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Ghost Mines of Yosemite (1958) by Douglass Hubbard


20. COLLAPSE

EXCITEMENT REACHED A CRESCENDO in the Tioga district as the date neared for cutting the Sheepherder Lode. Finally the word was out—the ledge had been cut! But a word of caution appeared in the Index:

As to the reported strike in the Great Sierra tunnel. . . . it will be well to await reliable information, as outsiders are not yet alowed to know anything about the importance of the strike. That the Sheepherder lode has been cut into is certain; but there is nothing surprising or exciting in that fact, as such a strike was inevitable. As we understand it, two series of shots were put into the solid quartz after it was reached, and no one but the foreman has been into the tunnel since the last series of blasts were exploded, and we doubt if even he has taken any steps to ascertain the value of the rock. To us the Sheepherder lode has been an open book ever since we first examined the outcrop, some years ago. . . . The temporary suspension of work in the tunnel has no significance of consequence to the public. 63

But it had great significance, in spite of this whistling in the dark by the Index editor. The second plea to the stockholders failed as completely as had the first with the Western stockholders. The New Bedford men were convinced that the heading of the tunnel was now so far advanced that it might cut the Sheepherder at any time. If and when this happened the delinquent stockholders would share equally without having risked their money or having carried any of the responsibilities.

With heavy hearts the Executive Committee made the fatal decision on July 3, 1884— that the time had come to suspend all operations. Orders were telegraphed to the Superintendent to do so immediately. Thomas Bennett said that the action taken was “to the great detriment of the Stockholders’ interests as the heading of the tunnel was at 1784 feet, and without doubt . . . within 200 feet of the great Sheepherder’s Ledge, doubtless one of the largest and richest ore bodies at present in existence in this country. . . .” 1

July 12, 1884 — A party of Great Sierra miners, taking advantage of the temporary suspension of work in the tunnel, have gone over to Parker Lake to catch trout. 64

As day after day went by and no word was received to return to work, the miners began straggling off to seek other employment, and Bennettville became deserted—a ghost city with only Charles Barney and one or two others busy storing property and greasing up the machinery at the tunnel. On October 19, 1884 Barney wrote from the Palace Hotel in San Francisco to William Swift in New Bedford:

Letter from Palace Hotel, San Francisco
[click to enlarge]
THE CLOTHING, GROCERIES AND SUCH . . . WERE PACKED IN THE LOFT OF THE BARN . . .
[click to enlarge]
THE CLOTHING, GROCERIES AND SUCH . . . WERE PACKED IN THE LOFT OF THE BARN . . .

“We got out of the mountains with the pack animals just in time. Came over the [Great Sierra Wagon] Road to Crockers and was detained there two days by a heavy storm .. unusually severe for this season. The Road is in very good condition and will probably remain so during the winter and spring . . . I think $1000 expended next year after the snow is gone will put it in as good shape as ever. We left everything at Bennettville safe and secure as possible.

“All the machinery, tools and supplies, were put into the tunnel, and the tunnel securely fastened. The clothing, groceries and such supplies as would be injured by dampness were packed in the loft of the barn, which is the best and strongest of the buildings. All the assay supplies were put away carefully and nothing was left undone to make all safe . . . . The driver upset the stage in coming out of Chinese Camp with us Friday morning and as a consequence I got my head cut and bruised quite severely. I am still quite lame and sore from the effects of it but will probably be all right in a few days. . . .

Yours,
Charles E. Barney” 64
Charles E. Barney Letter
[click to enlarge]


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