Mark Twain’s Letter

Mark Twain

San Francisco Daily Morning Call/August 13, 1863

Virginia City, August 8, 1863

I hope it will afford you some gratification to know that I have a cough, and a cold in my head, and a sore throat, and a voice like a trombone; for, verily, it affords me none. I feel as cheerful as a funeral. However, Lake Bigler will restore me to the full enjoyment of a life of virtue and usefulness tomorrow.

The City of Virginia

From an article written by Mr. Barack, of the Spirit of the Times, I gather the following facts concerning Virginia. They will be interesting to such of our citizens as an sojourning in San Francisco, and also instructive to your own: “In all those attributes which go to make up a great commercial and business emporium, Virginia is the second city on the Pacific coast. Her population to nearly double that of Sacramento; is double that of Portland, Oregon, and is four times as great as that of Stockton or Marysville. Taking in the population of Gold Hill, which stands in the same relation to Virginia that the Mission Dolores does to San Francisco, we have at least twenty thousand inhabitants.

“This is well for a city only three years old. Did San Francisco surpass these figures in her infancy? The city contains upwards of twenty-eight hundred wooden houses, five of stone, eighty-seven of brick, already completed, twenty-eight in an unfinished state, and contracts out for thirty- seven more. The brick edifices are of all sorts and sizes, ranging from modest one story-and-a-half affairs to imposing four-story buildings worthy of Montgomery Street. Last year, the taxable property of Virginia amounted to six millions of dollars. This year it is eleven millions.”

Permit one more extract: “The amount of business done in Virginia is positively immense and astonishing. It never ceases, and seems to grow by what it feeds on. In extent, value, and constancy, it is more like a city of ten times its age and population. It is remarkable in all the phases it presents, and is another high and enduring monument to the energy and enterprise of the American people. The completion of the Central Railroad will make Virginia a gigantic inland metropolis, and, independent of that, what I have already seen assures we that, five years from the present writing, by means of its own natural growth, it will have attained a population of forty or fifty thousand inhabitants.” That prophecy is certainly within bounds, and will infallibly be fulfilled.

More Fire Companies

Within the past two weeks, two new Engine Companies have been organized here. We now have four.

Visiting Brethren

Hon. T. G. Phelps is in the city, and addressed a large union meeting on B Street, last evening. Hon. John B. Winters arrived yesterday, from San Francisco, to look after some mining interests. Judge Cannon and Judge Gilchrist are resting here; they are on their way to Reese River, with a new fifteen-stamp mill, made to order in your city. Mr. E. H. Leonard, largely interested in the Mission Woolen Factory, will reach Virginia to-morrow or next day. This being his first journey in this direction, he is traveling leisurely by private conveyance, and taking a good look at the country as be passes along. Mr. Orrick Johnson, the livery stage pioneer of San Francisco, arrived in Virginia a few days since, with a large supply of horses and carriages for his new stable, recently built here.


Mr. Frank Mayo and Mrs. Julia Dean Rayne left this morning for San Francisco. The citizens tendered Mrs. Rayne a benefit on last Friday evening, at which she was presented with a small silver brick by a few of her friends. It is said that “Mr. Trench, the well-known first architect of the old Metropolitan Theatre, in San Francisco, is about to build a superb theatre in Virginia.” Now, my information is to the effect that Jo. Trench, the well-known millman of Silver City, is to build it; yet Jo. Trench and Trench the Metropolitan architect may abide in the same corpulent, good-natured carcass, for all I know. Charles Pope will be lessee and manager at the new establishment. Mr. Sutliff, of San Francisco, is about to erect a fine music hall in Virginia, to be fifty feet wide by one hundred feet long. He hopes to have it completed within the next two months.

Legal Battle

William M. Stewart, Esq., a lawyer, well known in California and Washoe, had a fight in the District Court, a day or two since, with G. D. Keeney, Esq., another member of the profession. Kenney fought with his lists and fingernails, and Stewart fought with a cork inkstand. The result was that the latter became dyed in blood and the former in ink. Judge Mott separated the warriors before any serious damage was done. No duel anticipated.

Railroad Meeting

Governor Nye, and Messrs. Floyd, John H. Atchinson, John H. Kinkead and H. F. Rice, visited Virginia yesterday, to attend a meeting of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad Company. I am informed by them that the business transacted will be furnished me next Wednesday. This road will have a branch to Carson, and when completed will pay heavier dividends on the money invested than any other railroad in the world. With the notes and estimates in my possession, I could easily demonstrate this proposition, if the limited pace afforded in a newspaper letter would admit of it.

No Democratic Convention

The call for a Territorial Democratic Convention has been withdrawn by those having authority to do so.

Mining Affairs

The Chollar Company have almost completed their new works, the finest and costliest in the Territory, The pump is twelve inches in diameter, the hoisting apparatus is as perfect an San Francisco could furnish, and the engine is of one hundred horse power. The new shaft has reached is depth of nearly three hundred feet. The Chollar Company’s weighty assessments are about at an end. The Hale & Norcross continues to supply a number of mills with choice rock; the stock has advanced to $2,600 in this market. The Echo Company, Gold Hill, are sacking and shipping large quantities of rich ore to San Francisco; the second and third class rock is worked in the mills of the Territory.

Since the discovery of the rich vein back of the Ophir incline, two weeks ago, from five to seven tons of ore, ranging in value from $1,500 to $8,000 a ton, have been taken from it daily, and shipped to the Bay, with occasionally a few hundred pounds of $10,000 rock. The yield now is in the neighborhood of ten tons a day, as I am informed by the Superintendent. The Mississippi Silver Mining Company, Silver Hill, have sent their Superintendent to your city after steam hoisting and pumping machinery. The rock taken from the principal shaft will pay handsomely. In the case of the Belcher vs. Koh-i-noor Company, Judge Mott granted an injunction against the latter yesterday. The Belcher gave bonds in the sum of $80,000.