Wednesday, May 29, 2019

C.C. Goodwin Long Forgotten By Nevada Writers

C.C. Goodwin. Courtesy: Washoe Courts.
(Editor's note: For a few posts, starting with this one, I'll diverge from my review of C.C. Goodwin's "The Comstock Club." This post is a feature on Goodwin.)

With the exception of "The War Prayer" by Mark Twain, my favorite writing of the Sagebrush School of writers is Charles C. Goodwin's "The Comstock Club" published in 1891.

At least, so far, among many writers I've read.

I find his portrayal of discussions among the men who established the fictional Comstock Club in Virginia City to be among the best prose to have come out of the Sagebrush School.

The Sagebrush School of Writers is a distinct American literary epoch composed mainly of Nevada-based writers. Until 2009, it wasn't given much thought by many in Nevada; that's when the Nevada Writers' Hall of Fame recognized the Sagebrush School. The Hall of Fame was established in 1988.

"The Sagebrush School was the literary movement written primarily by men of Nevada," according to Wikipedia's page on the Sagebrush School. "The sagebrush shrub is prevalent in the state. It was a broad-based movement and included various literary genres such as drama, essays, fiction, history, humor, journalism, memoirs, and poetry.

"The name Sagebrush School was coined by Ella Sterling Mighels, who stated: 'Sagebrush school? Why not? Nothing in all our Western literature so distinctly savors of the soil as the characteristic books written by the men of Nevada and that interior part of the State where the sagebrush grows.'"

"The roots of the movement were in the American Old West," the Wikipedia entry continues. "The Sagebrush School was the main contributor to American literature from Nevada's mining frontier during the period of 1859 to 1914. There were several characteristics of this movement that distinguished it from others, such as literary talent. These authors were known to be intelligent and accomplished writers."

The Sagebrush School's multifaceted styles are what distinguish the school from other American literary styles. The Sagebrush School's styles represent some of the richest veins of American prose ever compiled. Sadly, with the exception of a few writers, the literary school is not given the accolades it deserves, in my opinion. It is particularly frustrating because these writers collectively tower over most modern and contemporary American writers — again, my personal opinion as a voracious reader.

"The style included hoaxes, wit, audacity, or an irreverent attitude," Wikipedia notes. "The inspiration for the movement began with Joseph T. Goodman of the Virginia City, Nevada Territory's 'Territorial Enterprise' newspaper. The most notable of the Sagebrush School writers, and a Territorial Enterprise journalist, was Mark Twain. In 2009, the Sagebrush School was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame."

I would say the Sagebrush School represents far more than hoaxes, wit, audacity or an irreverent attitude. Just read C.C. Goodwin's "The Comstock Club" to gain an appreciation for his prose in which the gentlemen of the club discuss many ideas, often waxing poetic and philosophical. That book alone is worthy of a university course for its sheer brilliance.

One really has to wonder why it took so long for the Sagebrush School to be recognized by modern-era Nevada writers. That is not to say the Sagebrush School has been totally ignored. I'm just surprised more hasn't been written about all the writers within that genre.

Furthermore, in none of my university journalism classes did any teacher ever mention The Sagebrush School. That seems odd, given the influence that these Nevada writers had — not only on American literature, but American society.

Some of the more popular writers are celebrated, as noted by the University of Nevada, Reno.

Mark Twain. Courtesy: Wikipedia.
"Sagebrush writers Mark Twain, Dan De Quillle and Alfred Doten have been previously inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame," UNR states. "2009 celebrates the 150th anniversary of The Comstock Lode and a revival of interest in the Sagebrush School of writers.

"In recognition of the significant contributions of the authors, Samuel Post Davis, Joseph Thompson Goodman, Rollin Mallory Daggett, Charles Carroll Goodwin, James W. Gally, Fred H. Hart, Arthur McEwen, Henry Rust Mighels, Denis E. McCarthy, James Townsend, Thomas Fitch, and the many other writers whose work has yet to be excavated from the archives, the Sagebrush School has been selected to be inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. They were an extraordinary cast of characters who created a distinctive early voice in our national literature — with lasting (if hitherto unacknowledged) influence."

So it took a historic milestone of 150 years to prompt a recognition. While I realize the Hall of Fame wasn't conceived until 1988, it seems UNR or some other institution could have done more to recognize the Sagebrush School in 50, 75, 100 or 125 years.

Furthermore, with UNR and all the students, professors and graduate students, why haven't the archives been thoroughly searched to include any writers not yet listed?

A book on the Sagebrush School of Writers was published in 2006 by the University of Missouri. UNR lists a book published by UNR in 2008 titled "Literary Nevada : writings from the Silver State." That is good news, and I purchased an inexpensive used book from Barnes & Noble for a little more than $3, although shipping was almost twice that.

In a summary of the 831-page book (plus 24 unnumbered pages of plates), UNR states, "'Literary Nevada' is the first comprehensive literary anthology of Nevada. It contains over 200 selections ranging from traditional Native American tales, explorers' and emigrants' accounts, and writing from the Comstock Lode and other mining boomtowns, as well as compelling fiction, poetry, and essays from throughout the state's history."

While it is a commendable effort, why is this book the "first comprehensive literary anthology of Nevada" — especially when the state has an excellent university in the very region where the Sagebrush School of writers flourished? It boggles the mind.

"There is work by well-known Nevada writers such as Sarah Winnemucca, Mark Twain, and Robert Laxalt, by established and emerging writers from all parts of the state, and by some nonresident authors whose work illuminates important facets of the Nevada experience," the UNR book summary continues. "The book includes cowboy poetry, travel writing, accounts of nuclear Nevada, narratives about rural life and urban life in Las Vegas and Reno, poetry and fiction from the state's best contemporary writers, and accounts of the special beauty of wild Nevada's mountains and deserts. Editor Cheryll Glotfelty provides insightful introductions to each section and author. The book also includes a photo gallery of selected Nevada writers and a generous list of suggested further readings."

Not mentioned in the summary is Goodwin. {Note: The book arrived and I still haven't found mention of C.C. Goodwin, but I will not that if I do find him mentioned.} To me, he was a better writer than Twain, although he wrote few books (I have only found three; if you know of more, please leave the title or titles in a comment). "The Comstock Club" is far superior to anything Twain wrote about The Comstock Lode, in my personal opinion, and it's better than many of Twain's books I've read — and I've read a lot of Mark Twain, with my favorite being not a novel but "The War Prayer."

So, who was Goodwin?

"Charles C. Goodwin was born in the Genesee Valley, N.Y., a few miles from Rochester," according to the Washoe Courts' website that features excellent and thorough articles on former Washoe judges. "He received an academic education, and became a wonderfully proficient mathematician. He had most of the English classics at his tongue's end when a boy, but could never surmount the barriers which lay between him and the dead languages.

