In October 1881. the illustrious scientist Benjamin Silliman Jr. was at the Torrance mine, Socorro, New Mexico -
He found a new mineral, and described it as vanadiferous mimetite. Famed for his 1855 report on the fractional distillation of Pennsylvania rock oil (kick-starting the petroleum industry), Professor Silliman was in great demand as a mining consultant, and was in New Mexico as such. His consultancy fees were lucrative. In one year, whilst receiving “only” two or three thousand as a Yale professor, he got $50,000 by writing 24 mining consulting reports.
Silliman would publish new mineralogical data in the same article whose primary aim was to promote mining stock. This imprinted scientific validity to speculative mineral claims of spectacular promise and hand-picked assay samples. His rosy descriptions of mining areas had been noticed to be rather dubious on previous occasions (British investors were badly stung by his great overestimate in 1871 of the ore reserves in the Emma mine near Alta, Utah).
Here's some excerpts from his article mentioning "vanadiferous mimetite" in Transactions, American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, 1882 -
Silliman’s article then goes on to describe other New Mexico localities, before launching into twelve pages about “The Lake Valley, or Sierra Mines.” These mines were owned by the guys who were paying Silliman’s consultancy fees. Vanadinite is briefly mentioned -
More pages of stock-manipulative assays and descriptions of mines and processing-potential follow, but the article ends as it started, with vanadiferous mimetite -
There are several “irregularities” with the article, which was published in 1882. He briefly notes that vanadinite occurs “without arsenic.” But as we shall see, Genth & vom Rath determined that Lake Valley vanadinite was arseniferous to the extent that the new mineral was named after Dr. F.M. Endlich, superintendent of the Sierra Mines at Lake Valley: Endlichite.
The weirdest thing is that Silliman dismisses problems with the Apache so easily, “there is no longer any danger from this cause.” He says he was at Lake Valley in October 1881. This is only a couple of months after the General Manager of the Lake Valley Sierra mines, George Daly, was killed by Chiricahua Apache Chief Nana. On the same day as the shooting and mutilation, the richest strike of silver ever was opened up - The Bridal Chamber. This spectacular find, producing 2.5m ounces of silver from a huge pocket of cerargyrite, is mentioned by Silliman in only one sentence, "The largest body of this kind, explored at the time of my visit, was that reached by what was known as the Joint Shaft." Something was very fishy about Silliman's article. Folk were warned off....
Engineering and Mining Journal, 15th June 1882 -
"Some time since, George D. Roberts, whom the investing public should thoroughly appreciate as a manipulator of mines, obtained control of the Sierra group of mines.., and the public is now asked to invest in them on the strength of reports by Prof. Benjamin Silliman. While Professor Silliman’s standing as a scientist and investigator is above all question, his record as an expert in the examination of mines is such as to make it necessary to receive his estimates with extreme caution. ... [Lists Silliman’s estimates of different ores at Lake Valley.] The gross shipments of rich ores are to foot up to $3,500,000 in one year. We have no authority to dispute the accuracy of these statements, and feel convinced that there is rich ore in the Sierra mines. But with a report by Professor Silliman, and with George D. Roberts really, though not officially, at the helm, we must warn investors not to touch the stock."
More on George D. Roberts' front-man George Daly, the cerargyrite bonanza and mutilations later, but first the analysis of the new mineral found down the Sierra mines...
On the Vanadates and Iodyrite, From Lake Valley, Sierra Co., New Mexico
F. A. Genth and Gerhard vom Rath, 1885 -
The crystallographer Penfield examined some of Silliman’s specimens from Lake Valley. This from Crystallized Vanadinite from Arizona and New Mexico. S.L. Penfield, 1886 -
In 1896 endlichite was discovered at Hillsboro, a few miles up the “road” from Lake Valley.
from Deposits of Manganese Ore in New Mexico, E.L. Jones Jr., 1919
"Vanadinite specimens from Lake Valley reached prominent eastern mineral dealers George English of New York and A. E. Foote of Philadelphia by 1896 and 1897, and ads for "endlichite" were run in The Mineral Collector by 1897. About this same time, miner William F. Hall from Hillsboro found similar material from the mines at Hillsboro and sent shipments of 1,250 lb to A. E. Foote in Philadelphia (Leatherbee 1911). Specimens were advertised in The Mineral Collector and sold world-wide as the finest known." quote from "New Mexico Vanadinite," Ramon S. DeMark, New Mexico Mineral Syposium 2008.
