Month: September 2015

“in lieu of pocket change”

Sam Clemens first met Robert Muir Howland in late August 1861, when Howland arrived in Carson City  from Aurora in the Esmeralda mining region as a delegate to the Union convention for the territory.  After the convention, Clemens accompanied Howland back to Aurora to visit the mines.  In Aurora he met Hollands mining partner Horatio Gates Phillips, these two had come from Nevada County, California.  They had built a wood and canvas dugout into the side of Last Chance Hill  on Willow Springs Gulch,  just North of Green;s Quartz Mill or the Pioneer Mill as it was the first erected in the camp. A month or so after  Clemens had returned to Carsom City, Bob Howland again arrived in town, when the following newspaper item soon appeared in the Silver Age.

“Our friend R. M. Howland, Esq., of Aurora, dropped into this office yesterday, having a boulder from the Fresno Lode in his possession.  Fortunately, Bob owns in that lode, and brings this specimen for Dr. Muncton 1: if it had  been otherwise we might have suspicioned that he had picked it up accidentally
, and brought it along in lieu of pocket change.”


“Aurora from Last Chance Hill”

Based on a 1861 sketch by Pascal Loomis.

         Both Last Chance Hill a
nd Martinez Hill are long spurs emanating from a more elevated protrusion. During the flush times this knob was known by some as “Fresno Hill.”  Located on the lower slopes of the protrusion, near the area  where Last Chance Hill emanates outward,` was the mining claim that gave the Fresno Hill its name.  It was located some distance South of the Pioneer Mill.  In August the owners of the Fresno and the nearby Ellsworth claim made a contract with A. A. DeKay to run a tunnel into the hill to strike the ledges of the two companies. The tunnel was to be “Six feet in height and four feet six inches in width” and to “reconed at five feet in the face and to run through the Ellsworth Quartz Lode and continued to the Fresno Quartz Lode for the distance of one hundred and ten feet.”  For running this tunnel DeKay was to receive the sum of two hundred dollars in cash as well as one hundred feet in both claims.  The owners were to pay the cash in installments after every twenty feet run, and to give deeds to the ground when the contract was completed.2 
        Earlier in June, Bob Howland had obtained feet in both of these claims. The mining deed records that Howland paid one hundred dollars for twenty feet in both claims.  A few days later Howland purchased twenty feet more in the Fresno for two hundred dollars.  On the mining frontier three hundred dollars in hard cash was a commodity that few adventurers possessed.3       

1. Dr. Muncton was a Carson City druggists who also owned property in Aurora.
2.  H. D. Bequett to Edwin Williams, Mining Deeds  Book D (Mono) p. 380, in this deed the Fresno location is described as being on “Fresno Hill” other deeds place it “on hill opposite and east” of several claims on Middle Hill  most deeds locate it on Last Chance Hill the location of some valuable claims in the hope of increasing its value. Under this contract after digging in five feet the contractor was to also search for and report other hidden veins or blind leads so as to not claim later as his own.  Fresno Gold and Silver Mining Co. to A. A. DeKay, Book of Contracts (Mono) p. 18.
 3.  John T. Creed to R. M. Howland, Mining Deeds Book C (Mono) p. 389; W. T. Watkins to R. M. Howland, Mining Deeds Book C (Mono) p.383.

Mark Twain’s Wish.


When Clemens first arrived in the California gold region, he mentioned in his notebook that he was in Vallecito, which is near Murphy’s in Calaveras Country on the road to the Big Trees.  As it was winter the two travelers probably encountered snow and returned to Angles Camp and back to Jackass Hill in Tuolumne County, if the following account had occurred.