"In 1852 he came to California and studied law under his brother, Jesse Goodwin, in Marysville, where he afterward became teacher in an academy. He practiced law and taught school until 1861, when he came to Nevada and built a quartz mill a few miles below Dayton. Goodwin invested a small fortune into the mill's construction. When the mill was nearly completed the owner announced a 'warming' {akin to a grand opening in the modern era}, and was making preparations to celebrate the event ... when a freshet {flash flood} swept it away."

Within minutes, his mill that represented his significant investment was gone, but that wasn't the worst part of this natural disaster.

"At the same time six of his men were drowned, one of them leaving an orphan boy to the cruel charity of the world," according to the Washoe Courts' biography. "Goodwin adopted the boy, who held the position of lieutenant in the Regular Army. His kind care and providence for the future of that child speaks of a generous, loyal nature, true and unflinching in its instincts, louder and with a more certain sound than would a eulogy.

"Selling the dismantled machinery of the mill. he paid off such of his men as were left. With a few hundred dollars in his pockets, Goodwin put up an arastra at Dayton."

An arrastra photographed in 2011 at Liberty, Wash., by Todd Petit. Via Wikipedia CC BY 2.0. Photo was converted to black-and-white from original color.

"An arrastra (or arastra) is a primitive mill for grinding and pulverizing (typically) gold or silver ore," notes the Wikipedia page dedicated to arrastra. "The simplest form of the arrastra is two or more flat-bottomed drag stones placed in a circular pit paved with flat stones, and connected to a center post by a long arm. With a horse, mule or human providing power at the other end of the arm, the stones were dragged slowly around in a circle, crushing the ore. Some arrastras were powered by a water wheel; a few were powered by steam or gasoline engines, and even electricity."

In his ranching and mining ventures, it has been reported that his Achilles heel was debt in the form of compounded interest-bearing notes.

"His bad luck seemed to follow him like a shadow," the Washoe Courts' website notes.

Despite such misfortune, Goodwin staked out a ranch in Washoe County. However, even that venture resulted in a bit of bad luck.

"A lawsuit 20 miles away cut off the water supply with an injunction, and he left the ranch a howling wilderness," states the Washoe Courts' website. "Shortly afterward he was elected District Judge of Washoe County, and edited a newspaper. ...

Territorial Enterprise building in Virginia City, Nev. Courtesy University of Nevada, Reno.
"He next located a mine in Eureka, and just as his friends were expecting to see him blossom into a millionaire, the mine gave out and left him in the lurch again. Another mine opened in Nye County treated him with the same lack of devotion to his interests."

Probably more stunned by even more misfortune, Goodwin "returned to the newspaper business, where he really belonged," the Washoe Courts' website notes.

"For six years he ran The Territorial Enterprise, for a while as editor-in-chief and a portion of the time in connection with Congressman Rollin M. Daggett," the Washoe Courts' website recounts. "The judge edited the paper with a vigor that made its influence felt in Nevada, and it was recognized as a journal controlled by a man of brains and culture. While he was editor The Enterprise had nothing but gall and wormwood for the unreconstructed Bourbons. In 1880 he left that paper to accept a position as editor-in-chief of the Salt Lake Tribune.

"In private life Goodwin is a conversationalist such as one seldom meets, and his fund of quaint humor, ready repartee and good stories, seemed inexhaustible. His home was always open to his friends, and his purse at the mercy of every old tramp, dead-beat and imposter who called upon him for assistance, as he could no more resist an appeal for charity than he could change the attributes of his nature."

Goodwin's character and talent were widely respected. Carson Appeal's editor and publisher Henry Rust Mighels paid tribute to Goodwin in the Nov. 12, 1878 edition:

Henry Rust Mighels. Property
of Special Collections Library,
University of Nevada, Reno.
Via Nevada Writers Hall
of Fame Pinterest page.
"In the history of Nevada journalism no such brilliant and effective assaults were ever made by any newspaper upon the enemy's line as Goodwin has been making," according to the Washoe Courts' website. "His splendid services should be most generously remembered; and he has, while making an enviable reputation for himself, placed The Territorial Enterprise in the front rank of live and powerful political newspapers.

"The people of the state have a right to be proud of their leading daily print, as his brethren of the pen-and-scissors have a right to glory in the achievements of their overworked but unflinching and faithful brother. The Appeal gives him all hail!"

Having worked in radio, web and print journalism for 33 years, I can tell you that praise from a journalist from another publication is rare.

Later in life, Goodwin would immortalize himself in the annals of Western Frontier literature with his books. "The Comstock Club" may have been his best novel and features far more literary brilliance than any of Mark Twain's literary endeavors — with the exception of Twain's "The War Prayer." Goodwin also wrote "As I Remember Them" and "The Wedge of Gold," both of which can be found on Project Gutenberg and "The Wayback Machine" (Archive.org), respectively.

(Editor's note: The Washoe Courts' biography of C.C. Goodwin had grammatical errors in it that have been corrected, as well as a different style than AP Style, and I changed the present tense to the past tense. Changes include capitalization changes, grammatical corrections, spelling corrections, etc. The Wikipedia information quoted has also had slight edits for clarity. Thank you to Washoe Courts and Wikipedia for providing such historically significant information that should not be forgotten. Disclosure: I subscribe to The Nevada Appeal. I do not accept and have not received any monetary or other incentives to write any articles on this blog.)



Saturday, May 25, 2019

Gentlemen Discuss Omnipotent Artist's Mastery Of Nature

The Comstock Club gentlemen were a well-traveled group, with extensive knowledge of the Western and Northewestern United States that added to their knowledge about the East Coast and the Northeast.

In this post, Mr. Strong tells Mr. Ashley that in any discussion about the Columbia River, one must follow it farther north, to the Idaho lava beds.

The discussion meanders to Niagara Falls and waxes poetic regarding the immensity of creation and the presence of God in His creations.

Idaho lava fields. Stephen Conn. CC BY-NC 2.0

"The Columbia is very grand, but you must follow it up to its chief tributary if you would find perfect glory —  follow it into the very desert. You have heard of the lava beds of Idaho. They were once a river of molten fire from 300 feet to 900 feet in depth, which burned its way through the desert for hundreds of miles.
"To the east of the source of this lava flow, the Snake River bursts out of the hills, becoming almost at once a sovereign river, and flowing at first south-westerly, and then bending westerly, cuts its way through this lava bed, and, continuing its way with many bends, finally, far to the north merges with the Columbia.

"On this river are several falls.

"First, the American Falls, are very beautiful. Sixty miles below are the Twin Falls, where the river, divided into two nearly equal parts, falls one hundred and eighty feet. They are magnificent.

"Three miles below are the Shoshone Falls, and a few miles lower down the Salmon Falls. It was of the Shoshone Falls that I began to speak.

"They are real rivals of Niagara. Never anywhere else was there such a scene; never anywhere else was so beautiful a picture hung in so rude a frame; never anywhere else on a background so forbidding and weird were so many glories clustered.