A.E. Foote's son printed this in his mineral book / price list, A complete catalogue of minerals, Warren M. Foote, 1897 -
Mimetite-Vanadinite Solid Solution Series
Endlichite was first described by Silliman as vanadiferous mimetite; incorrect but without quantitative analysis a good stab at describing the mineral. Mimetite is lead chloroarsenate Pb5(AsO4)3Cl. Vanadinite is lead chlorovanadinate Pb5(VO4)3Cl. Both are secondary minerals found in the oxidized zones of lead deposits. Both can crystallise as small hexagonal prisms of an orange-red colour.
There is a continuous series of mineral compositions, from mimetite to vanadinite, where more and more vanadinite anions substitute for the mimetite's arsenate anions. The anion ratio found by Genth & vom Rath was of the order 1:1 for their newly named endlichite. Unfortunately endlichite is now considered an archaic name....
The preferred name nowadays, according to Mindat is Arsenatian Vanadinite, "Vanadinite containing arsenic in substitution for V up to As:V = 1:1" Presumably for greater than 1:1 substitution the correct term is Vanadatian Mimetite? As names, they're not a patch on endlichite! Below would be a better way to describe the series (especially with using "ian" instead of "atian"), but who knows how the ratio boundaries could be determined!
Vanadinite < Arsenian Vanadinite < Endlichite > Vanadian Mimetite > Mimetite
This is almost what was recommended by J.S. White in his Mineralogical Record article, Vanadinite from Touissit, Morocco, and comments on endlichite, 1984 - "The varietal name, endlichite, is indefinite and should be abandoned in favour of arsenian vanadinite and vanadian mimetite."
It would be a shame.... here's some beautiful endlichites -
Whilst on with mineralogical nomenclature, we'll deal with another minefield of mineral names regarding the halide silver ores at Lake Valley, horn silver.....
Chlorargyrite-Bromargyrite-Iodargyrite Solid Solution Series
This from 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica -
"CERARGYRITE, a mineral species consisting of silver chloride; an important ore of silver. The name cerargyrite is a Greek form (from κέρας, horn, and ἄργυρος, silver) of the older name hornsilver, which was used by K. Gesner as far back as 1565. The chloro-bromide and bromide of silver were also included under this term until they were distinguished chemically in 1841 and 1842, and described under the names embolite and bromargyrite (or bromyrite) respectively; the chloride then came to be distinguished as chlorargyrite, though the name cerargyrite is often now applied to this alone. Chloro-bromo-iodide of silver has also been recognized as a mineral and called iodembolite. All these are strikingly alike in appearance and general characters, differing essentially only in chemical composition, and it would seem better to reserve the name cerargyrite for the whole group, using the names chlorargyrite (AgCl), embolite (Ag(Cl, Bl)), bromargyrite (AgBr) and iodembolite (Ag(Cl, Br, I)) for the different isomorphous members of the group. They are cubic in crystallization, with the cube and the octahedron as prominent forms, but crystals are small and usually indistinct; there is no cleavage. They are soft (H = 2½) and sectile to a high degree, being readily cut with a knife like horn. With their resinous to adamantine lustre and their translucency they also present somewhat the appearance of horn; hence the name hornsilver. The colour varies somewhat with the chemical composition, being grey or colourless in chlorargyrite, greenish-grey in embolite and bromargyrite, and greenish-yellow to orange-yellow in iodembolite. On exposure to light the colour quickly darkens. The specific gravity also varies with the composition: for the pure chloride it is 5.55, and the highest recorded for an iodembolite is 6.3.
The hornsilvers all occur under similar conditions and are often associated together; they are found in metalliferous veins with native silver and ores of silver, and are usually confined to the upper oxidized parts of the lodes. They are important ores of silver (the pure chloride contains 75.3% of silver), and have been extensively mined at several places in Chile, also in Mexico, and at Broken Hill in New South Wales. The chloride and chloro-bromide have been found in several Cornish mines, but never in very large amounts."
An excellent article on the subject is The Cerargyrite Group, Prior & Spencer, 1902.
The Lake Valley horn-silver ore occurred in pockets in the limestone, and consisted of the following minerals, either discretely or as a solid solution, cerargyrite -
- Chlorargyrite AgCl
- Bromargyrite AgBr
- Iodargyrite AgI
As a solid solution, cerargyrite can only have a small percentage of iodargyrite because at room temperature it is of a different crystal system (hexagonal) to chlorargyrite and bromargyrite (isometric). These spot-analyses are from Broken Hill, Australia -
Iodargyrite crystal courtesy RRUFF. Fig.1 Records of the Australian Museum
Back to Mines, Bonanzas & Mutilations
1881 was a big year in Lake Valley, New Mexico. The small town was visited by an illustrious scientist intent on making a few bob, Benjamin Silliman Jr. Also visiting was a formidable octogenarian Apache warrior, who dealt with a bent mine-stock manipulator. And of course, the richest deposit of cerargyrite ever mined was found.
