Samuel L. Clemens, aka Mark Twain, departed from the "States" in 1861, funding his brother's move to Nevada Territory. His five year adventure is here divided up into four sections, or "Lessons": His journey west, a steamboat ride up the Missouri River, and a stagecoach journey from St. Joseph, Missouri to Carson City in the Nevada Territory. Included in this section are the observations of Richard Francis Burton, a famed British Explorer, who made detailed observations of all the stage coach stations along the Overland Trail. The second section, or "Lesson" consists of descriptions of locations visited by Twain while living in "Washoe". This encompasses his time as secretary to his brother, Orion, his experiments in mining and his becoming a newspaper man. The third section includes his time as a reporter both in Nevada Territory and his move to San Francisco. It concludes with the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Twain's escape to the nearly abandoned gold fields of the Sierra Nevadas. This is where he heard the tale of the jumping frog and where his national fame was sparked. The fourth section, or "Lesson", follows Twain to the Sandwich Islands and the source of the material used in his first tour as a public speaker. He finally departs "The West" and returns to New York and quickly takes on a new adventure in Europe and the Holy Land. It should be noted that throughout Roughing It Twain makes derogatory comments regarding American Indians. This is in marked contrast to his well known stance against racism in general.

Submitted by scott on Sun, 08/14/2016 - 14:40
The Journey West begins with a steamboat ride up the Missouri River from St. Louis to St. Joseph. From St. Joseph, we follow the Overland Stage route across the Great Plains. This section of the course contains the descriptions and mapped locations of the stations. Many of these coincide with the Pony Express Stations. The third section of the course contains descriptions of the stations along the Overland Stage lane as it crosses over the Rocky Mountains, from Fort Laramie to Salt Lake City. The fourth and final section of this course describes the Overland Stage route across the arid region between Salt Lake City and Carson City, Nevada Territory. Mark Twains description of the journey is sparse in details but colorful. Richard Burton provides a detailed story of his journey with discussion of each stop along the way.

"We arrived, disembarked, and the stage went on. It was a “wooden” town; its population two thousand souls. The main street consisted of four or five blocks of little white frame stores which were too high to sit down on, but not too high for various other purposes; in fact, hardly high enough. They were packed close together, side by side, as if room were scarce in that mighty plain.

"I sat down, in the cabin, and gave myself up to solid misery—so to speak. Now in pleasanter days I had amused myself with writing letters to the chief paper of the Territory, the Virginia Daily Territorial Enterprise, and had always been surprised when they appeared in print. My good opinion of the editors had steadily declined; for it seemed to me that they might have found something better to fill up with than my literature. I had found a letter in the post office as I came home from the hill side, and finally I opened it. Eureka!

"For a time I wrote literary screeds for the Golden Era. C. H. Webb had established a very excellent literary weekly called the Californian, but high merit was no guaranty of success; it languished, and he sold out to three printers, and Bret Harte became editor at $20 a week, and I was employed to contribute an article a week at $12. But the journal still languished, and the printers sold out to Captain Ogden, a rich man and a pleasant gentleman who chose to amuse himself with such an expensive luxury without much caring about the cost of it.


Twain, Mark. 1872. Roughing It. American Publishing Company.
Burton, Richard. 1861. The City Of The Saints. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts.