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Mining History:
The Mint at the Mescal Mine

A Hard Case to Handle

It was a hard case to handle. Not alone was it difficult by reason of the fact that the operators were evidently men of means and of intelligence far above that of persons who usually engage in debasing the currency, but also from the fact that certain existing popular and political conditions seemed likely to hedge about the culprits a kind of indefinite sympathy and support... Thousands of persons wanted free coinage of silver. They earnestly believed there was not enough money of all kinds in circulation, and whoever these illegal coin manufacturers were, the money they were making was being turned directly into circulation, while unfortunately much of the coinage of the government never left the mints where it was made... All of the numerous circulars distributed broadcast by the department, offering enormous rewards for the apprehension of the makers of this coin, were without avail...

After scouring the country for months for a clue, we stumbled upon one by accident. The Treasury Department was at that time, under the Sherman law, purchasing about 4,400,000 ounces of silver monthly, and this was delivered at the mints in the usual form of bars. In a consignment which reached the mint at Philadelphia there was a bar which, when subjected to the ordinary probing which is undertaken in ascertain that the government purchases of “gold bricks,” appeared so singularly cast that the director ordered one end of it sawed off. Imagine the surprise of every one present when it was seen that the exterior of the bar was really a heavy box or shell, and that within there was a large number of these spurious silver collars. They were packed in rows so closely as to make the entire practically a solid mass. There were one thousand of these dollars and it became clear that it was in this manner that the counterfeit coin which had been flooding the country for months, was transported from its place of manufacture to coconspirators, doubtless in the centers of trade, by whom it was distributed. The task then was to trace down from whence this particular bar had come. In order to do this we had to “run down” each of the bars received in that consignment. This was quite difficult, but after two weeks of labor we succeeded in tracing it to Kansas City, where we learned it had come from a pawnshop, a sort of “fence,” the keeper of which had bought it from a thief.

Operating through the local authorities, the [person] who kept this place was arrested and thrown into jail upon a charge of receiving stolen goods; we told him if he would divulge from whom he had receive it we would let him go free. He very gladly did so, and this brought us in contact with the thief. Employing the same tactics with him we learned that he had stolen the bar from the room of a lodger in a lodging-house where he was employed; that the fellow had, one night while drunk, employed him to escort him to his lodgings; he did so, and while the man was in a sodden sleep he ransacked the room and everything in it, and he had found this silver bar at the bottom of a big trunk which he had broken into.

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