Trading With The Nevada Mining Camps

By Bart Anderson

The rich ores of Pioche, Nevada, were discovered as early 1864. Pioche was the hungriest camp within the range of southern Utah, and peddlers from Millard, Beaver, Iron, and Washington counties went there. The Nevada mining camps were the market places for about all the surplus commodities produced by southern Utah farmers. Taking hay, grain, flour, poultry, young pigs, butter, cheese, and many other things to supply Pioche,  Bullionville and other camps, peddlers were on the road almost constantly. Loads of lumber, shingles, and mine tim bers were bought outright by mine companies and lumber dealers. Most other commodities were sold door-to-door.

Establislied stores in Pioche suffered a loss of business to the produce peddlers. The merchants thought they had a right to a commission on all goods sold by outsiders in their territory. The commission idea was not accepted by the Utah peddlers, but they made a compromise proposal. They proposed to sell their loads on a wholesale basis to the stores. For a time, as long as dealer and peddler dealt fairly with each other, the system benefited both.

But a time came when the Pioche stores began to squeeze the peddlers. The dealers became "choosey" and instead of buying out the entire load as they had agreed, they would take only what they wanted.

Some Utahns tried to beat the dealers* "racket" by returning to door-to-door peddling, but it proved hazardous. The unscrupulous dealers set up a "goon" squad, and somewhere out in the woods on his way home the peddler would turn the point of a hill and find himself looking down the barrel of a gun in the hands of a highway robber. So the Utah farmers were forced to freight their produce to the mining camps and take the best prices the dealers would pay.

Brigham Young spent the winter of 1873-74 in St. George and learned firsthand about these conditions. There had been heavy crop losses from frosts and insect pests, and the people were very discouraged. Young saw that in the final analysis the mining camps were almost wholly dependent upon the Mormon settlements for a large part of their necessities. There were no other feasible suppliers. Young said, "This is a two-edged sword the mining camps are swinging against us. They are as dependent upon us as we are upon them. We will make the sword cut the other way until they recognize that their game can be played by our side too." He organized the southern settlements into United Orders and told the people to stop hauling their produce to the mining camps for a while and see what happened.

When the Mormon peddlers stayed home, conditions soon became desperate in Pioche. The dealers were forced to come to Utah and contract at Mormon prices for the produce they must have. They were glad to contract on a delivered basis at four to six cents a pound for the grain they had extorted from the peddlers at two cents a pound. The grain was paid for, freight included, in advance. The Mormon freighters delivered the goods, and, since they carried no money, the holdups stopped.

Return to last page


31 Mar 2006