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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




THE “flush times” held bravely on. Something over two
years before, Mr. Goodman and another journeyman
printer, had borrowed forty dollars and set out from San
Francisco to try their fortunes in the new city of Virginia.
They found the Territorial Enterprise, a poverty-stricken
weekly journal, gasping for breath and likely to die. They
bought it, type, fixtures, good-will and all, for a thousand dollars,
on long time. The editorial sanctum, news-room, press-room,
publication office, bed-chamber, parlor, and kitchen were
all compressed into one apartment and it was a small one,
too. The editors and printers slept on the floor, a Chinaman
did their cooking, and the “imposing-stone” was the
general dinner table. But now things were changed. The
paper was a great daily, printed by steam; there were five
editors and twenty-three compositors; the subscription price
was sixteen dollars a year; the advertising rates were exorbitant,
and the columns crowded. The paper was clearing from
six to ten thousand dollars a month, and the “Enterprise Building”
was finished and ready for occupation—a stately fire-proof
brick. Every day from five all the way up to eleven
columns of “live” advertisements were left out or crowded
into spasmodic and irregular “supplements.”

The “Gould & Curry” company were erecting a monster
hundred-stamp mill at a cost that ultimately fell little short of
a million dollars. Gould & Curry stock paid heavy dividends
—a rare thing, and an experience confined to the dozen or fifteen


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claims located on the “main lead,” the “Comstock.” The
Superintendent of the Gould & Curry lived, rent free, in a
fine house built and furnished by the company. He drove a
fine pair of horses which were a present from the company,
and his salary was twelve thousand dollars a year. The superintendent
of another of the great mines traveled in grand
state, had a salary of twenty-eight thousand dollars a year, and
in a law suit in after days claimed that he was to have had
one per cent. on the gross yield of the bullion likewise.

Money was wonderfully plenty. The trouble was, not
how to get it,—but how to spend it, how to lavish it,
get rid of it, squander it. And so it was a happy thing
that just at this juncture the news came over the wires
that a great United States Sanitary Commission had been
formed and money was wanted for the relief of the wounded
sailors and soldiers of the Union languishing in the Eastern
hospitals. Right on the heels of it came word that San
Francisco had responded superbly before the telegram was
half a day old. Virginia rose as one man! A Sanitary
Committee was hurriedly organized, and its chairman mounted
a vacant cart in C street and tried to make the clamorous multitude
understand that the rest of the committee were flying
hither and thither and working with all their might and main,
and that if the town would only wait an hour, an office would
be ready, books opened, and the Commission prepared to
receive contributions. His voice was drowned and his information
lost in a ceaseless roar of cheers, and demands that
the money be received now—they swore they would not wait.
The chairman pleaded and argued, but, deaf to all entreaty,
men plowed their way through the throng and rained checks
of gold coin into the cart and skurried away for more. Hands
clutching money, were thrust aloft out of the jam by men who
hoped this eloquent appeal would cleave a road their strugglings
could not open. The very Chinamen and Indians
caught the excitement and dashed their half dollars into the
cart without knowing or caring what it was all about. Women
plunged into the crowd, trimly attired, fought their way to the


Page 315


[Description: 504EAF. Page 315. In-line image of a mob of people throwing money at the man standing on a platform.]
cart with their coin, and emerged again, by and by, with their
apparel in a state of hopeless dilapidation. It was the wildest
mob Virginia had ever seen and the most determined and ungovernable;
and when at last it abated its fury and dispersed,
it had not a penny in its pocket. To use its own phraseology,
it came there “flush” and went away “busted.”

After that, the Commission got itself into systematic working
order, and for weeks the contributions flowed into its
treasury in a generous stream. Individuals and all sorts of
organizations levied upon themselves a regular weekly tax for


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the sanitary fund, graduated according to their means, and
there was not another grand universal outburst till the famous
“Sanitary Flour Sack” came our way. Its history is peculiar
and interesting. A former schoolmate of mine, by the name
of Reuel Gridley, was living at the little city of Austin, in
the Reese river country, at this time, and was the Democratic
candidate for mayor. He and the Republican candidate made
an agreement that the defeated man should be publicly presented
with a fifty-pound sack of flour by the successful one,
and should carry it home on his shoulder. Gridley was
defeated. The new mayor gave him the sack of flour, and he
shouldered it and carried it a mile or two, from Lower Austin
to his home in Upper Austin, attended by a band of music and
the whole population. Arrived there, he said he did not need
the flour, and asked what the people thought he had better do
with it. A voice said:

“Sell it to the highest bidder, for the benefit of the Sanitary

The suggestion was greeted with a round of applause, and
Gridley mounted a dry-goods box and assumed the role of
anctioneer. The bids went higher and higher, as the sympathies
of the pioneers awoke and expanded, till at last the sack
was knocked down to a mill man at two hundred and fifty
dollars, and his check taken. He was asked where he would
have the flour delivered, and he said:

“Nowhere—sell it again.”

