Newspaper excerpts tell much about early capital city history |

Newspaper excerpts tell much about early capital city history

Trent Dolan
Special to the Appeal
Courtesy of National Archives Chief Winnemucca

“It is vain to stick your finger in the water, and in pulling it out, looking for a hole; and equally vain to suppose that, however large a space you occupy, the world will miss you when you die.”

– Territorial Enterprise

Living in Nevada in the 1850s and 1860s was an amazing time. Just looking at the old newspapers gives the reader a sense of the enormity of what can happen when the right decision is made at the right moment. Early settlers spent a huge amount of time finding the fastest way between Genoa and Salt Lake City, and to Placerville, which was the closest supply point.

“Heroine – Last week a lady performed one of the most herculean pedestrian feats ever attempted in California or elsewhere – by walking over the Sierras from Placerville, it being the first time it was ever done, in the winter, by a female. And what caps the climax, we are told she beat Thompson, the great mountain Expressman 7 1/2 minutes to the summit.”

The article does not name the woman. It does, however, mention she is married and what a shame that is.

With the coming of May comes the opening of the summit to pack trains. The unbearable dullness of winter with high food cost gave residents some hope of lower prices. News from Gold Canyon shows Comstock & Co. bringing in $40 per man per day.

Later in the same publication it is reported that a spring was found, which would only be used for washing the rockers, which crush the ore, so that more gold could be found.

Winnemucca visits the newspaper office

In June, the newspaper office had a very special guest visit, Chief Winnemucca, of the Piute tribe.

After visiting the newspaper office and the telegraph office, the chief was surprised at how we diffused thought and intelligence. The chief was amazed at how rapidly thought could be transmitted from one part of the country to another. Accompanied by Major Dodge, Indian agent, he had an interest in communicating with The Great Father in Washington so that he could improve the condition of his people. The editor was informed that the name “Wun-a-muc-a,” interpreted in English, means “the charitable man.”

The chief was described as being well proportioned, and between 5 feet 10 and 11 inches. His manner was proud and presence showed dignity and authority.

A territorial convention was in the works in Carson City. Faced with rampant crime and general neglect by the territorial government in Salt Lake City, citizens sought some kind of reliable government for the western portion of the territory. Judge Cradlebaugh, one of two territorial judges that backed gentile demands to persecute Mormon offenders that were to be punished, was expected to be removed from office. Citizens’ courts were called in Carson City to investigate murders.

Adversity. A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner: neither do uninterrupted prosperity and success qualify for usefulness and happiness. Adversity exasperates fools, dejects cowards, draws out the faculties of the wise and industrious, puts the modest to the necessity of trying their skill, awes the opulent and makes the idle industrious.

The first public celebration of the Fourth of July is noted in the Enterprise.

On the approaching 4th of July, there will be a grand celebration of the Anniversary of our National Independence, at Carson City. This is a day the very mention of which kindles a flame of patriotism in the American breast, and it is hoped that our citizens – in manifestation of a due appreciation of the air of freedom which the American people alone are permitted to breathe – will join with becoming animation in the celebrities of the ensuing Fourth, and commemorate with patriotic zeal the illustrious deeds of their revolutionary airs which won for them their independence.

The program for the day’s festivities included a 13-gun salute at noon, music “Hail Columbia,” a prayer by Rev. Bennett, another song, the reading of the Declaration of Independence by William Lindsey, “Yankee Doodle,” an oration by J.J. Musser, “The Star Spangled Banner,” Drake’s Address to the American Flag by Judge Crane, and a National Salute of 33 guns. Marshal of the day was C. N. Noteware.

A visit to the lake

On around the end of June, the editor of the Enterprise, W. L. Jernegan and A. James, availed themselves to go to Lake Bigler (Lake Tahoe), a trip of three hours by horseback, for the first time.

The southeasterly extremity of the lake, where we camped for the night, is bounded by the most beautiful shore we ever beheld, describing a beautiful curve of the most astonishing regularity, the length of which is about six miles. The Lake as near we can judge, is about fifty miles long by an average width of fifteen miles. Though situated as it is, near the summit of the Sierras, at an elevation of about 6,000 feet above the level of the sea, the peaks of the mountains with which it is almost entirely surrounded seen only as hills. The very romantic and singular position of the lake will yet make it famous the world over, and doubtless, in after years, it will furnish themes for the romancer; its fame will be sung by the poet, and its beauty described by the pen of a Goldsmith. The water of the lake is perfectly transparent and apparently pure.

The authors go on to tell of no boats whatsoever, perfect pasturage at the south end and the abundance of fish, primarily salmon and speckled trout.

Further on in this issue, is the first political ad by Judge Crain, who is seeking the re-election of Delegate to Congress at the Territorial Convention July 21. On July 9 the U.S. Postmaster cuts mail service to western Utah (Nevada) from Placerville to twice a month.

Despite efforts by the contractor on the route to maintain weekly service, the Postmaster maintains his stand.

Judge Crain dies, leaving the Territorial Delegate position empty. Col. F.W. Lander is suggested as a candidate that will “protect our rights and (keep) property protected; to be free from the connection with an ignorant and priest-ridden community, with whom we have not one feeling in common – from the tyrannical enactments of the Utah Legislature – and which we will never live – from the bigoted, mind-enslaving despotism of the Mormon theocracy.” Writers at that time felt they echoed the sentiment of the community in driving a wedge that would bring Nevada its own position as a territory.

On Nov. 10, 1859, the Territorial Enterprise moved from Genoa to Carson City. For a year, the paper was printed in Singleton’s Hall, Nevada Hotel, in a room “indiscriminately used by preachers, debating clubs, secret societies, and once for a prison with the accused being chained to the printing press for two and a half days.” During that time paper was brought over the Sierras on snow shoes in a room with no firewood to burn and employees were “pinched” with want of the actual necessities of life. The paper was moved to the upper half of Major Ormsby’s adobe building on the southwest corner of Plaza, between Second and Third streets.

We feel that we have made a step in advance. It has been and still is our aim, to lay the foundation of a reliable newspaper, such as the rapidly increasing population, and the developing interests of our pet New Territory demand. So far as literary ability is concerned, we make no claims for the past. The public can readily judge how far we could devote ourselves to the nice details of “fine writing,” under the circumstances of physical difficulties and discomforts.

Col. Musser goes to Washington

Col. J.J. Musser leaves for Washington as the newly elected delegate replacing Judge Crain. Mines are now yielding $20,000 a day. Provisional Government Gov. Issac Roop arrives in Carson City from Honey Lake.

On Dec. 27, a preliminary municipal meeting is held in the Gem Saloon with Major Ormsby as chairman. Under proposal is a board of supervisors, that are actual residents of Carson. The meeting is to define boundaries of the town, with five supervisors, two justices of the peace, one marshal and one recorder. None of the offices are to be paid positions.

Tucked on the bottom of a page underneath an announcement from Provisional Territorial Gov. Roop, denouncing the laws of Utah Territory, is a filler that typesetters use to make a column of type full that can say so much without too many words: “The chief properties of wisdom are to be mindful of things past, careful of things present and provident of things to come.”

• Trent Dolan is the son of Bill Dolan, who wrote a column for the Nevada Appeal from 1947 until his death in 2006.


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