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Selected Letters of Abraham and Fanny Glassman: 1874-1886

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Chapter 1: Fanny Glassman, 1874-1876

  1. Many of the incidental characters in this story are fabricated, but Mr. and Mrs. Briner Cohen were part-owners with Simon Bamberger of hotels in Ogden and Salt Lake City. I do not know much about the Cohens, but in 1917, Simon Bamberger became the third Jewish governor in the U.S., and the first non-Mormon governor of Utah.
  2. Solomon Nunes Carvalho was a Jewish painter and daguerrotypist who travelled with the 1853-54 Fremont expedition to California. The expedition ran out of rations while crossing the Rockies, and Carvalho spent several months recuperating in Salt Lake City. His memoir of the expedition, Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West is a wonderful read and was popular at the time; I could not resist making Fanny a Carvalho fangirl.
  3. Colonel Patrick E. Connor was sent to Utah during the Civil War to protect the mails. He recruited his volunteer infantry mostly from the California gold fields. Connor opposed Mormon control of the Utah Territory, and attempted to incite a mining boom in order to draw non-Mormons; consequently, his soldier-prospectors spent as much time staking mining claims as they spent soldiering. Stockton, Utah was founded by Connor, who named it after his hometown of Stockton, California.
  4. The Paris Millinery Company was one of many Jewish-owned mercantiles in Salt Lake City. Max and Charles Simon traveled to Paris expositions in order to stock their store.
  5. At least some of the cattle herds being driven down Main Street (if not most of them) belonged to Charles Popper, a Jewish rancher whose ranch, slaughterhouse, and candle and soapworks were just outside Salt Lake City. The area was known as Popperton, and was later redeveloped into Popperton Place, which is now part of Salt Lake City's Federal Heights neighborhood. Popperton Park is named after him.
  6. Whether Jews were "Gentiles" was hotly contested in Mormon country. There is a popular story about Simon Bamberger on the gubernatorial campaign trail, pushing back at a hostile Mormon crowd, "As a Jew, I have been called many a bad name, but this is first time in my life I have been called a damned Gentile!" According to the story, the Mormon farmers recanted and embraced him as their next governor.
  7. At this time, B'nai Israel of Salt Lake City routinely met at Independence Hall, a multi-denominational building that was owned by the "Trustees of the First Church of Jesus Christ," among whom was Samuel Kahn, a member of B'nai Israel.
  8. The ZCMI stores began in 1868 as part of a Church-authorized boycott of "Gentile" merchants (many of whom were Jewish) . The signs Fanny describes were erected to help Mormon shoppers identify Mormon-owned stores. A few Jewish merchants, such as the Brooks and the Auerbachs, claim to have been given exemptions by Brigham Young, but there was still a lot of selling out of back doors at night, and many merchants were driven out of Salt Lake City to the "Gentile" towns of Ogden, Corrine, or Stockton. Ironically, the boycott designed to break "Gentile" mercantile may have accelerated its geographic spread.

    Mormon accounts describe the boycott as a response to non-Mormon "price-gouging," while non-Mormon accounts describe it as a last-ditch attempt to consolidate power before the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Either way, the official boycott died when the transcontinental railroad arrived. However, the signs stayed up, and the Church-owned ZCMI stores spread through Utah; several Church-owned factories were built to supply them.

    In 2003, the ZCMI chain was bought by Meier & Frank, a Jewish-founded mercantile chain begun in 1857 in Portland, Oregon.
  9. The construction of Pioche's "Million Dollar Courthouse" was a travesty of graft and profiteering, and its debt management was no better. In the end, the debt surpassed a half-million dollars, and still had not been paid off when the courthouse was condemned in 1933. The building is now used as the county historical museum.
  10. Every source I found about the Pioche cemetery was so caught up in the romance of Boot Hills and the Wild West that it is difficult to know what is true and what is a tall tale. But one source mentioned the graveyard having both a "Murderer's Row" and a "Boot Row" ("men who died with their boots on," i.e., murder victims), and I ran with it. The "Boot Hill" language associated with the Pioche cemetery (and others like it) seems to have been coined in Dodge City, Kansas, at least five years after this letter, and so I did not have Fanny use it.
  11. Fanny not having the combination to the safe is adapted from a story told by Sam Auerbach, about the brothers' store in Rabbit Creek, California, before they moved to Utah. During that period, the Auerbachs stored miners' gold for them for safekeeping. (This was not unusual: I.W. Hellman's Merchants & Farmers Bank in Los Angeles began from such an arrangement.) One night when Sam was alone in the store, burglars tried to rob the safe. The burglars threatened Sam at gunpoint, but Sam lied that his older brother Fred did not trust him with the combination, and the burglars believed him. (And then tied him up and attempted to drill the safe, before finally losing their nerve and running.) You may presume that Abie heard the story at some point, either indirectly or from one of the Auerbachs themselves.
  12. All the fires in this story are historical, including the Virginia City fire of 1875—which all but completely razed the city—and the Pioche fire of 1871. No source agrees on the number of fatalities when Felsenthal's powder store exploded, but most put total casualties in the two- to three-dozen range.

