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Ghost Mines of Yosemite (1958) by Douglass Hubbard


18. SUSPENSE

A PARTY OF FOUR of the directors together had visited the properties in the summer of 1882 and found the extent, condition, and promise of them “much better than . . . had been reported:

‘The naked-eye characteristics of the ore, the quantities of ore exposed and on the ore dumps, its assay value and the estimated bullion value, have been in no manner misrepresented. The relative position of the ledges in respect to the situation of the tunnel, are most favorable, affording an exceedingly cheap avenue for the extraction of ore, with ready access to the contemplated mills. An ample quantity and fall of water is contiguous for extensive motive power if desired; wood is abundant. In brief, the company possesses all the needed elements for mining and milling upon a comprehensive scale with the least possible expense. From information collected from experienced men we are satisfied that the entire outlay per ton of ore, both mining and milling, will not exceed two and a half dollars.

‘Our visit of inspection has given us great gratification; we are satisfied that the company is in possession of mines of great wealth.’ ”

Signed:
  Almon Brooks
  Jos. J. Parker
  R. N. Swift
  Wm. C. N. Swift
            Directors 58

The prospect of such an enormous yield when the great ore veins of the Sheepherder was reached by the tunnel caused the directors to advance the treasury stock from $1 per share to $2. A short time later it was advanced to $5 and trouble began. This move stopped all sales, and to secure money for operating expenses, loans were obtained from individuals and banks, the latter by three of the directors endorsing the company’s notes and taking treasury stock as collateral. Charles Barney had made his reconnaissance to Bennettville. The directors had “entire confidence in his honesty, and he made to us such unqualified reports of the very great value and enormous extent of the mines in question that we had no doubt of their value, and hence our willingness to advance funds and take the responsibilities.’”

SHINGLES ON SHAFT HOUSE, DANA VILLAGE
[click to enlarge]
SHINGLES ON SHAFT HOUSE, DANA VILLAGE

At the mine all eyes were on the tunnel being ground slowly but steadily through slate and quartzite toward the Sheepherder.

“When Mr. Barney returned to New Bedford . . . he at once interviewed Mr. Bennett and told him that it would never do to make an exact report of the properties, as the ledges were so very great, and the quantities of ore and their assay value so large, that such a report would be considered an exaggeration, as such a state of things would be deemed an impossibility by experienced mining engineers, and his report, therefore, was toned-down and made very conservative. . . .” 1

The tunnel progressed steadily.

April 5, 1884 — Jim Campbell went to Tioga Wednesday on snowshoes, packing 48 pounds of dope for the journals of the machinery at the Great Sierra tunnel. 59

At a cost of $10,687.40, new and heavy machinery was ordered from Parke and Lacy of San Francisco of sufficient strength and capacity to more than quadruple the amount and speed of the work in driving the tunnel. 60 It never reached Bennettville.

In every mail leaving Bennettville a progress report was sent to President Bennett in New Bedford, giving conditions in the tunnel, at the saw mill, on the wagon road, and the weather.

Things looked good at Bennettville:

May 31, 1884 — The tunnel of the Great Sierra Con. S. Co. is being steadily pushed for the Sheepherder Lode . . . the adit being in, at the first of the present week, about 1,632 feet. A good deal of anxiety prevails, from ocean to ocean, over the progress of this great work, and some very silly speculations, croaking, and predictions have been indulged in about it by the uninformed—such as that the Sheepherder had been cut and found to be extremely rich; that it had been cut and found to be barren; that the place where it ought to have been had been passed and no lode found . . . At 23 feet a week it will take exactly seven weeks from last Monday to make 161 feet—so that the Sheepherder vein should be reached on Monday, the 14th of July next. . . .

And some day, not far distant, the development of these almost-limitless sources of wealth will place Mono county far in advance, as a bullion producer, of any other similar area or territory on the continent or in the world—and to no one corporation or association will so much credit be due for this result as to the Great Sierra Consolidated Silver Company and its chief stockholders, Thomas Bennett, Jr. and Wm. C. N. Swift of New Bedford, Massachusetts, who have already expended some hundreds of thousands of dollars on development work in Tioga District and in the construction of an excellent and costly wagon road (the Tioga Road) to that lofty and theretofore inaccessible region. May their reward be speedy ad commensurate with their unfaltering faith, indefatigable energy, and daring enterprise, is the universal sentiment of the people of this section. 61

A move by one of the Eastern stockholders, possibly William Swift, secured a sufficient number of shares to give control to that group. This may be where Judge Joseph Parker bowed out. Relations in the company were strained, with the East carrying the major financial burden. But matters remained comparatively quiet and tunnel work progressed until the close of the year 1883 when the company was without money, all of its treasury stock pledged as security and the stockholders refusing to make further loans on the company’s paper.’ 1



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