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THE SILVER MUSHROOM OF LEADVILLE.
By S. L. Oberholtzer.
Grandeur, vastness, height, depth, gold and glory are so indescribably commingled, so illimitatably gathered together in the Rocky Mountains, that they are indivisible. The unexplained magnitude has rested for ages, and only now are we deciphering slowly these unique, natural monuments of time. God has lettered the State of Colorado in a grand and mysterious manner. The volume he has written there is beyond the translation of mortal words. We can no more take up and interpret it understandingly for each other than one plant can collect sunbeams to paint the bloom of another. Only through the beautiful gift of sight may we learn, each for himself, the varied character of God's Rocky Mountain alphabet. He has lifted the irregular peaks to His clouds, so near heaven that He robes them in continual purity to be in keeping with His realm; yet He has left them broken with awful and enchanting defiles for the passage of man.
There are lovely parks, like Eden gardens, fringed with luxuriant grasses, sparkling with lakes and smiling with groves, hemmed in at intervals by the mountains, and pearly streams that wake to being above timber line and slake their thirst with snow, dancing on, a musical memory of the wild cascades of the past. There are mighty canons reaching up their brawny, bony arms thousands of feet to catch the stars, which they exhibit to the awe of the beholder at midday. These caiionsseem to be a distinct and distinguishing feature of the Rocky ranges. Though lately unexplored and unused, they are fast becoming the crowded avenues of commerce.
The beautiful Clear Creek Canon, earliest utilized and most thoroughly known because of the narrow gauge railroad running through it, is a magnificent panorama of sublimity and change. The road enters its massive walls at Golden, and follows the meandering gold bed of the stream thirteen miles to the forks, where it diverges with the stream, one branch clinging like a thing of life to the rock-clad edges above the placer mines climbs up to Central, while the other takes a not
less perilous route to Georgetown. South Platte Canon, recently appropriated by the railroad, reaching from Denver towards Leadville, abounds in soul-awing and inspiring scenery.
The canons of the Gunnison and Arkansas, west of the Continental Divide, are appalling in sublimity. The Grand Gorge of the Arkansas, through which the torrent of the Arkansas River rushes, has a sheer depth of 2008 feet. Except when the river is frozen, it has defied all access. One glance from its brink to the depth below is sufficient for a lifetime; for as the eyes of the tourist rise, he sees the perpendicular wall on the opposite side of the cation towering yet hundreds of feet above the one on which he stands. If height and depth were uncomprehended before, the shivering terror of their explanation can never be forgotten. Yet, stealing a march on the icebound river, a railway was surveyed from Canon City to Leadville along the awful defile, and rocks have been blasted and tumbled into the maddened river to make way for the advancing narrow gauge track.
Within these broken depths we involuntarily pause and listen for the heart beats of the mountains. We feel and hear above the rush of past and present waters, that fall with full or lingering notes, the loving presence of their Creator. He abides as of old in the mountains, and cleaves them at His will. He who divided, through Moses, the waters of the Red Sea, opens with His own hand these rock-clad pathways. The height, multitude, and length of the mountains with their spurs and foot hills are bewildering and enchanting.
At the base of the Sierra Range is the Silver Mushroom of Leadville, an outgrowth of the carbonate hills that sprang into existence as the beautiful excrescence of a night. The silver carbonate belt to which it owes its being is extensive, * reaches north and south, dipping eastward in the mountains at an angle of zo°.
This Silver Mushroom, the city of unprecedented growth, develops on an almost level plain. (M either side distant mountain ranges rise far
timber line, and to the south is the broad wooded valley of the Arkansas. Its first building was r greeted in June, 1877, ar>d in June, 1878, the population was 1500. Since then the expansion has been marvelous. It was estimated early in 1S80 at 30,006, this including the adjacent mining camps, lesser mushrooms that have sprung up beside it.
The California Gulch, opened in i860, which yielded gold profusely for a time and was abandoned as exhausted eight years later, borders its southern limit. Seventeen miles to the eastward are the tourists' mirrors of delight, Twin Lakes, whose crystal waters afford the highest yachting and trout fishing in the world. Near them, through Mosquito Pass, is South Park, with its wealth of fertility and verdure which the Rockies guard with zealous care, and we have ingress to only through the narrow gateway of the passes.
