats with bellies that hold a quart, which light on a poor fellow who happens to be unsheltered, and suck him dry in a short time, as far as blood is concerned, leaving him like a lemon that has been subjected to the squeezer. The mines he denounces as a big “bilk,” and the whole excitement to have been erected by a few speculators. Now, hang me if I know which to believe. One of them certainly lies like "Tom Pepper," but which is it? The story of the last one is corroborated by several others, so that I am inclined to believe him, bats and all; but then again, they all say there is one rich placer gold mine there being worked, which yields numerous pounds of gold, daily; and such being the case, there must by all rules of reason and common sense be other mines there just as good. Well, time will tell. But I must draw this long-winded letter to a close. I have perhaps strung out on it too long, but I was trying to make amends for past neglect.