Chapter 1: Fanny Glassman, 1874-1876
June 15, 1874
Ogden, Utah Territory
America at last! Abie laughs at me when I say such things—he teases me that this is only the Silver Land—the Golden Land is California—but he still fairly puffs with pride when I express my admiration for the country. This is proper America, Sarah, not like home. You have never seen such mountains!
Abie assures me that I will become less charmed with mountains, and yet he indulges me and rented a buggy that we might go up into Ogden Canyon before we leave for Salt Lake City. The canyon is tall and narrow—there is barely room for the road next to the river—and we stopped for our picnic under a grand, long waterfall stagger-stepping down the opposite wall. We were well back from the spray, and yet the air was so cold! And nearly electric, Sarah—it made me giddy to feel it!
We are boarding at the Lester House Hotel with Mr. and Mrs. Cohen while Abie arranges freighting for the goods he bought in New York. There are several Jewish families here in Ogden. Many have people in Salt Lake City, since most shops here are second or third branches of the main concern in Salt Lake. Tateh and Mameh will be pleased to know that Mrs. Cohen introduced me to a Mr. Jacob Klipstein of Oettingen, who was very kind and who sends his greetings to them.
Ogden is being built as I write—even five years on after the railroad, half the town is still roofed in canvas, and the bustle in the streets rivals New York. And yet just outside of town there is nothing but open, empty land and the mountains soaring above.
You will think me quite silly, but this morning I woke early and walked clear away from town to watch the sun rise over the mountains. It is as Mr. Carvalho wrote, when he rode out alone to witness his first prairie sunrise: my heart beat fast with anxiety, overwhelmed in the face of stupendous creation, my thoughts carried away into the impenetrable future!
But unlike poor Mr. Carvalho, I had a living being present to share in my admiration! For my dear husband had come to find me! He did not chide me for foolishness, nor for walking out without him, but stood with me until the sun was clear of the mountain and all lay stark in its glare. Everything is stronger and grander here, Sarah, even the very sun itself.
Tomorrow we leave for Salt Lake. I already miss you terribly—is it strange to want one’s sister on one’s bridal trip? But I would show you these mountains, Sarah!
Take good care of Mameh and Tateh and the little ones for me,
Ever your loving sister,
June 19, 1874
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory
You will be shocked to hear that I am a Gentile! Fear not, as I am as I ever was: we will celebrate Shabbos with the congregation here, which Abie says will be our last opportunity for a proper service for some time. It is only that Mormons refer to all who are not of their own faith as Gentiles. Even Jews! So here in the heart of Mormon country, I am called Gentile. I am as scandalized as you are.
Abie's brother Sol has come into town to greet us—he and his wife keep a store in Stockton, which is a mining town just to the south of the Great Salt Lake. Sol's wife, Anna, has stayed in Stockton with the store and children, but sent me a very kind welcome through her husband. It has been years since the brothers have seen each other, and Sol has many stories about their days in California and here in Utah with General Connor. He takes great delight in trying to shock me, I think!
Salt Lake City is by turns civilized and wild: women wear Paris hats and cattle are driven through the street. All the Mormon-owned shops have signs six feet tall above their marquees proclaiming the shop's holiness to the Lord and its membership in the Zion's Mercantile Cooperative Institution. The Church also owns a chain of stores—also called ZCMI—which is spreading all through Utah. They are quite prosperous, and several Church-owned factories here supply them with goods.
Abie caught me watching the construction of the newest ZCMI store on Main Street—already it is clear that it will be impressively grand—and assured me that our own Emporium is on the very edge of Mormon country, and thus is at no risk from the ZCMI stores. Not only is Pioche a mining town—and thus a "gentile" town—but Congress went so far as to move the Nevada line to ensure that Pioche was governed by miners instead of Mormons! (Abie laughed then and confessed that no one governs Pioche. There may be more to Mrs. Cohen's stories about Pioche—she was v. distressed he is bringing me there!—than he will admit to me.)
When we leave here, we will take the train to Provo, and then the stage south to Cedar City and west to Pioche. It may be some while before I have time to properly write again—we will be traveling long days, and then I expect to be busy learning the store—but I will write as soon as I can, and you will never be far from my thoughts.
November 4, 1874
Forgive me for not writing sooner—we have been so busy since arriving in Pioche. (Which is now our home! It still feels very strange to write that. And yet not so strange at all.)
The country here is not as grand as that about Ogden or Salt Lake City – the mountains are low and scrubby, and studded with pyramids of mining tailings – but the very air smells of sage, and pink and white sweet peas bloom on the hillsides. All day and night, we can hear the steam hoists roaring above us on Treasure Hill. Pioche is twice the size of Ogden, and yet we are v. remote here, far from the railroad, Carson City, and Salt Lake City. Railroads are being built—although the builders go bankrupt frequently enough that no one knows when the first will reach us—but freight wagons and stagecoaches enter and leave town at an astonishing rate. There is a fine new courthouse here, stone and two stories tall and quite appropriate for the County seat. The building of it was a local scandal: it should have cost $16,000, but when the profiteers had finished, it cost $80,000! (It will cost far more before the debt is paid, I am told.)
