Mark Twain’s Letter

Mark Twain

San Francisco Daily Call/July 23, 1863

(Regular Correspondence of the Daily Call)

Virginia City, Nevada Territory, July 19

Judicial Broil

We have had a pleasant little judicial broil here, during the past week, the seeds of which were planted at the last session of the Legislature. Judge Jones, who dealt retail justice in the Third District, hankered after the wholesale trade of the First and the dignity of sitting in judgment upon the great mining cases of Virginia; and inasmuch as Judge Mott, the incumbent of the post, had been elected to represent the Territory in Congress, the Legislature passed a law appointing Judge Jones to this District, and altering the terms of the Court. On its way to the Governor’s office to be ratified by his signature, the bill was accidentally torn up and the fragments shoved into a mud-hole, in a fit of absence of mind by somebody.

Here was the devil to pay. Judge Jones went to bed that night as Judge of the First Judicial District, and got up in the morning as Judge of the Third, as usual; for the Legislature had adjourned sine die, and in doing so, had also adjourned the Governor’s law-making functions for a year, inasmuch as these divisions of authority, like two fond lovers, cannot exist apart. However, a new bill, as much like the original as the enrolling clerks could make it, was hatched out, and Gov. Nye and the officers of the Legislature “took the chances” and signed it, thus creating Jones Judge of the First District once more. But the said Judge Jones was a baldheaded Samson from that moment; for he was a great man in Israel, but utterly shorn of his power. Simply because the “Act” wherein his strength should have lain, was born out of wedlock – was born in Legislative vacation – the bastard offspring of an emasculated Governor and four impotent Legislative officers! as it were. Well, here was trouble again; some folks said Jones was Judge, and others said he wasn’t, and the vexed question was submitted by the bar of Virginia to Judge Norton, of California, who ruled that the new law was of no more binding effect than if it had been created by a Board of Aldermen, although he did not express his opinion in just that language.

Judge Mott went East on business, and as the time drew near for the holding of the May term of this court (according to the old law,) the Virginia bar requested acting Governor Clemens to appoint Jones Judge for that term, which was done. Jones accepted, and opened the Court, thus tacitly acknowledging the new law a dead letter and the old one still in force, since the new law called for a term to being in March, (which was never held) but provided for none to commence on the first Monday in May. The term concluded, everybody supposed Judge Jones would return to Dayton and open his own court – but he didn’t. He allowed the Third District people to worry along without a Court.

The other day a telegram was received from Salt Lake announcing that Judge Mott was there on his way to Virginia, whereupon Judge Jones took possession of the District Clerk’s office here, (“jumped it,” as we phrase it), turned out D. M. Hanson’s deputy, and appointed a Clerk of his own choosing. Hanson carried off the keys and the seal of the office, and Jones immediately had a new seal manufactured. Moreover, he put some spunky roughs on guard in the office, with orders to hold it to the bitter end against all comers. The Sheriff don’t know whose authority to obey, so he declines to respect the new seal, and refused to serve any papers at all. I have not heard that Judge Jones has appointed a new Sheriff yet. Judge Mott arrived last Friday, and has gone to Carson, avowing his intention to return and resume the functions of Judge of the District, in spite of thunder. If he succeeds in ousting Jones, what in the mischief are we to do with that official? For the indignant lawyers of Dayton have requested him not to come back there any more.


Theatricals flourish in Virginia just now. “East Lynne” has been played to tearful crowds every night during the past week, at Maguire’s new opera house. On Thursday evening the citizens gave a complimentary benefit to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Pope, at the Court House, which was largely attended. Tomorrow evening, Mrs. Leighton’s troupe will commence, in a new hall, on the corner of C and Taylor streets.

General Benevolence

The Sanitary Fund took a benefit at Maguire’s last Wednesday evening, where collections amounting to over three thousand dollars were taken up. The sum now in the hands of the treasurer foots up about thirteen thousand dollars, which will soon be augmented to twenty thousand, and shipped East. Rev. Mr. Rising has also gathered together about two thousand dollars for the United States Christian Commission, and started it for New York, in the form of a silver bar, last Thursday.

The Caved Mines

I traveled through the Ophir mine a few days ago, and the next day about a million tons of it caved in. If I am to blame, I will pay for it. I waited a while for it to do its heaviest caving, and then went through the mine again. I found that the damage did not amount to much. The three galleries destroyed had been worked out, and were no longer any use to the company. It would have been necessary to fill them up, anyhow, and the “cave” only saved them that trouble. The mine is all the better off for it. The fifth and sixth galleries were the only ones being worked, and they were left uninjured. The Superintendent is nearly ready to commence hoisting ore again. The Spanish Company are sinking a new shaft in front of their mine, now. Had they done this in the first place, the cave would not have seriously interfered with them.

About Other Mines

They “struck it rich” in the Leon, (Gold Hill) yesterday, and that stock is going up rapidly, just now.

Mr. Castle, of San Francisco, is here, probably on business for the Echo Company. This claim is now divided into three companies of five hundred feet each, and is very valuable stock. The old incline is under repair, now, and the ore taken from it will pay all the expenses of working the different divisions of the mine, and in the meantime an eight foot shaft is being sunk two hundred and fifty feet north, and steam hoisting and pumping apparatus ordered for it.

The Golden Gate and San Francisco Companies are still sinking. The shaft on the first is down two hundred and ninety feet, and that on the other two hundred and forty-five; neither will drift until water is reached.

The “North Ophir” is coming into favor again. As nuggets of pure silver as large as pieces of chalk were found in liberal quantities in the ledge, the mine was pronounced “salted,” and the stock fell form $60 to $13 a foot. However, during the last day or two a hundred experienced miners have examined the claim, and laughed at the idea of its having been salted. Among them were Mr. Hillyer, Mr. Deidesheimer, formerly superintendent, and Mr. Dickey, formerly foreman of the great original Ophir, and these gentlemen state that they frequently found such pieces of pure silver in the latter mine near the surface two or three years ago. Their testimony has removed the stain from the North Ophir’s character, and the stock has already begun to recover.


The tide of immigration is flowing in freely, now from the plains, but the graybacks go on to California, where they will get rid of their green-backs and then come back to Washoe.

Billiard Match

Mr. A. W. Jamison has accepted a challenge to play a match game of billiards here within the next sixty days, against some man to be produced by Ralph Benjamin. The game will consist of 1,500 points, on a carom table; stakes $1,000. Mr. Jamison has deposited $500 forfeit.

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