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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/761

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NEVADA SILVER.

cabins, water ditches, and other property, loaded one hundred and fifty-three wagons, and were on the road in three weeks. A few years later one of them, the noted Orson Hyde, wrote to the possessors of a sawmill he had built, demanding its return, and adding: "This demand of ours remaining uncanceled shall be to the people of Carson and Wassau as was the ark of God among the Philistines. You shall be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder and with earthquakes and with floods, with pestilence and with famine, until your names are not known among men." The letter was printed, and the camps of 1860 rang with loud laughter. But in 1857 no one could see anything amusing in the departure of the Mormons. Emigrant travel had ceased, traders had gone, villages were deserted, plows left in the furrows, cabin doors flung open. Even Gold Cañon placers were nearly exhausted. Everything seemed "played out."

The early miners of Nevada knew nothing of prospecting as a business. They were so thoughtless and ignorant that it never occurred to them to look for the source of the metal they were obtaining in Gold Cañon and other ravines that headed in Mount Davidson. The little gold they found became more and more alloyed with silver, so that its value decreased from nineteen dollars an ounce to twelve dollars. The camp of Johnstown in Gold Cañon, where they wintered, dwindled in size, and discouraged miners went to other districts. Meanwhile two prospectors of education and ability, the Grosh brothers, were secretly exploring the Washoe Mountains for silver. Their letters home prove that they found "a monster vein" and other good prospects, and they began to organize companies in the Atlantic States and in California to work these claims. But one brother died from an accident early in 1857; the other lost his life in the Sierra the following winter. The first knowledge of the Comstock perished with these two brave, thoughtful, reticent young prospectors.

All the men who aided in the discovery of the famous mines wintered in Johnstown in December, 1858. Among them was one Henry Thomas Paige Comstock, a curiously ignorant, credulous, and speculative miner, familiarly known as "Old Pancake." "My first recollection," he wrote, "is packing beaver traps; trapped all over Canada, Michigan, Indiana, and the Rocky Mountains." Comstock, "Old Virginia," Peter O'Riley, Pat McLaughlin, "Kentuck" Osborne, "Long John" Bishop, Manny Penrod, Sandy Bowers, and a few others had been more or less together. Sometimes they were in Gold Cañon, sometimes in Six Mile Cañon, sometimes crossing from the head of one to the head of the other, along the side of Mount Davidson, over the top of the Comstock ledge. In January, 1859, a streak of warm weather tempting