ROTTEN QUARTZ

The three men and two mules stopped and stared up the mountainside. A fall of broken rock blocked their way.

“Well, shit!” Gus said. “How’re we supposed to get to that old mine shaft with this in the way?”

Herbert pulled off his hat and fanned his week-old beard. “Maybe we can go around.”

Alonzo pulled his suspenders away from his rounded belly and looked down and then up the sharply-angled slope. “Mules ain’t gonna like that,” he said.

“Guess we’re done then.” Gus rubbed his jaw. “Hell, I needed that gold.”

Herbert shrugged and began maneuvering the mules to face back down the mountainside.

Alonzo stared across the slope at the fractured stone. “That’s rotten quartz,” he said thoughtfully. He moved out onto the rocks.

“Careful there,” Gus said, but Alonzo only crouched down and stretched to pluck a piece from near the center of the rock fall. He turned it carefully. “Will you look at that,” he said wonderingly.

Gus and Herbert looked at each other, then Alonzo. He grinned back at them. “Might be this is  as far’s we need to go,” he said. He lifted the quartz in his hand. “Looks like there’s gold enough right here!”

from Valley of the Eagles

ROTTEN QUARTZ

The three men and two mules stopped and stared up the mountainside. A fall of broken rock blocked their way.

“Well, shit!” Gus said. “How’re we supposed to get to that old mine shaft with this in the way?”

Herbert pulled off his hat and fanned his week-old beard. “Maybe we can go around.”

Alonzo pulled his suspenders away from his rounded belly and looked down and then up the sharply-angled slope. “Mules ain’t gonna like that,” he said.

“Guess we’re done then.” Gus rubbed his jaw. “Hell, I needed that gold.”

Herbert shrugged and began maneuvering the mules to face back down the mountainside.

Alonzo stared across the slope at the fractured stone. “That’s rotten quartz,” he said thoughtfully. He moved out onto the rocks.

“Careful there,” Gus said, but Alonzo only crouched down and stretched to pluck a piece from near the center of the rock fall. He turned it carefully. “Will you look at that,” he said wonderingly.

Gus and Herbert looked at each other, then Alonzo. He grinned back at them. “Might be this is  as far’s we need to go,” he said. He lifted the quartz in his hand. “Looks like there’s gold enough right here!”

 

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

IMPATIENCE

“This gold. They have found it in large quantities?” The lanky teenage boy named Escubal Martinez poked a stick into the logs on the fire, moving them closer together. At the edge of the mountain valley, a coyote yipped. The Martinez clan’s flock of sheep shifted uneasily in the darkness beyond the firelight.

The Prussian-born traveler from Etown grinned. “Ja,” he said. “But it is hard work, the digging for gold.”

Escubal’s uncle Xavier grunted from the other side of the flames, where he was using a knife to carefully smooth out an uncomfortable bump on the grip of his walking staff. “Borregas y carneros.” He nodded at the boy. “That is wealth.”

Escubal scowled at the fire.

The traveler looked puzzled. “Carner?” he asked. “Meat is wealth?”

“No, Borregas y carneros,” Escubal said.”Ewes and rams.” He gestured impatiently toward the flock.

Xavier moved his staff in the firelight and ran his fingertips gently over the wood. “Carne y ropa,” he said meditatively. “Meat and clothes.”

Ja,” the Prussian answered. “You are correct.”

Escubal scowled at the fire and the traveler smiled sympathetically. It was not easy to be young and impatient.

The boy poked at the fire again. It flared briefly, lighting the night, and the flock moved restlessly, waiting for morning.

from Moreno Valley Sketches II

Prussian-Born Officer Becomes Etown Miner

On April 18, 1867, U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Edward Bergmann resigned from a promising military career to become a miner in Elizabethtown, New Mexico’s Baldy Peak mining district. But Bergmann wasn’t just any miner. He was the superintending partner in Lucien Maxwell’s Aztec Mine on the east slopes of Baldy, a venture that would haul out roughly $1.5 million in gold in the first five years of operation. Bergmann’s work there and in other operations was so successful that he was worth $60,000 in real estate by the summer of 1870.

Born in Prussia around 1833, Bergmann had been a 28 year old private in the U.S. Army when the Civil War broke out in 1861, a private who was granted an immediate discharge from his clerking duties at Departmental headquarters in Santa Fe so he could accept a 1st Lieutenant commission in the New Mexico Volunteers.

He rose quickly. By September 1862, Bergmann was a Captain and responsible for rebuilding and resupplying Fort Stanton. By early 1867, he was a Lt. Colonel leading scouting expeditions on the San Juan and Las Animas Rivers.

April 18 illustration.Edward H.Bergmann
Edward Bergmann in military uniform. Source: Louis Felsenthal, Citizen-Soldier by J. Meketa, UNM Press, 1982

But news of the gold on Baldy Mountain seems to have roused the mining fever in the Lt. Colonel, because he resigned his commission shortly thereafter and was soon on the ground in Etown and its surrounding mines.

He did well. By 1870, Bergmann owned $60,000 worth of real estate and was secure enough to attract the attention of local belle Augusta Sever, whom he married in December. Over the next fifteen years, he continued his activities in the area, participating in the Spanish Bar mine at the mouth of Grouse Gulch just east of Etown and taking on other roles, including acting as Etown Justice of the Peace during the Colfax County War.

Oddly, Bergmann’s real estate holdings seemed to have diminished to a mere $1,500 by April 1875, when the Territorial property tax assessment was made. However, he’d apparently made some powerful friends by that time, because when the New Mexico Territorial Penitentiary opened in Santa Fe in August 1885, Bergmann was named its first warden, a position he held until at least 1893. He must have gotten the mining fever once again, though, because he died in Colorado’s Bowl of Gold, near Cripple Creek, in 1910.

 

Sources:  Louis Felsenthal, Citizen-Soldier of Territorial New Mexico, Jacqueline Meketa, UNM Press, 1982; Lure, Lore, and Legends of the Moreno Valley, Moreno Valley Writers Guild, 1997, Columbine Books, Angel Fire, NM; Roadside History of Colorado, Candy Moulton, Mountain Press, Missoula, 2006; Philmont, A History of New Mexico’s Cimarron Country, Lawrence Murphy, UNM Press, Albuquerque, 2014; Red River City: A history of Northern New Mexico 1800-2000, J.R. Pierce, JRP Publications Press, Red River, 2006; The Eagle Nest, New Mexico Story, F. Stanley, Dumas, Texas, 1961; A Civil War History of the New Mexico Volunteers and Militia; Jerry Thompson, UNM Press, Albuquerque, 2015; Myth of the Hanging Tree, Robert J. Torrez, UNM Press, 2008.