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Steep Trails
Muir, John

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Excerpt: ... canyon was being explored, and then carelessly abandoned for more promising fields. But many were real towns, regularly laid out and incorporated, containing well-built hotels, churches, schoolhouses, post offices, and jails, as well as the mills on which they all depended; and whose well-graded streets were filled with lawyers, doctors, brokers, hangmen, real estate agents, etc., the whole population numbering several thousand. A few years ago the population of Hamilton is said to have been nearly eight thousand; that of Treasure Hill, six thousand; of Shermantown, seven thousand; of Swansea, three thousand. All of these were incorporated towns with mayors, councils, fire departments, and daily newspapers. Hamilton has now about one hundred inhabitants, most of whom are merely waiting in dreary inaction for something to turn up. Treasure Hill has about half as many, Shermantown one family, and Swansea none, while on the other hand the graveyards are far too full. In one canyon of the Toyabe range, near Austin, I found no less than five dead towns without a single inhabitant. The streets and blocks of "real estate" graded on the hillsides are rapidly falling back into the wilderness. Sagebrushes are growing up around the forges of the blacksmith shops, and lizards bask on the crumbling walls. While traveling southward from Austin down Big Smoky Valley, I noticed a remarkably tall and imposing column, rising like a lone pine out of the sagebrush on the edge of a dry gulch. This proved to be a smokestack of solid masonry. It seemed strangely out of place in the desert, as if it had been transported entire from the heart of some noisy manufacturing town and left here by mistake. I learned afterwards that it belonged to a set of furnaces that were built by a New York company to smelt ore that never was found. The tools of the workmen are still lying in place beside the furnaces, as if dropped in some sudden Indian or earthquake panic and never...

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