Auction includes ledger noting claim of Clemens brothers

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Snippets of Nevada's history, including a ledger from Unionville documenting the purchase of a mining claim by Samuel Clemens and his brother, Orion, will be sold at auction this weekend.

The Buena Vista Mining District claim book, listing deeds from 1861-1862, is "proof positive" of Clemens' time in Unionville before he became famous through his writings as Mark Twain, said Fred Holabird of Holabird Associates, the northern Nevada auction house that will conduct Saturday's sale in Reno.

"Previously, all we knew was what he wrote in 'Roughing It,"' Holabird said. "Now we have de facto evidence of when he was there, what he did."

State Archivist Guy Rocha agreed, saying evidence of Clemens' time in Unionville is obscure.

"This documentation arguably at least gives us better insight," Rocha said. "It clearly shows some of his activity."

The ledger, on page 106, shows the Clemens brothers bought a 10-foot section of a claim from Hugo Pfersdorff, the Buena Vista district recorder, on Jan. 28, 1862.

"It was one of his initial forays out in the desert to strike it rich," Rocha said.

The experience would also set the stage for a recurring theme in the author's writings - his disappointment in not finding fortune in gold and silver mining.

Clemens found his road to fame, however, a year later, when he arrived in Virginia City and began writing for the Territorial Enterprise under the pen name Mark Twain.

"He lost his money on the claim because it was worthless, but he did strike it rich by passing on his literary worth," Holabird said.

Clemens recounted his mining adventure in "Roughing It," published in 1891.

"By and by, in the bed of shallow rivulet, I found a deposit of shining yellow scales, and my breath almost forsook me!" he wrote. "A gold mine, and in my simplicity I had been content with vulgar silver!"

His elation was short-lived, though, when told by his comrades his treasures were nothing more than flecks of granite and mica.

"So vanished my dream. So melted my wealth away. So toppled my airy castle to the earth and left me stricken and forlorn."

The minimum bid on the ledger was set at $2,400.

Another ledger to be auctioned contains the bylaws and meeting minutes of the Buena Vista Mining District from 1862-1895.

The books and numerous other historical Nevada photographs also up for sale come from the private collection of Dr. James Jacobitz, a San Francisco Bay area dermatologist and avid collector of Western artifacts, Holabird said.

"The photos show Nevada in its infancy, particularly the Comstock, Virginia City area," Holabird said.

Rocha said he hopes whoever buys the historical items will make them available to the public.

"I would like to see it in a public collection," he said. "It gives us insight into a remote mining camp and how mining business was conducted in an early period."

The auction is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Washoe Grill in Reno.


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