October 6, 1892
One Hundred Mile Ore Belt
Under and Over the Glaciers
Mountains of Mineral
The Half has Never Been Told, For it is Simply Indescribable – Write Up of the Wealth and Wonders of Horseshoe Basin Continued From Last Week.
Looking southward from the door of Ferguson’s cabin, across the gorge through which runs the Stehekin, there are to be seen a number of stupendous, jagged peaks, partly snowclad at the tops and one very large glacier, with a steeling glittering front of ice, while farther to the eastward is a sag between two towering peaks and almost all the way up the mountain side from the Stehekin to this sag can be plainly seen the red stains of the ore vein discovered in July by Robert and J.B. Pershall, particulars of which have been heretofore published in the Leader, and which has turned out to be marvelously rich. Experts have pronounced it the richest single vein yet discovered in the vicinity of the basin, the ore for four feet and a half in width averaging 134.10 ounces in silver to the ton, with a trace of gold. The ore is carbonates and galena. Development work is being done on the exposed vein not over 300 or 400 feet above the Stehekin, in a steep ravine, one side of which is a precipice 1,000 to 2,000 feet high, and rich ore in almost any quantity could be delivered on the cars daily almost immediately if a railroad were built up the Stehekin. The indications being so apparent from Horseshoe Basin, it is a matter of amazement that it remained so long undiscovered.
At Ferguson’s camp we had the pleasure of meeting, Jack Empey, superintendent of tunnel construction, Ed Bailey, who is well known in Chelan, and Jack Marshall, and are deeply indebted to them for hospitable and gentlemanly treatment. They, together with four others constitute the force engaged night and day, by shifts, in pushing the tunnel.
Later in the day on which we arrived, William Buzzard, a well-known mining man of this and the Coeur d’Alene districts, joined our party, he having come up from this farm three miles above Stehekin to development work on some of his claims, and he proved invaluable as a source of information, a guide and a jolly companion, he having been more or less of a mountaineer, miner and prospector for thirty years.
On Thursday morning, Messrs. Al Spader, Ben F. Smith, Wm. Buzzard and the writer tackled the trail for the upper basin. The trail zigzags for about 1,000 feet up what looks at a distance to be an impassable rock wall, over which it would be impossible for a horse to climb. Those who are used to it call it a good trail, but the tenderfoot who attempts to climb it requires both nerve and strength.
The formation of Horseshoe basin might be aptly compared to a vast open air mountain theater – of which in shape and scenic effort if vividly reminds one – projected on a stupendous and sublime scale of magnificence only conceivable by the great Master Builder of the universe! And almost overhanging the rim of the upper basin, the balcony of this vast auditorium, overlooking the lower basin, curtained as it were by the splendid picture of the gorge of the Stehekin and still further on, the panorama of glaciers and snowcapped mountain peaks, is situated the camp of Messrs. M.M. Kingman and Al Pershall, who have the honor of being the first discoverers of this enchanted treasury of wealth.
When it is realized who these gentlemen pushed out into these trackless wilds, through almost impenetrable forests, toiling painfully and laboriously over precipitous mountain sides and defying even the glaciers themselves in their bold search for earth’s treasurers, one cannot but admire their manly intrepidity and rejoice with them in the rare good fortune which has attended their resources. Not alone on the battlefield or in the thickly inhabited portions of the earth are to be found the heroes. There is no greater heroism than that displayed by the lone prospector or miner who leaves the busy throng, says farewell to his loved ones and bravely dares the precipice and the torrent, the wild gorges and wilder beasts of the forest, with no shelter from the storms, often going for days without food – too often perishing miserably though accident or sickness far from human kind – in his endeavor to penetrate nature’s hidden recesses and bring to light that which will benefit others no less than himself. It is thus that the greatest benefits to the world are often brought to light and those who achieve them are none the less true heroes because in many cases they reap no personal benefit and go down into obscurity “unwept, unhonored and unsung.”
Halting at the camp, which is at an altitude of 6,000 feet, only long enough to regain our breath after the violent exercise of lifting 135 pounds avoirdupois to such a height, the writer set out, under the volunteer guidance of Mr. Buzzard, to visit some of the many higher leads, the red stained streaks of which were so plainly to be seen against the mountain side, under and over the glaciers, below and extending up through the rugged sawteeth of the main divide of the Cascades. Here again the idea of a monster theatre suggests itself, from the fact that the second basin is nowhere level, but slopes upward in comparatively short benches, corresponding to giant sittings, to the fact of the sawteeth – themselves almost perpendicular. Climbing up over huge boulders and glacial washes studded thick with float and decomposed ores and fording numerous small streams of snow water, we finally reached the face of the cliffs on the west side of the basin, near the gulch in which the Upperside claim, the first vein north of and parallel with the Blue Devil. Mr. Buzzard owns a half interest in the Upperside, Messrs. Ferguson and H.C. Thomas, of Waterville, owning the other half. A description of this and other leads will be given further on, but it is very valuable property. Crowding in between the cliff and a high wall of solid snow we managed to get to where we could see the exposed mineral, but to reach it we should have had to creep under a huge snow cap weighing many tons which balanced its edges on either side of the gulch and seemed ready at any minute to let go and send us to eternal smash. It is perhaps unnecessary to say we didn’t go any further that way. It is worthy of remark by the way, as illustrating how vivid is the oxide coloring of these veins, that the snow bank showed great red stains where it had melted away from its contact with the ore body.
