Excerpt From Samuel Moore's Memoirs
After our big disappointment of Scott Bar, Mr. Elmer White returned there and bought a prospect. He tunneled in a short ways and took some samples, which, when he had them assayed, ran high. Like most people do, he ordered a new outfit, consisting of a stamp mill with a new gasoline engine. While they were coming he continued tunneling. In a short way it pinched out to nothing. He gave up, or thought he did, and moved back to Corvallis. One day got a letter from a man saying that he had staked off a claim of the ground that took in an old quartz mine that had been worked in the fifties and been abandoned. He said he would sell cheap and if Mr. White was interested to come down and look it over. We lived a block from each other, so he came over and showed me the letter and asked me to go in with him on the deal. I thought it over for a while and then called him on the offer and told him I would go down with him, which we did in November. We happened to have the same stage driver that we had gone down with the other trip.
Our destination was called Bark House Canyon. It was named this because it was said a house was built out of bark of large trees in the fifties. Bark House Canyon was about half way to Scotts Bar and almost in line with a pre-historic river. The directions in the letter said to walk about three miles and it gave landmarks showing how to get there. These were some nice creek farms on our two mile tramp up the creek. One place was passed, a man came out and asked if we were looking for a mine. When we told him we were, he went back to the house and came back with a hand full of specimens of quartz, which contained considerable gold. He gave mea piece to take home, which I have yet. He said that one day when his son was after the cows, he saw glittering rock sticking out of the ground. We could see it up on the hill where he had done about $10 worth of work. He asked $5000 for it. We did not consider it. In that country at that time, gold mines and miners were spoken of as we would speak of our gardens or farmers. They were taken as a matter of course, as these people had been reared there and gold mining, both quartz and placer, had been part of their lives and education.
We walked about a quarter of a mile farther and came to a double eraster. To one who does not know what an erastor is, I will explain it. It is to pulverize quartz rock. First a heavy post is set in the ground or a tree is sawed off about four feet high, then a sweep is put over this stump with a pin or peg down through the sweep into the stump. This pole or sweep can be turned ‘round and ‘round like a merry-go-‘round. Next hard rocks are laid in this circle. This was laid as close as it could be laid. Then this is covered over with gold bearing rocks. Next is chained a big hard boulder to this sweep, which extends outside of this rock bed, and a horse is hitched to this sweep, which when going ‘round and ‘round, drags the boulder over this ore, finally wearing it to a powder. It is then washed or panned out and in the gold saved in mercury. This way was employed in the silver mines in Mexico in the very ways, but here they had advanced a step by harnessing the water, which turned the sweep around and around, saving the poor horse or mule. We spent quite a while looking it over. It was the work of a real genius. From what we could gather from the decayed wreck the water wheel shaft was extended out and on it were wooden pegs used instead of cogs in a wheel and the water wheel turned around this several times and these pegs pushed and pulled that sweep around. It never got tired or had to be fed, as a horse would have.
We had to leave as we had a mile to walk, almost all of which was up hill. (I forgot to say that this erastor lay-out had been built 60 years before, as near as we could find out.) It was a beautiful evening, and the walk up a winding trail made it a very enjoyable trip.
Finally we came in sight of the bunkhouse. It was a long narrow building, sitting on a bench on the side of the mountain. A kitchen, dining room and a bunkroom made up the building, together with a sitting or loafing room. Eastern stockowners owned the place. It seems that they had a mine on the other side of the mountains, three miles away, from which they took out over $300,000 clear. When it pinched out, they were advised by their engineer to go to the other side of the mountain and tunnel in, as their chances were good to strike it again. So they moved the bunkhouse. When they fell out among themselves, some wanted to go ahead while others wanted to stop and keep what they had and just wouldn’t do anything, like the "dog in the manger." So there it set idle for seven years.
Now, I will tell about our man Mr. McCarthy, who met us at the door and welcomed us in. He was of medium height and rather slim. He had been employed by this company to be what is called a caretaker. His duties were to see that nothing was molested and received fair pay for his services.
Aside from those duties he had time to prospect and was getting results. He owned and operated a placer mine located near Scotts Bar on the old riverbed. I was told he ran it only two weeks a year but got all the gold he needed in that time. Also, he had a sister whose man was a fancy curtain artist for the big theaters of the coast, but didn’t provide well for his wife and six children. McCarthy bought 20 acres near Scotts Bar school, built a good house for them and bought a cow pigs and chickens, with an alfalfa field to run on. He saw they were well provided for.
We had a very good supper but the bunks were not furnished and had neither springs nor mattresses. I slept, or tried to sleep, with a quilt and blanket on the floor. How my bones ached; they seemed like they cut through the skin. The following two nights I believe were worse. After breakfast on leaving our host said to us: "You fellows followed that path around the side of the hill and you will come to an old mine. I will cut across and get a pick and shovel so you can get some samples." We started out as directed. In the path lay an old tobacco can. When I kicked it, it rattled. Picking it up, I saw a very large watch chain of heavy platinum. I put it in my pocket. Mr. McCarthy reached us as we came to the mine. Guided by his light we went into the old tunnel, which was about 200 feet long. Our first thought was of what he called it—a blow out. A big round place had been dug out by those early miners and the rock packed down to those old erastors, which we had passed the evening before. I took the pick and dug up some of the ore, which looked brown like a cinder. Also digging down on the low edge of the tunnel we found it ran down. Why those old miners did not go down is more than I can imagine. There was a bench and above it were two fine springs, just an ideal place for a site. If we located out little stamp mill we planned to mine the ore, shoot down a chute to the mill and plenty of water in the big woods. I asked Mr. McCarthy if he had ever lost anything. He replied, "Only a platinum watch chain." I gave it to him and told him where I found it. All he said was that it had a big history and thanked us then said, "I will sell the mine to you fellows for $3,000. If it pays enough so as to pay me, all right; if not all right. I know now you are honest men or would have never given that platinum chain back to me."
