Vol 1 Section 0018
Trouble Brewed – Fortune Teller – Orion Commissioned Secretary of Nevada Terr.
River Traffic Closed – Marion Ranger Fun – St. Jo Westward; Roughing It to Carson Mine Feet Speculation – Aurora – Conflagration on Lake Tahoe
Humboldt and Mining Fever – “a small rude cabin” at Unionville
January 7 Monday – Brother Orion wrote Sam from Memphis. His letter of introduction to Samuel Taylor Glover (1813-1884) was intended to obtain a letter of introduction to Edward Bates (1793-1869), Lincoln’s attorney general. Orion hoped to get a government position to provide his family with a stable income and to pay debts
We had a had a hearty laugh, as well as some of our acquaintances of the feminine gender (in my absence) heads of families, over your last letter. … I am greatly obliged to you for the Tri-weekly Republican till 1st next April. You could hardly have made me a more acceptable present. Jennie is equally delighted with her books. I have read them all through [MTL 1: 114n9].
February 6 Wednesday – Sam was in Cairo, Illinois. He wrote his brother Orion and sister-in-law, Mary (Mollie) Clemens:
My Dear Brother:
After promising Mrs. Holliday a dozen times—(without anything further than a very remote intention of fulfilling the same,) to visit the fortune teller—Mad. Caprell—I have at last done so. We lay in New Orleans a week; and towards the last, novelties begun to grow alarmingly scarce; I did not know what to do next—Will Bowen had given the matter up, and gone to bed for the balance of the trip; the Captain was on the Sugar Levee, and the clerks were out on business. I was revolving in my mind another foray among the shipping, in search of beautiful figure-heads or paragons of nautical architecture, when I happened to think of Mrs. Holliday; and as the Devil never comes unattended, I naturally thought of Mad. Caprell immediately after, and then I started toward the St. Charles Hotel for the express purpose of picking up one of the enchantress’s bills, with a view to ascertaining her whereabouts—or, in simpler language, where she was supposed to “hang out.” The bill said 37 Conti, above Tchoupitoulas—terms, $2 for gentlemen in my situation, i.e. unaccompanied by a lady.
Arrived at the place, the bell was answered by a middle-aged lady (who certainly pitied me—I saw it in her eye,) who kindly informed me that I was at the wrong door—turn to the left. Which I did. And stood in the Awful Presence. She is a very pleasant little lady—rather pretty—about 28—say 5 feet 2¼—would weigh 116—has black eyes and hair—is polite and intelligent—uses good language, and talks much faster than I do.
She invited me into the little back parlor, closed the door; and we were—alone. We sat down facing each other. Then she asked my age. And then she put her hand before her eyes a moment, and commenced talking as if she had a good deal to say, and not much time to say it in. Something after this style:
“Yours is a watery planet; you gain your livelihood on the water; but you should have been a lawyer—there is where your talents lie; you might have distinguished yourself as an orator; or as an editor; you have written a great deal; you write well—but you are rather out of practice; no matter—you will be in practice some day; you have a superb constitution; and as excellent health as any man in the world; you have great powers of endurance; in your profession, your strength holds out against the longest sieges without flagging; still, the upper part of your lungs—the top of them, is slightly affected—and you must take more care of yourself; you do not drink, but you use entirely too much tobacco; and you must stop it; mind, not moderate, but stop the use of it, totally; then, I can almost promise you 86, when you will surely die; otherwise, look out for 28, 31, 34, 47 and 65; be careful—for you are not of a long-lived race, that is, on your father’s side; you are the only healthy member of your family, and the only one in it who has any thing like the certainty of attaining to a great age—so, stop using tobacco, and be careful of yourself; in nearly all respects, you are the best sheep in your flock; your brother has an excellent mind, but it is not as well balanced as yours; I should call yours the best mind, altogether; there is more unswerving strength of will, & set purpose, and determination and energy in you than in all the balance of your family put together; in some respects you take after your father, but you are much more like your mother, who belongs to the long-lived, energetic side of the house. (But Madam, you are too fast—you have given me too much of these qualities.) No, I have not. Don’t interrupt me. I am telling the truth. And I’ll prove it. Thus: you never brought all your energies to bear upon an object, but what you accomplished it—for instance, you are self-made, self-educated. (Which proves nothing.) Don’t interrupt. When you sought your present occupation, you found a thousand obstacles in your way—obstacles which would have deterred nineteen out of any twenty men—obstacles unknown,—not even suspected by any save you and I, since you keep such matters to yourself,—but you fought your way through them, during a weary, weary length of time, and never flinched, or quailed, or never once wished to give over the battle—and hid the long struggle under a mask of cheerfullness, which saved your friends anxiety on your account. To do all this requires the qualities which I have named. (You flatter well, Madam.) Don’t interrupt. Up to within a short time, you had always lived from hand to mouth—now, you are in easy circumstances—for which you need give credit to no one but yourself. The turning-point in your life occurred in 1847–8 (Which was?)—a death, perhaps; and this threw you upon the world and made you what you are; it was always intended that you should make yourself; therefore, it was well that this calamity occurred as early as it did; you will never die of water, although your career upon it in the future seems well sprinkled with misfortune; but I intreat you to remember this: no matter what your circumstances are, in September, of the year in which you are 28, don’t go near the water—I will not tell you why, but by all that is true and good, I charge you, while that month lasts, keep away from the water (which she repeated several times, with much show of earnestness—“make a note on’t,” & let’s see how much the woman knows.) Your life will be menaced in the years I have before-mentioned—will be in imminent peril when you are 31—if you escape, then when you are 34—neither 47 or 65 look so badly; you will continue upon the water for some time yet; you will not retire finally until ten years from now; two years from now, or a little more, a child will be born to you! (Permit me to hope, Madam, in view of this prospective good luck, that I may also have the jolly good-fortune to be married before that time.) Well, you are a free-spoken young man. Of