Mark Twain’s Letter

Mark Twain

San Francisco Daily Call/July 18, 1863

(From Our Regular Correspondent.)

Virginia City, Nevada Territory, July 16

Editors Morning Call: – I have been all through the Ophir mine this morning, and down to the sixth gallery, three hundred and thirteen feet below the surface.

Looking into the Spanish from the fifth gallery, I could see nothing but a chaos of huge crushed and splintered timbers, and masses of earth and stone, with no aperture large enough for us to crawl into. The crumbling down of handfuls of dirt and stones showed that the caving and settling was still going on. The new shaft to be sunk in front of the ledge will put the mine all right again; the Company could sink on the north end of the claim and go to taking out ore at once, if necessary.

Ophir Damages

Fifty feet or more of the north ends of the second, third and fourth galleries in the Ophir have caved in – the two latter at seven o’clock, last evening. No caving of any consequence occurred this morning, though where we stood, in the fifth gallery, near the Spanish line, two piles of rubbish had come through from above, and some of the timbers, eighteen inches square and six feet long, were split like brooms from top to bottom, by the tremendous weight bearing upon them, and a small portion of that extremity of the gallery may be crushed in today, although Mr. Wilder, the Superintendent, has hopes of saving it. If it lasts until tomorrow, it will be safe, and it is being rapidly double-timbered.

As Good As Ever

Thus, so far, the fifth and sixth galleries are intact, and the Company are only working in those. The caving of the upper galleries has been an advantage rather than an injury, as the Company would have had to go to the expense of filling them up if Nature had not come forward and done it herself.

The Mine Not Really Injured

In the sixth gallery we found a few inches of water, which is owing to the fact that the pump had to be stopped two hours to allow the workmen to timber a part of the incline which had caved in. The pump is working again, and the incline will soon be entirely repaired. We might have avoided the water and seen more of the sixth gallery, by descending a deep shaft from the fifth gallery, but threw as no one to man the windlass. Ophir is better stock today than it was a week ago. As I said before, the mine was being worked only in the fifth and sixth galleries, and these are uninjured. There is ore enough at Ophir City to run the Ophir Mill three months, and there is a two months’ supply at the Woodworth Mill. Six days hence they will be hoisting ore again, and going on as usual, as if nothing had happened.

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