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thing to you. Thousands of persons annually die of consumption and other lung diseases in the Northern States. For persons afflicted with these diseases the cold climate of Minnesota has been recommended because of its dryness, and so also has Aiken and other localities in the South. Some publications have recently been made by scientific and professional gentlemen, showing that the climate of portions of the mountain region of this State are equal to Minnesota in dryness, and superior in equability and mildness of temperature, and that the greater elevation, dryness and cooler summer weather, make it better for such invalids than Aiken, for example, elevation being one of the most important elements. The observations made for the use of the Smithsonian Institute, at Asheville, have been carefully examined, and it has been shown that the place has a climate almost identical with that of Milan, in Italy, and Vienne, in France, both of which are the resorts of invalids. In none of these publications, however, is there an explanation of the physical causes which have produced there a climate not only cool in the summer, but uncommonly dry and bracing. Unless these facts are understood, persons may be misled in selecting the best place for health. Though all the mountain region of this State is quite salubrious, it would be a great mistake to suppose that all of it, or the plateau of the Cumberland Mountain, in Tennessee, had a climate as dry as that of Asheville. The belt of country which has the dryest climate, does not in fact constitute more than one-fourth, or even so much of one mountain region.
When, many years ago, I became a resident of Asheville, I was struck by the singular appearances there observed. In winter, with winds from the northeast, we often had for days light, broken bunches of clouds floating along the heavens, with sky more or less constantly visible, while to the east there appeared heavy masses, and even a few miles to the west the quantity of cloud was much greater than over the immediate region where I stood. A little snow fell, but not enough to cover the ground; and yet, when I went twenty miles to the east into McDowell county, I often found three or four inches of snow, and the like frequently in Haywood county, on the west. Similar facts were manifested in the summer, viz: weather somewhat cloudy, with little rain at Asheville; more, however, a few miles west, and considerable rains on the east side of the Blue Ridge, in McDowell. I began to examine the configuration of the mountain chains, and soon satisfied myself that I understood the cause of these phenomena. It is known that a current of air, saturated with moisture, in rising to pass over a mountain, is rarified, cooled, and will let go a portion of its moisture, which is thereupon condensed into minute drops of water, making fog or cloud. One often sees, for hours in succession, a small patch of cloud hovering about the top of a mountain, even when a strong gale of wind is blowing, and some persons wonder why the wind does not carry off this little mass of white cloud, making a mistake unlike that of a person, who, observing the cataract of Niagara from a distance, should take it to be a column of water standing still all day. As soon as this cloud is carried down into a warmer
region, it at once disappears by being reconverted into invisible vapor, the air ceasing to precipitate moisture, and becoming one of evaporation again, or a drying air. This is illustrated on a large scale near the Rocky Mountains, on the western slopes of which the winds from the Pacific ocean deposit their moistnre, while on the east there is so little rain that extensive deserts exist. The country around Asheville is under the influence of similar causes, but not to an extent sufficient to make a desert or even perceptibly to diminish vegetation. It is merely somewhat drier than the surrounding regions.