"Around and beyond there is nothing but the desert, sere, silent, lifeless, as though Desolation had builded there everlasting thrones to Sorrow and Despair.

"Away back in remote ages, over the withered breast of the desert, a river of fire one hundred miles wide and four hundred miles long, was turned. As the fiery mass cooled, its red waves became transfixed and turned black, giving to the double desert an indescribably blasted and forbidding face.

"But while this river of fire was in flow, a river of water was fighting its way across it, or has since made the war and forged out for itself a channel through the mass. This channel looks like the grave of a volcano that has been robbed of its dead.

American Falls and Bridal Veil by Robert F. Tobler. CC BY-SA 4.0
"But right between its crumbling and repellant walls a transfiguration appears. And such a picture! A river as lordly as the Hudson or the Ohio, springing from the distant snow-crested Tetons, with waters transparent as glass, but green as emerald, with majestic flow and ever-increasing volume, sweeps on until it reaches this point where the august display begins.

"Suddenly, in different places in the river bed, jagged, rocky reefs are upraised, dividing the current into four rivers, and these, in a mighty plunge of eighty feet downward, dash on their way. Of course, the waters are churned into foam and roll over the precipice white as are the garments of the morning when no cloud obscures the sun. The loveliest of these falls is called 'The Bridal Veil,' because it is made of the lace which is woven with a warp of falling waters and a woof of sunlight. Above this and near the right bank is a long trail of foam, and this is called 'The Bridal Train.' The other channels are not so fair as the one called 'The Bridal Veil,' but they are more fierce and wild, and carry in their furious sweep more power.

"One of the reefs which divides the river in mid-channel runs up to a peak, and on this a family of eagles have, through the years, may be through the centuries, made their home and reared their young, on the very verge of the abyss and amid the full echoes of the resounding boom of the falls. Surely the eagle is a fitting symbol of perfect fearlessness and of that exultation which comes with battle clamors.

"But these first falls are but a beginning. The greater splendor succeeds. With swifter flow the startled waters dash on and within a few feet take their second plunge in a solid crescent, over a sheer precipice, two hundred and ten feet to the abyss below. On the brink there is a rolling crest of white, dotted here and there, in sharp contrast, with shining eddies of green, as might a necklace of emerald shimmer on a throat of snow, and then the leap and fall.

"Here more than foam is made. Here the waters are shivered into fleecy spray, whiter and finer than any miracle that ever fell from India loom, while from the depths below an everlasting vapor rises— the incense of the waters to the water's God.

American Falls. R.A. Killmer. Flickr R.A. Killmer CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
"Finally, through the long, unclouded days, the sun sends down his beams, and to give the startling scene its crowning splendor, wreaths the terror and the glory in a rainbow halo. On either sullen bank the extremities of its arc are anchored, and there in its many-colored robes of light it stands outstretched above the abyss like wreaths of flowers above a sepulcher. Up through the glory and the terror an everlasting roar ascends, deep-toned as is the voice of Fate, a diapason like that the rolling ocean chants when his eager surges come rushing in to greet and fiercely woo an irresponsive promontory.

"But to feel all the awe and to mark all the splendor and power that comes of the mighty display, one must climb down the steep descent to the river's brink below, and, pressing up as nearly as possible to the falls, contemplate the tremendous picture. There something of the energy that creates that endless panorama is comprehended; all the deep throbbings of the mighty river's pulses are felt; all the magnificence is seen.

"In the reverberations that come of the war of waters one hears something like God's voice; something like the splendor of God is before his eyes; something akin to God's power is manifesting itself before him, and his soul shrinks within itself, conscious as never before of its own littleness and helplessness in the presence of the workings of Nature's immeasurable forces.

"Not quite so massive is the picture as is Niagara, but it has more lights and shades and loveliness, as though a hand more divinely skilled had mixed the tints, and with more delicate art had transfixed them upon that picture suspended there in its rugged and sombre frame.

"As one watches it is not difficult to fancy that away back in the immemorial and unrecorded past, the Angel of Love bewailed the fact that mortals were to be given existence in a spot so forbidding, a spot that apparently was never to be warmed with God's smile, which was never to make a sign through which God's mercy was to be discerned; that then Omnipotence was touched, that with His hand He smote the hills and started the great river in its flow; that with His finger He traced out the channel across the corpse of that other river that had been fire, mingled the sunbeams with the raging waters and made it possible in that fire-blasted frame of scoria to swing a picture which should be, first to the red man and later to the pale races, a certain sign of the existence, the power and the unapproachable splendor of the Great First Cause.


"And as the red man through the centuries watched the spectacle, comprehending nothing except that an infinite voice was smiting his ears, and insufferable glories were blazing before his eyes; so through the centuries to come the pale races will stand upon the shuddering shore and watch, experiencing a mighty impulse to put off the sandals from their feet, under an overmastering consciousness that the spot on which they are standing is holy ground.

"There is nothing elsewhere like it; nothing half so weird, so wild, so beautiful, so clothed in majesty, so draped with terror; nothing else that awakens impressions at once so startling, so winsome, so profound. While journeying through the desert to come suddenly upon it, the spectacle gives one something of the emotions that would be experienced to behold a resurrection from the dead.

"In the midst of what seems like a dead world, suddenly there springs into irrepressible life something so marvelous, so grand, so caparisoned with loveliness and irresistible might, that the head is bowed, the strained heart throbs tumultuously and the awed soul sinks to its knees."

The whistles had sounded while Strong was speaking, and as he finished the good nights were spoken and the lights put out.

Glory Of Earth: The Columbia River

Columbia River. Flickr. Bonnie Moreland. Public domain.
In my previous two posts, the gentlemen of The Comstock Club discussed their admiration for the majesty of Mount Shasta in what is now California and Lake Tahoe, which is now in California and Nevada. In this post, they talk further of equally beautiful and compelling natural wonders wrought by the skilled craftsmanship of the almighty Creator of all in heaven and on Earth.

Their discussion features a Manifest Destiny theme of American sovereignty, no matter that Native Americans were the rightful inhabitants of the land so described and a people who should have been consulted rather than nearly annihilated.

Mr. Ashley also finds a symmetry with the "fight" of the river on its march to the ocean, much like a worker on his journey through life.

C.C. Goodwin weaves this narrative with a mastery and wisdom that can only come with having had many life experiences that cause such reflection and contemplation.

"But while on grand themes, have you ever seen the Columbia River?" Mr. Ashley asked. "To me it is the glory of the earth. It is a great river fourteen hundred miles above its mouth, and from thence on it rolls to the sea with increasing grandeur all the way. Where it hews its way through the Cascades a new and gorgeous picture is every moment painted, and when the mountain walls are pierced, with perfect purity and with mighty volume it sweeps on toward the ocean.

Mount Hood. Flickr. Public domain. Federal government.

