Vol 1 Section 0019

Mining Excursions, More Feet, Backbreaking Labor – Esmeralda – Aurora

 Josh Letters Yielded Offer – Territorial Enterprise Reporter

 Goodman, McCarthy, De Quille & the Boys – Petrified Man Hoax

 Covering the Territorial Legislature



January, first half Sam’s excursion to Unionville, in Buena Vista Mining District, and back to Carson City by way of Honey Lake Smith’s (a trading post on the road to Carson City) and Virginia City, took all of seven weeks [MTL 1: 150n3]. Sam described this trip in chapters 27-33 of Roughing It and in chapter 27 of Innocents Abroad. Travel to the northern regions of the territory was hazardous in January due to heavy rains.

January, second half – Sam quit the backbreaking labor after one week. Disillusioned by the exaggerated claims of easy wealth, Sam set out to return to Carson City. He made the return trip from Unionville with Captain Hugo Pfersdorff and Colonel John B. Onstine [MTL 1: 152n13]. Mack includes Cornbury S. Tillou (but calls him “Mr. Ballou”, the same name Sam gave him in RI) in this group, and says they “left Unionville in a blinding snowstorm” [126, 133]. Stuck at the trading post for eight days, due to high water, and at Virginia City for another week for the same reason, they got lost in a snowstorm and feared death, but found their way the next day (Roughing It, Ch. 27-33).


January 28 Tuesday – Sam paid Hugo Pfersdorff $100 for feet in the Alba Nueva ledge [MTL 1: 152n10].

January 29 Wednesday – Sam and party arrived back in Carson City. The journey was arduous. Sam began a letter to his sister-in-law Mollie about his reaction to the news that his old mule “Paint-Brush” was in Union hands. Sam had ridden the animal during his brief play as a Confederate volunteer in June 1861.

Dear Mollie:

“Paint-Brush” in the hands of the enemy! God forgive me! this is the first time I have felt melancholy since I left the United States. And he is doing service for the enemy. But against his will. Ah, me, Mollie—there would be consolation—priceless consolation in the fact which I have italicised, were it not that that is a natural failing with the poor devil—everything he ever did do, he did against his will. His most insignificant services, even for me, were done under protest. Of course I mean that whenever he did condescend to do anything in accordance with my wishes, and that was not an everyday occurrence, at all, he showed his unwillingness in a marked manner—but he was a willing soul to do things after his own fashion. And of course he generally consulted his own judgment—because: You remember, (as I perceive by your language,) that between me and the pillow on the saddle, there was a very Mine of trouble—and between the saddle and the ground there was another Mine of trouble, viz; the Mule. And the saddle was always loose,—therefore, I was afraid it might turn; and I could not cinch it tighter, as the cinch was old, and I feared it might break. So, you see, when in the saddle, I lived as one astraddle of a magazine—for, had I combatted the mule’s wishes to any great extent, he would have retaliated by jumping gullies, or rolling on the ground, or running away—and the consequences, to me, of such conduct, would have been a matter of small concern to him.

But if I had the “Paint Brush” here, Mollie, I would “feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.” I would board him on sage-brush, and cinch him till he couldn’t breathe, and ride him sixty miles a day. He would be a wonderfully useful animal to me. However, if he has gone over to the enemy, let him go. He can’t be depended on anyhow—he’ll desert at the first opportunity; if he don’t fall in a camp-kettle and get drowned.

Well, Mollie, I think July will be soon enough, because I think that by that time some of our claims will be paying handsomely, and you can come in “high-tone” style, as Tom Nye, says. And we could have a house fit to live in—and servants to do your work. You know it is all very well for a man’s wife to talk about how much work she can do—but actually doing it is a thing that don’t suit my notions. That part of the business belongs to the servants. I am not married yet, and I never will marry until I can afford to have servants enough to leave my wife in the position for which I designed her, viz:—as a companion. I don’t want to sleep with a three-fold Being who is cook, chambermaid and washerwoman all in one. I don’t mind sleeping with female servants as long as I am a bachelor—by no means—but after I marry, that sort of thing will be “played out,” you know. (But Lord bless you, Mollie, don’t hint this depravity to the girls.) No, Madam, I am anxious for you to stay just where you are until you can live here in a handsome house and boss your own servants—even if it should be until the first July after the Millenium! If you come here before you ought to come, Mollie, and I hear people say “the Secretary’s wife does her own cooking”—I’ll tell every such person that the Secretary’s wife is subject to fits of derangement! Mind, now, I’m not going to have any one-horse business here after you arrive. D-o-n-’t get in a hurry, Madam. The world wasn’t made in a day [MTL 1: 143-6].


January 30 Thursday – In Carson City, Sam wrote an account of the trip to Humboldt to his mother [MTL 1: 146-152]. The letter was printed in the Keokuk Gate City on Mar. 6.

My Dear Mother:—

“How sleep the brave who sink to rest,

Far, far from the battle-field’s dreadful array,

With cheerful ease and succulent repast,

Nor ask the sun to lend his streaming ray.”

Bully, isn’t it? I mean the poetry, madam, of course. Doesn’t it make you feel just a little “stuck up” to think that your son is a—Bard? And I have attained to this proud eminence without an effort, almost. You see, madam, my method is very simple and easy—thus: When I wish to write a great poem, I just take a few lines from Tom, Dick and Harry, Shakspeare, and other poets, and by patching them together so as to make them rhyme occasionally, I have accomplished my object. Never mind the sense—sense, madam, has but little to do with poetry. By this wonderful method, any body can be a poet—or a bard—which sounds better, you know.

But I have other things to talk about, now—so, if you please, we will drop the subject of poetry. You wish to know where I am, and where I have been? And, verily, you shall be satisfied. Behold, I am in the middle of the universe—at the centre of gravitation—even Carson City. And I have been to the land that floweth with gold and silver—Humboldt. (Now, do not make any ridiculous attempt, ma, to pronounce the “d,” because you can’t do it, you know.) I went to the Humboldt with Billy C., and Gus., and old Mr. Tillou. With a two-horse wagon, loaded with eighteen hundred pounds of provisions and blankets—necessaries of life—to which the following luxuries were added, viz: Ten pounds of Killikinick, two dogs, Watt’s Hymns, fourteen decks of cards, “Dombey and Son,” a cribbage board, one small keg of lager beer and the “carminia sacrae.”

At first, Billy drove, and we pushed behind the wagon. Not because we were fond of it, ma—Oh, no—but on Bunker’s account. Bunker was the “near” horse, on the larboard side. Named after the Attorney General of this Territory. My horse—you are acquainted with him, by reputation, already—and I am sorry you do not know him personally, ma, for I feel towards him, sometimes, as if he were a blood relation of our family—he is so infernally lazy, you know—my horse, I was going to say—was the “off” horse on the starboard side. But it was on Bunker’s account, principally, that we pushed behind the wagon. For whenever we came to a hard piece of road, that poor, lean, infatuated cuss would fall into a deep reverie about something or other, and stop perfectly still, and it would generally take a vast amount of black-snaking and shoving and profanity to get him started again; and as soon as he was fairly under way, he would take up the thread of his reflections where he left off, and go on thinking, and pondering, and getting himself more and more mixed up and tangled in his subject, until he would get regularly stuck again, and stop to review the question.

And always in the meanest piece of road he could find.

In fact, Ma, that horse had something on his mind, all the way from here to Humboldt; and he had not got rid of it when I left there—for when I departed, I saw him standing, solitary and alone, away up on the highest peak of a mountain, where no horse ever ventured before, with his pensive figure darkly defined against the sky—still thinking about it.

Our dog, Tom, which we borrowed at Chinatown without asking the owner’s permission, was a beautiful hound pup, eight months old. He was a love of a dog, and much addicted to fleas. He always slept with Billy and me. Whenever we selected our camp, and began to cook supper, Tom, aided and abetted by us three boys, immediately commenced laying his plans to steal a portion of the latter; and with our assistance, he generally succeeded in inserting his long, handsome nose into every dish before anybody else. This was wrong, Ma, and we know it—so, to atone for it, we made Mr. Tillou’s dog stand around whenever he attempted any such liberties. And when our jolly supper was swallowed, and the night was on the wane, and we had finished smoking our pipes, and singing songs, and spinning yarns, and telling lies, and quoting scripture, and all that sort of thing, and had begun to look for a soft place on the ground to spread our blankets on, Tom, with immense sagacity, always assisted in the search, and then with becoming modesty, rewarded himself by taking first choice between the blankets. No wonder we loved the dog.

But, Mr. Tillou’s dog, “Curney,” we utterly despised. He was not a long, slender, graceful dog like Tom, but a little mean, white, curly, grinning whelp, no bigger than a cat—with a wretched, envious, snappish, selfish disposition, and a tail like an all-wool capital O, curled immodestly over his back, and apparently wrenched and twisted to its place so tightly that it seemed to lift his hind legs off the ground sometimes. And we made Tom pester him; and bite his tail; and his ears; and stumble over him; and we heaped trouble and humiliation upon the brute to that degree that his life became a burden to him. And Billy, hating the dog, and thirsting for his blood, prophesied that Curney would come to grief. And Gus and I said Amen. And it came to pass according to the words of the prophet. Thus.

On the fifth day out, we left the village of Ragtown, and entered upon the Forty-five mile Desert, where the sand is of unknown depth, and locomotion of every kind is very difficult; where the road is strewn thickly with the 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.8 We left Ragtown, Ma, at nine o’clock in the morning, and the moment we began to plow through that horrible sand, Bunker, true to his instincts, fell into a reverie so dense, so profound, that it required all the black-snaking and shoving and profanity at our disposal to keep him on the move five minutes at a time. But we did shove, and whip and blaspheme all day and all night, without stopping to rest or eat, scarcely, (and alas! we had nothing to drink, then.) And long before day-light we struck the Big Alkali Flat—and Curney came to grief; for the poor devil got alkalied—in the seat of honor. You see he got tired, traveling all day and all night, nearly—immensely tired—and sat himself down by the way-side to rest. And lo! the iron entered his soul (poetical figure, Ma.) And when he rose from that fiery seat, he began to turn somersets, and roll over and over and kick up his heels in the most frantic manner, and shriek, and yelp and bark, and make desperate grabs at his tail, which he could not reach on account of his excitement and a tendency to roll over; and he would drag himself over the ground in a sitting posture, (which afforded him small relief, you know,) and then jump up and yelp, and scour away like the wind, and make a circuit of three hundred yards, for all the world as if he were on the Pony Express. And we three weary and worn and thirsty wretches forgot our troubles, and fell upon the ground and laughed until all life and sense passed out of us, and the colic came to our relief and brought us to again, while old Mr. Tillou wiped his spectacles, and put them on, and looked over them, and under them, and around them, in a bewildered way, and “wondered,” every now and then, “what in the h—ll was the matter with Curney.”

We thought,—yea, we fondly hoped, ma,—that Curney’s time had come. But it was otherwise ordained. Mr. Tillou was much exercised on account of his dog’s misery, and, sharing his misery, we recommended a bullet as a speedy remedy, but the old gentleman put his trust in tallow, and Curney became himself again, except that he walked behind the wagon for many hours with humble mien, and tail transformed from a brave all-wool capital O to a limp and all-wool capital J, and gave no sign when Tom bit his ears or stumbled over him.

We took up our abode at Unionville, in Buena Vista Mining District, Humboldt county, after pushing that wagon nearly 200 miles, and taking eleven days to do it in. And we found that the “National” lead there was selling at $50 per foot, and assayed $2,496 per ton at the Mint in San Francisco. And the “Alba Nueva,” “Peru,” “Delirio,” “Congress,” “Independence,” and others, were immensely rich leads. And moreover, having winning ways with us, we could get “feet” enough to make us all rich one of these days. And again that mills would be in operation there by the 1st of June. And in the Star District, O. B. O’Bannon, of Keokuk, was flourishing, and had plenty of “feet,” and in the Santa Clara District, Harroun and Jo. Byers of Memphis, Mo., likewise and ditto. And Billy put up his shingle as Notary Public, and Gus put up his as Probate Judge, and I mounted my horse (in company with the Captain and the Colonel) and journeyed back to Carson, leaving them making preparations for a prospecting tour; and before I can go to Esmeralda and get back to Humboldt, they will have laid, with the certainty of fate, the foundation of their fortunes. It’s a great country, ma.

Now, ma, I could tell you how, on our way back here, the Colonel and the Captain and I got fearfully and desperately lousy; and how I got used to it and didn’t mind it, and slept with the Attorney General, who wasn’t used to it, and did mind it; but I fear my letter is already too long. Therefore—sic transit gloria mundi, e pluribus unum forever! Amen. (Latin, madam—which you don’t understand, you know).