Chapter 2: Abraham Glassman, 1876 - 1878

  1. Fitzgerald's fictional Silverlode is based on the historical Silver Reef: the detail of silver found in sandstone is unique and the founding years are identical, as is the detail of being physically twinned with a Mormon town (the historical Leeds and the fictional Adenville). However, Fitzgerald seems to have taken his "wild, wild West" details from Pioche and Frisco, as Silver Reef was a moderately well-behaved mining camp. Additionally, Fitzgerald seems to have based his Silverlode-Adenville animosity on the typically icy miner-farmer relationship seen in the rest of Mormon country; by many reports, Silver Reef and Leeds had considerable social mixing.
  2. Approximately 80% of Silver Reef's population arrived as part of the "Pioche Stampede." Yes, they brought entire buildings with them.
  3. The story of Metalliferous Murphy was popular and apocryphal. However, I have read accounts that Leeds grindstones sometimes kicked around unused because the silver nuggets in them would tear up the edge of a blade; apparently whoever made up the story of Metalliferous Murphy—and possibly many who believed it—knew about those useless grindstones, too. There are other apocryphal stories about how the strike was discovered: one has someone observing a white metal weeping from the stonework of a Leeds fireplace. Given the multiplicity of stories (compared to the more pedestrian history of the strike), it would appear that silver in sandstone was so surprising that it needed a good story to make the idea stick. That, or people just like a good story.
  4. William Tecumseh Barbee was the promoter and financier who made the Silver Reef boom happen (the strike had been around for a good decade before the Pioche Stampede). Barbee had a terrible string of luck making money out of the place.
  5. Generally speaking, Mormons did not participate in the mining of precious metals (they briefly mined gold in California for the Colony's script, but otherwise restrained themselves to mining salt, iron, and coal). Instead, Mormon farmers sold hay and fresh food to the non-Mormon mining communities, thereby obtaining cash for the Mormon colony without getting involved in the saloon-and-violence-infested business of silver mining. Abie's complaint that Mormons would sell goods but not buy them was common throughout the Territory.
  6. The story of the Yom Kippur "sale" happened to Harry Rubenstein in Medford, Oregon, and was reported in We Lived There, Too. With apologies to Mr. Rubenstein and Mr. Applegate (the farmer), I blatantly lifted the story and changed many details. However, there is precedent for this kind of religious-economic show of respect in Mormon country: before the ZCMI boycott, the Mormon butchers of Salt Lake City routinely closed their doors on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur out of respect for Charles Popper, who owned a butcher shop in addition to his ranch, slaughterhouse, and soap-and-candleworks.
  7. In 1867, Brigham Young invited Salt Lake City's Jewish community to use one of the Temple buildings for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and the community published its thanks in newspapers in Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Cincinnati. The letter was then reprinted and discussed in newspapers as far away as France, Germany, and Italy. At the time, the Mormon Church had a difficult public image and was continually at loggerheads with federal authorities: the public gesture of thanks was much appreciated in Mormon circles.
  8. Father Joe and Bishop Aden are Fitzgerald's characters; their historical counterparts are Father Lawrence Scanlan and Bishop George Crosby. Father Scanlan worked with Mormon elders to put on a Catholic Mass in the St. George Tabernacle, which occurred in May 1879 and was later commemorated with a repeat performance in 2004.

