Nevada City, the shire town of Nevada county; and her twin sister, Grass Valley, are the two most prosperous and populous mining towns in the State of California. They have long enjoyed this reputation, and give evidence of sustaining it in the future. Grass Valley, by reason of her rich and extensive mines of quartz, has gathered a larger population of late years, but the local position of Nevada, and the advantage of being the county seat, have made her a brisk competitor in the race.
Nevada has had an eventful history. The story of her experience would well illustrate the history of the State. Born amid wild excitements and fostered by men from every clime, who chose to ignore many of the customs and laws of civilized society; almost abandoned at times by the allurements of other and overpraised localities; destroyed by fires, and her people ruined; depressed by the failure or exhaustion of mines, what scenes has she witnessed, what miseries undergone, what heroic struggles has she made, what triumphs has she gained?
The migratory character of a mining population has left few to relate the incidents of Nevada's early life. Men came and went, made few acquaintances, were absorbed in the pursuit of wealth, paid little attention to other matters, and treasured up but few facts interesting in the making up of a history. From the few items of interest that come to us from the early period of 1849, we learn that in September of that year. Captain John Pennington, Thomas Cross and William McCaig built the first cabin in the basin in which Nevada now stands, somewhere on Gold Run. Other parties must soon have worked in the vicinity, since it is well attested that Dr. A. B. Caldwell built a log store near the site of the brick school house in October, and a Mr. Stamps, with his wife, her sister, and the family, an-ived the same month and passed the winter. Madam Penn was the name of another woman, who wintered here during that worst of all winters, 1849—50. Mrs. Stamps and sister were the first ladies who ever cheered the region with their presence. Madam Penn is remembered for her determination to make money if hard word [sic, work] would do it. She took her turn with her husband carrying dirt to wash and rocking out the gold. In the spring of 1850 she built a boarding house, on the site of the present Union Hotel. John Truesdale built one of the first houses ever erected in Nevada. Its site was somewhere in the rear of Stumpf's Hotel, on Broad street. Quite a number of buildings were erected in the spring of 1850. Truex & Blackman put up one on or about the site of the office of the South Yuba Canal Company. Womack & Kenzie built a hotel, of cloth, on the site of the brick store of William R. Coe. It was the first hotel ever opened in the place. Robert Gordon built a store on the other side of Commercial street, a little further up. J. N. Turner established the Nevada Hotel, just above the present Union Hotel, in April. Several cabins and canvas houses were occupied on upper Main street, in the spring of 1850, and an occasional cabin, with tents, might be seen early about the ravines that concentrate on the site of Nevada and discharge themselves into Deer Creek.
But, to give an impression of the appearance of Nevada at a very early day, and a picture of life in the mining regions, we append a letter from an eye-witness, Benjamin P. Avery, Esq., late State Printer, but now one of the editors of the San Francisco Bulletin. It is but just to say that evidently the letter was not prepared for publication, but, as it gives a graphic view of the childhood of Nevada, and of California, which I have not so far attempted, I can not forbear transcribing it here. It may not be uninteresting to add that Messrs. Avery and Franchere, the latter now of North San Juan, worked in the ravine that comes down from the site of old Coyoteville, and camped between the two huge bowlders that still left their high heads near the-residence of Mr. C. Beckman, in the northwestern part of the town:
San Francisco, December 20th, 1866.
Friend Bean : Yours is at hand. I was in Nevada county early, and saw something of its first growth, but my recollections are not of that precise nature which will make them useful to you. They would make an entertaining story by themselves, if I had time to write them carefully, but possess little historic value. Possibly a fact or two may be gleaned for your purpose from what follows. I started from Mormon Island on a prospecting trip to Reading's Springs, (Shasta) in October, 1849, Rode a little white mule along with pork and hard bread and blankets packed behind me. On the way from Sacramento to Vernon — a trading station just started at the junction of the Sacramento and Feather rivers — I encountered a party on horseback who were coming from Deer creek, and who told me big stories about "pound diggings" in Gold Run. As "pound diggings" — i. e. claims, that would yield 12 oz. of gold per day to the man — were just what I was in search of, I inquired the direction of this El Dorado, followed the old emigrant road up Bear river to Johnson's Ranch, at the edge of the foothills, and there took a trail for the creek, missing the road, or thinking I could take a shorter course. The first night in the foothills I had company — Caldwell, who was after a winter stock for his store on the creek, at a point seven miles below the site of Nevada, and several Southern and Western men. There was an encampment of United States troops near Johnson's at that time, and the Indians were troublesome, some times putting an arrow through a lone sleeper or driving off cattle and horses. la my lonely journey through the mountains for a week afterward I was somewhat afraid of the Indians, concerning whose character I then had very incorrect notions, based on youthful memories of the scalping savages of the East. My first encounter with a party of them did not tend to reassure me. They gathered about my mule with threatening gestures, one fellow motioning as if he would like to put an arrow through me. Hereupon I drew a pair of double-barreled pistols from the holsters and leveled them cocked at the head of the red devil, affecting to be in joke. He saw the point and slunk away while the rest laughed. I divided my biscuits with them, ordered them to trot off, and rode along myself when they had proceeded some distance. Arrived at Caldwell's store — the only trading post on Deer creek at that time — I found it a square canvas shanty, stocked with whisky, pork, mouldy biscuit and ginger bread; the whisky four bits a drink, the biscuits a dollar a pound. A few tents were scattered over the little flat and about a dozen parties were working the bars with dug-out cradles and wire or raw-hide hoppers, only one or two persons having cradles made of board and sheet iron. I prospected with good success in a claim that had just been abandoned by the notorious Greenwood, carrying dirt in a pan to a dug-out cradle. Went with shovel and pan seven or eight miles up the creek, testing several ravines as high up as the top of the ridges, seldom, in my ignorance, going deeper than a few inches, and always getting gold. A preacher, whose name I forget, was then hauling dirt from one big ravine back of Caldwell's in an ox cart, and washing it at the creek with good success. A few other men were carrying dirt from other ravines in sacks on their own backs or those of mules. All were close mouthed about yields, and regarded me as an interloper. They were Southwestern men, apparently, and mixed with their jealousy was a bit of contempt for the smooth-faced "Yorker," whose long brown hair lying on his shoulders ought to have conciliated their prejudice, since it looked like following a fashion set by themselves. In my prospecting I somehow failed to get on the Gold Run side of the creek, and so missed my objective point, but I struck the conjunction of ravines in the little flat known afterward as the site of "Dyer's store" and in "Rich Ravine," winding about American Hill, got a prospect that satisfied me to return immediately to Mormon Island for my companions. That locality was then (about October 10th) completely unworked; I saw no “prospect holes" any where in the vicinity. The dirt I tried I carried a long distance to find water to wash. While camping out alone in the thick forest that covered the place, I woke one night oppressed for breath, and saw a small gray wolf at my feet; fired at his eyes gleaming among the rocks, but missed him, It was a lonely scene, and the echo of my shot through the woods startled me.
