M. M. (Mary McNair) Mathews.

Ten years in Nevada : or, Life on the Pacific coast online

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None seemed to be disturbed by the storm. In a board-
ing-house they were just taking dinner. You could see
them passing baked beans and pork, and all laughing and
enjoying the dinner as if they were unconscious of the
havoc the wind was making around them. There is but
one wooden building in this place at this time. It is a store
and post-office together.

Now, the train we are waiting for comes dashing up, and
soon we are on the move again, and nothing of note occurs
until we reach Reno, at one o'clock at night.

This is our nearest railroad point to Virginia City. The
stage is waiting, and fourteen grown people and one child
are stowed away on the four seats.

The agent puts his head in and calls for the fare, which
is $4 a head. I have but $1 1.25 left. I offered him $10 for
three of us; told him the child ought to go for half price,
when he said : " I have no half fare."

I told him I had but $1.25. He said : "You will have to
stop over, then."


Ten Years in Nevada.

I gave him the last $1.25. Me threw back the 25 cents,
saying he did not want such money as that. It was 25
cents in scrip.

He said he must have another dollar. One of the passen-
gers said : " You have robbed her of all she has, and what
more do you want?" "Another dollar," said he. Just at
this moment Mr. Warwick, who was going on to San Fran-
cisco, and who came to see us safe aboard the stage, asked.
the man if taking all we had did not satisfy him ? He said:
" None of your d— d business." And, turning to me, said
" pile out ! "

Mr. Warwick said: "Keep your seat;" and he gave
him the dollar, and asked him his name.

•• Never mind that; I am in a hurry," said he.

But some of the passengers said his name was Chamber-

We now shook hands with our kind friend, and he ran

off to his train.

Just as we are about to start, here comes the agent with
another passenger; but we are already full, four to a seat,
except the one I occupy.

He says: " Madam, you will have to take the child on
your lap to make room for this man."

" Oh, yes ; there is always room for another in a stage,"
said one of the passengers, with a slur. " He said it don't
make any difference ; the child does not weigh much." He
has just weighed $4, said I. "Can't help that; this man
has got to go, if you stay." James offered to hold him.
The driver now mounted his box, cracked his whip, and
away we started at a brisk trot.

It was very dark, and the road rough. The stage is
drawn by eight horses. The passengers are often pitched
into each other's laps, and many bruises they get before
morning. Charley got sleepy, and I took him, before we
had traveled a mile, and held him till we reached Virginia

Life on the Pacific Coast. 35

City. The outside passengers had the best seats, for they
all had straps with which to hold on.

I had an outside seat, and was not tossed about like some

We found it very cold riding in this cramped position.

At six o'clock in the morning- we were put down before
the International Hotel, in Virginia City.

For a few moments we could hardly stand up, we were
so completely chilled through. Our baggage was taken
into the office, and we all sat by the stove till we were
warm. They asked us if we would have rooms. I told
them I did not wish for one, but would like to leave my
baggage there for a short time. It was now August 30th,
and I left home the nth. I was anxious to let my family
know of my safe arrival in Virginia City. I did not like to
open my trunk till I got a room, and my paper was in it. I
went to the post-office and asked for paper and envelope. I
offered the 25 cents in scrip, and they, too, refused it, but
said I was welcome to the paper.

I inclosed the scrip, and sent it back where paper money
was appreciated. I happened to have two stamps in my
purse, so I posted my letter, and started out to look for
work and a room. I passed up Union to B Street. Here
I got a room in the third story of the Collins House, kept
by Mrs. McKinney, for 50 cents a night. I then went back
to the hotel for my things.

I found James there waiting for me. He had been out
looking for work, and had got a job in Mr. Hemingway's
blacksmith shop for $6 a day. He said he was going to
sleep in the shop. He assisted me to get my things over to
my room, and then went off to work, for he had eaten some
lunch while he was waiting for me.

When I came down from my room the lady asked me if
I would have breakfast. I told her we had just eaten a
lunch, for we had plenty in our basket. She said : " You

36 Ten Years in Nevada.

had better have a cup of coffee." I told her I did not care
for any. I was anxious to get work, for my money had
run short. I asked her if she had any work. She said she
had none, but I must go in and have a cup ot coffee. She
would take no denial, but sent her little girl to show me the
way t( 1 the restaurant.