Chapter 3: Abraham and Fanny Glassman, 1879

  1. Silver Reef's Chinatown had approximately fifty men, and was built in stone on what Barbee had previously hoped would become the Silver Reef townsite. (I never did discover if the Chinese men got better prices than what Barbee initially asked.) Fanny's detail about silver nuggets being visible in the walls is taken from a description of the Chinatown buildings. The sandstone used in those buildings was too poor for smelting at the time, but its value has since increased: some people in the area have been dismantling the ruins and processing them for the silver.
  2. Both fires in this chapter are historical. The first, in May, appears to have been accidental. The second, in July, was suspected to be anti-Chinese arson, incited in part by the charge that the Chinese had not helped fight the May fire, and targeted specifically on "China Joe", who was in a relationship with a white woman. I have taken the liberty of giving him a last name. (The only primary source for his name that I could find was the Silver Reef Miner, which thought the Chinatown fire was thigh-slappingly funny: "[China Joe] lost $2000 by the fire, and is now sloshing around town the maddest Chinaman this side of Hong Kong." You'll forgive me, I hope, that I did not use their moniker for him.)
  3. Abie joining a posse to protect Chinatown from a mob is adapted from various accounts of Jewish men doing the same: two such documented incidents occurred in 1879 in San Francisco and 1886 in Portland. Ben Selling of Portland wrote, "At Oregon City the Anti-Coolie Club drove the Chinamen out of town during the night. The better class of citizens deprecate this and here in Portland have enrolled about two hundred deputy sheriffs. I am one and have done patrol duty two nights..."
  4. By this time the Mormon Church was strictly anti-alcohol and used water for its Communion services, and yet the Church maintained its winery in St. George, selling "Dixie wine" for cash to local miners. Mormon farmers in the area were permitted to tithe in grapes. Eventually the Church closed the winery down, in part because of the collapse of the local mining industry.
  5. The town of Frisco, Utah, was named after San Francisco, California. In general, mining and mercantile development of the interior West moved from west to east. The Auerbach brothers, for example—who by this time were running a multi-state chain of stores (including one in Silver Reef!) and had traveling salesmen working from wagons in rural areas—sourced their goods from California, and had done so from their very earliest days running a lone store in Salt Lake City.

Chapter 4: Abraham and Fanny Glassman, 1882-1886

  1. Nearly everything touching on Fitzgeralds or the Advocate is from Fitzgerald's Papa Married a Mormon (sometimes extensively reinterpreted by me), but the line about hoping that the new tabernacle will be used for a smelter is from the Silver Reef Miner.
  2. The Liberal Party of Utah was the anti-Mormon party. However, it was founded by Mormons, namely William S. Godbe, who in contravention of Church sermons, had silver mining interests in Pioche and throughout the Utah Territory. The Party began as an advocate for reform of the Church's participation in political affairs, but it quickly came to represent non-Mormons and mining interests. It won many elections in Tooele County (where Stockton is located), but not much anywhere else. The party eventually lost its ability to win Tooele elections due to voting law changes: voter registration (which reduced the number of miners voting) and women's suffrage (which increased the number of Mormons voting). Simon Bamberger was a big name in Liberal Party politics; however, by the time he ran for governor, the Liberal Party had been permanently disbanded.
  3. Sam Wing was the mayor and druggist for Silver Reef's Chinatown. My description of his drugstore's construction and its routine use as a bunker is blatantly lifted from Ing Hay's drugstore in John Day, Oregon. Doc Hay's drugstore is now the Kam Wah Chung & Co. historical museum.
  4. The Horn Silver Mine in Frisco collapsed catastrophically on the morning of February 12, 1885, due to heavy rain and inadequate timbering. The complete lack of casualties was only because it collapsed just after a scheduled shift change: the new shift had held back instead of entering the mine. The owners had the mine running again within the year, but the town of Frisco never recovered economically.
  5. Fitzgerald's fictional Silverlode went bust suddenly and completely in 1886; the historical Silver Reef declined far more slowly, becoming largely vacant by 1896, and with the last mines closing around 1906 or so. In the mid-1890s, William Stirling bought the Catholic church and moved it into Leeds for a theater and dancehall; I moved the timing up a bit to synchronize with Fitzgerald's.

Attentive readers will notice that there is no mention of Ute or Shoshone in this story. Properly, they should be there. For example, in my sources: Silver Reef miners accused the Chinese of selling alcohol to Indians; the Auerbach brothers traded for furs with Native people, and began a glove factory to turn those furs into salable goods; the Pioche boom was stalled for nearly a decade because of Indian hostilities; and so forth. Native people were present and doing things. Please accept my apologies for their absence in the story: I ran out of research hours to write them and their activities properly, and I didn't want to do it half-assed.