The Cortland Democrat, Friday, January 18, 1889.
Ancient Gold Mines of Honduras.
Standing at the mouth of an old Spanish mine in Honduras, for example the ''Amparo'' mine of the Cortland-Honduras Mining Association, and contemplating a descent into its unknown depths, one may become quite sentimental. The history of the Spanish conquest of the new world presents itself.
The cruelties of the conquerors, the dominion of the priests, the enslavement of the Indian, the robbing of the people of their rich treasure of gold and silver, the transit of galleons carrying the precious freight to Spain, the slave work in the mines, their abandonment from ignorance of the simplest means of contending with slight difficulties, or by force of revolutions—the upraising of the enslaved people—the departure of the Spaniard, and end of Spanish dominion, the following years of re-construction and internal revolution, the continued dominion of the priests, the bold strokes of Marco Soto, the advent of North Americans, the progress under Bogran.
How many years have passed since a human voice sounded in the galleries of this old mine it is impossible to tell. What spirits of murdered slaves and villainous Spaniards shall we encounter as we descend into its dark and smothering depths, inhabited by a million bats disputing, perhaps possessed by the spirit of the old Spaniards, our ingress to the abandoned treasure. The people of the vicinity, in utter ignorance of the existence of this mine have always contended that a treasure existed here, for at stated intervals a midnight light is seen on this mountain, and they say it is the demon guard of golden treasure.
The material evidence that we have of a rich mine is sufficient to tempt us to face a dozen such demons.
Is that rope securely fastened? Si, Senor. Bueno. Give me three candles and a box of matches, I may lose this. Now send the rope ahead. We had previously sent in pieces of rock which bounded down and down, giving us an idea as to the run of the shaft. We swing over the brim and begin our descent of the sharply inclined shaft, clinging to its sides in all positions, and sustained by the rope.
Shelf after shelf, the resting place of the old Spanish pole ladders is passed, tunnels running on the vein which we cannot enter. Slowly we go, examining the walls carefully. The atmosphere, foul with the offal of bats, is becoming dense and hot, the bats in multitudes dash in our face, extinguish our light, contend for the dominion they have so long held. Here the vein widens and then narrows. Here is a chamber, there a gallery. The air is becoming very impure, and we move faster. Sixty feet of rope has run out when we reach water. Now for the ascent, and quickly. Candle in the teeth, up we go, scrambling with the feet, raising hand over hand, and tumble out into the open air a wilted, sweat bathed mass.
How deep the water is it is impossible to tell, as a lead line sent down may be landed on one of the shelves of the crooked shaft. The richness of small samples found in the old wastes, the gold in the clay linings, and the magnitude of the works indicate a bonanza gold mine.
The old Spaniard would squeeze through an 8 inch passage rather than widen it by taking anything that was not rich ore. Therefore we may safely conclude that the entire space emptied of rock gave up rich ore, and this is confirmed by the waste dump which is very small compared to the extent of the work.
This mine has three veins cross cutting at the same point, the mouth of the old works being at its very summit. Part way down the mountain is a tunnel running on the vein from the outside for about sixty feet. This is on one of the cross veins. The ore left in this work is pay, and pay ore is found along the cropping of the veins. The ore of this mine is of gold and the writer has found very rich samples in the debris.
The proper manner of opening this mine is to drive in on the crosscut vein from the foot of the mountain, which will let out the water and ventilate the works.
The inhabitants of this place did not know of the existence of this mine, and have no history or tradition of it, which points to great antiquity.
In the old Spanish government archives at Guatemala, is an account of a very rich gold mine in this immediate section which yielded nuggets of gold, some of which in shape resembled tamarinds, a fruit of this country. The amount and quality of this metal so delighted the King of Spain that he named the mine his "Royal Tamarindo." The people have for generations hunted for the mine in another mountain about 5 miles distant, but vainly. The name Tamarindo appears in an ancient landing place about two miles from this mine. The ancient name of the mountain is "Cerro de Minos," or hill of mines. Many circumstances lead me to believe that "El Amparo" is the old mine "Tamarindo."
It is curious to note what inferior and weak miners these people were. I will cite a few instances. The Monsurat mine of Imboden had all its headings out of ore. A little intelligence and work has opened up a grand mine. "La Santa Lucia" was pronounced not a true vein because the natives lost the lead. To-day it is one of the best mines in Central America. "San Marcos" was abandoned in dead headings. Its bonanzas of black and ruby silver are now a delight to the eye of the company. The recent wonderful discovery of Strabes and Bernhard was in an old mine. Others like the Que Masones, Guyabellas, Clavo Rico, etc., were left off in rich ore because of water and bad air now easily controlled. The old workings in this republic are numberless, and being re-discovered every day. Since June the writer knows of eight old mines re-discovered and many new ones. Any of the principal finds would cause great excitement in the United States mining districts.
There are large districts in the writer's knowledge holding many mines, occupied only by the Indian miners, who work easily to-be-got-at ore without taking title to the mines.
A careful study of this republic with its many resources guarantee the statement that it will make progress, but little less rapid than have our Western States. The same intrepid spirit which pushed its way across the Rockies, is possessed by the Americans occupied here. The progress already made is very great, and its speed is accelerating daily. Ten years more, and the Honduras of 1880 will live only in memory.
The writer is the first North American who has ever lived in this district. The spirit of progress instilled by Soto and Bogran had already been felt by the people, and now, with the active principal practically located, another point of real progress is established which uniting hands with the others, and the willing people, is another force added to the impulse that is developing this one of the richest small republics on earth.
J. E. FOSTER.
AMAPALA, Dec. l9th, 1888
To C. E. Ingalls:
DEAR SIR:—We arrived here yesterday about 9 A. M., all well and feeling first-rate. Found Foster, glad to see him, you bet, and he was glad to see me. We leave to-day for Nacaome and shall go from there to the mines. Our machinery is unloaded, but the boiler is still on the launches ready to go to our place, which will be in two or three days. Our house at the mine will be done in about 10 days. Our English friends are still with us, and will visit our mines, and are very favorably impressed with Foster and his description of them, and if Foster has got what he says he has, I think we will make a strike with them for a mine; but they are "English" you know. I will write you the particulars as soon as I get them. I have not much to write nor much time, as we must soon be off for Nacaome.
E. P SCHUTT.
[Cortland County Directory 1889: Cortland and Honduras Mining Assoc. and San Rafael Mining and Milling Co., C.E. Ingalls, pres; J.H. Howard, sec; E.P. Schutt, treas; Floyd B. Wilson, 120 Broadway, N.Y. Attorney, office 1 Main Street, Cortland, N. Y.—CC editor.]