The scamp was attracted by the bit of pork which I had hung in the tree above me. I fancied he might have been smelling about my face, and thus caused the feeling of oppression. Before returning to Mormon Island I went over to the South Yuba, followed it to the main stream, and prospected the latter as low down as Owsley's Bar, which, as well as most of the river bank below Rose's Bar, was then unworked. Only one of my partners (Franchere, now at North San Juan) was willing to accompany me from Mormon Island (on the American river,) to the wilds of Deer creek. He and I reached Sacramento on our way to a fortune just as the heavy storms of that memorable winter set in. These detained us. Then the roads, which had never been packed, were frightfully muddy; the sloughs were full of water and unbridged, and many packers with their animals were drowned trying to cross them. I could not swim, and preferred to take no risks; so we waited in Sacramento, engaged in one speculation or another, until the first flood drove us at night out of our tent between Front and Second streets, and compelled us to take refuge on the bark Orb, whose hulk still lies in the same place and is used as a steamer landing. Nine days' board on that vessel, which was improvised into a "hotel," cost us seventy-two dollars, and we slept in the forecastle among the rats at that. The first regular San Francisco steamboat, the old propeller McKim, received and discharged her freight on the Orb, and I earned a dollar an hour assisting at this; but it was dreadful hard work, and the regular "salts " made it harder for me by way of joke. We finally took a steamer for Nye's Landing on the Yuba— the original name of the site of Marysville— intending to go thence to Deer creek; but on reaching Crosby's Bar — by this time (January) a smart mining camp — we learned that the snow was two feet deep at the creek, that thousands of men had crowded in the ravines about "Caldwell's new store," and that provisions were scarce and high. We did not stock ourselves and reach the creek until February, working a quicksilver machine meanwhile on the bar, and packing the dirt to it in half-kegs suspended from a yoke on our necks. We also made a small cradle (valued at seventy-five dollars in those times) which we packed to the creek on a mule with flour, pork, coffee and hard bread. To my intense disgust I found that my ravine was occupied from one end to another by long-haired Missourians, who were taking out their " piles." They worked in the stormiest weather, standing in the yellow mud to shovel dirt into cradle or torn; one of them had stretched a canvas awning over their claims, which were only thirty feet along the ravine. All the other ravines leading into the flat at the foot of American Hill, were occupied almost as thickly. Dyer had a log cabin store in the midst where whisky and brandy were sold at S6 and $8 a bottle, molasses at $8 a gallon, flour $1 a pound, and pork $2 Caldwell's “new" or "upper" store was on the high bank of the ravine, above the little flat where the city of Nevada afterward sprang into existence.
It appears there had been great discoveries in this locality after my visit, the first of October, and as the streams rose in November the miners flocked in from the rivers. American Hill was covered with their tents and brush houses, while a few had put up log cabins. At night, the tents shone through the pines like great transparencies, and the sound of laughter, shouting, fiddling and singing startled those primeval solitudes strangely. It was a wild, wonderful scene. Gambling, of course, was common, and fatal affrays were frequent. We pitched our tent by a big pine, using its trunk for a fire place and cooking our pork and coffee out of doors. The woods looked grand when white with snow. Sometimes we had to rap it off the canvas roof at night to keep it from pressing upon our faces, or breaking down the tent.
I think a larger quantity of snow fell during the winter of 1849-50 than has ever fallen since in that locality. The subsequent destruction of timber must have had an influence in modifying the climate. Other considerable settlements had gathered at Gold Run, Grass Valley and Rough and Ready, on the other side of the creek. I think the Nevada miners were the first to use the long torn— which was made of split boards— as well as wooden sluices. The latter were suggested as a continuation of the torn, for convenience to receive the dirt when shoveled up from below. We worked with rather poor success, in the vicinity, until the ravines began to dry in April, and then laid the beginning of that extensive and costly system of mining ditches that haS' since made Nevada pre eminent in this, as in every other department of mining industry and invention. Small ditches were dug to bring the water from springs and brooks into the rich ravines about Dyer's, and were gradually extended as the water supplies retreated. The mines yielded wonderfully. From an ounce to twelve ounces a day was common, with cradles; while many a long torn party took home to their cabins at night a quart tin pail full of gold, much of which was as coarse as wheat grains. Many a lucky fellow left with a fortune in the spring, and at the same time the embargo of mud and snow was lifted, so that teamsters and packers arrived with supplies from the lower country, and flour fell to thirty cents a pound, while boots that had been worth six ounces a pair could be had for one. It was not long before wagon loads of provisions sold for freight. With this rush of goods, accompanied by fresh crowds of fortune hunters, Nevada city sprang into being. My first sight of the embryo place was a surprise. I had been camping and working some distance lower down the creek, coming over to Caldwell's about once a fortnight, for supplies we did not have — say for pipes, tobacco and molasses, or to pay an expressman two dollars to inquire if there was a letter for me at Sacramento.
One Sunday, in rounding the point of a ravine running down to the creek from American Hill, (since named,) I saw a big round tent on the little flat, with a flag streaming above it, muffled music resounding within, while around' were several canvas stores, and wagons loaded with flour and other supplies — and, in fact, all the signs of a brand new mining town. Franchcre and I christened it "Mushroom City," on the spot. It was afterward called Nevada, and when the first election for local officers was held we were importuned at our cradles, by genteel looking gamblers, who were the "leading men" to vote for their candidates. The population would have scattered rapidly but for the discovery of the famous coyote or drift diggings, which were first opened by a drift run in from Rich Ravine, by miners who supposed they were following a ravine lead for a short distance. I sank a shallow shaft on the slope of American Hill, toward the ravine, during the winter, believing that the gravel bed might be rich, but struck water, and was obliged to desist, though I got a "good color," all the way down. You know how the entire hill has since been stripped to the bed-rock. It was at Nevada that I saw the first ground sluicing in the State, which led by insensible degrees to hydraulic mining.
Not being one of the lucky, I left Deer Creek just after the birth of Nevada, and packing my blankets and some bacon and biscuit on my back, and carrying a pan, pick and shovel, started with two companions for the Middle Yuba, reaching it at a point about fifteen miles above Nevada. The snow was still deep on the top and Tipper flanks of the ridge, and we walked on its top, the breaking crust making walking very hard labor. The Middle Yuba region was then a terra incognita. None of the bars were named, so high up, and we saw only two small parties working, who refused to give us any information. There was of course no trading post. The deep chasm was in its native wildness, and heard no sound but the roar of its own pines and the dash of the foaming rapids. We had to fell trees to cross creeks, and the feat was often difficult and dangerous. Threading our way through the canons was often extremely hazardous. The water was too high to prospect the bars, but we found gold in paying quantities on the shelving rock, and thought we might go back in the summer. On our return to Deer creek we got out of food, traveling thirty-six hours on empty stomachs, mostly over the snow, and without water, being on top of the snow-covered ridge. Yet I enjoyed with a sense of grandeur the Arctic scenery »f those magnificent pine forests, and the stars at night through the tops of the moaning trees had for me a thrilling fascination. When I again reached my tent near the Sugar Loaf I reeled like a drunkard. How Nevada county and city developed and obtained a nomenclature after this I need not say. Suffice it to add that after May, 1850, I did not visit that section until 1856. How little I dreamed while on my foolish prospecting trip through the savage solitudes of the Middle Yuba that in eight years I should be publishing a newspaper for a populous and intelligent town in that very region; that carriers and expressmen would be scattering it where only the grizzly and wild cat roamed then; and that the lofty ridge, drawing its purple line against the sky four thousand feet above the sea, would be dotted with villages, with churches and school houses, with orchards, vineyards and gardens; that three or four daily newspapers would proceed from the town on Deer creek, and that the untamed region generally would be one of the most prosperous, intelligent and patriotic in the State.