"It is, through its last one hundred and fifty miles, watched over by great forests and magnificent mountains. There are Hood and St. Helens and the rest, and where, upon the furious bar, the river joins the sea, there is an everlasting war of waters as beautiful as it is terrible.

"It makes a man a better American to go up the Columbia to the Cascades and look about him. He is not only impressed with the majesty of the scene, but thoughts of empire, of dominion and of the glory of the land over which his country's flag bears sovereignty, take possession of him. He looks down upon the rolling river and up at Mount Hood, and to both he whispers, 'We are in accord; I have an interest in you,' and the great pines nod approvingly, and the waterfalls babble more loud.

"The Mississippi has greater volume than the Oregon, the Hudson makes rival pictures which perhaps are as beautiful as any painted in the Cascades; but there is a power, a beauty, a purity and a wildness about the river of the West which is all its own and which is unapproachable in its charms.


"More than that. To me the river is the emblem of a perfect life. Through all the morning of its career it fights its way, blazing an azure trail through the desert. There is no green upon its banks, hardly does a bird sing as it struggles on. But it bears right on, and so austere is its face that the desert is impotent to soil it. Then it meets a rocky wall and breaks through it, roaring on its way. Then it takes the Willamette to its own ample breast, and it bears it on until it meets the inevitable, and then undaunted goes down to its grave.

"It fights its way, it bears its burdens, it remains pure and brave to the last. That is all the best man that ever lived could do." As Ashley concluded Strong said: "Why, Ashley! that is good."

Comstock Gentleman Says Mt. Shasta Has 'Sovereign' Look

Mt. Shasta by Hike395. Source Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 3.0. Via Wikipedia.

As the night wears on, the gentlemen of The Comstock Club continue their discussion that included (in my last post) revelation on Mount Sinai. With a question, the conversation shifts to Mt. Shasta in what is today's Northern California.

"Professor," Mr. Strong said, "we have heard about the Wasatch Range and Mount Sinai, shake up your memory and tell us about old Mount Shasta! I heard you describe it once. It is a grand mountain, is it not?"

"The grandest in America, so far as I have seen," was {Brewster's} reply. "It is said that Whitney is higher, but Whitney has for its base the Sierras, and the peaks around it dwarf its own tremendous height. But Shasta rises from the plain a single mountain, and while all the year around the lambs gambol at its base, its crown is eternal snow. Men of the North tell me that it is rivaled by Tacoma, but I never saw Tacoma.

"In the hot summer days as the farmers at Shasta's base gather their harvests, they can see where the wild wind is heaping the snow drifts about his crest. The mountain is one of Winter's stations, and from his forts of snow upon its top he never withdraws his garrison.

"There are the bastions of ice, the frosty battlements;

there his old bugler, the wind, is daily sounding the advance and the retreat of the storm.

"The mountain holds all latitudes and all seasons at the same time in its grasp. Flowers bloom at its base, further up the forest trees wave their ample arms; further still the brown of autumn is upon the slopes and over all hangs the white mantle of eternal winter.

"Standing close to its base, the human mind fails to grasp the immensity of the butte. But as one from a distance looks back upon it, or from some height twenty miles away views it, he discovers how magnificent are its proportions.

Mt. Shasta by Owne Byrne via Flickr. CC by 2.0.

"For days will the mountain fold the mist about its crest like a vail and remain hidden from mortal sight, and then suddenly as if in deference to a rising or setting sun, the vapors will be rolled back and the watcher in the valley below will behold gems of topaz and of ruby made of sunbeams, set in the diadem of white, and towards the sentinel mountain, from a hundred miles around, men will turn their eyes in admiration. In its presence one feels the near presence of God, and as before Babel the tongues of the people became confused, so before this infinitely more august tower man's littleness oppresses him, and he can no more give fitting expression to his thoughts.

"It frowns and smiles alternately through the years; it hails the outgoing and the incoming centuries, changeless amid the mutations of ages, forever austere, forever cold and pure. The mountain eagle strains hopelessly toward its crest; the storms and the sunbeams beat upon it in vain; the rolling years cannot inscribe their numbers on its naked breast.

"Of all the mountains that I have seen it has the most sovereign look; it leans on no other height; it associates with no other mountain; it builds its own pedestal in the valley and never doffs its icy crown.


Mr. Brewster noted that "sunlight points with ruby silver and gold the mimic glaciers of the butte."

"It is a blessing as well as a splendor. With its cold it seizes the clouds and compresses them until their contents are rained upon the thirsty fields beneath; from its base the Sacramento starts, babbling on its way to the sea; despite its frowns it is a merciful agent to mankind, and on the minds of those who see it in all its splendor and power a picture is painted, the sheen and the enchantment of which will linger while memory and the gift to admire magnificence is left."

South Lake Tahoe. Flickr. Navdeep Raj. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

"That is good, Professor," said Corrigan; "but to me there is insupportable loneliness about an isolated mountain. It sames always to me like a gravestone set up above the grave of a dead worreld. But spakin' of beautiful things, did yees iver sae Lake Tahoe in her glory?

"I was up there last fall, and one day, in anticipation of the winter, I suppose, she wint to her wardrobe, took out all her winter white caps and tied them on; and she was a daisy.

"Her natural face is bluer than that of a stock sharp in a falling market; but whin the wind 'comes a wooin' and she dons her foamy lace, powders her face with spray and fastens upon her swellin' breast a thousand diamonds of sunlight, O, but she is a winsome looking beauty, to be sure. Thin, too, she sings her old sintimintal song to her shores, and the great overhanging pines sway their mighty arms as though keeping time, joining with hers their deep murmurs to make a refrain; and thus the lake sings to the shore and the shore answers back to the song all the day long.

"Tahoe, in her frame of blue and grane, is a fairer picture than iver glittered on cathadral wall; older, fairer and fresher than ancient master iver painted tints immortal upon.

Bonsai Rock. Flickr. Geoff Stearns. CC by 2.0.

"There in the strong arms of the mountains it is rocked, and whin the winds ruffle the azure plumage of the beautiful wathers, upon wather and upon shore a splendor rists such as might come were an angel to descend to earth and sketch for mortals a sane from Summer Land."

"You are right, Corrigan," said Ashley. "If the thirst for money does not denude the shores of their trees, and thus spoil the frame of your wonderful picture, Lake Tahoe will be a growing object of interest until its fame will be as wide as the world."

Promised Land Forever In Sight

When we return to The Comstock Club, its members are discussing the beauty of sunsets, with a short commentary about devotion and prayer.

"As I watched {a sunset} I realized for the first time how it was that before books were made men learned to be devout and to pray; for the picture was as I fancy Sinai must have appeared, when all the elements combined to make a spectacle to awe the multitude before the mountain; and when they were told that the terrible cloud on the mountain's crest was the robe which the infinite God had drawn around Himself in mercy, lest at a glimpse of His unapproachable brightness they should perish, it was not strange if they believed it," Mr. Brewster noted.

