H istory by_ Donna Frederick, firstname.lastname@example.org
The name Egan pays homage to Major Howard E. Egan who went to Salt Lake City, Utah with the pioneers of 1847. Major Egan was a veteran in Brigham Young's Nauvoo Legion and one of the parties that accompanied Young across the prairies in the vanguard of the Mormon migration. Major Egan, a busy scout, was instrumental in proving that the mid-state trail was shorter and faster between Utah and California than the Humboldt route. While driving a herd of livestock back to Utah from California, Egan returned across mid-state rather than the dreaded Humboldt route. In the early 1850's, Egan became an instrumental part of George W. Chorpenning’s pioneer mail service, the “Jackass Express,” comprised of stages drawn by mules. Egan proved the Egan Cut-Off, a central route across Nevada, was more practicable than the Humboldt River route so Chorpenning adopted the shorter route.
E gan Station (originally called Gold Canyon in the list of stations until it was renamed for Major Egan) was one of the loneliest change stations on the entire route. When the Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company's Pony Express was established, Egan became superintendent of the Salt Lake division. His two sons became pony express riders and then stage drivers. Egan Station was probably built as a relay point on both the Overland Stage and the Pony Express routes, in the spring of 1860.
Interesting note: The COC&PP Express Company soon became referred to as "Clean our of Cash and Poor Pay" when the Pony Express proved it was not economically feasible.
E gan Canyon provided many anxious moments for Pony Express riders as well as travelers. It was an ideal location for Indian ambushes. A transcription from an old fading pencil description by William Frederick Fisher described Egan Station as located in a pretty valley. On the east was a canyon between steep, high, rugged mountains. A stream of water ran through towards the east and empties into Steptoe Valley. According to Fishers description, there is a large mound or knoll about 100 feet high, and the emigrant road was on the north side of the knoll. The station was about 200 yards south of the knoll. The riders coming from the west rose to the mound then diverged south to the Station. The rider could not see the Station until he got past the mound.
Note: (William (Billy) Fisher was one of the first riders hired by Howard Egan in 1860. He rode the Pony Express in eastern Nevada and later in the Utah Territory. Exact verbatim copy of the old fading pencil description can be reached from http://www.xphomestation.com.)
O n the morning of August 11, 1860, an armed band of Indians surrounded the station keeper at Egan, Mike Holden and “Slim” Wilson, a rider waiting for his next relay. The express men began firing, but the Indians steadily advanced. Indians captured the express men when they ran out of ammunition. The Chief demanded Bread! and the Indians proceeded to eat all the bread that the men had previously baked. The Indians demanded that the white men build a fire and continue baking bread. Toward evening, the Indians had their fill of bread and the chief ordered the men killed. The Indians began piling dry brush around Holden and Wilson, the braves began piling dry brush around them after tying them to a wagon tongue that was stuck in the ground.
T hen - just like an old fashioned melodrama - a troop of U.S. Calvary came riding over the hill to the rescue. Holden and Wilson owed their good fortune to William Dennis, a Pony Express rider in route from Ruby Valley Station to Egan Station. Dennis saw what was happening as he approached the station and slipped away before the Indians spotted him. He found Lieutenant Stephen H. Weed and a detachment of soldiers, whom he had passed shortly before reaching Egan. Lieutenant Weed left a non-commissioned officer and seven men with his two wagons, and hurried to the site with the rest of his party. William Dennis returned with Lieutenant Weed and the company of soldiers to the station where they found about 75 to 100 Indians surrounding the station, nearly all armed with rifles. An even greater number of Indians were from five to eight hundred yards away on the mountains. Lieutenant Weed gave orders to surround the Indians near the station but two or three of his men commenced firing prematurely, thus alerting the Indians and giving them a chance to retreat. The Indians were soon in the mountains south and east of the station, that protected them from the fire of the Calvary. Since the Indians were well supplied with rifles and ammunition, in addition to being superior in numbers, Lieutenant Weed prudently did not attempt to attack them in their strong position. The two white captives were not in the least doubt they would have been killed if not for the detachments timely arrival.
