Rocky Mountain Saints

(Return to Mining Index page)

by T. B. H. Stenhouse
(1872, reprinted 1900)

(scanned and edited by Don Strack, September 19, 2003)


THE MINES OF UTAH. THE POTOSI OF THE WEST.--Early Anticipations of the Treasures of Utah--Ore discovered in the Mountains--First Discovery of Argentiferous Galena--Enterprise of General P. E. Connor--The United States Soldiers "prospect" for Mines--Mr. Eli B. Kelsey lectures on the Wealth of Utah--Incorporation of the West Jordan Mining Company--First Smelting--Furnace erected at Stockton--Rush Valley Smelting Company formed--Waiting for the Railroad--First Shipments of Ore--The Utah Central Railroad--Rich Ores in Ophir District--Silveropolis--Valuable Mines in East Canon--Colonel E. D. Buel's Works in Cottonwood--Numerous Furnaces erected--Results of Inexperience--First Mill in Utah--Extraordinary Success--Large Shipments of Bullion and Ores--The Emma Mine--Formation of Veins of Ore--The Action of Water and Volcanic Force--Statistics of the Emma Mine--Its Immense Value--Bonanzas--Extraordinary Dividends to Proprietors--Southern Mines--True Fissure--Veins--Their Importance--Solfataric Action--The Mineral Springs--The Staples of the Utah Mines--Silver and Lead--Gold in Bingham Canon--Gold in Sevier River--Quartz Mines--Gold near Ogden--Iron and Lead Ores--Supply of Fuel--Gradual Improvements--Scarcity of Wood--Discoveries of Coal--Building Material--Importance of a Valid "Title"--Development of Locations--Contested Claims--Commissioner Drummond's Decision--The Vast Mineral Resources of Utah--Importance of the Territory--Its Beauty, Wealth, Capabilities, and Claims to Attention.

[page 713] (excerpt)

A portion of the horses of the California Volunteers had been sent to Bingham Cañon to graze, and with them a company of men as a guard. A picnic party of officers and their wives from Camp Douglas was improvised, and Bingham was selected, as the troops were there. During the rambles of the party on the mountain-sides, this lady, who had a previous acquaintance with minerals in California, picked up a loose piece of ore. The Volunteers immediately prospected for the vein, discovered it, stuck a stake in the ground, made their location, and from that hour Utah has been known to the world as a rich mining country.

Colonel Connor, elated by this discovery, published to the world that there were minerals in Utah upon the domain of the United States; and all were free to prospect; and that his troops should afford all necessary protection to the prospector and miner. He had had no occupation for his troops-they were eating the bread of idleness, and were discontented at being detained in Utah, and not taking part in the war. The discovery in Bingham was opportune, to favour prospecting, and it would appease the men and give them the chance of possibly enriching themselves and the country. An order was promulgated that a certain number of men would be furloughed to prospect, and every facility afforded them to travel within certain boundaries. Wearing the blue, and the honourable sign "U. S.," they could enter what cañons they pleased. Thus to Colonel Connor, and the California Volunteers under his direction, is the honour due for the first discoveries in Utah.

Mr. Eli B. Kelsey, thoroughly breaking off from Mormonism, and believing that the hour had fully come to develop the mineral resources of the Territory, started out in the old missionary style to lecture upon Utah in the Atlantic and Pacific [714] States, in the summer of 1870. He wrote to the papers, spoke to "boards of trade," published a pamphlet, and created quite an interest among capitalists, and was the means of sending into the mining districts a hundred thousand dollars in the fall of 1870. The first of Eastern capitalists who, at this time, was converted, was an enterprising merchant of New York, William M. Fliess, Esq., who joined Mr. Kelsey, and advanced the "working capital" required to develop some valuable mines. From that time capital has flowed into Utah, and wealth has been dug out of the mountains in such abundance--in proportion to the capital and labour employed--as to justify the hope that Utah will yet be the first mining country in the world.

