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Mark Twain's Prospecting Adventures


Few people know that Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) was interested in prospecting for silver and gold before he ever became an  author. Fewer still know that he only got into writing because he couldn't make a living as a miner and prospector. Later, he wrote a number of humorous stories about his times out in the Nevada deserts and the mother lode country in his book "Roughing It". Other interesting stories and thoughts about his time in Northern California and Nevada were published in various short stories and non-fiction books.
There is no doubt that in seeing the millions made by the men around him when he arrived at Carson City in the 1860s gave him a bad case of gold and silver fever. A lot of what he had to say is still relevant and interesting to the modern reader. So whether you are hoping to learn about prospecting from an old time prospector, or just want to see how the pioneer miners accomplished their work, take a look at what Twain had to say,   I think you will find it worth your time and give you a unique perspective.
I still prospect some of the same areas where Mark Twain looked for riches, although things have changed a lot in the last 140 years. Much of the gold country, however, is just as beautiful as it was for those original pioneers. Listed below is one story I wrote summing up Twains experiences, and 9 others which are written in his own words. For each of Twain's stories, I have inserted my own comments and explanations about the history and background of the times to help the reader.


The Story of Sam the Tenderfoot Prospector

Mark Twain was a great writer, but as a prospector, well he just wasn't so hot. Read the story of how this down on his luck prospector was forced to take a job writing for a Virginia City newspaper rather than starve......

Catching the "Fever"

When Mark Twain arrived in Nevada it was during the flush "boom" times of silverland. Money flowed like water and the gold and silver coming out of the ground was plain to see. Poor young Sam couldn't help but catch the fever. He set our for the back country to seek his fortune - check out his story in his own words.....

Working In The Nevada Gold and Silver Mills

Down on his luck and without a grubstake to keep him going, Sam needed to make a few bucks. To keep himself fed, Sam took a job processing ore at a local gold and silver mill. In his own words he tells how the precious metals are extracted, and how fun it was to work there.

Striking it Rich and Staking Gold and Silver Claims

Old mining law entitled the owner to the vein he claimed. If a new vein was found, an outsider could stake the new vein. Calvin Higbee staked a new rich vein inside a well known mine, and He and his partner Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) were millionaires. Twain tells the story in his own words.


Mines Not Worth Their "Salt"

Mine owners worked hard to sell their claims. Some mine owners were less than honest and engaged in the practice of obtaining less than representative samples, showing their claims to be far more valuable than they really were. The practice of adding gold and silver to your claim in order to obtain bogus samples is called "salting".

Nevada Nabobs and Sudden Wealth

Striking it rich in Nevada..... In the 1860s it meant sudden riches and wealth to those who were prospecting in the right spot at the right time. Men went from worthless bums to millionaires overnight. Mark Twain tells their story.


Bullion Beyond Belief: Down in the Silver Mines

The rich mines of Virginia City pumped out millions worth of gold and silver. Mark Twain went down into them and here he tells the story of what it was like down in the mines 140 years ago.



Pocket Mining For Gold

Certain locations in the Mother lode country are famous for their rich pockets of gold. They are hard to find, but once located, they made their finders wealthy overnight. Still bitten by the call of gold and silver fever, Sam spent several months with old friends prospecting in the Mother Lode Country of California...



The Celebrated Jumping Frog Of Calaveras Co.

This was the story that launched Mark Twain into national prominence. Papers all across the nation picked up the story and printed it. Their reads chucked, and wanted more from this humorous young writer. To this day, Calaveras County in California still holds a celebration of the jumping frog contest, their biggest event of the year. Take a look and see the story that launched America's greatest author.



Want to see some photos of beautiful natural gold nuggets and specimens?  Natural Gold Nuggets and Specimens  Still want to Learn more? Check out my recommended book listing: Chris' recommended books on Prospecting, Rockhounding and Jewelry Making.

If you'd like to find a gold nugget for yourself, then take a look at some more information about prospecting for gold with a metal detector in the Northern Nevada / Northern California area, take a look at the articles, maps and web pages I have put together:  Nugget Detecting near Reno-Sparks

Want to know a little bit more about this crazy prospector guy? Well, here's a little bit more about me, and how I got into prospecting: Chris' Prospecting Story  I'm the associate editor for a well known Gold Mining Magazine - so check out their website for more information and my latest articles.

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