Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon or star.

Roughing It Ebook

Roughing It
Category: Classic


Title: Roughing It


This ebook is merely a personal narrative, and not a pretentious history or a philosophical dissertation. It is a record of several years of variegated vagabondizing, and its object is rather to help the resting reader while away an idle hour than afflict him with metaphysics, or goad him with science. Still, there is information in the volume; information concerning an interesting episode in the history of the Far West, about which no ebooks have been written by persons who were on the ground in person, and saw the happenings of the time with their own eyes. I allude to the rise, growth and culmination of the silver-mining fever in Nevada a curious episode, in some respects; the only one, of its peculiar kind,

that has occurred in the land; and the only one, indeed, that is likely to occur in it.

Yes, take it all around, there is quite a good deal of information in the ebook. I regret this very much; but really it could not be helped: information appears to stew out of me naturally, like the precious ottar of roses out of the otter. Sometimes it has seemed to me that I would give worlds if I could retain my facts; but it cannot be. The more I calk up the sources, and the tighter I get, the more I leak wisdom. Therefore, I can only claim indulgence at the hands of the reader, not justification.



My brother had just been appointed Secretary of Nevada Territory--an office of such majesty that it concentrated in itself the duties and dignities of Treasurer, Comptroller, Secretary of State, and Acting Governor in the Governor's absence. A salary of eighteen hundred dollars a year and the title of "Mr. Secretary," gave to the great position an air of wild and imposing grandeur. I was young and ignorant, and I envied my brother. I coveted his distinction and his financial splendor, but particularly and especially the long, strange journey he was going to make, and the curious new world he was going to explore. He was going to travel! I never had been away from home, and that word "travel" had a seductive charm for me. Pretty soon he would be hundreds and hundreds of miles away on the great plains and deserts, and among the mountains of the Far West, and would see buffaloes and Indians, and prairie dogs, and antelopes, and have all kinds of adventures, and may be get hanged or scalped, and have ever such a fine time, and write home and tell us all about it, and be a hero. And he would see the gold mines and the silver mines, and maybe go about of an afternoon when his work was done, and pick up two or three pailfuls of shining slugs, and nuggets of gold and silver on the hillside. And by and by he would become very rich, and return home by sea, and be able to talk as calmly about San Francisco and the ocean, and "the isthmus" as if it was nothing of any consequence to have seen those marvels face to face. What I suffered in contemplating his happiness, pen cannot describe. And so, when he offered me, in cold blood, the sublime position of private secretary under him, it appeared to me that the heavens and the earth passed away, and the firmament was rolled together as a scroll! I had nothing more to desire. My contentment was complete.

At the end of an hour or two I was ready for the journey. Not much packing up was necessary, because we were going in the overland stage from the Missouri frontier to Nevada, and passengers were only allowed a small quantity of baggage apiece. There was no Pacific railroad in those fine times of ten or twelve years ago--not a single rail of it.
I only proposed to stay in Nevada three months--I had no thought of staying longer than that. I meant to see all I could that was new and strange, and then hurry home to business. I little thought that I would not see the end of that three-month pleasure excursion for six or seven uncommonly long years!

I dreamed all night about Indians, deserts, and silver bars, and in due time, next day, we took shipping at the St. Louis wharf on board a steamboat bound up the Missouri River.

We were six days going from St. Louis to "St. Jo."--a trip that was so dull, and sleepy, and eventless that it has left no more impression on my memory than if its duration had been six minutes instead of that many days. No record is left in my mind, now, concerning it, but a confused jumble of savage-looking snags, which we deliberately walked over with one wheel or the other; and of reefs which we butted and butted, and then retired from and climbed over in some softer place; and of sand-bars which we roosted on occasionally, and rested, and then got out our crutches and sparred over.

In fact, the boat might almost as well have gone to St. Jo. by land, for she was walking most of the time, anyhow--climbing over reefs and clambering over snags patiently and laboriously all day long. The captain said she was a "bully" boat, and all she wanted was more "shear" and a bigger wheel. I thought she wanted a pair of stilts, but I had the deep sagacity not to say so.