S. L. C. [MTL 1: 146-152; MTPO drop in letters].

February 1 Saturday – In Carson City, Sam wrote and sent ore specimens to his brother-in-law, William A. Moffett [MTL 1: 153].

February 8 and 9 Sunday – In Carson City Sam wrote a long letter to his mother, and sister, Pamela about possibly traveling to California. He speculated that he’d like to return to St. Louis by July by steamer. More mining dreams and talk [MTL 1: 155-63].

February, mid Between mid-February and the end of July, 1862, Sam wrote several letters (the exact number is unknown; none survive) he signed, “Josh” to the Virginia City Enterprise—including Story of an old horse; Chief Justice George Enoch Turner‘s (1828-1885) oratory; burlesque Fourth of July. Sam also wrote descriptions of mining claims until August. Sam was not paid for these letters, but William H. Barstow of the Enterprise business office noticed them and was instrumental in getting Sam hired on as a reporter [Rasmussen 264; MTL 1: 201n8]. Note: this last source gives April as “about the time Sam began writing the [Josh] letters.”


In his Oct. 2, 1906 A.D. Clemens recalled writing the spoof of a Judge Turner speech, which was published in the Enterprise, followed by Sam being offered the city editorship while the editor was away on a two month trip east—a development Sam attributed to one of his luckiest accidents [AMT 2: 238-9].


February 28Friday – Sam wrote from Carson City to William Clagett about mining matters and the Civil War, principally the Union forces driving Missouri Confederates into Arkansas and Grant’s capture of Forts Henry and Donelson. Sam’s letter reflected his sympathies were with the South [MTL 1: 163].

March 1 Saturday – Sam acquired another 25 feet in the Horatio mine. He and his brother Orion then held 100 feet [MTL 1: 162n8].


March 2 SundayJane Clemens wrote to Sam, her letter not extant but referred to in Sam’s Apr. 2 [MTL 1: 180].


March 8 and 9 Sunday – Sam, still in Carson City, wrote to William Clagett (Billy) on various subjects and his intent to go to the Esmeralda district “next week”


Dear Billy:

As a good opportunity offers, I have embraced it to send you some legal and letter paper, and a copy of the laws. I send the pencils, pens, &c., because I don’t know whether you have run out of such things or not. If you have got plenty of stationery, maybe Sam [Montgomery] and Tom [Smith] have not. I also send you some more envelops. The Colonel proposes to start to-morrow or next day.

I hunted up Fall, but he would not sell me his ground for Sam. Then I told him he had better go to Unionville and “nurse” a good thing while he had it. He said he would.

John Kinney has gone to the States, via San Francisco.

Your Father has purchased the Keokuk “Journal,”—so he will hardly come out here this year—hey?

I have heard from several reliable sources that Sewall will be here shortly, and has sworn to whip me on sight. Now what would you advise a fellow to do?—take a thrashing from the son-of-a-bitch, or bind him over to keep the peace? I don’t see why he should dislike me. He is a yankee,—and I naturaly love a yankee.

I stole a bully dog the other day—but he escaped again. Look out for one. That other dog, over whose fate a dark mystery hangs, has not revisited the glimpses of the moon yet, in this vicinity, although he has been seen in a certain locality—whereof it would be Treason to speak. D—n the beast—does he intend to haunt us like a nightmare for the balance of his days?

The Governor’s Cavalcade left for California the other day. Some of the retainers I will name: the Governor and Gov. Roop, Boundary-line Commissioners; accompanied by Mr. [George] Gillson, Mr. [John] Kinkead and others—and followed by Bob Howland, Chief Valet de Chambre to His Excellency, and Bob Haslan, Principal Second Assistant ditto ditto. What do you make of that, for instance? There were quite a number in the Cavalcade, and Haslan brought up the rear on a mule. Bob Howland expects to sell some ground in San Francisco.

You say the “Annie Moffett Company”—isn’t that the name of the ledge, too? I hope so.

I would like to write you some news, Billy, but unfortunately, I haven’t got any to write. I couldn’t write it, though, if I had, for I am in a bad humor, and am only writing anyhow, because I hate to lose the opportunity. You see I have been playing cards with Bunker, and the d—d old Puritan wouldn’t play fairly—and I made injurious remarks and jumped the game.

I send a St. Louis Republican for Tom. There is something in it from “Ethan Spike.”

Enclosed please find Mr. Cox’s Speech.

If you and Dad intend coming down, Billy, with the wagon, don’t fail to write and say about what time you will be here. I leave for Esmeralda next week some time, with Major General BBBunker, L.L.D., Esq—provided “nothing happens.” But this do happen in this country, constantly. In fact, it is about the d—est country in the world for things to happen in. My calculations never come out right. However, as I said before, We May be Happy Yet.

Remember me kindly to the boys—not forgetting “the old man,” of course. I have labored hard to get a copy of “Fannie Hill” for him to read, but I have failed sadly.

Sunday.—I intended to finish this letter to-day, but I went to church—and busted! For a man who can listen for an hour to Mr. White, the whining, nasal, Whangdoodle preacher, and then sit down and write, without shedding melancholy from his pen as a ducks water slides from a duck’s back, is more than mortal. Or less. I fear I shall not feel cheerful again until the beans I had for dinner begin to operate.

Which reminds me of that afternoon in Sacramento cañon, when I gained such a brilliant victory over Oliver and Mr. Tillou, and drove them in confusion and dismay from behind my batteries.

We have not heard from home for some time, and I have only written two letters to St Louis since I arrived here.

John D. Winters has sold out his interest in the Ophir for a hundred thousand dollars.

J. L. G. and his father are still flourishing in Chinatown. Mr. Bunker saw them there the other day.

Tom Nye is down at Fort Churchill. Write, at your earlies[t] convenience.

Your sincere friend

Sam L. Clemens [MTL 1: 169; also drop-in].

Notes: Isaac N. Roop (1822-1869) provisional governor of N. Terr (1859-60); The Colonel was John B. Onstine; John D. Winters (1830-1900), member of the 1861 territorial House of Representatives; Samuel S. Cox (1824-1889)’ J.L.G. and father are unidentified. See notes on MTPO for this letter which give many details.

March 20 Thursday – Sam wrote his mother a hilarious letter about Indians out west. Sam shot down his mother’s assumed fanciful visions about Indians which she reflected in her last letter:


Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutored mind,

Impels him, in order to raise the wind,

To double the pot and go it blind,

Until he’s busted, you know.

I wrote the three last lines of that poem, Ma, and Daniel Webster wrote the other one—which was really very good for Daniel, considering that he wasn’t a natural poet. He used to say himself, that unabridged dictionaries was his strong suit. Now if you should happen to get aground on those two mysterious expressions in the third line, let me caution you, Madam, before you reach after that inevitable “Whole Duty of Man,” that you’ll not be likely to find any explanation of them in that useful and highly entertaining volume, because I’ve got that learned author cornered at last—got the dead-wood on him, Ma—and you’ll get no consolation out of him, you know; for those are Poker expressions—technical terms made use of in the noble game of Poker. And Poker not being a duty of man at all, is probably not even mentioned in that book; therefore, I have got him, Madam, where he can neither trump nor follow suit.

Bully for me.

But you said in your last, “Do tell me all about the lordly sons of the forest, and the graceful and beautiful sq-squaws, (what an unpleasant word,) sweeping over the prairies on their fiery steeds, or chasing the timid deer, or reposing in the shade of some grand old tree, lulled by the soft music of murmuring brooks and warbling birds—do.”

Gently, now,—gent-ly, Madam. You can’t mean the Pi-Utes, or the Washoes, or the Shoshones, do you? Because if you do, you are barking up the wrong tree, you know; or in other words, you’ve got the wrong sow by the ear, Madam. For among those tribes there are no lordly sons of the forest, for the ferocious reason that there are no forests of any consequence here. At any rate, I am confident that those fellows are never designated by that name in this Territory. Generally speaking, we call them sons of the devil, when we can’t think of anything worse. And they don’t sweep over the prairies on their fiery steeds,—these Washoes, and Pi-Utes and Shoshones, don’t,—because they haven’t got any, you know. And there are no prairies, Ma, because sage-brush deserts don’t come under that head, in this portion of Paradise Lost. Nor they don’t chase the timid deer; nor they don’t repose in the shade of some grand old tree; nor they don’t get lulled by the soft music of murmuring brooks and warbling birds. None of them. Because, when the timid deer come prospecting around here, and find that hay is worth one hundred and fifty dollars a ton, and sage-brush isn’t good to eat, they just turn their bob-tails toward the rising sun and skedaddle, my dear. And all that about these Pi-Utes sunning themselves in the shade of the grand old trees, is a grand old humbug, you know—on account of the scarcity of the raw material. Also the item about the warbling birds. Because there are no warbling birds here, except magpies and turkey-buzzards. And they don’t warble any to signify, because, if they fooled their time away with that sort of nonsense they would starve to death, suddenly. I tell you, Madam, that when a buzzard moves his family into Nevada Territory, he soon discovers that he has got to shin around and earn his living by the sweat of his brow, and that singing is played out with him. Moreover, Ma, you know as well as any one what a great puffed-up, stupid buzzard looks like, so you can picture the bird to yourself as I invariably see him here—standing solemnly on a decomposed ox, (and looking for the world as if he had his hands under his coat-tails,) with his head canted to one side, his left leg advanced to steady himself, and chewing a fragrant thing of entrails with their ends dangling about his portly bosom. I ask you in all candor, Madam, if the best disposed buzzard in the world could warble under such circumstances? Scasely. But wouldn’t it make a bully coat-of-arms for the Territory?—neat and appropriate, and all that? And wouldn’t it look gay on the great seal, and the military commissions, and so forth, and so on, and cetera? I proposed it, but the Secretary of the Territory said it was “disgusting.” So he got one put through the Legislature with star-spangled banners and quartz mills and things in it. And nary buzzard. It is all right, perhaps—but I know there are more buzzards than quartz-mills in Nevada Territory. I understand it though—he wanted the glory of discovering and inventing and designing the coat-of-arms of this great Territory—savvy?—with a lot of barbarous latin about “Volens and Potens”;—(able and willing, you know,[)] which would have done just as well for my buzzard as it does for his quartz-mills.

But if you want a full and correct account of these lovely Indians—not gleaned from Cooper’s novels, Madam, but the result of personal observation—a strictly reliable account, which you could bet on with as much confidence as you could on four aces, you will find that on that subject I am a Fund of useful information to which the whole duty of man isn’t a circumstance. For instance: imagine this warrior Hoop-de-doodle-do, head chief of the Washoes. He is five feet seven inches high; has a very broad face, whose coat of red paint is getting spotty and dim in consequence of accumulating dirt and grease; his hair is black and straight, and dangles about his shoulders; his battered stove-pipe hat is trimmed all over with bits of gaudy ribbon and tarnished artificial flowers, and he wears it sometimes over his eyes, with an exceedingly gallus air, and sometimes on the back of his head; on his feet he wears one boot and one shoe—very ancient; his imperial robe, which almost drags the ground, is composed of a vast number of light-gray rabbit-skins sewed together; but the crowning glory of his costume, (which he sports on great occasions in corduroy pants, and dispensing with the robe,) is a set of ladies’ patent extension steel-spring hoops, presented to him by Gov. Nye—and when he gets that arrangement on, he looks like a very long and very bob-tailed bird in a cage that isn’t big enough for him. Now, Ma, you know what the warrior Hoop-de-doodle-doo looks like—and if you desire to know what he smells like, let him stand by the stove a moment, but have your hartshorn handy, for I tell you he could give the stink-pots of Sebastopol four in the game and skunk them. Follow him, too, when he goes out, and burn gun powder in his footsteps; because wherever he walks he sheds vermin of such prodigious size that the smallest specimen could swallow a grain of wheat without straining at it, and still feel hungry. You must not suppose that the warrior drops these vermin from choice, though. By no means, Madam—for he knows something about them which you don’t; viz, that they are good to eat. There now. Can you find anything like that in Cooper? Perhaps not. Yet I could go before a magistrate and testify that the portrait is correct in every particular. Old Hoop himself would say it was “heap good.”

