Mark Twain in the West: An Exhibition
Mining in Nevada Territory

Sam Clemens’s Cabin?

The cabin in Aurora that became known as Mark Twain’s cabin was evidently the cabin built by his friend Robert Howland. Clemens lived in at least three cabins, including one with a canvas roof, with a changing cast of cabin mates—including Horatio (Raish) Phillips, Dan Twing, and Calvin Higbie—in Aurora in 1862, as he attempted to make his fortune in gold or silver mining claims. This photograph was taken in 1891 by Scrutton, Superintendent of Esmeralda County, and given to Clemens’s biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, in October 1907. Paine had recently traveled West retracing Clemens’s footsteps.

Cans on the Porch?

The cans on the porch were doubtless piled there to lend authenticity to a story that had become a local legend. As Howland told it to a reporter in 1876:

Bob and Mark . . . lived principally on hardtack and beans. On Sundays, however, they managed to get hold of some few extras in the grub line. When Sunday came they feasted on canned oysters, canned turkey, chicken and the like, with something in the fruit and jelly line. When the cans had been emptied of these luxuries the “boys” ostentatiously threw them out in front of the door of their cabin.

In the course of a few weeks the accumulation of cans . . . began to attract attention. . . . It was finally noised about the camp that Clemens and Howland lived like two princes—fared sumptuously every day.

(“How They Played It,” Territorial Enterprise, 28 April 1876, 2)

Where Is It Now?

Once a town of up to 10,000 people, Aurora was abandoned and became a ghost town. This cabin was moved to Reno in 1924 to protect it but was thereafter picked apart and vandalized and had entirely disappeared by the 1950s (according to Clifford Alpheus Shaw).

University of California, Berkeley Mark Twain Papers and Project Letter from Aurora Eight 1862 mining deeds and one bond Two photographs of Robert F. Howland Aurora: Sam Clemens's cabin? The overland trip west Maps Roughing It and Comments on Bret Harte Retracing Clemens's Steps A 'Call' to Literature California Gold Country San Francisco Correspondent Writing for the Enterprise Mining in Nevada Territory Exhibit Home Introduction and Chronology