Looking back on the foregoing necessarily hasty scrawl, I find it very slovenly, imperfect and egotistical. But it is the best the. pressure of other duties will permit me to do, and it will certainly convince you— if you have the patience to wade through it— that I was right in saying I could not help you. I had no idea of writing so much. Old memories thronged on me after beginning, and now I regret that I cannot find time to make a connected and full narrative of the wildest and most stirring period of my California experience.
Yours, truly, B. P. AVERY.
The winter of 1849-50 was an exceedingly severe one, snow falling four feet deep. The roads were new and bad, and provisions and goods of all kinds sold for fabulous prices. Pork and beef commanded 80 cents a pound; flour 44 cents; potatoes 75 cents; onions $1.50; saleratus $1 per oz.; boots $40; shovels $16; candles 50 cents each. The cost of getting a letter from Sacramento was $2.50, and a newspaper $1.
The site of Nevada was a remarkably rough and unpromising one at first, and it has "held its own" very well ever since. It consisted of several tongues or ridges of land lying between ravines, all converging to one point on Deer Creek. These ridges were covered with pines and oaks, intermixed with bushes about the margins of the streams. A thick clump of small pines stood on the spot now occupied by the Court House and yard. The site of lower Main street, and where the buildings on both sides now stand, was wet and swampy, and covered with hazel and other brush. It was a locality that produced no insignificant number of rattlesnakes, if the reports of early settlers are to be credited.
Up to March, 1850, Nevada went by the appellation of "Caldwell's Upper Store' or "Deer Creek Dry Diggings." But, some excesses having been committed, it was determined to establish authority to punish violations of the rights of others, and an election for an Alcalde, under Mexican law, was called, and Mr. Stamps was chosen. About 250 votes were cast. On that day it was proposed, in the crowd, that a better name should be given to the place, and it was christened "Nevada." The accounts of how the name came to be chosen, differ somewhat; but as the mountains were called "snowy," and the winter had been a "snowy" one, it is not very strange that the idea was suggested by calling the place "snowy," or " Nevada," as the word is in Spanish.
Stamps acted as Alcalde till May, when the discovery of rich deposits in the old gravel hills to the north of the town, created an excitement and filled the Nevada basin with miners, when a new order of things began. The authorities at Marysville, the county seat, ordered an election for Justice of the Peace, and a man named OIney, who had been Secretary of State of Rhode Island, under the revolutionary government of Dorr, was chosen. Olney was a singular man of capability, but disposed not to be bound by any old forms of dispensing justice. His decisions were often original and sui generis. He is remembered as a person with the right arm but half the length of the other, a good penman, and a man after his own pattern. He died of consumption a few mouths after his election, and when called on, in extremis mortis by a clergyman, he indicated a wish that the "boys" might take what money he had over and above funeral expenses and have, as he expressed it, "a jolly good time with it." He may be set down as the representative of a large class of the times.
The discovery that the gravel range above the town was remarkably rich, was made by some miners working up to the head of a ravine and finding the dirt paid into the hill. The whole range, wherever gravel was seen on the surface, was immediately staked off in claims, and shafts went down by the hundred. A town called Coyoteville sprang up on the gravel hills, well endowed with saloons and monte-banks, and flourished for a year or two exceedingly. Its site was on the eastern end of Lost Hill, and is now almost washed away; but here miners growing rich congregated, politicians flocked, and noisy demagogues brayed to indifferent or ignorant listeners.
Coyoteville did not take its name from the coyote, but from the new mode of mining just then adopted, which was that of drifting or "coyoteing" out the richest of the dirt, leaving holes in which an unsophisticated stranger might have supposed animals burrowed. The yield of the old river bed was immense, and scarcely credible at the present day, and such was the reputation of the place, that it is variously estimated from six to sixteen thousand miners came to Nevada during the year 1850. The rush was so great that a large town grew up as if by magic. Hundreds of stores and other buildings were erected, and the Americans; knowing little of the seasons of the country, except as the previous winter gave them experience, prepared for another rainy season of severity. Large quantities of goods purchased at high rates were packed and hauled to the town; but, no rain came. The mines could not be worked for want of water. One ditch had been completed early in the year, from Musketo Creek to old Coyote Hill, and another from Little Deer Creek to Phelps Hill. The supply of water was limited. The Rock Creek ditch, completed in December, 1850, was nine miles in length and, for the times, a tremendous enterprise. Without water from the clouds the ditches could furnish but little. A dry season was, to use an Irishism, the rainy season of 1850-51. Hundreds of miners became disgusted and left the place. There was general depression; goods went down in price, and merchants "went up" for all they were worth.
During the summer of 1850, the rush of population to the place made a lively demand for lumber, and two or three mills were erected. The price of lumber was $200 per thousand feet. The same summer, a Methodist society was organized by Rev. Isaac Owens, and a shell of a building erected for religious and other public purposes, somewhere above the site of the present Congregational Church. Before that time, and even after, street preaching was not uncommon. In Mr. Sargent's sketch of Nevada, published in 1856, we find the following lively account of an incident which brings up early scenes with remarkable freshness:
Before the erection of the church, the preachers often held service on the streets, to an attentive crowd; who left their work almost invariably on the Sabbath, and congregated in town. A large crowd, drawn from the gambling and drinking saloons, then in full glory, and from the stores and hotels, would respectfully listen to the exhortations of the preachers, and then disperse to their business or pleasures. We remember a singular scene in October, 1850, which illustrates the manners of the times. An earnest exhorter was singing his opening hymn to a crowd. A short distance below an auctioneer was expatiating on the merits of a mule to a smaller audience. A few rods up the street a Swiss girl was turning a hand organ, accompanied by another with a tamborine. A drunken fellow was attempting "auld lang syne," in the style of the preacher. Some ten wagoners, from Sacramento, were dispensing their goods at retail in the short street, and the varieties of the day were otherwise embellished by a savage dog fight, that appeared for a few moments to be the greatest attraction.
The gambling saloons of that period were the most popular places of resort. If one desired to meet an acquaintance, in one of these saloons would he most likely find the object of his search. They were the foci of the mining and trading population, and particularly on the Sabbath. All the games of chance ever invented were tried in these saloons, but monte, faro, roulette, vingt-et-un and poker were the favorite games for gamblers. Thousands worked hard during the day and with success, only to spend the last grain of dust at the tables or bars of the alluring gambling hells at night. Conspicuous objects in one of these places were rows of tables, on which were heaped Mexican doubloons and dollars, with an occasional nugget and bag of dust to top of the pile. Around these tables were crowded men in gray or blue shirts, pants more or less begrimed with auriferous mud, boots with ample length of legs drawn over the pants, and slouched hats, staking their dust and intensely awaiting the turn of a card that should double their fortune. An occasional woman of easy virtue was seen sandwiched in among the rough miners and trying too her luck at monte. The ring of the money on the tables, the announcements of the man at the roulette wheel, the cursing of the disappointed at their bad fortune, and the continual calls for “bar-keep," rendered the scene one rarely to be met with except in California. Now and then a row would suddenly break out, pistols were drawn and bar tumblers flew with an abandon only surpassed by the shooting meteors of November, 1833. And then, such a getting out of doors, and such swift forgetfulness that the saloon would be again thronged and the games going on in fifteen minutes, as if nothing had occurred!
