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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]


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1 occurrence of roughing it
[Clear Hits]




THERE were nabobs in those days—in the “flush times,”
I mean. Every rich strike in the mines created one or
two. I call to mind several of these. They were careless,
easy-going fellows, as a general thing, and the community at
large was as much benefited by their riches as they were
themselves—possibly more, in some cases.

Two cousins, teamsters, did some hauling for a man and
had to take a small segregated portion of a silver mine in lieu
of $300 cash. They gave an outsider a third to open the
mine, and they went on teaming. But not long. Ten months
afterward the mine was out of debt and paying each owner
$8,000 to $10,000 a month—say $100,000 a year.

One of the earliest nabobs that Nevada was delivered of
wore $6,000 worth of diamonds in his bosom, and swore he
was unhappy because he could not spend his money as fast as
he made it.

Another Nevada nabob boasted an income that often
reached $16,000 a month; and he used to love to tell how he
had worked in the very mine that yielded it, for five dollars a
day, when he first came to the country.

The silver and sage-brush State has knowledge of another
of these pets of fortune—lifted from actual poverty to affluence
almost in a single night—who was able to offer $100,000 for a
position of high official distinction, shortly afterward, and did
offer it—but failed to get it, his politics not being as sound as
his bank account.


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 321. In-line image of a fat man in a top hat and tails. He is also holding a cane.]

Then there was John Smith. He was a good, honest, kind-hearted
soul, born and reared in the lower ranks of life, and
miraculously ignorant. He drove a team, and owned a small
ranch—a ranch that paid him a comfortable living, for although
it yielded but little hay, what little it did yield was
worth from $250 to $300 in gold per ton in the market.
Presently Smith traded a few acres of the ranch for a small
undeveloped silver mine in Gold Hill. He opened the mine
and built a little unpretending ten-stamp mill. Eighteen
months afterward he retired from the hay business, for his
mining income had reached a most comfortable figure. Some
people said it was $30,000 a month, and others said it was
$60,000. Smith was very rich at any rate.

And then he went to Europe and traveled. And when he
came back he was never tired of telling about the fine hogs he
had seen in England, and
the gorgeous sheep he had
seen in Spain, and the fine
cattle he had noticed in the
vicinity of Rome. He was
full of the wonders of the
old world, and advised everybody
to travel. He said a
man never imagined what
surprising things there were
in the world till he had

One day, on board ship,
the passengers made up a
pool of $500, which was to
be the property of the man
who should come nearest to
guessing the run of the vessel
for the next twenty-four
hours. Next day, toward
noon, the figures were all in the purser's hands in sealed envelopes.
Smith was serene and happy, for he had been bribing


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the engineer. But another party won the prize! Smith

“Here, that won't do! He guessed two miles wider of
the mark than I did.”

The purser said, “Mr. Smith, you missed it further than
any man on board. We traveled two hundred and eight miles

“Well, sir,” said Smith, “that's just where I've got you,
for I guessed two hundred and nine. If you'll look at my
figgers again you'll find a 2 and two 0's, which stands for 200,
don't it?—and after 'em you'll find a 9 (2009), which stands
for two hundred and nine. I reckon I'll take that money, if
you please.”

The Gould & Curry claim comprised twelve hundred feet,
and it all belonged originally to the two men whose names it
bears. Mr. Curry owned two thirds of it—and he said that he
sold it out for twenty-five hundred dollars in cash, and an old
plug horse that ate up his market value in hay and barley in
seventeen days by the watch. And he said that Gould sold
out for a pair of second-hand government blankets and a bottle
of whisky that killed nine men in three hours, and that an
unoffending stranger that smelt the cork was disabled for life.
Four years afterward the mine thus disposed of was worth in
the San Francisco market seven millions six hundred thousand
dollars in gold coin.

In the early days a poverty-stricken Mexican who lived in
a canyon directly back of Virginia City, had a stream of water
as large as a man's wrist trickling from the hill-side on his
premises. The Ophir Company segregated a hundred feet of
their mine and traded it to him for the stream of water. The
hundred feet proved to be the richest part of the entire
mine; four years after the swap, its market value (including
its mill) was $1,500,000.