N ote:Lieutenant Weed was in charge of the detachment sent from Camp Floyd to look after the Indians on the California Mail Route who had been committing depredations. The tale is taken from Lieutenant Weed's reports on file at Ely Bureau of Land Management.
T hree of Lieutenant Weed's men were wounded: Corporal John Mitchell was shot in the hip; Pvt. Joseph Henry was shot in the neck; and Pvt. Thomas Conley was shot through the back. Reports of the number of Indians killed in the skirmish vary from source to source. A handwritten note contained in the Ely BLM District Pony Express File and transcribed by Mike Bunker details a report that 1st Lieutenant Stephen H. Weed sent on August 12, 1860 to the Acting Assistant Adjutant General at Camp Floyd. Weed reported that only one Indians body was left on the ground but he was certain of three other Indians killed and that he had seen three Indians fall and be picked up and carried off by others. Weed reported they had gotten two of the Indian’s horses, two rifles, a lot of bows and arrows and some bullets.
P rivate Charles A. Scott's account in his diary dated August 11, gave a slightly different account of Indians killed than what Weed wrote in his report. Scott said that one Indian was killed at the Station and about five in the rocks.
A party of eight men was sent back to Ruby Valley with the wounded and another small party of men escorted the Express rider through the canyon as far as Shell Creek. Lieutenant Weed remained at the station with eleven men, until more men could be spared from Ruby Valley, before he proceeded on to the Antelope Springs Station.
O n August 13, Private Scott wrote in his diary that the men had just returned from Ruby with news of the injured soldiers. Private Conely had died; Corporal Mitchell and Private Henry were doing as well as could be expected.
I ndians burned Egan Station in October of 1860, in revenge for the men killed by Lieutenant Weed’s party. When author Richard Burton arrived at Egan Station on October 5, 1860, he found part of the chimney, a few pieces of burned wood, and evidence of partially buried bodies. Burton states this was is retaliation for the seventeen men killed by Lieutenant Weed's party. This last statement creates much confusion as to the number of Indians that were killed in the skirmish; Lieutenant Weed's report, Private Scott’s and Richard Burton’s diaries, show a disparity in numbers!
A Company of volunteer soldiers under Captain Tober found gold in Egan Canyon in 1863 and the Gold Canyon Mining District, later known as the Egan Canyon Mining District, was organized. Principal minerals located in the district are Silver, Gold, Lead, Copper, Molybdenum, Tungsten, and Barite. The Egan Mill, run by waterpower from Egan Creek, is said to have been the first built in Nevada.
I n 1864, the Gilligan mine began operations after building a five-stamp mill at the east entrance of Egan Canyon. By 1865 Egan village contained stores, blacksmith, post office, school and several houses. The post office was designated as Egan Canyon on April 13, 1865, while still a part of Lander County. Egan Station was rebuilt and served as a stop for the Overland Mail Company, until 1869 when mining activity virtually ceased. Reference was also found to Egan Canyon as a station for Wells Fargo and Company.
O n March 5, 1869, Egan became part of White Pine County and the post office remained active until June 16, 1873. Later, known as Egan, the post office functioned from June 19, 1877 until March 19, 1878 when the mail was routed to Cherry Creek.
T he 1870 Census enumerated August 19, 1870 showed ninety-three residents in Egan Canyon. All were listed as white. Only one single woman was listed - Ellen McEvoy was listed as laundress. She lived with Terrence and Bridget Cassidy and their children Margaret F. and Hannah. Terrence Cassidy worked in the quartz mill. There were several other family units in Egan Canyon. Samuel Woodward, Retail Grocer and his wife Emily had two children, Samuel N. and Nellie E. Thomas A. Parker, Hotel Keeper and his wife Martha G. had one child, Martha B. Also listed in the Parker family unit, presumably the hotel, were a cook, waiter, carpenter, assayer and amalgamator. George D. Pierce, a miner and his wife Getty A. had one child Lauretta. David D. Pierce, age 36 was listed in this household unit. All adult females, except Ellen McEvoy, were listed as Keeping House. Seventeen children were listed in the census. Sixteen of the males over twenty-one years of age were not eligible to vote, all of them foreign born. Others born in foreign countries were eligible to vote, so must have obtained citizenship. Five men could not read or write, all of them foreign born.