The town of Nevada had grown so much during the year 1850, that not less than two hundred and fifty buildings were occupied when the following year commenced; not to mention the cabins and tents that were spread over a space two miles in diameter, having the town for its center. The winter of 1850-51 was marked by considerable activity in mining the gravel hills, water having been supplied in fair quantities by the Musketo, Rock and Deer Creek ditches. Long toms and sluice extensions were brought into use and with desirable results.
It was while Nevada seemed on the high road to prosperity, that on the 11th of March, 1851, incendiaries applied the torch to the young city of the forest, and laid one-half its stores and houses in ashes. The business part of the town was entirely consumed. The stocks of goods were large, but the flames were so rapid that but little could be saved. The pine trees standing among the buildings caught and flamed to the tops, casting brands over the town, spreading the conflagration. The fire commenced at two o'clock in the morning, and before the sun rose, property estimated in value at a half million dollars was swept away.
As in the case of all burnt California cities, the ashes of Nevada only acted upon her growth like guano upon vegetable life. Scarcely were the embers cold when buildings went up on every hand, and so rapid was the progress that in one month scarcely a vestige of the fire remained. In April, appeared in the new-built town a newspaper, the Journal, the first publication of the kind in the mining region of the State except the Sonora Herald.
About the same time an election for officers of a grand city government, which had been provided for by an act of the Legislature, was held, and the city began its career with a Mayor, ten Aldermen, and a liberal supply of all other officials. Moses F. Hoit was elected the first Mayor. The city government was maintained loss than a year, when the people, almost to a man, demanded a change — they had had King Stork long enough — and the Legislature came to. their relief. The city was more than $8,000 in debt, which was never paid. The excitement about quartz which prevailed early in this year and until the collapse of some magnificent enterprises the year after, had some influence in the organization of an extensive city government. It was thought that the fountain head of all the gold had been struck in two or three veins of quartz, below the town on Deer Creek, and while the lucky proprietors were growing wild over anticipations of tons of gold to be taken from the rock by new and effective processes, the men of the town who had no interest in Gold Tunnels and Bunker Hills proceeded to obtain for themselves the next best thing, an office each, which, by a fiction of courtesy, was called honorable, but designed to be principally noted for emolument. The government was tried, while the quartz schemes were on trial, and all collapsed together, leaving half the community indulging in gloomy forebodings about the fate of the whole.
The hopes of the quartz operators were based on the pretended discoveries of one Dr. Rogers, who maintained that quartz was of a porous or cellular structure, but that the interstices between the crystals were not large enough in the natural state to allow the particles of gold to drop out. By the expansion of heat the pores were opened and the metal had free egress either in its cooled or melted form. A large chimney, or furnace, was constructed at great expense, a mammoth wheel erected, and on Deer Creek, about a mile below the town, on the present site of what is known as Soggs's mill, the grand experiment of extracting gold from the rock by the new process was conducted. Wood and coal in large quantities were procured. A large iron reservoir, filled with water, laid at the bottom of the chimney to receive the precious metal as it loosened and fell from the rock. The chimney was filled with alternate layers of fuel and quartz of a beautiful skimmed milk color. The fire was kindled at the bottom of the furnace, and as the mass lowered, more wood and rock were added at the top. The millionaires, in expectancy, were on hand night and day, for who can sleep when such a princely fortune is to be harvested ? The savant who was testing his discovery on a large scale, for a snug salary, rode up occasionally and gave his orders with the air of a General of Division. His employers bowed obsequiously and obeyed his high behests. At last, after tons upon tons of rock had passed through the fiery furnace, one night when the vulgar crowd who had no soul for science or pluck for mighty enterprises, had departed, there was a congregation of Astors in expectation around the blazing monument of Nevada's "Bunker Hill." The cauldron beneath must be about running over, they suggested, and it would be well to take out a few millions to give place for more. A stout armed individual soon made way to the precious deposits. He scraped the bottom and returned with a pan of cinders and ashes! The bubble had burst, and so had a number of the richest men, a few hours before, the world had ever seen.
Dr. Rogers left the place, and so did a great many others, in complete disgust. Quartz was pronounced a humbug, and the fate of Nevada sealed. Houses were deserted, clap-boards hung dangling by one nail, and men went about the comparatively lonely streets congratulating themselves that they were not so poor as to own property in such a doomed city.
While the quartz excitement was up, in 1851, Hamlet Davis fixed up an upper story, on the corner of Broad and Pine streets, where Captain Kidd's huge brick building now stands, for theatrical uses. Here a Dr Robinson, whose forte was making up songs with local hits, and a dramatic company, first held forth to a crowded room, week after week. It was the first attempt at tragedy in the mountains, unless we count the bear and bull fights borrowed of the Mexicans, as such, and drew amazingly. Mr. and Mrs. Stark gave the miners a taste of their quality in August, but for one night. The place was then, and for years after, a sort of paradise for actors. So great was the popularity of dramatic entertainments, and so small "Dramatic Hall," that another theater was erected in the Autumn on piles over Deer Creek, and called the Jenny Lind. It was a pretty looking structure for its time, and well patronized during the winter. But in the March of that gloomy year, 1852, on the 6th day of the month, after a terrible storm of several days of wind and rain, a log came down the swollen torrent of Deer Creek, carried away the Main street bridge, which, in turn knocked the theater from its foundations, together with a boarding house, and all took a voyage down the creek together, a mass of floating lumber.
During the flush times of 1851, early in the year, a post office was established in Nevada, and mails arrived at stated periods. Benjamin Blanton was the first postmaster. His office was on the site of Mrs. Maria Hill's brick dwelling, near the Court House. Nevada became the center for the distribution of mail matter, and here, when the Atlantic mail arrived, might be seen crowds in line awaiting their turn to inquire for a letter from friends "at home." The office of postmaster was supposed to be a fat one in those early days, the perquisites and stealings being on a liberal scale. It is not known how much the first postmaster came out of the office with, but the importation of fast stock soon after his short term of a few months closed, seemed to show that the means for his temporal comfort had been well supplied. "Wake-up-Jake" was a celebrated horse in his time, brought to the State under the auspices of the first postmaster of Nevada.
After the fire of 1851, for several years, the prominent gambling saloons of the town were the "Empire" and "Barker's Exchange" both located on lower Main street, and facing each other. They were large, and for the period, very good wooden buildings. These places were occupied for legitimate business before the fire of 1856 came and swept every thing before it. The Court House was a small wooden building near Sanford's store, on Broad street, till 1854, when the present site was purchased. The jail was a log structure nearly opposite the old Court House, and nearly on the site of the city calaboose. The selection of the site of the present Court House was owing to rivalry of streets. Broad street was supposed to desire the Court House located somewhere near the Methodist Church. To thwart the wishes of Broad street, a number of persons on Main street raised nearly all the money to purchase the plot of ground on which the Court House and jail now stand.
Mining being considered the paramount interest of the county, the miners indulged in great latitude of action, sluicing away roads and bridges, cutting channels impassable for teams, undermining houses, washing away yards, etc. It is remembered that a couple of miners commencing sinking a shaft in Main street nearly in front of the South Yuba Canal Company's office, then the great business point of the town; a citizen expostulated with them, but only received for answer, that there was "no law against digging in the streets," and they were going to dig. "Then I'll make a law" said the citizen, and walking into his store he brought out a revolver, and a precedent was established then and there, that miners could not dig up the streets of Nevada.