It was not often that Brewster talked, but when he did there was about him a grave and earnest manner which impressed all who heard him with the perfect sincerity of the man.

After he ceased speaking the room was still for several seconds. At length the Colonel broke the silence:

Revelation, Sinai. Wikipedia. Public domain.
"Brewster, you spoke of Sinai. What think you of that story; of the Red Sea affair; of the Sinai incident, and the golden calf business?"

"Believed literally," Brewster continued, "it is the most impressive of earthly literature; looked upon allegorically, still it is sublime. Its lesson is, that when in bondage to sorrow and to care, if we but bravely and patiently struggle on, the sea of trouble around us will at length roll back its waves into walls and leave for us a path.

"Unless we keep straining onward and upward, no voice of Hope, which is the voice of God, will descend to comfort us.

"If we are thirsty we must smite the rock for water; that is, for what we have we must work, and if we cease our struggle and go into camp, we not only will not hold our own, but in a little while we will be bestowing our jewels upon some idol of our own creation.

"If we toil and never falter, before we die we shall climb Pisgah and behold the Promised Land; that is, we shall be disciplined until we can look every fate calmly in the face and turn a smiling brow to the inevitable.

"I found a man once, living upon almost nothing, in a hut that had not one comfort. He had graded out a sharp hillside, set some rude poles up against the bank, covered them with brush, and in that den on a bleak mountain's crest he had lived through a rough winter. I asked him how he managed to exist without becoming an idiot or a lunatic. His answer was worthy of an old Roman. 'Because,' said he, 'I at last am superior to distress.'

"He had reached the point that Moses reached when he gained the last mountain crest. After that the Promised Land was forever in sight."

Thursday, May 23, 2019

'Flag On Fire' A Spectacle On Mount Davidson In 1863

An 1875-77 photo of the Bullion Mine, Virginia City, Nev., courtesy of J. Paul Getty Museum. The photographer was Carleton Watkins (American, 1829-1916). "Most of the miners in this rugged settlement took special care to dress for their portrait, appearing in their best white shirts and black jackets," Getty notes. "Only the gentleman seated atop the trolley on the left looks as if he has just emerged from the mineshaft. The California Gold Rush peaked in 1852, yet pioneers like those pictured here continued to toil in the mines over twenty years later. While three young children appear in the picture, the women of the town are conspicuously absent. In this depiction of scattered homes carved into a barren mountainside, Carleton Watkins conveyed the isolation of the prospecting and pioneering western frontier."
The pioneer Virginia City residents couldn't believe their eyes. Torn from a wooden pole on top of Mount Davidson, an American flag was carried by the fierce wind when it suddenly became illuminated by the setting sun peaking through storm clouds over the Sierras. The spectacle was so profound that a female poet took up the challenge and put the experience ~ which captivated countless onlookers on The Comstock Lode ~ to poetry.

This post reveals her long-lost poem, as well as the four American flags, any one of which may have been the flag torn asunder.

C.C. Goodwin mentions, in passing, poem titled "The Flag On Fire" by Anna M. Fitch in his literary masterpiece titled "The Comstock Club."

He notes that in July 1863, a heavy storm with thunder descended upon the pioneer mining outpost.

"… As the sun was disappearing behind Mount Davidson, the clouds broke and rolled away from the west,” writes Goodwin, “while at the same time a faint rainbow appeared in the East, making one of those beautiful spectacles common to mountainous regions.

"At the same time the flag on Mount Davidson caught the beams from the setting sun and stood out a banner of fire. This, too, is not an unfrequent spectacle in Virginia City, and long ago inspired a most gifted lady to write a very beautiful poem, 'The Flag on Fire.'"

"From the summit of Mount Davidson, looking westward from Virginia City, Nevada, float the stars and stripes," Fitch writes. "On the evening of July 30th, 1863, upon the breaking away of a storm, this banner was suddenly illuminated by some curious refraction of the rays of the setting sun. Thousands of awe struck persons witnessed the spectacle, which continued until the streets of Virginia, 1500 feet below, were in utter darkness."

At a time when there were sympathizers of The Union or the Confederacy in Virginia City, the poem was sure to inflame the pride of patriotism in the hearts of those who supported The Union.

The poem is cast in a reverential, almost religious, style, that seems to indicate a feeling among some observers that the illumination of the Stars and Stripes was somehow divinely ordained and proof that the United States of America would continue to prosper and be victorious in The Civil War.

What no writer mentioned was which American flag was atop Mount Davidson. We don't even know if it was one of the four most-current flags used by the United States.

An American flag used from 1861-63. Wikipedia. Public domain.

The Flag On Fire*

by Anna M. Fitch

Up the somber
Silent chamber
Of the silver-seamed Sierra,
Where the Pi-ute
Roams in quiet
And the eagle spreads her eyrie —
Climbed on our flag, and sat in splendor
Climbed our flag, and sat in splendor
Thronged with elemental wonder.

Flushed with warning,
Dawned the morning,
O'er Nevada’s gold-girt canons
While momentous
Clouds portentous
Beat aloft their dusky pinions,
And the lengthening day slow wheeling
'Neath its swarthy height was reeling

Now the marring
Lightning scarring,
Cleaves the mailed front of heaven,
Sifting, shifting,
Drifting, rifting,
Clouds capricious course till even,
So the swarthy army marches,
Conquering through the shadowy arches.

An American flag used from 1861-63. Wikipedia. Public domain.
Cloud-bemantled,
Storm-ensandled,
Droops the flag, all gloom-encompassed,
Now unfurling,
Waltzing, whirling,
To the music of the tempest —
While aloft the dark-browed legion
Marshals through the storm-wrapped region.

Now the crumbling
Shadows, tumbling
Into silver-skirted showers
Lo! Upbuildered
From the gilded
Eastern crags, a rainbow towers;
Linked with Carson’s purple fountain,
Circling the desert, vale and mountain.

Fire! Fire!
Fire! Fire!
Who has set the flag on fire?
What vile traitor
By Creator
Spurned, thus dare defy despair?
God of prophecy and power,
Stay the omen of the hour.

An American flag used from 1863-65. Wikipedia. Public domain.
Oh! the splendor,
Oh! The wonder,
To the worshipping beholder!
Gathering, glowing
Flaming, flowing
Skyward — fiercer, freer, bolder
Burn the beating stars of empire,
Lit by traitor-torch, nor camp-fire.

Blood nor palette,
More than all that,
Mid those starry embers linger;
Tis an omen
Sent to no man —
Signet on an unseen finger —
Prophecy from heaven’s own portal,
Borne by winged worlds immortal.

Now circling
Darkness purpling,
Plumes the rock-ribbed mountain hoary;
Yet the hallowed,
Flag unpillowed,
Burns aloft in stilly glory;
Wonder-mute, no man inveigheth;
Peace, be still! a nation prayeth.