O ther occupations listed were: Grocer-Retail (2), Hotel Keeper (1), Cook (2), Waiter (1), Carpenter (3), Assayer (1), Amalgamator (2), Clerk in office (2), telegraph operator (1), cattle dealer (1), Engineer (1); Blacksmith (1); Saloon Keeper (1); Rancher (1), Woodchopper (3). The rest were evenly divided between Miner and Work in Quartz Mill.
E gan Canyon revived during 1873 - 1876 after the discovery of silver at Cherry Creek, and regular bullion shipments were made. By 1883, the district was nearly finished and after the demonitization of silver, operations ceased.
E gan Canyon is a beautiful area. Egan Canyon, as in other places, the phrase Beauty is in the eye of the beholder rings true. On June 7, 1860, Private Scott wrote that the scenery in the canyon was grand, solemn, and impressive. The rocks piled on either side one on the other was “in picturesque confusion.” Private Scott did acknowledge that a party passing through the canyon would be completely at the mercy of a concealed foe. Scott’s journals on August 11, 12 and 13, when he was part of Lieutenant Weed’s rescue party for the men surrounded by Indians at the station, neglected to mention the beauty of the area! It is easy to imagine how Richard Burton felt in October of 1860 when he described the canyon as an uglier place for sharp shooting can hardly be imagined. Burton described it as an ill-omened canyon whose floor was almost flush with the bases of the hills. The road was described as vile, first winding beside, then crossing the stream, hedged in with thicket and dotted with boulders. Of course, Burton was cynical and critical at best, and he had seen the campfires of Indians on the hillsides. His attitude did not improve when he reached Egan Station on October 5 to find it reduced to the remains of a chimney and a few charred posts.
T raveling through Egan Canyon today, the rock cliffs and high walls will arouse the same closed-in feeling as they did when the Pony Express riders and others passed through them. It is a lovely Sunday afternoon drive - but - everything is relative. Today there is no worry of Indian attack and no concern about the winding grade for the ore haul!
E gan Station site is on private land and the stone foundations that mark the site of the old station are very hard to find because they are completely overgrown by rabbit-brush and sage brush. Beyond Egan Canyon is an old cemetery that is probably of the civil war era. Confusion reigns over the identity of the cemetery and the persons buried there. For some reason, the cemetery has been labeled Fort Pierce Cemetery, but military records do not list it. The cemetery was the subject of correspondence between Mr. Robert L. Hind, Jr., Kailua Kona, Hawaii to Mr. Q. R. Schroeder at the Ely District Bureau of Land Management, dated January 23, 1976. Mr. Hind disclosed in his letter that “We are reasonably convinced that my great-grandfather John Somes Low is in one of the graves . . . According to family information and testimony of old timers in Cherry Creek several years ago, the area is called the Old Civil War Cemetery. Our ancestor was working the Union Mine, 1 ˝ miles northwest of Mike's Springs. He was found on the wagon road between the springs and Fort Schellbourne by a patrol of soldiers, apparently suffering a stroke or heart attack. They took Mr. Low to the fort, where he died 2 weeks later, on September 25, 1873. Not having family to contact, and possibly no cemetery available at the fort, the military decided to bury him alongside three soldiers who had been killed earlier in a skirmish with Indians and were buried on the spot.
O n a visit to this site on July 25, 1999, only wooden fences with wooden markers and no names were visible. The site, on BLM ground, has been fenced, and there is evidence that some care has been taken to preserve the site in the past, but sage brush and rabbit brush are rapidly reclaiming the area.