This morning I had a visit from three of the head-chief Hoop-de-doodle-doo’s wives—graceful, beautiful creatures, called respectively, Timid-Rat, Soaring Lark and Gentle Wild-Cat. (You see, like all Indians, they glory in high-sounding names.) They had broad, flat faces, which were dirty to the extreme of fashion, they wore the royal rabbit skin robe, their stringy matted hair hung nearly to their waists, they had forgotten their shoes, and left their bonnets at home, only one of them wore jewelry, the Timid Rat around whose leathery throat was suspended a regal necklace composed of scraps of tin. Their shapelessness caused them to resemble three great muffs. The young chief Bottled Thunder was with the party, bottled up in a sort of long basket and strapped to the back of the Soaring Lark.

Also a juvenile muff, in the person of the Princess Invisible Rainbow, with a cigar box strapped to her back, containing a bogus infant made of rags—which leads me to suspect that a weakness for doll-babies is not a result of education, but an instinct, which comes as natural to any species of girl as keeping clothing store does to a jew.

You see, ma, I was taking breakfast with a friend, this morning, and the Princesses came and rested their elbows on the window sill and thrust their heads in, like three very ancient and smoky portraits trying to get out of their frame. They examined the breakfast leisurely, and criticised it in their own tongue; they pointed at each article of food, with their long, skinny fingers, and asked each other’s opinion about it; and they kept an accurate record of each mouthful we took, and figured up the total, occasionally. After awhile the Gentle Wild Cat remarked: “May be whity man no heap eat um grass-hopper?” (their principal article of diet, ma,) and John replied, “May be whity man no heap like um grass-hopper—savvy!” And thus the Lark: “May be bimeby Injun heap ketch um sage-hen.” “Sage-hen heap good—bully!” said John. You see, these savages speak broken English, madam, and you’ve got to answer accordingly, because they can’t understand the unfractured article, you know. We held further conversation with them, of the same interesting character, after which we closed the “talk” by giving them a bar of soap and a cup of coffee for breakfast, and requesting them to leave, which they did, after they had begged a few old shirts, boots, hats, etc., and a deck of cards. They adjourned to the wood pile, and resolved to poker a little—for these Indians are inveterate gamblers, ma. First they “dealt” and “antied,” threw up their “hands,” and “doubled the pot,” and dealt again. This time the Gentle Wild Cat “went blind,” to the extent of a pair of boots; the Timid Rat “saw the blind,” although it took a check shirt and a Peruvian hat to “come in;” the Soaring Lark “straddled the blind,” which created a sensation, you know, and seemed to cause the other ladies great anxiety of mind, as to whether the Lark held an “ace full,” or was only “bluffing.” However, when an Indian gets to gambling he doesn’t care a cent for expenses, so they rallied and “came in” handsomely. And the way old clothes were piled up there, when the betting had fairly commenced, was interesting. As soon as one Princess would bet a hat, another would “see that hat” and “go a pair of socks better;” until the Timid Rat had staked her darling necklace, and the Gentle Wild Cat’s last shirt was on the pile. At this stage of the game, great excitement prevailed, and the Soaring Lark was in despair, for she couldn’t “come in.” Presently, aware that she was the centre of an absorbing interest, and appreciating the grandeur of her position, she grew desperate and gallantly “called” her opponents, for she unstrapped the Bottled Thunder, and bet that mighty Prince against the game, and all hands said bully for the Lark. The denouement was thrilling. The Gentle Wild Cat showed four aces, and thereby “busted” the party, madam, because four aces can’t be beaten, you know. Make a note of that on the fly-leaf of your Whole Duty of Man, for future reference. You will find it useful, if you ever turn Injun, for then your dusky compatriots will not think much of you if you don’t gamble.

Now, if you are acquainted with any romantic young ladies or gentlemen who dote on these loves of Indians, send them out here before the disease strikes in.

S. L. C.


[MTL 1: 174]. (Printed in the Keokuk Gate City, June 25, 1862).


April 2 Wednesday – Sam wrote from Carson City to his mother about Orion, ladies back home, trying to rent a better office for Orion, the death of an acquaintance at Fort Donelson, and other goings on.

My Dear Mother:

Yours of March 2d, has just been received. I see I am in for it again—with Annie. But she ought to know that I was always stupid. She used to try to teach me lessons from the Bible, but I never could understand them. Don’t she remember telling me the story of Moses, one Sunday, last Spring, and how hard she tried to explain it and simplify it so that I could understand it—but I couldn’t? And how she said it was strange that while her ma and her grandma and her uncle Orion could understand anything in the world, I was so dull that I couldn’t understand the “ea-siest thing?” And don’t she remember that finally a light broke in upon me and I said it was all right—that I knew old Moses himself—and that he kept a clothing store in Market street? And then she went to her ma and said she didn’t know what would become of her uncle Sam—he was too dull to learn anything—ever! And I’m just as dull yet. Now I have no doubt her letter was spelled right, and was correct in all particulars—but then I had to read it according to my lights; and they being inferior, she ought to overlook the mistakes I make—especially, as it is not my fault that I wasn’t born with good sense. I am sure she will detect an encouraging ray of intelligence in that last argument.

Lord bless me, who can write where Orion is. I wish he had been endowed with some conception of music—for, with his diabolical notions of time and tune he is worse than the itch when he begins to whistle. And for some wise but not apparent reason, Providence has ordained that he shall whistle when he feels pleasant—notwithstanding the fact that the barbarous sounds he produces are bound to drive comfort away from every one else within ear-shot of them. I have got to sit still and be tortured with his infernal discords, and fag-ends of tunes which were worn out and discarded before “Roll on—Sil-ver Moo-oon” became popular, strung together without regard to taste, time, melody, or the eternal fitness of things, because, if I should boil over and say I wish his music would bust him, there’d be a row, you know. For I discovered, by accident, that he looks upon his Variations as something of an accomplishment, and when he does warble, he warbles very complacently. I told him once, on the plains, that I couldn’t stand his cursed din—that he was worse than a rusty wheel-barrow—and if he did not stop it I would get out of the coach. Now he didn’t say “get out and be d—d,” but I know he thought it, Ma, and if I were you I would just touch him up a little, and give him some advice about profane swearing—not so as to hurt his feelings, you know, but just to give him to understand, in a general way, that you don’t lend your countenance to that sort of thing. You’re his mother, you know, and consequently, it is your right, and your business and comes within the line of your duties, as laid down in the Articles of War. Now I could do it—I could stir him up in such a way—I could read him a lecture that would make him “grit his teeth” and d—n all creation for a week, bless you. But then I am not his mother, you know, consequently it is not in my line—it must come from you—don’t you see?

Now to my thinking, Miss Louisa Conrad and Miss Chipman are young ladies of remarkably fine taste—and an honor to St. Louis. Did Miss Conrad live “opposite” when I was at home? If she did, and you had described her, I would know who you mean. When I was in St. Louis, no young ladies lived “opposite” except those handsome Texas girls who dressed in black—and they lived opposite Mr. Schroter’s.

I am waiting here, trying to rent a better office for Orion. I have got the refusal after next week of a room 16 × 50 on first floor of a fire-proof brick—rent, eighteen hundred dollars a year. Don’t know yet whether we can get it or not. If it is not rented before the week is up, we can.

I was sorry to hear that Dick was killed. I gave him his first lesson in the musket drill. We had half a dozen muskets in our office when it was over Isbell’s Music Rooms. I asked Isbell to invite me and the other boys to come every Friday evening and hear his Choral Society, composed of ladies and gentlemen, rehearse—but he refused, and I told him I would spoil their fun. And I did, Madam. I enrolled Dick and Henry and the two Dutch boys into a military Company, took command of it, and ordered them to meet at the office every Friday evening for drill. I made them “order arms” oftener than necessary, perhaps, and they always did it with a will. And when those muskets would come down on the floor, it was of no use, you know—somebody had to have a headacheand nobody could sing. Isbell said he would “give in,” (Civil authorities, you know, are bound to knuckle to the military.) But he begged so hard that I relented, and compromised with him. And “for and in consideration” of certain things expressed between us, I agreed not to drill on a certain special occasion, when he was to have a number of invited guests. And we didn’t drill. But I was too many for him, anyhow, Madam. We got some round stones and some bottles, and we opened a ten-pin alley over his head, simultaneously with the opening of his concert. He said the ten-pin alley was worse than the drill—so we compromised again. But I wrote a burlesque on his principal anthem, and taught it to the boys. And the next Friday, when our Choral Society opened its lungs, the other one had to “dry up.” So we compromised again. And went back to the drill—and drilled, and drilled, until Isbell went into a decline—which culminated in his death at Pike’s Peak. And served him right. Dick enjoyed the sport amazingly, and never missed a drill, no matter how the weather was, although he lived more than a mile from the office. He was a lubberly cuss, like me, and couldn’t march gracefully, but he could “order arms” with any body. I couldn’t very easily forget Dick, for besides these things, he assisted in many a villainous conspiracy against Isbell’s peace of mind, wherein his Choral Class were not concerned.

Tell Carrie Schroter I will give her a lump of gold out of any mine or claim I have got—but she must send Dan Haines after it. I want to see Dan, anyhow.

Of course we can excuse Pamela from writing, while her eyes are sore. It is a pity her eyes distress her so much. She will have to try what Lake Bigler can do for them one of these days. I feel certain that it would cure any-body’s sore eyes, just to look at that Lake.

Ma, I perceive that you have a passion for funerals and processions yet—and I suppose Annie has, too. The paper Pamela sent has not arrived yet, containing an account of the celebration on the 22d, and I am afraid it will not come before I leave here. I would like much to see it.

Orion has heard of Mr. Mayor, but I have not, and I don’t know where the devil to go to look for him. Why don’t he come and see us? He knows we are here. Yes, I remember Miss Adda King. She was very good-looking, too, God forever bless her everlasting soul, but I don’t know her from John the Baptist—or any other man. However, I like to have them mentioned, you know. I must keep the run of every body.

I hope I am wearing the last white shirt that will embellish my person for many a day—for I do hope that I shall be out of Carson long before this reaches you. Love to all.

Very Respectfully


[MTL 1: 180-3]. Notes: Annie Moffett, Sam’s niece. Source gives Brook Sisters as possibly the “handsome Texas girls,” and Miss Chipman unidentified. George Schroter (b. 1813 or 1814), Wm. Moffett’s business partner since 1855 or 6. “Dick” was Richard Higham, a printer under Orion at Keokuk in 1856; he was killed at Ft. Donelson; Clemens included an account of Richard in his Auto. Dictation of Mar. 26, 1906. See entry Vol IV. Caroline (Carrie) Schroter (b. 1833 or 1834), wife of Wm. Moffett’s partner. Daniel Haines (b. 1836 or 1837) was Carrie’s brother. Mr. Mayor and Miss Adda King are unidentified.

All during March and April it snowed and rained with winds in the high Sierras [Mack 155].

April 213 Sunday Sam went south 120 miles to the Esmeralda mining district with Thomas C. Nye, the governor’s brother, arriving sometime between these dates [MTL 1: 184-5n1]. There he joined Robert M. Howland and Horatio (“Raish”) Phillips. This is where Sam shared the tiny cabin that was restored and moved to a Reno park in 1924 only to be destroyed by vandals in 1944 [The Twainian, Nov.-Dec. 1948 p 4].


April 10? Thursday – Sam wrote a plea for money from Orion for mining prospects in Aurora in a letter that is now lost but quoted by Paine [MTL 1: 184n1].


April 13 Sunday – Sam wrote from Aurora to Orion about Indian hostilities he had come through. Also about the mining prospects in the Esmeralda. Sam needed money.

P.S. Remember me                                         Send me some stamps—3 and 10 cent.

to Tom & Lockhart

Esmeralda, 13th April, 1862

My Dear Brother:

Wasson got here night before last, “from the wars.” Tell Lockhart he is not wounded and not killed—is altogether unhurt. He says the whites left their stone fort before he and Lieut. Noble got there. A large amount of provisions and ammunition which they left behind them fell into the hands of the Indians. They had a pitched battle with the savages, some fifty miles from the fort, in which Scott, (sheriff,) and another man were killed. This was the day before the soldiers came up with them. I mean Noble’s men and those under Cols. Evans and Mayfield, from Los Angeles. Evans assumed the chief command—and next morning the forces were divided into three parties, and marched against the enemy. Col. Mayfield was killed, and Sargeant Gillespie also. Noble’s Corporal was wounded. The California troops went back home, and Noble remained, to help drive the stock over here. And, as Cousin Sally Dillard says this is all that I know about the fight.

Work not yet begun on the H. & Derby—haven’t seen it yet. It is still in the snow. Shall begin on it within 3 or 4 weeks—strike the ledge in July. Guess it is good—worth from $30 to $50 a foot in California.