An American flag used from 1863-65. Wikipedia. Public domain.
In an obituary about Fitch published in "Paradise of the Pacific" Vols. 16-18 (Jan. 1, 1903), Fitch's literary accomplishments were noted.

"…  She had literary tastes, and in the exercise of her talents displayed genius," according to the publication. "One particular poem she wrote, … titled 'The Song of the Flume,' was regarded by William Cullen Bryant as classic. She also wrote 'The Flag on Fire,' 'Over the Hill,' 'The Loves of Paul Fenly,' and 'Bound Down' — a book of Fate.

"She caught a good deal of her inspiration from the scenes, the incidents and the romances of the great Pacific Slope, where most of her life was spent. With her husband she wrote ‘Better Days,’ or a ‘Millionaire of Tomorrow,’ a tale of the present period dealing somewhat with the labor interests."

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Race For Wealth Buries Miners' Higher Aspirations

Photograph of groups of workmen at the Gould and Curry Mine,taken about 1875. Miners are posing with lanterns and lunch pails. Photo by James H. Crockwell. Courtesy of University of Nevada, Reno.
Another evening at The Comstock Club found the men discussing idleness and sloth in comparison to the industriousness and hard work of their present generation of miners and others working in the mining industry in The Comstock Lode.

They ponder if their and others' success at unleashing wealth unmatched in the world's history and the rush to material riches was somehow undermining the natural instincts that God imbued humans with to earn a living, along with a moral code to keep rebelliousness in check.

They wonder if such advancements will result in another English-aristocracy-like society, at the expense of the common worker whose hard labor is what provides the rich with riches.

They note the selfless devotion of scientists and others whose inventions were for the sake of humanity as opposed to what they were now seeing as mercantilism for enriching oneself. Lost is the desire to benefit fellow human beings. They could see the slow creep of a societal selfishness that remains with us to this day.

Of course, there are other universal themes in this discussion that you may find for yourself; C.C. Goodwin makes sure of that in "The Comstock Lode" as quoted below:

"And yet," mused Brewster, "there are mighty works going on everywhere. This Nation to-day makes a showing such as this world never saw before. From sea to sea, for three thousand miles, the chariot wheels of toil are rolling and roaring as they never did in any other land. The energy that is exhausted daily amounts to more than all the world's working forces did a hundred years ago.

Photograph of Comstock miners underground. The
photo by Thomas Woodliff. The photo has been lightened.
Courtesy of the University of Nevada, Reno.
"The thing to grieve about is not that there is not enough work being performed, but that in this intensely practical, and material age, the gentler graces in the hearts of men are being neglected. In the race for wealth the higher aspirations are being smothered.

"If from the 'tongue-less past' there could be awakened the silent voices, the cry which would be heard over all others would be: 'I had some golden thoughts; I meant to have given them expression, but the swiftly moving years with their cares were too much for me, and I died and made no sign.'

"If there is such a thing as a ghost of memory, all the aisles of the past are full of wailing voices, wailing over facts unspoken, over eloquence that died in passionate hearts unuttered, over divine poems that never were set to earthly music. Aside from native indolence, most men are struggling for bread, and when the day's work is completed, brain and hand are too weary for further effort. So the years drift by until the zeal of young ambition loses its electric thrill; until cares multiply; until infirmities of body keep the chords of the soul out of tune, and the night follows, and the long sleep.

"There were great soldiers before Achilles or Hector, but there were no Homers, or if there were, they were dissipated fellows, or they were absorbed in business, or, under the clear Grecian sky, it was their wont to dream the beautiful days away, and so, no sounds were uttered, of the kind which, booming through space, strike at last on the immortal heights, and there make echoes which thrill the earth with celestial music ever after.

"If fortune had not made an actor of Shakespeare, and if his matchless spirit, working in the line of his daily duties, had not felt that all the plays offered were mean and poor, as wanting in dramatic power as they were false to human nature, and so was roused to fill a business need, the chances are a thousand to one that he 'would have died with all his music in him,' and would, to-day, have been as entirely lost in oblivion as are the boors who were his neighbors. Just now there is not much hope for our own country, and probably will not be for another century.

"Present efforts are all for wealth and power and are almost all earthly. Everything is calculated from a basis of coin. Before that, brains are cowed, and for it Beauty reserves her sweetest smiles. The men who are pursuing grand ideas with no motive more selfish than to make the masses of the world nobler, braver and better, or to give new symphonies to life, are wondrously few. There are splendid triumphs wrought, but they are almost every one material and practical.


"The men who created the science of chemistry dreamed of finding the elixir of life; the modern chemist pursues the study until he invents a patent medicine or a baking powder, and then all his energies are devoted to selling his discovery.

"In its youthful vitality the Nation has performed wonders, and from the masses individuals have solved many of nature's mysteries and bridled many elemental forces.

"The winds have been forced to swing open the doors to their caves and show where they are brewed; the lightnings have submitted to curb and rein; the ship goes out against the tempest, carried forward on its own iron arms; the secret of the sunlight has been fathomed and a counterfeit light created; the laws which govern sound have been mastered until the human voice now thrills a wire and is caught with perfect distinctness sixty miles away, and a thousand other such triumphs have been achieved.

"But no deathless poem has been written, no immortal picture has been called to life on canvas; no master hand has touched the cold stone and transfigured it into something which seems ready, like the fabled statue of the old master, to warm into life and smiles.


"Souls surcharged at first with celestial fire have waited for the work of the bodies to be finished, that they might materialize into words of form and splendor, waited until the tenement around them fell away and left them unvoiced, to seek a purer sphere, and a generation, three generations have died with their deepest tints unpainted, their sweetest music unsung.

"This is one of the penalties attached to the laying of the foundations of new States. There is too much to be accomplished, too many purely material struggles to be made, and so hearts are stifled and souls, glowing with celestial fervor, are forbidden an altar on which to kindle their sacred flame.

"England struggled a thousand years before a man appeared to shame wealth, power and titles with the majesty of a divine mind. Perhaps it will be as long in the United States before some glorified spirit will appear to show by example that the things which this generation is struggling most for are mere dust, which, when obtained, are but Dead Sea apples to the lips of hope."

"But Brewster," said Harding, "do you not think that a good miner is of more use to the world than a bad sculptor?"

"Suppose," said Carlin, "we were all to stop this four dollars a day business of ours and go to writing poetry, who would pay the {domestic employee} and settle the grocery bills at the end of the month?" "Were not the Argonauts making pretty good use of their time," asked Miller, "when in twelve years they dug up and gave to the world nearly a thousand millions of dollars and caused such a change in the business of the country as comes to the fainting man's circulation through a transfusion of healthy blood into his veins?"

"Did you not tell us last evening," said Ashley, "that when a poor man earned a home for his wife and babies, that to him came the perfume and the light?"

... "There is a mirage before Brewster's eyes to-night," said Miller; "the business of most men is to earn bread."