Mining, trading, and business in every department is booming in Leadville; rushing with an impetus that scarcely pauses for the hours of darkness, or marks in every seven the day of especial light. A Sabbath day's presence is denoted only by the crowds of miners on the streets and the four open churches. Silver mining and money traffic are the end and aim. Fortunes are made and lost in an hour by those who have gathered from every State in the Union and many foreign countries, attracted by the accounts of "prizes drawn by the few and opportunities afforded the many." Men who were poor yesterday are millionaires to-day. Perhaps by a sudden development in their mining claim it has sold for a fabulous price; or by the rise in real estate their building lots have become more valuable than bullion. Sites on Chestnut street and Harrison avenue, the most popular thoroughfares of the new metropolis, that could be purchased for twenty dollars in 1878, are now selling at from one hundred to three hundred dollars per foot front. There are one hundred and fifty good producing mines in operation; fifteen large smelting and reduction works, besides many smaller ones. Merchandise, provisions and accommodations are necessarily high. Hay is worth ninety dollars per ton regularly, and last winter when snow blockaded the mountain passes it sold at a hundred and eighty dollars per ton. There are over five hundred six-mule teams, besides an unestimated number drawn by horses and oxen, con
stantly employed in carrying freight, mostly the requisites of life, to Leadville. Charge for transportation from Colorado Springs or the end of the track is two dollars a hundred pounds.
All roads seem to lead to Leadville; all teams are going to Leadville, and all people bend toward Leadville. The Silver Mushroom has turned the heads alike of the venturesome and the steady.
When we were in Ute Pass a few weeks ago it was crowded with loaded and overloaded teams going to Leadville. We were obliged to take our position in the interminable procession and the risk of making the two miles of grandeur in half a day, and a much greater delay in returning, as the cafion way admits only one wagon at a time, or forsake our carriage in a turnout and explore on foot; we wisely chose the latter. The blockade was complete when we returned, owing to the discouragement of some poor horses on the steep, that refused to proceed with their burden of tribute to the Silver City.
Leadville receives all her supplies through these avenues, the mountain passes, and depends on a daily replenishment of her stores. Should the passes be closed for a few days, the silver mushroom would droop and suffer from the lack of sustenance, because the population increases so rapidly that the influx of laboriously-carried stores cannot gain on the ever-swelling demand. This difficulty in a short time will be obviated by the completion of the outreaching railroads from the east, north and south.
It is almost marvelous that notwithstanding the inaccessibility of the situation and the severity of the climate at an altitude of ten thousand feet, the daily accessions by arrivals average two hundred.
Hotel accommodations were entirely insufficient some months ago, when a wise adventurer from an Eastern city conceived the idea of a mammoth sleeping palace, which he soon erected in the shape of a long frame shelter with rows of comfortably furnished berths on either side. This accommodates one thousand sleepers, and brings its owner a nightly income of five hundred dollars.
The postmaster, Mr. A. A. Smith, and his fifteen assistants, receive and forward volumes of letters, the average number for twenty-four hours being about 15,000, while the daily receipts for postage stamps amount to $1200. The telegraph smelting establishments for 1879, including gold, silver and lead, is valued at $12,032,808.61.
communication is proportionately large. The city
The carbonate supply seems inexhaustible. The daily product of the mines is reckoned on the ground at eight hundred and twenty tons, yielding almost one ton pure silver. The output of the camp, taken accurately from the different
Mountains unfathomed, and treasures unknown,
Untenanted glory, luxuriant, free,
You smiled, and a mushroom awoke with your glee,
The bloom of a dream for the ages to be.
A broad silver mushroom, the wild's prodigy.
Stoop, white-hooded mountains, ye brides of the mist,
And let the wide mushroom be purity-kissed.
By Malcolm Douglas.
"Fair was she to behold, this maiden of seventeen summers, Black were her eyes as the berry that grows on the thorn by
the wayside, Black, yet how softly they gleamed beneath the brown
shade of her tresses."
Like Longfellow's heroine, her name, too, was Evangeline. It seemed to me as I gazed upon her exquisite loveliness that she was the poet's ideal—the vision that inspired him in his immortal lines.