Why didn’t you send the “Live Yankee” deed—the very one I wanted? Have made no inquiries about it, much. Don’t intend to until I get the deed. Send it along—by mail—d—n the Express—have to pay 3 times for all express matter; once in Carson and twice here. I don’t expect to take the saddle-bags out of the Express office. I paid 25 cts for the Express deeds.

Man named Gebhart [Gephart] shot here yesterday while trying to defend a claim on Last Chance Hill. Expect he will die.

Tell Mr. Upton that Green hasn’t paid me yet—he’ll have no money for several days. Tell him the two men would not acknowledge the deed. All I can do is to get the witness, (Miller,) to acknowledge it. He will be in town in a day or two. I gave the deed to Mr. DeKay.

These mills here are not worth a d—n—except Clayton’s—and it is not in full working trim yet.

Send me $20 $40 or $50—by mail—immediately.

Write to Billy not to be in a hurry, for I can’t get things fixed to suit me here for some time—can’t say how long.

The “Red Bird[] is probably good—can’t work on the tunnel on account of snow. The “Pugh” I have thrown away—shan’t re-locate it. It is nothing but bed-rock croppings—too much work to find the ledge, if there is one. Shan’t record the “Farnum” until I know more about it—perhaps not at all.

“Governor” under the snow.

“Douglas[] & Red Bird are both recorded.

I have had opportunities to get into several ledges, but refused all but three—expect to back out of two of them.

Stint yourself as much as possible, and lay up $100 or $150, subject to my call. I go to work to-morrow, with pick and shovel. Something’s got to come, by G—, before I let go, here.

Col. Young’s says you must rent Kinkead’s room by all means—Government would rather pay $150 a month for your office than $75 for Gen. North’s. Says you are playing your hand very badly, for either the Government’s good opinion or anybody’s else, in keeping your office in a shanty. Says put Gov. Nye in your place and he would have a stylish office, and no objections would ever be made, either. When old Col. Youngs talks this way, I think it time to get a fine office. And I wish you would take that office, and fit it up handsomely, so that I can quit telling people that by this time you are handsomely located, when I know it is no such thing.

I am living with ’Ratio Phillips. Send him one of those black portfolios—by the stage, and put a couple of penholders and a dozen steel pens in it.

If you should have occasion to dispose of the long desk before I return, don’t forget to break open the middle drawer and take out my things. Envelop my black cloth coat in a newspaper and hang it in the back room.

Don’t buy anything while I am here—but save up some money for me. Don’t send any money home. I shall have your next quarter’s salary spent before you get it, I think. I mean to make or break here within the next 2 or 3 months.




[MTL 1: 185]. Notes: Sam worked briefly in Clayton’s quartz mill in late June [AMT 2: 566] The Clemens brothers eventually owned about $5,000 worth of claims in the Esmeralda but didn’t gain back even the face value. The P.S. was to Thomas C. Nye, the governor’s nephew, and Jacob T. Lockhart, US Indian agent, both residing in Carson. “Cousin Sally Dilliard” is a reference to a lady talked about in Hamilton C. Jones burlesque sketch. M. Upton, Carson dry-goods dealer; William De Kay, deputy county clerk of the Esmeralda district. Gephart was shot in a gun fight with John Copeland and others over ownership of a mining claim. Joshua Elliot Clayton, well-known S.F. mining engineer, owned a mill east of Aurora. “Write to Billy” refers to William Dixon of Keokuk. Colonel Samuel Youngs (1803-1890); John W. North (1815-1890), at this time assoc. justice of the territorial supreme court. See notes in source for more details.

April 17 Thursday Orion wrote to Sam, his letter not extant but referred to in Sam’s of Apr. 24.

April 17 and 19 Saturday – Sam wrote from Aurora to Orion about various mining prospects [MTL 1: 189].

April 18 Friday – Sam, still in Aurora, wrote Billy Clagett about various mining prospects [MTL 1: 192].


April 24 Thursday – Sam began a letter from Aurora to Orion about money and mining that he finished on Apr. 25. Sam was upset that Orion had invested in other areas after promising not to.

My Dear Bro:

Yours of 17th, per express, just received. Part of it pleased me exceedingly, and part of it didn’t. Concerning the latter, for instance: You have promised me that you would leave all mining matters, and everything involving an outlay of money, in my hands. Now it may be a matter of no consequence at all to you, to keep your word with me, but I assure you I look upon it in a very different light. Indeed I fully expect you to deal as conscientiously with me as you would with any other man. Moreover, you know as well as I do, that the very best course that you and I can pursue will be, to keep on good terms with each other—notwithstanding which fact, we shall certainly split inside of six months if you go on in this way. You see I talk plainly. Because I know what is due me, and I would not put up with such treatment from any body but you. We discussed that Harroun business once before, and it was decided, then, that he was not to receive a cent of money. But you have paid him $50. And you agreed to pay a portion of Perry’s expenses, &c., although, as I gather from the tone of your letter, you knew, at that very moment, that you were breaking your word with me, and also, that all the money you might expend in that project would go to the devil without ever benefitting you a penny. As soon as Perry left your presence, you cursed yourself for being so easily persuaded, and resolved that he might pay his own prospecting expenses, without hope of assistance from you. Now wouldn’t it have been better to have saved yourself all this by simply pronouncing the talismanic “No,” which always sticks in your throat? And would it not be as well, even at this late day, to say to him that by a solemn promise made to me, you are debarred from expending money on prospecting tours, &c., in search of Mill Sites, (which is probably the d—dest strangest phantom that ever did flit before the dazed eyes of a prospector since that genus came into existence,) without first getting me to agree to it. That you have tried me, but it wouldn’t work. That I have already backed down from paying Pfersdorff’s expenses, and will never consent again, while the world stands, to help pay another man’s expenses. I don’t know where the Mountain House is, but I do know that if there is a mill site near the Mountain House worth having, Mr. Perry will arrive there a long time after it was taken up. But as for all the ledges he can find between now and next Christmas, I would not supply his trip with lucifer matches for a half interest in them. Sending a man fooling around the country after ledges, for God’s sake!—when there are hundreds of feet of them under my nose here, begging for owners, free of charge. G—d d—n it, I don’t want any more feet, and I won’t touch another foot—so you see, Orion, as far as any ledges of Perry’s are concerned, (or any other, except what I examine first with my own eyes), I freely yield my right to share ownership with you.

Now, Orion, I have given you a piece of my mind—you have it in full, and you deserved it—for you would be ashamed to acknowledge that you ever broke faith with another man as you have with me. I shall never look upon Ma’s face again, or Pamela’s, or get married, or revisit the “Banner State,” until I am a rich man—so you can easily see that when you stand between me and my fortune (the one which I shall make, as surely as Fate itself,) you stand between me and home, friends, and all that I care for—and by the Lord God! you must clear the track, you know!

The balance of your letter, I say, pleases me exceedingly. Especially that about the H. & D. being worth from $30 to $50 in Cal. It pleases me because, if the ledges prove to be worthless, it will be a pleasant reflection to know that others were beaten worse than ourselves. ’Raish  sold a man 30 feet, yesterday, at $20 a foot, although I was present at the sale, and told the man the ground wasn’t worth a d—n. He said he had been hankering after a few feet in the H. & D. for a long time, and he had got them at last, and he couldn’t help thinking he had secured a good thing. We went and looked at the ledges, and both of them acknowledged that there was nothing in them but good “indications.” Yet the owners in the H. & D. will part with anything else sooner than with feet in those ledges. Well, the work goes slowly—very slowly on, in the tunnel, and we’ll strike it some day. But—if we “strike it rich,”—I’ve lost my guess, that’s all. I expect that the way it got so high in Cal. was, that Raish’s brother, over there was offered $75000 for 20 feet of it, and he refused.

Yes, the saddlebags were all right. I had nothing to pay on them. With letters, though, the case is different. Have to pay for them at both ends of the route. Raish says money can’t be sent by mail. It’s a d—d curious mail, isn’t it?

The next excellent news is the $50, although I suppose I could have worried along with something less for a week or two.

But the best news of all is, your resolution to take Kinkead’s office; and when you come to furnish it, look at what the Country paid in that way for Turner’s office, and see if you can’t “go” a few dollars “better.” But the carpet—let that eclipse everything in town. I feel very much relieved, to think you will be out of that d—d coop shortly.

Lieut. Noble and his men are here. Three deserted yesterday. One was caught to-day and put in irons.4

Couldn’t go on the hill to-day. It snowed. It always snows here, I expect.

Don’t you suppose they have pretty much quit writing, at home?

When you receive your next ¼rs salary, don’t send any of it here until after you have told me you have got it. Remember this. I am afraid of that H. & D.

They have struck the ledge in the Live Yankee tunnel, and I told the President, Mr. Allen, that it wasn’t as good as the croppings. He said that was true enough, but they would hang to until it did prove rich. He is much of a gentleman, that man Allen.

Remember me to Tom Nye and Lockhart.

And ask Gasherie why the devil he don’t send along my commission as Deputy Sheriff. The fact of my being in California, and out of his county, would amount to a d—n with me, in the performance of my official duties.

I have nothing to report, at present, except that I shall find out all I want to know about this locality before I leave it.

Did you tell Upton what I told you in my last?

How do the Records pay?

Yr. Bro.


P.S.—Put off Harroun, now, until his pay comes out of the ledges. Phillips and I will see him this summer [MTL 1: 194]. Note: De Witt Harroun and J.A. Byers were Missouri acquaintances of Orion. D.J. Gasherie served two terms (1862-4) as Ormsby County sheriff, and was a minor character in two of Clemens’ 1863 sketches for the Territorial Enterprise. See source notes for more details.

April 25 Friday – In the morning in Aurora, Clemens finished the Apr. 24 to his brother:

P. S.—Friday Morning.—I am in a better humor this morning, but as you deserved a blowing-up, why, I will not deprive you of it. I am on my way now, with picks, &c., to work on my pet claim. If it proves good, you will know all about it some day—if it don’t, you will never even learn its name. So, wait, and banish hope—for I have Resolved, that it is like most Esmeralda ledges, viz: worthless. I went down with Lieut. Noble, awhile ago, to get Wasson’s order conveying the guns of the “Esmeralda Rifles” to his (N.’s) custody. The people here regret being deprived of these arms, as the Secessionists have declared that in case Cal. accedes to the new boundaries, Gov. Nye shall not assume jurisdiction here. Noble will perhaps remain here a fortnight, and hopes are entertained that Gen. Wright may be prevailed upon to allow the arms to remain here. All this has been told the Governor in a letter sent from here by mail. If that letter is still in Carson (or the P.O.,) express it to Frisco. It’s in a white mail envelop thus directed: “His Excellency Gov. Nye, Carson City, Nevada Territory.” (true copy: teste.)

[in ink, crosswise over the previous paragraph:]

Ratio, wishes you to ask Gen. Bunker, if he is still in Carson, to see Cradlebaugh, when he gets to Washington, and get him to use his best endeavors toward securing his brother’s appointment to the Naval School. Ratio will make the Gen. a handsome present of a good mining claim for his trouble [MTL 1: 197]. Note: John Cradlebaugh, elected as Nevada’s territorial delegate to the 37th Congress. See source notes for more, now online MTPO.


April 28 Monday – Sam wrote from Aurora to Orion about progress and hopes on various mining ledges. He also noted the family’s reaction back home to his last letter to the Keokuk Gate City:


“Ma and Pamela seem to be down on my last to the Gate City. Well, what’r they going to do about it—be Jes–s?—(though I would hate to ask them the question, you bet[)]” [MTL 1: 200].

About this time he began contributing letters, under the pen name “Josh” to the Territorial Enterprise. It may be that Sam’s letters home of Jan. 30 and Mar. 20 printed in the Keokuk Gate City were given such favorable response that Sam felt he could make a few dollars sending letters of local color to other newspapers. Sam had previously made money sending “E. Blab”’s humorous letters to newspapers [MTL 1: 199].


May 4 Sunday – Sam began a letter in Aurora to Orion that he finished on May 5. He writes about each Aurora speculation and about Orion’s gold sample sent. Clearly, Sam still had the fever [MTL 1: 201].

May 5 Monday – Sam finished his May 4 to Orion. He needed $20 [MTL 1: 203-4].