About this time (it is of little importance the exact date) Nevada elected a Justice of the Peace in the person of one Ezekiel Dougherty, "Uncle Zeke" has left on the memory of men several of his remarkable sayings, one or two of which we will relate. A fellow was examined before Uncle Zeke, charged with horse stealing. Several witnesses were sworn who testified against the prisoner quite strongly. It looked like a plain case. The counsel for the prisoner. Judge B , rose and addressed the Court, "May it please your honor," said he, " I now propose to introduce a few witnesses to establish the good character of my client." "What the h––l," said Uncle Zeke, "is the use of trying to prove his good character when it is
already proven he is a dam––d thief!" On another occasion, under like circumstances, in a criminal case, the evidence was all in, the prosecution had spoken and Uncle Zeke was fatigued. Judge B arose, and hanging his right hand to his left by means of hooks made of the little fingers, prepared for an argument. "Your Honor," said he in opening, "Your Honor, it is a presumption of law that a man is innocent until he is proven guilty." Uncle Zeke, uneasily twisting in his chair, interrupted: "Yes, but Judge B there is another presumption of law, that a Justice of the Peace is not bottomed with cast iron. You can go on with your speech, but I am going after my bitters right now!"
Judge B was an honest old man, perfectly innocent of a joke and incapable of severity. On one occasion a young lawyer had given him an excoriation in Court. When the Court adjourned the County Clerk, sitting by the stove with Judge B at a hotel, remarked in a sympathizing way, that "counsel was rather severe in his remarks." "Yes," replied the Judge, "but wasn't I severe on him in reply?" The Clerk, who was present in Court all the time, did not remember of hearing any caustic remarks from Judge B , and inquired: "Did you come back at him ?”
"I rather think I did," said the Judge; "you know he called me a pettifogger." " Yes, and Judge, what did you say to that?" "I just emphatically told him I wasn't!" So kind and amiable was the old man that to dispute the assertion of his opponent relative to his own character was, in his view, remarkable severity.
While relating anecdotes, I may as well mention, that at a little later period there came to Nevada the excentric Francis J. Dunn, and run out his shingle as Attorney and Counselor at Law. " Frank " was good in his profession, practicing at two kinds of bars with equal distinction. He is dead now, poor fellow, but his monotonous way of speaking still lingers in the memories of many, and is often imitated. Frank was one day addressing a Justice in Court, who has recently figured in San Francisco as a prisoner accused of extortion in office. The rulings of the Justice did not suit Frank, and staring in the face of the Court, he said in his peculiar drawl, "Your Honor's a fool," but suddenly he apologized with, "Your Honor, I take that back, for in the language of a celebrated poet, the truth shouldn't be spoken at all times!" "In the language of a celebrated poet" was a favorite phrase with Frank. On another occasion, Frank was earnestly endeavoring to make the same Court comprehend some proposition of law, and warming up he worked himself to the Justice's desk, and picking up a law book he emphasized his sentences by pounding said book furiously upon the desk. The Court, with great seriousness and an air of injured dignity, interrupted : " Mr. Dunn, you musn't pound my desk so!" ''I will pound your desk” drawled Frank; "you're an old man, but you can send around some of your big boys for satisfaction" and Frank went on making a tilt-hammer of the law volume. He have had some extraordinary Justices in Nevada, but not more remarkable, perhaps, than the town adjoining the one of my boyhood, one of whose “Squires decided that oats were not grain, and brought up his wife on a charge of contempt for calling him an old leather-head."
I must not stop relating anecdotes till I have paid my respects to a certain Constable, of ten or more years ago. Fred. Burmeister was not the most brilliant genius that ever filled a Constable's office even. His Dutch modes of expression rendered him interesting. One day he returned an execution with "satisfied " written on the back. The Justice called his attention to the fact and demanded the money. “De man didn't pay me no money," said Fred. " But, you have written on the back of this paper 'satisfied,' and I want the money that satisfied it," said the Justice. "Veil, now Chudge, dat ish all wrong; it should have been dissatisfied!"
Blue Tent was of more importance at this early period than since, as a point for supplies. The firm of Lindsay & Dick was established there, and by the use of a pack train distributed an immense amount of goods all over the remoter mining districts of the county.
Twelve buildings were consumed by fire in Nevada on the 7th of September, 1852. The fire originated in the kitchen of the National Hotel, which was located on the site of Dingley's marble shop, at the foot of Main and Broad streets. Luckily, the fire did not communicate with the buildings across Deer Creek, or the whole town might have been consumed. The storms in December of that year rendered the roads so impassable that goods rose to about the highest rates known before. Freight was worth from Marysville ten cents a pound. The year closed one of the remarkable ones in the history of Nevada, for mining had been brought to something of a science, nearly all the improvements known in placer mining having been introduced.
The year 1853 is noted for the building of the first brick structure in Nevada. This was a store, erected by Hamlet Davis on part of the site now occupied by the large building of Captain Kidd, on Broad street. The next year, the brick building known as Mulford's old banking house, and several others, were built. On the 5th of October, 1853, the first telegraphic message flashed along the wires to Nevada.
The town was again incorporated, under a general incorporation law. Concert Hall was erected by L. P. Frisbie, on the site of the present gas works, and in that building, and its successor after the fire of 1856, appeared nearly all the celebrated actors who visited the coast.
The history of those days would not be complete without mentioning "Bourbon Lodge" and its inhabitants. James Fitz-James built the "Lodge" and surrounded himself with a few congenial spirits, some of whom are around to tell their own tales in far more complete style than I am able to do. Fitz-James's library was a remarkable one, every volume having a cork in it. We can never forget the nights made melodious by the inmates of the "Lodge" singing "John I. Sherwood," and that melancholy ditty about "an old woman and her three sons, Jeffrey, James and John. "Good things" happened in those days. "We cannot refrain from mentioning one of the many. Ned B was a candidate. One Colonel R , during the canvass, was quite thick with Ned's opponent. Being an old-line Whig, he apologized to Ned, and intimated that on the score of old acquaintance alone he was running with the Democratic candidate. But, when the time for action came, he said with a wink, they would find he couldn't forget his old principles. The Colonel professed to be very adroit and successful in managing the Irish. Ned made a "rap" with the Colonel to go up to Pooling's Point, where were congregated about a hundred Irishmen, and furnished a horse and spending money — so the story goes. Accordingly, Colonel R was seen on election day astride of one of the best nags in town, setting out early for Pooling's Point, twenty miles distant, to control the Irish vote in that precinct for a Whig candidate. It was an exciting day, and along one to those interested. Ned stationed himself in the outskirts of the town to watch for the return of the Colonel in the evening. The tired steed was seen to approach. B shouted in the dark: "Colonel, is that you?" The horse stopped, and the Colonel recounted the events of the day. It was an up-hill job, he said, at Pooling's. The thing had been fixed up mighty strong there. However, he made a pretty good day's work of it considering. He stayed there till all was "to rights" he said, and then rode over to Orleans Flat to set the boys right there. "At which place did you vote?" inquired Ned, "Well, to set the boys a pattern, I voted at Pooling's," replied the Colonel. The returns came in the next day — ninety-eight straight votes for P, Ned's competitor, and "nary one" for Ned, whereupon the joke was on him for understanding human nature so poorly in election times as to employ a man to make Whig votes among the Irish, who hadn't influence enough to control his own.