I was sick and tired that summer from the effects of overwork, and when the doctor advised me to seek some quiet little village by the sea, where invigorating air could be found, I chose Ardmore. Ardmore lay nestled in a green and fertile valley; afar off to the inland could be seen a hazy ridge of mountains whose peaks towered toward heaven as if to unfathom its many mysteries; and from my quaint old-fashioned window I could s.e the blue expanse of waters, while the ever sounding roar of the breakers was borne mournfully to my ear.
I strolled along the sandy beach one pleasant afternoon, and seated on a moss-covered stone, gazing dreamily out at sea where white-sailed vessels swiftly glided, I first saw her in all her peerless beauty—with dark brown hair waving luxuriantly over her perfect shoulders; glorious, soul-stirring eyes, and fair, sweet oval face. Upon her lap lay a little sketch, which she had just finished.
She started back like a timid fawn and blushed painfully when she saw me looking at her with
the admiration I could not repress, and gathered up a book and the sketch she had drawn.
"I beg your pardon," I said, lifting my hat; "I had no idea that any one was here save myself, or I would not have so rudely intruded."
"It is no intrusion," she replied, arising at the same time, "for I had intended to go before you came, as my sketch is finished, and I fear I have already stayed too long." And as she walked gracefully away a little white card fluttered from the book she held in her hand to the ground, where it remained unnoticed. Watching her until she disappeared up a little shady lane, I picked up ! the card that she had dropped, and read thereon the name, "Evangeline Orton."
All hat long night her black eyes haunted me so that I could not sleep. Her name, which sounded so musical and sweet, came irresistibly to my lips, and I repeated it softly over and over until the night had passed away.
In due time Evangeline Orton and I became acquainted. She lived with her parents in a charming little place called Fern Cottage, and it was here my love for her grew stronger and purer as the days quickly passed. There were many suitors for her hand ; but of all I soon became the most favored.
One night we walked slowly on the beach, and listened to the waves as they rhythmically beat the shore.
"There is nothing so beautiful to me as the sea," she said, slowly. "I was born and brought up beside it, and I admire it in its different moods.''
- "I agree with you, Miss Orton," I returned, looking in her face and longing to tell her how I loved her. "I too have learned to admire the sea, for the reason that I have spent so many happy hours beside it."
"But yet it is treacherous," she said, her eyes bent seaward. "Once I can remember there was a shipwreck off this coast, and the next morning I went to the beach to see the remnants that were cast ashore by the waves. The scene was terrible, for of all on board the ship not one survived through the perils of that night."
She shuddered at the remembrance, and for a while was silent. Then I told her I loved her.
"Miss Orton—Evangeline, during the short time I have seen you I have learned to love you devotedly—with a strong, pure love, that can never grow less. Will you be mine, dear, and render my life unspeakably happy?"
Eagerly I waited for her answer. Her bosom heaved witn emotion, and a glad, tender light shone in her black eyes as she murmured, softly:
"Yes; I have loved you since I first met you on the beach."
"God bless you, my darling!" I said, wrapping the shawl around her; and then we retraced our steps homeward.
Passing a dark corner, a man disguised in a heavy overcoat passed us quickly, and disappeared in the darkness.
"Oh, Percy!" Evangeline said, breathlessly, "did you see how wickedly that man glanced at you? I am sure I have seen him before. Be careful, dear, for I am positive he means harm."
"Nonsense, pet," I replied, thinking of my new-found happiness; and having reached Fern Cottage 1 bade Evangeline good-night, and sauntered slowly to my rooms.
The stars twinkl; d merrily; the waters sparkled and flashed joyfully under the rays of a full moon, and all Nature seemed happy—but I was happiest of all.
Our courtship progressed very happily, and before I realized it, the long, warm summer had passed away. But how rudely are we sometimes awakened from a pleasant dream! One day I received a letter from he"-, which read:
"Mr. Alton: Forgive me for ever leading you to believe that I cared for you. I can never love
you, as my heart is already possessed by another. I write to ask if you will generously release me from our engagement. Evangeline."
Dazed and astonished, I read this cruel letter several times. She did not love me; she had toyed with my affections, and then thrown them aside! As in a dream, I wrote an answer stating that I released her, and two hours later saw me on my way to New York. There I tried hard to forget her; but in vain. Her image was constantly before me, and I loved her still, though she was mine no longer.
Five years passed by.
