Letter From Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Virginia City Territorial Enterprise/April 28, 1864

Carson City, April 25

EDS. ENTERPRISE: The road from Virginia to Carson – as traveled by Wilson’s coaches – is in excellent condition, the same being neither muddy nor very dusty. The stages do not even stop to rest on the chalk hill.

We came by the penitentiary, but I did not consider it worth while to stop at the institution more than a few minutes, inasmuch as I had been in it before. Bob Howland, the Warden, was at his post, and I had sufficient confidence in him to leave him there. He is probably there yet. N.B. – When you journey in this direction, stop at the penitentiary and examine the native silver fish on exhibition there in the aquarium. They are caught in the Warm Springs. They are very like gold-fish, only they are longer, and not so wide, and are white instead of yellow, and also differ from gold-fish to some extent in the respect that they do not resemble them. This description may sound a little incoherent, but then I have set it down just as I got it from Bob Howland, in whom I have every confidence. Mr. Curry is erecting a handsome stone edifice at the Warm Springs, to be used as a hotel.

I heard in the stage, and also since I arrived here, that an organized effort will shortly be made to rescue Jaynes, the murderer, from the Storey county jail. Whether it be true or not, it will not be amiss to put the officers on their guard with a hint.

The Supreme Court began its session here to-day, and adjourned over until to-morrow, after hearing arguments for a new trial of Johnson for killing Horace Smith. The ground upon which a new trial is sought, is that some testimony was admitted upon the first trial in the District Court which should have been ruled out. I have spoken with District Attorney Corson on the subject, and he thinks the movement for a rehearing will not succeed. From present appearances, I think Alderman Earl will hold his seat for some time yet (if the sacred ambition to sit in a high place in spite of law and gospel to the contrary shall continue to animate him), as it has already been decided to submit his case, through the District and City Attorneys, to the District Court, and the long session now anticipated for the Supreme Court, will doubtless delay his trial for some time. It would have been better, wouldn’t it, for the Council to have declared his seat vacant, and allowed him to take legal steps for its restitution himself?

Governor Nye has not yet returned. It is said he will start back to Carson to-morrow.

Acting-Governor Clemens made a requisition upon H. F. Rice, Esq., a day or two since, for offices for the Secretary of the Territory, rent-free, in accordance with the contract entered into by certain citizens during the late session of the Legislature when the subject of removing the Capital to Virginia was agitated. The requisition was duly honored, and in the course of the week, hand some offices will be fitted up in the second story of the north end of the county buildings for the use of the Secretary and his clerks.

Mr. Colburn, or Coleman, or whatever his name is – the young man with a penchant for trying unique experiments, and who was accused of committing a rape on an infant here three years ago – is in trouble again. A young girl who alleges that he seduced her in California some time ago, is over here suing him for damages in the Probate Court.

Your carrier here neglects some of his subscribers as often as two or three times a week, sometimes, or else his papers are stolen after he leaves them. Let the matter be attended to – the people hunger after Dan’s intellectual rubbish.

The ladies gave a festival here last Friday for the benefit of my chronic brick church. The net proceeds amounted to upwards of $500, and will be applied to furnishing the edifice, which is still in a high state of preservation, and is gradually but surely becoming really ornamental. That is the church for the benefit of which I delivered a Governor’s message once, and consequently I still take a religious interest in its welfare. I could sling a strong prayer for its prosperity, occasionally, if I thought it would do any good. However, perhaps it wouldn’t – it would certainly be taking chances anyhow.

The ladies are making extraordinary preparations for a grand fancy-dress ball, to come off in the county buildings here on the 5th of May, for the benefit of the great St. Louis Sanitary Fair. The most pecuniary results are anticipated from it, and I imagine, from the interest that is being taken in the matter, the ladies of Gold Hill had better be looking to their laurels, lest the fame of their recent brilliant effort in the Sanitary line be dimmed somewhat by the financial achievements of this forthcoming ball.

The infernal telegraph monopoly saddled upon this Territory by the last Legislature, in the passage of that infamous special Humboldt telegraph bill, and afterwards clinched by a still more rascally enactment on the same occasion, is bearing its fruits, and the people here, as well as at Virginia, are beginning to wince under illegal and exorbitant telegraphic charges. They double the tariff allowed by law, and a man has to submit to the imposition, because he cannot afford the time and trouble of going to law for a trifle of five or ten dollars, notwithstanding the comfort and satisfaction he would derive from worrying the monopolists. The moment that law received the Governor’s signature last winter, you will recollect the Telegraph Company doubled their prices for dispatches to and from San Francisco. And that is not the worst they have done, if common report be true. This common report says the telegraph is used by its owners to aid them in stock gambling schemes. I recollect that on the night the jury went out in the Savage and North Potosi case and failed to agree, our San Francisco dispatch failed to come to hand, and the reason assigned was that a dispatch of 3,000 words was being sent from Virginia to San Francisco and the line could not be used for other messages. Now that Telegraph Company may have made money by trading in North Potosi on that occasion, but who is young enough to believe they ever got two dollars and a half for that voluminous imaginary dispatch? That telegraph is a humbug. The Company are allowed to charge $3.50 for the first ten words across the continent, and must submit to a considerable deduction on longer dispatches – but they take the liberty of increasing that rate some thirty-five per cent, and people have to put up with it. Colonel Cradlebaugh tells me that last year, when he was a delegate at Washington from this Territory, they always charged him more for dispatches sent here than if they went through to California. The Government pays the Overland Telegraph Company $40,000 a year, with the understanding that Government messages are to pass over the lines free of charge – but I know of several dispatches of this character that were not permitted to leave the telegraph offices until they were paid for. It is properly the District Attorney’s business to look after these telegraphic speculators, and that officer ought to be reminded of the fact. The next Grand Jury here will endeavor to make it interesting to the Telegraph Company.

Gillespie’s monument – the ratty old Agricultural Fair shanty – still rears its ghastly form in the plaza, and serves to remind me of that statesman’s extraordinary career in the House of Representatives. It consisted in saving to his country the usual, but extravagant sum of eight or ten dollars a day extra pay to Legislative reporters, and in making a speech in favor of the Sierra Seminary bill which had the effect of killing that really worthy measure. All through the session Gillespie was mighty handy about smashing the life out of any little incipient law that he chose to befriend, with one of his calamitous speeches. His vote was patent, too; his “nay” invariably passed a bill, and his “aye” was the deadest thing! [My language may be unrefined, but it has the virtue of being uncommonly strong.] But that monument in the plaza looks as hungry as Gillespie does himself, and much more unsightly, and I look for one of them to eat the other some day, if they ever get close enough together.

I depart for Silver Mountain in the Esmeralda stage at 7 o’clock to-morrow morning. It is the early bird that catches the worm, but I would not get up at that time in the morning for a thousand worms, if I were not obliged to.



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