The following article has been written and compiled expressly for this work by a gentleman well acquainted with mining work, who visited and studied the MINES of UTAH. [Stenhouse footnote: Colonel E. D. Buel kindly placed at the Author's disposal a voluminous and valuable manuscript on the "Mining Districts of Utah," from which much information has been taken for this article.]

On the 17th of September, 1863, Captain A. Heitz, with a number of soldiers, found the first vein of argentiferous lead ore in Bingham Canon. The first mining record is that of the West Jordan mine, in favour of one Ogilvie, and some others. In the following December, a mining district was formed and named the West Mountain Mining District. It covered all the Oquirrh range of mountains, from Black Rock at the southern end of Salt Lake, south of the 40th parallel of latitude. But little work was done in the new discovery until the following spring. In the interim two other ledges had been discovered, namely, the Galena mine (on the 26th of January, 1864), and the Empire (February 6, 1864); both contiguous to the original discovery. In the month of March following, a military post was established, known as Camp Relief, near the present site of the town of Stockton, in Rush Valley, Tooele County, and several companies of cavalry were posted there, who, excited to a high pitch by the recent successes of some of their comrades in arms in mineral discoveries, availed themselves of every possible opportunity when off duty to explore for ledges, or to develop such mines as they had already located. On the 11th of June following, at a miners' meeting held at the camp, the Rush Valley Mining District was formed, embracing all the western slope of the Oquirrh range from its northern to its southern limits. The eastern side, sloping into Salt Lake [715] Valley, still retains the original name of West Mountain District. In the summer of 1864, the West Jordan Mining Company was incorporated under the laws of California, and work by a tunnel was commenced on the mine, at a cost of sixty dollars per foot, which could now be done for ten dollars. Blasting-powder was at that time $25 a keg; now it is less than one-sixth of that price, and labour is also more abundant.

(ed. note: The following paragraphs were included by Tullidge in Chapter 81 of his "History of Salt Lake City", published in 1886.)

In the summer of 1864, the Jordan Mining Company was incorporated by General Connor under the Laws of California, and work by a tunnel was commenced on the mine, at a cost of sixty dollars per foot, which could now be done for ten dollars. Blasting powder was at that time twenty-five dollars a keg; now it is less than one-sixth of that price, and labor is also more abundant.

The first smelting-furnace in the Territory was erected at Stockton, in 1864, by General Connor. He, at this time, became aware of the importance of having the mineral interest developed to the fullest possible extent, and induced a large number of his California friends to enter into the enterprise. The Rush Valley Smelting Company was organized at the same time, by the military officers at Camp Douglas, and a furnace was built by them at Stockton.

General Connor followed, with his second furnace on the reverberatory plan, with an inclined flue, one hundred and fifty feet long. During the summer and fall of 1864, furnaces were, built by the following parties, in and around Stockton and Rush Valley (mining prospects innumerable having by that time been located in the neighborhood), viz: The St. James, Finherty, J. W. Gibson, Nichols & Brand, Hartnet, Davids & Company, and one cupola blast-furnace by Johnson, Monheim & Company. A. cupelling furnace was also built by Stock & Weberling, in the same year.

But the treatment of ores by smelting was a task new to these Californians, and their experience in milling the gold ores of their State was of no service to them in this task. This disadvantage was increased by the fact that charcoal was not abundant, that rates of transportation were excessively high, and both the materials of which the furnaces were built, and those used in the daily operations, were very dear. These are circumstances which would tax the ability of the most experienced; and the Californians, unused to the work, failed entirely. A good deal of money was spent, with no result, excepting the establishment of the fact that the ores were easy to treat. During this time of trial, the usual history of new mining fields was repeated, and companies which were organized with high hopes spent large sums, and became bankrupt.

The Knickerbocker and Argenta Mining and Smelting Company was organized in New York, to operate in Rush Valley, and expended about one hundred thousand dollars in the purchase of mines and the material for working them. But, owing to the impossibility of making medium and low-grade ores pay, at such a distance from the market, the company lost their money, and abandoned the enterprise. Thus, after two years of steady, earnest, hopeful toil--from the time of the first discovery in 1863, to the same month in 1865--the business of mining had to be suspended to await the advent of the "iron horse," which was to bring renewed vitality to the occupation of the miner.