Abie's Emporium is neat and handsome—with a real roof, not just canvas—and does steady business. We have two small rooms at the back to ourselves. Samuel, the young Bavarian man who worked the store with Abie prior to my coming, has gone to Virginia City to begin a shop of his own, leaving us on our own here. Mining knows neither night nor day, so we open the store at eight and often don't close until midnight—there is hardly time to think of anything else! The exception is Shabbos eve, when Abie is very firm about urging customers out of the door so that we may have our dinner. (But needs must open again on Saturday morning.)
Abie treats me kindly, and I am very well. Take good care of Mameh and Tateh for me, and write soon.
Ever your loving sister,
Sister, the other pages are for you to share with Mameh and Tateh—this is for you alone, because I would not have them worry. I will write small, and I trust that you are clever enough to swap the pages so that they do not realize you have held one back!
Mrs. Cohen in Ogden was full of stories about Pioche—desperadoes and gunslingers far beyond the reach of the law! Abie was cross with her for trying to scare me so, although he was never so rude as to show her. I only laughed at her stories.
But my very first week here, there was a hanging—oh, it was a horrible thing, and I will not write of it. A dispute in one of the saloons, resulting in the murder of two men. All of Main Street is saloons, nearly, at least two dozen, although I still have not climbed to the far end of the street, so there may yet be more closer to Treasure Hill. Abie is quite protective that I do not go out alone in the evening, nor will he let me have the combination for the safe. Not because he does not trust me, but so that no one could have reason to harm me for it. (Oh, I make that sound so much worse than it is. But please know that the trouble is never here—it is in the saloons or out at the mines—and he has taught me to use both pistols and a shotgun. Yet he is shy about leaving me in the store alone. Oft-times I think he worries more than he need to.)
Last Sunday Abie and I walked above the town, near to the cemetery. He tried to steer us away, the dear man, but I wished to see. Such a young town—barely five years old!—and yet so many graves. Many were mining accidents, yes, but there is a whole section set aside for murder victims, and another two rows at the opposite end for their murderers, so that their bodies may not lie alongside each other. Abie tried to comfort me that it is better now, that the claims are better established and the mine bosses no longer hire assassins alongside the miners, but it only grieved me worse. There are ledger sheets in which these men's deaths were balanced—balanced!—against silver.
I was very sober for the rest of the day (and am still so now, as I write). When we opened the shop I could not stop looking at the customers—miners all, purchasing necessities on their one day off—and wondering how they came to be here, and who, if anyone, they left at home. And how much silver they would value their lives to be worth. I nearly shudder to touch our own account books.
And Abie! He and his brother were once miners, or tried to be, when they first came West. Sol told me all kinds of ridiculous stories, but Abie does not speak of it much, only to say that Sol wanted to see the elephant, and Abie wouldn't let him come alone. (You would never think that Abie was the younger, to hear him talk.) It is a saying out here, about the elephant—everyone comes West because they are very excited to see an elephant, but then the elephant is ill and starving and so pathetic that one wishes one had never wanted to see it at all. But then Abie sees my face—such talk makes me sober—and tries to distract me by saying that he has far better than elephants now, which he may look at whenever he likes. (By which he means me, of course. I do not know whether to be more pleased or annoyed when he says such things!)
Oh, this has become more pensive than I intended. I will send it anyway. Please do not worry, I am quite well, and only missing you very much. Do tell me how you are getting on, and give me all the news. Hug Mameh and Tateh tight for me, and all the little ones, too, Fanny
December 25, 1874
There is no point to opening the shop on Christmas day, and so I find myself with extra time to write to you. As a surprise, Abie took me to the Canton Cafe for lunch, which is the only establishment that is open today, besides the saloons. Mr. Wong was a gracious host—he solemnly promised us that he used no pork in our meal—and the food was strange, but quite delicious!
Abie has been full of such surprises these past weeks, even shutting the store one evening to take me to the opera house. Two weeks ago, without my knowledge, Abie accepted in trade a strange little fossilized animal—the miners sometimes find them in the hills—and solemnly presented it to me after the store closed, apologizing only that he could not find a mastodon for me! I told him I would not have a mastodon, for they are too much like elephants. (Sarah, he has been reading Mr. Carvalho's book! Solely as a kindness to me, I think, although I daresay he has enjoyed it, however much he twits Colonel Fremont for attempting to cross the Rockies mid-winter. He asked me the other day if he has been a disappointment to me—Abie, not Colonel Fremont—in that he has never asked me to eat horse or porcupine! As if I would wish to eat porcupine! Mr. Carvalho said it was quite revolting, as white as pork. But I told Abie that yes, the West has been a great disappointment to me, and he has promised me a porcupine forthwith.)
