[D8828ADM], Letter from Frank McGowan to Thomas Alva Edison, November 26th, 1888
[D8828ADM], Letter from Frank McGowan to Thomas Alva Edison, November 26th, 1888
"I am still without any instructions from you + am therefore resting on my mans as far as gramine shipments are concerned. Have been for the past month trying to hunt up an Indian who lives in the Western Cordilleras + has told parties here that by gramina grows there. The Indian is at present sick in bed + no one is allowed to talk with im but I will see him soon + if he can give me specific directions to travel to the place he knows I will take 20 men in there to see if I cannot make a road to one of the coast rivers + float it down to the sea. As I told you in my last it is almost impossible to get mules here + I have to give notice a month in advance so that I can have them on time. It is now the rainy season down here which is the base time to produce big gramina. The whole of December will be rainy + in January we will have some dry spells. I will therefore be able soon to send you the best around there parts but the cost of the dillema before I cross over to the Magdelena River. You will remember my having told you in my May letter that an old residenter on the Cauca River had told me that the Gramina on the Central Cordillera grew so tall that in some cases one could harly see the tops them. But the cost of shipment from there must be something awful to contemplate. However that is for you to decide on + I will therefore start off for there on my way to the Magdelena River when I receive your letter of instructions which I am now waiting for. I feel sort of lonely at not receiving any word from you in 4 mos. + it has entirely thrown me off of my track. Every mail I would send into Cali to find out if there were any letters for me but in vain. Its all Tate's fault I know. His chase after the 'filthy lucre' up North prevents his remembering a snoozer in a distant land. But I will pay him back for this neglect. There is a gold mine at the headwaters of the Nape River + I intended to let him into the forks but now he will be rigidly excluded. This mine is of inexaustible richness as I am informed by Dr. A. Cardenas of Quito, who is a senator + congressman in that City. When Cardenas was a boy his father was foreman of the Napo Valley + as a boy he frequently accompanied the Indians up the river + observed them washing lbs. of gold in [unclear] from the river sands. Cardenas told me that the Indians had made many ineffectual attempts to open up the mine but their rude tools would not admit of this. The Doelor further told me that if Northern Capital could be secured he would put money into the scheme + go to to New York to accompany the expedition to the Napo. I believe what he says about the richness of the mine because I was present on 2 reasons where the Indians bought their gold dust to George Edwards, of Conneticut, who has long lived on the Napo, to have it weighed + paid for. Edwards has grown rich in the this way. He would not tell me much about the mine which led me to believe that he was anxious to keep the secret to himself. Therefore by + by when Tate sees the bags of gold shipped up north he will be sorry for not having paid more attention to Little Mac + write him a letter occassionally. ### Since I wrote you last I have had 8 peons daily working in Mr. Trujillo's allweal gold mine trying to reach bed rock in order to get Mr. Bevin's report + also to send you 100 lbs of the sand. I will not be able to send either the report or sand by this steamer as bed rock has not been struck + I have now ordered 4 other peons to work at night time. I pay for all this with my own coin with the expectation that if you decide to develop it by + by you will give me back my ducats. Of course, Mr. Trujillo pays his half. This attention on my part to this mine does not in the least interfere with your business. I have been to every place I deem worth going to around here + now only await your promised orders. Meantime I might as well be on the alert for anything in the shape of gold + silver + everything. I can get track of goes to you without reserve. I don't make a picayune in any way. ### Now here is another little mining venture which I call to your notice. The Chontedure Alluvial Gold Mine is owned in best part by Schamme, Richardson at 5 William St. N.Y. City. Some shares of the mine are held in Cali by Simonds, [unclear] but the balance of power is N.Y. This Chantadura Mine has been worked for some 200 yrs by niggers (500) by the primitive way of washing by [unclear]. I am informed on good authority that those nigger extracted pots of gold, some say millions upon millions. A Dr. Magin from the University Friburg Germany undertook to sell this mine to N.Y. told him that either he was a stupid fool or that he thought they were as as it was not at all probable that he would offer such a rich mine for $10000 instead of asking half a million. However, the above parties influenced by Simmonds through whose hands nearby all the gold taken out by the niggers had passed bought the mine + immediatelly monitors were sent down + [unclear] to put in place. But Majon had asserted sympatically that there was plenty of water on the mine to run 4 or 5 monitors when in reality there was not enough to run 1 [unclear] in very rainy weather the N.Y. parties applied to a Mr. Cherry (I think his name is) of San Francisco, or Butte Co. [unclear] (Major McLaughlin) knows him) + also to Hutchinson + Fairbanks of San Francisco; for a Supt. + a Mr. Len Davies was sent down. Before the monitor were properly started the N.Y. Co. were writing letters to Davis asking when the first shipment of gold might be expected, + this when only one monitor could be worked about 10 days in each month. Meantime Schramme in N.Y. sent a nephew of his down to the mine to act the part of spy + he did this so satisfactorily as to bring Davis' term as Supt. To an abrupt close. Then they sent Mr. Beven down here + he, in his first report, recommended the bringing of a big river some 12 miles to the mine + he put the cost at 12.000 Am. Gold. He deisred to work some [unclear] 8 monitors at one time + this make things boom. Meantime the above nephew had made a term of inspection + wrote the N.Y. Co. that the river in question could be brought to the mine for $4000 am. Gold. At this time time Mr. Beban was recovering from an attack of sickness + on his receiving a letter from the N.Y. co. that they had been authoratively informed that $4000 am. Gold would suffice + that they thought he was going to prove an expensive man + also that they had received an anonmymous letter stating that Mr. Bevan was a theoretical miner + not a practical one, he replying on the assurances of different parters here, agreed to the construction of the ditch at $4000 am. Gold but at the same time standard his resignation as Supt. To take effect Jany 1st. 1889. He at the same time demanded the orginal anonmyous letter with the intention of punishing the person down here who had cast such aspersions on his mining abilities. He has since received a letter of apology from the Directors of the N.Y. Cos. Praying him to forgive their hastiness + begging him in the most abject way to still continue as Supt etc etc. But they had monkeyed with the wrong man. He declined to have anything more to do with them and then it was that he told me he would give no definite answer to anyone in regard to a future contract until I would write and see if Mr. Edison desired him to boom his mining interests down here.The shareholders of the Choutadone Mine in Cali are in despare. They say that now when the best miner who had ever been in this Valley is not appreciated up North they are losing all interest in the mine and the original owner of the mine who now owns one fourth has declared his intention of leading the venture altogether when Mr. Burn severs his connection with the N.Y. Co. All the owners of mines down here are now after Mr. Burn offering him splendid inducements but he is a man who would sooner have the honor of serving you, with of course his $300 per month, than he would be influenced by the illusions of these people who might perhaps hamstring him when least expected. Simmons is especially anxious to get Mr. Burn to work for him but your cablegram will decide everything. Mr. Burn informs me that now he is acquanited with the formation down here he can locate untold riches. He is one of the finest men I have ever met and when I go away from here it will be with genuine regret that I have to part from such a rattling good man. But to the point that I was trying to get at. Mr. Burn has just ade an exploration over the proposed route to bring the big river to the Chautadura Mie and he finds that it will take $40,000 or $50,000 to do the job properly. The above nephew in his juvenile idiocy had omitted to state to Mr. Burn that there were 11 high hills alsong which the ditch had to run and also that there were places in the solid rock where iron girders would have to be placed in order to hold the flumes. Now it is not at all likely that the N.Y. Co will agree to an expenditure of 50 or $60,000 (I say) on work which will take 2 yrs. to complete and I think it would be well for Tate to keep his optics on this mine and find out if it will be sold and then he can gobble it up at perhaps a low figure. Mr. Burn informs me that in about 4 yrs from now, after the big river is brought over and 4 to 6 monitors have been worked for some time, it will be a mine worth speaking about. The work of the niggers heretofore has been superficial as they never got down anywhere near bed rock and never knew anything about such a thing so that there is still any quantity of good mining ground. Magin reported that prospected 60 cts per cubic yard. Mr. Burn says that 10 cts per cubic yard is all that he claims for it but of course he has not got down to bed rock himself but if he does before he leaves the Co. the report will be interesting. In any event it is something worth looking after and Major McLaughlin might do well to look into it. ### I told you in my last that we were given possession of 15 mines. We are now notified that the Edison Gold Mine is also in our possession. Now you possess a mine. I will not say anything as to its future. That is something I know nothing about but if I am to believe what the old native miner said to me when he entered the various channels, "Now, Patron, you are a millionaire," I think you have a good thing and I'm sure that no one wishes you better luck than I do. To find out what you really have you have only to engage Mr. Burn for a year and about the end of Jany you know all about the Edison Mine and then the others in quick succesion and with such