Sam Clemens after two weeks on the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise was showing his journalism, reporting and humorous styles on a story that appears to have been a hoax.
A GUNPOWDER MINE.– During the past few days a great number of Indians have visited the Whitman coal mine, situated north of the Palmyra district and occupying rather an isolated position in relation to the other settlements of the Territory. As the Indians visiting the mine scowled and jabbered in a terribly earnest manner, the workmen engaged upon the mine became greatly alarmed. Considering that they were on the frontier, with no white settlements between them and the Indian territory, the men stopping at the mine were seriously considering the preference to withdrawing to the settlements when a Pi-Ute who could speak English quite fluently, was brought to the mine by a crowd of wild red men. This Indian made the owners of the mine an offer a offer of $19,000 for the mine and soon made it plain to the whites that he supposed the black stuff the miners were digging Gunpowder, and only needed pulverizing to be fit for use. So positive were they that this was the case that they would not be convinced to the contrary until they had repaired en mass to the house and seen some of the coal placed in the stove. When they saw it did not explode, and had it explained to them, that it was to be used as wood instead of gunpowder, they left the vicinity to gather pine nuts on the hill, probably satisfied that the mine was no “durned” big thing after all — “nothing but wood.” –Territorial Enterprise. ( n.d.).
San Francisco Bulletin, October 4, 1862, p 3.