This condition results from such a configuration of the country as will be apparent to any one who examines it carefully. There is a belt of table land, about the centre of which is at Asheville, extending for nearly seventy miles in a northwestwardly and southeasterly direction, but somewhat nearer to the northern and southern points than to the eastern and western. It is fifteen miles in breadth, perhaps twenty at some points, and has an average elevation of twentytwo or three hundred feet above the sea. Though it seems broken to one traveling over it, yet when one ascends an eminence he sees what appears to be a level plateau of which Henderson county embraces the southern, and Buncombe the centre and Madison the northern portion. Only, however, the central parts of these counties lie within the belt. The French Broad river in Henderson is but little below the adjoining hills. At Asheville it has sunk two hundred and fifty feet, and in the northern portions of Madison it has cut a channel eight or nine hundred feet deep, below the hills, half a mile distant from it. There is no cross mountain chain or any considerable obstruction across this long plateau. Hence the winds from the west and northwest, these being the prevailing winds throughout the year, move unobstructed along this belt with a rapid current and a dry and exhilirating air. In fact, where the course of a current of air comes near the direction of this belt, it seems drawn into and accelerated like the waters of a river along a narrow pass. About Asheville, therefore, it is never sultry except for a short period, sometimes before a thunder shower. Most of the rains, however, of the western part of this State, are brought by winds from the east and from the southwest. Fifteen miles to the east and to the southeast of Asheville, extends the Blue Ridge Mountain, with an average elevation of fifteen hundred feet, probably, above it. The easterly and southeasterly winds precipitate a portion of their moisture on the eastern slopes of this mountain, and after passing it and descending to a lower attitude, they become comparatively dryer, and often cease to drop rain at all. The most disagreeable weather that visits the Atlantic States, however, is that accompanied by the northeasterly winds. Against them there is a still greater barrier afforded by Craggy, the Black Mountain, and a third ridge running to the north, the highest position of which is called Yeates' Knob. This mass of mountains lying on the northeast of Asheville, and attaining an elevation of more than six thousand feet above the sea, or four thousand feet above the table land, presents a barrier against the northeastern storms, so formidable that the clouds are broken to pieces and fall over it in scattered fragments.
The southwesterly winds, however, bring much rain, often continuing for days at a time. Against them, however, nature has furnished. a protection. From the Great Smoky Mountain, at a point a little to the north of west from Asheville, the Balsam Mountain, the longest of the cross chains, extends itself entirely over the State to the borders of South Carolina. It attains a general height of at least six thousand feet, and with its spurs extending somewhat towards Asheville, the Cold Mountain and Pisgah ridges, for a hundred degrees in distance, it breaks the force of the southwestern winds. It thus happens that most of the rain-bearing winds, before reaching this region, have, by passing over higher lands, lost a portion of their moisture, and the atmosphere, therefore, of the tract, is comparatively a dry one.
The Greenbrier White Sulpher Springs, in Virginia, are only five hundred feet lower than Asheville, and yet, from its surroundings, it is not only often damper, but also much hotter. At Burnsville, in Yancey county, forty miles north of Asheville, and six hundred feet higher, and in winter much colder, I have seen it in like manner warmer in summer, because surrounded by mountains, which obstruct the currents of air. I also, once in the Alps, while crossing a ridge of several thousand feet elevation, because enclosed by high mountains, found very sultry weather.
I do not mean to have it understood that we have not at Asheville often disagreeable periods, but merely to state that there is less bad weather at that point than I have observed at other places with which I am acquainted. I think that a large percentage of people who annually die of lung diseases in the North-eastern States might attain the average longevity if they were to remove to this region. Persons threatened with consumption, whose means permit, might derive quite as much advantage from visiting that locality as the Southern planters who have been accustomed to travel to the Virginia Springs, to Saratoga and to Newport.
By calling their attention to this subject you may, sir, render essential service to the cause of humanity.
Gentlemen: In reply to your inquiries with reference to the mica deposits in this section of the State, and the appearance of early operation for the same, I can now, before leaving town, only present you a brief statement.
The old Cherokee Indians, living in some of the western counties, used to speak of a tradition coming down in their tribe, that long ago companies of white men came on mules from the south, worked during the summer, and carried off a white metal with them. The remains
of some old works in Cherokee county seem to give countenance to this report, and, at one place at least, present the appearance of having been excavated by persons skilled in mining. The fact that they were abandoned before much work was done, would rather imply that they were mere tests, which had proved unsuccessful.
There are, however, in other localities, numerous remains of old excavations, some of which are much more extensive, and which were done in a different formation. In the year 1867, and in the early part of 1868, I examined several of these localities in the counties of Cleveland, Rutherford and Burke, on the east side of the Blue Ridge, and in Mitchell, Yancey and Buncombe. In most instances the work had been slight, showing that it had been done as a mere experiment, which had not proven satisfactory. In several localities, however, it was very manifest that the operators had met with such success as to cause them to extend their working generally. In every case I examined, the outcrop of the veins was so similar as to leave no doubt but that the parties had found at certain localities some mineral of value to them, and that wherever they had observed like indications they had made tests. Again, from the fact that they never worked in hard ground-that is, where the work required blasting-it was evident that they were not provided with the means of blasting.
