Hardin City, located near Double Hot Spring, was the site of a boom town that never produced silver.
In 1849, James Allen Hardin traveled the Lassen Trail. While north of the Black Rock, he picked up a rock that he thought was lead. He smelted a portion of the rock down to a button that was eventually assayed and found to be silver. In the meantime, Hardin had settled in Petaluma, California and then in 1858, an expedition was launched to find the mine. As with many stories of a lost mine, nothing was found, though there was a rush and the town of Hardin City was created. Peter Lassen was killed while looking for the lost Hardin find. Ladue Vary came to the region looking for Hardin's lost mine and founded Varyville.
The Lost Black Rock Silver Mine
From the History of the State of Nevada, by Thompson & West (1881):
The Black Rock Prospectors. In the summer of 1849, Allen Harding and two other parties, whose names are not known, at daylight one morning, left the emigrant road to hunt for game, being short of provisions. They were on their way from the States to California at the time, and had arrived, almost destitute, at a point between Black Rock and Mud Meadows, in what is now Humboldt County. The emigrant road in that country runs to the northwest in the direction of California, and these three men, in seeking game, for food, had passed into the mountains, to the northeast of it. It was a barren, desolate, burned region of black igneous rocks, and volcanic ashes, where they had gone, and the hunters found no game. On their return to camp about noon, they brought with them, however, a chunk of bright metal that weighed about twenty-five pounds, and pronouncing it silver, tried to get a man who was short of sufficient oxen to haul his own property, to take it to California for them. The party in question politely informed them that he would not pack it even though it were pure gold, and they were forced to leave it beside the road. Before going, however, they took a piece and melting it down, made a button by molding it in the sand. The button Allen Harding took with him to California, intending to raise a company, and go back to work his mine of native, or pure silver. When he arrived in the country about Mount Shasta he showed his specimen, and related the manner in which he had become possessed of it, and his narration was confirmed by the other two parties. He said that after becoming discouraged in their hunt for game they had started back down the mountain towards camp, and in doing so passed along the margin of a shallow gulch that had been cut by water, a little to the right. As they were going along some bright metallic substance lying in its bottom, and for a short distance up the banks, attracted their attention, and they went down to take a closer look. At first they supposed it was lead, but finally concluded the substance must be native silver; and there it lay scattered along the head of the wash, and sticking out from the sides of the gulch in chunks, from the size of a bean to thirty, forty, and fifty pounds. It was there by the wagon-load; an Aladdin's cave uncovered; and "there was millions in it," The gold miners of Shasta informed Mr. Harding it was gold they wanted; that they would not take the Black Rock country as a gift if it was all silver, and he soon came to think much in the same way himself. A great many people saw the button and pronounced it silver; when finally he sent it, in 1850, to San Francisco to be tested, and it was lost in the great fire that swept over the city that year. Eventually turning his attention to farming, he settled in Petaluma Valley, Sonoma County, California; and a little later a man named Frederick Alberding, coming form the Rogue River country, also located there, and became Harding's neighbor. One day the last comer chanced to hear the story of Harding's native silver mine, and he at once pronounced a decided belief in its being a genuine find, stating that the same story had been told him in the Rogue River country by a party who said he was one of the original discoverers. The result of all this was the organization of a company in Petaluma to go and locate it. The members of the company were M. S. Thompson, now a State Senator in Nevada; Allen Harding, A. B. Jamison, Fred. Alberding, H. Whiteside, Charles Humphries, Major James Pingley, Holt Fine, P. McGuire, and ---- Oman, and they all arrived at Black Rock in quest of this Silverado, on the eighth of July, 1858. For three years Thompson, Harding and Jamison searched for this treasure-house of the mountain-gnomes with parties numbering sometimes as high as seventy members, but the invisible wand had been waved over the spot. Its lurking-place became an Ignis Fatuus--tantalizing the brain, and luring the prospector to his death among the rocks at the hands of prowling bands of savages, that were never at peace with the whites in that locality. It was never found, and the search was futile, but Mr. Thompson still believes that Harding told the truth. He believes that the mineral had recently been sluiced out by a water-spout, and thus exposed to view when seen in 1849, and that the storms of the years that intervened, before the place was sought again, had caved the banks and covered up the deposit and washings from the country around. At the time of the battle with the Pah-Utes, when they defeated Major Ormsby, in 1860, M. S. Thompson, with a party of about seventy men, was out in the Black Rock country searching for the lost mine, when he received news by a pony express that the Indians were laying waste the whole country, and also a call for him to come in and help protect the settlers in Honey Lake Valley. The request was promptly complied with, and none of the original Black Rock prospectors ever went back to that country again in search of the lost treasure-house of the gnomes.