a report too that will leave you in little doubt as to who the man is you have engaged. Why if I had $3600 to engage him for a year I would do so on my own [unclear] even if I didn't know hwere to get my next meal from. As it is I drop all the sheckels I have down here and not a bit of security for it only my belief that riches about where I have been. Your Mr. Johnson, Mr. Batchelor, Mr. Gilliland, Mr. Bergman and Mr. Upton could easily make a tarpaulin [unclear] of $50 each per month and never feel the loss. ### The roads here are in a fearful condition owing to the terrible rains. The Conservative Govt. have got wind of our intended revolution and arrests are the order of the day. ### About this time past year I wrote you from the Napo River (Mouth of Curaray) and told you what I had to be thankful for approaching Thanksgiving Day. I reiterate what I said then but am a little more gratified at the thought that I have come across what you want. Of course I have to do the quickening etc and select the best plants for shipment. If it is not up to your standard I don't set a foot in N.Y. or in the States until I come across it and you wil send me some sugard man and again. But in the future I intend to take my expedition clear across the Cordilleras down to the Pacific Ocean and then again clear across the Central Cordilleras. To do this I will require relays along the road that I will have to cut through the birches in order that provisios can be brought me. This will be expensive, but your wants must be satisfied. Meantime let me know how the 83 pieces panned out. I hate to be idle down here. Remember that I can send you larger stuff but I want to know all about the pitch, elasticity, whether the fibres strip down good etc etc. I am studying the various grounds on which the gramina grows and I believe that the mountain bamboo if I can get it large enough excels all others. If I am wrong in this when I send you some samples by and by let me know. ### I would like to have Tate send me a revolver if I am to remain long down here. I lost mine splashing through the infernal mud on horseback. The horse got frightened crossing a big mud hole filled with water and capered around so that I couldn't hold on and he threw me, the revolver falling out of the cover which had no top as Hanington said it would be better and easier to pull out the revolvers when we were attacked by wild Indians. I have to laugh sometimes even in my madness when I think of that eminent fakir. He wrote me a ltter saying that you were satisfied we had done our best whilst in Brazil. Well I'm willing to bet a big bright dollar against a pumpkin seed that you won't be satisfied after I've had my little say when I get back. Bermann was right when he told me that H. was N. G. I would also like a Winchester rifle with proper amount of cartridges. Tate might also send me a rubber coat and cap. ### I now get along pretty well on horseback but still like walking the best. My horse has turned out to be one of the best pacers in S. A. Boy starved him and pocketed the money. ### When you have eaten your Christmas dinner just send me down a bone of the big fat turkey to remind me that I once lived in a civilized country. ### I think that I can well employ another year down here that is if you wish Colombia well explored. But, oh, my the facilities. I can hardly get peons to go into the mountains and niggers can't stand the cold. The peons have raised the price on me from $1 a day and food to $1.40 and food. I intend to hire Indians from Bopyan and then I may do better. The canned foods are very expensive down here and in fact everything is but the native food, plantains and last winter they rose up to $20 per mule load. ### There is no place in S.A. as backward in progress as Colombia. No railroads, no coaches, no roads, no bridges across rivers, no decent food, no sleeping accomodations--in fact a man is lost down here. Every one tries to fleece a foreigner--every one steals--every one lies and morality, ye gods, Chicago can't hold a candle to it. ### So Harrison was elected. Cleveland man know swhat his imbecile civil service reform led to and what will poor Frankie do? ### Wishing you, Mrs. Edison and family a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year, I am," Respectfully yours, F. McGowan ### "Memoranda of gramina sent you by steamer leaving Bu[unclear]aventura on Nov 16th, 88 ### No. 1. Large gramina cut in hacienda of Mr. Burrera 4 weeks ago and not quick seasoned. ### No. 2. Sample from hacienda of Mr. Barrera quick seasoned by fire. ### No. 3. Sample from hacienda of Barrera cut fresh and packed immediately to you. ### No. 4. Sample of general growth of gramina in Cauca Valley but lacking size and thickness required but submitted to fire. ### No. 5. Sample same as No. 4 but not submited to fire. Cut fresh and packed to you immediately. ### No. 6. Fibres that form a covering for gramina trees and which grow for some distance up the shoots. ### No. 7. Original covering (No. 6) without fibres being extracted. ### Please transpose No. 2 for No. 3 above. Mr. Tryjillo has made necessary explanations which you will find inside of the bamboos. ### To each mine there is allotted surroudning territory to an extend of 5400 ft. in length and [unclear] 50 ft. in width."
Thomas A. Edison Papers, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University