With the failure to work the mines profitably, came the disbanding of the volunteer troops, in the latter part of 1865-6. Their places could now be filled by the regulars--the rebellion by this time having been suppressed--and, as the owners and locators (who were principally military men) could not subsist on non-paying mines, the question arose as to how their rights could be secured while they were seeking employment elsewhere. Their method of solving the difficulty has resulted in the greatest injury to the cause which had its rise, in their energy and determination. They called miners' meetings, and amended the by-laws of the district in such a manner as to make claims perpetually valid, which had had a certain but very small amount of work done upon them. For the performance of this work, a certificate was given by the district recorder. This certificate prohibited all subsequent relocation of the ground. In consequence of this provision, the mines of Stockton long lay under a ban, and it is only since, the wonderful discoveries made in neighboring canyons, that mining has been energetically, resumed there. While the operations, detailed above, drew attention chiefly to the Rush Valley mines, discoveries were gradually becoming numerous in other districts.

Here the mining history pauses until the years 1868-9, when it connects with what was familiarly known as the "Godbeite Movement."

Mr. Eli B. Kelsey, thorough breaking off from Mormonism, and believing that the hour had fully come to develop the mineral resources of the Territory, started out in the old missionary style to lecture upon Utah in the Atlantic and Pacific States, in the summer of 1870. He wrote to the papers, spoke to 'boards of trade,' published a pamphlet, and created quite an interest among capitalists, and was the means of sending into the mining district a hundred thousand dollars in the fall of 1870. The first of Eastern capitalists who was converted, was an enterprising merchant of New York, William M. Fliess, Esq., who joined Mr. Kelsey, and advanced the "working capital" required to develop some valuable mines. From that time capital has flowed into Utah, and wealth has been dug out of the mountains in such abundance--in proportion to the capital and labor employed--as to justify the hope that Utah will yet be the first mining country in the world.

The first discovery of silver-bearing lead ore had been made in the Wasatch range, in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and in Mountain Lake, in the summer of 1864, by General Connor, but nothing was done towards development until the district was organized, in the fall of 1868; when, for the first time, operations of any extent were begun on the mines by Messrs. Woodhull, Woodman, Chisholm, Reich and others. The first shipments of galena ore from the Territory were made in small quantities by Messrs Woodman & Co., Walker Brothers, and Woodhull Brothers, of Little Cottonwood ore, in July, 1868, being the first products of the Emma mine. Several other shipments were, made in the fall of that year, by the same parties. The completion of the Utah Central Railroad to Salt Lake City, in January, 1870, presented the long-looked-for opportunity-of embarking with certainty in the business of mining.

During the fall of 1868, and the spring of 1869, mining was taken hold of with a will, and it was soon proved, beyond a question, ,that the mines of Utah were possessed of real merit. What better proof can be looked for than the fact that from the first discovery they were not only self sustaining, but highly remunerative? The first shipment of ore to market having proved a success, work was pushed on with the utmost vigor on the mines already discovered. This was especially the case in Little Cottonwood district, on such mines as the Flagstaff, Emma, North Star, Savage, Magnet, Monitor, and others. Thus an impetus was given to the business of prospecting for mines all over the Territory, and this led to innumerable discoveries subsequently made. The export of ores has increased from a few irregular weekly shipments, as in the fall of 1868, and throughout 1869, to that of a regular and constant stream, during the summer months, of from four hundred to six hundred tons weekly. In one month the Walker Brothers shipped 4,000 tons. In the two months--August and September, 1872--2,438 tons of ore, and 1,362 tons of silver-bearing lead and iron, were sent out of the Territory. The latter item shows what progress has been made in smelting the ores within the limits of the Territory itself.