His kindness has been so deliberate, I fear he has noticed how lonely I feel here. It seems silly to complain of loneliness with people in and out of the Emporium all day! And yet there are few women in town—and fewer whom I may associate with—and I grow tired of the rough custom. Sometimes Mr. Schoenberg from the Raymond and Ely mine joins us for Shabbos dinner—or Mr. Selig, if he is in town—but there are no others. I miss you and everyone terribly, and I do long for the time when Abie and I can sell the Emporium—or hand it off to a younger partner—and move to a place that is more sociable.
But for Abie's sake, I shall try harder to be happy here. He is a good man and the Emporium is doing well, and as tired as I grow of the steam hoists and the grit that makes its way into everything, there are still days when the sun comes over the mountains and everything is grand and new again.
Your loving sister,
November 20, 1875
Things have been very grim here these past three weeks, but now all has come right!
Do you remember my writing about Sam, who worked here in the Emporium for several years before I came? He kept the store while Abie went back East, and then used his share to go open his own shop in Virginia City. Virginia City is the oldest and richest silver strike in Nevada, clear on the other side of the state, near to California, and quite the gay town, they say. When Sam was preparing to leave, Abie went on for days about young men with no common sense and a thirst for adventure. It was all quite ridiculous: if Sam lacked common sense, Abie would never have left the Emporium in his charge while he was in New York! And setting up a respectable shop in Virginia City is not at all the same thing as prospecting, which Abie and Sol were doing when they were Sam's age! (Abie grumbles that he wasn't chasing gold, he was chasing Sol, and that young men should listen carefully so that mistakes needn't be made twice.) But Sam mostly laughed at Abie's grousing, he was so proud to be going off on his own at last. I believe Abie was proud of him, too, and he gave Sam a letter of introduction to Mr. and Mrs. Rosenbaum, who are wholesalers he knows there.
But three weeks ago we received news that Virginia City had a terrible fire. Abie went white when we got the news, and sent several telegrams to Virginia City. It is all a terrible confusion there, as you might imagine. We were only able to discover that Sam's store had burned with the rest—the entire business district went up—but when Abie finally reached Mr. and Mrs. Rosenbaum, they had no news of Sam. Abie put advertisements in all the newspapers, and I swear he would have gone to Virginia City himself, if he hadn't been so worried about leaving me in the store alone. As it was, he was distracted and short with me—not at all like his usual self, but I don't hold it against him because I know he was sick with worry—and Abie spent so much time haunting the telegraph office that Mr. Murray took to greeting us, whenever he saw us, with whatever news he had last heard from Virginia City.
But yesterday, who should show up at the Emporium but Sam! I confess that I screamed a little in surprise when I saw him. He looked ever so tired and shamefaced. Abie came straightaway out front to see what was the matter, and such embracing! And no little scolding, too! I closed up shop as soon as I was able. It seems that Sam lost everything in the fire—all his capital had been sunk into the store and merchandise—and he had come to beg for his job back. (Silly boy! As if Abie would turn him away!)
This morning, Sam took me aside during a lull to apologize to me for making us worry so. He hadn't wanted to borrow money for a telegram, not when he didn't know what his prospects were, and confesses that he had been too embarrassed about losing the store so quickly to think how the silence would look to Abie. It seems their second year in Pioche all of Main Street here burned, including the Emporium, and several hundred kegs of powder exploded in another store. Sam and Abie were passing buckets when the powder blew, and the explosion burst clean through the stone walls of its building and killed several dozen people in the brigade line. (No wonder Abie's hands shook so when we first received the news from Virginia City! And of course Mr. Murray at the telegraph office knew that it was more than just Sam being missing, and yet he never told me. I am very cross with him.)
But now Sam and Abie are out in the shop together—Abie is teasing him about adventure-hungry young men with no common sense, and Sam is being ever so bashful about it—which gives me a minute by myself to write!
Give all my love to Mameh and Tateh and the little ones,
Your loving sister,
April 26, 1876
We are moving to Dixie! That is what the Mormons call the southern part of Utah—it is so warm that they tried to grow cotton, before they had to give it up. There is a new silver strike there, not so far on the other side of the state line, and all of Pioche is in an uproar over it.
(Abie is teasing me that everyone else is going to the new strike for the silver, but that we are going for the porcupines!)
Sam and Abie have hired some ex-miners and are packing the Emporium as I write. Not merely its contents, but the building itself! Lumber is dear here, and what with the mines failing, many freighters were standing empty, and so freight went cheap. Thus the entire building is coming with us.
I shall write as soon as I know where you should reply, but in the meanwhile, ever yours,
Chapter 2: Abraham Glassman, 1876-1878
May 21, 1876
Silverlode, Utah Territory
The nervousness about striking water in the Meadow Valley and Ely & Raymond mines became a full-blown panic overnight, and most of Pioche—including our own Glassman's Emporium—has decamped for a "new" silver strike near the Mormon town of Adenville. Forgive me, brother, for not writing before the move; it happened very quickly.
