Mark Twain in the West: An Exhibition
Introduction and Chronology

Chronology of Clemens in the West


July–August: 21-day stagecoach journey from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Carson City, Nevada Territory.

September: Trip to Lake Bigler (Lake Tahoe). Timber claim. Trip to Aurora, Esmeralda County (disputed between California and Nevada Territory). Mining claim: “Black Warrior.”


February–March: By then, clearly a Union sympathizer, Clemens encloses Matthew Whittier’s “Ethan Spike” letters to family.

April–August: Aurora, Esmeralda County, by now a town of 2000 (6 hotels and restaurants; 11 billiard saloons; 10 quartz mills). Various mining claims (tunnels and ledges—“Red Bird,” “Pugh,” “Governor,” “Douglas,” “Live Yankee”; etc.). No money to work them. Sends letters to Orion requesting money, as money is sunk into working and paying help to work one claim after another. Writes “Josh” letters to Enterprise, culminating in July offer to be on staff.

October: First known pieces attributed to Clemens in the Enterprise printed on 1 October: “A Gale,” “The Indian Troubles on the Overland Route,” and “[More Indian Troubles]” (Early Tales & Sketches 1, 389–91). “Petrified Man” published on 2 October.

November–December: Reports Second Territorial Legislature.


3 February: First known newspaper piece signed “Mark Twain”—“Letter from Carson City.”

May–June: First visit to San Francisco, with Clement T. Rice (the Unreliable).

July–5 September: Virginia City, Lake Bigler, Steamboat Springs, Virginia City.

8 September–9 October: San Francisco.

October–December: Travels between Carson City and Virginia City; in Carson, reports First Territorial Constitutional Convention; in Virginia, has uproarious ten-day visit with Artemus Ward in December. Rooms with Dan De Quille.


May: Sanitary Fund Ball (Gold Hill) duel controversy in Virginia City, J. W. Wilmington and James L. Laird of Union versus Clemens and Steve Gillis [see Clemens to Laird, 21 May 1864]. Duel averted only when Gillis shoots head off a sparrow and convinces Laird’s seconds that Clemens had done it. Controversy and challenges continue. Exit to San Francisco.

Summer–Fall: Writes for San Francisco Call, Golden Era, and Californian. Backs $500 straw bond for Steve Gillis; Gillis a no-show. Exit from San Francisco: steamboat to Stockton, stagecoach to Tuttletown, Tuolumne County.

4 December 1864–22 January 1865: Jackass Hill, near Tuttletown, in a cabin with Dick Stoker, Jim and Billy Gillis. Hears Jim Gillis’s “Tragedy of the Burning Shame” (Huckleberry Finn); Gillis’s tale about Dick Stoker’s cat, Tom Quartz (Roughing It); and Gillis’s “Blue-Jay Yarn,” again attributed to Dick Stoker (A Tramp Abroad). On 1 January visits Vallecito, where he notes a “magnificent lunar rainbow.”


22 January–20 February: Angel’s Camp, mostly confined in cabin until 6 February telling tall tales and anecdotes, and afterwards spends time at Angel’s Hotel bar. Hears “Jumping Frog” story. Makes note for “The Californian’s Tale” (“Boden crazy, asking after his wife, who had been dead 13 years—first knowledge of his being deranged”). Travels to Calaveras Big Trees and Yosemite.

20–23 February: Jackass Hill.

23 February: Back to San Francisco.

26 February–September: Writes for Californian and Territorial Enterprise (“An Unbiased Criticism,” “Answers to Correspondents”).

1 September–16 October: Stuggles to write “Jumping Frog” story, rejecting two attempts as “flat and stale”—“The Only Reliable Account of the Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and “Angel’s Camp Constable.”

16–18? October: Writes “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” (published in New York Saturday Press on 18 November).

19 and 20 October: “I have had a ‘call’ to literature” letter to Orion and Mollie.


March–early August: Travels to and from Sandwich Islands as correspondent for the Sacramento Union.

October: First Sandwich Islands lecture in San Francisco; subsequent tour of California and Nevada Territory.

December: Sails for New York.


March: Travels to San Francisco to gain permission from the Alta California editors to use his Quaker City letters—written for the Alta during his voyage to Europe and the Holy Land in 1867— for his travel book (later entitled The Innocents Abroad). Gains permission by 1 May.

14 April–2 July: Lectures on his travels (“The Frozen Truth” and “Pilgrim Life”) for a benefit in Oakland, and then in San Francisco, the first of a tour that takes him to Sacramento, Marysville, Nevada City, and Grass Valley, California, and Virginia City and Carson City, Nevada, and San Francisco again.

6 July: Leaves San Francisco for the last time; sails back to New York, arriving on 29 July.

University of California, Berkeley Mark Twain Papers and Project Site MapChronologyIntroductionMapsRoughing It and Comments on Bret HarteRetracing Clemens's StepsA Call to LiteratureCalifornia Gold CountrySan Francisco CorrespondentWriting for the EnterpriseMining in Nevada Territory Exhibit Home Introduction and Chronology