During the years from 1853 to 1S56, better roads were constructed, better buildings erected, and mining was generally prosperous. A great deal of capital left Nevada for the Atlantic States and to develop new mines in other localities. In 1855 the telegraph was extended to Downieville. A fire broke out on the south side of Broad street, on the 20th of February, and destroyed the row of buildings from the Methodist Church down. Loss, $40,000. The town government was destroyed by a decision of the Supreme Court. The city was soon organized by an act of the Legislature, and still maintains its organization under the same act. The Court House and jail were built in the summer of 1855.
While in the height of her prosperity, when new buildings were going up on every hand, when merchants had large stocks of goods, when daily the streets were crowded with a busy throng, on the 19th of July, 1856, a day memorable in the annals of Nevada, a conflagration swept the city and laid the whole business portion in ruins. The fire originated in a blacksmith shop, in the rear of where Goldsmith's store now is, on Pine street, and so rapid were the flames that in a few minutes the whole town was in a blaze. Nothing could be saved. Perhaps no swifter destruction of a town was ever witnessed. It was as much as the women and children could do to escape without saving an article of furniture or clothing. More than four hundred buildings, twenty-two of which were supposed to be fire proof, were destroyed. The loss in buildings and personal property exceeded a million dollars. The district laid in ashes extended up Broad street as far as the residence of Dr. Bates on one side, and the Womack residence on the other. Its limits on upper Main street were Caswell's lot. Its southern boundary was Spring street, except that the Baptist Church, on the other side, was consumed, and the flames destroyed a few buildings across Deer Creek, and a few in the rear of the present National Hotel. All the churches, and the Court House were consumed.
But the loss of property was trifling compared with the loss of life. Ten persons perished in the flames, and nearly all acting upon the belief that the brick buildings would withstand the fire. Peter Hendrickson perished in his store, that now occupied by Fininger, on Broad street. Jay Johnson, a surveyor, A. J. Hagan, a banker, S. W. Fletcher, who had been District Attorney, and W. B. Pearson, of the Democrat office, lost their lives in the brick building that stood on the site of Crawford, Leavitt & Co's grocery establishment, and John Yates, of the firm of Tallman & Yates, hardware merchants, was lost in one of the buildings on the north side of lower Commercial street. A man named Thomas, who kept a saloon on Broad street, and "William" Wilson, a plasterer, were so badly burned that they died the next day. In addition to these, the remains of two unknown persons were found, one in Kelsey's brick building, on Commercial street, and the other among the ruins of a wooden building on Broad street.
The fire of 1856 was a heavy blow to Nevada, wrecking, irretrievably, many of her most energetic and prosperous business men. Yet, never was more energy displayed than in rebuilding the city. But four brick buildings were left standing after the conflagration. By the commencement of the rainy season a stranger could scarcely discover a vestige of the disaster left. The ruins of the brick buildings were repaired, more were erected, and better wooden buildings than over before took the places of those destroyed.
The disastrous year of 1856 had scarcely closed, when on February 15, 1857, Laird's dam, on Deer Creek, six miles above the city, when nearly full and flooding two hundred acres, gave way early in the morning and a deluge was precipitated upon Nevada. The torrent of water came down Deer Creek with resistless force, bearing everything before it. The two bridges at the foot of Broad and Main streets, Boswell & Hanson's store, a part of the Monumental Hotel, and several other buildings on both sides of the creek, were swept away. The loss was probably about $50,000.
In July of the same year, the first steam engine entire was constructed at the Nevada Foundry. It was for E. F. Burton & Co., and was used at the celebrated Live Oak diggings.
The next event of importance was an earthquake, which occurred on the evening of September 2nd, the day of the general election. Dishes were shaken, the walls of the Court House cracked from top to bottom, and quite a little scare produced. It was no great shake, and remarkable only from the fact that earthquakes are of rare occurrence in this region.
In December, 1857, a meeting was called to assemble at the Court House, for the purpose of taking some steps for the formation of a City Library. But few were in attendance, yet the Nevada Library Association was formed, and a hundred volumes contributed, of which number Rev. J. H. Warren, the pastor of the Congregational Church, gave sixty. This library has now more than two thousand volumes of excellent works, and is a credit to the city.
On Sunday, May 2nd, 1858, the stage for Sacramento, having on board the treasure box of Wells, Fargo & Co., was stopped about a mile out of town, and $21,000 taken by five robbers in disguise. I. N. Dawley had $20,000 with him belonging to Birdseye & Co., which by adroit management the robbers did not get. There were two stages and twenty-six passengers. A reward was offered by Wells, Fargo & Co., promptly, but the robbers escaped with their booty.
The summer of 1858 was enlivened by the Fraser River excitement, which took off, to a cold distant land, a number of our citizens, depressed property in value, and deadened trade. To add to the depression, on the 23d of May, another of those sweeping conflagrations for which Nevada is remarkable, visited the city, and laid the whole business portion in ruins.
The fire originated in a Chinese house near where the Pennsylvania Hose House now stands. It was a very slow fire and might have been subdued by efficient organized action. The slowness of the flames allowed time for the saving of goods, and thus, although the district burned over was almost as large as in the great fire of 1856, the loss was small in comparison. More than two hundred tenements were destroyed, but the loss did not foot up more than $230,000. The brick buildings, of which there were thirty, withstood the flames in this fire, and all the Churches and the Court House were saved. Frisbie's Theater was the only really fine wooden building destroyed. The loss was principally in wooden buildings which were easily supplied. Little suffering resulted from the fire and in a few months Nevada was in as good condition as ever.
About this time, the great capacity of the soil for fruit raising about Nevada began to be appreciated. Previously, but few had attempted the cultivation of fruit trees, and these few had the satisfaction of seeing their trees in bearing. The Nevada Journal, of September 24th, mentions the presentation of a peach by John Dunn to the editor, measuring thirteen inches around it and weighing eighteen ounces. Six peaches, in the same basket, weighed six pounds and two ou.nccs. The spring of 1859 was marked by the large number of fruit trees of all kinds planted about Nevada, yet for two years previous to that time there was considerable activity witnessed in horticultural pursuits. Horace Greeley visited our town in August, 1859. About the same time, in the absence of the editor, the "boys" in charge of the Journal imitated the trick of Squibob, and hoisted the Democratic ticket, Buchanan and all, issuing a couple of capital burlesque papers that furnished a great deal of merriment to all parties.
Perhaps, up to this time, no event ever filled Nevada with such gloom as the reported death of Broderick, Senator of the United States, who died on the 16th of September, from wounds received in a duel with David S. Terry, on the 13th. Broderick had many friends among nearly all professions of political faith in Nevada, and large numbers of houses were draped in mourning and closed.