At every one of the places I examined, mica was abundant in veins composed chiefly of felspar and quartz, the former generally predominating. The mica left among the debris was generally in small flakes, except at Mr. Garrett Ray's, on the waters of Bolin's creek, where a number of large sheets had been left. This last mentioned fact seemed to indicate that the mica itself had not been the object of the exploration.
The most extensive of all the excavations was that on the land of Mr. Wm. Slivers, in Mitchell county, near the road from Burnsville to Bakersville. From the appearances there, it would seem that a large number of miners had been at work for years at that place. In the excavations, extending for about four hundred yards, they had at intervals left bars across as if to prevent the earth at the sides from falling in-making thus a succession of openings fifty or sixty feet in extent, separated by narrow ridges of earth. Timber which I examined that had grown on the earth thrown out, had been growing as long as three hundred years. Near one of the workings, not far from this place, I also saw a slab of stone that had evidently been marked by blows of a metallic tool, and which had, from the appearance about it, been most probably intended to mark the locality.
As the manner in which the work had been done at Mr. Sliver's resembled that sometimes practiced by the Mexicans, it seemed possible that a party of Spaniards-about the time when Cortes was in Mexico and De Soto was in Florida-might have rambled up into this region and, by employing the Indians as laborers, in the course of a few years have caused such explorations to have been made. On examining the material about the place, I found fragments that had been thrown out very like in their appearance some of the best Mexican silver ores. Several western miners, to whom the specimens were
shown in New York, prior to an assay, expressed great confidence that they would go to two or three hundred dollars in silver per ton. An assay, however, seemed to show only three dollars per ton. I caused it to be repeated, and had the same reply. This would seem to indicate that these were bits discarded because too poor, but that the work had perhaps been prosecuted for silver. I caused, therefore, a shaft to be sunk, and two tunnels to be carried entirely below the old excavations, and became satisfied that there was no workable silver ore to be found there. Large mica of good quality was abundant. It seemed certain that this work had all been done for mica. But the question more difficult to answer, presented itself; by whom could this work have been executed? The Norsemen were on our coast as far back as six or seven centuries ago; they might have penetrated into the interior, and by employing the natives have caused these works to be executed, and carried the mica away to be used as window-lights for their huts, as the inhabitants of the Arctic regions are said sometimes to do. But on the other hand I have been informed that mica has been found with other Indian ornaments and implements in certain caves in Tennessee, and perhaps elsewhere. It does not, therefore, seem improbable that a former race of Indians-possibly the "Moundbuilder," who used copper tools-made these excavations for the purpose of procuring the mica.
These veins are found in the gneiss and mica slate strata, which constitute the greater portion of the rocks of this region. The elements of their composition are identical with those of these strata, and even of clay slate. The difference is wholly in the structure of the veins, and not in their elements. In the veins the felspar, which usually predominates, exists tolerably pure, the quartz in lumps or large masses, and the mica in crystals of various sizes, sometimes weighing several hundred pounds. Near the surface the felspar, converted by atmospheric action into kaolin, presents chalky looking belts, with quartz Îying in lumps of different sizes, and more or less mica scattered
As almost all the rocky strata of this and the adjoining counties consist in great part of mica, persons must expect to find it everywhere. For commercial purposes, it is to be sought therefore where it exists in places of some size, is sufficiently transparent, and is free from such contortions and flaws as prevent its being split into thin sheets. Though the sizes of the chrystals will vary in different parts of the vein, they are likely to be as large at the surface as deeper down. That found at the surface, however, is usually injured by exposure to the weather, which in time, decomposes it, and is also disfigured by the clay carried into its seams. Unless within a few feet of the surface some mica of fair size is found, there would not seem to be encouragement to expend much labor in explorations.
Besides the valuable mines now being operated on in the counties of Mitchell and Yancey, I have seen from two localities in the southern part of this county, Buncombe, mica of fine size and good quality. Such is also found in the counties of Haywood, Jackson and Macon to the west, and as far east as Lincoln and Catawba. There seems to be