Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/617

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CHIHUAHUA, THE GREAT FRONTIER STATE.

There is probably no town in the United States, of the same number of inhabitants, that possesses so many fine buildings, or is built upon a plan of such lavish magnificence, as this; for it owes its origin to the discovery of rich mines, and its noble edifices to the constant stream of silver that flowed from them during a very long period. Founded near the close of the seventeenth century, it rapidly assumed the proportions of a city, and at one time had more inhabitants than at the present day; but when the mines became exhausted, its population dwindled to less than 10,000, though now numbering 18,000. When the Spaniards were expelled, in 1821, the mines were entirely abandoned, and the ranches and haciendas likewise fell into decay. Indications of those times when the mines were in their greatest splendor remain in the vast heaps of silver scoriae, of which many walls are built, and even houses, and "in which, according to trustworthy analysis, enough silver remains to make fresh smelting, under better and more economical management, a profitable undertaking." Looking to this end, a company has been formed, in Philadelphia, which has purchased all this wastage, and from which it hopes to realize a bonanza.

The train from El Paso arrives within sight of the city at dusk, passing through a colony pertaining to the railroad, where great machine-shops cover the ground, and where a round-house, with its stalls full of iron horses, is surrounded by hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of railway material, and where the evidences are strong that an American town will soon develop that shall rival the capital city itself. It crosses a fine bridge, and comes to a halt at the station. True to Mexican tradition, the authorities would not allow the railroad to approach the city within the distance of a mile. Nor would they allow of the purchase of land by the company for building sites, lest an American town should be formed that could exist independently of their own. So a tramway now connects with the city, over the intervening mile of space, the most notable objects on the way being the heaps of silver slag, and the river that flows around and drains the town.

The city was well and regularly built, mainly of adobe, with