Mark Twain’s Letter

Mark Twain

San Francisco Daily Morning Call/August 6, 1863

Virginia, August 2, 1863

Fire Matters

After the destructive fire of last Sabbath, the Insurance agents Agents declared that they would take no more risks on Virginia property until the city should consent to invest it with a greater degree of safety. The Fire Department also held a meeting, and petitioned the Board of Aldermen to furnish the different Fire Companies with more hose, and to order that the old cisterns be thoroughly repaired, and new ones of greater capacity constructed. The Board concluded to answer the prayer of the petition, and ran the risk of the next Legislature indorsing their action – from which you are to understand that the law only allows the city to contract debts to the amount of $15,000, and she did that months ago. We have two excellent engines and hose companies, and a hook and ladder company; the organization of a third engine company is nearly completed.

Agricultural Fair

The “Washoe Agricultural, Mining and Mechanical Association” (You see, the daily habit of naming mining claims in this country has enabled our people to acquire a flow of language in that particular which they are justly proud of, and are ready upon all occasions to display) will open its first annual fair on the race grounds at Carson, on the second Monday in October, and continue the same during five days. Perhaps it will increase the public confidence in this infant experiment to know that by Legislative enactment I am Recording Secretary of it, at an exorbitant salary, payable quarterly in Territorial scrip, subject to the mild discount of seventy-five percent.

A Duel Ruined

The Virginia Union and the Territorial Enterprise have been sparring at each other for some time, and I watched the contest with great satisfaction, because I felt within me a presentiment that somebody was going to get into trouble. On the 30th of July, the thing culminated in an article in the Enterprise, headed “The Virginia Union — not the Federal,” which was extremely personal towards Thomas Fitch, Esq., editor of the Union. Mr. Fitch immediately challenged Mr. Goodman, the author of it, naming John Church, Esq., as his “friend.” Mr. Goodman accepted, and appointed Thomas Peasley, Esq., to act with Mr. Church in arranging the preliminaries and bossing the funerals. Yesterday morning, I followed the parties to the foot 1 of the canyon below the Gould & Curry Mill, to see them destroy each other with navy revolvers at fifteen paces, but the officers of the law arrived in time to spoil the sport. They arrested the principals, and brought them back to town, where they were placed under bonds in the sum of five thousand dollars each, to keep the Peace.


The dramatic company at Maguire’s new opera house continues to draw good houses. Having finished his engagement, Mr. Frank Mayo, who has won many friends and admirers during his sojourn among us, left yesterday for Esmeralda, partly on business, but principally for recreation. Mrs. Julia Dean Rayne will depart for San Francisco shortly; previously, however, as I am informed by Mr. Buchanan, she is to receive a benefit and a silver brick at the hands of our citizens. Mrs. W. H. Leighton will begin an engagement at the opera house on Tuesday. Mrs. R. A. Perry takes a benefit tomorrow evening. Several theatrical stars will arrive from the Bay during the present week. Harry Brown is here, but whether on theatrical business or not, I am not informed.

Territorial Politics

Governor Nye arrived in the Territory last week, and has visited Virginia twice since. And in this connection I will just mention that financiering for official honors in the gift of the future State of Washoe has already begun. The Governor is spoken of for the position of United States Senator, and while the chances are very much against him, it would puzzle a wiser man than thy servant to say who they are in favor of. As nearly as I can come at it, there are a thousand candidates for Washoe congressmen. The election of delegates to the State Convention will come off in September, and the Convention itself will meet at Carson early in November. I have mentioned Governor Nye, but I came near forgetting to give you the names of the other aspirants for Senatorial distinction — as I learn them from street gossips, I mean. These are Chief Justice Turner, Governor J. Neely Johnson, William M. Steward, John K. Lovejoy, and several others whom I do not recollect. Of these, Mr. Stewart could poll much the largest vote, perhaps. Judge Mott has not yet resigned the post of Territorial delegate to Congress, but it is thought he will, eventually. In case he does, the friends of Hon. John B. Winters propose to run him for delegate, if he will consent. The people here know him, respect him, and have confidence in him, and he could be elected very easily.

Military Arrest

Lieutenant Mathewson came up from the fort and arrested Hal. Clayton a few days ago, for persisting in the utterance of disloyal sentiments, notwithstanding the repeated warnings which he had previously received. He is now at the fort.

Washoe Cavalry

Captain Baldwin’s and Captain Zabriske’s Companies of Territorial Cavalry are now full, armed, equipped, and under marching orders for Salt Lake City.

Phelan Coming

The great tournament to come off here an the 14th of September, between A. W. Jamison and Wm. Goldthwaite, has begun to excite some attention in the East. Several distinguished old sports residing in that part of the world have already signified their intention of being present at it, and among the rest, Mr. Phelan, the ancient champion, has written his old friend, Mr. Benjamin, of this place, that he will arrive here about that time.

Steam-Printing in Washoe

The Virginia Daily Enterprise was enlarged to the size of the San Francisco Evening Bulletin on the 1st. of August. It was the first newspaper started on the Eastern Slope, and is succeeding better than pioneers of any description usually do. It is now printed on a large double-cylinder steam press — the first one ever brought into the territory, and the only one in it now. It did its first work here on the 31st of July, thus inaugurating steam-printing among us on the anniversary of the discovery of the great Comstock lead, which event had occurred on that day four years previously.

Judge Jones Resigned

Judge Horatio M. Jones, who “Jumped” Judge Mott’s Court here two weeks ago, and afterwards yielded its possession to the latter officer, has forwarded to Washington his resignation of the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Nevada Territory.

Carson Races

The racing season on the Carson Course will begin tomorrow, and promises to prove one of unusual interest. Mr. Boruck, of the San Francisco Spirit of the Times, says that at no time in California for years have such crowds assembled upon like occasions as were present at the recent races over the Winters Course at Washoe City.

Mines. Etc.

The astonishingly rich vein of ore struck on the surface the other day, a yard or two back of the Ophir incline, continues to hold out well, and shows no inclination to suspend payment, it has been traced some distance, and is being very thoroughly prospected. Joseph Woodworth, who was present at the time of the discovery, I believe, says that a portion of this vein, further south, was worked for a while by the Ophir Company three years ago and $600,000 taken from the shaft. Mr. Earle is here, and many other San Franciscans, but want of time has kept me from prying into their affairs, wherefore I am unable to tell you what they are up to. I shall be better posted, next time.

An engine of one hundred and fifty horse power is being built for the Gould & Curry mill, and the extra forty stamps for that establishment are on hand and will be added to it shortly. The Savage is now turning out ore equal to the richest produced by the Gould & Curry, perhaps; and that taken from the Hale & Norcross at present, is of a better quality, even, than the yield of last week. Both of these companies continue to make large shipments of bullion to the Bay.


If the stock fever here seems less rampant than usual, attribute it to the fact that every body is engaged in building, just now, and cannot spare time to gamble. During the past three months, the long lines of frame shanties in B and C streets have been transformed into imposing two and three-story bricks, and the work still goes on with undiminished ardor. If I had a thousand brick yards I suppose I could use them all in Virginia just now. I haven’t got a thousand brick-yards though, and if my luck continues to run along about as usual, I don’t suppose I ever will have.

Foot Race

A foot race was run this afternoon on the “divide” between Virginia and Gold Hill. Forbes and Adams (the “emigrant”) were the competitors; distance one hundred yards, stakes one thousand dollars a side. Forbes won easily, coming out three or four feet ahead.