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Fraction Jack, Who Profits by the Mistakes of Others
Nevada State Journal, November 4, 1923, pages 1 & 3

Unique Character, Known All Over Nevada,
Makes Living by His Wonderful Eye for Lines

O. T. Stewart Will Often Spot Unlocated
Ground in Heart of Rich District,
Says Jack Bell, Quoting Old Prospector

By Jack Bell

"Fraction Jack?" said the old prospector. "That fellow is in a class by himself. He has made more real money than half of the mining men in the game. He has sold Fractions in every mining camp discovered in the past twenty years. He has had many a gun fight, many a rough and tumble scrap, and has always made the agressor come to time with the money.

In Every Stampede

"I first ran into him in Cprille Creek. He has the brain of an analyist. He has an uncanny sense of proportion of ground - making no difference whether rough or smooth. He will figure out the lines of a mining claim to a fraction - if there is a piece of ground vacant he will see it at a glance. His name is Otis J. Stewart. He is known to the prospector from 52, down into the jungles of the Isthmus. He will be found in any gold stampede that starts. He never gets in with the first - for that very good reason that some old time prospector after his discovery takes all the ground that he thinks that he will need. But Fraction Jack will be in with the first trail bunch. He always has, and does right today.

"Stewart is a man without college education. He had the advantages of common rudiments in the three R's. He was born in Colorado. His father was a prospector miner before him. He himself is a top man at anything about a mine. He is also a first-class prospector. His long suit, however, is figuring a man's ground.

Old Timers Watch Him

"When Fraction Jack appears in a new camp, you will see every old timer measuring off his sground and getting his stakes on the boundaries. He will also discover that the prospector is running his ground just a few feet shy of the allotment permitted by law, then he knows that he is safe from the wonderful - yes, unusual insight that Stewart has for running boundaries. Now he does all this from a location monument. Say a man claims 750 feet north and south from this monument and, of course, 300 feet on each side of the vein, or whatever it may be in our terms of description of ground. Stewart runs off that end line with his eyes, also the side lines - makes a mental calculation, and in every case it will be found that he is right off the other man's ground and on a small vacant piece of estate, that separates this location from the one that has been claimed by the man who located and claimed on the extension.

Checks Every Survey

"Then take it after a surveyor has run out the entire camp. Fraction Jack will begin checking up this very survey - he will invariably locate a small triangle, or a small strip, or a cross strip across some part of the ground that has not been a perfect check by the surveyor. In many cases the location monument will also cover the fraction that he has located. Other locations will embrace a few square feet of ground. In rare cases he will find almost an entire claim that has been overlooked in the early rushing and staking. This is the time that he will make a good big stake - and he has put this over a number of times in the past.

"Here is where he makes his quick money in location of fractions. His first place of investigation is, of course, the claims that have the sensational strike of high grade ore, that has been the cause of the stampede coming in. This master of lines and area walks about this claim, or claims, for days at a time. Then all at once there will be a howl go up in the camp that Fraction Jack has "jumped" certain ground. His monument has been built - and probably at night. It is a mighty dangerous thing to put up a monument on a rich piece of ground in daylight - whether right or wrong. It means battle - murder, and in almost every case - sudden death for one of the men so engaged.

Monuments Sacred

"A monument is something that no prospector or miner dares disturb. It means law. It means title. It means prior ownership. It is always respected. When it is not, a miners' meeting makes it respected and it, even today, means short shift for the man that has done it - either by swinging him off a cottonwood, or on the desert off the end of a wagon tongue - and they do a finished job. This is the only means of protection that we have - and, believe me, it is universally respected.

"Well, as I was saying, suppose you had a claim, adjoining and contiguous to other claims that you had located. That means a block of ground all your own. In your hurry to get it staked, you have taken in too much acreage. We can 'draw in, impossible to go out.' In other words, when a stake it set - and it means loss of ground, it cannot be set out if other locations join and call for a full claim that covers to and beyond this boundary. You can only 'set out' when there is no conflict.

"Then in comes Fraction Jack. He gets a small area of your ground - and right in the heart of it - you have been careless in staking and locating. His monument appears some morning right near your strike. You start hunting him. He is probably idling in a saloon - our only place of meeting in a new camp. Try a 'sandy' on him. He stands with his back protected. His thumbs are hooked into the waistband of his overalls. Under that vest and in his hand is a 45 Colts. He will laugh at the 'sandy.' Argument, pleading of no avail.

Wants Spot Cash

"'What will you give me in real spot money for that location?' is the invariable answer to all conversation and argument.

"The ground has to be bought, and that's all there is to it. There would be no sale for this group of claims if there was a location right in the middle of it. So Fraction Jack gets his money, and gets it quick. Ground and title must be clear before an investor considers purchase.

