This month I'm going to talk about mining in
. Rather than go
into a lot of detail, though, I'll give you a little historical background,
then focus on the Emma Silver Mine and one of the most notorious mining scams
in the Old West. Utah
|The Emma Silver Mine|
In the early days of Utah Territory, aka
Deseret, mining was frowned upon by Brigham Young and the
Mormon elders. They believed searching for gold and silver would distract their
people from agricultural pursuits and the building of their promised land. The
one exception was iron, which had practical uses and was expensive to ship into
their mountain kingdom from the east. In the early 1850s Mormons followed Brigham Young's call for an "iron mission" in southern Utah (now Iron County). Unfortunately, their search for iron didn't pan out.
In October 1862, Colonel Patrick E. Connor led his
and Nevada Volunteers into the Salt Lake . Many of his
soldiers were experienced prospectors and, with Connor's encouragement, they prospected for silver and gold in the nearby Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains. The first formal claims were established in 1863 in the Valley, where he founded Camp Douglas overlooking Salt Lake City
area. Bingham Canyon
Connor started a small newspaper, The Union Vedette, and promoted
’s mineral riches to the outside world.
Prospectors and miners trickled in and with the blessing of their leaders, many Mormons joined in the search for mineral riches. Later, with the completion of the nation’s
first transcontinental railroad, fortune seekers poured in by the thousands. Like a silver carrot dangled before them was the Emma, the
most famous and infamous mine in the history of Utah . Utah
|Little Cottonwood Canyon|
The Emma was located in Little Cottonwood Canyon, above the mining camp of Alta, on the western face of the Wasatch Mountains. Discovered in 1868 by two men named Woodman and Chisholm, it was christened "Emma" after a woman one of the men had known in San Francisco. Having no capital to develop their claim, Woodman and Chisholm sold a one-third interest in the mine to a speculator named James E. Lyon. The miners sank a shaft and during 1868-69 some 100 tons of silver ore were extracted.
|Senator W.M. Stewart|
In 1870 a large body of ore opened in another diretion. Woodman and Chisholm then took on several other partners and attempted to oust Lyon from the company on the grounds that since the silver vein had changed direction, Lyon no longer had any claim upon it. Lyon filed a lawsuit, with W.M. Stewart, Senator from Nevada, serving as his lead attorney. A great deal of legal maneuvering followed which resulted in the investors being reorganized as the Emma Silver Mining Company of New York.
Around the autumn of 1871, the owners decided they would try to sell the mine in London, relying upon its production record to promote it. The number of miners, previously about 100, was reduced to 10 and a new superintendant appointed -- said to be the best man to "prepare" a mine for inspection by engineers prior to a sale. Guards prevented anyone from entering the mine without written permission. A British miner who worked in the Emma at that time later reported seeing silver ore "plastered or engrafted" onto the limestone rock. In other words, they salted the mine to make it look like there was still a rich vein of silver to be extracted when, in truth, it was nearly worked out.
Hyperbole flew like wildfire: “. . . after the discovery of the great Emma silver mine mass of ore, mining and prospecting in Utah took a sudden leap; prospectors spread out in all the mountains; and the result today is, that Utah gives promise of soon being as largely silver bearing and silver producing as Nevada. English and eastern capital is now freely flowing there, and the great yield of those rich mines will enable
to take high rank in the production of silver bullion.” ~~ from a Report by the United States General Land Office Utah
British investors paid some $5,000,000 dollars for the Emma. A short time later the vein played out, and those investors furiously cried "Swindle!". Bitter accusations flew back and forth. Both the British and
governments became involved, nearly going
to war before the brouhaha finally ended. After the Emma scandal, British
investment in U.S.
mining virtually stopped. In fact, all investment in Utah Utah
mines dried up except for a few well known, trusted operations, crippling mining pursuits for
Eventually the industry did recover, thanks to local and American investors, and mining proved to be a vital part of the
economy. A report issued by the Salt Lake Mining Review stated total mining
production between 1865 and 1917 came to over 800 million dollars. Not bad! Utah
The Utah silver boom plays a crucial part in Darlin' Druid, book one in my Texas Druids series. I hope you'll give this award winning novel of the Old West a try.