Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/773

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
749
NEVADA SILVER.

hands of the Bank of California through foreclosure and through manipulations of stock. It also aimed at securing control of others, and ultimately at directing the output of the entire lode.

There are, let me explain, two systems of handling ores. A mine can own its mills, or it can send to a custom mill. On the Comstock the mine-owners' experiments in building mills had proved disastrous. The independent millman was a more efficient ore-worker than a salaried superintendent. But the Comstock system did not secure the permanent welfare of the outsiders. What Prof. Raymond calls "the piratical policy of gutting the mines" was carried on in bonanza times at such a shocking rate of speed that it unduly stimulated the building of more mills, and then left the mines totally unable to sustain any of them. It is not surprising that the Union Mill and Mining syndicate were soon able to gather in seventeen of the leading mills and to keep them running on ore, while outside mills could not make a living. It became evident that the substitution of Sharon for Stewart as the leading personal force on the Comstock was in reality the most complete revolution the sagebrush land had yet known.

Nevada had long "talked railroad." Legislatures, Territorial and State, had granted many charters, but after a few abortive efforts the last of these haphazard schemes was dead. Sharon, the man of affairs, sent for James, of the Sierra Nevada Mine. The following conversation is said to have occurred:

"Can you run a railroad from Virginia City to the Carson River?"

"Yes."

"Do it at once,"

Within thirty days the winding course, twenty-one miles long, was surveyed; graders were at work; rails were on the way; men were hewing ties in the Sierras; an obedient Legislature had passed a new charter and had authorized $500,000 in bonds as a bonus to the road; lastly, the mines had subscribed $700,000, It was a busy month, even on the Comstock. Extended to a junction of the Southern Pacific at Reno, the Virginia and Truckee Railroad cost about $3,500,000. The maximum grade is 116 feet to the mile; the curves of the track in the thirteen miles and a half of mountain distance make seventeen full circles, and the rise is 1,000 feet.

Sharon had put Chinese graders at work, but the miners' unions of Gold Hill and Virginia City marched out a thousand strong. The sheriff' halted them, and they sat down on the rocks to hear him read the riot act. That ended, they rose with shouts of Homeric laughter, gave three cheers for the sheriff, and moved resistlessly on the graders' camps. The Chinese "ran like rabbits" up the gulches. The miners told the boss to quit work, and,