Now the cheers went up royally, and the multitude were
fairly in the spirit of the thing. So Gridley stood there and
shouted and perspired till the sun went down; and when the
crowd dispersed he had sold the sack to three hundred different
people, and had taken in eight thousand dollars in gold. And
still the flour sack was in his possession.

The news came to Virginia, and a telegram went back:

“Fetch along your flour sack!”

Thirty-six hours afterward Gridley arrived, and an afternoon
mass meeting was held in the Opera House, and the
auction began. But the sack had come sooner than it was

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[Description: 504EAF. Illustration page with a parade. On one of the floats there is a man holding a bag of flour.]


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expected; the people were not thoroughly aroused, and the
sale dragged. At nightfall only five thousand dollars had
been secured, and there was a crestfallen feeling in the community.
However, there was no disposition to let the matter
rest here and acknowledge vanquishment at the hands of the
village of Austin. Till late in the night the principal citizens
were at work arranging the morrow's campaign, and when
they went to bed they had no fears for the result. At eleven
the next morning a procession of open carriages, attended by
clamorous bands of music and adorned with a moving display
of flags, filed along C street and was soon in danger of
blockade by a huzzaing multitude of citizens. In the first
carriage sat Gridley, with the flour sack in prominent view,
the latter splendid with bright paint and gilt lettering; also in
the same carriage sat the mayor and the recorder. The other
carriages contained the Common Council, the editors and
reporters, and other people of imposing consequence. The
crowd pressed to the corner of C and Taylor streets, expecting
the sale to begin there, but they were disappointed, and also
unspeakably surprised; for the cavalcade moved on as if
Virginia had ceased to be of importance, and took its way
over the “divide,” toward the small town of Gold Hill.
Telegrams had gone ahead to Gold Hill, Silver City and
Dayton, and those communities were at fever heat and
rife for the conflict. It was a very hot day, and wonderfully
dusty. At the end of a short half hour we descended into
Gold Hill with drums beating and colors flying, and enveloped
in imposing clouds of dust. The whole population—men,
women and children, Chinamen and Indians, were massed in
the main street, all the flags in town were at the mast head,
and the blare of the bands was drowned in cheers. Gridley
stood up and asked who would make the first bid for the
National Sanitary Flour Sack. Gen. W. said:

“The Yellow Jacket silver mining company offers a thousand
dollars, coin!”

A tempest of applause followed. A telegram carried
the news to Virginia, and fifteen minutes afterward that city's


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population was massed in the streets devouring the tidings—
for it was part of the programme that the bulletin boards
should do a good work that day. Every few minutes a new
dispatch was bulletined from Gold Hill, and still the excitement
grew. Telegrams began to return to us from Virginia
beseeching Gridley to bring back the flour sack; but such
was not the plan of the campaign. At the end of an hour
Gold Hill's small population had paid a figure for the flour
sack that awoke all the enthusiasm of Virginia when the grand
total was displayed upon the bulletin boards. Then the
Gridley cavalcade moved on, a giant refreshed with new lager
beer and plenty of it—for the people brought it to the
carriages without waiting to measure it—and within three
hours more the expedition had carried Silver City and Dayton
by storm and was on its way back covered with glory. Every
move had been telegraphed and bulletined, and as the procession
entered Virginia and filed down C street at half past
eight in the evening the town was abroad in the thorough-fares,
torches were glaring, flags flying, bands playing, cheer
on cheer cleaving the air, and the city ready to surrender at
discretion. The auction began, every bid was greeted with
bursts of applause, and at the end of two hours and a half a
population of fifteen thousand souls had paid in coin for a
fifty-pound sack of flour a sum equal to forty thousand dollars
in greenbacks! It was at a rate in the neighborhood of three
dollars for each man, woman and child of the population.
The grand total would have been twice as large, but the
streets were very narrow, and hundreds who wanted to bid
could not get within a block of the stand, and could not make
themselves heard. These grew tired of waiting and many of
them went home long before the auction was over. This was
the greatest day Virginia ever saw, perhaps.

Gridley sold the sack in Carson city and several California
towns; also in San Francisco. Then he took it east and sold
it in one or two Atlantic cities, I think. I am not sure of
that, but I know that he finally carried it to St. Louis, where a
monster Sanitary Fair was being held, and after selling it


Page 319
[ILLUSTRATION] [Description: 504EAF. Page 319. Tail-piece image of the seal of the United States Sanitary Commission.] there for a large sum and helping on the enthusiasm by displaying
the portly silver bricks which Nevada's donation had
produced, he had the flour baked up into small cakes and retailed
them at high prices.

It was estimated that when the flour sack's mission was
ended it had been sold for a grand total of a hundred and fifty
thousand dollars in greenbacks! This is probably the only
instance on record where common family flour brought three
thousand dollars a pound in the public market.

It is due to Mr. Gridley's memory to mention that the
expenses of his sanitary flour sack expedition of fifteen thousand
miles, going and returning, were paid in large part, if
not entirely, out of his own pocket. The time he gave to it
was not less than three months. Mr. Gridley was a soldier
in the Mexican war and a pioneer Californian. He died at
Stockton, California, in December, 1870, greatly regretted.