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slate being frequently met with in considerable quantities. The silver mines first discovered in 1859, near the Comstock lode, in Storey County, have thus far proved the richest and most valuable. During the last year the mining industry has experienced fluctuations, incident to that branch of industry in all mineral regions. In some mines the product was less as they descend, while in others the yield steadily increases.
The Silver Bend district, in Nye County, which has been neg. lected for some time past, is now being worked, and is producing a considerable amount of silver. In some of the mines on the great Comstock lode the ore in the opened ground has been exhausted, but the miners are successfully sinking and drifting for fresh deposits of ore.
During the last year some important discoveries of mineral have been made, among which are the districts of Cope and Mineral Hill, in Elko County; Elgin, in Lincoln County; and Eureka and Secret Cañon, in Lander County. In many of these districts the silver-bearing ores are reported very rich. Several smelting works have been erected in the Eureka district, and the product of rich lead is reported as steadily increasing. Similar reduction works are in successful operation in White Pine County. The product of these mines is now shipped to New Jersey, San Francisco, and England for refining. Within the past year the product of the copper mines of Battle Mountain district in Humboldt County, near the line of the Central Pacific Railroad, has been largely increased. The ore is all shipped to England for reduction.
Since the date of our last report a new process for the treatment of silver ores has been introduced into Nevada, which, in the judgment of practical metallurgists, is destined to revolutionize the mining interests of the State. It is claimed that in the treatment of ores by means of the Stetefeldt furnace a saving of about $12 per ton has been effected in the roasting of the ores, in less than one-fourth the time formerly required, by the Freiberg or reverberatory furnace. The Stetefeldt fur. nace for treating ores which require a chloridizing roasting is simple and inexpensive in construction. The finely pulverized ore, mixed with the required percentage of salt, is made to fall through a vertical smoothsided shaft twenty feet in length, bringing each fine particle of ore and salt in direct contact with the products of combustion. Chloridizing by this process exceeds 90 per cent., 96 per cent. having been realized in some instances, and the desulphurizing and chloridizing of the ore require only two seconds of time. By the former method of roasting in the Freiberg or reverberatory furnace, it was extraordinary to obtain the result of 90 per cent., and generally required from six to eight hours to manipulate 1,000 pounds of ore. It is claimed for the Štetefeldt furnace, that one and a quarter tons of ore can be roasted in one hour; that it utilizes all the salt, by which a saving of 40 per cent. of that article is effected; reduces the loss of fine dust, gives better bullion, and consumes only 50 per cent. of the fuel required in the Freiberg furnace. The efficiency and great economy of this new process will tend to increase the product of bullion, and bring to the reduction works large quantities of the low grades of ores, which have hitherto been regarded as worthless. Four of these works are in operation and others are being constructed. It has been suggested that this new process may also be found adapted to the treatment of gold ores. The yield of gold and silver for 1869 was $18,000,000. The mining interest has in the main been prosperous during the present year, and it is expected that the product will be equal to that of the year preceding.
During the last fiscal year the surveying operations were pushed forward to the extent of the means provided by law for that branch of the public service, during which period there were surveyed 858,763 acres, of which nearly all is returned as available for agricultural purposes. In Humboldt Valley and vicinity the public lines of survey were extended over 1,000 square miles; on Maggie Creek, north of Humboldt Valley, 400 square miles; and 650 square miles in Ruby Valley and vicinity; five townships in Pine Valley, two in Pahranagat Valley, two in Grass Valley, and three in Cortes district, 60 miles northeast of Austin. The area yet to be surveyed in this State is 67,915,851 acres. Within the last fiscal year the disposal of public lands in Nevada under the various acts of Congress amounted to 13,118.19 acres, leaving yet to be disposed of an area of 67,078,391 acres, including some of the choicest agricultural and grazing lands and large districts of rich mineral tracts.
PUBLIC SALES DURING LAST FISCAL YEAR, AND RESTORATIONS.
During the past year there have been offered at public sale by the President's proclamation :
Acres. In New Mexico..
1,644,388 In Colorado..
1,787,388 And there have been restored to market lands heretofore with
drawn on account of railroad grants : In Kansas...
660,000 In California..
Grand total of lands offered and restored...
PREEMPTION PRIVILEGES IN OBTAINING TITLES TO PUBLIC LANDS. The preëmption system is an outgrowth of American civilization.