course you will. (Make another note, Orion—I think I’ve caught her up a played-out chute in a falling river this time—but who knows?) And mind—your whole future welfare depends upon your getting married as soon as you can; don’t smile—don’t laugh—for it is just as true as truth itself; if you fail to marry within two years from now, you will regret that you paid so little attention to what I am saying now; don’t be foolish, but go and marry—your future depends upon it; you can get the girl you have in your eye, if you are a better man than her mother—she (the girl) is; the old gentleman is not in the way, but the mother is decidedly cranky, and much in the way; she caused the trouble and produced the coolness which has existed between yourself and the young lady for so many months past—and you ought to break through this ice; you won’t commence, and the girl won’t—you are both entirely too proud—a well-matched pair, truly; the young lady is—(but I didn’t ask after the young lady, Madam, and I don’t want to hear about her.) There, just as I said—she would have spoken to me just as you have done. For shame! I must go on. She is 17—not remarkably pretty, but very intelligent—is educated, and accomplished—and has property—5 feet 3 inches—is slender—dark-brown hair and eyes—you don’t want to see her? Oh, no—but you will, nevertheless, before this year is out—here in New Orleans (mark that,) too—and then—look out! The fact of her being so far away now—which is the case, is it not?—doesn’t affect the matter. You will marry twice—your first wife will live (I have forgotten the number of years,)—your second choice will be a widow—you[r] family, finally, all told, will number ten children (slow—Madam—slow—and stand by to ship up—for I know you are out of the channel,) some of them will live, and some will not at—(there’s consolation in the latter, at least.) Yes, ten is the number. (You must think I am fond of children.) And you are, although you pretend the contrary—which is an ugly habit; quit it; I grant you that you do not like to handle them, though. What is your brother’s age? 33?—and a lawyer?—and in pursuit of an office? Well, he stands a better chance than the other two, and, he may get it—he must do his best—and not trust too much to others, either—which is the very reason why he is so far behind, now; he never does do anything, if he can get anybody else to do it for him; which is bad; he never goes steadily on till he attains an object, but nearly always drops it when the battle is half won; he is too visionary—is always flying off on a new hobby; this will never do—tell him I said so. He is a good lawyer—a very good lawyer—and a fine speaker—is very popular, and much respected, and makes many friends; but although he retains their friendship, he loses their confidence, by displaying his instability of character; he wants to speculate in lands, and will, some day, with very good success; the land he has now will be very valuable after a while (say 250 years hence, or thereabouts, Madam,)—no—less time—but never mind the land, that is a secondary consideration—let him drop that for the present, and devote himself to his business and politics, with all his might, for he must hold offices under government, and 6 or 8 years from this time, he will run for Congress. You will marry, and will finally live in the South—do not live in the north-west; you will not succeed well; you will live in the South, and after a while you will possess a good deal of property—retire at the end of ten years—after which your pursuits will be literary—try the law—you will certainly succeed. I am done, now. If you have any questions to ask—ask them freely—and if it be in my power, I will answer without reserve“—without reserve.”
I asked a few questions of minor importance—paid her $2 and left—under the decided impression that going to the fortune-teller’s was just as good as going to the Opera, and cost scarcely a trifle more—ergo, I would disguise myself and go again, one of these days, when other amusements failed.
Now isn’t she the devil? That is to say, isn’t she a right smart little woman? I have given you almost her very language to me, and nothing extenuated, nor set down aught in malice. Whenever she said anything pointed about you, she would ask me to tell you of it, so that you might profit by it—and confound me if I don’t think she read you a good deal better than she did me. That Congress business amused me a little, for she wasn’t far wide of the mark you set yourself, as to time. And Pa’s death in ’47–8, and the turning-point in my life, was very good. I wonder if there is a Past and future chronological table of events in a man’s life written in his forehead for the special convenience of these clairvoyants? She said Pa’s side of the house was not long-lived, but that he doctored himself to death. I do not know about that, though. She said that up to 7 years, I had no health, and then mentioned several dates after that when my health had been very bad. But that about that girl’s mother being “cranky,” and playing the devil with me, was about the neatest thing she performed—for although I have never spoken of the matter, I happen to know that she spoke truth. The young lady has been beaten by the old one, though, through the romantic agency of intercepted letters, and the girl still thinks I was in fault—and always will, I reckon, for I don’t see how she’ll ever find out the contrary. And the woman had the impudence to say that although I was eternally falling in love, still, when I went to bed at night, I somehow always happened to think of Miss Laura before I thought of my last new flame—and it always would be the case (which will be devilish comfortable, won’t it, when both she and I (like one of Dickens’ characters,) are Another’s?) But drat the woman, she did tell the truth, and I won’t deny it. But she said I would speak to Miss Laura first—and I’ll stake my last shirt on it, she missed it there.
So much for Madame Caprell. Although of course, I have no faith in her pretended powers, I listened to her in silence for half an hour, without the greatest interest, and I am willing to acknowledge that she said some very startling things, and made some wonderful guesses. Upon leaving, she said I must take care of myself; that it had cost me several years to build up my constitution to its present state of perfection, and now I must watch it. And she would give me this motto: “L’ouvrage de l’année est détruit dans un jour,”—which means, if you don’t know it, “The work of a year is destroyed in a day.”
We shall not go to St. Louis. Turn back from here, to-morrow or next day. When you want money, let Ma know, and she will send it. She and Pamela are always fussing about small change, so I sent them a hundred and twenty quarters yesterday—fiddler’s change enough to last till I get back, I reckon.
You owe me one. (over
(To be continued.)
Sam Clemens [MTP drop in letters].