May 9 Friday – The Clemens Gold and Silver Mining Co. was formed to work 800 feet of the Monitor ledge, on Middle Hill in Aurora. The partners were: Sam Clemens, Calvin H. Higbie (d.1914), Daniel H. Twing, and J.D. LaRue. The company was incorporated on Feb. 27, 1863 with Twing and two others; Sam was not mining by then [MTL 1: 211n1]. Note: In his Aug. 10, 1906 A.D. Sam recalled Higbie as,


“—a most kindly, engaging, frank, unpretentious, unlettered, and utterly honest, truthful, and honorable giant; practical, unimaginative, destitute of humor, well endowed with good plain common sense, and as simple-hearted as a child” [AMT 2: 168].

May 1112 Monday – In Aurora, Sam wrote to Orion, reminding him of his need for money. Mention was made of his old pilot teacher, Horace Bixby and his service in the Union flotilla. Sam also wrote of a childhood friend: “It would be refreshing if they would catch Will Bowen and hang him.” Will was the boy with measles when 8-year-old Sam snuck into his room and slept next to him in order to catch the disease. Will also owed Sam $200, which may explain Sam’s remark [MTL 1: 205].


May 17 Saturday – Sam wrote from Aurora to Orion about a tiff with three other armed miners who entered and worked Sam’s claim. Such claim jumps could be dangerous business, and Sam referred to the killing of one Gephart on Apr. 11 over such a conflict [MTL 1: 215]. Transcribed from MTP’s “drop-in” letter file:

I thought it was a blank deed which Sam Montgomery sent me.

Send those Spanish spurs that hang in the office, out to “Thomas Messersmith, care of Billy Clagett,” by some safe person. I wore them in from Humboldt.

That is well. Let Mollie stay where she is, for the present.

Perhaps you had better send me your note to Teall.

Never send anything by that d—-d stage again, that can come by MAIL, as I have said before. The pkg envelops cost me 50 cents.

I hope Barstow will leave the “S.L.C.” off my Gate City letters, in case he publishes them. Put my Enterprise letters in the scrap book—but send no extracts from them East.

You perceive that I am not in a high good humor. For several reasons. One—Raish came home from the mill this morning, after working the whole night, and found a letter from Bob [Howland?], in which he learned that no sale had been effected. This reduced his spirits to the lowest possible notch, for he is out of money, or nearly so….Another thing is, two or three of the old “Salina” company entered our hold on the Monitor yesterday morning, before our men got there, and took possession, armed with revolvers. And according to the d—d laws of the forever d—d country, nothing but District Court (and there ain’t any) can touch the matter….We went up and demanded possession, and they refused. Said they were in the hole, armed, and meant to die in it, if necessary….Now you understand the shooting scrape in which Gephart was killed the other day.

Ask Tom to give my dear love to Miss P.—she with the long curls, out there under the hill.

Yr. Bro. Sam.

P.S.—Crooker is strapped, and is anxious for you to get his scrip and sell it at as good price as you can, and send him the money.

Charge the fee—nobody remits fees for me here, by a d—d sight. Charge everybody fees. Col. Youngs wants you to see Kidder or Gen. North and ask when the California boundary will be run and finished….We enter suit to-morrow to get possession of the Monitor.

Note: Colonel Samuel Youngs (1803-1890). MTL annotations reveal that “Miss P.” was Carrie Pixley. William E. Teall sold Orion 25 mining feet in 1861. D.C. Crooker was a clerk at the district recorder’s office who had mining claims with Robert Howland; Sam mentioned Crooker in earlier letters, on Apr. 17 and May 4. This P.S. was not in the printed volume, but in “drop-in” letters.

May 31 Saturday – The Esmeralda Star of this date ran an article on the mineral wealth in the district, and in particular gave an excited boost to the Wide West mine. Other papers also ran this article boosting the stock. Shortly after this report, Calvin Higbie obtained a sample from the Wide West and determined it was not Wide West rock [Mack 165-6]


June – Sometime during the month Cal Higbie, after several attempts, entered the Wide West mineshaft and broke off a sample from the ledge. He returned to the cabin he shared with Sam and “with smothered excitement” announced that it was “a blind lead”—that is, one that does not show on the surface of the claim. Mack explains the significance: “Since the ‘Wide West’ Company did not know of the blind lead down in the shaft, it was public property, and therefore Cal and Sam could locate it for their own” [166].

The pair took in a third partner, Mr. Allen, the foreman of the Wide West, and put up a notice that night, then registered their claim at the recorder’s office before ten o’clock. According to the rules then in place, those who located claims had to do “a fair and reasonable amount of work on their claims within ten days” [Mack 166-8]. Such was not to be.


June 2Monday – Sam’s money was running low; he wrote from Aurora to Orion for more [MTL 1: 216].


June 9 Monday – Sam wrote from Aurora to Orion, mostly about the lack of progress [MTL 1: 218].

June 22 Sunday – Sam wrote from Aurora to Orion about work on the “Annipolitan” and “Flyaway” claims. He drew a picture of a successful mine in relation to his claims. After mining talk he wrote:

…. I have been here as long, now, as it is in my nature to stay in one place—and from this out I shall feel as much like a prisoner as if I were in the county jail. I believe I have not spent six months in one place (unless I was in Keokuk, that long,) since 1853—ten years ago—and God knows I want to be moving to-day. Well, this is the first time I have uttered a complaint since I have been here, but it is not the first time I have felt one. Christ! how sick I am of these same old humdrum scenes.

Those Enterprise fellows make perfect nonsense of my letters—like all d—d fool printers, they can’t follow the punctuation as it is in the manuscript. They have, by this means made a mass of senseless, d—d stupidity out of my last letter.

I received $25 from you nearly a week ago, I believe. I am sorry it has to come from the school fund,—for I am afraid it might be called for, you know. Did you get my letter about the business of Barstow—and his letter? Do not hint to Gillesp anything about it.

Put all of Josh’s letters in my scrap book. I may have use for them some day.

If you should ever remove the long desk from your office, don’t forget to take out my letters and traps from the middle drawer.

You have heard nothing from your last quarter’s salary, I suppose.

It is time now to begin your arrangements for a supply of stationery for the Legislature, I should think.

I have quit writing for the “Gate.” I haven’t got time to write. I half intended writing east to-night, but I hardly think I will. Tell Mollie I will not offend again. I see by a Boston paper that Colorado Territory expects to export $40,000,000 (bullion, I believe,) this year. Nevada had better look to her laurels.

Your Bro.


[MTL 1: 220]. Note: William Martin Gillespie (1838-1885) was planning to start a newspaper. See source notes.

June 25 Wednesday – Sam wrote a short note from Aurora to Orion about mines and money:

My Dear Bro:

The mail will close in a few moments. D—n Johnson [Lode] and the whole tribe. I am sick of that old crib you are in. I received $25 per Express day before yesterday. If Gillespie gets up a large paper, it will suit me exactly to correspond for it. I shall not refuse pay, either, although $4 or $5 a week could hardly be called extensive when you write by the “column,” you know. I am his man, though. Let me know further about his paper—and let it not fail as utterly as the Laws did.

No—haven’t struck anything in the “Annipolitan.” No—down 12 feet—am not afraid of it. It will come out well I think. It don’t cost Flyaway $50 per ton for crushing—only $20. Clayton wanted to help the boys. We shan’t touch the Monitor until the 1st July, at least. Haven’t got an Enterprise of the 8th. Raish sent it to the Bay. I gave [D.C.] Crooker the bill. He looked at the law and found 30 cents a mile allowed—which makes his claim worth 30 or $35 anyhow. Thank you for writing home for me. They’ve struck good pay rock in another shaft within 50 yards of Annipolitan hole. Assays $75.

Yr. Bro,


[MTL 1: 223]. Note: Sam worked briefly in Clayton’s quartz mill in late June [AMT 2: 566].

Sam’s letter of Mar. 20 to his mother about Indians out West was printed in the Keokuk Gate City [MTL 1: 174].


Summer, mid – After this time Horatio Phillips probably left the group, as he was no longer mentioned in Sam’s letters. Sam took on a new partner, Calvin Higbie, the only experienced miner in the bunch. Mack describes him (see also MTA 2: 257-62):

“‘…a man of great stature, who was muscled like a giant. He could handle a long-handled shovel like an emperor, and he could work patiently and contentedly twelve hours on a stretch without ever hastening his pulse or his breath.’ Cal, who was a hard-rock practical miner, gave Sam the benefit of his mining experience, as Ballou had done on the Humboldt trip” [162].


July, 1 Tuesday ca. – In Chapter 41 of Roughing It, Sam wrote that he nursed John Nye, the Governor’s brother, for nine days at Gardiner’s Nine Mile Ranch. The Esmeralda Star reported on July 12 that Nye was “an invalid, lying upon his back, all stiffened and swollen up by that excruciating disease—inflammatory rheumatism” [MTL 1: 226n1]. Sam’s letter of July 9 puts his servitude at approximately this date. While Sam was nursing Nye, he assumed Higbie was doing the mandatory claim work on the “blind lead.” Cal had followed another path (looking into a cement mine); Higbie assumed Sam was doing the claim work. The required ten days passed. Sam and Cal had been millionaires for ten days. Note: Sam’s dedication of RI was to Higbie and the ten days they’d been millionaires together.


July 9 Wednesday – Sam wrote from Aurora to Orion. In part:

I am here again. Capt. Nye, as his disease grew worse, grew so peevish and abusive, that I quarreled with him and left. He required almost constant attention, day and night, but he made no effort to hire anyone to assist me. He said he nursed the Governor three weeks, day and night—which is a d—d lie, I suspect. He told Mrs. Gardiner he would take up the quarrel with me again when he gets well. He shall not find me unwilling. Mr. and Mrs. G. dislike him, and are very anxious to get rid of him [MTL 1: 224].

 Sam also instructed his brother on how to handle money, and warned him not to tell anyone that his salary had arrived, especially Horatio Phillips; he advised on debts to pay off.

“I caught a violent cold at Clayton’s, which lasted two weeks, and I came near getting salivated, working in the quicksilver and chemicals. I hardly think I shall try the experiment again. It is a confining business, and [I] will not be confined, for love nor money” [225].


Sam also wrote about his new partner and “steadfast friend” Calvin H. Higbie, “a large, strong man” with the “perseverance of the devil.”


July 13 Sunday An Aurora correspondent, probably Sam, reported that the Wide West mine and the Pride of Utah mine had “run together.” The Pride men “built a fire of such aromatic fuel as old boots, rags, etc., in the bottom of their shaft, and closed up the top, thus converting the Wide West shaft into a chimney,” which temporarily stopped work [RI 1993, explanatory notes 643].


July 21 Monday – Sam wrote from Aurora to Orion:

This is to introduce to you my obliging friend H.G. Phillips, whom you have often heard of but never seen, I believe. Whatever assistance you can be to him during his stay in Carson will be properly appreciated. If you wish to know more of my concerns here than I have told you, Raish can give you the information. Yr Bro, Sam [MTP]. Note Compare this sentiment with Sam’s July 9 warning letter. Horatio G. Phillips (“Raish”).

July 23 Wednesday – Sam wrote from Aurora to Orion about losing out on the “blind lead” and not owning a foot in the “Johnson ledge” of that claim. After that opening paragraph, he wrote:

Well, I am willing Mollie should come, provided she brings John with her. John would do well here. Are you in the new office yet?

I have written Judge Turner—but I didn’t tell him Johnny had written me—don’t you. I have offered to sell all my half the ground to him except the Fresno for $700—or $400, if he will give me his Fresno. I don’t want the d—d ground. If Judge Turner is not there, and will not be there soon, take his letter out of the office and send it to him.

I have not your letter by me now, and I do not remember all that was in it. At any rate, with regard to Phillips, don’t depart from my instructions in my last. He is a d—d rascal, and I can get the signatures of 25 men to this sentiment whenever I want them. He shall not be paid out of the Record fund. Tell him if he can’t wait for the money, he can have his ground back, and welcome—that is, 12½ feet of it—or 25, for that matter, for it isn’t worth a d—n, except that the work on it will hold it until the next great convulsion of nature injects gold and silver into it.

My debts are greater than I thought for. I bought $25 worth of clothing, and sent $25 to Higbie, in the cement diggings. I owe about 45 or $50, and have got about $45 in my pocket. But how in the h—1 I am going to live on something over $100 until October or November, is singular. The fact is, I must have something to do, and that shortly, too. I want that money to pay assessments with. And if Turner don’t accept my offer right away, I’ll make a sale of that ground d—d soon. I don’t want to sell any of it, though until the Fresno tunnel is in. Then I’ll sell the extension.