In the earlier acts of Congress relating to the preservation and disposal of the public domain no settlement rights were recognized. The only preëmption allowed consisted in priority of application to purchase at the district land office. As late as 1807 an act was passed punishing as trespassers persons making unauthorized settlement upon the public lands who, after notice specified in the act, should fail to remove from such lands within three months from service of notice. But as our population increased, and as that hardy spirit of adventure which has ever been characteristic of our people sought new fields for the development of its restless energy, encroachments upon the public domain became more and more frequent; and it was seriously questioned whether mere acts of settlement and improvement of the public lands were such grave offenses against public order. It was, however, a long time before the National Legislature, in obedience to popular judgment, would consent to legalize such settlement; yet, by means of relief laws, by removal of penalties, and by provision in certain cases where settlement had already been made for a preference right of purchase, the inchoate system was recognized as a growing necessity of American institutions. Of this temporary and remedial character were the acts of 1813, 1814, 1819, 1830, 1832, 1833, 1834, 1836, 1838, and 1840, and other special laws granting preference rights of purchase, conditional upon proof of actual settlement, and the absence of valid adverse claims.
The policy of granting preëmption rights to particular tracts of lands as compensation for services, and in satisfaction of claims under govern
ments from which our public lands were acquired, prevailed from the beginning of our national existence, and was derived from the practice
of the English, Spanish, and French sovereignties. It was not, however, until September 4, 1841, that rights of individual settlement as the basis of a just legal claim upon the Government, giving a preference right to purchase the land so settled upon, were fully recognized as a part of our permanent policy and legislation.
By the tenth section of the act of 1841, (U. S. Statutes, vol. 5, page 455,) the preëmption system of the United States, now so universally known, was fully established substantially as at present administered, giving to each person qualified under the statute a good and valid preëmption to any tract of agricultural land not specially reserved, to the extent of 160 acres, or one quarter-section, upon compliance with the requirements of the statute. This right was confined to lands surveyed at date of settlement.
The requirements and terms of the law are too well known to need recapitulation ; yet, as matter of public information, to be sought in this report, may be briefly recounted. The person seeking the benefits of preëmption must be the head of a family, a widow, or a single man above the age of twenty-one years, a citizen of the United States, or must have declared his intention to become such, and not the owner of 320 acres of land, and one who has not removed from his own land in the same State or Territory to reside on the public lands. He must be an actual settler upon the tract claimed, in good faith, to appropriate it to his own use and benefit, and not for purposes of sale or speculation, all of which facts he is required to establish to the satisfaction of the register and receiver of the district office before his entry can be admitted.
Subsequent to the act of 1841 the right of preëmption settlement upon unsurveyed land was granted in particular States and Territories by special enactment, and finally, by act of June 2, 1862, all the lands of the United States' to which the Indian title bas been or shall be extinguished are made subject to the operation of the said act of September 4, 1841, with a saving of all stipulations, restrictions, and conditions of said act. By act of June 21, 1866, the disposal of the public lands in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Florida is, however, restricted to homestead entry.
This legislation gives, with the exception above noted, uniformity to the great preëmption system; and with the rules and regulations established by this office, under the sanction of the head of the Department, greatly simplifies the administration of the law, by relieving the executive officers from the necessity of consulting a multitude of statutes to learn their application to the particular State or Territory from which the case is reported. But, as these rules have themselves been constructed from time to time under the operations of these various statutes, it seemed desirable to this office that something like a codification of the entire system should be attempted; and a draught of a bill was accordingly prepared for legislative consideration in May last, completely revising and consolidating in one measure all the important features of the law as it stood, and proposing such changes as experience has suggested in the course of a long administration of public duties connected with the land system. The changes suggested were mainly these :
Fixing a limitation within which claims for preëinption on unoffered lands shall be proved up and payment made.
Declaring specifically what is held as a rule of the office, that the filing of a declaratory statement by a qualified preëmptor upon a tract properly subject to such filing, shall be deemed an exercise of his right, and shall, upon consummation or abandonment of his title, so initiated, disqualify him from again claiming any rights as a preëmptor.
Declaring any reservation or withdrawal whatever, by competent authority, a bar to preëmption claim; but providing that, upon release of such reservation or withdrawal, preëmption or homestead rights shall be permitted to attach from the date of noting on the records, books, and plats of the district office the fact of such release.
Providing that the proprietor of any mechanical, manufacturing, or commercial establishment shall be entitled to preëmpt and enter not exceeding 80 acres in compact form by legal subdivisions of the land actually so used and occupied by him, as a site for his business occupations.
