Sunday . . . . . . . . . . . . January 11, 1885



An Affluence of Snow -- Austin Winter Holiday Amenities -- New Year Propositions -- A Miner's Death – Manhattan Milling -- Valuable Dust and Rich Crushings -- Thousands for Tribute -- Dump and Gob Pickers -- Dale's Gobblings -- Ruby Silver -- The Curfew Bell - Valedictory -- Off the Track -- One More River to Cross -- Go West, Young Man -- Battle Mountain -- Reno - Carson -- Railroad Folks -- Social and Legislative

[Correspondence of the Enterprise.]

AUSTIN, December 31, 1884.

The year closes on Austin with a zero thermometer, and the whole Reese River section "snowed under." A foot of snow covers the town, and Lander Hill, Mount Prometheus and the other near croppings of the old Toiyabe range look like a vast row of huge circus tents without any flags, or banners, sternly silent in their ghastly coldness. Yet throughout this quaint little old town an air of comfort and holiday cheer is prevalent. The famous little street railway locomotive "Mules' Relief," snorts, puffs and plunges up and down the track through town, bringing up carloads of wood, general merchandise, provisions and all sorts of supplies from the Nevada Central terminus, half a mile below town, at the mouth of the canyon, men and women go slipping and tumbling up and down the snow and ice-bound streets, young Austin with his dashy little cutter and young Piute with his sled of staves find eligible coasting places everywhere, and jingling bells tell of sleighing parties and grocery commerce on runners. Chickens and turkeys from the ranches and from Iowa are in the markets, and egg-nog with inspiring variations in the saloons. To-morrow -- when the happy New Year commences -- will soon be here, and many a repentant sinner, reflecting upon his foolishnesses of the past year, will make his regular annual swear-off, resolving to lead a better life in the future, and mortify his internal economy with libations of hot water in place of good whisky or beer, even though his stomach and bowels should moan with resultant neuralgia.


The killing of Sam Woolcock in the Lander shaft, on Christmas Eve, cast a perceptible gloom over the holiday festivities. His death was the result of one of those accidents or casualties formerly so common in the Comstock mines. He and other miners were coming off shift, at 5 P.M., and, in his hurry to be among the first to go up, he attempted to get on board the cage before it had stopped in its proper place at the station. He was caught against the cap timber of the station and knocked down the shaft, falling 200 feet, to the 800 level, into the sump. Both arms were torn off, and one of them was not found until some days afterward. Sammy Woolcock was a Cornishman, and a popular favorite among his countrymen, as well as all others who knew him best. Only the evening previous he was the happiest of the happy, and a leading voice in a hilarious assemblage of Christmas carol singers. The boys had no heart for singing carols after the story of his fearful death was told. His funeral was very fully attended, and over 300 miners followed him to his grave.


A few days ago the Manhattan mill, after a prosperous run of about a year, with a resultant yield of more than a million dollars, shut down for its regular annual clean-up. This generally takes about ten days, but on this occasion the operation was performed in six, and the mill started crushing again day before yesterday. A clean-up of the Manhattan mill is a pretty extensive as well as lucrative affair. Being a dry crushing establishment, the dust and light pulp settles everywhere, and the whole concern has to be thoroughly swept from one end to the other, throughout all the various departments. This dust is the very richest of the ore, and worth hundreds of dollars per ton, consequently the yield of bullion bricks is very heavy. Everything and everybody throughout the mill gets saturated with the light, searching dust, and I am almost afraid to state the fabulous amounts that those old stand-bys, Charley Durning, Jimmy Robinson and Jimmy Sullivan have thrashed out of their old clothes at these clean-ups.


During the closing days of the last milling run, just before the clean-up, the "tributers" hastened to get their "crushings" in, not knowing how long the mill would stop. Tribute ore is generally the richest, because the tributers, in order to lessen the heavy cost of milling as much as possible, sort and dress their ore very carefully and closely, dividing it into three or four classes. These small lots or crushings of ore, generally from five to fifteen tons, give a surprisingly rich yield, sometimes as high as 5,000 per ton. One of the recent crushings mentioned, belonging to Welch & Co., gave the following milling returns per ton: First Class, $3,300; second, $1,200; third, $400; fourth, $175. There was only about five tons of it in all, but it was certainly pretty good-- what there was of it.