The efforts of the press and of a few individuals proving unavailing, the ladies undertook to raise money to protect the town somewhat against fires. By their exertions, a ball was gotten up, near the close of the year, which yielded about one thousand dollars. In April, 1860, the Nevada Water Company, so called, laid a large pipe to the corner of Broad and Pine streets. It was furnished with two or three small hydrants, and for a small fire was rendered serviceable. The reservoir of the company was a small one, on the southeastern slope of Lost Hill. Water for house use had been previously supplied from the same point by small lead pipes, to most of the inhabitants in town, the lower part of the town being supplied from a spring on Gold Flat, by the same means. A fire broke out in Sullivan's Ball Court, May 24th, 18G0, which destroyed four buildings, with a loss of $12,000. The fire occurred near the junction of Broad and Commercial streets. The Keystone Hotel, the Ball Court, and residences of Thomas Buckner and J. A. Cross were consumed. The water in the new water pipes was of essential service in checking the further progress of the flames. But, it was made evident that the works of the Nevada Water Company were not sufficient to give security against fires, and soon after, Charles Marsh, Esq., made a proposition to supply the city with an abundance of water in heavy cast iron pipes, from a large reservoir four hundred feet above the lowest part of the town, in accordance with a law passed in 1857 for the purpose. The proposition came up for acceptance or rejection, and a vote was had on the 7th of July, which resulted in the acceptance of the proposition. The pipes of the works, nearly two miles in length, were immediately ordered, and in June, 1861, the town was as well supplied with water for fire and other purposes as, perhaps, any town of its size in the world. The main pipe is ten inches in diameter, and the branches four and six inches. Twenty-eight hydrants were purchased with the pipes in Philadelphia. The whole cost of the works, when completed, was about $30,000. The franchise extends to twenty years. It is proper to add that a proposition from the Nevada Water Company to supply the town with water from their reservoir on Lost Hill was previously rejected, the proposition coming in a very indefinite shape, and the works contemplated being of too temporary a character. Two hose carts were purchased in August, 1860, by Companies No. 1 and No. 2, the companies having been organized on June 2d, previously. A hook and ladder company was also organized twenty days after. Both the hose companies are in service still, but the hook and ladder company recently sold their house, declared a dividend, and disbanded. The foundations of the house of Pennsylvania Hose Company, No. 2, were laid in October, 1860. Nevada No. 1 built theirs a year after.
The citizens of Nevada raised money during the summer of 1860 for the purpose of procuring a survey of a railroad route from Auburn to Nevada. S.G. Elliot was employed and the survey completed. It amounted to nothing further than to demonstrate the practicability of a railroad between the two places.
In September of the same year, appeared the first daily paper in Nevada, the Transcript, under the auspices of N. P. Brown, John P. Skelton, Andrew Casamayou, and General James Allen, the latter gentleman being the editor.
Soon after the completion of the water works, in August, 1861, the town was permanently lighted with gas, by the present gas works. An attempt was made to supply the town with gas three years earlier. A company was formed, works erected, and a small quantity of poor gas was introduced into a few buildings, when the fire of 1858 destroyed the gas works and the company dissolved and the project was abandoned.
The Legislature of 1861 passed an act levying five-eighths of one per cent, tax on the property of the city for the purpose of constructing a bridge on Pine street across Deer Creek. The tax was levied and collected, some persons paying it under protest. A suit ensued; the case was carried through the homo and Supreme Courts, and it was decided the tax was legal. The Board of City Trustees immediately entered into a contract with A. G. Halladie & Co., of San Francisco, to construct a wire suspension bridge, for $9,000. The summer had been wasted in waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court, and the contract was not let till October. The contractors went rapidly into action, but before the work was far advanced the extraordinary rains of the season set in and delayed the construction of the bridge till the following May, when it was completed arid thrown open to the public. Before the heavy rains came the towers were up and the cables placed, being fastened to logs at each end, the bad roads preventing the permanent cast iron anchors from being brought from San Francisco. In consequence of the unparalleled rains, the ground was softened so that the log fastenings were moved and the cables sagged in the center below their proper position. To remedy the defect, the architect resorted to wrought iron rods, three and a half inches in diameter, with screws at the ends, which passed through cast iron bulkheads. By means of these screws he was enabled to raise or tighten the cables. One of the cast iron bulkheads proved to be defective, for in July, 1862, about six weeks after the bridge had been thrown open to travel, the structure gave way when a heavy ox team with a load of hay was fairly on the bridge and the oxen of another team was entering upon the suspended platform, and the bridge, three men, and ten yoke of cattle with the loads of hay were precipitated into the chasm below, a distance of more than fifty feet. Two men* and fifteen oxen were killed. Mr. Halladie came promptly to the scene of the disaster, and proceeded to repair, as far as was in his power, the loss. The bridge was reconstructed, and still stands the most prominent object about Nevada. The cost of the bridge from first to last to the contractors was about $15,000. It is the largest structure of the kind in the State, having a suspended surface of 4,700 feet. The span is 320 feet, and width of roadway fourteen feet. The towers from roadway to top are thirty-three feet high. Fifty-nine cross timbers hold up the platform, suspended by one and one-eighth inch rods from the cables. One hundred thousand feet of lumber were employed. The wire cable, made from No. 12 best charcoal bridge-wire, have in each 1,050 wires; the cables are four inches in diameter, and consumed 36,000 pounds. They have a deflection of twenty-five feet, and arc each 503 feet long. They are fastened in the banks to immense cast iron girders, twelve feet long with elliptic backs, each weighing 2,500 pounds. Those on the south side lie behind solid cemented masonry, and are thirty-five feet from the spot where the cables enter the ground. The bridge at Folsom is ten feet longer, but is two feet nine inches narrower, consequently the bridge at Nevada has 740 square feet of suspended platform more than the former.
During the war of rebellion no town in the United States was more earnest for the right than Nevada. Her people were bold and staunch adherents of the Government in every emergency, giving nine votes out of ten for the party supporting the integrity of the nation, and contributing to the Sanitary Fund with great liberality. "When the clouds of war began to gather, the patriotism of her people became intense. In times of peace little notice was taken of the 4th of July, but, when the nation was threatened Nevada celebrated the day in 1861 with a spirit that showed the depth of her feeling. It was the first time the National Anniversary was observed in becoming style in the place.
Soldiers' Aid Societies were formed in the town, as soon as an appeal was made, and the ladies assembled collecting and making lint and bandages, which were sent to the seat of war. The contributions of the city to the Sanitary Fund are elsewhere noticed. When disaster came upon the Union forces, there was gloom depicted on the faces of almost every citizen, and many a spell of sadness was experienced during all that long and cruel war. How hopes were elated and depressed. Sometimes the heart of the patriot almost gave way to despair; but how wild was the enthusiasm when we could see and feel triumph in the closing hours of the conflict. The capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, and the opening of the Mississippi, and the result of the battle of Gettysburg, almost drove Nevadans mad with joy, but the delirium of the moment when it was announced that Richmond, the rebel capital, had -fallen, was never equaled in the Sierra Nevada. But soon again was the joy of the people changed to the most poignant grief; Abraham Lincoln, the beloved of the nation, fell by the hand of an assassin. The city was draped in mourning and sorrow settled like a pall upon patriotic Nevad.