The first thing we did on that glad evening that landed us at St. Joseph was to hunt up the stage-office, and pay a hundred and fifty dollars apiece for tickets per overland coach to Carson City, Nevada.

The next morning, bright and early, we took a hasty breakfast, and hurried to the starting-place. Then an inconvenience presented itself which we had not properly appreciated before, namely, that one cannot make a heavy traveling trunk stand for twenty-five pounds of baggage-- because it weighs a good deal more. But that was all we could take-- twenty-five pounds each. So we had to snatch our trunks open, and make a selection in a good deal of a hurry. We put our lawful twenty-five pounds apiece all in one valise, and shipped the trunks back to St. Louis again. It was a sad parting, for now we had no swallow-tail coats and white kid gloves to wear at Pawnee receptions in the Rocky Mountains, and no stove-pipe hats nor patent-leather boots, nor anything else necessary to make life calm and peaceful. We were reduced to a war-footing. Each of us put on a rough, heavy suit of clothing, woolen army shirt and
"stogy" boots included; and into the valise we crowded a few white shirts, some under-clothing and such things. My brother, the Secretary, took along about four pounds of United States statutes and six pounds of Unabridged Dictionary; for we did not know--poor innocents--that such things could be bought in San Francisco on one day and received in Carson City the next. I was armed to the teeth with a pitiful little Smith & Wesson's seven-shooter, which carried a ball like a homoeopathic pill, and it took the whole seven to make a dose for an adult. But I thought it was grand. It appeared to me to be a dangerous weapon. It only had one fault--you could not hit anything with it. One of our "conductors" practiced awhile on a cow with it, and as long as she stood still and behaved herself she was safe; but as soon as she went to moving about, and he got to shooting at other things, she came to grief. The Secretary had a small-sized Colt's revolver strapped around him for protection against the Indians, and to guard against accidents he carried it uncapped. Mr. George Bemis was dismally formidable. George Bemis was our fellow-traveler.

We had never seen him before. He wore in his belt an old original
"Allen" revolver, such as irreverent people called a "pepper-box." Simply drawing the trigger back, cocked and fired the pistol. As the trigger came back, the hammer would begin to rise and the barrel to turn over, and presently down would drop the hammer, and away would speed the ball.
To aim along the turning barrel and hit the thing aimed at was a feat which was probably never done with an "Allen" in the world. But George's was a reliable weapon, nevertheless, because, as one of the stage-drivers afterward said, "If she didn't get what she went after, she would fetch something else." And so she did. She went after a deuce of spades nailed against a tree, once, and fetched a mule standing about thirty yards to the left of it. Bemis did not want the mule; but the owner came out with a double-barreled shotgun and persuaded him to buy it, anyhow. It was a cheerful weapon--the "Allen." Sometimes all its six barrels would go off at once, and then there was no safe place in all the region round about, but behind it.

We took two or three blankets for protection against frosty weather in the mountains. In the matter of luxuries we were modest--we took none along but some pipes and five pounds of smoking tobacco. We had two large canteens to carry water in, between stations on the Plains, and we also took with us a little shot-bag of silver coin for daily expenses in the way of breakfasts and dinners.


My Brother appointed Secretary of Nevada--I Envy His Prospective
Adventures--Am Appointed Private Secretary Under Him--My Contentment
Complete--Packed in One Hour--Dreams and Visions--On the Missouri River--
A Bully Boat

Arrive at St. Joseph--Only Twenty-five Pounds Baggage Allowed--Farewell
to Kid Gloves and Dress Coats--Armed to the Teeth--The "Allen"--A
Cheerful Weapon--Persuaded to Buy a Mule--Schedule of Luxuries--We Leave
the "States"--"Our Coach"--Mails for the Indians--Between a Wink and an
Earthquake--A Modern Sphynx and How She Entertained Us--A Sociable Heifer

"The Thoroughbrace is Broke"--Mails Delivered Properly--Sleeping Under
Difficulties--A Jackass Rabbit Meditating, and on Business--A Modern
Gulliver--Sage-brush--Overcoats as an Article of Diet--Sad Fate of a
Camel--Warning to Experimenters