Note: Madame Caprell told him his career would be made in literary efforts; that he must quit smoking immediately, and that a turning point occurred in his life in 1847-8 (Sam’s father died Mar. 24, 1847, when Sam was eleven). Sam quit smoking a couple of times but always took it back up [MTL 1: 107-112]. See source notes.
March 6 Wednesday – The Alonzo Child arrived in New Orleans with Sam’s pleasure cruise contingent [MTL 1: 118n4].
March 18 Monday – Sam was in St. Louis with his mother, Jane Clemens, and sister, Pamela. He wrote Orion on this date about visiting a museum and seeing Frederic E. Church’s oil painting, Heart of the Andes. He also wrote of his mother’s disapproval of a dance, the Schottische (like the Polka) that he, his sister, and Miss Castle took part of [MTL 1: 116]. Note: The source for this letter in the printed volume was Paine’s text; Here are transcribed parts of the letter that have surfaced since, from MTP’s “drop-in” letter file, as follows:
You have paid the preacher! Well, that is good, also. What a man wants with religion in these breadless times, surpasses my comprehension.
Pamela and I have just returned from a visit to the most wonderfully beautiful painting….When you first see the tame, ordinary-looking picture, your first impulse is to turn your back upon it, and say Humbug—but your third visit will find your brain gasping and straining with futile efforts to take all the wonder in…
Ma was delighted with her trip, but she was disgusted with the girls for allowing me to embrace and kiss them—and she was horrified at the Schottische as performed by Miss Castle and myself….But then she is an old fogy, you know.
I took Ma and the girls in a carriage, round that portion of New Orleans where the finest gardens and residences are to be seen, and although it was a blazing hot, dusty day, they seemed highly delighted. To use an expression which is commonly ignored in polite society, they were “hell-bent” on stealing some of the luscious-looking oranges from branches which overhung the fences, but I restrained them….We went out to Lake Pontchartrain in the cars [MTP, drop-in letters]. Note: Paine made several changes to this letter, notably cutting out Sam calling his mother “an old fogy.”
March 27Wednesday – Orion received news of his commission as Secretary of Nevada Territory [ET&S 1: 12].
April 20 Saturday – Orion Clemens received his commission as Secretary of Nevada Territory [MTL 1: 121n3].
April 26 Friday – Sam boarded the Hannibal City to Hannibal. Sam wrote Orion of his intention to travel to Hannibal to collect a debt (probably the $200 Will Bowen had borrowed). He asked Orion to bring or buy the book, Armageddon by Samuel D. Baldwin.
“My Dear Brother: / I am on the wing for Hannibal, to collect money due me. I shall return to St. Louis to-morrow.
“Orion bring down ‘Armageddon’ with you if you have it. If not, buy it.” [MTL 1: 120]. Note: Armageddon, by Samuel D. Baldwin (1845); see source notes on this book.
April 27 Saturday – Orion arrived in Keokuk with his wife and daughter. That night he left alone for St. Louis to see his mother, brother, and sister [MTL 1: 121n3].
April 28 Sunday – Sam boarded the Die Vernon as a passenger for the return trip to St. Louis, where he spent a few days with his family [MTL 1: 120n2].
May 2Thursday – The Alonzo Child left for New Orleans.
May 14 Tuesday – Sam departed New Orleans as a passenger on the Nebraska. Commercial traffic was halted. This was the last boat allowed through the Union blockade at Memphis. Sam’s days as a river pilot were over, though he did not know it at the time. He would later wax nostalgic and eloquent about his idyllic career on the river. Just as his idyllic days of boyhood in Hannibal had abruptly ended, so too did his time on “the best job in the world.”
Paine gives the name of the boat as the Uncle Sam:
“I’ll think about it,” he said. “I’m not very anxious to get up into a glass perch and be shot at by either side. I’ll go home and reflect on the matter” [MTB 161].
May 21 Tuesday – Sam arrived in St. Louis. Sam hid out in the Moffett residence, fearful of being arrested by Union agents and forced to pilot a gunboat. He stayed there for a few weeks [MTL 1: 121]. During his stay he was invited to visit his cousin James Lampton, also in St. Louis. James was Jane Lampton Clemens’ first cousin, and the model for Colonel Mulberry Sellers in The Gilded Age. Sam stayed at James’ house for a few days. It was during this stay when the famous “turnips and water” dinner was served.
When Sam came home one day he was given the key to the neighbor’s house, owned by George Schroter (or Schroeter) (1813?-1896?), Will Moffett’s business partner. The Schroter family was in Hannibal and it was thought Sam would be safer in their St. Louis house. One day a man who gave the name “Smith” came looking for Sam and his mother recognized him as a friend of Sam’s. The man came with the project of forming a Confederate company in the Hannibal area to join General Sterling “Old Pap” Price (1809-1867). Sam accepted and began the Marion Rangers fiasco [MTBus 60].
June 12 Wednesday – Sam was probably no longer hiding out at his sister’s, for on this date he was raised to Master Mason (second degree) in the Polar Star Masonic Lodge Number Seventy-nine of St. Louis [Jones 364].
June 15 Saturday ca. – The Missouri state government had fled from Jefferson City by this date. Absalom Grimes wrote in his memoirs that he, Sam Bowen and Clemens were in Hannibal and were ordered to report to General Grey in St. Louis. (This may have been General Henry Gray, Jr. (1816-1892) spelled “Grey” by Grimes.) They made the trip on the Hannibal City and were instructed to be pilots carrying soldiers up the Missouri River, in pursuit of Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson (1806-1862). The three escaped and returned to Hannibal [Dempsey 266-7].
