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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




ORIGINALLY, Nevada was a part of Utah and was
called Carson county; and a pretty large county it was,
too. Certain of its valleys produced no end of hay, and this
attracted small colonies of Mormon stock-raisers and farmers
to them. A few orthodox Americans straggled in from California,
but no love was lost between the two classes of colonists.
There was little or no friendly intercourse; each party
staid to itself. The Mormons were largely in the majority,
and had the additional advantage of being peculiarly under
the protection of the Mormon government of the Territory.
Therefore they could afford to be distant, and even peremptory
toward their neighbors. One of the traditions of Carson
Valley illustrates the condition of things that prevailed at the
time I speak of. The hired girl of one of the American
families was Irish, and a Catholic; yet it was noted with surprise
that she was the only person outside of the Mormon ring
who could get favors from the Mormons. She asked kindnesses
of them often, and always got them. It was a mystery
to everybody. But one day as she was passing out at the
door, a large bowie knife dropped from under her apron, and
when her mistress asked for an explanation she observed that
she was going out to “borry a wash-tub from the Mormons!”

In 1858 silver lodes were discovered in “Carson County,”
and then the aspect of things changed. Californians began to
flock in, and the American element was soon in the majority.


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Allegiance to Brigham Young and Utah was renounced, and
a temporary territorial government for “Washoe” was instituted
by the citizens. Governor Roop was the first and only
chief magistrate of it. In due course of time Congress passed
a bill to organize “Nevada Territory,” and President Lincoln
sent out Governor Nye to supplant Roop.

At this time the population of the Territory was about
twelve or fifteen thousand, and rapidly increasing. Silver
mines were
being vigorously
silver mills
Business of
all kinds was
active and
and growing
more so day
by day.

The people
were glad
to have a legitimately

but did not
enjoy having
from distant
States put in
over them—a sentiment that was natural enough. They thought
the officials should have been chosen from among themselves
—from among prominent citizens who had earned a right to


Page 187
such promotion, and who would be in sympathy with the
populace and likewise thoroughly acquainted with the needs
of the Territory. They were right in viewing the matter
thus, without doubt. The new officers were “emigrants,”
and that was no title to anybody's affection or admiration

The new government was received with considerable coolness.
It was not only a foreign intruder, but a poor one. It
was not even worth plucking—except by the smallest of small
fry office-seekers and such. Everybody knew that Congress
had appropriated only twenty thousand dollars a year in greenbacks
for its support—about money enough to run a quartz
mill a month. And everybody knew, also, that the first year's
money was still in Washington, and that the getting hold of
it would be a tedious and difficult process. Carson City was
too wary and too wise to open up a credit account with the
imported bantling with anything like indecent haste.

There is something solemnly funny about the struggles of
a new-born Territorial government to get a start in this world.
Ours had a trying time of it. The Organic Act and the
“instructions” from the State Department commanded that a
legislature should be elected at such-and-such a time, and its
sittings inaugurated at such-and-such a date. It was easy to
get legislators, even at three dollars a day, although board was
four dollars and fifty cents, for distinction has its charm in
Nevada as well as elsewhere, and there were plenty of patriotic
souls out of employment; but to get a legislative hall for them
to meet in was another matter altogether. Carson blandly
declined to give a room rent-free, or let one to the government
on credit.

But when Curry heard of the difficulty, he came forward,
solitary and alone, and shouldered the Ship of State over the
bar and got her afloat again. I refer to “Curry—Old Curry
—Old Abe Curry.” But for him the legislature would have
been obliged to sit in the desert. He offered his large stone
building just outside the capital limits, rent-free, and it was
gladly accepted. Then he built a horse-railroad from town


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to the capitol, and carried the legislators gratis. He also
furnished pine benches and chairs for the legislature, and
covered the floors with clean saw-dust by way of carpet and
spittoon combined. But for Curry the government would
have died in its tender infancy. A canvas partition to separate
the Senate from the House of Representatives was put
up by the Secretary, at a cost of three dollars and forty cents,
but the United States declined to pay for it. Upon being reminded
that the “instructions” permitted the payment of a
liberal rent for a legislative hall, and that that money was saved
to the country by Mr. Curry's generosity, the United States
said that did not alter the matter, and the three dollars and
forty cents would be subtracted from the Secretary's eighteen
hundred dollar salary—and it was!

The matter of printing was from the beginning an interesting
feature of the new government's difficulties. The
Secretary was sworn to obey his volume of written “instructions,”
and these commanded him to do two certain things
without fail, viz.:

1. Get the House and Senate journals printed; and,

2. For this work, pay one dollar and fifty cents per
“thousand” for composition, and one dollar and fifty cents
per “token” for press-work, in greenbacks.