"In Wonder, Nevada, they got it on Fraction Jack - for a minute. One of the first things that obtain in a new camp is that pest, the town site man. An outfit located a townsite at Wonder. Townsites are first taken up as claims, just the same method as locating a mining claim. Fraction Jack found that there was about an area of one acre running in a strip down through the center of what was the main street. In the night Jack builds the regulation four-foot high monument - with a four-foot base and claims a full claim, the manner in which all fractions are located. The townsiter was new at the game. He started to kick down the objectionable location monument. The president of the miners' meeting yelled to him to rebuild it - quick. He did. Then he hired a gun fighter from New Mexico - tinhorn gambler. The tinhorn received orders, and also $100 to go and convince Stewart that he was wrong, and that his location monument was an eyesore and should be removed. Coming from his tent in the morning Fraction Jack was held up, and, by co-incidence, right in the shadow of his monument. It was once in his life that he had left his six-shooter rolled in his bed. Up went his hands.

"'Go over and kick down that monument,' order the TIn Horn, a half-breed greaster - a monte dealer.

"'What would I do that for?' answered Stewart. That's my ground and it's a perfectly legal location. That monument stays there.'

"'Tear down that pile of rock or I will smoke you off.'

"'Smoke away, you dirty greaser,' but do a good job. That location is now on record. It's good. That was open ground. You call me a claim-jumper! You're a ___ liar! Shoot, you half-breed ___!'

"At this juncture a prospector had a Winchester leveled from his hip and on a line with the back of the half-breed that was holding up Stewart.

"'Drop that gun - and in a hurry. Do you think that a tin horn can get away with anything of that kind here in Nevada. You have another guess coming. I would also advise you to take the next automobile (?) out of camp.'

"'I know, Stewart, that the location is on the level, but the way that you pick them out is, to say the least, annoying.'

"Stewart hurried to his tent. He came back on the run. The tin horn had gone to the brush. The tenderfoot land shark came along the little strip of ground that Stewart had located.

Jack Blazes Away

"'Get off that ground!' ordered Stewart, as he blazed away at the feet of the most scared man I ever saw in the hills. He sure made time getting to the tent that he called his real estate and townsite office. Stewart made camp at his location monument. Pretty soon, Gus Goodale, mining engineer, came along with his instrument. 'Any objections to my running off this ground, Jack?'

"'Not the least in the world, Gus - go to it. I have an idea that you will give me more ground than I claim.'

"After the survey was made, it showed that Stewart was entitled to several cubic feet more ground than his stakes called for. The camp was on the boom. This is the time that the lot seller makes his cleanup. He setn an agent to Fraction Jack and asked for terms. He got a quick reply - '$3,500 cash in my hand.' He received the money and made over a quit claim deed for the fraction. He went to San Francisco. He was back in less than ten days - broke.

"A year ago, he went into High Grade, Modoc county, California. It was a stampede brought about by a bunch of stock sellers in Denver. About the worst bunk that has ever been perpetrated upon the prospector and investor alike. There was a property that had a fair showing of surface ore which showed free gold in the pan. At least, there was showing enough to make it worth while for Fraction Jack to apply his peculiar gift of discovering ground that was a public domain, in the heart of a country that was located for miles in every dorection.

"Between the Sunset and the Yellow Astor he built a monument. There was a howl went up all over the district - 'Claim jumper! Claim jumper! We have a claim jumper and he is jumping all the ground in the country.' That was about all one heard. Remember he built his monument while there was still snow on the ground. In the early part of August, when the ground was bare, Fraction Jack had a sure enough fraction. It was within 300 feet of where the only showing made in the camp was located. They tried the same old bluffs, and the same old pistol practice, but Stewart was on the job. He sold out for $500 - for an area on which nothing but a 7x8 cabin could be built. And, by the way, that was the only sale that was ever made in the camp of High Grade.

Works at Rawhide

He secured no less than twenty fractions over the district. As a general thing he will wait until a survey has been made. He also knows the preliminary is not always correct. It varies from six inches to three and four feet on check. It differs from a patent survey for the reason that a patent survey must check to the tack. In Rawhide he cleaned up better than $10,000, while the greatest stampede in history was on. Among the fraction that he secured was a 200 by 2-foot strip along the side lines of the Bethnia CLaim and the Poor Bay. A sale of either company operating these claims was out of the question, for the reason of this fraction cutting into valuable development. He secured $2,000 for this one small patch alone. He blows his money as fast as he makes it. I have known of hundreds of men trying out their luck hunting fractions in a new camp and district. Stewart is the only man that has ever made any money at it. The others that have tried to follow his manner of doing business have failed - and in a couple of cases came near being swung from a wagon tongue down there in the desert.

Meets Bad Man

"When Goldfield Nevada was at the height of its crazy [xx] selling boom, Diamondfield began to take shape as a possible high grade camp. Fraction Jack went over and looked the ground over. He was convinced that there would never be any shipping mines there. Ground was, however, very valuable. He located a fraction along the prize claim of one Diamondfield Jack Davis - a man with repute as a killer of sheep herders - a tale that came down from the Wyoming ranges. Davis also packed two double action 45 Colts. He was not feared for this very reason. The real pistol man of the west clings to the old frontier style of single action 45 Colts. So when this alleged 'bad man' came to settle with Fraction Jack he found a quiet, unassuming, big good-natured chap, that was always laughing - with the risables of his face - his blue eyes told a different story. His eyes did not laugh when confronted with any man bent on argument.

