Rock ruins (including the Strong house and parts of the stone corral wall) remain 12 east of US 95 alternate at a point 2 miles south of Buckland’s Station. Hooten Wells was probably used by the Pony Express for its last few months and later during freight and staging efforts. The site of Desert Station is located near Hooten Wells on the Rafter D Ranch. This station site was not used since August 1861, when the route was moved further to the north.
L.C. Bishop and Paul Henderson, as well as the mail contract of 1861, list Desert as a station between Carson Sink and Fort Churchill. This obscure station probably housed telegraph activities and possibly served as a Pony Express station during the last few months of its existence. A good source of water later made the station a popular stopping point for travelers, miners, and teamsters in the 1860s.
A few sources identify Hooten Wells as a Pony Express station. The site possibly functioned as a Pony Express station during the last few months of its existence and later served freight and stage operations. Rock ruins exist two miles south of Buckland's Station and twelve miles east of present Highway 95 alternate. Townley lists the route from U.S. Alternate 95 to Hooten Wells as 11.5 miles and places Hooten Well slightly northeast of Desert Station. (NPS)
Note: There is no specific testimony that this is where Burton stopped, but it does seem to be in the general location. It is not on the route indicated by Twain, either.
To Fort Churchill, 18th October.
The b'hoys and the stock were doomed to remain near the Carson Lake where forage was abundant, while we made our way to Carson Valley - an arrangement not effected without excessive grumbling. At last the deserted ones were satisfied with the promise that they should exchange their desert quarters for civilization on Tuesday, and we were permitted to start. Crossing a long plain bordering on the Sink, we "snaked up" painfully a high divide which a little engineering skill would have avoided. From the summit, bleak with west wind, we could descry, at a distance of fifty miles, a snowy saddle-back - the Sierra Nevada. When the deep sand had fatigued our cattle, we halted for an hour to bait in a patch of land rich with bunch grass. Descending from the eminence, we saw a gladdening sight: the Carson River, winding through its avenue of dark cotton woods, and afar off, the quarters and barracks of Fort Churchill. The nearer view was a hard tamped plain, besprinkled with black and red porous stones and a sparse vegetation, with the ruddy and yellow autumnal hues; a miserable range of low, brown sunburnt rocks and hills, whose ravines were choked with white sand drifts, bounded the basin. The farther distance used it as a foil, the Sierra developed itself into four distinct magnificent tiers of snow capped and cloud veiled mountain, whose dissolving views faded into thin darkness as the sun disappeared behind their gigantic heads.
While we admired these beauties night came on; the paths intersected one another, and despite the glow and gleam of a camp fire in the distance, we lost our way among the tall cotton woods. Dispersing in search of information, the marshal accidentally stumbled upon his predecessor in office, Mr Smith, who hospitably insisted upon our becoming his guests. He led us to a farm house already half roofed in against the cold, fetched the whisky for which our souls craved, gave to each a peach that we might be good boys, and finally set before us a prime beefsteak. Before sleeping we heard a number of "shooting stories." Where the corpse is, says the Persian, there will be the kites. A mining discovery never fails to attract from afar a flock of legal vultures - attorneys, lawyers, and judges. As the most valuable claims are mostly parted with by the ignorant fortunate for a song, it is usual to seek some flaw in the deed of sale, and a large proportion of the property finds its way into the pockets of the acute professional, who works on half profits. Consequently in these parts there is generally a large amount of unscrupulous talent. One gentleman judge had knived a waiter and shot a senator; another, almost as "heavy on the shyoot," had in a single season killed one man and wounded another. My informants declared that in and about Carson a dead man for breakfast was the rule; besides accidents perpetually occurring to indifferent or to peace making parties, they reckoned per annum fifty murders. In a peculiar fit of liveliness an intoxicated gentleman will discharge his revolver in a ballroom, and when a shyooting begins in the thin walled frame houses, those not concerned avoid bullets and splinters by jumping into their beds. During my three days stay at Carson City I heard of three murders. A man "heavy on the shoulder," who can "hit out straight from the hip," is a valuable acquisition. The gambler or professional player, who in the Eastern States is exceptionably peaceful, because he fears the publicity of a quarrel, here must distinguish himself as a fighting man. A curious story was told to illustrate how the ends of justice might, at a pinch, in the case of a popular character, be defeated. A man was convicted of killing his adversary, after saying to the bystanders, "Stoop down while I shoot the son of a dog (female)." Counsel for the people showed malice prepense: counsel for defense pleaded that his client was rectus in curia, and manifestly couldn't mean a man, but a dog. The judge ratified the verdict of acquittal.
Such was the state of things, realizing the old days of the Californian gold diggings, when I visited in 1860 Carson City. Its misrule, or rather want of rule, has probably long since passed away, leaving no more traces than a dream. California has been transformed by her Vigilance Committee, so ignorantly and unjustly declaimed against in Europe and in the Eastern States of the Union, from a savage autonomy to one of the most orderly of the American republics, and San Francisco, her capital, from a den of thieves and prostitutes, gamblers and miners, the offscourings of nations, to a social status not inferior to any of the most favored cities.
(The City of the Saints, p 492-4)