After I had taken a cup of strong tea I went out again to
look tor work, and also for a small house, for I was anxious
to do our own cooking, as board was $1 a day. I could
save half by boarding ourselves.

1 first called at the house of F. A. Tritte. The lady was
sick, so the nurse informed me, and did not wish for help,
as she kept a seamstress in the house. The nurse said she
thought I might get work of Mrs. Beck, at No. 21 North
A Street. Said she is a very benevolent woman, and if she
has not any, she may know who has.

I thanked her, and started on, inquiring at every house
and street, till I came to No. 21, without getting work. No.
21 was a handsome two-story white house, with French
windows and green blinds ; a porch with large, white pillars,
which supported a very handsome verandah above. Two
beautiful bird cages hung suspended from the ceiling with
two canaries in them. The door was adorned with a bell,
and a heavy door-plate, with the name of H. S. Beck upon it.
A neat little yard in front was surrounded by a white fence.
The yard had several fruit trees, each loaded with fruit
nearly ripe ; climbing rose-bushes and several other plants
adorned the yard, and a portion of which was covered with
v< >ung wheat.

Such was the home of the lady who had been so highly
recommended to me. 1 had time to observe all these things
while waiting the answer to the bell. I could not help
wondering what she was like, when a lady, below the
medium size, made her appearance. She was a plump,
little woman, very clear complexion, neither brunette nor

Life on tlic Pacific Coast. 37

blonde, crimson checks and lips, sparkling black eyes, in
which the deeper feelings of her nature seemed slumber-
ing. Her dark brown hair was brushed plainly back from
her broad, German brow, and done up in a chignon at the
back, while two glossy curls trailed at its side. She wore
a black-and-white calico wrapper, neatly finished at the
neck, wrists, and pocket, with a narrow ruffle of the same
material; a dainty white apron, stand-up linen collar, hast-
ened by a carbuncle-pin, with ear-drops to match, com-
pleted her toilet.

I have thus minutely described the house and its owner,
because both became very dear to me — the house where I
spent many happy hours, and the lady as my dearest friend '
and constant companion.

I found her more than worthy of the high recommend I
had received of her. Being dressed so much more plainly
than the rich and gaudily-dressed ladies I had met with at
the other houses, I took her for hired help, instead of the
lady herself. I asked to see Mrs. Beck. She said : " That
is my name. Will you walk in ? "

I followed her through a hall to a richly-furnished sitting-
room, in which every luxury and comfort was seen.

A nice piano stood there, and tables, what-nots, and
brackets were loaded with books, shells, vases, and -other
ornaments. Beautiful engravings, chromos, and family pict-
ures adorned the walls.

We passed through to a neat little dining-room. " You
will excuse me for bringing you in here, for we are just
having a cup of coffee. Will you have a cup with us?"
said she. " This is Mrs. Whittaker, and your name is — "
Mathews, said I.

" This is my husband, Mr. Beck," said she. Mr. Beck
was a man five feet eight or nine inches high, dark brown
hair, and eyes to match, and seemed a very pleasant but
quiet man. I thanked her, and told her I had been to

38 Ten Years in Nevada.

breakfast. I am looking for sewing to do. I am a stranger,
just from the East, and out of money, and it is necessary I
should get work immediately. I was directed to you by
a lady On this street.

" Well, 1 am sorry, but I have no work at present; but
Mrs. Hungerford was wanting some one yesterday, and I
think you will suit her; and by the time you get through
there I will try and have some for you. I will cut out some
underclothes; they are always needed some time. If you
do not get work there, come back and get your dinner and
supper, and I will see what can be done. There, take this,"
said she ; " it is all the change I have, except four bits
(which is 50 cents of our Eastern money), and 1 will keep
that for fear some one might call who would need it, and I
would have nothing to give them." She held $3 towards
me. " Here is a half; it is the widow's mite. It is all I
have by me," said Mrs. Whittaker. "Well," said Mrs.
Beck, ''if you can afford that, here goes the other half;
we will make it even change for luck ; it will help you till
you do get work."