Heretofore in this long series of letters I have described the "dump pickers" as boys or men -- generally boys -- who watch around the mining dumps for stray bits of ore which get dumped out among the waste and, but for their eager watchfulness, would be forever lost. "Pickin' dump" and "pickin gob" are pretty much the same thing, only one is above and the other below ground, and both are, of course, purely mining terms. In breasting out these small, very rich veins, the waste rock is thrown back out of the way, and is called the "gob." All the waste necessarily contains more or less scatterings of ore from blasting and handling which can be found by careful search with expert hands and eyes. George W. Dale, a member of the last Legislature, from Lander county, for some time past has worked at the Patriot mine, Yankee Blade, near here. He sharpened picks and made himself generally useful, and tried his hand in the mine very successfully at "pickin' over the gob." He found from ten to 100 pounds a day, and finally had a pretty good crushing, the result of which surprised him. He left a few days ago to see his folks in Kansas and Illinois and attend the New Orleans Exposition. He said he should be gone five or six months and then come back to pick gob again.


The largest and richest piece of ruby silver ore ever sent from these mines to any public exhibition was forwarded recently to the New Orleans Exposition. It weighs about 100 pounds and is almost pure silver, besides being of remarkable beauty, such as pertains only to ruby silver. Some very rich and beautiful ore has been coming from the Lander shaft and other points for several weeks past. None of this character of ore was to be found at the surface, above the water level. In fact it has always seemed a little singular that the first ledge located here, the Pony Express, never paid, but merely led to the discovery of numerous other paying ledges. John Frost, the old original discoverer and locator of them, is still on deck as chief manager of the surface work machinery of all the mines, which belong to the Manhattan Company. May he live numerous years, for I am firmly convinced that when he dies the mines will give out.


Rings just now as I write, as a signal for all youthful boys to go home. It has proven to be a most excellent arrangement. Parents admire it and the boys are greatly benefited, morally and physically. Joe King, our efficient Chief of Police, who rings it at exactly 8 o'clock every evening, never misses giving it the exact eight strokes. And hundreds of people count them on him and set their clocks and watches. If he should ever get off time or miss a stroke an infuriated populace would immediately rush forth and hang him with the bell-rope.


During my residence and journalistic career of three years in Austin I believe I have written up pretty much everything of special interest here, local social and political, and the fading year now falling into the silent sleep of the eternal past, suggests the idea of letting my much-worn pencil also take a rest, for a while at least, so far as this locality is concerned. Moreover, fortune consenting and his Satanic Majesty offering no further objections, before another week shall pass, I propose to take Horace Greeley's advice "Go West, young man," and go upon a visit to the western portion of the State where I formerly spent so many of the happiest and most prosperous years of my life, there to linger awhile over the depressed croppings of the good old Comstock, meander among numerous old time friends, and be with those nearest and dearest to me. I shall leave with many happy memories of Austin, few unpleasant ones, and part with some as true-hearted, unselfish friends here as any I have ever found anywhere. Perhaps in the sweet by-and-by, when the deep snows of the Toiyabe range have melted and run off down the canyons, when the wintry clouds have rolled by, and the honeysuckle and wild plum blossoms are belching forth their fragrance upon the Spring breezes, I will return to take a sniff at the same. Just now the beautiful snow has no charms for me.


BATTLE MOUNTAIN, Nev., January 3.

There's always a river to cross,

Always an effort to make,

If there's anything good to win,

Any rich prize to true;

Yonder the charming scene;

But deep and wide, with a troubled tide,

Is the river that lies between.

