Bristol, Nevada, 1874, White Pine Rush Silver Ingot, Turrill, New Discovery [132920]

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Bristol, Nevada, 1874, White Pine Rush Silver Ingot, Turrill, New Discovery  [132920]
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Silver Ingot Engraved from Julius A. Turrill to Clayton R Turrill, White River/Pioche Nevada c 1874 5.15 Troy oz silver ingot engraved on one side by the presenter, Julius A. Turrill to his nephew, Clayton R. Turrill engraved on a polished surface. 2” x 0.75” wide x 0.5” tall.

The story of this ingot involves a great degree of advanced research and a thorough knowledge of how the current historical data systems work (or don’t work), as well as a good working knowledge of communication of the time in conjunction with mining rushes and environments.

The very nature of unraveling the history of this ingot are problematic, because the central figure – Julius Turrill – was involved in prospecting, mining and other work in an exceptionally remote section of the American West – that of central eastern Nevada at a time when there was nearly no regional infrastructure – merely a few scattered mining camps of which little to nothing is left to tell the story today, inclusive of the lack of written historical record.

The story presented here is thus one of my own interpretation of the timing of events interspersed with a small degree factual data compounded with the knowledge of how things worked in the mining West in the 1860s-70s, particularly the area of Eastern Nevada known to some as “White Pine” and surrounds.

The Turrill Family
Julius Turrill was born in Shoreham, Vermont in 1829, just 40 miles south of the big city of Burlington. A branch of his family remained in the area for decades, including his nephew, Clayton Turrill, a long time Burlington resident.

Turrell’s mother died in 1834, and his father remarried. The family moved to a new agricultural community in Minnesota called Le Sueur in the early 1850s as the new family tried to eek out a living in difficult times.

Turrill was elected to the La Seuer County Board of the first fledgling political organization of the new county in the mid 1850s. As a framer, he had hoped to build a sustainable business and flourish. The region was in its infancy of political organization. A conundrum existed of two adjacent, competing fledgling towns of the same name, located by different people in the mid 1850s. Turrill would have been caught up in this “battle” for which site would become the permanent home of Le Sueur. Today, known as the “land of the Jolly Green Giant,” complete with the original Green Giant statue, Le Sueur sits quietly about 60 miles west of St. Paul in a very rural area.

As a young man, Julius helped his struggling family. Times were hard, and farming family life in a tiny rural community in the western frontier of Minnesota couldn’t have been easy.

Julius kept up with news of his sister Laura and brother Henry. He developed a close relationship with his nephew Clayton in Burlington, who was born about the time of the California Gold Rush (1848). Clayton appears to have kept his uncle up to date on the local news of mining out west.

Gold and Silver Ignite the Imagination of Mid-Westerners
News of the California Gold Rush (1850s), the great Comstock Lode (1860s), and then the White Pine Rush (1868-9) hit all the newspapers, including the Burlington Free Press and Minneapolis Star Tribune. In La Sueur in the 1860s though, any news was hard to come by. The Post Office opened there in 1852, and Terrill would have received news from his nephew in Burlington.

Gold was discovered in California in 1848 and the rush took thither in 1849; silver was discovered in Washoe in 1858 and the rush took thither in 1859; and the rich diggings at White Pine were discovered in 1868 and the rush thither begun in 1869. Where will the next discovery be at the beginning of the next decade? (Burlington Free Press, April 9, 1869)

In late 1868, prospectors hot off the Comstock Lode and other discoveries found rich silver ore in a remote section of the West known as “White Pine” about 140 miles east of Austin, Nevada and about 250 miles west of Salt Lake City. Austin was the home of rich silver discoveries from the early 1860s. In short, it was in the Middle of Nowhere. The ensuing Rush to White Pine caught fire in national press. The mining camps of Hamilton, Treasure City, Eberhardt, Shermantown, Chloride and others sprang up as hundreds of small mines were started, significant discoveries were made at the Eberhardt and elsewhere, and soon big bullion shipments were the news of the day.

Stories of White Pine enthralled readers all over America. Almost immediately, Clayton and Julius were caught up in the news, and sometime about early 1869, Julius decided to strike out West for his fortune. After all, who wouldn’t be attracted to a place called “Treasure City” where the silver bullion freely flowed?

