Slike strani

The quantity consigned through Messrs. Alsop & Co., on hand January 1, 1865, 7,396 flasks, has been sold, making the total sales for account of the company, during the year 1865, 27,152 flasks.

The foregoing statement includes only the shipments and sales of quicksilver which have been closed and finally settled. In addition to the above, the company

have received advices of the sales in China and London of about 10,000 flasks.


Products of other quicksilver mines in California during the year 1866. Guadalupe, average flasks per month...

150 New Idria, average flasks per month..

500 Knox & Redington, average flasks per month.




1. Principal borax countries.--2. Manufactured borax.–3. Discovery of borax in Califor

nia.–4. Product of borax in California.-5. Process of working.–6. Deposits of sulphur.-. Tin.-8. Coal.--9. Iron.


Prior to the discovery of borax in California, the principal localities in which the borates were found were at Halberstadt, in Transylvania, at Viquentizoa and Escapa, in Peru, in the mineral springs of Chambly, St. Ours, &c., Canada West, and in certain salt lakes of India, Thibet, and other parts of Asia, whence the greater part of the borax of commerce was formerly obtained.

* “The salt separated from these waters by evaporation, either natural or assisted by artificial contrivances, is sent to Europe as crude borax or tincal, sometimes in large regular crystals, but more frequently as a white or yellowish white mass, which is very impure, containing lime, magnesia, and alumina, and likewise covered over with a greasy substance, (said to be added to diminish the risk of breakage during transport.) According to analysis by Richardson and Bronell, crude Indian borax contains : Boric acid, (anhydrous) Soda.. Chloride of sodium.

Sulphate of sodium.
Sulphate of calcium.
Insoluble matter.



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

22.88 12.59 0.92 0.13 1.36 17.62


68 1.37 46.00

24.41 11.71 0.21 2.84 1.36 20.02 39.45

100.00 100.00 100.00


“The purification or refining of this crude Asiatic borax has been carried on from very early times in various seaport towns in Europe, especially at Venice, and more lately at Amsterdam."

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

* The greater part of the borax used in the arts is now* prepared in France by treating the native boric acid of Tuscany with carbonate of sodium, according to a method first practiced by Payen and Cartier."


The following extracts from a report by Dr. John A. Veatch, dated June 28, 1857, give a succinct and very interesting history of the discovery of borax in California;

“ Since the demonstration of the existence of boracic acid and the borates in California in quantities sufficient for commercial purposes, a history of the discovery and a description of some of the more important localities of these useful products become matters of some interest.

“I believe I was the first to detect the borates in mineral waters in this State, and perhaps, as yet, the only observer of their localities. My attention was first drawn to this subject by noticing crystals of bi-borate of soda in the artificially concentrated water of a mineral spring which I chanced at the time to be examining for other matters. This water was from one of the several springs since known as the Tuscan springs, and which have gained some fame, and very justly, I believe, as medicinal waters. The spot has been described by Dr. Trask under the name of the Lick Springs, and is so designated on Britton and Rey's late map; lying on the north part of Tehama county, eight miles east of Red bluff. The crystals alluded to were observed on the 8th day of January, 1856. Several pounds were subsequently extracted by evaporating the water to a certain degree of concentration and allowing the borax to crystallize. The pioneer specimens of this product were deposited in the museum of the California Academy of Natural Sciences, as an evidence of the existence of a new and important link in the chain of our mineralogical productions, showing that along with the rich productions of the noble and useful metals, we have also the mineral substance so essential to their easy application to the purposes of man.

"The water, holding in solution so valuable a product, was thought worthy of a critical analysis; and consequently at an early period the aid of a chemist of this city was invoked. The reported result, which I placed at the disposition of Dr. Trask, was thought worthy of a place in his geological report of that year, aud

appears in it. My mind being now alive to the subject, I learned, upon inquiry, of other localities which I supposed might yield the borates. One of these, near the mouth of Pitt river, forty miles north of the Tuscan springs, I had the pleasure of visiting in company with Dr. Wm. O. Ayres, in April, 1856. Specimenis there obtained yielded the borate salts; and, from a subsequent examination of the intermediate country, several similar localities were found. The quantity was too small to be of any practical importance, but the prevalence of the salt gave encouragement to further search. A reconnoissance of the “coast range” of mountains, from the neighborhood of Shasta over a length of some thirty miles towards the south, brought to light borates in the numerous small springs abounding in that region, but only in minute quantities. These springs were found almost exclusively in the sandstone, or in the magnesian limestone overlaying it; and the borates seemed to abound in localities bearing indications of volcanic disturbance. Thus a kind of guide was obtained in the prosecution of further explorations. I began to entertain hopes of finding streams with stronger impregnations, or accumulations, of the borates in salt lagoons said to exist in Colusi county, where the sandstone formation was largely developed, the adjacent foot-hills presenting volcanic features. Hunters told tales of mineral springs of sulphurous and bitter waters;, of lakes of soda, and alkaline plains, white with efflorescent matters, in that region. Not being in a

* Prior to the discovery of borax in California..