Then Brewster, bristling up, responded: "My answer to all of you is this: Man's first duty is to provide for himself, and for those dependent upon him, by honest toil, either of hand or brain, or both.

"For a long time you have each worked eight hours out of the twenty-four; perhaps eight hours more have been absorbed in eating and sleeping. What have you done with the other eight hours? You are miners. You can set timbers in line, you can lie on your backs and hit a drill above you with perfect precision; but could you make a draught of a mine, or clothe a description of one in good language on paper? You look upon a piece of ore, but can you test it and tell how much it is worth? These are all legitimate parts of your business as miners, and I refer to them merely to illustrate that in the excitements of this city, and the dream of getting rich in stock speculations, you have not only neglected your better natures, but have failed to thoroughly accomplish yourselves in your real business.

"You can see what you have actually lost, but you cannot estimate the pleasure you have been denying yourselves. Then when you are too old to work, what amusements and diversions are you preparing for old age?"

"For that, matter," said Miller, "ask the man who fell down the Alta shaft last week, 800 feet to the sump, and the pieces of whose body, that could be found, were sewed up in canvas to be brought to the surface."

Virginia and Truckee Locomotive No. 27 in 1945 at Gold Hill;
Miners Union Hall. Courtesy of the University of Nevada, Reno.
Then there was a silence for several minutes until a freight train, with two locomotives (a double header), came up the heavy grade from Gold Hill and, when opposite the house of the Club, both locomotives whistled.

Then there was a silence for several minutes until a freight train, with two locomotives (a double header), came up the heavy grade from Gold Hill and, when opposite the house of the Club, both locomotives whistled.

At this Corrigan said: "Hear those black horses neigh! What a hail they give to the night! What a power they have under their black skins! I wonder if they don't think sometimes, the off-colored monsters."

"If the steam engine has not reflective faculties it ought to have," said Harding. "The highest pleasures which a man, in his normal state, can have are the approving whispers of his own soul. If in the iron frame of the steam engine there could be hidden a soul, what whispers would thrill it in these days! Methinks they would be something like this:

"'When I was born Invention gave to Progress a child which was to be to the modern world what the Genii were to the ancient world, except that I am real, while the Genii were but dreams. In me man finds the materialization of a dream which haunted mortals through the centuries, while the world was slowly pressing onward to a better state.

"'At my birth men were glad to give to me their burdens, because I could carry them without fatigue. They thought me but a dumb slave to do their bidding; they saw that I could add greatly to their achievements by enabling them to overcome heavy matter, and with tireless feet to chase the swift hours. I cannot add to man's actual years, but I can make one hour for him equal to a day in the olden time.

"'At first my work was confined to the closely peopled regions. But at length I was pushed out beyond the settlements of men, and then something of the divinity within me began to assert itself. {... W}hen the path was made for me into the immemorial hills, before my scream the scream of the eagle died away. The lordly bird spread his wings to seek more impenetrable crags. Following in my wake, civilization came; homes sprang up, temples to art and to learning were upreared, and on the air, which but a year before was startled only by barbarous cries, there fell the benediction of children's voices, as with swinging satchels in their hands, they sang their songs going to and returning from schools. Then man began to discover that there was more to me than polished iron and brass; more than a heart of fire and a breath of steam. In my headlight they began to discover a faint reflection of the Infinite light, and in whispers began to say: "It is not a dumb slave; rather it is to Progress an evangel."

"'As my power increased, it was seen that as the wild man and wild beast fled before me, old bigotries and old superstitions likewise fled, snarling like wolves, from my path; man moved up to a higher plane, and as he comprehended himself better, his thoughts were led upward; with enlarged ideas and deeper reverence, he turned to the contemplation of the First Great Cause who thrilled the dull matter of the universe with His own celestial light and order, and established that nothing was made in vain. And now a path is to be made down where the terrible Spaniard wrested an empire from the Aztecs; where, with the sword, he hewed down the altars on which human sacrifices were made, and built up new altars consecrated to Christianity. The people there will gather around me and rejoice. They think only of material things; how I will carry their burdens, take from them the fatigue of travel and increase their trade. They do not know that mine is a higher mission; that as I do their work there is to gradually fade from the faith that holds them, the superstitions which for centuries have environed their better selves and benumbed their grander energies. They will not realize, what is true, that angels still walk with men; that it is the near presence of the angels of Progress, Truth, Free Thought, Mercy and Eternal Justice, all rejoicing, which will give the thrill to their hearts.

"'As yet my work has hardly commenced. It is not yet fifty years since I became a power in the world. Wait until I am better understood, until the smooth paths are made for me through all the wilderness, over all the rivers and hills, and I am given dominion over all the deep seas, that I may swiftly bring together the children of men, till gradually the nations will take on common thoughts and return to that tongue which was universal when the world was young, and, as yet, man walked in the clear image of his Creator. Then armies will melt away before me as savage tribes now do; then no more cannons will be cast, no more swords fashioned. Then, through my example, labor in the walks of peace will become exalted; then the thirst for gold will cease, because I will till the field, drive the loom, and take from man all that is servile or gross in toil; and gradually the wild beast in men's souls will be bred out, and in the peace of perfect brotherhood men will possess the earth, and I will be the good angel that will take away the burdens.'

"As if in response to the words of Harding, just as he finished, the whistles all up and down the great lode sounded for the eleven o'clock change of shift, and the Club retired with this remark from Corrigan:

"Harding, they heard what yez was remarkin' upon, and now hear the whole row of them cheerin' your spache."

Friday, May 17, 2019

Prospecting Joe's Fate Ends In A Lost Love

Photograph of miner with loaded donkey or burro. "Steady Jack" used for "packing" the miners' tools up the mountainside
in Nevada's Comstock Lode. From the George Wharton James Collection; courtesy of the University of Nevada, Reno.

(Editor's note: In this post, we find The Comstock Club's members contemplating unrequited love, fate, labor, charity, hard work and more.)

"All that is good," said Carlin, "but the rule does not always hold true. There is sometimes a limit to man's capacity to suffer, and his heart breaks; and still after that his face gives no sign, and there is no abatement of his energies. In such cases, however, men generally lose the capacity to reason calmly and chase impossibilities. I saw a case yesterday. I met a man mounted on a cheap mustang, and leading another on which was packed a little coarse food, a pick, shovel, pan, coffee-pot and frying pan. As he moved slowly up C. street, a friend — himself an Argonaut — clutched me by the arm with one hand, and with the other pointing to the man on horseback, asked me if I knew him. Replying that I did not, he said: 'Why, that is "Prospecting Joe"; I thought everybody knew him.' I told him I had never heard of him, when he related his story, almost word for word, as follows:

"He came to the far West from some Eastern state in the old, old days. He was not then more than twenty-three or twenty-four years old. Physically he was a splendid specimen of a man, I am told. He was, moreover, genial and generous, and drew friends around him wherever he went. He secured a claim in the hills above Placerville. One who knew him at that time told me, that, calling at his cabin one night, he surprised him poring over a letter written in a fair hand, while beside him on his rude table lay the picture of a beautiful girl. His heart must have been warmed at the time, for picking up the picture and handing it to my friend, he said. 'Look at her! She is my Nora, my Nora. She, beautiful as she is, would in her divinity have bent and married a coarse mold of clay like myself, and poor, too, as I was; but her father said: 'Not yet, Joe. Go out into the world, make a struggle for two years, then come back, and if by that time you have established that you are man enough to be a husband to a true woman, and you and Nora still hold to the thought that is in your hearts now, I will help you all I can. And, mind you, I don't expect you to make a fortune in two years; I only want you to show that the manhood which I think you have within you is true.' 'That was square and sensible talk, and it was not unkind. So I came away.