The strike itself is not new; we heard rumors of it in 1865. You'll remember that the Colonel sent a contingent of men to investigate, and reportedly found Mormons already mining it. Nothing came of it then, as I daresay there was little Eastern capital available to develop an "impossible" deposit of horn silver in sandstone.
But now there are wild stories of one "Metalliferous Murphy," reputedly a green, silver-mad geologist who would declare silver to be present in anything. They say that some prospectors, disgusted by his optimistic evaluations of any ore presented to him, gave him an Adenville grindstone to assay. When Murphy triumphantly discovered silver in it, the prospectors hung him for his credulousness—silver is never to be found in sandstone!—and only later discovered their error, to the cost of $300/ton. I am well-acquainted with the Pioche assay offices, and would swear no such man existed. And yet in their enthusiasm for the story, the town has dismantled their buildings and followed the newest boom to Adenville. Your brother has followed them, for what is a shop without its customers?
I secured a good lot for the Emporium on the Main Street of the new town of Silverlode. The town is being built into the folds of a hill, while the sensible location for the townsite sits flat and empty below us. Unfortunately for Mr. Barbee, who is developing the strike and speculating in land as well, no one would pay his prices. His "Bonanza City," as he tried to call it, has been no bonanza for him at all.
I am happy to report that the Emporium has survived with surprising grace the indignities of being dismantled, shipped, and reassembled. Nails went dear, with the entire town moving at once—I sold every nail I had for as much as I dared ask, and in hindsight could have asked for three times as much! The move has already proved good business, even with the expense and interruption.
Fanny is settling well. I feared that Silverlode would be plagued by the same lawlessness that beset Pioche when it boomed—I would not bring a wife to Pioche as it first was, and I dreaded subjecting Fanny to its repeat here. But the good people of Adenville refused to tolerate so much violence on their doorstep, and during the first weeks of Silverlode's existence dealt out justice as ruthlessly as I have ever seen done.
We have since established our own rudimentary law—as usual, a handful of men with pistols and the town's backing. Adenville has consequently left us to ourselves, forbidding any miner or "Gentile" from crossing the irrigation ditch that lies between our towns. I have prudently stayed on this side of the ditch, not wanting to test the question of whether a merchant is a miner, or a Jew a Gentile.
G‑d and business willing, may this be our last boom town! We sent the freighters ahead while Fanny and I found a quiet place to celebrate Shabbos. For the first time in too long, we not only greeted the Queen, but said farewell to her, too. We had only a tent in the wilderness for our celebration, but it was a blessing we had gone too long without. You and I have shared satisfaction in building this country, brother, but I would also wish that our children should know Shabbos as a day set aside from others.
I have enclosed my orders for resupply: there are a few items to replace breakage during the Emporium's move, as well as nails and other items necessary for building a town wholesale.
February 4, 1877
Silverlode, Utah Territory
You will notice among my restocking order that I have requested a generous resupply of wrapping paper. I am happy to say that the execrable Pioche Gazette did not join the stampede to Silverlode: Mr. Jensen preferred to take his chances that there would still be news to be had after the mining exodus. (He hazards that the accounting for the courthouse debt alone could fill his sheet for years to come. I do not doubt the possibility!) As a consequence, Silverlode has done without a newspaper until this last month, when a Mr. Dave Powell arrived, bringing a printing press with him.
Mr. Powell is given to excessive drink and heavy gambling, and I initially expected little of his paper. However, I was much pleased to discover that his impetuosity is not reflected in his editorial policies: Mr. Powell, unlike most of his profession, refuses to malign or libel the Mormons in his pages. As you might imagine, since he panders to neither Mormons nor "Gentiles," he is struggling for subscriptions. I have subscribed, and have sent him my printing business as well.
This week Mr. Powell was unable to procure sufficient newsprint for his edition. The shortage is common this far south of the railroad, and Mr. Jensen complained of it often. Upon hearing of his crisis, I volunteered all the wrapping paper I had, and was proud to see the Advocate go to press on time. (Mr. Powell printed a notice of his thanks in the issue; I have posted it in the Emporium.)
Hence, we are without wrapping paper for our customers. I have requested sufficient for us, plus extra for Mr. Powell's press as such an emergency may rise again. If you can go so far as to lay your hands on newsprint, I am all but guaranteed being able to sell it on to Mr. Powell—the shortage of paper for his press much plagues him, and I would not see the Advocate fail merely for want of materials.
11 Tishrei 5639
A postscript to my previous letter:
You have long been witness to my dismay that the good people of Adenville do not frequent the Emporium. Farmers come to town to sell their produce—either door-to-door or to Ben Wong, the greengrocer—but they do not spend their own money here, preferring instead to frequent their own tiny Z.C.M.I. or to travel to St. George. So, too, with the young Mormon men who work in the mines: they come, they work, and they leave, spending their wages in Adenville, not in Silverlode. You have said it is much the same in Stockton.
