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Mining History:
The Mint at the Mescal Mine

The Trial

Davis, Spencer and Coughman, the smelter foreman, were put on trial, charged with counterfeiting, but not a word of damaging testimony could be elicited against them. The metal I took from the refining pot was assayed and found to contain just the proportion of pure silver and the identical kind of alloy contained in the silver dollar; but they produced in court samples of the ore of the mine which was shown to contain the same minerals, to wit: Silver and copper. A quantity of the spurious silver coins were found on their persons and we put our experts on the stand, who examined the coin and pronounced it counterfeit: but they produced a greater number of experts who declared it to be genuine. But what discomfited us most in the trial of the case was their tendering one of our experts on the stand a coin and asking him whether it was genuine or spurious. He examined it with great care and pronounced it to be the latter. They then put a number of witnesses on the stand, each of whom testified that they had together on that very morning procured that identical coin from a government mint, where it had been issued to them as genuine.

We found it impossible to trace to this mine, with the certainty of legal evidence, the bar containing the silver dollars which we had cut open at the mint. There was no doubt that the only way we could get evidence against the accused, proving that they had been engaged in the manufacture of counterfeit coin, was by penetrating those innumerable tons of rock in that mountain, and bringing to light that machinery which lay buried hundreds of feet below. There were no available funds to meet this expense, and, though Congress was called upon to make an appropriation to this end, yet the bill therefor, like many other good measures, died in committee and never reached passage.

The accused were acquitted and they went their way. That way, however, was not back to the Mescal mine; that enterprise abides silenced, and the silver dollar counterfeits have about disappeared from circulation. I did not succeed in convicting the culprits, but I did succeed in squelching the industry. I afterward learned that Davis and Spencer were partners, and while they have been conducting several important enterprises, yet they had been pressed close to the wall of bankruptcy; unable otherwise to raise much-needed money, they took this means of veritably raising it out of the earth in defiance of United States laws. Whether they accumulated sufficient profits from their lawless venture to recoupe their fortunes or not I have never learned; but certainly, so far as I have ever heard, their careers as counterfeiters closed with that terrible explosion at the Mescal mine.


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