Chiricahua Apache Chief Nana, even in his eighties a formidable warrior, hated miners more than settlers, shepherds or cowboys. Married to Geronimo’s sister, in 1881 he took a break from domestic bliss for a spot of raiding and killing, and scored a direct hit on a general bad-egg, scoundrel and stock-manipulating mining engineer, George Daly.
Chief Nana, whose apache name meant "Angry, He is Agitated" was justifiably a tad miffed with the influx of foreigners into his homelands. In the early eighteen eighties, New Mexico was being mined for silver and as a result the sacred Indian lands could quickly be defiled -
Above, the open Bridal Chamber cerargyrite bonanza - "tearing the flesh of the land."
In January 1881 Nana struck at Chloride, NM, killing two miners and stealing horses and cattle. So began a spree of carnage by the man who had the longest fighting career of any Apache warrior. Officers of the U.S. Army considered him a brilliant strategist and a "perfect fighter."
Hundreds of Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry were hunting Nana as his campaign of random guerrilla warfare reached the small mining town of Lake Valley on Aug. 18 1881. This led to the death of George Daly, whose obituary in the The Homer Mining Index reads, “one of the most despicable of characters.”
Although employed as the Sierra mines General Manager, George Daly knew very little about practical mining. His main expertise being mining stock manipulation and strike breaking by rifle bullet. He was ordered out of his previous three jobs at mining camps for inciting violence, although acquitted on a murder rap. Some idea of the esteem he was held in can be gleaned from this letter printed in The Homer Mining Index, 17.7.1880 -
"We wonder what kind of people those Leadvillians must be to worship this dirty, little cub, whom every decent man in California and Nevada could not pass without an involuntary desire to kick him? He is a toady by nature, a scrub by instinct and a bully on general principles, as all men of his stamp are. He is always ready to lick the boot of a superior, and is just as ready to kick one of an inferior position he has no inferiors in manhood. His success shows what a man can obtain by sycophancy, cheek and a willingness to do any sort of dirty work for his masters. If he had been anything but the creeping, malicious bug-sucker that he was the respectable citizens of Bodie would never have let him be run out of town. ... He knows no more about a mine than a pig does about a blow-pipe - and if he had not accidentally fallen in with men who needed his debased services, he would have naturally become a pimp or barkeeper in a cellar dive."
Daly's job was to buy up the existing claims, which were (or had been) merely pockets of very pure silver halide ore, not a continuous body capable of extensive mining. True bonanzas to the individual miners, but short lived. Then, together with his associate George D. Roberts, new mining companies were set up. Roberts was a dodgy stock promoter notorious for his role in what the San Francisco Chronicle called “the most gigantic and bare-faced swindle of the age,” the Great Diamond Hoax of 1872. Scientific experts were brought in to examine the Sierra Mines, to write reports with silver linings. The companies were then put on the stock market. Silliman wasn't the only well known scientist involved....
Edward Drinker Cope, the famous American paleontologist and comparative anatomist, was enlisted to give further scientific validity to the Lake Valley enterprise. His sensitive Quaker nature had been dealt a blow during the "bone wars" with Othniel Charles Marsh, especially his embarassing arse-about-face placement of the skull of Elasmosaurus. How he dealt with the rough town of Lake Valley is difficult to fathom, Surveyor Parker saying of the place, "Lake Valley is the toughest town I've ever seen. I'm satisfied a man died with his boots on every night."
On August 13th, 1881 Cope wrote to his wife from Lake Valley, apparently reassured by George Daly-
"The country is much more pleasant than I had supposed, but the Apaches are making it hot. I think that sooner or later the savage will give some trouble here. They have been doing mischief all around us, and in fact have been seen near the mines. I leave however today... Daly our supt. is however an old Indian fighter & knows how to manage them, especially Apaches. The day of these savages is however but short. This is a great mining region, perhaps the best in the entire West, and the mines are becoming more numerous very rapidly.”
Six days after the letter was written, Chief Nana killed Daly. Daly had never previously been in an Indian fight, had only been in New Mexico four months, and Nana's band were probably the first Apache he'd ever seen. Bullshit might work with those gullible Eastern speculators, but not with an irate eighty-year old Chiricahua warrior!