Making Our Bed--Assaults by the Unabridged--At a Station--Our Driver a
Great and Shining Dignitary--Strange Place for a Frontyard--
Accommodations--Double Portraits--An Heirloom--Our Worthy Landlord--
"Fixings and Things"--An Exile--Slumgullion--A Well Furnished Table--The
Landlord Astonished--Table Etiquette--Wild Mexican Mules--Stage-coaching
and Railroading

New Acquaintances--The Cayote--A Dog's Experiences--A Disgusted Dog--The
Relatives of the Cayote--Meals Taken Away from Home

The Division Superintendent--The Conductor--The Driver--One Hundred and
Fifty Miles' Drive Without Sleep--Teaching a Subordinate--Our Old Friend
Jack and a Pilgrim--Ben Holliday Compared to Moses

Overland City--Crossing the Platte--Bemis's Buffalo Hunt--Assault by a
Buffalo--Bemis's Horse Goes Crazy--An Impromptu Circus--A New Departure--
Bemis Finds Refuge in a Tree--Escapes Finally by a Wonderful Method

The Pony Express--Fifty Miles Without Stopping--"Here he Comes"--Alkali
Water--Riding an Avalanche--Indian Massacre

Among the Indians--An Unfair Advantage--Laying on our Arms--A Midnight
Murder--Wrath of Outlaws--A Dangerous, yet Valuable Citizen

History of Slade--A Proposed Fist-fight--Encounter with Jules--Paradise
of Outlaws--Slade as Superintendent--As Executioner--A Doomed Whisky
Seller--A Prisoner--A Wife's Bravery--An Ancient Enemy Captured--Enjoying
a Luxury--Hob-nobbing with Slade--Too Polite--A Happy Escape

Slade in Montana--"On a Spree"--In Court--Attack on a Judge--Arrest by
the Vigilantes--Turn out of the Miners--Execution of Slade--Lamentations
of His Wife--Was Slade a Coward?

A Mormon Emigrant Train--The Heart of the Rocky Mountains--Pure
Saleratus--A Natural Ice-House--An Entire Inhabitant--In Sight of
"Eternal Snow"--The South Pass--The Parting Streams--An Unreliable Letter
Carrier--Meeting of Old Friends--A Spoiled Watermelon--Down the Mountain-A Scene of Desolation--Lost in the Dark--Unnecessary Advice--U.S. Troops

and Indians--Sublime Spectacle--Another Delusion Dispelled--Among the

Mormons and Gentiles--Exhilarating Drink, and its Effect on Bemis--Salt
Lake City--A Great Contrast--A Mormon Vagrant--Talk with a Saint--A Visit
to the "King"--A Happy Simile

Mormon Contractors--How Mr. Street Astonished Them--The Case Before
Brigham Young, and How he Disposed of it--Polygamy Viewed from a New

A Gentile Den--Polygamy Discussed--Favorite Wife and D. 4--Hennery for
Retired Wives--Children Need Marking--Cost of a Gift to No. 6--A Penny-
whistle Gift and its Effects--Fathering the Foundlings--It Resembled Him-The Family Bedstead

The Mormon Bible--Proofs of its Divinity--Plagiarism of its Authors--
Story of Nephi--Wonderful Battle--Kilkenny Cats Outdone

Three Sides to all Questions--Everything "A Quarter"--Shriveled Up--
Emigrants and White Shirts at a Discount--"Forty-Niners"--Above Par--Real

Alkali Desert--Romance of Crossing Dispelled--Alkali Dust--Effect on the
Mules--Universal Thanksgiving

The Digger Indians Compared with the Bushmen of Africa--Food, Life and
Characteristics--Cowardly Attack on a Stage Coach--A Brave Driver--The
Noble Red Man

The Great American Desert--Forty Miles on Bones--Lakes Without Outlets--
Greely's Remarkable Ride--Hank Monk, the Renowned Driver--Fatal Effects
of "Corking" a Story--Bald-Headed Anecdote