Bearing away to the northward (and skyward), crossing a ravine full of snow, toiling slowly over float and jagged rocks – debris carried down by glacial action from above – we found ourselves presently on the bald, sharply inclined bedrock, under the shadow of the largest glacier basin. An interesting, not to say startling, feature of our situation was the fact that every little while an acre or two of ice and rocks would part company with the glacier and come rushing past us with a roar and a crash. There was a fair prospect that we would happen to be in the pathway of an ice avalanche. Very interesting, wasn’t it? Then again a heavy blast would be fired in the face of the Ferguson tunnel far below, the echoes rolling and crushing among the lofty peaks like a heavy thunder clap oft repeated.
Quite an interval of bare bedrock, smooth and steeper than a roof, intervenes between the debris and the glacier walls, crossing which there must always be an uncomfortable feeling that one may be suddenly overtaken and overwhelmed. These same glaciers, but the continued freezing and thawing action of the elements, have here uncovered untold wealth, until even a tenderfoot with neve enough to climb the mountain side can see the exposed veins and know for a certainty that the mineral is there.
Over the bedrock we clambered, at times not having over an inch of crevice in which to insert our fingers or toes. Looking downward it seemed sure that a slip or misstep would hurl us from 1,00 to 2,000 feet. Looking upward we beheld acres of rotten edged glacier overhanging and threatening. The writer confesses that he nearly lost his head for a moment, but he had reached a spot where he couldn’t retreat and his only salvation was to go ahead. Once over the bold faced, slippery rocks, turning to the eastward we had to cross a rapid torrent in the immediate pathway of the intermittent avalanche, and we didn’t stop to make any notes of the scenery either. It was well that we didn’t for not five minutes later a large body of ice and rocks accompanied by an awful rumble and crash, came down through the ravine we had just crossed.
Once safely over we found ourselves upon the exposed ledge of the Crescent, extending east and west across a jutting point just under the sawtooth crags, 7,000 feet above sea level. Creeping along a rocky shelf perhaps a foot in width, we came into a crevice where considerable development work had been done, exposing four feet of fine, glittering concentrating ore. From this point one could look up for 1,500 to 2,000 feet farther and plainly see the various mineral veins – each a fortune in itself – among them the Davenport, which with its extensions is probably the largest and most wonderful ore body ever discovered. But after tarrying on the Crescent long enough to get rested and get his nerves steadied, the scribe concluded he didn’t want to go any higher. He felt like it would be a piece of rare good fortune to get back to camp alive.
A different and less dangerous route was chosen for the descent, although there were more goat paths to traverse and some “craw fishing” was necessary before we again reached the sliding rocks below, and we made camp without accident within three or four hours from the start.
While the perpetual glacial action precludes the possibility of timber in the upper (as well as a great portion of the lower) basin, still in places there are small clumps of stunted evergreens and out of the track of avalanches there is quite a good deal of green grass. Huckleberry bushes full of fruit were plentiful, and lovely wild flowers were blooming, in some instances within six feet of snowbanks. The veins of this wonderful ore belt cross the basin nearly northeast and south west. The belt itself is not to exceed four miles in width on the surface and a straight tunnel of two miles in length would probably cut all the veins. It is understood that the Monte Cristo mines, the Cascade district, Horseshoe basin, Park creek, Thunder Creek and the Bridge creek mines are all in and a part of this belt, which extended across the Twitsp, a tributary of the Methow, and on to and beyond Conconully, covering a known distance of over 100 miles. And any one investigating its situation and extent will at once be forced to the conclusion that it is not a wildcat scheme to talk of building a rail road from the head of Lake Chelan to tap it. It is much more feasible and promising for the amount of actual development work that has been done, than the proposition at Monte Cristo, where hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent this year in railroad building and mining, from the fact that the glaciers have done the development work, exposing the mineral all ready to mine and ship. The writer doesn’t pretend to say whether the Manhattan Company or the Lake Chelan Railroad & Navigation Company, or either of them, will be first to build a road to Horseshoe Basin, but in his judgement a road will be built and that very shortly, and the company which gets there first will be in big luck. It will not cost that much as to build it as it does to build from Everett to Monte Cristo. There are only twenty-one miles to build to the lake, with an easy grade, and a good transfer boat put on the lake gives a clear outlet of about one hundred miles to the Columbia River and a connection with the Great Northern railroad for the smelters at Tacoma and Spokane, east or west, a smelter should be located at Chelan, which is more than probable, as all the necessary conditions for successful smelting exists at this point.
Continued next week.