A fire broke out on the site of Stumpf 's Hotel, on Broad street, in November, 1863, which laid the whole heart of the town again in ashes. The fire companies were promptly on the ground before the flames had gained any headway, but, from some unascertained cause, the water did not come with force enough to throw upon the burning buildings. The fire quickly crossed Broad street, and through negligence of the Chief Engineer of the Fire Department, no efficient stand was made on the line of Pine street. The fire was thus enabled to cross Pine street, consuming the lower part of the town, which might have been saved by efficient management. A few men took their stand by the hydrant at the corner of Commercial and Pine streets, and with a piece of hose succeeded in preventing the flames from crossing Pine street all the way from Broad street to the street in front of the Court House. That part of Pine street between. Broad and Spring, was much easier defended, but the fire was allowed to cross and to consume the best part of the town. Let it pass into history that the Chief Engineer at that time, when his services were needed, was engaged in saving the duds of his strumpet. The Court House again fell a prey to the devouring element, and every hotel in the place. Perhaps the fire was a good agent in the end, for to it we owe in great measure the splendid hotels and theater, and the magnificent new Court House, which is perhaps the finest structure of its kind in the State. It is built, the lower story of granite and upper of brick, with a granite jail contiguous, in a raised yard set with trees, and cost more than fifty thousand dollars. It is a highly ornamental object, besides being well adapted to the purposes for which it was built. It was finished in the autumn of 1864, from architectural designs furnished by Butler of San Francisco. The fire passed over nearly the same grounds as in 1856 and 1858, destroying the Methodist, Congregational, Episcopal and Catholic Churches, the gas works and theater, and ruining many brick buildings as well as all the wooden ones but two in the whole territory traversed by the flames. The entire loss was estimated at $600,000. The Baptist Church was the only edifice of its kind left, and this was used as a Court House until a new one was built and ready for occupation.
In the way of hotels, Nevada and the public were great gainers by the fire. The Union Hotel is one of the best constructed buildings for hotel purposes in the State, has large and handsome rooms and plenty of them, and the National Exchange was improved by the remodeling of the interior.
In the spring of 1864, another daily paper made its appearance, the Gazette; O. P. Stidger and I. J. Rolfe were the paternal ancestors of the concern, the former doing the writing.
The arrival of Schuyler Colfax, Governor Bross and Samuel Bowles, on a visit to Nevada, in the summer of 1865, was one of the events of the season. The party was given a public dinner at the National Exchange, which was largely attended.
The latter years of our town are almost barren of historical interest, or perhaps, time has not given the incidents importance. The developments in quartz mining about the town have largely increased the population and business of the place, but nothing has been done under the influence of excitement. But few buildings have been erected, and no advancement been made except so far as necessity required. The growth of Nevada has been healthy, moderate, and promises to be of a permanent character.
I must not close this sketch of Nevada without alluding to what is known as the "Big Scare," which occurred on the night of January 17, 1865. "Ah ! night of all nights in the year !"
Sheriff K. had received information during the day, from one of his attaches, who had visited the famous locality of Allison Ranch, that the secessionists of that place and Grass Valley contemplated a raid on Nevada. The direful news was whispered about among the brave and faithful, and the stifled cry of "to arms" passed from mouth to mouth. The Sheriff was sure his information was correct. The city was to be sacked, the banks were to be robbed, the arms of the Nevada Light Guard were a prize for lawless men intent on raising the standard of insurrection on the Pacific Coast.
Ah! then and there was hurrying to and fro,
And gathering tears, and tremblings of distress,
And cheeks all pale, that but an hour ago
Blushed at the praise of their own loveliness:
And there were sudden partings, such as press
The life from out of young hearts, and choking sighs.
Which ne'er might be repeated; who could guess
If ever more should meet those mutual eyes.
Some families were removed to other quarters. It is said a few women and children were urged to flee to the fastnesses of the Sugar Loaf, and complied in the greatest consternation. The Sheriff was indefatigable in mustering forces to defend the city to the last extremity. He proceeded without hesitation to fortify — himself with old Democratic whisky. The Nevada Light Guard assembled at their armory, and the Sheriff attempted to take supreme command, by not allowing a soldier the privilege of going out to bid his wife the last adieu. He informed the warriors assembled that, like Jackson at New Orleans, he was going to make the property of the city defend it. Captain Kidd, a banker, was forthwith, for one, pressed into the service, and harnessed with the military accoutrements of Mark Rhineberger. Now, Rhineberger was slightly less than twice the height of Kidd, and consequently as the gallant Captain marched to the field of Mars the cartridge box pendant on one side, at every one of his martial steps struck the ground. It was probably such an apparition as is rarely to be met with in the light of day. Yet, as the opportunity had come of dying for one's country and fireside, and glory is supposed to be won by expiring with the harness on, and as war harness was scarce, the thought could not be entertained a moment of taking it off, and time would not allow of taking it up. For it was expected the bugle blast for a charge would be heard at any moment. Guards were set, and the measured tread of sentinels was heard during the suspense of that awful night. The stars shone out as beautifully and bright as if they were not soon to have their light reflected from a mirror of blood. Silent, unconscious witnesses of many a midnight tragedy ! The Court House was surrounded by a cordon of braves, some prepared for the most desperate encounters with sixteen shooters, revolvers, hatchets and knives. The night slowly wore away. No enemy appeared. Judge B, a distinguished lawyer, took the attache of the Sheriff, who had been in the camp of the enemy, and gave him a searching cross examination in private. He returned, shook his head ominously, and looked unhappy. Scouts, armed to the teeth, were sent out by authority, to examine every foot of ground on the way to Grass Valley, to reconoiter the enemy and return, if possible, to give warning to the beleaguered city. The weary guards, chilly with night watching, paced to and fro, the points of their bayonets gleaming in the starlight over their heads, while occasional dialogues were spoken, one of which is remembered. A new hand at the trade of death approached an old soldier, both on duty, "I suppose," said he, "Uncle Billy; that you have done your share in this bloody business in your time." " Yes," said the veteran, " I have seen some service." "You must have killed some men in your long military career." "I don't know; I have fired in the direction of the enemy several times," said Uncle Billy." Well, this will be the first time I ever pointed a gun at my fellow man, and I would give a great deal that I could wipe this night out of my memory!"
"Blaze" was kind hearted and considerate, as he always is when his race is in distress. He sent up to the Court House a bottle of cock-tails. " Who comes there," said Joe K , the Senator, on guard. ' Friend, with a bottle of cocktails," was the answer. "Advance, friend, with the cocktails," said Joe, promptly, " d——n the countersign !"
The "wee sma hours ayont the twal" came and went, but no enemy. Suspicion crept in that the town was to be spared a day or two longer. As Captain Lancaster of the invincible Guard would not surrender entire command to the Sheriff, the latter announced in stentorian voice, that the county was to be deprived of his valuable services as an officer, and retired to a game of "seven up," in superlative disgust, resigning the city of Nevada to a fate deserved by the insubordination of its inhabitants. In the midst of the game, the gas light was suddenly extinguished, and the Sheriff retired in not very good order to other quarters. And thus ended the "Big Scare" that will live in the memory of men of Nevada many generations to come. It passed, leaving an opportunity for some of our people to die quietly in their beds, an opportunity but few have so far availed themselves of, and at this writing, (February 10, 1867.) while crazed by the clamor for copy, I finish up these concluding lines to the sketch of Nevada, leaving her people undisturbed by war's alarms prosperous and happy.
Bean's History and Directory of Nevada County, California
by Edwin F Bean, printed in Nevada City in 1867.
Containing a complete history of the county, with sketches of the various towns and mining camps,
also full statistics of mining and all other industrial resources