Hello, history fans. In our last episode, John Vosburg, an early investor in the mining efforts of Richard Gird and the Schiefflin Brothers, thought that he should have lived a better life for “one whole minute.” He awoke to a white-headed mule poking its head into his tent after pilfering his bag of flour. He thought he had been “ghosted.”
Soon progress was occurring on a number of fronts. Among other milestones, Millville soon had its first boarding house. “Ike Clandon (sic) started and ran our first boarding house in a tent … The Tough Nut was showing up finely. Some of the ore showed rebellious signs and a ‘roaster’ was planned. We needed fire brick for that and this devolved upon yours truly, and I became a real prospector and got many samples of clay from different localities and mixed many proportions of clay and sand and then tried to burn them up with a portable blacksmith forge, succeeding too well with nearly all of said batches. Fire brick from Scotland would cost $1.00 each and we wanted several thousand. Our $80,000.00 (amount budgeted for the mill) showed signs of wear … luc(k)ily we did not need to roast the ore … Lumber was coming down from the Huachucas. The retaining walls (terraced walls still visible today) took on shape and the different levels established, I remember that from the ore dump (top level of the mill) to the retort floor (lower level of the mill) was fifty-four feet fall. A town of tents and hastily made adobes had sprung up like magic on the bottom land along the side of the mill site, and named it Charleston. Parts for the mill were put on the mill site and soon it seemed that the mill frame would not be large enough to hold it all.”
Vosburg added that Schieffelin himself was busy constructing the first Charleston road. “Ed had made an ore road from the mines to the mill and some ore was ready on the dump. The dam held the water … the mill (was) ready for the ore which had been assayed in all imaginable ways, except the ‘milling test’ which was and is, the final one, and for which we had been toiling these many months, anxious months … ”
Now the critical moment had arrived.
The work of many had come down to the first run of what is now known as Gird’s mill at Millville. On what he described as a “fine bright day,” Vosburg recalled the anticipation and the tension of the time … “Then began the five surely anxious days … The ore was fed to and broken by the rock breaker, and fell into the batteries, and here pounded finer splashed thru the forty screen (forty meshes to the inch) then into the pans, where together with quicksilver (mercury) it was ground still finer, there into the settles where the ‘amalgam’ was made … when said amalgam was thick enough it was taken out and put in the ‘retort’ … The retort with heat volatized the quicksilver and was saved for another day, while the residue was born into ‘bullion.’ … the aforementioned ‘Five days’ seemed to drag slowly by. We awoke frequently at night to listen to the lullaby of the stamps and never grumbled once … ” He added that once the mill began operations, it ran well in “its initial run of two months without stopping once,” and that “Gird had built a fine mill … ” At the site of their first bar of silver bullion, the group “shook hands all around … ” It was a moment that they would all doubtless remember well for the rest of their lives. In the spring of 1878 at Signal, Thomas Walker had helped load the wagon which carried the three partners to the Tombstone area, and by summer he would again see the same wagon, and with it a milestone. “I took in the first load of bullion that was sent in from the Tombstone Mill in July, 1879. We took it in the same wagon that Scheiffelin had come to Tombstone in.”
This was indeed a moment which all concerned had dreamed of. The first bullion produced at Gird’s Mill at Millville, delivered. And it was only the beginning. The receipt for it read as follows: “Safford, Hudson & Co., Bankers. Received from T.E. Walker eight bars silver bullion, numbered 1 to 8 inclusive, Tombstone M. & M. Co, for shipment to Gov. A.P.K. Safford, per Wells, Fargo & Co. Express to Philadelphia. SAFFORD, HUDSON & Co.”
Walker would appear in other notable events in Millville and Tombstone history: “My wife and I rode on the coach with Bud Philpot when he made his last trip. On the down trip (leaving from Tombstone) he was shot from his seat and killed as was also a traveling man (Peter Roerig) who was riding on the coach with him.”
The shipment of bullion continued to make the news. On one hand it was good public relations — such local newspaper reports would eventually find their way into Eastern and San Francisco newspapers, reaching the very audience which Tombstone and Millville were dependent on for capital for continued development. These operations were local in nature, but took on the role of a cash hungry colony of the East and West coasts during their expensive development phases. That being said, news of bullion shipments would not escape the prowling eyes of another type of reader, the highwaymen looking for a quick score during a robbery.
Such news came with clear advantages, as well as disadvantages. It was of little surprise that mill operators would soon make silver bars of greater weight, more difficult to stash in a saddle bag, and make this known publicly, in hopes of discouraging robbers.
“By stage, from Charleston, there arrived yesterday two bars of bullion from the Tough Nut mine, weighing 370 pounds. While lying in front of the express office, a crowd of stalwarts amused themselves by lifting at them. A bet of $50 was proferred (sic) by one of the party that he would produce a man who could lift those bars of similar weight with one hand. The crowd rather doubted the proposition, but no one could be found to ante against it.”