An individual who owned twenty feet in the Ophir mine
before its great riches were revealed to men, traded it for a
horse, and a very sorry looking brute he was, too. A year or
so afterward, when Ophir stock went up to $3,000 a foot, this


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man, who had not a cent, used to say he was the most startling
example of magnificence and misery the world had ever seen
—because he was able to ride a sixty-thousand-dollar horse—
yet could not scrape up cash enough to buy a saddle, and was
obliged to borrow one
or ride bareback. He
said if fortune were to
give him another sixty-thousand-dollar
horse it
would ruin him.

A youth of nineteen,
who was a telegraph
operator in Virginia on
a salary of a hundred
dollars a month, and
who, when he could not
make out German names
in the list of San Francisco
steamer arrivals,
used to ingeniously select
and supply substitutes
for them out of an
old Berlin city directory,
made himself rich by
watching the mining
telegrams that passed through his hands and buying and selling
stocks accordingly, through a friend in San Francisco.
Once when a private dispatch was sent from Virginia announcing
a rich strike in a prominent mine and advising that
the matter be kept secret till a large amount of the stock could
be secured, he bought forty “feet” of the stock at twenty
dollars a foot, and afterward sold half of it at eight hundred
dollars a foot and the rest at double that figure. Within three
months he was worth $150,000, and had resigned his telegraphic

Another telegraph operator who had been discharged by
the company for divulging the secrets of the office, agreed


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with a moneyed man in San Francisco to furnish him the
result of a great Virginia mining lawsuit within an hour after
its private reception by the parties to it in San Francisco.
For this he was to have a large percentage of the profits on
purchases and sales made on it by his fellow-conspirator. So
he went, disguised as a teamster, to a little wayside telegraph
office in the mountains, got acquainted with the operator, and
sat in the office day after day, smoking his pipe, complaining
that his team was fagged out and unable to travel—and meantime
listening to the dispatches as they passed clicking through
the machine from Virginia. Finally the private dispatch announcing
the result of the lawsuit sped over the wires, and as
soon as he heard it he telegraphed his friend in San Francisco:

“Am tired waiting. Shall sell the team and go home.”

It was the signal agreed upon. The word “waiting” left
out, would have signified that the suit had gone the other way.
The mock teamster's friend picked up a deal of the mining
stock, at low figures, before the news became public, and a
fortune was the result.

For a long time after one of the great Virginia mines had
been incorporated, about fifty feet of the original location were
still in the hands of a man who had never signed the incorporation
papers. The stock became very valuable, and every
effort was made to find this man, but he had disappeared.
Once it was heard that he was in New York, and one or two
speculators went east but failed to find him. Once the news
came that he was in the Bermudas, and straightway a speculator
or two hurried east and sailed for Bermuda—but he was
not there. Finally he was heard of in Mexico, and a friend
of his, a bar-keeper on a salary, scraped together a little money
and sought him out, bought his “feet” for a hundred dollars,
returned and sold the property for $75,000.

But why go on? The traditions of Silverland are filled
with instances like these, and I would never get through enumerating
them were I to attempt do it. I only desired to give
the reader an idea of a peculiarity of the “flush times” which
I could not present so strikingly in any other way, and which


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some mention of was necessary to a realizing comprehension
of the time and the country.

I was personally acquainted with the majority of the
nabobs I have referred to, and so, for old acquaintance sake,
I have shifted their occupations and experiences around in
such a way as to keep the Pacific public from recognizing
these once notorious men. No longer notorious, for the
majority of them have drifted back into poverty and obscurity

In Nevada there used to be current the story of an adventure
of two of her nabobs, which may or may not have
occurred. I give it for what it is worth:

Col. Jim had seen somewhat of the world, and knew more
or less of its ways; but Col. Jack was from the back settlements
of the States, had led a life of arduous toil, and had
never seen a city. These two, blessed with sudden wealth,
projected a visit to New York,—Col. Jack to see the sights,
and Col. Jim to guard his unsophistication from misfortune.
They reached San Francisco in the night, and sailed in the
morning. Arrived in New York, Col. Jack said:

“I've heard tell of carriages all my life, and now I mean to
have a ride in one; I don't care what it costs. Come along.”

They stepped out on the sidewalk, and Col. Jim called a
stylish barouche. But Col. Jack said:

No, sir! None of your cheap-John turn-outs for me.
I'm here to have a good time, and money ain't any object. I
mean to have the nobbiest rig that's going. Now here comes
the very trick. Stop that yaller one with the pictures on it—
don't you fret—I'll stand all the expenses myself.”

