Samuel Langhorne Clemens – “Mark Twain”

Before he wrote American classic novels as Mark Twain, Samuel Langhorne Clemens was a miner and newpaper reporter in Mineral County, Nevada. Prior to picking up his pen, Clemens moved from his birthplace in Hannibal, Missouri and found himself in the silver state. After his time in Nevada, he left to become the most loved American author, Mark Twain.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens September 1-2, 1867, Pera, Constantinople
Samuel Langhorne Clemens September 1-2, 1867, Pera, Constantinople

It is a well known fact that Samuel Clemmons first work was as a river boat pilot on the Mississippi river. This occupation was lost to him with the start of the Civil War. In 1861, Samuel followed his brother Orion to Nevada when his brother is appointed as Secretary of the Nevada Territory. Not long after his arrival in Carson City, Clemens is “Smitten with the silver feaver.” He and his brother started purchasing shares of mining operations in the Esmeralda Mining District. The principal town in this district was Aurora.

Filled with optimism, Samuel moved to Aurora in 1862. Upon his arrival he setup a camp and began working some of the claims he and his brother purchased. Despite his optimism, his work as a miner and investor did not produce and Clemens lives off an stipend set to him by his brother to cover the $10 per week living expenses. This failure was all too common among the hopeful people who travelled west.

Higbie and I were living in a cotton-domestic lean-to at the base of a mountain [Lover’s Leap]. It was very cramped quarters, with barely room for us and the stove – wretched quarters, indeed, for every now and then, between eight in the morning and eight in the evening, the thermometer would make an excursion of fifty degrees. We had a silver-mining claim under the edge of a hill [Last Change Hill] half a mile away in partnership with Bob Howland and Horatio Phillips, and we used to go there every morning, carrying with us our luncheon, and remain all day picking and blasting in a our shaft, hoping, despairing, hoping again, and gradually but surely running out of funds

Mark Twain, Roughing It

A picture postcard showing the exterior of Mark Twain's cabin in the mining town of Aurora, Nevada. The cabin and ground are covered with snow. - 	
University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries
A picture postcard showing the exterior of Mark Twain’s cabin in the mining town of Aurora, Nevada. The cabin and ground are covered with snow. – University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries

Ironically, his failure in mining started his career which produced some of the most important books in American history. While in Aurora, he started sending stories about a miner’s life to the Virginia City newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise, using the penname “Josh”. These stories opened a door to greatness, and he was appointed to a job as a local reporter by Joseph Goodman.

After leaving Aurora for Virginia City, Clemens starts down his road to success and becomes a popular newspaper reported. He submits his humorous and satirical stories using the name Mark Twain. Five years later, the man from Missouri wrote the story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavarous County” and Mark Twain became the American Story Teller.

I learned then, once and for all, that gold in its native state is but dull, the ornamental stuff, and that only low-born metals excited the admiration of the ignorant with an ostentatious glitter. However, like the rest of the world, I still go on underrating men of gold and glorifying men of mica. Commonplace human nature cannot rise above that.

Mark Twain, Roughing It

Nevada State Historic Marker #28

100 years ago, in 1864, Samuel Clemens left the territorial enterprise, moving on to California and worldwide fame.  He was a reporter here in 1863 when he first used the name, Mark Twain.  He later described his colorful adventures in Nevada in “Roughing It.”






Hevada State Historic Marker Summary

Nevada State Historic Marker28
NameMark Twain
LocationVirginia City, Storey County, Nevada
Latitude, Longititude39.3102, -119.6497


Francis Marion Smith – “Borax Smith”

Francis Marion "Borax" Smith
Francis Marion “Borax” Smith

Francis Marion Smith, also known as “Borax” Smith was a miner and business man who made a fortune in the hostile deserts of Nevada and California. He was born in Richmond, Wisconsin in 1846. He went to the public schools and graduated from Milton College. He left Wisconsin seeking his fortune in the American West. and set off for Nevada.

In 1872, while working as a woodcutter, he discovered a rich supply of ulexite at Teel’s Marsh, near the future townsite of Marietta, Nevada. Seeing his opportunity, Smith staked a claim started a company with his brother Julius Smith. The brothers established a borax works at the edge of the marsh to concentrate the borax crystals and separate them from dirt and other impurities.

In 1877, Scientific American reported that the Smith Brothers shipped their product in a 30-ton load using two large wagons with a third wagon for food and water drawn by a 24-mule team for 160 miles (260 km) across the Great Basin Desert from Marietta to the nearest Central Pacific Railroad siding in Wadsworth, Nevada.

Building upon his success, Smith grew his operations and purchased claims at Fish Lake and Columbus March. He bought his brothers shares in the venture in 1884. As he closed down his operations in Teel’s Marsh, Smith purchased the Harmony Borax works from William Tell Coleman who was financially over extended.

Smith then consolidated all of his mining operations with his own holdings to form the Pacific Coast Borax Company in 1890. The Pacific Coast Borax Company then established and promoted the 20-Mule-Team Borax brand and trademark.