I gathered my samples up and brought them to the bunkhouse with me. While he was getting dinner, McCarthy set out a crucible and mortar for me to determine if I had anything in my ore. I pounded it all up and then put it a gold pan and washed out quite a lot of gold. I put it in a vial. Then he handed me a piece of ore about the size of a large goose egg. I mashed it up as I had mine and washed it out. It ran a streak of gold two-thirds around his pan. He said, "That mine in which I found this I covered up so no one will ever find it, I do not need the money, and if I ever do I will go and develop it. I have seen samples tries out but noting like this." He also said, "I have very little faith in investments as it is safer where it is."
I poured all I mortared into a vial, which I have yet. When we came in to eat Mr. McCarthy said, " We will have to celebrate as this is Thanksgiving; also the finding of the chain." He then went into his bedroom and came out with a five gallon demijohn of brandy. He sat three large glasses on the table and pored each full, handing each on of us one and taking one himself. I protested saying, "This is more brandy than I ever drank in my whole life." McCarthy said, "Down it or we will drench you, won’t we White?" White agreed and said, "You will learn never to refuse a drink from an old miner, down it." I looked each one in the eye and saw they meant it so down it went. Now I will say that I don’t believe it was but a few seconds before the door turned over. It was past noon and I took it on an empty stomach. Every time the door turned right side up I stepped towards it and finally got outside. There was a pipe loading a spring and the cold water running into a small tank. I took a tomato can setting there and caught a quart of that water and drank it. It drowned the effect of the brandy as quickly as it came on me and they never knew, for I never spoke a word until I came in and then did not tell them how I had felt. The weather was perfect, the air pure and clear up in those mountains.
After we had eaten Mr. McCarthy went to his room and brought out at least two quarts of nuggets and poured them out on the table saying to me. "I heard you speak of having two sons. Now pick out two specimens for stickpins for them. You found and returned the platinum chain and I wish to show my appreciation for its return." I chose one with gold at least half sticking out of the white quartz, and the other one of about one-third gold in black quartz, which is very unusual I am told. On the way home later I stopped in Yreka, Calif., and pins put on them. On the train I showed them to a man from the East. He offered me $20 each for them. I refused of course. I them to the boys when I reached home and they have them now. The pile of nuggets had been difficult to choose from. This man had taken time and picked them and he sorted the ore clean-up and selected only the best. I never expect to see anything to compare with them again. McCarthy had told of great finds in that section, but no one got excited about it, as it was part of their life.
When we awakened in the morning, we were surprised to see nearly two feet of snow on the ground. We were up in the mountains and it seems to snow without much effort. There was but one thing to do and that was to remain in by the stove and tell stories. Mr. McCarthy’s partner who owned an eighth interest in the mine in question, was over on another range and was to return that evening, but did not come. Therefore we could not close the deal. Giving him up we got up early the next morning and prepared to light out for home. After reaching the bottom of the mountain the creek bottom was covered in about six inches of snow. We walked out to the main road and caught a stage to Yreka. We had not gone far until we crossed Humbug Creek, where it is said 17 million dollars worth of gold was taken out of the creek bottom and sent by express. This amount sis not include that taken out by individuals and the Chinese, who cleaned up after the miners had abandoned the mines.
This creek ran parallel with the old prehistoric river. Those old placer miners had moved hundreds of boulders some as big as a small house, in the bottom of that creek, to get out the gold that was under them. How they did it is beyond me. Also how those men stood it to stand it that cold water and work. It was before rubber boots were invented. I don’t suppose there was much of a record kept of those who died.
The driver pointed out places of interest as we rode along. One place he showed us was a quartz mine, which was worked by a family. The owner had a water wheel, which turned a stamp mill. He did the mining and his wife looked after the mill. The house was near by and they had their cow, pigs, chickens; in fact it looked more a mountain ranch than a mining proposition. The miner would clean up every two weeks and come to Yreka and buy all the supplies for another two weeks. After he made his purchases he went on a full drunk. We passed him on the way in and as we had missed the stage out to the railroad. I watched him when he came into town. He did just as the driver said.
We took a walk Sunday morning and found that some parts of the town lots had been dug up and washed through the sluice box and there were some large flumes on the hills that had taken a large amount of money and labor to construct. That afternoon we took the stage to the railroad station homeward. We waited anxiously for a letter from McCarthy with our papers for the mine. The belated letter finally came after waiting a month saying that the seven stockholders of the mine he was caretaker of, came the night we left and opened up their mine. They struck the gold quartz lead head on, as the engineer said they would. McCarthy said his partner would sign the papers for our deal and by this lucky strike their mine was worth more. So we were out and that is how near I came to being a gold miner.
The month that we were waiting for the papers we had planned how we would build our building and had built our castles in Spain only to have them come tumbling down in a pile of ruins. I will admit it was a real disappointment. But if you try to do anything, you will find this old life is as full of disappointments as thorns under a locust tree for a barefoot boy. Ah, well, I got quite a kick out of it anyway. So good-bye gold mining. We heard that six months later those people laid bare over $80,000 worth of ore. How much they finally took out I never learned. Just one more of life’s disappointments.
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