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Ledger sold with Twain mine claim

June 29, 2004|From Associated Press

RENO — A ledger documenting the purchase of a mining claim by Mark Twain and his brother in Nevada was sold for $4,370 at auction to the University of Nevada, Reno.

The university's Special Collections Department bought the Buena Vista Mining District claim book, listing deeds in 1861-62, at Saturday's sale conducted by Reno-based Holabird Associates.

Historians said the book offers conclusive proof of Samuel Clemens' time in Unionville, Nev., before he became famous through his writings as Mark Twain. The only previous information about it was in his book "Roughing It."

"This is telling about things that interested him, his hopes and what he discovered on his way through Nevada," said Jacque Sundstrand, the department's manuscript and archives librarian.

"I'm just so thrilled that we got it. When this kind of extraordinary material is available for sale, we feel that we need to try to keep it in the public's hands so we can all benefit from it," she said.

The claim book came from the collection of San Francisco physician James Jacobitz, an avid collector of western Americana.

The ledger, on page 106, shows Samuel and Orion Clemens bought a 10-foot section of a claim from Hugo Pfersdorff on Jan. 28, 1862, in Unionville, about 120 miles northeast of Reno.

They failed in the venture, but Samuel Clemens found his road to fame a year later when he began writing for the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nev., under the pen name Mark Twain.

Twain recounted his mining adventure in "Roughing It," which is based on his time in the West in the early 1860s.

"By and by, in the bed of a shallow rivulet, I found a deposit of shining yellow scales, and my breath almost forsook me!" he wrote.

"A gold mine, and in my simplicity I had been content with vulgar silver!"

His elation was short-lived, though; he was told by his comrades that his treasures were nothing more than flecks of granite and mica.

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