You well know that I do not begrudge their loyalty to their ZCMI. Adenville is too small for a merchant to survive there, and thus their ZCMI is much like the Church's railroads: built in deference to the town's need, and not in expectation of profit. Moreover, mining camps rise and fall overnight, and the farmers know that the ZCMI will remain when Glassman's Emporium moves on. They do not do badly to frequent it! However, there is much their ZCMI does not sell—and which Glassman's does!—and yet they travel all the way to St. George or they do without.
In hopes of reminding our local Saints of the long history of good faith between Jews and their Church, I posted in the Emporium's window Brigham Young's invitation to the Jews of Salt Lake City to use the Mormon Temple for our services, and a copy of our letter of thanks (as was published in the San Francisco Hebrew Observer, and which Frank Meier so kindly sent on to me). But beyond the occasional sale of a coyote trap, little Mormon business has resulted from it.
However, yesterday we broke our fast and opened the shop to find a great crowd in the street. Fanny and Sam and I were run off our feet. Many seemed to believe we were conducting a special sale for Yom Kippur—we were as much perplexed to hear of it, as they were to hear that we were not!—but finally the truth came out. A young Mormon farmer had seen our notice—for we had posted a sign announcing that in observance of Yom Kippur we would not open until sunset—and he resolved that if we respected our religion so much as to close our doors, then he would show us his respect in turn, and wait until we opened! He steadfastly set himself before our door, where he was later joined by several of his brethren. The saloon trade noticed the group, and by sunset, many had joined for no better reason than having seen a crowd waiting for something! All told, we did far better business yesterday evening than we have on any Saturday!
In the end, the young Mormon man who started it all wanted only a few notions easily obtained at his own ZCMI—in fact, he had begun the day with no intent to purchase anything at all, at his ZCMI or elsewhere! I of course refused to charge him, but he would not hear of it, and very solemnly placed twenty-five cents on the counter and refused to take it back, not even when I told him that it was far too generous a sum for the thread and buttons he had purchased! Needless to say—although I made sure to inform him!—he and his friends have my thanks and a standing discount at Glassman's Emporium.
I hope your fast was easy. Shanah tovah umetukah!
December 15, 1878
Silverlode, Utah Territory
After my last letter, Fanny and I received a dinner invitation from Bishop Aden of Adenville, who had heard of our Yom Kippur "sale" and wished to meet us. Also present at dinner was Father Giovanni, who is building a Catholic church for the Irish miners here. The two men have been working together on matters of their respective faiths and congregations. With three faiths at the table, it was nearly inevitable that conversation turn to Scripture, but aside from both men laboring under the impression that all Jews are as learned as rabbis—alas, I have not had the time for study that I desire!—it was a good evening. Fanny and I have been given a standing invitation to cross the Adenville ditch whenever we might wish. Fanny is very pleased.
The dinner was good business, too, for the following week Bishop Aden came into Glassman's Emporium and made a few trivial purchases. Since then, Mormons have steadily (if modestly!) patronized Glassman's, and no longer go to St. George for such things as they can buy here.
So there at last is the trick of getting Mormon business: entice the local Bishop into buying from you! I eagerly await hearing how you manage it in Tooele.
Chapter 3: Abraham and Fanny Glassman, 1879
March 17, 1879
I am pleased to hear that you wish to bring young Sam more fully into the business. I agree that the timing is good: I hear encouraging things out of Frisco, and feel they may be able to support a third Glassman's Emporium by year-end. I will encourage Sam to write to Fanny's parents to offer himself as a husband for Sarah, and will likewise write a letter of introduction for him. Unless you prefer to write yourself, in which case I will see that it is sent on to them.
13/13 05/16 1310
300 CONNOR AVE
FIRE BUILDING CONTENTS LOST FANNY SAM MYSELF ALL WELL WILL REBUILD ABRAHAM GLASSMAN
May 18, 1879
Silverlode, Utah Territory
Dear Tateh, Mameh, and Sarah,
I never know what news you hear of us, but I do not want you to worry. There was a fire here, as you know sometimes happens. Many businesses burned, including the Emporium. Please do not fear, for we are all well!
The fire started at the other end of town, so we had plenty of warning, and Abie stores everything that we cannot afford to lose in the safe, which is very strong and fireproof. Abie has much experience of fires and rebuilding after, so we have adequate funds saved against just this occurrence. (One does not keep a rainy day fund here, for it never rains! Instead, we keep a fire fund!) And of course there is always his brother Sol in Stockton to help.
I cannot write longer for there is much to be done, but please do not worry! All is well, and Glassman's Emporium will soon be selling again to the miners of Silverlode!