Mrs. Whittaker was a widow who supported herself by
sewing and teaching, and this was really more than she
could afford to give, tor she had a young son whom she
was educating. I thanked them both very kindly, but de-
clined taking their money ; told them I preferred to work
for my money, as 1 was perfectlv able to do so. " Oh ! you
must not be so proud as that. I know you have just come
from the East, where it would be considered begging, but
the people here do not look at it in that light. We are
more liberal here. I used to live there once, in New York
City, and know all about it ; but here they do not stand on
ceremony, but take all they can get, and get all they can."
Whether they need it or not? said I. "Yes; there is
always plenty of poor people to whom you can give what
you have to spare," said she. I asked her if she knew of a

Life on the Pacific Coast. 39

house. She said : " I think I know of two rooms in a brick
house; I will go with you to-night and see." I now started
to go, but she said : " You must drink a cup of coffee ; it is
all ready." And before 1 could say a word she had filled
my child's hands lull of cake. "You had better take the
money," said she. No, I said; a person that is able to
work is no object of charity.

" 1 am afraid you won't do for Virginia City," and reluct-
antly returned the money to her purse. 1 bade \\cv goo I-
morning, and called on Mrs. Hungerford. She lived with
her daughter, Mrs. John Mackey, the wife of the present
bonanza king. Yes, she was in want of a seamstress to assist
in getting her little daughter ready for school. She en-
gaged me for $1 a day, and board for myself and child.
" This is, she said, the same as $3." The price of a seam-
stress was $3, but she could not afford it ; she had rather
board us. " You can have the boy in the room with you, if
you choose, or he can play in the yard with Ada." This
made it very pleasant, and I went to work with a will. At
lunch time she invited me clown to eat. It was a little side-
table in the kitchen. She said : " We always take our lunch
here," and sat down and ate with us.

At night she went down some time before she called me.
When I went down we were again seated at the side-table,
but she was nowhere in sight.

Yet there were three plates, and everything seemed cold.
I could hear talking in another room, and thought perhaps
she had company. I sat down and ate my supper. The
next morning she was still absent. At noon we took lunch
together; and when I was called at night to supper, the
girl had nothing on the table but dishes and bread and but-
ter. I sat down and waited full ten minutes before she
offered to give me anything, and then she brought out a
dish of soup scarcely warm ; and some potatoes to match
were set down before me. It was then that I discovered

40 Ten Wars in Nevada.

the family were taking their meals in the dining-room, and

sending their cold victuals out to us when they were

•ugh with each course. Cold food was not what I

bargained for, neither was I accustomed to eat at the

i »nd table. I asked the girl if she could give me a dish
oi milk for Charley. She gave it. to me.

1 broke some bread in it, and he ate it. I did not eat any-
thing; but when Charley had done eating his milk, T went
out to see if .Mrs. Deck had found a house. She was just
eating. Said she would soon be ready.

•• Won't you have a cup of tea," said she. I told her I
would, for 1 had not been to supper yet, and felt too faint
to go any farther without eating something.

She had a nice, tempting plate of soup, of which, when
hot, 1 am very fond. I ate a very hearty supper, and then
leaving Charley with her little girl, we went and called on
Mr. .Molt, the owner of the house. He could not let
me know till next day. This was the third time we had
called before we saw him.

I took Charley and went to our room. James came up
and spent the evening with us. The next day I went to
work, after eating a cold lunch of crackers and cheese, and
giving the same to my boy from our basket, as we had
run out of everything else. When the girl called us to
breakfast, I told her I had been to breakfast. At lunch time
Mrs. Hungerford said lunch was ready. I told her I had
brought my lunch with me.

She said : " The girl told me you did not eat supper nor
breakfast. What is the trouble ? "

1 told her 1 had rather board myself, as I wished to bring
my child up properly, and I did not think 1 could by eat-
ing ;il the second table in the kitchen.

She saw my feelings were wounded, and said she did
not blame me, but Mr. Maekev would never eat with hired
help. Well, 1 have no desire to eat with him ; but I have

Life on the Pacific Coast. 41

never ate at the second tabic, and cannot commence now.
"Well, I am not to blame, you know, but he is very par-
ticular, and if you had rather board yourself, I will pay
you in provisions, if that will do." I told her it would suit
quite as well. " You shall not lose anything by it," said
she; "you can have anything you want." (1 suppose Mr.
Mackey was more particular now than when he was a com-
mon miner, working for his $4 a day and packing his dinner-
bucket^) She let me have some flour, oatmeal, sugar, and
tea, and other groceries, to the amount of $2, and gave me
Si in money per day, and told me 1 could get more when-
ever I wanted it, and said I could have a quart of new milk
each day.