Alkali Dust--Desolation and Contemplation--Carson City--Our Journey
Ended--We are Introduced to Several Citizens--A Strange Rebuke--A Washoe
Zephyr at Play--Its Office Hours--Governor's Palace--Government Offices--
Our French Landlady Bridget O'Flannigan--Shadow Secrets--Cause for a
Disturbance at Once--The Irish Brigade--Mrs. O'Flannigan's Boarders--The
Surveying Expedition--Escape of the Tarantulas

The Son of a Nabob--Start for Lake Tahoe--Splendor of the Views--Trip on
the Lake--Camping Out--Reinvigorating Climate--Clearing a Tract of Land--
Securing a Title--Outhouse and Fences

A Happy Life--Lake Tahoe and its Moods--Transparency of the Waters--A
Catastrophe--Fire! Fire!--A Magnificent Spectacle--Homeless Again--We
take to the Lake--A Storm--Return to Carson

Resolve to Buy a Horse--Horsemanship in Carson--A Temptation--Advice
Given Me Freely--I Buy the Mexican Plug--My First Ride--A Good Bucker--I
Loan the Plug--Experience of Borrowers--Attempts to Sell--Expense of the
Experiment--A Stranger Taken In

The Mormons in Nevada--How to Persuade a Loan from Them--Early History of
the Territory--Silver Mines Discovered--The New Territorial Government--A
Foreign One and a Poor One--Its Funny Struggles for Existence--No Credit,
no Cash--Old Abe Currey Sustains it and its Officers--Instructions and
Vouchers--An Indian's Endorsement--Toll-Gates

The Silver Fever--State of the Market--Silver Bricks--Tales Told--Off for
the Humboldt Mines

Our manner of going--Incidents of the Trip--A Warm but Too Familiar a
Bedfellow--Mr. Ballou Objects--Sunshine amid Clouds--Safely Arrived

Arrive at the Mountains--Building Our Cabin--My First Prospecting Tour--
My First Gold Mine--Pockets Filled With Treasures--Filtering the News to
My Companions--The Bubble Pricked--All Not Gold That Glitters

Out Prospecting--A Silver Mine At Last--Making a Fortune With Sledge and
Drill--A Hard Road to Travel--We Own in Claims--A Rocky Country

Disinterested Friends--How "Feet" Were Sold--We Quit Tunnelling--A Trip
to Esmeralda--My Companions--An Indian Prophesy--A Flood--Our Quarters
During It

The Guests at "Honey Lake Smith's"--"Bully Old Arkansas"--"Our Landlord"-Determined to Fight--The Landlord's Wife--The Bully Conquered by Her--

Another Start--Crossing the Carson--A Narrow Escape--Following Our Own
Track--A New Guide--Lost in the Snow

Desperate Situation--Attempts to Make a Fire--Our Horses leave us--We
Find Matches--One, Two, Three and the Last--No Fire--Death Seems
Inevitable--We Mourn Over Our Evil Lives--Discarded Vices--We Forgive
Each Other--An Affectionate Farewell--The Sleep of Oblivion

Return of Consciousness--Ridiculous Developments--A Station House--Bitter
Feelings--Fruits of Repentance--Resurrected Vices

About Carson--General Buncombe--Hyde vs. Morgan--How Hyde Lost His Ranch-The Great Landslide Case--The Trial--General Buncombe in Court--A Wonderful Decision--A Serious Afterthought

A New Travelling Companion--All Full and No Accommodations--How Captain
Nye found Room--and Caused Our Leaving to be Lamented--The Uses of
Tunnelling--A Notable Example--We Go into the "Claim" Business and Fail--
At the Bottom

A Quartz Mill--Amalgamation--"Screening Tailings"--First Quartz Mill in
Nevada--Fire Assay--A Smart Assayer--I stake for an advance

The Whiteman Cement Mine--Story of its Discovery--A Secret Expedition--A
Nocturnal Adventure--A Distressing Position--A Failure and a Week's

Mono Lake--Shampooing Made Easy--Thoughtless Act of Our Dog and the
Results--Lye Water--Curiosities of the Lake--Free Hotel--Some Funny
Incidents a Little Overdrawn