- From the History of Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming 1540-1888, Bancroft's Works Volume 25, by Hubert Howe Bancroft (San Francisco, The History Company, 1890), pp 102-104:
...As early as 1849 an immigrant named Hardin, while hunting with two other men, discovered silver in the Black Rock range, in the Humboldt country, one and a half miles from Hardinville...
Footnote 21. Hardin brought specimens to Cal.; but the Indians being troublesome, nothing could be done until 1858, when he revisited that region with Albert E. Jamison and others. They failed to find the spot, and on the following year he repeated the search with like result. In 1860 several hundred prospectors were looking for the lost mine, but their search was interrupted by Indian hostilities. Late in 1865, however, Jamison discovered rich prospects, and in 1866 Hardinville was settled. S. F. Alta, March 1862 [articles about Indian problems in the area], and Sept. 6, 1866. Mining in Humboldt county became profitable about 1869.
- San Francisco Alta, Vol XVII, No. 6022, Tuesday Morning, Sept. 6, 1866:
"THE BLACK ROCK SILVER MINES."
"We give below some interesting extracts from a letter, written by Col. A. G. Brackett, to his brother in this city, concerning the "Black Rock silver mines." His letter is dated at Camp McGarry, Summit Lake, Nevada, August 25th, 1866:"
"The silver region at Black Rock, Nevada, was discovered by a Mr. Hardin and two other gentlemen, in September, 1849. Hardin was an emigrant from Illinois, and was on his way to California. He was out hunting in the Black Rock range, and while descending the mountains about a mile and a half back of the place where the town of Hardinville is now located, he discovered virgin silver, some of which he carried into the valley of the Great Mud Lake Plains, and subsequently took it to California. At that time he tried to induce some emigrants to join him and return to the mountain, but could not prevail upon any of them to do so. The Indians were hostile; the teams had given out; they were disheartened, and all of them wished to get to the more valuable gold fields of California. From this time for several years, little or nothing was thought about Black Rock. In 1858, Hardin, with Mr. Albert E. Jamison and two others, went from Petaluma, California, to the range, to find it possible the ledge which hardin discovered in 1849. They could not succeed in finding it, and returned home. In 1859, they tried again with no better success, and in 1860 again, when there were at least two hundred prospectors in the country, many of whom were driven off by the Indians."
"Nothing of any interest happened until the autumn of 1865, although various parties had been through the range in many directions, and late in the fall of 1865 Mr. Jamison discovered on the Foreman location some ore, which proved to be "born silver," from assays made by Mr. Isenbeck. On the 1st of January, 1866, several miners arrived at the range, among whom were Jamison, Harvey, O'Donnell and others. The first house was erected by Mr. Harvey, in March, 1866. Previous to this and on the 6th of January, 1866, the "Snow Storm Ledge" was found by Charles Wright and Dick Nichols. Since that time new discoveries are being made every day, and the settlers are sanguine that they have the richest mines in the world. As to the future, time alone can determine. There are now two settlements in the range, one at Double Springs, where there are half a dozen houses: the other at Ram's Horn, so called from a pair of mountain sheep's horns found on that ground. This place is now known as Hardinville, in honor of the discoverer, and here there are fifteen well-built houses. A restaurant has been started, and the first white woman has made her appearance. The village contains a good stable, though as yet no hotel has been started. The settlers are very hospitable, sharing everything with strangers, and appearing anxious that their mines may be seen and examined by everyone. They are all well armed, and thus far they have had no trouble with Indians. The length of the range is claimed to be thirty-two miles, and work which amounts to anything, has been done on only four claims."