It was during the excitement produced by the very rich developments made on the Emma and other mines of Little Cottonwood, that "horn," or chloride silver ores, of a very rich character, were discovered in East Canyon--now known as Ophir District. The first location in this district was made on the 23d of August, 1870, and was named Silveropolis. This location was soon followed by many others of a similar kind of mineral, all proving, at the surface, to be very rich--such as the Tarnpico, Mountain Lion, Mountain Tiger, Petaluma, Zella, Silver Chief, Defiance, Virginia, Monarch, Blue Wing, and many others, with promising prospects. All were found on what is known as Lion and Tiger Hills, immediately south of Ophir City; and the ores (unlike those of Cottonwood) are adapted to the mill treatment alone.

At the same time, prospecting was going on upon the north side of Ophir, where many very extensive ledges of lead ore, carrying silver, were found; which ores are adapted to the smelting process only. A remarkable distinction is to be noticed in the character of the ores on either side of the canyon, at the bottom of which appears to be the dividing line. On the north side, at the distance of not more than one-third of a mile, is found a combination of sulphides of iron, lead, arsenic, antimony and zinc--the iron predominating, and carrying silver in appreciable quantities, with fifteen per cent, to forty per cent. of lead. On the south side distant from the canyon about one mile, in a direct line, the silver occurs as chloride, with little or no base metal. But, small as the quantity of the other minerals is, they contain lead, molybdanum, antimony, and zinc, and therefore few of the mines yield ore that can be well treated without roasting. Probably fifty or sixty per cent. may be taken as the average yield of those ores in the mill, when they are treated raw. But a proper roasting increases this to eighty-five and even ninety per cent., and upwards. Some mines yield a remarkably pure chloride-ore--a dolomitic limestone containing true chloride of silver in a very pure condition.

It was at the time of these discoveries that the district now known as "Ophir" was formed in that part of the Oquirrh range known as East Canyon, and originally included in the Rush Valley District. Some forty locations had been made as early as 1864 and 1863. The conditions under which the ore exists in these mines is somewhat peculiar. It is in concentrations, which are often small and exceedingly rich, or larger and less concentrated, though still very rich. Mines were opened, which, when the overlying earth was removed, disclosed a narrow vein, exhibiting along its length a number of "boulders" highly impregnated with chloride of silver. These frequently assayed from $5,000 to $20,000 a ton; though their value would vary very much in different parts of the same mass. As a rule, the ore of East Canyon may be estimated at $80 to $150 per ton in value, though considerable quantities run much higher. But the marvelous stories of the $10,000 and $20,000 ore, found in boulders, attracted the attention of prospectors in other parts of the West; and these discoveries in Ophir, together with the wealth of the "Emma," have probably done more than any thing else to bring about that strong tide of immigrating prospectors which have so rapidly raised Utah to the position of a first rate mining-field. At all events, they would probably have been sufficient for the work, had the other discoveries been of less importance than they really are.

The working of these mines not only opened new districts, but revived the activity of those which had suffered partial abandonment; and at present there is not one district where important works are not going on. Great encouragement was also received from Eastern and foreign capitalists. Important sales were made, and a great deal of money brought in as working capital. At the same time a number of smelting-works were built. The amount of ore which these were capable of treating is variously estimated at from 200 to 400 tons per day; but few of them are now running. In June, 1870, the Woodhull Brothers built a furnace eight miles south of Salt Lake City, at the junction of the State Road with Big Cottonwood Creek. It did some service in testing practically the ores of the Territory, and from these works was shipped the first bullion produced from the mines of Utah. It was smelted from ores of the Monitor and Magnet, and other Cottonwood mines.

These works were soon followed by the Badger State Smelting Works, about four miles south of the City of Salt Lake, on the State Road, which were commenced in August, 1870. They produced their first bullion on the 18th day of March, 1870. The next works were those of Jennings & Pascoe, immediately north of the city, at the Warm Springs. They contained reverberatory furnaces, which are not well adapted to the average ores of Utah, but are useful for the preparation of galena ore for the blast-furnaces. A cupola or blast-furnace has since been added to these works, increasing their value greatly.

The next, and best designed works of any built in the Territory until a late period, were those of Colonel E. D. Buel, at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The smelting-works of Buel & Bateman, in Bingham Canyon, which followed, were built on the same plan as those in Little Cottonwood.