"'Then he took the picture and looked fondly at it for a long time, and said: 'I see the delicious girl as she looked on that summer's day, when she waved me her last good by. I shall see her all my life, if I live a thousand years.'


"Well, Joe worked on week days; on Sundays, as miners did in those days, he went to camp to get his mail and supplies. His claim paid him only fairly well, but he was saving some money. In eight months he had been able to deposit twelve hundred dollars in the local bank. One Sunday he did not receive the expected letter from his Nora, and during the next hour or two he drank two or three times with friends. He was about to leave for home, when three men whom he slightly knew, and who had all been drinking too much, met him and importuned him to drink with them. He declined with thanks, when one of the three caught him by the arm and said he must drink.

"At any other time he would have extricated him self without trouble and gone on his way. But on that day he was not in good humor, so he shook the man off roughly and shortly told him to go about his own affairs.

"The others were just sufficiently sprung with liquor to take offense at this, and the result was a terrific street fight. Joe was badly bruised but he whipped all three of the others. Then he was arrested and ordered to appear next morning to answer a charge of fighting. He was of course cleared without difficulty, but it took one-fourth of his deposit to pay his lawyer. Then the miners gathered around him and called him a hero and he went on his first spree.

International Hotel in Virginia City, Nevada.
Courtesy of the University of Nevada, Reno.
"Next morning when he awoke and thought of as much as he could remember of the previous day's events, he was thoroughly ashamed. As he went down to the office of the hotel, in response to an inquiry as to how he felt, he answered: 'Full of repentance and beer.' A friend showed him the morning paper with a full account of the Sunday fight and his trial and acquittal. This was embellished with taking head-lines, as is the custom with reporters. It cut him to the heart.

"He knew that if the news reached his old home of his being in a street fight on Sunday, all his hopes would be ended. His first thought was to draw his money and take the first steamer for Panama and New York. He went to the bank and asked how his account stood, for he remembered to have drawn something the previous day. He was answered that there was still to his credit $150. The steamer fare was $275. Utterly crushed, he returned to his claim. The fear that the news of his disgrace would reach home, haunted him perpetually and made him afraid to write. He continued to work, but not with the old hope.

"After some weeks, a rumor came that rich ground had been 'struck' away to the north, somewhere in Siskiyou county. He drew what money he had, bought a couple of ponies, one to ride and one to pack, and started for the new field. Before starting, he confided to a friend that the previous night he had dreamed of a mountain, the crest of which glittered all over with gold, and he was going to find it. "The friend told him it was but a painted devil of the brain, the child of a distempered imagination, but he merely shook his head and went away.

"He has pursued that dream ever since. His eyes have been ever strained to catch the reflection from those shining heights. When he began the search, his early home and the loving arms which were there stretched out to him, began to recede in the distance. In a few years they disappeared altogether. Then his hopes one by one deserted him, until all had fled except the one false one which was, and still is, driving him on. Youth died and was buried by the trail, but so absorbed was he that he hardly grieved. As Time served notice after notice upon him; as his hair blanched, his form bent and the old sprightliness went out of his limbs, he retired more and more from the haunts of men; more and more he drew the mantle of the mountains around him. But his eyes, now bright with an unnatural splendor, were still strained upon the shining height. There were but a few intervening hills and some forests that obstructed his view. A little further on and the goal would be reached. Last night he was in his cups and he told my friend that this time he would 'strike it sure,' that the old man would make his showing yet, that he would yet go back to the old home and be a Providence to those he loved when a boy.

"Poor wretch. There is an open grave stretched directly across his trail. On this journey or some other soon, he will, while his eyes are still straining towards his heights of gold, drop into that grave and disappear forever.

"Some morning as he awakens, amid the hills or out upon the desert, there will be such a weariness upon him that he will say, 'I will sleep a little longer,' and from that sleep he will never waken.

"Heaven grant that his vision will then become a reality and that he may mount the shining heights at last.

"Of course it is easy to say that he was originally weak, but that is no argument, for human nature is prone to be weak. His was a high-strung, sensitive, generous nature. He never sought gold for the joy it would give him, but for the happiness he dreamed it would give to those he loved.

"His Nora was a queen in his eyes and he wanted to give her, every day, the surroundings of a queen. He made one mistake and never rallied from it. Had the letter come that fatal Sunday from Nora, as he was expecting it, or had he left for home half an hour earlier, or had he been of coarser clay, that day's performance would have been avoided, or would have been passed as an incident not to be repeated, but not to be seriously minded.

This may be the Savage Mine's office in Virginia City. Undated.
Courtesy of the University of Nevada, Reno.
"But he was of different mold, and then that was a blow from Fate. It is easy enough to say that there is nothing in that thing called luck. Such talk will not do here on the Comstock. There is no luck when a money lender charges five dollars for the use of a hundred for a month and exacts good security. He gets his one hundred and five dollars, and that is business.

"But in this lead where ore bodies lie like melons on a vine, when ore is reported in the Belcher and in the Savage, when Brown buys stock in the

Belcher and Rogers buys in the Savage; when the streak of ore in the Belcher runs into a bonanza and Brown wakes up rich some morning, and when the streak of ore in the Savage runs into a Niagara of hot water which floods the mine and Rogers's stock is sold out to meet an assessment, it will not do to call Brown a shrewd fellow and Rogers an idiot.

"Still, I do not object to the theory that a man should always keep trying, even if the lack is against him, because luck may change sometime, and if it does not, he sleeps better when he knows that with the lights before him he has done the best he could. A man can stand almost anything when his soul does not reproach him as he tries to go to sleep.

"Then, too, man is notoriously a lazy animal, and unless he has the nerve to spur himself to work, even when unfortunate, he is liable to fail and get the dry rot, which is worse than death.

"But my heart goes out in sympathy when I think of the glorified spirits, which on this coast have failed and are failing every day, because from the first an iron fortune has hedged them round and baffled their every effort, struggle as they would."

Carlin ceased speaking, and ... silence ... prevailed in the Club for a moment. ...