June, mid – Back in Hannibal, Sam joined his merry band of play soldiers, the Marion Rangers, a ragtag bunch of friends who took up the Southern “cause.” In 1885 Sam wrote a humorous account of these two weeks in “The Private History of a Campaign that Failed,” where all names except Ed Stevens were fictitious [Rasmussen 370-1]. The group of old Hannibal schoolmates included William Ely, Asa Glasscock, Absalom Grimes, John D. Meredith, Sam Bowen, John L. RoBards, Perry Smith, and Ed Stevens [Budd, “Collected” 955-6; MTB 166]. The article below adds Tom Lyon and Charley Mills.
From the special Mark Twain Centennial edition of the Hannibal Courier-Post, Mar. 6, 1935 p.9b:
Grimes said he went to his home in Ralls county after their return and a short time later when the war fever reached Ralls county he heard that a brigade of troops had assembled at the home of Nuck Matson, near New London….There he found his pilot friends, Sam Clemens and Sam Bowen and other young men he knew, among them being Charley Mills, Jack Coulter, Tom Lyon, Ed Stephens and Asa Fuqua. He joined them.
At the home of Col. John Ralls the company met a similar group who called themselves the Salt River Tigers. The Tigers were organized, which led Mark Twain’s group to believe they should elect officers.
In the ensuing election William Ely was elected captain, Asa Glascock became first lieutenant, Mark Twain was elected second lieutenant, with Sam Bowen as sergeant and Tom Lyon orderly sergeant. “After all the officers were elected we had three or four men to serve as privates,” Grimes said.
They took the name Ralls County Rangers and called upon Mark Twain for a speech. After much persuading he got upon a log and made a bashful speech which probably would have amazed the thousands who heard him years later on the lecture tour.
The ranger episode ended with Sam suffering a painful boil, a sprained ankle and several burns when he fell from a hayloft which caught fire from a smoker’s pipe. He convalesced at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Nuck Matson, near New London. By then the company has disbanded. (See Confederate Mail Runner by Absalom Grimes, 1926 for more.)
June 20 Thursday – Sam’s article, “Report on the Hannibal Home Guard” was printed in the Missouri State Journal [Camfield, bibliog.].
July, early – Sam returned to St. Louis. Sometime in the first half of the year (Budd says “probably written in early 1861”) [“Collected” 1000] before leaving for the West, Sam wrote an untitled tale (“Ghost Life on the Mississippi”) not published until 1948, but which was “a milestone in Clemens’ early development as a writer. “Despite certain inconsistencies and weaknesses in the narrative handling, the tale revealed a growing literary maturity and a distinct ability to construct serious fiction of some length” [ET&S 1: 146]. Sam used a pen name, “WILLIAM JONES—PRESENTED BY HIS FATHER.”
July 2 Tuesday – Orion Clemens received final instructions for his appointment as secretary of Nevada Territory [RI UC 1993 explanatory notes 574].
July 4 Thursday – Orion left his family in Keokuk and joined Sam, ready to travel to Nevada to take his new position as territorial secretary. He persuaded Sam to go with him, since Sam had the wherewithal to pay passage, and Orion did not. Sam did not request a “demit” (an official termination) from the Masons, which means he allowed himself to be suspended, and eventually not be a member [Jones 364].
July 10 Wednesday – The Polar Star Masonic Lodge Number Seventy-nine of St. Louis awarded Sam his third degree [Strong 88].
July 11 Thursday – Orion took an oath of office before a Supreme Court Justice in St. Louis. It was the one prestigious position of Orion’s life, owed to his persistent campaigning for Lincoln in 1860 and his connection with Edward Bates, who had been appointed Attorney General [Powers, MT A Life 102].
July 18 Thursday – Orion and Sam left St. Louis on the Sioux City for St. Joseph, Missouri [MTL 1: 122 citing Mollie Clemens’ Journal]. In Roughing It, Sam wrote:
“— a trip that was so dull, and sleepy, and eventless, that it has left no more impression on my memory than if its duration had been six minutes…”
A. Hoffman gives this date as July 10, 1861 . July 18 seems more likely.
July 25 Thursday – Orion issued receipt for $300 down and $100 balance in 30 days, for a coach trip to leave from St. Joseph, Missouri.
UPDATES FOR: Trip Out West From
July 26, 1861 to Aug. 14, 1861
Information added from Orion’s journal of the trip and other materials is found in the 1993 UC edition of RI, Supplement A, p.769-81. Orion’s Journal has been lost, but on Sept. 8, 1861, a few days after arriving in Carson City, Orion copied the journal, probably in its entirety, into a letter for his wife Mollie. Some of Orion’s entries correct entries in the first printing of MTDBD Vol. I.; several add important information Sam did not include in RI itself. The entire section is redone here from both RI and Orion’s journal. Instead of using “1 days out, 2 days out….19 days out,” changes are made to “2nd day out, 3rd day out,” etc., to be more in keeping with the language and chronology of RI and Orion’s journal. The reader should understand that RI was written with Orion’s journal entries in hand, requested by Sam to Orion in a letter of Mar. 10, 1871. Orion’s contemporary journal seems more accurate than Sam’s recollections some decade later. Print run One used Sam’s RI entries.
July 26 Friday – Sam and Orion leave St. Joseph for Nevada on the Overland Stage.
By eight o’clock [a.m.] everything was ready, and we were on the other side of the river. We jumped into the stage, the driver cracked his whip, and we bowled away and left “the States” behind us. It was a superb summer morning, and all the landscape was brilliant with sunshine [Ch 2, RI].
Left St. Joseph. Started on the plains about ten miles out. The plains here are simply prairie [Orion 769].
July 27 Saturday – 2nd day out – The coach broke down and was repaired.
By and by we passed through Marysville [KS], and over the Big Blue and Little Sandy [creeks]; thence about a mile, and entered Nebraska. About a mile further on, we came to the Big Sandy—one hundred and eighty miles from St. Joseph….As the sun was going down, we saw the first specimen of an animal known familiarly … as the “jackass rabbit.” He is well named. …and has the most preposterous ears that ever were mounted on any creature but a jackass [Ch 3, Roughing It].
