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Mining History:
The Mint at the Mescal Mine

Counterfeit Silver Dollars

After witnessing this I felt sure that coining was going on in the mine, doubtless in the bottom of one of the shafts, and that the coins were packed in these silver boxes which were then sealed up and made to look like solid bars. I felt sure that the eight bars of silver which I saw stack up in the refinery were so many boxes of counterfeit silver dollars, and this theory was confirmed by the story that Kevane had told me about the machinery which went into the mine, and by the fact of their keeping such a close guard over the mouth of the tunnel.

Mr. Davis, the proprietor, worked in the mine, and, to my idea, he operated the minting and rolling machine. Mr. Spencer appeared to keep a general lookout on the surface, a part of his practice being to carry a pair of glasses in a case hung about him, and with these to occasionally sweep the valley.

From what I saw of the operation of the mine, they must have been taking out about twenty tons of ore daily; this reduced and refined, would have yielded an average of eight hundred ounces of silver, this quantity of metal coined into silver dollars would produce about one thousand coins, so that it might be said that the gross output of this enterprise in false money was $1000 per day.

With silver at 63 cents per ounce, which was then the ruling market price, the silver contained in each coin was worth, as I have said, about 40 cents; this left a profit of about 60 cents on each coined dollar, or $600 on the $1000 as profits obtained over and above their profits upon the production of the silver.

I managed to ascertain that no shipment of bars would be made for two weeks, and, as there were quite a pile of them in the refinery, chuckled over the thought that I should capture all of these silver bars or boxes, each one of which contained a thousand of their silver dollars. It was the 4th of August. On the following morning Lieut. Fitzgerald and his troop would be on the ground. I knew the direction they would come so that night I stole away from camp and went to meet them.

The troop was within four miles of the camp at 3 o’clock in the morning, and, acting upon my suggestion, they dismounted, left their horses with a guard and traveled the balance of the way on foot. I went ahead and returned to the camp alone, directing that they should advance as closely as possible without exposing themselves, and to remain concealed until I should give them a signal to appear.

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