Submitted by scott on Sat, 10/08/2016 - 09:56

"By and by I was smitten with the silver fever. “Prospecting parties” were leaving for the mountains every day, and discovering and taking possession of rich silver-bearing lodes and ledges of quartz. Plainly this was the road to fortune. The great “Gould and Curry” mine was held at three or four hundred dollars a foot when we arrived; but in two months it had sprung up to eight hundred. The “Ophir” had been worth only a mere trifle, a year gone by, and now it was selling at nearly four thousand dollars a foot! Not a mine could be named that had not experienced an astonishing advance in value within a short time. Everybody was talking about these marvels. Go where you would, you heard nothing else, from morning till far into the night. Tom So-and-So had sold out of the “Amanda Smith” for $40,000—hadn’t a cent when he “took up” the ledge six months ago. John Jones had sold half his interest in the “Bald Eagle and Mary Ann” for $65,000, gold coin, and gone to the States for his family. The widow Brewster had “struck it rich” in the “Golden Fleece” and sold ten feet for $18,000—hadn’t money enough to buy a crape bonnet when Sing-Sing Tommy killed her husband at Baldy Johnson’s wake last spring. The “Last Chance” had found a “clay casing” and knew they were “right on the ledge”—consequence, “feet” that went begging yesterday were worth a brick house apiece to-day, and seedy owners who could not get trusted for a drink at any bar in the country yesterday were roaring drunk on champagne to-day and had hosts of warm personal friends in a town where they had forgotten how to bow or shake hands from long-continued want of practice. Johnny Morgan, a common loafer, had gone to sleep in the gutter and waked up worth a hundred thousand dollars, in consequence of the decision in the “Lady Franklin and Rough and Ready” lawsuit. And so on—day in and day out the talk pelted our ears and the excitement waxed hotter and hotter around us.
I would have been more or less than human if I had not gone mad like the rest. Cart-loads of solid silver bricks, as large as pigs of lead, were arriving from the mills every day, and such sights as that gave substance to the wild talk about me. I succumbed and grew as frenzied as the craziest."

"I met men at every turn who owned from one thousand to thirty thousand “feet” in undeveloped silver mines, every single foot of which they believed would shortly be worth from fifty to a thousand dollars—and as often as any other way they were men who had not twenty-five dollars in the world. Every man you met had his new mine to boast of, and his “specimens” ready; and if the opportunity offered, he would infallibly back you into a corner and offer as a favor to you, not to him, to part with just a few feet in the “Golden Age,” or the “Sarah Jane,” or some other unknown stack of croppings, for money enough to get a “square meal” with, as the phrase went. And you were never to reveal that he had made you the offer at such a ruinous price, for it was only out of friendship for you that he was willing to make the sacrifice. Then he would fish a piece of rock out of his pocket, and after looking mysteriously around as if he feared he might be waylaid and robbed if caught with such wealth in his possession, he would dab the rock against his tongue, clap an eyeglass to it, and exclaim:
“Look at that! Right there in that red dirt! See it? See the specks of gold? And the streak of silver? That’s from the Uncle Abe. There’s a hundred thousand tons like that in sight! Right in sight, mind you! And when we get down on it and the ledge comes in solid, it will be the richest thing in the world! Look at the assay! I don’t want you to believe me—look at the assay!”" (Roughing It)

Comment

166.22 In 1858 silver lodes were discovered in “Carson County,”] Actually, the first vein of silver—a low-grade extension of what was later called the Comstock lode—was discovered in 1856 near present-day Silver City by Ethan Allen Grosh and Hosea Ballou Grosh, sons of a Pennsylvania clergyman and veterans of the California gold fields. The Groshes were prospecting in Gold Canyon, where they and other miners had been recovering modest amounts of gold from placer diggings for several years. Both brothers died in late 1857, however, before they could record their silver claim. In the spring of 1859, two placer miners working farther north, at Gold Hill, uncovered a gold-bearing quartz vein which, although poor in silver, was actually a section of the Comstock lode. Then in June, near what was later the site of Virginia City, Peter O’Riley and Patrick McLaughlin accidentally uncovered a deposit of rich black sand, but failed to recognize that it contained large amounts of silver. Henry T. P. Comstock (who had taken over the Groshes’ cabin and was searching for their claim) deceived O’Riley and McLaughlin into sharing their claim—which still appeared to be merely another placer—with himself and his partner, Emanuel Penrod. It was not until 27 June that rock from the vein was assayed and found to yield $3,876 per ton, of which three-fourths were silver and one-fourth gold. This news set off the great mining boom of the early 1860s. The lode was unofficially named after Comstock, in spite of the fact that he deserved little credit for its discovery (Grant H. Smith, 1–11, 17–18; Lord, 22-55; Angel, 51–59).  Chapter 25: note for 166.22," in Roughing It : an electronic text. 2016