Visit to the Islands in Lake Mono--Ashes and Desolation--Life Amid Death
Our Boat Adrift--A Jump For Life--A Storm On the Lake--A Mass of Soap
Suds--Geological Curiosities--A Week On the Sierras--A Narrow Escape From
a Funny Explosion--"Stove Heap Gone"

The "Wide West" Mine--It is "Interviewed" by Higbie--A Blind Lead--Worth
a Million--We are Rich At Last--Plans for the Future

A Rheumatic Patient--Day Dreams--An Unfortunate Stumble--I Leave
Suddenly--Another Patient--Higbie in the Cabin--Our Balloon Bursted--
Worth Nothing--Regrets and Explanations--Our Third Partner

What to do Next?--Obstacles I Had Met With--"Jack of All Trades"--Mining
Again--Target Shooting--I Turn City Editor--I Succeed Finely

My Friend Boggs--The School Report--Boggs Pays Me An Old Debt--Virginia

Flush Times--Plenty of Stock--Editorial Puffing--Stocks Given Me--Salting
Mines--A Tragedian In a New Role

Flush Times Continue--Sanitary Commission Fund--Wild Enthusiasm of the
People--Would not wait to Contribute--The Sanitary Flour Sack--It is
Carried to Gold Hill and Dayton--Final Reception in Virginia--Results of
the Sale--A Grand Total

The Nabobs of Those Days--John Smith as a Traveler--Sudden Wealth--A
Sixty-Thousand-Dollar Horse--A Smart Telegraph Operator--A Nabob in New
York City--Charters an Omnibus--"Walk in, It's All Free"--"You Can't Pay
a Cent"--"Hold On, Driver, I Weaken"--Sociability of New Yorkers"

Buck Fanshaw's Death--The Cause Thereof--Preparations for His Burial--
Scotty Briggs the Committee Man--He Visits the Minister--Scotty Can't
Play His Hand--The Minister Gets Mixed--Both Begin to See--"All Down
Again But Nine"--Buck Fanshaw as a Citizen--How To "Shook Your Mother"--
The Funeral--Scotty Briggs as a Sunday School Teacher

The First Twenty-Six Graves in Nevada--The Prominent Men of the County--
The Man Who Had Killed His Dozen--Trial by Jury--Specimen Jurors--A
Private Grave Yard--The Desperadoes--Who They Killed--Waking up the Weary
Passenger--Satisfaction Without Fighting

Fatal Shooting Affray--Robbery and Desperate Affray--A Specimen City
Official--A Marked Man--A Street Fight--Punishment of Crime

Captain Ned Blakely--Bill Nookes Receives Desired Information--Killing of
Blakely's Mate--A Walking Battery--Blakely Secures Nookes--Hang First and
Be Tried Afterwards--Captain Blakely as a Chaplain--The First Chapter of
Genesis See at a Hanging--Nookes Hung--Blakely's Regrets

The Weekly Occidental--A Ready Editor--A Novel--A Concentration of
Talent--The Heroes and the Heroines--The Dissolute Author Engaged--
Extraordinary Havoc With the Novel--A Highly Romantic Chapter--The Lovers
Separated--Jonah Out-done--A Lost Poem--The Aged Pilot Man--Storm On the
Erie Canal--Dollinger the Pilot Man--Terrific Gale--Danger Increases--A
Crisis Arrived--Saved as if by a Miracle

Freights to California--Silver Bricks--Under Ground Mines--Timber
Supports--A Visit to the Mines--The Caved Mines--Total of Shipments in

Jim Blaine and his Grandfather's Ram--Filkin's Mistake--Old Miss Wagner
and her Glass Eye--Jacobs, the Coffin Dealer--Waiting for a Customer--His
Bargain With Old Robbins--Robbins Sues for Damage and Collects--A New Use
for Missionaries--The Effect--His Uncle Lem. and the Use Providence Made
of Him--Sad Fate of Wheeler--Devotion of His Wife--A Model Monument--What
About the Ram?

Chinese in Virginia City--Washing Bills--Habit of Imitation--Chinese
Immigration--A Visit to Chinatown--Messrs. Ah Sing, Hong Wo, See Yup, &c.