Now write to the Sacramento Union folks, or to Marsh, and tell them I’ll write as many letters a week as they want, for $10 a week—my board must be paid. Tell them I have corresponded with the N. Orleans Crescent, and other papers—and the Enterprise. California is full of people who have interests here, and it’s d—d seldom they hear from this country. I can’t write a specimen letternow, at any rate—I’d rather undertake to write a Greek poem. Tell ’em the mail & express leave here three times a week, and it costs from 25 to 50 cents to send letters by that blasted express. If they want letters from here, who’ll run from morning till nights collecting materials cheaper. I’ll write a short letter twice a week for the present for the “Age,” for $5 per week. Now it has been a long time since I couldn’t make my own living, and it shall be a long time before I loaf another year.

No, you needn’t pay Upton. I took all sorts of pains, and run after men every day for two weeks trying to fix up that business of his here, about his house, and d—n him, he has never even answered my letters on the subject. If I sell any of Johnny’s ground, he shall be paid.

I want to have a shaft sunk 100 feet on the Monitor, but I am afraid to try it, for want of money. Don’t send any money home.

If I can think of it I will enclose that scrap about the old scissors, and you can paste it in my scrap book. Who the devil was that James Clemens, I wonder? Pamela enters into no explanations.

We can’t decide what is to be done with the Fresno until DeKay gets back from Mono.

If I get the other 25 feet in the Johnson ex., I shan’t care a d—n. I’ll be willing to curse awhile and wait. And if I can’t move the bowels of these hills this fall, I will come up and clerk for you until I get money enough to go over the mountains for the winter.

Yr. Bro,


[MTL 1: 228; MTPO]. Notes: John = John E. K. Stotts (b.1828), Mollie Clemens’s older brother, wholesale dry-goods salesman and Keokuk merchant. Johnny = John D. Kinney of Cincinnati. Marsh = Andrew J. Marsh, Nevada legislative correspondent of the Sacramento Union. Pamela’s letter referred to is not extant, nor is the James Clemens identified.

July 28 Monday – Sam wrote from Aurora to Orion, who had been sending some of Sam’s letters to various editors. Sam also had trouble with Horatio G. Phillips, calling him a liar and listing five lies told about mines and claims, including the Annipolitan, the Derby and the Monitor:

Well you keep the d—d son of a tinker out of his money as long as you can, and I shall be satisfied. He is a New York man. And if you can find me 4 white men among your Northern-born acquaintances, I’ll eat them if they wish it. There are good men in the North, but they are d—d scarce. …

I am much obliged to Reardon, Murphy, Lockhart and Gallaher for the favor they show my letters. Barstow has written me offering pay, and I have answered him. And while I think of it, don’t commit yourself to Gillespie—I want a finger in that printing, with Barstow, if G. don’t start his paper. The Enterprise is making ready, with new type, &c.

      Do you still receive the “Gate?”

      I will think over the “Harper” proposition [MTP, drop-in letters].

Note: significantly, this letter shows Sam’s early preference for working on the EnterpriseWilliam H. Barstow’s offer of pay, new type, etc., though Sam wanted to see if William Gillespie’s plan of starting a newspaper came off. It did not. Gillespie was the legislative reporter who had showed Sam the ropes in Carson. Sam no doubt felt loyalty toward him.

July 30 Wednesday – In Aurora, Sam wrote to Orion about William H. Barstow’s offer and mining information

My Dear Bro:

Your letter to the Union was entirely satisfactory. I hope you will receive an answer right away, because Barstow has offered me the post of local reporter for the Enterprise at $25 a week, and I have written him that I will let him know next mail if possible, whether I can take it or not. If G. is not sure of starting his paper within a month, I think I had better close with Barstow’s offer.

Old Snyder, who owns in the H & D says it’s a big thing on account of the water and mill-site, even if it does have to lie still a while. Possibly he may be right.

Yes, the 50 feet in the Monitor, is worth what we paid for the H & D. I acknowledge that much.

Of course I don’t want to correspond with the Age until I know whether I shall remain here or not. So it makes no difference.

Yes—I wish John [Stotts]  would come. These claims of ours would soon sing a different song.

Oh, no, Johnny wasn’t expert at drawing deeds, by a d—d sight. I think Turner will discover that he managed to worry along, though, at it. He’s a d—d liar, too. He knows right well that his deed don’t convey him all the ground. Certainly—certainly—I have no doubt we shall understand each other. He shall understand me, at least. He can’t scare me with his legal threats either, such as he insinuated in his letter to me. He wants to know what I gave? Tell him that ranks as a “leading question.” As to the balance, I told him my deed conveys all of the ground to me—and that Johnny told me to deed half of it to him if he had not returned by the 1st July. I should think my words were explicit enough. I wrote the Judge as soon as I heard he was in Carson. I don’t care a d—n whose money bought the ground. Now I shan’t answer the Judge’s letter until I am in a good humor. I think my deed bears date March 1st, but I can’t go up to the Co. Rec.’s to see to-night, and I have not thought of it sooner. I have had a sort of general offer of $25 for my 25 feet of Mountain Flower, & have accepted. I told my agent (I don’t sell ground myself,) to sell the Judge’s at the same price, according to the Judge’s instructions to me, and he did so. The bargain will probably be closed within 3 or 4 days, and if the Judge don’t like the price he must speak before it is too late. The price suits me, since I can do no better. The balance of the ground won’t sell now, but the Fresno will be either valuable or worthless in a few weeks. I have started a man out to sell fifty feet in that for Judge Turner.

Oh, I don’t blame the Captain [John Nye] for being ill-natured when he was sick. The confinement made me so. I was what the yankees call “ugly,” you know.

I suppose Billy will know what to do with the National ground. If he thinks it best to sell, I will send him J.’s letter as authority.

What’s the matter with the mill out there? What’s the matter with Tillou? Why work the case-rock, if the ledge is 4 feet wide. I would not think it impossible to work a 4-foot shaft.

Yr. Bro.


[MTL 1: 231]. Note: Old Snyder was J.L. Snyder, partner with Horatio G. Phillips, Robert M. Howland and Clemens in the Horatio & Derby tunnel project in Aurora.

July, end – Sam’s mining fever waned. To make ends meet, he began sending letters to various papers. His “Joshletters to the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise had created some interest, and brother Orion’s finances were strained from increasing mining expenses. Sam’s legislative friend, William Barstow, worked in the Enterprise business office and convinced the paper’s owner, Joseph T. Goodman (1838-1917), that Sam was just the sort of writer the paper needed. Barstow wrote Sam, offering him a job as a reporter at $25 a week [MTL 1: 231].

August, early – Sam’s letter of July 30 to Orion stated that Sam wrote to Barstow asking when he might be needed [MTL 1: 231]. Note: Clearly, Sam was stalling for time to decide or perhaps time to see if any of the promising claims would present him with wealth, or perhaps if William Gillespie would start a newspaper (he did not). Sam may have felt that returning to a newspaper job was a step backward.

August 7 Thursday – Sam vacillated, hating to admit failure as a miner. He wrote from Aurora to Orion, telling him of Barstow’s offer of $25 week as a reporter on the Territorial Enterprise. Sam decided to think on the matter. His decision shaped the course of his life.

My Dear Bro:

Barstow wrote that if I wanted the place I could have it. I wrote him that I guessed I would take it, and asked him how long before I must come up there. I have not heard from him since.

Now I shall leave at midnight to-night, alone and on foot for a walk of 60 or 70 miles through a totally uninhabited country, and it is barely possible that mail facilities may prove infernally “slow” during the few weeks I expect to spend out there. But do you write Barstow that I have left here for a week or so, and in case he should want me he must write me here, or let me know through you. You see I want to know something about that country out yonder.

The Contractors say they will strike the Fresno next week. After fooling with those assayers a week, they concluded not to buy “M. Flower” at $50, although they would have given five times the sum for it four months ago. So I have made out a deed for one-half of all Johnny’s ground and acknowledged and left it in Judge F. K. Bechtel’s hands, and if Judge Turner wants it he must write to Bechtel and pay him his Notary fee of $1.50. I would have paid that fee myself, but I want money now as I leave town to-night. However, if you think it isn’t right, you can pay the fee to Judge Turner yourself.

Hang to your money now. I may want some when I get back.

Col. Youngs sends his regards, & says he will have our census completed & send up to you to-morrow, & we ought to have a larger representation—although the law said census must be taken in May—but he couldn’t help it, d—n’em they wouldn’t run the line.

Yes, I will scrape up some specimens—have got a lot—but they’re a d—d nuisance about a cabin. I picked up some splendid agates & such things, but I expect they are all lost by this time.

No—I shan’t pay Upton—just yet.

See that you keep out of debt—to anybody[.]Bully for Bunker. Write him that I would write him myself, but I am to take a walk to-night & haven’t time. Tell him to bring his family out with him. He can rely upon what I say—and I say the land has lost its ancient desolate appearance; the rose and the oleander have taken the place of the departed sage-brush; a rich black loam, garnished with moss, and flowers, and the greenest of grass, smiles to Heaven from the vanished sand-plains; the “endless snows” have all disappeared, and in their stead—or to repay us for their loss, the mountains rear their billowy heads aloft, crowned with a fadeless and eternal verdure; birds, and fountains, and trees—tropical trees—everywhere!—and the poet dreampt of Nevada when he wrote:

“—and Sharon waves, in solemn praise,

Her silent groves of palm.”

and to-day the royal Raven stands on a fragrant carcass and listens in a dreamy stupor to the songs of the thrush and the nightingale and the canary—and shudders when the gaudy-plumaged birds of the distant South sweep by him to the orange groves of Carson. Tell him he wouldn’t recognise the d—d country. He should bring his family by all means.

I intended to write home, but I haven’t done it.

Yr. Bro.em space Sam.

P. S. Put the enclosed slips in my scrap book. [MTL 1: 233]. Note: the two lines of poem from “Calm on the listening ear of night” (1834) by Edmund Hamilton Sears. The scrapbook mentioned is lost. Frederick K. Bechtel (b.1823) commissioner of deeds for Nevada Terr. Benjamin B. Bunker, attorney general of Nevada Terr.

Arthur B. Perkins, (1891-1977) the “first historian” of the Santa Clarita Valley, puts forth a theory about Sam’s wanderings during this week. Perkins claims to have seen a stagecoach entry made at Lyon’s Station, the nearest stage stop to Soledad Canyon, some fifty miles north of Los Angeles, where a gold discovery had just been made. This would have Sam traveling 600 miles round trip, which is possible, but less likely. The stagecoach entries have not survived, but such theories about Sam’s “Long Walk” have [Lennon 17].


Sam sold his mining interests to Judge George Turner. From a Christie’s sale (Lot 59 Sale 8444; May 17, 1996; avail. Online) a document written and signed by Samuel Clemens: 


By this indenture “Samuel L. Clemens of Mono Co., Cal.,” agrees to sell to “George Turner, of Carson City, Nevada Territory” for $1,000 his interests in “certain veins or lodes of rock containing precious metals…gold and silver bearing quartz, rock and earth therein.” In the blank space provided Clemens has carefully listed the shares (measured by feet) in 15 different claims (the names of which reflect the geographic origin of the prospectors): “Fifty (50) feet in the Sciola; 62 ½ in “Ottawa;” Fifty (50) in the “Allamoocha”; 6 ¼ in 1st Ex. S. “Winnomucca;” 25 feet in the “Tom Thumb;” 50 in the “Fresno;” 12 ½ feet in the “Horatio;” 100 feet in the 1st N.E.Ex. Fresno;” 50 feet in the “Rosetta;” 100 in the “Potomac;” 12 ½ in the “Daniel Boone”; 12 ½ feet in the “Boston”; 12 ½ in the “Great Mogul;” 12 ½ in the “Long Island;” 25 feet in the “Mountain Flower.” [See also MTL 1: 233n4 and 235n2.]


August 15 Friday – Sam returned from his hike, but still had not decided whether to take William Barstow’s offer. His entire future would hang on his decision. This same day he wrote from Aurora to his sister Pamela but didn’t mention newspaper prospects, which suggests Sam was still undecided.

My Dear Sister:

I mailed a letter to you and Ma this morning, but since then I have received yours to Orion and me. Therefore, I must answer right away, else I may leave town without doing it at all. What in thunder are pilot’s wages to me? which question, I beg humbly to observe, is of a general nature, and not discharged particularly at you. But it is singular, isn’t it, that such a matter should interest Orion, when it is of no earthly consequence to me? I never have once thought of returning home to go on the river again, and I never expect to do any more piloting at any price. My livelihood must be made in this country—and if I have to wait longer than I expected, let it be so—I have no fear of failure. You know I have extravagant hopes, for Orion tells you everything which he ought to keep to himself—but it’s his nature to do that sort of thing, and I let him alone. I did think for awhile of going home this fall—but when I found that that was and had been the cherished intention and the darling aspiration every year, of these old care-worn Californians for twelve weary years—I felt a little uncomfortable, but I stole a march on Disappointment and said I would not go home this fall. I will spend the winter in San Francisco, if possible. Do not tell any one that I had any idea of piloting again at present—for it is all a mistake. This country suits me, and—it shall suit me, whether or no. . . .