"With the lou talking and louder threats of the Davis person directed at him down in the Northern Saloon, where Fraction Jack was backed up against a corner the thing came off.

'You ___ ___ claim jumper. You have a monument on my ground. Now see how fast you can run out there to Diamondfield and get it down. Then beat it out of camp. I'm Davis!'

"'I have no monument on any man's ground,' quietly replied Stewart, too quietly, as a matter of fact. 'I have a small fraction out there that I have recorded and intend keeping. So what are you going to do about it?'

Davis Backs Down

'In the meantime some friend of Davis called him aside and held a might short whispered conversation. He then pulled out. Jack never said what he drew down on this deal. But to a man that knows, there would have been a killing there and - Fraction Jack would still be hunting fractions.

"Just two years ago Fraction Jack appeared in Wedekind, the silver-lead camp near Reno. He was not in there a day until there was a miners' meeting called to run him out of camp for alleged claim jumping. He met the committee and stated his claims on what he had done in the way of locating claims. He then asked that a committee be appointed to investigate his locations. They were found to be absolutely correct. Public domain, every one of them. He took a big bank roll away from this little district, too.

"This chap is made up of queer parts. For months at a time he will be broke - and all the time he will have steady work on some mine. He plays the whole string from the bank to the head of the gulch. I have never heard of him refusing any man anything when he had grub money - or moral and physical support.

"To show what a fraction could be made to be worth, it is only necessary to go back ten years or so and tell the well-known story connected with the Stratton's Independent Mine at Cripple Creek - the mine that brought the greatest purchase price of any single property in the history of mining - $10,000,000 was the cash price paid by the Venture Corporation of London upon the report of Thomas A Pacard, an eminent mining engineer of London.

Title Never Questioned

"For ten long years the title to all the ground covered by Stratton's Independence was never questioned. It was even patented. The surveys being made by the best of deputy United States mineral surveyors. It passed the land office without question. It was, of course, taken for granted that the survey was perfect in every detail.

"On the enginner's staff at this time was Ed Shaffer - I don't remember his middle initial. He was a good man - an all around mining man and mining engineer. He for some reason had occasion to re-run the lines on the territory of the company. There was one place that he could not get a check. He worked for one week in the office running out the notes. Still it would not come. He made a new and entire survey which resulted in finding a triangle, near the main working shaft of the property, just large enough to start an 2x10 shaft. He found that there had been a small, very small, mistake in calculations - it had escaped every one.

"He surveyed the fraction. He built a monument and located it. Then he checked underground and found that the fraction was directly above what was known as the Jewelry stope. This was phenomenally rich high-grade, that went from the second level down to five. This shoot of hundreds of thousands of dollars had been extracted, but it would be directly under this little fraction that he had found. Conservative estimates of what had been extracted from this fraction was placed in an ultra-conservative way at $250,000.

Gives It to Company

"Shaffer, after he had procured all of this data, put the certificate on record. Then he made a quit claim deed to the Venture Corporation of London and turned it over to Harvey A. Shipman, general manager of the mine at this time. I think this was in 1902.

"In a legal sense there was absolutely no reason why Shaffer could not have brought suit against the corporation and recovered a quarter of a million dollars. His loyalty to the company, however, precluded any such idea. For this act of loyalty, he was at once made a shift boss on the mine at $6 per day. He was afterwards employed on the general staff of John Hays Hammond that is, he was until Mr. Hammond severed his connection with the Venture Corporation, and went over to the Guggenheim interests. I have lost track of Shaffer in the past ten years but it is safe to say that the English outfit has taken good care of this man that proved his loyalty and intelligence in this manner. It was a rather runny thing to see a shaft 50 feet deep immediately sunk on this little fraction. Fifty feet of work is necessary for patent, and I think that this fraction cost but $5 when the final papers were issued for title by the United States government. Mineral-bearing ground costs but $5 per acre, or less.

"This merely goes to show what lengths a fraction will evolve into, in a monetary way. Some day Fraction Jack will put over one of these very same kind. Will he turn it over to a big corporation? Say, by the time his monument is built he will have a price set on his holdings and be ready for a deal. He knows the underground workings of every great mine in the mining world. He has worked as a miner in most of them. He is a well-informed man and a good man as well. At this writing he is in the vicinity of Rochester Canyon, Nevada. This camp had high-grade ore when it was struck. Stewart made a stake there last winter. He is watching for future developments in the territory miles away from this last Nevada gold camp. We all know that he is waiting to make this one great big strike, and then he says he will have a ranch back in Colorado.

"Ever since Ed Shaffer discovered the fraction on Stratton's Independence, Fraction Jack has taken particular pains to go over every foot of ground on rich properties an inch at a time. There will be another story about him some day. It may be a story of violence. It may be one of riches found.

(Copyright, 1923, by Jack Bell)

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