Mark Twain in the West: An Exhibition
Retracing Clemens's Steps

Albert Bigelow Paine Seeks Clemens’s Western Friends in 1907

In this letter of 31 March 1907 from the City Hotel in Sonora, California, Paine recounts his adventures out West to Samuel Clemens and Isabel Lyon:

Dear King, & Secretary:

Goodman & I have just returned from Jackass Hill and Gulch and if we had picked all the year over we could not have had a more beautiful time for our trip. The weather is perfect and, as the King knows, there is no more peaceful, no more lovely spot on earth than this wonderful Valley and these hills where once every creek and run and rivulet washed a bed of gold. We found Billy Gillis at Tuttletown and Steve Gillis at Jackass Hill where mining still pays. In fact Jackass Hill is now a sort of Gillis Colony—Billy’s son and Steve’s daughter are both married & live there, and most of the other residents of the Hill are either relatives or connected with the Gillis holdings. The Gillis’s are rich in mines & the Hill is by no means exhausted.

Steve Gillis is wonderfully clear-eyed & smart and brimming over with fun. He talked over the old times and laughed until the tears came. But he is in a bad way. Repeated surgical operations have put him to bed, permanently, and he says that his time is short.

“Tell Mark that I’m going to die pretty soon” he said, when we came away, “and that I love him—that I’ve loved him all my life, and I’ll love him till I die.”

Billy Gillis looks older than Steve but is full of the Gillis fire, and I enjoyed meeting him. Jim Gillis is at this hotel; but I have not seen him, nor will he send any word, for the old fire in him is very low and cannot burn more than a few days longer. [Goodman] saw him last night, but he is beyond speaking more than a few sentences and those are only to repeat with a persistency which seems to give him comfort that he has entirely finished with the interest of this world and is simply waiting for the obsequies. [Goodman] thinks he might rally if he had not settled the matter in his own mind.

The trip up here, except for the disability of Jim Gillis has been a perfect success, and a great satisfaction— I wouldn’t have missed it for any price. In fact my whole trip this far has been all that I could hope for in every way. Goodman’s coming up here with me has doubled the enjoyment & value of the excursion, & he has enjoyed it, too. Only, he wishes me to say that I have corrupted him. He has never until now ridden on a RR pass, or in an automobile, or smoked cigars at luncheon, and for years has not drunk beer over a bar—. He has parted with all these virtues now and has none left that his family would wish to see him lose. Perhaps it is just as well that I move on, to Los Angeles, Tuesday.

I gave Steve Gillis a copy of Christian Science and three of the pictures I made last summer. His eyes filled with tears he was so glad to get them. He is beautiful in his old age—

With love & good wishes—

The Senegambian.

University of California, Berkeley Mark Twain Papers and Project Albert Bigelow Paine seeks Clemens's friends in 1907 Joe Goodman, 1907 Steve Gillis, 1907 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