May 25, 1879
We had barely finished clearing the debris from the old Emporium when the shipment you sent us from Cedar City arrived. We paid the freighter for an extra day's use of his wagon, and directed him to park it in front of the Emporium so we could sell directly from the back of it. There seemed little point in making the effort of unloading it, when our customers would so readily unload it for us, a purchase at a time! You chose well, brother—at day's end, there was very little left to bring "inside" the Emporium.
The nails did not move as well as we might wish, as many people are choosing to rebuild with mine tailings, which are to be had in abundance, rather than from wood, which must be new-cut and milled. However, the lumber camp has already swelled with every Adenville boy who can be spared from his farm, and so I trust that the nails will sell during the next weeks, especially when the finer saloons rebuild.
The saloons are currently too busy to spare time on rebuilding; instead, they are selling Dixie wine under canvas awnings and out of the back of wagons, as quickly as they can get it. Silverlode was almost completely dry in the aftermath of the fire, and I wish never to see such ugliness again! Fortunately for the town's peace, the Church fathers in Adenville telegraphed the news of the fire to their winery in St. George, and the first wagon of Dixie wine was here within the day. (The Saints may not drink, but they are more than pleased to keep us supplied with it!) However, even with the steady supply of wine, there will be great profits for the first man to arrive with a barrel of whisky.
Fanny is as well as can be expected. Much to my dismay, she did not retreat to safety, but instead took a place on the brigade line. Had I known, I would have forbidden it – even if she was not in her condition, I would have forbidden it!—but Sam and I did not hear of it until after the line had been abandoned for futility. She vigorously resisted my attempts to reprove her, insisting that the Emporium is as much ours as mine, and that she is in a far better position than I to know what she may or may not do! But of course it is not the simple matter of her lifting a few buckets – she does as much in the store daily! She was not present to witness the horror when Felsenthal's powder store exploded in Pioche, and does not know what she risks. It is not something that I could bear, were she to be caught by such a thing.
It was as bitter a fight as we have ever had. But she was so exhausted by the night's work, and so shaken by the Emporium's loss, that I was forced to abandon the issue. I have resolved to not speak of it again until we once again have proper beds and are rested, but it still lies ill between us. She, for her part, has been determined to show no weakness, and complains of neither the discomfort nor shortages, feigning optimism to all. She accepts little comfort from me, but is in sore need of it.
And so I thank Anna for the parcel of small comforts she thought to have sent along with the shipment: that kindness has done more in a single hour to lift Fanny's spirits than all my efforts of the past three days.
Again, I assure you, we are all well here. We will build of stone this time!
P.S. Fanny has just come in, and realizing that I am writing to you, has begged that I include her thanks to Anna. She says that she did not mean to cry when she opened her package, only that she had not realized until that moment how much she missed having a hairbrush! So now you have the thanks of us both.
July 15, 1879
Silverlode, Utah Territory
Everything is all a jumble, and I do not know what to write of first!
Abie tells me that Sam wrote to you before the fire. He is a good man, Sarah, and the fire has not set us so far back that we cannot start a third store. But I know Abie and Sol are also writing to reassure Tateh and Mameh of that: I only add my voice that it is true, and that they can be believed in good faith. As I have said before, Abie and Sol—and Sam, too, now!—have much experience with fires, so they factor it into the prices. (Some envious people accuse us of price-gouging, but they are not the ones who have to bear the costs when the building and stock go up in smoke overnight!)
But as much as I long to have you here—you would be just a few days' journey away, and oh, how my heart lifts to think of it!—I would not have you unhappy for the world. Know well that nothing here is as thrilling as it seems in the newspapers. (Except perhaps the mountains! But the rest is dust and grit and sun—when it is not murders and fire—and the steam hoists always roaring.)
They say the Horn Silver Mine in Frisco is very rich, promising to be one of the best in the territory. There will be much money to be made and quickly, but already the stories are very wild. (Although to hear it told, every mining camp going is the roughest, most lawless camp in the West! But I have lived in two such lawless camps—each with a reputation as bad as the other—and never felt in danger in either.) Oh, Sarah, I do not know if I should argue that you should stay or come! But you have read my letters, and know the truth of things, and so I leave it to you. But I do so long to see you!
These last weeks have been difficult, but the Emporium is nearly new-built again. It is built of sandstone, this time, as lumber is too dear just now. The stone that lies at hand is all discarded silver ore, too poor to be worth the cost of smelting, which means that as I sit here and write to you, I can count the silver nuggets in the walls around me! This is a perfectly ridiculous country: wood is too dear, so we build with silver instead!