One night I was seated in my study musing over the past events of my life, when the doorbell rang, and presently the servant opened the door, and a man entered the room.
"Sir," he exclaimed, hurriedly, "I am sent here by a friend of mine, who is fast dying, to tell you that he wishes to see you. It is very important, and concerns your future happiness. Follow me quickly if you would hear what he has to say, for he has but a few hours to live; he may be dead now, for aught I know."
I hesitated, for the night was bitter, and my study looked so warm and comfortable with its bright fire, that the prospect of braving the storm without was anything but pleasing. Then I wrapped myself up warm, and without a word followed my guide.
On we went past brilliantly-lighted houses until we turned down a dark, narrow street, on each side of which were houses inhabited by the poorer classes. The snow was falling fast, and gusts of cold wind blew innumerable flakes in our faces. Soon we came to a dingy brick building, which we entered. I was led softly to an apartment in which a man lay dying.
"I have sent for you," he said faintly to me as I seated myself near him, "to wake a confession that will ease my conscience, and let me die in peace. I have wronged you, and I wish to repair the wrong as well as I can before my death." He paused, exhausted by the effort, and murmured to himself, "God knows how much I've suffered since that night at Ardmore!" After his medicine was given him, he continued: "You remember Ardmore from the fact that there you met and loved Evangeline Orton. It may startle you when I say that I loved her too, aye, madly, blindly! but my love was not reciprocated. She was cold and indifferent to me, and after you came I stopped paying my attentions to her; for I could see her affections were given entirely to you. One night I lurked near and heard you propose to her, and you were accepted. The sight maddened me, and it was then jealousy took possession of my soul. I first thought I would kill you; but that, I cunningly reasoned, would not accomplish my end, and at last I hit upon a plan. I was always clever at imitating handwriting, and after carefully studying a letter that Evangeline Orton sent me, declining the offer of my hand and heart, I deliberately penned the note which you thought came from her."
He paused again, and looked at me; but I said nothing. I was thinking how I wronged my pure Evangeline.
"I am dying," he said; "the doctor says that I cannot live. Will you forgive me?"
It was hard; he had separated my love from me for five long, dreary years. I looked into his pale, wan face, which bore signs of sincere repentance.
"I forgive you," I answered, quietly.
"Heaven bless you, he said, fervently; "and
may you find your loved Evangeline—and—live happily!" These were the last words he said.
I went from the room of death to my home, » where I thought until the first faint, red streaks of day were visible in the eastern sky. Then I quickly donned a travelling suit and started on the first train for Ardmore. Fern Cottage appeared familiar, and upon inquiring of the maid if her mistress was home, I was ushered in the parlor. Soon a lady, whose face I did not remember, appeared.
"Pardon me, madam," I asked; "but is Mrs. Orton at home?"
"I believe you refer to the former occupants of this house. They have long since moved away."
"And Miss Evangeline?" I faltered.
"Poor girl!" she replied, " they say she died of a broken heart"—
I waited to hear no more; for I was too weighed down and broken-hearted at this second and greater sorrow. Bidding her good-by, I left the house.
Often I visit a little green and quiet grave, and bow silently before the marble stone which simply bears the name, "Evangeline." And here I pray that I may meet her some day in that land where there are no partings, where love and happiness dwell supreme.
When the first blush of rosy morn lias faintly tinged the eastern sky,
When dewdrops bright are on the thorn, And spiders' woofs on the tall grass lie;
When hush of life and nature blend,
Ere robin chants his matin hymn, Or slender threads of blue ascend
From cottage chimneys, tall and slim; I I hie me then to bank and brae,
And pluck a nosegay fresh and fair, The first sweet offering of the day,
And meet for her I love to wear.
The darling flowers that thickly gem
The graces that do shine in them,
The violet^ blue not bluer are
Than her own eyes that look at me,
The dogwood's little winsome star
The lilies,—pure and white as snow!—
And tints that in the sweet-brier glow
Roses—so sweet the dainty bee
From tempting chalice hourly sips !—
The rose not sweeter is than she,
And lilies of the valley too,
I'll pluck for her, for their sweet grace Doth mind me of her charms anew,
Her modest mien, and faultless face.
And last of all the amaranth,
Type of my love, O gentle maid!
For years shall come and go again,