The writer of the above lines was eminently correct, and he would all the more appreciate the fact could he be with me just now. I left Austin this morning, but an unfortunate locomotive, in trying to make a flying switch, ran itself off the track, buried its nose in the beautiful snow and went to sleep. This detained us five mortal hours, and we reached Battle Mountain too late to connect with the west bound Central Pacific express train, so here I am caught out and detained for twenty-four hours on my journey. There is only half as much snow here as in Austin -- only six or seven inches -- that's one comfort. Devoutly I mutter a few words of the Lord's Prayer, hum "One more river to cross," telegraph a few explanatory words to my expectant friends, shake the bar-keeper for a hot toddy, get stuck, and then sullenly retire to the dining room. I feel inconsolably revengeful, but these steaks are tough, and as they disappear, together with what biscuits and other fodder that lies about within reach, washed down with a few cups of tea, I wonder why the landlady eyes me so severely. Has she any animosity against me? Then I tramp the broad plank-walk, smoking a mean cigar, wondering which side of the town has the most houses, and what they will take for the lot, and finally subside for the night into a cold, hard bed to catch a few hours' sleep, but only succeed in catching an infernally bad cold. I expect Battle Mountain is rather of a pleasant place to be in when one is there voluntarily. Some very good and agreeable people certainly do live there, for I have found them. The workshops and headquarters of the Nevada Central Railroad are located here, there are some handsome, well-stocked business houses, many neat family residences with fruit trees, and no town on the Pacific Coast is better watered. There are twenty-four artesian wells scattered through the town, all flowing except two, and such clear, cool, soft water, and so much of it running to waste. It's no wonder that they never drink whisky in Battle Mountain when they have such an affluence of glorious water. I forget how many times we crossed Reese river in getting here, but am only anxious to navigate across or along the Humboldt as soon as possible.


RENO, Nev., January 4, 1885.

The train of deliverance came to Battle Mountain at 12:30 PM. to-day, about an hour and a half late, and I was soon being whirled merrily westward, at a pace that made up the lost time before we reached Wadsworth. We skirted the Humboldt, and we crossed and recrossed it to my satisfaction, and when the great broad, frosty Sink was left behind, it was a comfort to know that there was only "one more river to cross," and that was the Truckee. Yet we crossed it and got on the wrong side, and had to cross again. Oh! how many more Truckees have we to cross? Sharp 8 o'clock brought us into the glaring lights and wild turmoil of Reno, where I was only too happy to make myself at home and wait for the morning train for Carson.


CARSON CITY, Nev., January 9, 1885.

The last river I crossed after leaving Reno last Monday morning was Steamboat creek, and "Sharon's cwooked wailwoad," as Sutro used to call the Virginia and Truckee, ferried me over that turbulent stream all right. I have met whole droves of old friends and acquaintances since then, from all parts of the State, and especially from the Comstock, attending as members or observers of the opening Legislative session. And speaking of the railroads, almost the first acquaintances I met on arriving were Yerington and Steve Gage. Of course Yerington belongs here. He is one of the fixtures, an integral part and parcel of the country. He has made his mark in the past, his record stands inspection and he is still making, but what is Steve Gage driving at? Only this and nothing more: He accidentally happens to visit Carson at each session of the Legislature, and feels a little interested in hearing what is said or likely to be said about the Central Pacific Railroad, in which some of his friends hold several shares of the stock. He has gone back to San Francisco, but will return before the Legislature adjourns. On my arrival I found that I had already been elected in caucus to the responsible position of Engrossing Clerk of the Senate, and even a nice private room provided wherein to domicile my weary form. Many thanks to many good friends. This blessed old town has improved considerably since I saw it last, three years ago, and must still further improve and advance, for it has agricultural and other resources of prosperity around it, to say nothing of the new Government building to be erected here, for which an appropriation of $100,000 has been obtained, which is a pretty big thing of itself for any town. How would Reno like that? Our new legislators have but fairly got to work this week. At the opening, last Monday, the shortening of the legislative term from sixty to even twenty-one days was boldly advocated and warmly discussed, but it will extend to the full limit. In fact, if such cranky vote and rescind legislation as was indulged in the first two or three days should be much followed up, an extra session would be required.


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