Crossed the Nebraska line about 180 miles from St. Joseph. Here we saw the first Jack Rabbit. They have larger bodies, longer legs and longer ears than our rabbits [Orion RI 1993, 769].
July 28 Sunday – 3rd day out –
So we flew along all day. At 2 PM the belt of timber that fringes the North Platte and marks its windings through the vast level floor of the Plains came in sight. At 4 PM we crossed a branch of the river, and at 5 PM we crossed the Platte itself, and landed at Ft. Kearney, fifty-six hours out from St. Joe – THREE HUNDRED MILES! [Ch 4, Roughing It].
…we arrived at the “Crossing of the South Platte,” alias “Julesburg,” alias “Overland City,” four hundred and seventy miles from St. Joseph—the strangest, quaintest, funniest frontier town that out untraveled eyes had ever stared at and been astonished with (Ch 6, Roughing It) .
August 3 Saturday – 9th day out – This is the date for the breakfast at Rocky Ridge station with the desperado Joseph Alfred (Jack) Slade, in RI ch. X 80-9 (1996 Oxford facsimile of first ed.) [MTL 4: 196n2]. Orion’s journal:
August 5 Monday – 11th day out – Orion’s journal:
52 miles further on, near the head of Echo Canyon, were encamped 60 soldiers from Camp Floyd. Yesterday they fired upon 300 or 400 Utes, whom they supposed gathered for no good purpose.
4 P.M., arrived on the summit of “Big Mountain,” 15 miles from Salt Lake City, when the most gorgeous view of mountain peakes yet encountered, burst on our sight.
Arrived at Salt Lake City at dark, and put up at the Salt Lake House. There are about 15,000 inhabitants. The houses are scattering, mostly small frame, with large yards and plenty of trees. High mountains surround the city. On some of these perpetual snow is visible. Salt Lake City is 240 miles from the South Pass, or 1148 miles from St. Joseph [Orion RI 1993, 771-2].
August 6 Tuesday – 12th day out – The brothers rested in Salt Lake City. Sam and Orion’s layover at Salt Lake allowed them to bathe and stock up for the remainder of the trip. After donning white shirts, the pair was introduced to Brigham Young (1801-1877). Sam described Young as “a quiet, kindly, easy-mannered, dignified, self-possessed old gentleman…” [Roughing It, Ch. 13]. Note: no entry in Orion’s journal for this day.
August 7 Wednesday – From Orion’s journal:
“Bathed in the warm spring. Mountains in the morning, Southwest and East enveloped in clouds” [Orion RI 1993, 772].
Frank Fuller (1827-1915) was in Utah, and was even acting governor for one day. Sam would be greatly aided by Fuller later in New York, and often called him “governor.” In 1906 Sam mistakenly recalled meeting Fuller in Salt Lake, but Fuller did not arrive there until Sept. 10, 1861. The Frank who showed the Clemens brothers around was Francis H. Wootten, then secretary of Utah [MTPO].
[Wootten] gave us a very good time during those two or three days that we rested in Great Salt Lake City. He was an alert and energetic man; a pushing man; a man who was able to take an interest in anything that was going—and not only that, but take five times as much interest in it as it was worth, and ten times as much as anybody else could take in it—a very live man [MTA 2: 350].
August 8 Thursday – Orion’s journal shows the Clemens brothers moved on early from Salt Lake City.
“Arrived at Fort Crittenden—(Camp Floyd) 8 A.M., 45 miles from Salt Lake City. Arrived at the edge of the desert, 95 miles from Salt Lake City, at 4 P.M.” [Orion RI 1993, 772].
August 9 Friday – 15th day out – Orion’s journal [Orion RI 1993, 772].:
Sunrise. Across the desert, 45 miles, and at the commencement of the “little Desert.” 2 o’clock, across the little desert, 23 miles, and 163 miles from Salt Lake, being 68 miles across the two deserts, with only a spring at Fish Creek Station to separate them. They are called deserts because there is no water in them. They are barren, but so is the balance of the route.
August 10 Saturday – 16th day out – Sam encountered the Goshute Indians, “at the entrance of Rocky Canyon, two hundred and fifty miles from Salt Lake.” Sam never cared much for Indians (Roughing It Ch.19). Orion’s journal reported that this night was “very cold.”
August 11 Sunday – 17th day out – Orion wrote that the driver informed them that the mountain peaks they passed this day were the highest they’d yet seen. The night was “very cold” though the days were “very warm.”
“…we passed the highest mountain peaks we had yet seen, and although the day was very warm the night that followed upon its heels was wintry cold and blankets were next to useless” [RI ch. 20].
August 12 Monday – 18th day out –
“…we encountered the eastward-bound telegraph constructors at Reese River station and sent a message to His Excellency Governor Nye at Carson City (distant one hundred and fifty-six miles)” [RI ch. 20].
August 13 Tuesday – 19th day out –
“…we crossed the Great American Desert – forty memorable miles of bottomless sand, into which the coach wheels sunk from six inches to a foot. We worked our passage most of the way across. That is to say, we got out and walked” [RI ch. 20].
August 14 Wednesday – the pair arrived in Carson City, Nevada. The 20-day trip is recounted in Roughing It. The Clemens brothers boarded with Mrs. Margret Murphy, a “genial Irish-woman…a New York retainer of Governor Nye” [MTB 176]. Note: Murphy was “Bridget O’Flannagan” in RI [RI 1993, 613]. In 1860 the population of Carson City was a mere 701 souls and Virginia City 2,437; in 1861 Carson had doubled to 1,466; Virginia City had exploded to 12,704 [Mack’s Nevada: a History of the State, 1936].