Declaring that no preëmption right shall attach by virtue of settlement made after receipt at the district office of the President's proclamation for offering of any lands, and prior to the date of such offering; nor by virtue of any settlement made between the date of pablication ot
any notice for restoration of any tract to private entry and the day fixed for such restoration.
Authorizing entry of actual improvements only, by legal subdivisions, by such settlers as shall be found to conflict in their claims where settlement was made before survey or while lands were not subject to preëmption at date of settlement and are afterward released, and providing for joint entry by coterminous proprietors when necessary. Also providing for including in such entries, where division is made, such contiguous tracts, not claimed adversely, as shall make the entry of each party equal to 160 acres, as allowed by law.
Making the exercise of the preëmption right a bar to the acquisition of title under the homestead laws, and vice versa.
Providing a limitation of the right of appeal, regulating the time and manner in which appeals may be taken to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, and from his decisions to the Secretary of the Interior.
Prescribing the time in which the rights of "heirs” in preëmption cases may be secured, by consummation of the claims of deceased preëmptors.
Forbidding commutation of preëmption filings to homestead entry, and requiring title to be consummated according to the act under which it shall be initiated.
Requiring an affidavit in homestead cases that the tract applied for is not in the adverse possession of any actual settler at date of the homestead application, and giving such actual settler sixty days in which to inaugurate a contest for priority of right to enter such tract, under the usual rules for conducting such proceeding, with the right of appeal as in other cases; also allowing the homestead applicant, in case his entry shall be declared invalid, the privilege to take another tract, with credit for the fees and commissions already paid.
Giving to the Commissioner of the General Land Office discretion to consider the equitable interests of parties making homestead entries, who, for good cause, have failed to comply with the strict requirements of law in the matter of continuous residence, and providing, in the exercise of such discretion, for the allowance of further time to satisfy the conditions of the act, where no adverse right has attached and no contest has been brought, and the absence of the settler has not es ceeded the period of one year.
It was further proposed that the privileges of preëmption purchase be again restored in the States enumerated in the act of June 21, 1866, thus putting all the public domain within the power of acquisition by actual settlers, within a reasonable period, by purchase, instead of requiring them to await the uncertain possibilities of a five-years term of residence before consummation of title to their homes. Although, as to homesteads, the commutation provision here exists, yet it is believed the revenues of the Government would be materially augmented from the sale of these lands, and at the same time the substantial objects of the homestead law, securing actual settlement and improvement, would be attained.
The draught of the bill referred to was introduced so late in the session that it failed to receive general attention. A material provision in it, however, as to unoffered lands, was deemed of sufficient importance to justify immediate action, and the act of July 14, 1870, (U. S. Statutes for 1870, page 279,) was accordingly passed, requiring payment for preemption claims upon unoffered lands within eighteen months after expi. ration of prescribed date of filing, which date was already fixed by law, viz., within three months after settlement upon surveyed unoffered lands and within three months from the filing of the plat of survey in the district office where settlement is made before survey.
Where the prescribed date for filing had already passed, one year from the date of the act is fixed as the period within which payment must be made.
Another important change in the preëmption laws was effected by the act of July 1, 1870, allowing payment of preëmption claims in agri. cultural college scrip, in the same manner and to the same extent as now authorized by law in case of military bounty-land warrants.
Instructions for carrying this act into effect were issued in circular form by this office on the 22d of July last, and have been promulgated through the district land offices and in the public prints.
In addition to rulings upon various points published in last annual report, the following have been added during the year:
In a case where lands were claimed by preëmption as against the right of the Western Pacific Railroad Company within the twenty-mile limits, but which lands were claimed as part of an alleged Mexican grant, and which claim was rejected subsequent to the date of the act granting lands to the railroad, it was decided by this office, and sustained on appeal to the Secretary, that the right of the road did not attach to such lands upon rejection of the alleged private claim, but that they were reserved from the railroad grant by the terms of the acts of 1862 and 1864, and became public lands, liable to homestead and preëmption entry.
A case was presented of a person of foreign birth who had served in the Army of the United States and was honorably discharged, but had not declared his intention to become a citizen. Held that under section 21 of the act of July 17, 1862, he was a qualified preëmptor, so far as regards the question of citizenship.
Of the original territory of the republic, as recognized by the treaty of peace in 1783, amounting to about 830,000 square miles, about 332,436 square miles, or 212,759,040 acres, are now embraced in the public land States that have been erected out of the public domain east of the Mississippi River. The great mass of the public land in these States has