So Col. Jim stopped an empty omnibus, and they got in.
Said Col. Jack:

“Ain't it gay, though? Oh, no, I reckon not! Cushions,
and windows, and pictures, till you can't rest. What
would the boys say if they could see us cutting a swell like
this in New York? By George, I wish they could see us.”

Then he put his head out of the window, and shouted to
the driver:


Page 326

“Say, Johnny, this suits me!—suits yours truly, you bet,
you! I want this shebang all day. I'm on it, old man! Let
'em out! Make 'em go! We'll make it all right with you,

The driver passed his hand through the strap-hole, and tapped
for his fare—it was before the gongs came into common
use. Col. Jack took the hand, and shook it cordially. He

“You twig me, old pard! All right between gents.
Smell of that, and see how you like it!”

And he put a twenty-dollar gold piece in the driver's
hand. After a moment
the driver said he could
not make change.

“Bother the change!
Ride it out. Put it in
your pocket.”

Then to Col. Jim, with
a sounding slap on his

Ain't it style, though?
Hanged if I don't hire
this thing every day for a

The omnibus stopped,
and a young lady got in.
Col. Jack stared a moment,
then nudged Col. Jim with
his elbow:

“Don't say a word,”
he whispered. “Let her
ride, if she wants to. Gracious, there's room enough.”

The young lady got out her porte-monnaie, and handed her
fare to Col. Jack.

“What's this for?” said he.

“Give it to the driver, please.”

“Take back your money, madam. We can't allow it.


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[Description: 504EAF. Page 327. In-line image of two men talking with a woman in a big dress, who appears to be very angry.]
You're welcome to ride here as long as you please, but this shebang's
chartered, and we can't let you pay a cent.”

The girl shrunk into a corner, bewildered. An old lady
with a basket climbed in, and proffered her fare.

“Excuse me,” said Col. Jack. “You're perfectly welcome
here, madam, but we can't allow you to pay. Set right down
there, mum, and don't you be the least uneasy. Make yourself
just as free as if you was in your own turn-out.”

Within two minutes, three gentlemen, two fat women, and
a couple of children, entered.

“Come right along, friends,” said Col. Jack; “don't mind
us. This is a free blow-out.” Then he whispered to Col.
Jim, “New York ain't no sociable place, I don't reckon—it
ain't no name for it!”

He resisted every effort to pass fares to the driver, and
made everybody cordially
welcome. The situation
dawned on the people, and
they pocketed their money,
and delivered themselves
up to covert enjoyment of
the episode. Half a dozen
more passengers entered.

“Oh, there's plenty
of room,” said Col. Jack.
“Walk right in, and make
yourselves at home. A
blow-out ain't worth anything
as a blow-out, unless
a body has company.” Then in a whisper to Col. Jim: “But
ain't these New Yorkers friendly? And ain't they cool about
it, too? Icebergs ain't anywhere. I reckon they'd tackle a
hearse, if it was going their way.”

More passengers got in; more yet, and still more. Both
seats were filled, and a file of men were standing up, holding
on to the cleats overhead. Parties with baskets and bundles
were climbing up on the roof. Half-suppressed laughter rippled
up from all sides.


Page 328



[Description: 504EAF. Page 328. In-line image of a stage coach with a group of people surrounding it.]

“Well, for clean, cool, out-and-out cheek, if this don't bang
anything that ever I saw, I'm an Injun!” whispered Col.

A Chinaman crowded his way in.

“I weaken!” said Col. Jack. “Hold on, driver! Keep
your seats, ladies and gents. Just make yourselves free—
everything's paid for. Driver, rustle these folks around as
long as they're a mind to go—friends of ours, you know.
Take them everywheres—and if you want more money, come
to the St. Nicholas, and we'll make it all right. Pleasant
journey to you, ladies and gents—go it just as long as you
please—it shan't cost you a cent!”

The two comrades got out, and Col. Jack said:

“Jimmy, it's the sociablest place I ever saw. The Chinaman
waltzed in as comfortable as anybody. If we'd staid
awhile, I reckon we'd had some niggers. B' George, we'll
have to barricade our doors to-night, or some of these ducks
will be trying to sleep with us.”