Dan Twing and I and Dan’s dog, “cabin” together—and will continue to do so for awhile—until I leave for—

The mansion is 10 × 12, with a “domestic” roof. Yesterday it rained—the first shower for five months. “Domestic,” it appears to me, is not water-proof. We went outside to keep from getting wet. Dan makes the bed when it is his turn to do it—and when it is my turn, I don’t, you know. The dog is not a good hunter, and he isn’t worth shucks to watch—but he scratches up the dirt floor of the cabin, and catches flies, and makes himself generally useful in the way of washing dishes. Dan gets up first in the morning and makes a fire—and I get up last and sit by it, while he cooks breakfast. We have a cold lunch at noon, and I cook supper—very much against my will. However, one must have one good meal a day, and if I were to live on Dan’s abominable cookery, I should lose my appetite, you know. Dan attended Dr. Chorpenning’s funeral yesterday, and he felt as though he ought to wear a white shirt—and we had a jolly good time finding such an article. We turned over all our traps, and he found one at last—but I shall always think it was suffering from yellow fever. He also found an old black coat, greasy, and wrinkled to that degree that it appeared to have been quilted at some time or other. In this gorgeous costume he attended the funeral. And when he returned, his own dog drove him away from the cabin, not recognizing him. This is true.

You would not like to live in a country where flour was $40 a barrel? Very well, then, I suppose you would not like to live here, where flour was $100 a barrel when I first came here. And shortly afterwards, it couldn’t be had at any price—and for one month the people lived on barley, beans and beef—and nothing beside. Oh, no—we didn’t luxuriate then! Perhaps not. But we said wise and severe things about the vanity and wickedness of high living. We preached our doctrine and practised it. Which course I respectfully recommend to the clergymen of St. Louis.

Where is Beck Jolly? and Bixby?

Your Brother


[MTL 1: 235-6]. Notes: Daniel H. Twing, one of Sam’s mining partner. On Feb. 18, 1863, Clemens gave Twing a special power of attorney over his mining interests. Clemens and Twing, were partners in the Clemens Gold and Silver Mining Co. Dr. F. Chorpenning was shot by William Pooler on July 28 “for being too attentive” to Pooler’s estranged wife [n.4].

August, late – Sam arrived at the Virginia City Enterprise, a “small rickety frame building at the corner of A Street and Sutton Avenue,” [Fatout, MT in VC 11] (later a large brick building on C Street) to take the job. According to Paine, Sam claimed he walked the 130 miles from Aurora and arrived in the afternoon of a “hot, dusty August day” and drawled to Denis E. McCarthy (1840-1885) one of the owners:

“My starboard leg seems to be unshipped. I’d like about one hundred yards of line; I think I am falling to pieces. I want to see Mr. Barstow, or Mr. Goodman. My name is Clemens, and I’ve come to write for the paper” [MTB 205].

Powers claims Sam’s first words at the Enterprise were, “Dang my buttons, if I don’t believe I’m lousy” [MT A Life 110].

William R. Gillis (Billy) (1840-1929) remembered a third, quite long, and different exchange in his 1930, Gold Rush Days with Mark Twain.


Whatever Sam uttered, William Wright (1829-1898), no middle initial, according to Joe Goodman to Paine, Apr. 5, 1912, (The Twainian July-Aug 1956 p4), a celebrity known in ink as Dan De Quille (sometimes written as Dan De Quille) was appointed the task of getting Sam settled in town. Dan and Sam became fast friends and later roommates.

Note: As for Sam’s “Long Walk,” Such an effort seems out of character. The route would have taken Sam through Carson City; some traffic was on the road; it’s probable Sam got a lift for at least part of the journey. Fatout agrees:

“He always maintained that he was too hard up to afford stage fare, hence walked the whole way. But he was generally averse to walking when he could ride, and the road was well traveled by many ore wagons plying between Aurora and Carson City. It is hard to believe that sociable drivers did not offer him a lift” [MT in VC 7].

Fatout also lists the Enterprise reporters: Dan De Quille, Captain Joe Plunkett, Rollin M. Daggett (1831-1901), Charles A.V. Putnam (b.1823?), Howard P. Taylor “and others.” Joe Goodman, “a versatile writer with a reputation as a poet, handled his temperamental employees with a loose rein that was good for both staff and paper. The efficient business management of Dennis (Jerry) Driscoll (1823-1876) made profits roll in. Organization was more big-city than that of any other Western paper outside of San Francisco, and pungent writers gave the Enterprise a virility and humor that made it popular, prosperous, and influential” [11]. Note: Putnam’s reminiscence of the Enterprise days ran in the Salt Lake City Tribune, April 25, 1898.


September 9 Tuesday – Sam wrote from Aurora, California/Nevada Territory to Billy Clagett, congratulating him on being elected to represent Humboldt County in the Territorial Legislature. Most of his letter deals with “the disgusting subject” of the Civil War and its losses. In part:

For more than two weeks I have been slashing around in the White Mountain District, partly for pleasure and partly for other reasons. And old Van Horn was in the party. He knows your daddy and the whole family, and every old citizen of Keokuk. He left there in ’53. He built parson Hummer’s Pavilion—and parson Williams’ house, and a dozen others. He says he used to go with your father when he stumped the district, and sing campaign songs. He is a comical old cuss, and can keep a camp alive with fun when he chooses. We had rare good times out there fishing for trout and hunting. I mean to go out there again before long.

I saw a man last June who swore that he knew of rich placer diggings within 100 miles of Humboldt City. What became of our placers, that we intended to visit last May?

Have you still a good opinion of those claims in Santa Clara?

Billy, I can’t stand another winter in this climate, unless I am obliged to. I have a sneaking notion of going down to the Colorado mines 2 months from now.

Remember me to Dad [Cornbury S. Tillou] and the boys.

Enclosed please find that power of Attorney.

Times have never grown brisk here until this week. I don’t think much of the camp—not as much as I did. Old fashioned winter & snow lasted until the middle of June.

Your old friend

Sam L C

[MTL 1: 238]. Note: William Van Horn, age about 42 at this time.

September 16 Tuesday Sam’s article, “ANOTHER INNOCENT MAN KILLED,” appeared in the Territorial Enterprise. Since the shooting was on Sunday and the paper did not print on Mondays, Marleau thinks this Tuesday was “likely the first day Samuel L. Clemens reported for the Territorial Enterprise” [“Some Early” 12].


October 1 Wednesday “The Indian Troubles on the Overland Route,” attributed to Sam, ran in the Local Column of the Enterprise. The article was about an Indian attack on emigrants [Fatout, MT in VC 12]. Sam later mentioned such an exaggerated approach to the news in his first days on the paper. Nearly all copies of the Enterprise for the period Sam worked there have been lost, but many papers in the West borrowed and reprinted from other newspapers. This article was reprinted on Oct. 5 by the Marysville, California, Daily Appeal. [Fatout, MT Speaks 1-4]. Also, attributed, in the LOCAL COLUMN:

A GALE. – About 7 o’clock Tuesday evening (Sept. 30th) a sudden blast of wind picked up a shooting gallery, two lodging houses and a drug store from their tall wooden stilts and set them down again some ten or twelve feet back of their original location, with such a degree of roughness as to jostle their insides into a sort of chaos. There were many guests in the lodging houses at the time of the accident, but it is pleasant to reflect that they seized their carpet sacks and vacated the premises with an alacrity suited to the occasion. No one hurt [ET&S 1: 389].

October 26 Monday From the Enterprise:




Translated – If a man’s sign blowing heavenward is a proof of it, than Justice Atwill was translated yesterday, and is doubtless holding Court in Paradise this morning for his shingle, bearing the legend “Justice,” was seen sailing over the Summit of Mount Davidson [Marleau, “Some Early” 12].


October 4 Saturday The hoax known as “The Petrified Man” ran in the Enterprise, and was re-printed by many newspapers in the West—some swallowed it whole, and some, after a few days, saw the joke [Fatout, MT Speaks 4; Mack 213].


A petrified man was found some time ago in the mountains south of Gravelly Ford. Every limb and feature of the stony mummy was perfect, not even excepting the left leg, which has evidently been a wooden one during the lifetime of the owner – which lifetime, by the way, came to a close about a century ago, in the opinion of a savan who has examined the defunct. The body was in a sitting posture, and leaning against a huge mass of croppings; the attitude was pensive, the right thumb resting against the side of the nose; the left thumb partially supported the chin, the fore-finger pressing the inner corner of the left eye and drawing it partly open; the right eye was closed, and the fingers of the right hand spread apart. This strange freak of nature created a profound sensation in the vicinity, and our informant states that by request, Justice Sewell or Sowell, of Humboldt City, at once proceeded to the spot and held an inquest on the body. The verdict of the jury was that “deceased came to his death from protracted exposure,” etc. The people of the neighborhood volunteered to bury the poor unfortunate, and were even anxious to do so; but it was discovered, when they attempted to remove him, that the water which had dripped upon him for ages from the crag above, had coursed down his back and deposited a limestone sediment under him which had glued him to the bed rock upon which he sat, as with a cement of adamant, and Judge S. refused to allow the charitable citizens to blast him from his position. The opinion expressed by his Honor that such a course would be little less than sacrilege, was eminently just and proper. Everybody goes to see the stone man, as many as three hundred having visited the hardened creature during the past five or six weeks [ET&S 1: 159].

In other words, the petrified man was thumbing his nose at Sam’s readers. It’s a wonder anyone took this “find” seriously, but many did! Note: Budd lists four newspaper reprintings from Oct. 9 to 18, “which appear to be derived independently from the Territorial Enterprise printing” [“Collected” 1001].

October 12 Sunday – Orion’s wife Mollie arrived in Carson City with their seven-year-old daughter, Jennie Clemens, after a steamer trip to San Francisco a week before. Sam was still in Virginia City [MTL 1: 242n1].

October 1316 Thursday An article of Sam’s, title missing, appeared in the Enterprise:

William Young of Long Valley arrived in Virginia, lately, with a drove of cattle, sold the same, and put the proceeds in his saddlebags and the saddlebags on his horse. He then adjourned to the dance house, and having partaken of the sinful pleasures of that place, he came back and found that somebody had carried off saddlebags, money and all during his absence. The fact of his leaving the horse and saddlebags lying around loose in the street at night is sufficient proof of Young’s confidence in the honesty of our citizens and the fact that the thief didn’t take the horse also when he took the money, is sufficient proof that that confidence was not entirely misplaced [Marleau, “Some Early” 12]. Note: Text recovered by Marleau from Sacramento Daily Union, Oct. 17 1862.

October 20 MondayMollie Clemens and daughter and Jennie arrived in San Francisco and were met by Orion. They left immediately for Carson [MTP card file quotes Mack]. Sam was aware of their arrival, as he wrote to them the next day.


October 21 Tuesday – Sam wrote from Virginia City to Orion & Mollie about how he made up the story “Petrified Man?” which several newspapers took as an actual scientific discovery. “I got it up to worry Sewall,” he wrote. G.T. Sewall was a judge of Humboldt County who was antagonistic toward Sam, probably over some governmental duties of Orion, and had withheld information from reporters in an officious and irritating way [MTL 1: 241].

October, late Sam wrote up his visit to the Spanish Mine and it was published in the Enterprise as “The Spanish Mine.” No copies of the Enterprise for that time are extant, but estimates from reprints make this time probable. An excerpt:


This comprises one hundred feet of the great Comstock lead, and is situated in the midst of the Ophir claims. We visited it yesterday, in company with Mr. Kingman, Assistant Superintendent, and our impression is that stout-legged people with an affinity to darkness, may spend an hour or so there very comfortably. A confused sense of being buried alive, and a vague consciousness of stony dampness, and huge timbers, and tortuous caverns, and bottomless holes with endless ropes hanging down into them, and narrow ladders climbing in a short twilight through the colossal lattice work and suddenly perishing in midnight, and workmen poking about in the gloom with twinkling candles—is all, or nearly all that remains to us of our experience in the Spanish mine [ET&S 1: 160-6].


November to December – Sam neglected his letter writing for this period and continued to work as a reporter for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise.