Tired of Virginia City--An Old Schoolmate--A Two Years' Loan--Acting as
an Editor--Almost Receive an Offer--An Accident--Three Drunken Anecdotes-Last Look at Mt. Davidson--A Beautiful Incident

Off for San Francisco--Western and Eastern Landscapes--The Hottest place
on Earth--Summer and Winter

California--Novelty of Seeing a Woman--"Well if it ain't a Child!"--One
Hundred and Fifty Dollars for a Kiss--Waiting for a turn

Life in San Francisco--Worthless Stocks--My First Earthquake--Reportorial
Instincts--Effects of the Shocks--Incidents and Curiosities--Sabbath
Breakers--The Lodger and the Chambermaid--A Sensible Fashion to Follow--
Effects of the Earthquake on the Ministers

Poor Again--Slinking as a Business--A Model Collector--Misery loves
Company--Comparing Notes for Comfort--A Streak of Luck--Finding a Dime--
Wealthy by Comparison--Two Sumptuous Dinners

An Old Friend--An Educated Miner--Pocket Mining--Freaks of Fortune

Dick Baker and his Cat--Tom Quartz's Peculiarities--On an Excursion--
Appearance On His Return--A Prejudiced Cat--Empty Pockets and a Roving

Bound for the Sandwich Islands--The Three Captains--The Old Admiral--His
Daily Habits--His Well Fought Fields--An Unexpected Opponent--The Admiral
Overpowered--The Victor Declared a Hero

Arrival at the Islands--Honolulu--What I Saw There--Dress and Habits of
the Inhabitants--The Animal Kingdom--Fruits and Delightful Effects

An Excursion--Captain Phillips and his Turn-Out--A Horseback Ride--A
Vicious Animal--Nature and Art--Interesting Ruins--All Praise to the

Interesting Mementoes and Relics--An Old Legend of a Frightful Leap--An
Appreciative Horse--Horse Jockeys and Their Brothers--A New Trick--A Hay
Merchant--Good Country for Horse Lovers

A Saturday Afternoon--Sandwich Island Girls on a Frolic--The Poi
Merchant--Grand Gala Day--A Native Dance--Church Membership--Cats and
Officials--An Overwhelming Discovery

The Legislature of the Island--What Its President Has Seen--Praying for
an Enemy--Women's Rights--Romantic Fashions--Worship of the Shark--Desire
for Dress--Full Dress--Not Paris Style--Playing Empire--Officials and
Foreign Ambassadors--Overwhelming Magnificence

A Royal Funeral--Order of Procession--Pomp and Ceremony--A Striking
Contrast--A Sick Monarch--Human Sacrifices at His Death--Burial Orgies

"Once more upon the Waters."--A Noisy Passenger--Several Silent Ones--A
Moonlight Scene--Fruits and Plantations

A Droll Character--Mrs. Beazely and Her Son--Meditations on Turnips--A
Letter from Horace Greeley--An Indignant Rejoinder--The Letter Translated
but too Late

Kealakekua Bay--Death of Captain Cook--His Monument--Its Construction--On
Board the Schooner

Young Kanakas in New England--A Temple Built by Ghosts--Female Bathers--I
Stood Guard--Women and Whiskey--A Fight for Religion--Arrival of

Native Canoes--Surf Bathing--A Sanctuary--How Built--The Queen's Rock--
Curiosities--Petrified Lava

Visit to the Volcano--The Crater--Pillar of Fire--Magnificent Spectacle--
A Lake of Fire

The North Lake--Fountains of Fire--Streams of Burning Lava--Tidal Waves

A Reminiscence--Another Horse Story--My Ride with the Retired Milk Horse-A Picnicing Excursion--Dead Volcano of Holeakala--Comparison with

Vesuvius--An Inside View

A Curious Character--A Series of Stories--Sad Fate of a Liar--Evidence of

Return to San Francisco--Ship Amusements--Preparing for Lecturing--
Valuable Assistance Secured--My First Attempt--The Audience Carried--
"All's Well that Ends Well."

Highwaymen--A Predicament--A Huge Joke--Farewell to California--At Home
Again--Great Changes. Moral.

A.--Brief Sketch of Mormon History
B.--The Mountain Meadows Massacre


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