I went home that night. Saw Mr. Moer, and rented his
rooms for $10 a month. I went across the street, bought a
second-hand stove, a white pine table, and a bedstead of
the same material, and both of them were minus of paint,
and both home-made ; three old chairs, a straw mattress,
and pillows ; two sheets and cases, and a second-hand
blanket. The whole of them cost $25.

I bought them of a Jew by the name of Greene, and he
put up the stove for me. I had sent Charley to watch for
James when he came from his work. He soon came, and I
borrowed $25 of him. He had brought $25 from home,
sewed up in his coat, he said, " for a wet day." My bed
was soon made up, and the room set in order, and I sent
James and Charley to get the provisions of Mrs. Hungerford.
Mr. Greene promised to take the things back at any time
within two months, for 75 cents on a dollar.

The provisions came. In due time I had supper ready,
and we three sat down to eat. After supper James brought
over our baggage from Mrs. McKenney's, and I paid her
for the room.

I now went over to Mrs. Beck's and told her I had ^ot

4 2 Ten Years in Nevada.

" Well, I am going over with you to see how you look,"

she said; and she handed me a basket, and asked me to

ry it as far as my house, as she had a bundle to carry,

When we got there she looked around the room, and said:

" Where did you get your things ? "

1 told her across the way, of a Jew.

" What did you pay for them? "

I told her, and she said : " I am sorry, for I intended to
have you get them of Mr. Beck, and pay him in sewing.
But you can get groceries of him very cheap, and he will
give you work to do whenever you get ready to board
yourself. 1 told her I had already commenced, and that I
had got some provisions. "Did you buy them of him,
too? " I told her where I had got them, and why.

She said : " Well, you will feel more like living now."

Then she opened her basket.

" Well, here is a few things to keep house with ; some
tea, sugar, candles, salt, pepper, a roll of butter, and several
other articles; and here is a pair of sheets and cases for a
change, and a table-cloth," said she, as she opened the
bundle, " and here is some rags for dish-cloths, or anything
you want them for; they are nice and clean."

I was very much surprised, and was about to speak, when
she stopped me with : " There, don't say a word ; I am
not going to give them to you ; I have got some sewing
for you as soon as I get it ready, and I know you will want
all your money to pay rent with."

It was some days before she brought the work, and when
it was finished and taken home she slipped the pay in my
pocket, saying: "Those few things are not enough to
pay for that work."

She remembered that $5, and took this way to overcome
my scruples.

1 In- way ol doing charity was so delicate that one coui-i
never take offense.

Life on the Pacific Coast. 43

Since she had promised me work, the little stock of pro-
visions came very acceptable.

The next evening she came and took me to her husband's
store. He promised me work; but for fear he might for-
get, she told me to get some groceries.

I bought a few things, and went home. She said : " I
must run home now. Come over whenever you get lone-
some. Good-night! " and away she went.

I now boarded James to save his dollar. He could now
lay by $6 every day. He still slept in the shop.

Before we left his house in Illinois he told me that, unless
he passed for my brother, we would be sure to be talked
about, and we had agreed to this. So Charley always
called him Uncle James ; and I believe they thought as
much of each other as if they were relatives.

1 was now fairly settled, and each night the cook would
give me a pail of fresh milk. I took the milk, and consid-
ered it a part of the pay for my work. I got along nicely
for several days, and then my little boy commenced to act
as if he was sick ; would not eat his lunch, nor did he seem
inclined to play. I asked him if he was sick. He said :
" No ; but I feel bad all over." I saw his face looked
flushed. I laid him on the sofa in the same room I was at work.

This was about two o'clock, and by five o'clock I was
obliged to quit work and take him home. That night he
grew worse, and by morning he was out of his head with
scarlet fever.

It was raging at the time in the city. I sent James to
tell Mrs. Hungerford that I could not come to help her, for
Charley was very sick.

She told him to come and get the milk just the same, for
I would need it while he was sick. And sometimes she
sent me a hot loaf of bread, and a loaf cake for Charley.

She was very kind all through his sickness. Charley con-
tinued to grow worse every day, for fourteen days, in spite


Ten Years in Nevada.

of all I could do. He had been sick only two days when
Mrs. Be< k .ailed to see me. She was surprised to see him
so sick, and asked what doctor I employed.