situation immediately to visit those inviting localities, I bad, for the time, to content myself with pointing out to the hunters and others occasionally passing through that country such appearances as I wished particularly to be noted. Their reports, together with specimens sometimes furnished, were all corroborative of the correctness of my theory. Colonel Joel Lewis, of Sacramento City, who occasionally visited the coast range on hunting excursions, and to whom I explained the object of my search, and who, although not a scientific man, is an intelligent observer, had the kindness to look, in his peregrinations, for certain indications. He subsequently informed me hy letter that he had met with an Irishman, living in Bear valley, who had found a lake of borax,' as it was pronounced by an Englishman who lived with the Irishman, and who had been at one time employed in a borax manufactory in England, and therefore assumed to speak knowingly on the subject. He also informed me in the same letter that a Major Vanbibber, of Antelope valley, had discovered large quantities of nitre in the same neighborhood. These glowing reports led me to hasten the excursion I had so long contemplated. In a personal interview with the colonel he told me of an enormous mass, of a white, pulverulent substance, he had himself observed near the margin of Clear lake, of the nature of which he was ignorant. Mr. Charles Fairfax, who was with tbe colonel at the time, stated to me that a small rivulet running at the base of the white hillock was an intensely impregnated mineral water, totally undrinkable, as he had accidentally discovered by attempting to slake his thirst with it. From the meagre information gathered from these gentlemen, I was led to hope the hill of white powder,” as they termed it, might prove to be borate of lime. I determined to satisfy myself by a personal examination at once, and I finally induced Colonel Lewis to act as my guide by furnishing him with a horse and paying expenses. It was scme time in the early part of September of last year that he and I left Sacramento for the localities that had so much excited my hopes. At the town of Colusi, which we reached by steamer, horses were obtained, and we proceeded in a westerly direction across the Sacramento valley to the foot-hills of the coast mountains, a distance of about twenty miles. That portion of the plains skirting the hille gave unmistakable evidence of a heavy charge of mineral salts, and the exceedingly contorted and interrupted state of the hill strata enabled me at once to predict the presence of the beloved borates, which chemical trial on some efflorescent matter taken from a ravine proved to be the case in a slight degree. At this point we entered •Fresh-water cañon,' which cuts the hills and forms a passway into Antelope and Bear valleys. Here I received information from a settler of a lot sulphur spring a few miles south of Bear valley, on one of the trails leading to Clear lake. This spring we succeeded in finding on the following day. It was with no small pleasure that I observed the outcropping magnesian limestone in the hills surrounding the valley of the springs. The strong smell of sulphureted hydrogen, and the appearance of a whitish efflorescence on the rocks, manifested, even at a distance, almost the certainty of finding the mineral I sought. The indications were not deceptive. The efflorescence proved to be boracic acid, in part, while the hot, sulphurous water held borate of soda in solution, together with chlorides and sulphates. There are three hot springs at this place, and several cold ones, all alike strongly impregnated with common salt and borax. The quantity of water yielded in the aggregate is about one hundred gallons per minute—the hot and cold springs yielding about equal quantities. The temperature of the hot water is 2000 Fahrenheit, and that of the cold 60° Fahrenheit. The same phenomenon occuts here that is observed at the Tuscan springs, viz., free boracic acid in the efflorescence on the margin of the springs, while the water itself shows a decided alkaline reaction, A careful examination proves that the efflorescent matters come directly from the waters of the spring-taken up by capillary attraction of the soil and evaporated by the air. The singular fact may be accounted for by the decomposition of the borates by the sulphuric acid generated by atmospheric action on the sulphur in which the soil abounds; or the same decomposition may be produced by the hydrosulphuric acid passing up in gaseous form from the laboratory nature has established beneath. The same action, doubtless, takes place in the water, but the boracic acid set free is at once taken up by the excess of alkaline matter, while, in the efflorescence, no fresh supply of alkali offering, the acid remains in its free state when once displaced by more powerful acids.

“ These springs seem to be identical in the character of their waters with the Tuscan springs, and therefore doubtless possess the same extraordinary medicinal virtues. As a source of borax these springs could be made available, but as the owners of this locality possess others of superior richness, it is not likely to be ever called to yield its mineral treasure. The situation is a pleasant and romantic one. The distance from the town of Colusi is thirtyfive miles, over mostly a smooth and pleasant road. From Clear lake it is eighteen miles, and over rather a rough country. The Indian name of the place is Co-no-to-tok, a generic word having reference to the white appearance of the ground. Mr. Archibald Peachy located a three-hundred-and-twentyacre school land warrant on this place in behalf of the borax company. After satisfying myself with the examination of this interesting spot, noting nothing of interest save a 'soda spring,' the water being impregnated to a remarkable degree with carbonic acid gas, about eight miles from the lake. A chemical test also detected boracic acid in small quantity. The following day we reached the · Hill of White Powder,' the goal of our hopes, on the margin of Clear lake. This • White Powder Hill,' the goal of our hopes, proved an illustration of how little the recollections of mere casual observers are to be depended upon. The hill, in place of consisting of materials in a state of disintegration, so as to admit of being 'shoveled up, as my friend supposed, proved to be a concrete volcanic mass, bleached white by sulphurous fumes, and looking, at a little distance, like a huge mass of slaked lime, which the inattentive observer might readily suppose to be a hill of white powder.' The hope of a treasure in the form of borate of lime vanished forever.