November 17 Friday Local Column, Enterprise, two items from Sam: “Silver Bricks” and “Building Lots” (Text recovered by Michael Marleau from reprinting in The Mining and Scientific Press of Nov. 8, 1862) [Marleau, “Some Early” 12].

November 110 Monday Sam follows up: LOCAL COLUMN

THE PETRIFIED MAN. – Mr. Herr Weisnicht has just arrived in Virginia City from the Humboldt mines and regions beyond. He brings with him the head and one foot of the petrified man, lately found in the mountains near Gravelly Ford. A skillful assayer has analyzed a small portion of dirt found under the nail of the great toe and pronounces the man to have been a native of the Kingdom of New Jersey. As a trace of “speculation” is still discernible in the left eye, it is thought the man was on his way to what is now the Washoe mining region for the purpose of locating the Comstock. The remains brought in are to be seen in a neat glass case in the third story of the Library Building, where they have been temporarily placed by Mr. Weisnicht for the inspection of the curious, and where they may be examined by any one who will take the trouble to visit them [ET&S 1: 392].

November 11 to December 20 Saturday – The second Territorial Legislature of Nevada was in session. Sam covered the session. According to Henry Nash Smith, “It is not clear how often he mailed dispatches back to Virginia City, but by bringing together two passages from his reminiscences one may infer that he sent a daily factual report and a weekly letter of a more personal and humorous cast” [34].

November 14 Friday On the fourth day of the Legislative proceedings, The Speaker of the House announced as reporters entitled to seats, Clement T. Rice, of the Virginia City Daily Union; Samuel L. Clemens, Territorial Enterprise; and Andrew J. Marsh of the Sacramento Union [Marsh 451].

November 30 Sunday Sam’s 27th birthday.

December 5 Friday One of Sam’s weekly letters, “Letter from Carson City” was dated this day and printed sometime in December in the Enterprise [Smith 35]. The letter included: “Alford vs. Dewing,” “Internal Improvements,” and “Williams Map.” Sam was the “Committee” in the first extant weekly letter:


Your committee, consisting of a solitary but very competent individual, to whom was referred Col. Williams’ road from a certain point to another place, would beg most respectfully to report:

Your committee has had under consideration said map.

The word map is derived from the Spanish word “mapa,” or the Portuguese word “mappa.” Says the learned lexicographer Webster, “in geography a map is a representation of the surface of the earth, or any part of it, drawn on paper or other material, exhibiting the lines of latitude and longitude, and the positions of countries, kingdoms, states, mountains, rivers, etc.”

Your committee, with due respect to the projector of the road in question, would designate what is styled in the report a map, an unnatural and diabolical scrawl, devoid of form, regularity or meaning.

Your committee has in times past witnessed the wild irregularity of the footprints of birds of prey upon a moist sea shore. Your committee was struck with the strong resemblance of the map under discussion to some one of said footprints.

Your committee, during his juvenile days, has watched a frantic and indiscreet fly emerge from a pot or vase containing molasses; your committee has seen said fly alight upon a scrap of virgin paper, and leave thereon a wild medley of wretched and discordant tracks; your committee was struck with the wonderful resemblance of said fly-tracks to the map now before your committee.

Yet your committee believes that the map in question has some merit as an abstract hieroglyphic.

Your committee, therefore, recommends, the Council concurring, that the aforesaid map be photographed, and that one copy thereof, framed in sage brush, be hung over the Speaker’s chair, and that another copy be donated to the Council, to be suspended over the chair of the President of that body, as a memento of the artistic skill and graphic genius of one of our most distinguished members – a guide to all future Pi-Utes. All of which is respectfully submitted [Smith 37].

December 12 Friday Another of Sam’s Weekly, “Letter from Carson City” was dated this day and printed sometime in December in the Enterprise [Smith 38].

The ladies have not smiled much on this Legislature, so far. Thirty-two of our loveliest visited the halls night before last, though, which is an encouraging symptom. I cannot conscientiously say they smiled, however, for the Revenue bill was before the House…The ladies were well pleased with the night session, though—they enjoyed it exceedingly—in many respects it was much superior to a funeral [Smith 41].

December 1319 Friday Sam’s article “The Pah-Utes” is published sometime between these dates in the Enterprise, and reprinted in the Marysville, California Appeal for Dec. 21.


Ah, well – it is touching to see these knotty and rugged old pioneers—who have beheld Nevada in her infancy, and toiled through her virgin sands unmolested by toll-keepers; and prospected her unsmiling hills, and knocked at the doors of her sealed treasure vaults; and camped with her horned-toads, and tarantulas and lizards, under her inhospitable sage brush; and smoked the same pipe; and imbibed lightning out of the same bottle; and eaten their regular bacon and beans from the same pot; and lain down to their rest under the same blanket—happy, and lousy and contented—yea, happier and lousier and more contented than they are this day, or may be in the days that are to come; it is touching, I say, to see these weather-beaten and blasted old patriarchs banding together like a decaying tribe, for the sake of the privations they have undergone, and the dangers they have met—to rehearse the deeds of the hoary past, and rescue its traditions from oblivion! The Pah-Ute Association will become a high and honorable order in the land—its certificate of membership a patent of nobility. I extend unto the fraternity the right hand of a poor but honest half-breed, and say God speed your sacred enterprise [ET&S 1: 170].


December 16 Tuesday ca. – An article attributed to Sam that was reprinted Dec. 18 in the Sacramento Daily Bee ran in the Enterprise. Sam was in Carson City and reported on the excitement of the hotly debated “corporation bill” which prohibited that “the majority of stock in all Nevada mining companies be owned by residents of the Territory, that company offices be established there, and that corporations formed under the laws of other states and territories be prohibited from doing business in Nevada” [Fatout, MT in VC 24]. Nevada miners were tired of seeing “Montgomery street speculators” play with their assets. Sam wrote:

Great excitement exists. Half the population is drunk—the balance will be before midnight. The flags are flying, and a general looseness prevails. Four hundred guns are now being fired on the Plaza [24]. Note: the bill was signed but later made of no effect.


December 19 Friday – By legislative act, Sam was made recording secretary of the Washoe Agricultural, Mining and Mechanical Society. The position paid $300 per year. He served until the completion of the society’s fair in Oct. 1863 [MTL 1: 266].

December 23 Tuesday Sam’s article dated Dec. 23 ran in the Enterprise sometime later in the month. It was republished in the Placer Weekly Courier of Forest Hill, Placer County on Jan. 17, 1863.


Carson, Midnight December 23d.

Eds., Enterprise:

On the last night of the session, Hon. Thomas Hannah announced that a Grand Bull Drivers’ Convention would assemble in Washoe City, on the 22d, to receive Hon. Jim Sturtevant and the other members of the Washoe delegation. I journeyed to the place yesterday to see that the ovation was properly conducted. I traveled per stage. The Unreliable of the Union went also — for the purpose of distorting the facts. The weather was delightful. It snowed the entire day. The wind blew such a hurricane that the coach drifted sideways from one toll road to another, and sometimes utterly refused to mind her helm. It is a fearful thing to be at sea in a stagecoach. We were anxious to get to Washoe by four o’clock, but luck was against us: we were delayed by stress of weather; we were hindered by the bad condition of the various toll roads; we finally broke the after spring of the wagon, and had to lay up for repairs. Therefore we only reached Washoe at dusk. Messrs. Lovejoy, Howard, Winters, Sturtevant, and Speaker Mills had left Carson ahead of us, and we found them in the city. They had not beaten us much, however, as I could perceive by their upright walk and untangled conversation. At 6 P.M., the Carson City Brass Band, followed by the Committee of Arrangements, and the Chairman of the Convention, and the delegation, and the invited guests, and the citizens generally, and the hurricane, marched up one of the most principal streets, and filed in imposing procession into Foulke’s Hall. The delegation, and the guests, and the band, were provided with comfortable seats near the Chairman’s desk, and the constituency occupied the body-pews. The delegation and the guests stood up and formed a semicircle, and Mr. Gregory introduced them one at a time to the constituency. Mr. Gregory did this with much grace and dignity, albeit he affected to stammer and gasp, and hesitate, and look colicky, and miscall the names, and miscall them again by way of correcting himself, and grab desperately at invisible things in the air — all with a charming pretense of being scared.


The supper and the champagne were excellent and abundant, and I offer no word of blame against anybody for eating and drinking pretty freely. If I were to blame anybody, I would commence with the Unreliable — for he drank until he lost all sense of etiquette. I actually found myself in bed with him with my boots on. However, as I said before, I cannot blame the cuss; it was a convivial occasion, and his little shortcomings ought to be overlooked. When I went to bed this morning, Mr. Lovejoy, arrayed in fiery red night clothes, was dancing the war dance of his tribe (he is President of the Paiute Association) around a spittoon and Colonel Howard, dressed in a similar manner, was trying to convince him that he was a humbug. A suspicion crossed my mind that they were partially intoxicated, but I could not be sure about it on account of everything appearing to turn around so. I left Washoe City this morning at nine o’clock, fully persuaded that I would like to go back there again when the next convention meets. [Mack. 224-27]. Note: John K. Lovejoy; Theodore Winters; others not identified.

December 27 SaturdayA. J. Simmons, later speaker of the house in the Nevada legislature, sold Sam ten feet in the Butte ledge, Tehema Mining Company for $1,000, and ten feet in the Kentucky ledge, Union Tunnel Company, both in Santa Clara district of Humboldt County [MTL 1: 278 n8]. Dan De Quille left Virginia City by overland stagecoach as planned for a nine-month visit to his home in Iowa. Benson writes that the expected absence of De Quille was one reason Barstow offered Sam a position [72]. It was feared by some that Dan would not return (see May 1, 1863 entry and the following Dec. 28).

December 28 Sunday Sam’s article, “The Illustrious Departed,” ran in the Enterprise:

Old Dan is gone, that good old soul, we ne’er shall see him more — for some time. He left for Carson yesterday, to be duly stamped and shipped to America, by way of the United States Overland Mail. As the stage was on the point of weighing anchor, the senior editor dashed wildly into Wasserman’s and captured a national flag, which he cast about Dan’s person to the tune of three rousing cheers from the bystanders. So, with the gorgeous drapery floating behind him, our kind and genial hero passed from our sight; and if fervent prayers from us, who seldom pray, can avail, his journey will be as safe and happy as though ministering angels watched over him. Dan has gone to the States for his health, and his family. He worked himself down in creating big strikes in the mines and keeping all the mills in this district going, whether their owners were willing or not. These herculean labors gradually undermined his health, but he went bravely on, and we are proud to say that as far as these things were concerned, he never gave up — the miners never did, and never could have conquered him. He fell under a scarcity of pack-trains and hay wagons. These had been the bulwark of the local column; his confidence in them was like unto that which men have in four aces; murders, robberies, fires, distinguished arrivals, were creatures of chance, which might or might not occur at any moment; but the pack-trains and the hay-wagons were certain, predestined, immutable! When these failed last week, he said “Et tu Brute,” and gave us his pen. His constitution suddenly warped, split and went under, and Daniel succumbed. We have a saving hope, though, that his trip across the Plains, through eighteen hundred miles of cheerful hay stacks, will so restore our loved and lost to his ancient health and energy, that when he returns next fall he will be able to run our five hundred mills as easily as he used to keep five-score moving. Dan is gone, but he departed in a blaze of glory, the like of which hath hardly been seen upon this earth since the blameless Elijah went up in his fiery chariot [ET&S 1: 171-4].


December 30 Tuesday – Sam’s Local Column was published in the Enterprise: “Board of Education,” “Blown Down,” “At Home,” “The School,” “Sad Accident,” “Thrilling Romance,” “Fire Almost,” “Private Party,” and “Our Stock Remarks”:

Owing to the fact that our stock reporter attended a wedding last evening, our report of transactions in that branch of robbery and speculation is not quite as complete and satisfactory as usual this morning [ET&S 1: 175-6].

1862 or 1863 16th of unidentified month Enterprise item by Sam. No title.

There is a rumor on the streets yesterday that there was a party of guerrillas somewhere in the vicinity of the Sink of the Carson, 500 strong. They are said to be well armed, having with them two or three batteries of artillery. The story goes that two of their number deserted and gave information of their whereabouts, etc., to Gov. Nye and that the Governor is now taking measures to squelch ‘em. We think their numbers are underrated: it is our firm belief that there are at least 50,000 guerrillas to every acre of ground about the Sink in the shape of mosquitos and gailinippers [Marleau, “Some Early” 11].

[Text recovered by Michael Marleau from reprinting in unidentified newspaper clipping. Reprinted in Mark Twain Journal, Fall 2004, 12]