Nevada, The Land of Silver
Silver was everywhere in Nevada, or so American readers thought. Stories of the great mineral wealth in Nevada were published regularly everywhere, from local newspapers to national magazines such as Harper’s Weekly. As a single man, Turrill became fascinated with the news coming out of Nevada, fed to him by his nephew. The Burlington paper had news of the White Pine Rush nearly weekly. In Minnesota, the news of White Pine was so overwhelming, that ex-Minnesota Governor Stephen Miller got caught up in the excitement of the search for his “El Dorado”: "Ex-Governor Stephen Miller, of Minnesota, has gone to Nevada to try and make his fortune. He going to engage in quartz mining. His friends can hear from him by writing to Hamilton, White Pine County, Nevada. May he be abundantly successful." (Minneapolis Star Tribune, Sept. 10, 1869)

So too ventured Julius Turrill.

Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad Opens the West, Once and For All
The completion of the Central Pacific Railroad across the continent in mid-1869 opened up the West for good. Easterners who once took months to travel by stage or horseback to Nevada, could now get there in a couple days. Towns appeared and evolved nearly overnight to handle the influx of would-be prospectors, speculators, and prospective merchants. Elko became the central eastern stop. Winnemucca the central stopping spot, and Wadsworth and Reno the western stopping spots.

The Golden Spike was struck May 10, 1869 at Promontory Point, Utah, but the regular rail service didn’t get a start until September 6, 1869. Ex-Minnesota Governor Miller certainly took advantage of the newly completed transcontinental railroad, and booked his trip West on one of the very first days, certain to get off at Elko, and make the southward trip to Hamilton by stage.

News reports leading up to Turrill’s trip as published in nephew Clayton’s local Burlington, Vermont newspaper were somewhat overwhelming:

March 22, 1869: White Pine County: Great Discoveries of Silver. … The rush of adventurers to this region is said to be altogether unexampled, and the accounts warrant the belief that nothing so rich as the White Pine Mines has ever been found. … Mr. (Ross) Raymond, writing officially and prosaically to the Secretary of the Treasury … (about the) Eberhardt Mine. “Descending the shaft on a rope,” says he, “we found ourselves among men engaged in breaking down silver by the ton. The light of our candles disclosed great black sparkling masses of silver ore on every side. The walls were silver, the roof over our heads silver, the very dust which filled our lungs and covered our boots and clothing was a great coating of fine silver. … Cities are rising there like exaltations. All around Treasure Hill, which is the most extraordinary of these silver deposits, shops, warehouses, lager beer saloons are going up…” (Burlington Free Press March 22, 1869

Just two days later came this:

March 24, 1869: The White Pine excitement is unabated. The rush of people thither is increasing, and new and rich discoveries are daily reported. Hundreds of companies are already incorporated here (San Francisco) to work the White Pine Mines, and others are still being formed at the rate of three to five per day. (Burlington Free Press, March 24, 1869)

Constant talk of monstrous silver production added to the fray:

The present yield of bullion in the White Pine mines is about a million of dollars a month. There is a lack of milling facilities, but this want is to be quickly supplied and the production will then be double.

Meanwhile, not all the news was positive. The fierce winter and spring weather was something even Minnesotans were awe struck by.

A Nevada zephyr, the other day, whisked the mail cutter from White Pine to Treasure City, with two men and a span of horses, from the road into a snow drift thirty feet deep. They tunneled out.
And Snow blocked roads and other features of a backwards season, which quite throws our own experiences here in Minnesota into the shade.

The hard times were to come, particularly after thousands of prospectors hit the White Pine region in the summer of 1869. Some resorted to drastic measures:
Hard Times In The West. One of a gang who robbed the Wells Fargo & Co.’s stages, near White Pine, recently has written a letter to the Virginia City Enterprise, in which he claims that the robbers are not “hiway men but I tell you Mr. editor that they are honest working Min who had to do something to keep from starving in this Bad country.” He says that hundreds of men are starving in the White Pine region, having been attracted thither by reports in the Treasure City and Hamilton papers that workmen were in demand for $5 to $20 a day and continues: “And then when our tongues is Parched and our feet blistered and we set down to wrest ourself and we take up the enterprise or some other paper to read, we fine a peace from the White Pine news that we are thiefs or dead beats or lazy loafers or something els now Mr. editor this is adding insult to injury and the American People wont stand it So we robbed the stage gust to get money enough to take us away from this miserable place but we are not goin yet we will try to burn the press that sends forth so many lies before we go now Mr. editor there is 500 min in this place who cant get one day work and no way of goin only to walk to virginia and that is hard.” (Burlington Free Press July 7, 1869)

It was in this light that Julius Turrill was off to White Pine. When he got there, he must have found a tough situation. The mines had plenty of ore, but there were few mills to process it. There were towns springing up everywhere, but not enough money flowing to pay miners or millmen. It was an unstable business infrastructure. It can be safely assumed that Turrill spent a considerable time looking for a job, only to find none.