In the dormitory at Ormsby House and around Mrs. Murphy’s dining table, Sam heard “a world of talk” about the wonders of Lake Tahoe, called Lake Bigler in 1861. Members of the Irish Brigade had been there and established a timber claim in anticipation of a lumbering boom. Sam’s curiosity and newly kindled desire to make a similar claim motivated him to visit the lake. The Irish Brigade offered the use of their rowboat beached at the northeast corner of the lake and access to their food and supplies cache on the North Shore . Note: editorial emphasis. See Sept. 14-17.
Stewart names members of the Irish Brigade in his MTJ article, “Sam Clemens’s Friends at Lake Tahoe”:
“The brigade’s formal name was ‘John Nye & Co.’ Listed in the partnership agreement are P.G. Childs, John Nye, John Ives, James E. Coulter, Johannes C. Slott, I.M. Luther, J.H. Kinkead, W.H. Wagner, James Neary, Thomas Smithson and John C. Burche” [100-101]. Editorial emphasis.
Sam once visited the Chinese Free Mason Hall in Carson, probably shortly after arriving [Jones 364].
August 24 Saturday – Horatio G. Phillips (“Raish”) and Robert M. Howland (1838-1890), nephew of governor Nye, came down from Aurora to Carson City. They had several working mines and claims in the Esmeralda district. Sam met them shortly after their arrival, as they ate at Mrs. Murphy’s boarding house [Mack 132-3]. Sam later became partners in Aurora claims; Howland was to be that city’s marshal [MTB 176].
September, early – Sam traveled to Aurora, Nevada, in the Esmeralda mining district. In the late summer of 1861, both the Esmeralda and the Humboldt mining districts were the focus of gold fever. Sam would quickly acquire interests in both regions [Mack 126].
September 8 Sunday – Jane Lampton Clemens and Pamela A. Moffett wrote to Sam, letter not extant but mentioned in Twain’s Oct. 25 to Pamela [MTL 1: 129-136].
Horatio G. Phillips sold Sam fifty feet (shares) worth $10 each in claims of the Black Warrior Gold & Silver Mining Co. in Aurora, Esmeralda district [MTL 1: 134n4].
September 10 Tuesday – Sam left Aurora. John D. Kinney (1840?-1878) arrived in Carson City from Cincinnati on this day or the next [MTL 1:126n2].
September 12? Thursday – Sam arrived back in Carson City and wrote to Orion’s wife, Mary E. (Mollie) Clemens. Fragment survives:
well, although I believe I never had the pleasure of her acquaintance,) and left for California the same day; and I told him plainly that I did not believe it, and wouldn’t, if he swore it—for I didn’t, Mollie, and did[n’t] think Billy could be as stupid as that. On the contrary, I thought he was the most talented boy that Keokuk had ever produced. But when I got back, Orion confirmed Billy’s statement—so, you see, I am forced to believe that—(that they are both liars.) If I ever were to marry, I should would certainly stay at home a week, even if the Devil were in town with a writ for my arrest.
Why don’t Ma and Pamela write? Please kiss Jennie for me——
(P. S.—And tell her when she is fifteen years old, I will kiss her myself——)
(P. S.—If she is good-looking.)
P. S.—Don’t get “huffy.”
Sam. L. Clemens [MTL 1: 123].
September 13 Friday ca. – Sam met John D. Kinney of Cincinnati (or day before) [MTL 1: 126n3].
September 14–17 Tuesday – Sometime between these dates, Sam and John D. Kinney traveled to Lake Bigler (Tahoe), where they spent four days building a shack for a timber claim, then allowed their campfire to get away from them and were forced to flee from a wildland fire (not burning larger trees) [MTL 1: 126n3].
Antonucci writes of Lake Bigler at this time:
In Mark Twain’s time, Lake Tahoe was a place of astounding beauty, pristine scenery, and rich untapped resources. Far from the uninhabited wilderness that Mark Twain portrayed in Roughing It, the South and East shores were teeming with travelers and freight wagons headed east to opportunity waiting in the burgeoning mining industry in the Nevada Territory. Strung along this road to opportunity were crowded way stations and ranches that served the massive movement of humanity, animals and goods. Camped in its scenic meadows and still pristine forest were Washoe families living out their final days of aboriginal innocence. The forests, meadows and marshes hosted a dense and diverse population of wildlife. Spawning fish filled its streams bank to bank and immense schools of fish swam in its depths. Nevertheless, Tahoe was on the brink of sweeping change. Mark Twain saw it in its final pristine form and wrote eloquently about its virtue without ever acknowledging it eventual fate at the hands of timber barons, water seekers, ranchers and landowners [77-78]. Note: Antonucci gives Sept. 14-19 as this first trip, though the MTP shows Sept. 14-17. Antonucci gives the distance at 11.7 miles; and that Twain and Kinney walked it, taking a wagon road to the northeast shore of the Lake . See Antonucci for details on each of the four days. Map courtesy of Antonucci.
September 18 to 21 Saturday – In Carson City, Sam wrote his mother, Jane Clemens, of the events at Lake Bigler:
When we got up in the morning, we found that the fire had made its way to within 4 or 5 steps of us on the South side. We looked like lava men, covered as we were with ashes, and begrimed with smoke. We were very black in the face, but we soon washed ourselves white again [MTL 1: 124].
Sam’s letter also reflected homesickness:
Remember me to all my St. Louis and Keokuk friends, and tell Challie and Hallie Benson that I heard a military band play “What are the Wild Waves Saying?” the other night, and it reminded me very forcibly of them. It brought Ella Creel and Belle across the Desert too in an instant, for they sang the song in Orion’s yard the first time I ever heard it. It was like meeting an old friend. I tell you I could have swallowed that whole band, trombone and all, if such a compliment would have been any gratification to them . Note: the Benson girls, daughters of James L. Benson of St. Louis; Haille Benson (b. 1847) sometimes spelled “Hallie”; Chaille Benson, sometimes “Challie”.