We are still sleeping under a canvas roof, but we have walls and beds and merchandise again, and many of the little items that make life so much easier. I was quite the goose when the fire started, not thinking at all and merely snatching things at random to save. I thought to grab a daydress and the little stone creature that Abie gave me in Pioche, but I never thought to grab a hairbrush! The whole town was soot and mess after, Sarah—you couldn't wash without being filthy again five minutes later. I never gave the want of my hairbrush more than a moment's regret—so many things were lost, you couldn't regret but one of them!—and twisted my hair up and away as best I could and paid it no mind. But then our first shipment of goods arrived from Abie's brother, and Abie's sister-in-law had sent along a little package with a hairbrush and pins for me. I burst into tears when I saw! I snatched up my gifts and took them away behind the bit of canvas we had hung for privacy, and spent the next hour brushing and pinning my hair. Oh, the luxury of it! And not being able to do it just the once, but knowing I could redo it whenever it needed! I might not have been properly clean, but at least I could be neat, and that was almost good enough!
That is how this country is, Sarah. I live in a palace of silver and cry for want of a hairbrush! How could I possibly counsel you on whether to come or stay?
...oh, I have changed my mind: do come, Sarah! Abie has promised that we will move into a proper town in a few years. You should make Sam promise, too, and then in a few years we will have each other! And in the meanwhile, you will have Sam, who is quite a fine man. I miss you sorely, Sarah, and I would show you the mountains and have my children grow up with yours!
Hug all the little ones for me, and Mameh and Tateh, too, for I miss you all terribly,
Your loving sister,
July 30, 1879
Silverlode, Utah Territory
Things are still ill here; the unrest in the wake of the fire has been terrible. Many have blamed the Chinese for the fire, saying that they refused to help on the bucket line. Never mind that I saw Ben Wong on the line with my own eyes! He lost his grocery, just as we lost the Emporium, and Lee Wong's Canton Cafe burned with the rest, too. If some of the Chinese fared better than the rest of us, it is only because they build in stone, and mostly down on the old Bonanza Flats. And you know why they do, as well as I!
Five days ago, Marshal Gentry, uneasy about the rumblings in the saloons, came to recruit for a posse to protect Chinatown. We were not as successful as I might wish. We prevented rowdies from lynching Joe Hing, but someone used the chaos to cover the start of another fire, and a quarter of Chinatown and all of the Barbee and Walker mill went up. For all the previous talk of common human decency, few white men showed for the bucket line. Hal Clark said to my face the next day that they only "meant to teach the heathen the Golden Rule." I do not have the patience of Hillel, and went after him like Shammai. I have sent a bill for the damages around to his boarding house, although I do not expect to collect, for I have also barred him from the Emporium.
Sam, much to my surprise, was one of the few white men on the brigade line. I had left him to protect Fanny and the shop, but Fanny argued that he would do better to be where the danger was and guarding my back, than where the danger wasn't, guarding hers. And Sam, the young fool, who has become overawed with Fanny in the prospect of her becoming his sister-in-law, did her bidding.
I am at my wit's end. Fanny will not let me see to her safety, insisting that she is not safe if I am in danger. I tell her that she will soon have the child to think of, and she comes back that of course she would not be so foolish as to work a brigade line with a baby in her arms, for how could she pass the buckets!? She reminds me that I myself taught her to handle the shotgun, but that she has never, in all these years, asked for the combination to the safe, and what will she do if I am killed and cannot open the safe for her? When I told her she may write to you or Sam, she left and did not return again for three hours.
We are at an impasse, and I fear there is no resolution while we live in these wilds. I ask for your advice, Sol, because it is beyond me how you and Anna manage so well.
August 3, 1879
Silverlode, Utah Territory
You have been so kind to me, advising me on small matters and sharing your own tricks of living among the camps. These past years would have been much harder without your steady words. Again I am befuddled, and again I write to you.
Abie has not taken these fires well—oh, it seems so strange to write that, for who could? And yet he is so fierce in their wake, even beating a man and throwing him into the street! The man deserved it, and yet it is so unlike Abie! I try to show him patience, for I know that they affect him so, but he will not listen to reason. He insists that I must turn my back on dangers (as if I could prosper when he does not!), and he would put me on a high shelf like a china doll, when we both know for true fact that no china can survive the rough handling of these towns.
In other times, when he has come agitated like this, I have simply waited for him to become reasonable again, for he always does. But this time he has not, and grows only more stubborn as the baby approaches. I do not know which way to turn, so I write to you in confidence, trusting that you will again have good advice for me.
Your loving sister-in-law,
August 16, 1879
Sarah has accepted Sam. He leaves for New York next week; if you have business for him in Salt Lake or Ogden, send word soonest. I have written to Frisco to secure property, and if you know of a likely lad to help at the new Emporium, Sam will be appreciative.
Fanny is brimming with excitement that Sarah will stay here and help with the baby while Sam prepares the way in Frisco. In fact, Fanny has announced that she intends to keep Sam's new bride for herself: if he wants for a wife, he had best follow the Mormon way and take himself another! Poor Sam went quite witless, unable to decide which response would least offend his future sister-in-law.
I attempted to comfort him that if Sarah is anything like her sister, she will have her own opinions, and thus Sam need not fear Fanny's. He found it no comfort at all, but if he is wise, he will change his mind. It is a wisdom I continue to struggle with.