"The appearance of the country is as forbidding as can be imagined. The immense Mud Lake Plains, like the Valley of the Dead Sea, stretch out in the distance, and near the mountains themselves there is but a dwarf growth of sage-brush. The springs at Hardinville are hot and slightly impregnated with sulphur. In fact there is nothing cheering about the whole region to a stranger; but the settlers themselves, most of them experienced miners, are cheered with the belief which has taken hold upon their minds, that this is the richest mineral region on earth, and if what they show you is really and truly silver ore the world has not seen its equal."
"A five-stamp mill has been purchased by a company, which is said to be on its way up to the mines. Until then, nothing can truly be known about them. Many loads of ore have been sent off and worked, some with good success, and some quite the reverse. One thing only is certain, which is, either these mines are the finest yet discovered, or the grandest humbug of the age. A person is prepared beforehand to see something out of the common way, but when one is piloted up a ravine some half a mile, and shown a ledge of rocks nearly eighty feet high, and some two miles wide which is claimed to be silver ore, one is taken "all aback." People go there believing something in the mines, and come away believing nothing in them, or not knowing what to believe. It has been called the mysterious silver region, and such it is, for no man as yet knows anything about it."
"Thus I have given you a brief account of the Black Rock region, which you may rely upon as true in every particular. I have exaggerated in no respect, but, on the contrary, given you the darkest side of the picture. One year hence will tell the story, and I would not be at all surprised if the town of Hardinville were then as Virginia City is now. The miners of Black Rock will die by their claims. Not one of them wishes to sell out."
- Vanderburg (1938)
"Probably the first mineral found by a white man in what is now Humboldt County was found by Allen Hardin in 1849 on the edge of the Black Rock Desert while traveling with a party of emigrants to the west coast. This "discovery" is interesting, since it has been the subject of more speculation and the cause of more fruitless search and greater disappointments in the vicinity of the Black Rock Desert than discoveries in any other section of the State. It is a story of another "lost mine", and the facts gathered from various sources are substantially as follows: In the summer of 1849, Allan Hardin, in company with-other emigrants, arrived almost destitute on the edge of the Black Rock Desert. Hardin, with two companions, had left the main party in search of game for food. This region is one of tho most barren and desolate sections in Nevada and the hunters found no game. However, on their return to camp they brought with them a piece of metal that weighed about 25 pounds, and they tried to get a member of the party to haul it to California for them. The party in question was short of oxen to haul his own property and he informed them that he would not pack it, even though it were pure gold. They were forced to leave the specimen beside the road, but before doing so they made a small button by melting a piece and molding it in the sand. Upon arriving in California the button was assayed and showed high values in silver. The rock that was left along side tho road was found several months later by another party of emigrants and brought to Sacramento, where it was placed on exhibition in the leading bank at that time. In succeeding years numerous parties, numbering as high as 70 members in a single party, were organized by Hardin and others to search for this "lost mine", but these efforts were fruitless. Probably the metal found by Hardin was a specimen of hornsilver float from the Silver Camel mine near Sulphur"
- The Black Rock Silver Mines," San Francisco Alta, Vol XVII, No. 6022, Tuesday Morning, Sept. 6, 1866.
- W. O. Vanderburg, "Reconnaissance of mining districts in Humboldt county, Nevada," U. S. Bureau of Mines 6995, p. 9, 1938.
- GNIS Hardin City
- Nell Murbarger, " Lost Hardin Silver, Mystery or Hoax?," pp. 9-12, Desert Magazine, April 1955.
- Idah Meacham Strobridge, "In Miner's Mirage-Land," p. 70, Chapter "The rise and fall of Hardin City," 1904, Full text available from archive.org.
- Douglas McDonald, "Lost Hardin Silver," pp. 21-26, Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Spring, 1972.
- Ed Keenan "Tale of the Lost Black Rock Silver Lode," 2007, Broken link, 21-Jul-2013 see archive.org
- Sessions S. Wheeler, "The Black Rock Desert," p. 138.