During the winter of 1870-1, Messrs. Jones & Raymond built furnaces in East Canyon for the purpose of treating the lead-ores of that district. A renewal of operations also took place at Stockton, and the works there have suffered greater vicissitudes than any others in the Territory. Tintic, a new district, saw the next establishment built. But, during the year 1871, furnaces were erected in all quarters: in Little Cottonwood, by Jones & Pardee; in Big Cottonwood, by Weightman & Co.; in Bingham Canyon, by Bristol & Daggett; in American Fork, by Holcombe, Sevenoaks & Co.; and others. These were nearly all shaft-furnaces, rather rude in construction, though with some well built furnaces among them. The only works which deserve notice, for the introduction of good metallurgical models, are those of Robbins & Co., who built a large reverberatory furnace for reducing the ore by charcoal, after preliminary roasting; and the works of Colonel Buel, in Little Cottonwood, where the later constructions of German metallurgists were introduced with good judgment and effect. The furnaces which Colonel Buel placed in his Cottonwood and Bingham Canyon works have been repeatedly copied in later-erected establishments, and have proved themselves as serviceable in this country as abroad.

Thus sixteen furnaces were built in as many months, and the number has since been increased more than one-half; but it cannot be said that great success has attended them. Few have continued in active operation, and fewer still work with the regularity necessary to success. It is impossible to doubt that a history like this must be the result of inexperience. It is but a repetition of the course of affairs in Nevada, where men accustomed to the amalgamation of gold undertook to treat silver ores, which require a very different process. They at first ascribed their failures to some peculiarity of the ores, which were thought to be different from any others in the world; but now they confess that the cause of their difficulties was simply ignorance. Undoubtedly that is the real secret of the trouble experienced by smelters in Utah and, doubtless, when they have become more experienced, they will not hesitate to acknowledge that ignorance of the work was the cause of their first failures, instead of giving the numerous excuses that are now current.

In addition to the foregoing means of reduction there was built in Ophir District, East Canyon, a first-class crushing and amalgamating mill, in May and June, 1871, by the Walker Brothers, of Salt Lake City. It is known as the Pioneer Mill. It has fifteen stamps, and was built by the firm to work the ores of the Silveropolis, Tiger, Rockwell, Zella, Silver Chief, and other mines--the mill-process alone being adapted to the ores of that section of Ophir known as Lion Hill, where 'horn' chloride silver ores are found. There are also four or five "Mexican arastas" in successful operation in East Canyon. The mill-men have met with better success in Utah than the-smelters, for they are engaged in a task familiar to them, the process being the same as that in use in Nevada and some parts of California.

Notwithstanding all the discouragement which has been met with hitherto by the smelters, the progress of mining in Utah has been wonderful. Remembering that the first really practical work done towards the development of the mining interests was commenced only in the fall of 1868, and making due allowance for the inclement season then at hand, which the miners had to pass through in such high altitudes as those where the mines are situated, it will be understood how it was the summer of 1869 had progressed so far before work to any appreciable amount was done. Considering the shortness of the time, the record of what has been done is most extraordinary.

From the summer of 1869 to the 25th of September, 1871, there were shipped from the Territory 10,000 tons of silver and gold ores, of the gross value of $2,500,000; of bullion, or pig-lead, containing gold and silver, 4,500 tons, of gross value of $1,237,000; copper ores, 231 tons, of the gross value of $6,000. Salt has also been exported to the extent of 1,100 tons, of the value of $4,000; and silver bars, obtained by milling chloride ores, have produced $120,000. The annual product of gold from Bingham Canyon, by improved appliances for washing and sluicing, has been increased from $150,000 to $250,000. The number of districts by exploration and location has grown from two, as in 1868, to thirty two in 1871. Since June, 1870, there have been erected eighteen smelting-furnaces, built at an aggregate cost of $200,000, several of which are producing bullion.

(ed. note: The preceding paragraphs were included by Tullidge in Chapter 81, pages 700-705 of his "History of Salt Lake City", published in 1886.)