Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Footnote on N.B. Willey

While leafing through my "Dutch Flat Chronicles" today I found one more reference to N.B. Willey, Superintendent of the Red Rock Mine. The reason my text search didn't turn it up yesterday is that his name is misspelled "Wiley" instead of "Willey."

The item below was contributed by Willey himself to the Colfax Sentinel, in 1896. We see that Willey was mining in Green Valley, on the North Fork American near Dutch Flat, in the 1850s. I have always thought it would be quite interesting to go down to Sacramento and find the court records for this case.

At any rate, we find that ex-Governor Willey was an old resident of Placer County.

Colfax Sentinel
April 17, 1896

Chinese Arrested in Green Valley
Dutch Flat, April 13, 1896
Editor of the Sentinel:-The public interest in the recent arrest of Chinamen in this section for hydraulic mining contrary to law is noteworthy. It is said to be the first instance when malefactors of this sort have been taken "red-handed." Now, I hardly think the Chinamen are entitled to much sympathy. They ought not to be permitted to prosecute an unlawful act when other people are prohibited. But, the circumstances ought to be considered. I know something of this particular piece of mining ground. I worked on it in the 1850's. I sold it to Chinamen 21 years ago, and I am informed it has been worked continuously by them ever since. I examined it again about ten days before the owners were arrested. It is obvious to me and to anyone acquainted with mining that the quantity of earth washed away in all that time is not as much as would be moved by a single monitor in the Dutch Flat, You Bet, or Nevada City districts in a single week.
The bench is a mass of rocks from top to bottom. It is forty or fifty feet high. It is conveniently situated for work at a little distance above the river so that the great mass of rocks issuing from the flumes is deposited before it reaches the water; and even if they were dropped in the middle of the river the current is insufficient to move them away. The sand and gravel is so insignificant that they did not use to be and are not now sufficient even so much as to discolor the river for a half mile. The water used in these mines comes from springs and small ravines on the mountain side. It is saved in reservoirs and at best is barely sufficient for a head of about 200 inches of water for an hour and a half twice a day. How can 500 inches of water pass through a 3-inch nozzle with a fall of no more than 60 or 70 feet?
There are many gravel claims working in this county by the ground-sluicing process, keeping strictly within the law as regards place of deposit, percentage of sediment in the water, and all other details, each one of which discharges into streams so much more earth than the one in question that the latter is not to be thought about for a moment. And, indeed, it does not appear that the mining in itself can do any harm or is objectionable, but only the manner of it. That formidable 3-inch nozzle is liable to "overwhelm" somebody. I scarcely need refer to the alleged effort of the Valley spies some weeks ago to blackmail these Chinamen and their inability or unwillingness to pay $200 to secure immunity. This has no bearing upon the argument.
N.B. Wiley

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