" The road had been rather toilsome, the weather exceedingly hot, and my guide not very well; and as he had gone the full length of the contemplated journey, and felt somewhat disgusted at the result so far, and had nothing more to draw his attention in this direction, he proposed to return at once by the way of the Irishman's • borax lake' and Vanbibber's nitre placer. This was agreed upon; so, collecting a few specimens of efflorescent matters from the ground, and filling a bottle with the water in the ravine, I closed the examination of the · Hill of White Powder.' The ravine I afterwards called the “ boracic acid ravine," and the white hill is now called “Sulphur Bank. Of these I shall have occasion to speak hereafter.

“Before leaving the neighborhood I determined, however, to know something more of its surroundings. I learned, upon inquiry of Mr. Hawkins, who lives near the spot, that a place not far off, known by the name of Alkali lake,' presented a rather peculiar appearance. Hawkins consented to act as my guide. After travelling a short distance, and clambering to the narrow edge of an almost precipitous mountain ridge, we looked down the opposite slope, equally steep, on a small muddy lake that sent up, even to our elevated position, no pleasant perfumes. Thus, on one of the hottest days September ever produced, without a breath of air to dilute the exquisite scent exhaled from two hundred acres of fragrant mud, of an untold depth, I slid down the mountain side into · Alkali lake,' waded knee-deep into its soapy margin, and filled a bottle with the most diabolical watery compound this side the Dead Sea. Gathering a few specimens of the matter encrusting the shore, I hastened to escape from a spot very far from being attractive at the time, but which I have since learned to have no prejudice against. Of this place I shall

have occasion to say more. On my return to Hawkins's, who had the kindness to entertain me with the genuine hospitality of a frontiersman, I looked to my last specimens and found encouraging results in the partial chemical examination I was able to give them. I now again placed myself under the guidance of my friend Lewis, and we started for the Irishman's house in Bear valley. We found the owner of the ó borax lake,' but the borax had evaporated with the water and left nothing but common salt, tinged of a beautiful bluish red color, which I suppose had given the notion that it was something out of the usual way. It was the only specimen of salt I remember to have seen in the coast range that contained no boracic acid in any form ; it was guiltless of even a trace. The next step was to examine the nitre region. Major Vanbibber, the repuled discoverer, being a grandson of Daniel Boone, ought to possess, one would suppose, an hereditary knowledge of one of the essential constituents of gunpowder; and as Colonel Lewis had shown me a specimen of very pure nitre, which he said the Major had given him, I rather expected to find a few more left. This, however, was rather worse than the • borax lake' disappointment; the major had actually forgotten where the lake was, and whether there were any more specimens than those he gave Lewis. The major, I believe, must really have forgotten, for upon subsequent examination the specimen proved to be refined saltpetre that undoubtedly came from some shop or drug store.

“There was certainly a mistake about its origin; but I felt amply repaid for a hard day's ride in spending a night under the hospitable roof of a direct descendant of the renowned · Backwoodsman of Kentucky.' I observed near the major's house a small pond. Some salt crystals I picked up had the pecniliar bevelled angles indicating the presence of borax. The quantity was inconsiderable. Thus ended my first expedition to Clear lake. We here set our faces direct for Colusi, as there seemed nothing more to be seen; and as I had engaged the horses we rode at rather a high per diem, I felt anxious to terminate the trip. From Colusi my guide returned to Sacramento and I to Red Bluff; from there I came again to San Francisco, for the purpose of testing my specimens more critically than I was able to do in the country.

Convinced of the richness of my · Alkali lake' specimens, it remained to be seen whether the quantity was sufficient to justify the hope of making it available for practical purposes. A further and more strict examination was necessary. I felt, too, the propriety of a thorough exploration betwixt the Bluff and Clear lake, and more thence tu the bay of San Francisco, thus rendering continuous the reconnoissance from Pitt river to the last-named point, a distance, in a direct line, of two hundred miles. After a hard struggle for the funds requisite, I returned to Red Bluff ; and from thence, in company with

my son, commenced a pretty thorough examination of the coast range and the adjoining edge of the Sacramento valley.

Nothing of much importance presented itself until reaching a saline district, about eighty miles south of Red Bluff. It is one of the branches of Stony creek. Valuable salt springs exist here. The water contains the borates in minute quantities; and one spring was remarkable for the enormous proportion of iodine salts held in solution. In our slow, onward progress borax now and again manifested itself; but as it had grown familiar, I no longer went into ecstacies over a mere trace. I still treated, however, the slightest indications with due deference, and noted their localities.

“ In due time I again reached the 'white hill. The disgust of the first disappointment had worn off, and I felt disposed to re-examine the locality more critically. I now discovered, for the first time, that the white hill was mostly a mass of sulphur, fused by volcanic heat. The external dust, composed of sulphur, mixed with sand and earthy impurities, and formed a concrete covering of a whitish appearance, hiding the nature of the mass beneath. On

« PrejšnjaNaprej »