In his later years, Francis Marion “Borax” Smith expanded his interest in railroads and charitable work in his hometown of Oakland, California.


Christian Brevoort Zabriskie

Christian Brevoort Zabriskie was a vice president and general manager Pacific Coast Borax Company located in Death Valley National Park. Zabriske served teh Pacific Coast Borax Company for some thirty six years, and due to this activity is honored by the naming an Zabriske Point.

Christian Brevoort Zabriskie
Christian Brevoort Zabriskie

Christian Brevoort Zabriskie (1864–1936) was born at Fort Bridger in the Wyoming Territory. After schooling, he worked for the Virginia & Truckee Railroad located in Carson City, Nevada. For a time, he relocated to Candelaria, Nevada at work for the Esmeralda County Bank. He briefly venture into the mortuary business with a partnership formed with a local cabinet maker. His lack of knowledge in the art of embalming was not considered a liability as burial speed was a huge priority.

In 1885, at the age of twenty one, Zabriske was hired by Francis Marion “Borax” Smith to supervise the Chinese laborer’s. These men worked for the Pacific Coast Borax Company is the Columbus Marsh located near Candelaria. During his thirty six year tenure with the Pacific Coast Borax Company, the company closed up Candelaria operations and relocated to Death Valley to increase production. The company also expanded into the Calico Mountains and Trona, California

Zabriskie Point named for Christian Brevoort Zabriskie - Photo by James L Rathbun
Zabriskie Point named for Christian Brevoort Zabriskie – Photo by James L Rathbun

Zabriske retired from the Pacific Coast Borax Company in 1933 as Vice President and General Manager. All of his work in Death Valley took place before the area was designated National Monument. He passed away just three years later, on February 8thm 1936 at the age of 71. He is buried in Carson City, Nevada.

Zabriske Point is named to honor the man for his many years of service to the Pacific Coast Borax Company.


Wild Burrow ( Equus africanus asinus )

Scattered across the south west scattered small populations of Wild Burrow ( Equus africanus asinus ) thrive in the harsh landscape. The burrow is also known as a donkey, wild ass. The animal is first first brought to the desert southwest by the spanish explorers in the 1500’s as pack animals. The humble burrow help haul goods and open the west. The burrow populations across the desert are the result of escapes, abandoned animals or stranded by the death of their owners.

Wild Burrow photographed in Beatty, Nevada - Photo by James L Rathbun
Wild Burrow photographed in Beatty, Nevada – Photo by James L Rathbun

This animal, which was originally found in Africa and later domesticated, is well suited to the dry desert landscape. The frame of the animal is short of ruffed, standing about four and half feet tall and weighing about 350 pounds. The long ears and short manes are a well defined feature of this beast of burden.

"Wanderers of the Wastelands" vintage postcard of an unknown prospector and his burros. | Courtesy of Orange County Archives.
“Wanderers of the Wastelands” vintage postcard of an unknown prospector and his burros. | Courtesy of Orange County Archives.

Today, all across the desert, the little burrow can be seen in a variety of locations including, Mountain Pass California, Beatty Nevada, and Oatman Arizona. The great state of Nevada established the Marietta Wild Burro Range. The Marietta Wild Burro Range sets aside 68,000 acres. The range is managed principally, but not exclusively for the population of 100 or so, burrow in the area. The burros freely roam near the ruins of the historic Nevada mining town of Marietta.

It is not uncommon for them to approach people looking for hand outs. It is a common practice to pass laws prohibiting the feeding of burrow.


Species:E. africanus
Subspecies:E. a. asinus


Candelaria and Metallic City NSHM Marker #92

Candelaria and Metallic City NSHM is Nevada State Historical Marker number ninety two and is located in Mineral County, Nevada.

Main street buildings of Candelaria, probably in the early 1880s - Candelaria and Metallic City
Main street buildings of Candelaria, probably in the early 1880s

Nevada State Historical Markers identify significant places of interest in Nevada’s history. The Nevada State Legislature started the program in 1967 to bring the state’s heritage to the public’s attention with on-site markers. Budget cuts to the program caused the program to become dormant in 2009. Many of the markers are lost of damaged.

Seven miles to the west lie the ghost towns of Candelaria and Metallic City.

Candelaria was presumably named after a mine of that name located in 1885, and also after the Catholic Candlemas Day. Metallic City, the “sin city” of Candelaria, and also known as Pickhandle Gulch, lies 3/4 mile to the south Candelaria. The name, pickhandle, was derived from the most popular weapon used for settling disputes.

In 1880, Candelaria was the largest town in the immediate area and boasted of having 3 doctors, 3 lawyers, 2 hotels, 6 stores and 10 saloons. Water piped from Trail Canyon in 1882 caused the price of water to drop from $1.00 to $0.05 per gallon.

The leading mine, the Northern Belle, was first located in 1864 (relocated in 1870). It is reported to have produced an estimated $7 million, mainly in silver.


Nevada State Historic Marker Map

Ghost Town Summary

NameCandelaria and Metallic City, Nevada
LocationMineral County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude38.2080, -118.0011