In Mark Twain’s “Roughing It,” the former Virginia City news reporter sheds light on the journalistic integrity present in mining camps.
“New claims were taken up daily, and it was the friendly custom to run straight to the newspaper offices, give the reporter forty or fifty ‘feet,’ [shares in the claim] and get them to go and examine the mine and publish a notice of it. They did not care a fig what you said about the property so [long as] you said something,” Twain wrote.
“Consequently we generally said a word or two to the effect that the ‘indications’ were good…If the rock was moderately promising, we followed the custom of the country, used strong adjectives and frothed at the mouth as if a very marvel in silver discoveries had transpired,” he continued.
Twain concluded, “We would squander half a column of adulation on a shaft, or a new wire rope, or a dressed pine windlass, or a fascinating force pump, and close with a burst of admiration of the ‘gentlemanly and efficient Superintendent’ of the mine—but never utter a whisper about the rock.”
Similar motives were perhaps at play in the offices of the Mining Review of Salt Lake City, which published a report Sept. 30, 1901 on the Golden King, a mine above Bonanza Flat in the Snake Creek district.
The article starts with praise for the district itself – a “scope of country that is highly mineralized and traced by mammoth ledges and prominent cropping” with veins that are “invariably permanent and continuous, and go to the deep.”
Check the “Frothing at the mouth” box.
The quality of the Golden King’s neighborhood thus established, the report states “it is the consensus of opinion among well-informed mining men that it is on an extension of the same mineral belt which has enabled the Ontario, the Daly, the Daly West, the Anchor and the Quincy mines to pour their millions into the commercial circles of the world.”
The article then highlights the wonderful nature of the mine’s elevation. At 700 feet above the surrounding countryside, it would obviate the need to pump water out of the workings, a common issue in the district.
Check the “A very marvel” box.
The company operating the mine made the decision to begin “extensive and intelligent development.” This includes “a comfortable cabin” and “other improvements…so that operations can be carried on all winter with comfort and economy.”
Check the “gentlemanly and efficient superintendent” box.
The best and highest verbiage is reserved for: “The Golden King is most admirably located in many ways. Timber for fuel and mining purposes is near at hand, which the beautiful Silver Islet Lake, from which the Ontario, Daly and Daly West mines derive their water supply, is but 900 feet from the mouth of the King tunnel.”
Several years ago, a plucky crew of Park City Museum members and an Irish setter went in search of the Golden King, relying on the report’s description and a little help from Google Maps. After scrambling up a boulder-strewn scree slope, we found ourselves perched precariously on the back of Clayton Peak. Sure enough, we were 900 feet from Silver Islet Lake, but hundreds of feet above any conceivable, let alone economical, way to transport ore to town. There are fortresses in Mordor easier to reach.
A reasonable search in the historical record finds no further news of the Golden King. It’s not likely the owners – or the anonymous Mining Review writer – made a dime on it.