They Stayed All Winter to Mine Around Pittsburgh?

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The Augusta, Black Queen, Excelsior and Richmond silver mines were the lifeblood of Pittsburgh. The camp, up valley on Slate River Road a half mile above the juncture of Poverty Gulch and the Slate River, was named after the famous steel city in Pennsylvania, because of its proximity to the huge coal deposits.

The Augusta mine up Poverty Gulch…and we mean up…was the main producer. The trail was so steep that a saddle horse could barely make it. You couldn’t get in or out all winter and summers were short. All the supplies had to be packed in by burro and all the ore had to be sacked and packed out. In the fall all the supplies for a crew of ten to fifteen men would be packed in…they stayed all winter.

On February 23, 1904, nine of the Augusta crew became fed up with recurring avalanches and who knows what all else. To the strong objections of the mine superintendent, they set off on skis in two feet of fresh snow for Pittsburgh and Crested Butte. A mile below, the nine were hit by a roaring avalanche carrying snow, boulders and timber. Three men, laying on their skis, were carried on the crest of the slide…the other six died under twenty feet of snow.

Col. Stanford, brother of the California Senator Leland Stanford (founder of Stanford University) thought he’d make his fortune on the Augusta. Upon securing an option to purchase for $300,000 he sailed for England and what he thought would be unsuspecting investors with plans to sell the Augusta for 3 million dollars. The wary Brits called in an “English” engineer, then in San Francisco. He and a couple of locals miraculously trekked in and out in the middle of the winter of 1886 with avalanche danger at its peak. He cabled London with a value of maybe $300,000. Had Stanford been more reasonable, the Augusta and Poverty Gulch might have been more fully developed.

Source “Stampede To Timberline” by Muriel Sibell Wolle

Rob Quint


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