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Down the Mother Lode   By: (1889-1934)

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By Vivia Hemphill

Copyright, 1922


So many inquiries have been made as to exactly where, and what is the "Mother Lode"!

The geologist and the historian agree as to its location and composition, but the old miners and "sojourners" of the vanished golden era give strangely different versions of it. Some of these are here set down, if not all for your enlightenment at least, I hope, for your entertainment.

That is, after all, the principal aim of these tales of the old days in California, that are gone "for good." Mark Twain says in his preface to "Roughing It" that there is a great deal of information in his work which he regrets very much but which really could not be helped, as "information seems to stew out of me naturally, like the precious ottar of roses out of the otter"!

These stories make no such particular claim! They are merely historical fragments of their everyday life, gathered from a passing generation before they shall be finally lost. Each one is based upon truth. Somewhere, sometime, some place, certain characters lived the scenes and actions here described.

The title "Mother Lode" has been used in its broader sense as exemplifying the source of all gold in California, and the life which arose from it.

The mining engineer said: "The Mother Lode runs south from El Dorado County to the lower boundary of Mariposa County. It stretches past the towns of Sutter Creek, Jackson, San Andreas, Angel's Camp and the road to Yosemite far down below Coulterville. The lode begins suddenly and ends as suddenly, and though we have searched up and down the state we have never been able to pick it up again."

"Has it any relation to the Comstock Lode?" was asked.

"None whatever. Curiously enough, in Nevada City and vicinity it would appear that at one time in the earth's making, a great fissure opened in forming California and a wedge of Nevada mining country was pushed into it. North of there the California stratas begin again."

"But it was always my belief that these localities were on the Mother Lode, as well as the Georgetown and Auburn country."

"Many persons are apparently under that impression, but the geological surveys of the government place it in the exact location I have given you."

The "Old Miner, '49er," said: "We hunted most all o' our lives, lookin' for her! We called her the Mother Lode, because we thought that all the gold in the state must a' come from her an' washed down the rivers onto the bars where we found it. We thought she'd be pure gold, an' a hundred feet wide an' go on, world without end. We looked, an' looked, an' after quartz minin' come in, we dug an' dug, but we never found the old girl exceptin' here an' there.

"Joe Dance, that old prospector that died last year, he lost his mind lookin' for the big lode. Made some rich strikes in his day, Joe did, but he never could stop to work 'em. He was always waitin' for the mother of 'em all, he said, who'd put him on the road to the heart a' molten gold in the middle a' the earth.

"We old fellows tramped all the way through the hills with only a burro for company most a' the time, an' you'll ride down a broad paved way, soon, in your automobile. You'll go in days, where it took us months, an' some brainy young engineer will locate the old girl, most likely, in new fangled ways that were unknown in our time.

"Well, the world whirls fast, now a days. Guess they'll need all the gold in the old girl's lap to keep on greasin' the machinery. I take off my hat to this generation. I hope they'll find it!"

Hittell says: "The Mother Lode is one of the most extraordinary metalliferous veins in the world. Gold bearing lodes usually range only five or six miles, but this can be traced for more than sixty. The rock is a hard and white quartz, rich in very fine particles of gold, and the vein varies in width from a foot to thirty feet.

"There are in some portions of its course side branches or companion veins, as they are sometimes called, making the total width nearly one hundred feet... Continue reading book >>

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