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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/774

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

marching back, sent word to Sharon that no Chinamen would be allowed in the district under penalty of a strike that would shut down every mine on the lode. In twenty-four hours the Chinese were dismissed and white graders took their places. Defeated here, Sharon silently made ready for the real labor conflict that he foresaw. It began when the first trains entered Virginia City. The fine old silver freighter, in Nevada slang the "mule skinner"; the bull-puncher walking sedately beside his oxen; even that aristocrat of the fraternity, the lordly "silk-popper," flicking his playful whiplash at the leaders as he drove his stagecoach down Geiger's grade—these, all these, after fierce, useless struggles, disappeared into the unrailroaded distance. "Sharon's iron mules," as they said, "had crowded them off."

Meanwhile the total bullion yield of the lode, which was $16,000,000 in 1805, continued to decrease till in 1869 it was only $7,500,000. None knew better than Sharon and his associates that although borrasca had put them into possession, a few more years of borrasca would utterly smash their fortunes. There had been in all eleven bonanzas up to 1869, but now all were "worked out," and the ordinary ore in the mines not only grew poorer and scantier on the lower levels, but was harder to work. Everything was in eclipse. The miners were following a mere stringer of ore on the nine-hundred foot level of Yellow Jacket that gave Sharon a little hope, but troubles with the miners and disastrous fires intensified the situation. By 1870 some of the members of the syndicate began to weaken; it was openly said that the Comstock had paid its last dividend; the cities of the lode were trembling on the verge of panic.

The famous John P. Jones, since United States Senator, was superintendent at Crown Point, and, like all the rest, was vainly looking for ore. The stock fell to two dollars a share, making the total value of the mine, with its costly plant, only $24,000, and assessments went unpaid. Late in 1870 Jones found an ore body, and, joining forces with a discontented member of the bank syndicate, wrested control of the mine from Sharon before he knew of the bonanza, which in eighteen months more raised the stock-market value of Crown Point to $32,000,000. They also organized the Nevada Mill and Mining Company in direct opposition to their old associates. Nevertheless, Sharon's lesser defeat only emphasized a greater Victory. His interests in other mines doubled and quadrupled in value, empty treasuries were filled by outside investors, and search for new ore bodies was prosecuted with renewed energy.

The story of the rise of Mackay and Fair reads like a loaf from the Arabian Nights. Like Jones, they had been poor and unknown, working for daily wages. Associated with Flood and