September 22–28 Saturday – This is the date range the MTP offers for possible second trip to Lake Bigler [MTL 1: 127n7]. See RI, Ch. 22 for details. Antonucci gives “no earlier than September 21 and ending no later than September 30” for such a trip . Both sources give the purpose of the trip as completing work on their timber claim. See Oct. 25 to his sister. Both sources claim Twain made later trips to Bigler, but give no dates. The former source cites MTB 1: 180. Antonucci writes:
The conclusion of the Lake Tahoe chapters in Roughing It, has Twain making “many trips to the lake” after the initial timber claim adventure and enduring “many a hair-breadth escape and blood-curdling adventure.” Twain did make two or three more destination trips to Lake Tahoe and about 12 through trips along the South Shore on his way to San Francisco but never incurred the “many a hair-breath escape and blood-curdling adventure” he supposes . Note: Antonucci credits many of Twain’s accounts to exaggeration.
September 18–30 Monday – (After Sam’s return from Lake Bigler and before the legislature convened on Oct. 1) In Carson City, Sam and George B. Turner (1829-1885) wrote per William M. Gillespie (1838-1885) to Orion, sending a “form for message” about a book of handwritten model forms. Sam explained, “From Hon. Chief Justice Turner—I sent your book by Dorsey, Orion—why the devil didn’t Turner send it to you himself while he was in the States?” [MTL 1: 128]. Note: Dorsey unidentified. During the first sessions Gillespie coached Sam in parliamentary procedures, and won the nickname, “Young Jefferson’s Manual” [MTB 219].
October 1 Tuesday – The legislative session opened at Carson City. Orion presided over the House of Representatives until the election of officers was made. Sam was an $8 per day clerk for Orion [MTL 1: 129n3].
October 25 Friday – Sam replied to his sister, Pamela A. Moffett’s Sept. 8 (not extant) concerning timber and mining claims he filed on Lake Bigler. In part:
My Dear Sister: / I have just finished reading your letter and Ma’s, of Sept. 8th. How in the world could they have been so long in coming? You ask if I have forgotten my promise to lay a claim for Mr. Moffett? By no means. I have already laid a timber claim on the borders of a Lake (Bigler) which throws Como in the shade—and if we succeed in getting one Mr. Jones to move his saw-mill up there, Mr. Moffett can just consider that claim better than bank stock. [Charles] Jones says he will move his mill up next Spring. In that claim I took up about two miles in length by one in width—and the names in it are as follows: “Sam. L. Clemens, Wm. A. Moffett, Thos. Nye” and three others. It is situated on “Sam Clemens Bay”—so named by Capt. Nye”—and it goes by that name among the inhabitants of that region. I had better stop about “the Lake,” though—for whenever I think of it I want to go there and die, the place is so beautiful. I’ll build a country seat there one of these days that will make the Devil’s mouth water if he ever visits the earth. Jim Lampton will never know whether I laid a claim there for him or not until he comes here himself [MTL 1: 129-130]. Note: Charles Jones, owner of Clear Creek Mill, did not relocate. Captain John Nye was the Governor’s brother; see n. 2 in source. Jim Lampton was Sam’s uncle, James A.H. Lampton; see n. 3. Sam also encouraged uncle James A.H. Lampton to come out. On Oct. 26 he also wrote his mother a long description of the territory [MTL 1: 129; 134n3].
What became of Sam’s timber claim?
Antonucci speculates that Twain never completed the timber claim due to unreliable maps and the discovery that the intended land claim was actually in California, not Nevada: “Government agents would have held in abeyance the approval of Clemens’ claim until General Land Office surveys underway at the time could provide plats showing the details of government land ownership and more importantly, the state-territorial boundary between California and Nevada. When these approved plats became available, they showed the location of Clemens’ claim was about 2-3 miles inside the state of California and therefore, ineligible for the land preemption program in the Nevada Territory. Twain never spoke on record or wrote about the timber claim after October 1861. No other information or public records on the timber claim have been located, so we may never know for sure the reason for the failed enterprise” [138-9].
October 26 Saturday – Sam wrote a long letter to his mother that was printed in the Keokuk Gate City, describing mining, weather, local flora, houses and society. In part:
Nevada Territory is fabulously rich in gold, silver, copper, lead, coal, iron, quicksilver, marble, granite, chalk, slate, plaster of Paris (gypsum,) thieves, murderers, desperadoes, ladies, children, lawyers, Christians, gamblers, Indians, Chinamen, Spaniards, sharpers, cuyotes, (pronounced ki-yo-ties,) preachers, poets and jackass-rabbits. Furthermore, it never rains here, and the dew never falls. No flowers grow here, and no green thing gladdens the eye. The birds that fly over the land carry their provisions with them. Only the crow and the raven tarry with us….When my old friends ask me how you like Nevada, what reply shall I make? Tell them I am delighted with it. It is the dustiest country on the face of the earth—but I rather like the dust. And the days are very hot—but you know I am fond of hot days [MTL 1: 136].
October 29 Tuesday – Sam wrote to Horatio G. Philips, “Raish” from Carson City on mining matters. He noted the first rainfall since his arrival in Carson City. It was about this time that Sam got what Paine calls “the real mining infection,” and became active in speculation
Bob [Robert Muir Howland]showed me your letter yesterday, in which you say that the “Averill Mill” is crushing our “Black Warrior” rock for its contents. All success to the “Black Warrior” and Horatio G. Phillips! Amen. This looks like business—and hath an encouraging sound to it. I wish they would “strike it rich” shortly, for I want to send a fine “Black Warrior” specimen to the London World’s Fair by the Nevada commissioner, when he is appointed. From a despatch received by Tom Nye to-day from his father, the Captain, we are led to hope that that noisy old youth will arrive here about next Saturday. I have no doubt the “Cap.” would be very much pleased to received a slice of the “Black Warrior.”
