Ophir and the Murphy Mill !
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Ophir Canyon and the Murphy Mill !

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I n 1868, the Twin River Mining District was considered the most important district south of Austin, some 50 miles.

The principle mines were the Ophir, Murphy and the McDonald and are all located in the Ophir Canyon. S. Boulerond and a party of Frenchmen made the first discovery of ore in 1863. They located several veins but never filed any claims or did anything in the way of development. However, the following year George H. Willard along with a few others entered the canyon and located several ledges, then formed a district and made mining laws to follow.

A s you enter Ophir Canyon from Smoky Valley, you will begin to wonder if anything could possibly be up there. After you pass through the narrow gorge of granite for a mile, the canyon opens up to a more gently sloping formation. The first mine you pass on the way up is the Ophir, a mile further you come to the old Murphy Mill site and the town of Toiyabee City "Now known as Ophir". The mill was owned by the Twin River Mining Company and was built of stone. This was a twenty stamp mill with corresponding machinery that was driven by a 95 horsepower engine.

T he ore was brought into the mill from the mine, a few hundred feet distance by cars. The first process was to run the ore through a Blake's rock breaker and after a few hours the rock will be broken into fragments of a cubic inch in size to supply the stamps for twenty four hours. This method actually created a savings of two dollars a ton in the cost of crushing ore. After this the ore was placed upon a large pan or dryer, this was heated by sending the gasses from the roasting furnace through the dryer and on to the smoke stack. The smoke stack was torn down years ago for the brick, only the base remains. Now the ore has been dried it is ready for the stamps. There were twenty of them that weighted 850 pounds each. In one day's time, they could crush sixteen tons fine enough to go through a number 60 screen, or a screen that had 3600 holes in one square inch. The ore then falls in cars that carry it over to the roasting furnaces, for which there is eight. These furnaces are capable of roasting sixteen tons in twenty-four hours. Seven to nine hundred pounds of ore mixed with a certain amount of salt, depending of the composition of the ore, constitutes a charge. This charge is roasted from five to seven hours and stirred constantly. Following this, the ore is taken to the amalgamating room. In the furnaces, the ore was changed from its native condition to chloride. By adding water, the condition will change back to metallic silver and then amalgamated with quicksilver. The pulp is then agitated and ground by revolving iron mullers for about six hours, its then drawn off into settlers of which they were six, and water added again. After several more hours of agitation, the quicksilver bearing the silver is removed and the pulp run off for waste. The next process is to strain and press into leather bags, exhausting the quicksilver as far as possible and then placed in a close retort where the remaining quicksilver is expelled by heat. After that, the crude bullion is taken to the smelting room where it is melted and poured in ingots, then ready for the assayer.

W hen the mill was ran at full capacity, it took 41 men. Besides the men in the mine and the mill, there were blacksmiths, ore assorters and wood choppers which totaled 100 men employed. In one month, 417 tons of ore were milled, producing $36,865. The assay of the ore was over $100 per ton.

T he townsite of Toiyabee at that time had about 300 residents. They supported a tri-weekly stage to Austin, which carried U.S. Mail once a week. The trip is 55 miles and travel time to Austin was nine hours. The road from the valley below to the town is two and half miles, which was constructed at a cost of $6,000.

Reference; The report of J. Ross Browne 1868 Pages 402-404

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