Other parts of the eastern Nevada mining frontier were also in infancy, almost parallel in time to the White Pine discoveries. Nearby at what was to become Ely, gold, silver and copper had been discovered. Further south at Meadow Valley, soon to become Pioche, silver was discovered. These three key areas were all relatively close, within about a 100 mile circle. Once in Nevada, Turrill had a choice to look elsewhere for more promising prospecting potential. Outside of the White Pine mainstream, he had a legitimate chance of finding his own mine.

Turrill headed east and south toward Pioche. There were no stages, no buses, no railroad, no telegraph lines – there was nothing. And a lot of it. He was in a place in the world, far from everything that he had ever known. This was indeed the American frontier, a place where a man was by himself, left to his own means to survive.

On your own, the first and most important thing is water. Crossing the great American desert by railroad, Turrill quickly learned that survival on the open desert by himself was a complete impossibility. So as he headed south and eastward toward Pioche, he would have followed waterways.

There aren’t many of these in Nevada, But Turrill found one, and stuck with it southward. He had found the White River, an obscure, isolated stream. There were probably a few placer miners along the way, and a small tiny mining community was located along the river, called “White River.” There is nothing left today – in fact, there is no record available to tell us where this mining camp was. The location seems to be completely lost to history. Of the few records extant, the camp had a Post Office, which opened years later in 1885.

In today’s world, White River is somewhere near Lund, Nevada. The White River petroglyphs occupy White River Canyon narrows, a spectacular site. In a recent discovery of a photograph archive of the first white man explorations of the petroglyphs for the Ely Cosmological Society about 1925, photographs of the canyon show several hand constructed stone cabin ruins and a very old, occupied at the time, miners cabin. Was this the site of White River?

Another researcher found Turrill in the 1870 Census, stating his occupation as “miner” living in “White River.” The Nevada 1875 mid-decade census shows Turrill simply in (rural) Lincoln County, which undoubtedly was White River or nearby. The census tells us he lived with another miner, D. Ryan.

Turrill’s years in this 100 mile mining circle of which White Pine was a part remain a bit of a mystery. The fact that he was a miner is undisputed. Did he end up in Pioche? Was he in another of the silver camps such as Pahranagat? Ward? What we do know, is that during this period as a miner, he must have had some success. A small silver ingot is a testament to this fact.

The Turrill Silver Ingot
Julius Turrill‘s favorite nephew Clayton was constantly in his mind. Clayton had sent Julius articles of the White Pine Rush, and those, in conjunction of what he read in the Minneapolis and St. Paul newspapers pushed him out the door into the middle of the White Pine Rush.

Once in Nevada, Julius learned that small ingots were a form of a western trophy, a miner’s custom that went back decades, if not more. Ingots were commonly given as presents, and the newspapers noted the custom:
The first infant born in White Pine mining region, Nevada, got several thousand dollars in silver bars as presents. (Burlington Free Press, April 2, 1869)

With this custom in mind, Julius made a classic five ounce ingot for his nephew, and had their names engraved on it. The ingot was so crude in construction, locally probably lacking in good melting facilities, that one surface had to be ground polished for the engraving of Clayton’s name. The ingot was probably made in the early 1870s.

Turrill Retires From Mining Activities
Turrill didn’t make his fortune mining. But he must have done ok. Sometime in the late 1870s Turrill moves to Silver Reef, Utah, just over the Nevada/Utah border In Washington County, “Dixie” territory, as locals will tell you. While it was yet another silver mining camp about 70 miles as the crow flies from Pioche, he had enough money to open a grocery and provisions store.

Turrill’s store appears to have thrived.

Turrill died in 1889. His will is on file in the Salt Lake City digital records. At the time of death he owned stock in Comstock mines, had $2800 in the bank, had property worth $17,150, $3000 head of cattle. Never married, he made Clayton his executor.

Country (if not USA):
State: Nevada
City: White Pine