My brother is very particularly delighted with the “Black Warrior[”]—and I have told him that some day I’ll give him a foot! He is looking for money every day, now, from Washington. And when it comes, I shall expect to take you by the hand again in Aurora.
Bob has got such a jolly long tongue, and keeps it wagging so comfortably, that I have not been able to ask him yet, whether he succeeded in selling your “Fresno” or not. Did he?—and have you saved your mother’s place?—because I would like to know these things, as I have a mother at home myself, and naturally feel interested. I was sorry, though, that you were obliged to sacrifice feet in that claim, for I am told that it is very fine. Since it had to go, though, I was sorry I was not able to buy it myself.
I told Bob that you ought to come up here and see about getting the county clerkship down there, and I explained to him why you ought to come up. I was talking to my brother, though, a while ago, and he says the Governor will make no appointments down there until the California Legislature adjourns, so that he may have the sense of that body upon the boundary question. One thing I have thought of often, but have not spoken of—and that is, that the Governor may be absent when those appointments are made, and then my brother will have to make them himself. (Burn this letter, Ratio.)
Verily, it is raining—the first specimen of that kind that has fallen under my notice since I have been in Carson. It is pleasant to the sight, and refreshing to the senses—yea, “even as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”
The wings of Death overshadow us to-day—for this clouded sun is the last that one of our boys will ever look upon in life. Wagner, the civil engineer. I believe you do not know him. He surveyed with Lander’s party for two years. He is one of the few at whom the shafts of Slander were never aimed, and against whom the hand of Malice was never lifted. The fact of his dying here among comparative strangers, with no relative within thousands of miles of him and no woman to lay the blessing of her hand upon his aching head; and soothe his weary heart to its last sleep with the music of her woman’s voice, will shed a gloom over us all, when the sad event is consummated. May you die at home, Ratio, is the aspiration of
Sam. L. Clemens
Write me often—and I will reply promptly [MTL 1: 140].
Notes: Robert Muir Howland (1838-1890); Will H. Wagner, member of John Nye & Co.; Frederick West Lander (1821–1862), engineer, explorer, and soldier. See source notes.
November 17 Sunday – Jane Clemens wrote a paragraph to Sam and Orion (“To the boys”), enclosed in a letter to Orion and Mollie Clemens: “We are all delighted to receive your letters saying you have such good prospects” [MTP].
November 20 Wednesday – Sam’s Oct. 26 letter to his mother ran in the Keokuk Gate City [Camfield, bibliog.].
November 30 Saturday – Sam’s 26th birthday. See insert of Clemens, age 26, from Player’s Club “Milestones” (1930)
December 1 Sunday – Sam sold a black horse with white face to William H. Clagett (Billy) for $45 [MTL 1: 169n18]. Note: Thought to be the original “ Genuine Mexican Plug” of ch. 24, RI.
December 4 Wednesday –Sam acknowledged payment for completion of his term as clerk [ET&S 1: 12].
December 8 Sunday – Horatio G. Phillips “Raish” wrote to Sam, surprised his last letter had not been rec’d. He wanted to go with Sam to Humboldt to examine Sam’s claims there but had to “superintend the work in the Tunnel & have not got the means to take the trip with.” He follows with mining misc. [MTP].
December 11 Wednesday ca. – With a bad case of mining fever, Sam set out for the newly opened Humboldt region with three other men: Keokuk friend William H. Clagett (“Billy”) (1838-1901), Augustus W. Oliver (“Gus”; b. 1835) recently appointed probate judge of Humboldt County, and Cornbury S. Tillou, Carson City blacksmith and jack-of-all-trades. It was a 200-mile trip that took eleven days [MTL 1: 149-50 & n4]. Mack writes that the party did not leave until after Dec. 10, delayed by a fight in the legislature over the county-capital bill .
“Hurry was the word! We wasted no time. Our party consisted of four persons—a blacksmith sixty years of age, two young lawyers, and myself [Clagett, Oliver, and Tillou]. We bought a wagon and two miserable old horses. We put 1,800 pounds of provisions and mining tools in the wagon and drove out of Carson on a chilly December afternoon” [MTB 183].
Once back in Carson City Sam would write his mother a long account of this trip on Jan. 30. In Roughing It, Sam wrote of a “small, rude cabin” that he and his three traveling companions built in Unionville in Dec. 1861 [Roughing It, Ch. 28].
December 16 Monday ca. – On the fifth day out, the party of Clemens-Clagett-Oliver-Tillou, two horses, dogs Curney & Tom came to Ragtown, the last settlement on the Carson River. Beyond: the 40-mile Desert.
December 16 to 17 Tuesday ca. – The men crossed the desert in what Mack calls “ one terrifying drive of twenty-three hours without stopping for so much as a bite to eat, a drink of water, or a minute’s rest…” . In the desert they saw all manner of:
“…skeletons and carcasses of dead beasts of burden, and charred remains of wagons; and chains, and bolts and screws, and gun-barrels, and such things of a like heavy nature as weary, thirsty emigrants, grown desperate, have thrown away, in the grand hope of being able, when less encumbered, to reach water” [MTL 1: 148].
December 22 Sunday ca. – In a blinding snowstorm, Sam’s party finally reached Unionville, Humboldt Mining District. Captain Hugo Pfersdorff laid out the town earlier in the year [Mack 129]. Sam’s letter to his mother of Jan. 30, 1862 claims this trip took eleven days [MTL 1: 149].
December 22–31 Tuesday – From Sam’s Jan. 30, 1862 letter to his mother, we read that “Billy [Clagett] put up his shingle as Notary Public, and Gus [Oliver] put up his as Probate Judge” [MTL 1: 150]. Sam would not stay long.