Sam Clemens while a resident of Jackass Hill in this county, became imbibed with the idea that his future existence depended upon a sight of the Big Trees; so one day he started, accompanied by his, mining partner. After passing Murphy’s the “lay of the country” became unfamiliar to the travelers, and as night closed upon them they came to the conclusion that they were not only lost but that the prospects of food and shelter for the night were as slim as they well could be. They had followed a wood road to the summit of a chaparral crowned hill and did not know which way to turn to reach the road again. After floundering around in the chemical and tar weed for an hour or more they reached a road near an apparently deserted house. Their halloos soon brought around them as vicious a pack of dogs as ever haunted the canine infested streets of Constantinople. They numbered toward, fifty and not one of them was dumb. They dashed at Sam and his companion with murderous fury compelling them both to seek a trembling resting place on the fence. The howls of the dogs finally brought about twenty of their masters from the house, and these men must have smiled in the twilight when their eyes fell upon Clemens and his friend clinging with heel and hand to the top rail of the fence surrounded by the hungry snapping dogs. They proved to be Italians who did not understand a word of English. Then and not till then did Clemens lose his temper. He swore at himself for getting into the scrape. He cursed his companion for not knowing the road. He anathematized the Italians for coming to the country before they had mastered the .English language. He profanely alluded to the gap in his early education that had not been filled in with the soft, melodious tongue of Italy, winding up his remarks with a glance of concentrated hate atthe pack of yelping dogs beneath him, as he turned to his companion and in that inimitably lazy drawl so peculiar to him said: “Do you know, Jim, it I might at this moment ask a favor of Providence, after my familiarity with his name, if it was to be the last yearning desire of my heart, I would ask that I might be converted into a ton of prime beef, loaded with strychnine, and dumped among that gang of curs. I’d die contented after that.”

Daily Alta California, , 15 September 1875, From the Sonora Democrat, nd.

Mark Twain As An Indian Fighter.


The native population and the miners had a history of conflict and death in this region of the southern mines. In the area between the two rivers the Stanislaus on the north and the Tuolumne on the south lived a tribe known as the Wallas. In 1851 when the Yosemite Indians were forced onto a reservation, they did not want to be in the land of the Wallas, which in their language was “being down” meaning they were not from the mountains.

Story Of One Of His Experiences In Tuolumne.

Of the many stories now floating about in regard to the past experiences of Sam Clemens, none are more droller than the following one, (at this time in the diggings passed as the) frozen truth. We would remark in that the story need not be taken as evidence of faintheartedness or lack of “sand” on the part of Clemens, nut his action attributed simply to his inordinate love of humor, and an overweening desire to shoot his little joke while on the wing. The incident we refer to occurred during the Innocent’s sojourn at Jackass Hill, near Tuttletown, where he was prospecting with Jim Gillis. For some time there had been rumor’s discontent among the Indians, a farce band of Wallas, having gathered near Pendola Ferry, on the Stanislaus River, and, after announcing their intension of annihilating the miners shortest order possible, decamped for f the higher Sierras to obtain, it was generally supposed, a sufficient force to carry out their bloodthirsty threats. One bright afternoon late in the autumn, Sam and Jim were sitting in front of their cabin  on Jackass Hill. The former engaged in rubbing Mustang Liniment on a slight bruise that discolored his left leg, sustained by a fall which he had received that day during one of his prospecting expeditions, the latter watching the operation while he lazily smoked a corncob full of kinnikinnick. Suddenly a man rushed in breathless haste up the Hill and stammered, as he wildly gesticulated; “They’re comin’,” “Let’ em come, we’re ready for most anything from fortune to famine,” answered the imperturbable Mark, as he continued to plaster the liniment on his injured limb. “But they’re injuns,” was the excited remark of the messenger, “an’ everybody’s turning out, Tuttletown’s in arms, and they want Sam, to take command.” “What’s my rank.” asked Sam, looking quizzically at the man, “Quartermaster or solder, which?” The Aid-de-camp waited to hear no more, but rushed away to alarm others, and Mark and Jim made their way to Tuttletown, where they found a great crowd of miners assembled and ready to march on the foe. Mark was appointed to the command of a company, and in due course the army was on the march. The Stanislaus River having been reached just at dusk, it was though advisable with more caution, as the enemy was supposed to be encamped in that vicinity The different companies separated, and spreading out in a semi-circle, marched up the river. Mark’s company, consisting of ten men, were plodding along in the gathering gloom, when shoots were heard at no great distance on the hillside.
“Halt;” commanded Mark. The company halted.
“Gentlemen, this is no time for fooling, Tuttletown, expects every man to do his duty. The enemy is before us. You will form into a hollow square. To the rear open order, and as the rear happens to be open, it is in order for every man to proceed in that direction as orderly a manner as possible. As I am lame myself, I think I will commence the retrograde movement first. March1”
As the rumor of the approach of the bloodthirsty red ma was afterward proved to be a false alarm, this movement on the part of Mark’s division was not noticed at the time, although, freely discussed afterward in Tuttletown, and the explanation given that Mark was frightened by the explosion of a belated hunters shot-gun.

 Cincinnati Daily Times May 05, 1876, p. 3, from the Sonora Democrat, nd.

Of course there in little truth in this tale it never was in Roughing It but then Jim Gillis didn’t write the book.