- Asa Merrill Fairfield, "Fairfield's Pioneer History of Lassen County, California: Containing ...," p.419, 1916. Analysis of two versions of the story: Strobridge (above) and Thompson and West's History of Nevada (Full text from Archive.org.)
- James Allen Hardin
- It turns out that there are two men by the name of James Allen Hardin associated with Petaluma, CA in the 1850s. James Allen Hardin b. about 1814, d. 25 Nov 1886 was a wheelwright and carpenter who constructed the Vallejo Home in Santa Rosa, CA, resided in Petaluma, CA and who Hardin City is named after. There was also a James Allen Hardin b. 1830, d. 1905 who was known as Colonel Hardin.
- The relationship is that James Allen Hardin the elder's father was Henry Harding b. 1776-80, d. 1823
- Henry Harding had another son Henry Hardin who was the father of Colonel James Allen Hardin.
- Colonel James Allen Hardin's biography in An Illustrated History of Sonoma County, California does not mention Hardin City and states that this Hardin emigrated in 1853. Fairfield and other sources connected with the Hardin City story state that Hardin emigrated in 1849.
- Fairfield writes "Mrs. Strobridge and T. and W. say that there were two men with him and Andrew Hardin of Petaluma, a nephew of J. A. Hardin, says his uncle told him that there was one man with him." Andrew Hardin is probably Andrew Evan Hardin b. 1872, d. 1933
- Strobridge writes: "One of the three hunters selected for that occasion was a man named Hardin, a wheelwright and blacksmith by trade. He was an uncle of J. A. Hardin, of Petaluma, California, a well-known cattleman of that state and Nevada. (This would be 1849, yet J. A. did not emigrate until 1853?)
- Strobridge writes: "Hardin settled in Petaluma and open a wagon shop, doing blacksmithing and other such work." (p. 62)
- Murbarger writes: "J. A. Hardin, a wheelwright" ... "Hardin settled in Petaluma, established a wagon shop."
- McDonald writes: "James Allen Hardin" ... "No one is certain of the details of Hardin's life prior to 1849, though one writer claimed he was a Kentucky farmer. It is known that in the spring of that Gold Rush year he joined an emigrant wagon train and headed west." ... "Hardin eventually settled as a carpenter in Petaluma, California" ... "The Petaluma Journal of July 9, 1858, states, 'A party of some fifteen or eighteen persons left this locality a few days since for the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevadas, where they go in search of what they believe to be an immense deposit of silver ore.'"
- McDonald writes that James Allen Hardin visited Hardin City only once, in the summer of 1866. "An Illustrated History of Sonoma County, California" (above) states that in 1866, Colonel James Allen Hardin took a drove of horses to Helena, Montana. Perhaps he stopped in the city named for his uncle during that trip?
- The Hardin name is fairly common in Petaluma and Sebastopol
- Agnes Asbury Hardin was the wife of James Allen Hardin b. 1814, d. 1886.
- Hardin Lane, Petaluma intersects Adobe Rd. and Corona Rd. Hardin Ranch (a chicken breeding farm) was on Hardin Lane in the 1940's and today seems to be associated with horses.
- There are a number of Hardins buried in Petaluma.
- Hardin Hatchery: 1849 image "Located on N. Main at Magnolia. Owned by Clarence E. Hardin." Clarence E. Hardin was Colonel Hardin's great-nephew. The hatchery later burned
- San Francisco Chronicle, "The find of the Marvellous Hardin Silver," July 8, 1900, p. 30.
- Ida Meacham Strobridge, San Francisco Chronicle, "The Rise and Fall of Hardin City," July 21, 1900, p. 31. A long article about Hardin City that includes pictures.
- Ida Meacham Strobridge, San Francisco Chronicle, "Forman's Find," October 28, 1900, p. 26. More about Hardin City
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Mining Notes on the Coast: A New Lassen County District," September 6, 1902, p. 6. Discussion of Hardin City and the Donnelly District.
- Robert O'Brien, "Riptides: The Lost Black Rock Mine," March 9, 1949, San Francisco Chronicle.
- Robert O'Brien, "Riptides: Postscript to "Lost Black Rock Mine," April 6, 1949, San Francisco Chronicle.