It was easy to swear to do these two things, but it was entirely
impossible to do more than one of them. When greenbacks
had gone down to forty cents on the dollar, the prices
regularly charged everybody by printing establishments were
one dollar and fifty cents per “thousand” and one dollar and


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fifty cents per “token,” in gold. The “instructions” commanded
that the Secretary regard a paper dollar issued by the
government as equal to any other dollar issued by the government.
Hence the printing of the journals was discontinued.
Then the United States sternly rebuked the
Secretary for disregarding the “instructions,” and warned him
to correct his ways. Wherefore he got some printing done,
forwarded the bill to Washington with full exhibits of the
high prices of things in the Territory, and called attention to
a printed market report wherein it would be observed that
even hay was two hundred and fifty dollars a ton. The
United States responded by subtracting the printing-bill from
the Secretary's suffering salary—and moreover remarked with
dense gravity that he would find nothing in his “instructions”
requiring him to purchase hay!

Nothing in this world is palled in such impenetrable
obscurity as a U. S. Treasury Comptroller's understanding.
The very fires of the hereafter could get up nothing more
than a fitful glimmer in it. In the days I speak of he never
could be made to comprehend why it was that twenty
thousand dollars would not go as far in Nevada, where all
commodities ranged at an enormous figure, as it would in the
other Territories, where exceeding cheapness was the rule.
He was an officer who looked out for the little expenses all
the time. The Secretary of the Territory kept his office in
his bedroom, as I before remarked; and he charged the
United States no rent, although his “instructions” provided
for that item and he could have justly taken advantage of it
(a thing which I would have done with more than lightning
promptness if I had been Secretary myself). But the United
States never applauded this devotion. Indeed, I think my
country was ashamed to have so improvident a person in its

Those “instructions” (we used to read a chapter from
them every morning, as intellectual gymnastics, and a couple
of chapters in Sunday school every Sabbath, for they treated
of all subjects under the sun and had much valuable religious


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matter in them along with the other statistics) those “instructions”
commanded that pen-knives, envelopes, pens and
writing-paper be furnished the members of the legislature.
So the Secretary made the purchase and the distribution.
The knives cost three dollars apiece. There was one too
many, and the Secretary gave it to the Clerk of the House of
Representatives. The United States said the Clerk of the
House was not a “member” of the legislature, and took that
three dollars out of the Secretary's salary, as usual.

White men charged three or four dollars a “load” for
sawing up stove-wood. The Secretary was sagacious enough
to know that the United States would never pay any such
price as that; so he got an Indian to saw up a load of office
wood at one dollar and a half. He made out the usual
voucher, but signed no name to it—simply appended a note
explaining that an Indian had done the work, and had done
it in a very capable and satisfactory way, but could not sign
the voucher owing to lack of ability in the necessary direction.
The Secretary had to pay that dollar and a half. He
thought the United States would admire both his economy and
his honesty in getting the work done at half price and not
putting a pretended Indian's signature to the voucher, but the
United States did not see it in that light. The United States
was too much accustomed to employing dollar-and-a-half
thieves in all manner of official capacities to regard his explanation
of the voucher as having any foundation in fact.

But the next time the Indian sawed wood for us I taught
him to make a cross at the bottom of the voucher—it looked


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like a cross that had been drunk a year—and then I “witnessed”
it and it went through all right. The United States
never said a word. I was sorry I had not made the voucher
for a thousand loads of wood instead of one. The government
of my country snubs honest simplicity but fondles
artistic villainy, and I think I might have developed into a
very capable pickpocket if I had remained in the public
service a year or two.

That was a fine collection of sovereigns, that first Nevada
legislature. They levied taxes to the amount of thirty or
forty thousand dollars and ordered expenditures to the extent


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of about a million. Yet they had their little periodical explosions
of economy like all other bodies of the kind. A member
proposed to save three dollars a day to the nation by
dispensing with the Chaplain. And yet that short-sighted
man needed the Chaplain more than any other member, perhaps,
for he generally sat with his feet on his desk, eating
raw turnips, during the morning prayer.

The legislature sat sixty days, and passed private toll-road
franchises all the time. When they adjourned it was
estimated that every citizen owned about three franchises,
and it was believed that unless Congress gave the Territory
another degree of longitude there would not be room enough
to accommodate the toll-roads. The ends of them were
hanging over the boundary line everywhere like a fringe.

The fact is, the freighting business had grown to such important
proportions that there was nearly as much excitement
over suddenly acquired toll-road fortunes as over the wonderful
silver mines.