Things are about to get a bit heavy, so to brighten up this article, here's some examples of worldwide silver halides -
On the night of Thursday the 18th of August, William Cotton's Saloon in Lake Valley was awash with angry miners and cowboys. And whiskey. Chief Nana had attacked Abe Irwin's ranch, and his wife and daughter were missing. Although they would turn up unharmed the next morning, tensions were high in Cotton's Saloon, all there worried they had perished in the burning ranch, or had been taken by the Apache.
George Daly, who knew a thing or two about inciting violence, soon had the drunken rabble organised into a posse. He convinced 2d Lt. George Washington Smith to accompany them, with 16 Buffalo soldiers of the 9th Cavalry. Lt. Smith was under orders to remain at Lake Valley, and accompanied Daly only to try to prevent a massacre of the inebriated posse.
Setting off from the boozer at midnight, by 10am they eventually caught up with Nana at the Dry Gavilan Canyon in the Mimbres Mountains.
Daly was immediately shot off his horse, as was Lt. Smith. Daly was reportedly "shot all to pieces" and mutilated, with sticks stuck into his body. Smith, also shot, was found lying face down, his back and arms partially burned where the Apache had piled brush on him and set it afire. His nose, ears and other body parts were cut off, with the poor lieutenant’s mustache found hanging in a nearby bush.
As George Daly's body was brought back to Lake Valley on the 19th, a large amount of particularly pure cerargyrite was uncovered at the Junction shaft. In the next few days this led into the fantastic 100 x 100 x 20 ft pocket of almost pure silver halides, mixed with native silver, and calcite gangue -
The Bridal Chamber
The chasms above were originally sub-surface continuous vugs in the limestone, lined with silver halides and native silver. A four foot thick layer of cerargyrite provided much of the 2.5 million ounces of silver from the pocket. It was called "The Bridal Chamber" because of the awesome candlelit sparkling from the walls of the vug upon entry. Interlacing crystals of chloroargyrite, calcite and native silver hung down as stalactites. It was said that a candle held up to a stalactite would soon "melt the Cerargyrite stalactites into silver globs." Axes and hatchets were used to hack out the horn silver. Saws were used to cut the native silver into blocks. One silver halide crystal mass weighed over 10,000 pounds.
Although initially beautiful, and undoubtedly rich, the Bridal Chamber was worked out within a few months. Investors were badly stung by the Lake Valley mines. Poor Edward Drinker Cope had been persuaded to buy stock certificates. He ended up having to sell his phenomenal fossil collection when the arse dropped out of Sierra Mines stock.
Silliman, being au fait with the machinations of Roberts & Daly, unloaded his stock well before it flat-lined. During his visit to Lake Valley, Benjamin Silliman Jr. didn't identify there a mineral he'd discovered in the same month at the Torrance mine - his "vanadiferous mimetite." He also missed a new mineral, Ramsdellite Mn4+O2 in his description of the Lake Valley manganese ores (see his article excerpt above).
Below, Ramsdellite from the type locality, Lake Valley NM -
A case of the dollar blinding the scientist? To finish, here's a very sensitive test for arsenic, developed by chemist James Marsh in 1836, for those who'd like to select endlichites from their vanadinite collection -
The Mineral Regions of Southern New Mexico. B. Silliman, 1882
On the Vanadates and Iodyrite, From Lake Valley, Sierra Co., New Mexico
F. A. Genth and Gerhard vom Rath, 1885
Crystallized Vanadinite from Arizona and New Mexico. S.L. Penfield, 1886
Deposits of Manganese Ore in New Mexico, E.L. Jones Jr., 1919
New Mexico Vanadinite, Ramon S. DeMark, New Mexico Mineral Syposium 2008
A complete catalogue of minerals, Warren M. Foote, 1897
Vanadinite from Touissit, Morocco, and comments on endlichite, J.S. White, 1984
The Cerargyrite Group, Prior & Spencer, 1902
Compositions of Silver Halides from the Broken Hill District, New South Wales. Gillard et al., 1997
Biographical Memoir of Benjamin Silliman 1816-1885, Aurthur W. Wright, 1911
Geologic Investigations in the Lake Valley Area, Sierra County, New Mexico. J.M. O'Neill, 2002
History of the Lake Valley Mining District, Homer E. Milford, 2000
Tracking Nana, Chapter 7, Ambush in Gavilan Canyon
And Now For Something Completely Different