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 and 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
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.