I told her I was doctoring him myself. " You must have
a doctor for him, or he will die," said she. I told her I
could not think of trusting his life in another person's

She came twice every day, always bringing me some-
thing nice to eat, so I need not have to cook, for she saw
that I had my hands full.

Sometimes hot soup; sometimes baked meats and vege-
tables, or a few hot biscuits-— always something.

I need not tell the reader how thankful I was for those
little acts of kindness, for he was sick three long weeks,
and I had no one to do anything but myself, or sit up with
him a single night.

I would not allow James to sit up after working all day ;
but he brought his blankets, and laid on the floor to be near
if wanted.

Fourteen days had nearly passed. He seemed hovering
between life and death. Mrs. Beck again urged me to get
a doctor; said the children were dying all over the city.

That is just why I do not get one ; I am afraid they could
not cure him. 1 was a good nurse, and I thought if any-
one could save him, 1 could, for I knew his constitution bet-
ter than anyone else.

I stood over him watching every breath. James came in,
and brought him the largest stem of grapes I ever saw ;
they were the white musk.

Charley's mouth seemed so dry and parched that I moist-
ened his tongue by squeezing the juice out of several of
the grapes in his mouth. In a few moments his tongue be-
came softened so he could speak. He said : " Give me
some more." I squeezed more on his tongue, then gave
him several to eat. In a few moments he wanted more. I

Life on the Pacific Coast. 45,

fed him a dozen, and then he seemed satisfied, laid per-
fectly still, and dropped to sleep. In about ten minutes the
sweat broke in large drops all over his face.

James was standing at the window looking out, when I
cried out: Oh! James, lie is saved; the lever is broke.

He came and looked at him, felt his face, and said:
"Thank God ! " I know now that with good nursing he
will live, but this would be the most trying night of all.

James said: " He is better now ; I will watch him, and
you lie down and get some rest."

I told him it was the most particular night of all, and I
did not dare to leave him for a moment ; told him to go to
bed ; if I needed him I would call him. He laid down to
rest, and I sat down by Charley. About twelve o'clock he
called tor a drink. 1 got a cup of water to give him. As
1 was about to give it to him I fainted, and fell across the
bed. The water ran down on the blankets to my face and
brought me to. I got up and procured another cup of
water, but as I reached the bed I fainted again.

This time I did not revive as soon as the first time,
although my face laid in a pool of water. When I came to,
I did not dare to try again, so I threw the cup on the floor
near James.

The smashing of the dish awoke him. He brought some
water, and gave me a drink. As soon as I could speak I
told him to give Charley a drink ; that I had tried twice,
and had fainted both times.

He said : " Then you just lie down and go to sleep. I
will watch till daylight."

Tired nature could do no more. I was forced to accept
his kind offer. I showed him what kind of medicine to
give Charley, and in a few moments I was lost in uncon-
sciousness. 1 had cooked but a few regular meals in the
fourteen days, and should have given out much sooner had
it not been for the kindness of Mrs. Beck in bringing me so

46 Ten Years in Nevada.

many warm meals, for my bed was in the same room with
the stove, and it was impossible to have a fire only at nights
and mornings. My room was a dark room, only lighted
from the hall, and I used it for a store-room.

In the morning I awoke quite refreshed. James had
eaten his breakfast, and made me a nice cup of tea and
some toast, and was giving Charley some hot broth. He
said Charley had not awaked but twice, and then only
long enough to take his medicine, and then dropped off to
sleep again.

He seemed a great deal better. In a few days he sat up.
He now gained very rapidly, as he had the best of care.
He was soon able to go about the room, or sit by the win-
dow and watch the children play in the garden. There was
a select school in the same yard with me. The children
used to call him " big eyes " to tease him. He was very
poor, and his eyes looked very large. This would annoy
him, and he would crawl to the water-pail and get the dip-
per full of water, and set it by him, and when they came
again, he would throw it all over them.

I had to leave him to go out to attend to some business
one day, and when I came in, the floor was all wet, and he
was undressed and in bed.

I asked him what it meant He said those plagued girls
kept coming and saying " what you doing 'big eyes,' peel-

Online LibraryM. M. (Mary McNair) MathewsTen years in Nevada : or, Life on the Pacific coast → online text (page 3 of 25)