3 Tishrei, 5640
I know that I have been stubborn with you this past year, resisting good advice that you have given me. For that, and for other things that I have done this year that may have hurt you, I ask your forgiveness.
This morning I have given Fanny the combination to the safe, for I have done ill by her these past years. I should not fear so much what might happen to her if she knows the combination: should she ever be pressed by burglars, she should be able to tell with great conviction about my lack of trust in her.
It is good to hear that you will again be able to attend services in Salt Lake this year; I am glad that one of Father's sons will be able to say kaddish for him. I pray that in some year to come, I will be able to join you in that.
L'Shanah tovah tikatevun v'techatemun.
Your loving brother,
November 2, 1882
Silverlode, Utah Territory
I am sorry to report that Dave Powell, the sometime editor of the Silverlode Advocate, has succumbed to his gambling habit and lost his newspaper to Will Fitzgerald, the newest owner of the White Horse Saloon. Sam is already familiar with the man: Fitzgerald spent some time in Frisco before he was run out of town by Marshal Pearson, who I knew well in Pioche. Sam reports that Fitzgerald had a reputation in Frisco as a gambler and gunslinger; from my own experience, I also name him a troublemaker and fool.
Fitzgerald permitted Dave Powell to continue in employ at the paper, but has reversed the established editorial policy, and does his best to incite trouble with the good people of Adenville. He even printed his hope that their new tabernacle would be used for a smelter! Mormon goodwill for Silverlode dried up instantly: we have not seen a cent of their custom here at the Emporium since August. Not content with that, Fitzgerald made a farce of the local elections, and after his hand-picked slate of drunks handily lost—the Liberal Party will never be taken seriously in Washington County again—Fitzgerald "declared war" on Adenville. Fortunately, Bishop Aden has enough sense to know Fitzgerald for the buffoon he is, but that did not stop Fitzgerald from continuing with the stunt, rolling whisky barrels into the street to make a so-called barricade, offering free drinks to all comers. By nightfall, he had crammed half the town into his White Horse, and I daresay recovered the cost of his "barricade" several times over.
Unfortunately, when his custom spilled back out onto the streets again, ready for battle but with no one to fight, they spent their frustration on the rest of us. The Emporium took some damage, but Chinatown caught the worst of it. On nights like these they barricade themselves into Sam Wing's drugstore: a barricade with far more earnest need behind it than any persecuted fantasy of Will Fitzgerald's! I can only be thankful that the Chinese build their walls thick, and shutter their doors and windows with good iron.
You and I have long argued about my habit of supplying the Advocate with paper when it is in need, without care as to whether we make back our cost on it. However, it is precisely because of this month's events that I have been so committed to the Advocate's survival.
Unfortunately, there is no longer anything in the Advocate worth preserving. If Dave Powell were to come to me for paper now, I would be forced, despite our long association, to tell him that I have no paper for the press. For in truth I do not: it may take three years to use the paper that currently sits under my counter, but I have none on hand for Fitzgerald's Advocate.
April 22, 1883
Silverlode, Utah Territory
Sarah and I are writing to you together, because she and Sam closed the store for a week to join us for Pesach! I cannot tell you how thrilled I am. The only thing better than having them here would be being home with you and Mameh and Tateh and everyone else.
Sam is going back to Frisco first thing in the morning, but Sarah and Eva will stay on at least another week. Deborah will be devastated when her cousin leaves. She has been overcome with a fit of big-sisterness—she is quite put out with me that she has to wait until June for the new baby!—and has taken full charge of Eva, leading her everywhere and determined to teach her everything she knows. (Even the things Eva knows quite well! Fortunately for everyone, Eva has been remarkably tolerant.) When it came time for the Four Questions, Deborah refused to hear any discussion of whether Eva was old enough and fairly bullied Eva through it word by word—after of course asking us what the questions were, sometimes repeatedly, as she couldn't remember them herself.
Give Mameh and Tateh all our love. (And the children's love as well! Deborah has just insisted to know who we are writing to, and is now making sure that Eva knows all about her Bubbeh and Zaydeh in New York.) We miss you all terribly, and trust you are well. Next year we will all meet in Jerusalem!
Your loving sisters,
Fanny and Sarah
February 3, 1884
Silverlode, Utah Territory
Fanny is in Frisco to help her sister, and has taken the children with her. The store is quiet in their absence! But Father Joe stops by of an evening to share a glass of whisky and keep me company. I believe that it is by his offices, too, that I was invited to Bishop Aden's for dinner last night. Mrs. Aden behaved as if she was quite certain I have not eaten properly in two weeks!
Three years ago, I could not have kept the Emporium on my own, certainly not for weeks running. But two more mines have closed, and the miners are few enough now that the Sisters have shut their hospital and returned to Salt Lake. There is still good business to be had here, but it may not last for so much longer. When you decide that you need me to join you in Ogden or Salt Lake, I believe you may skip looking for a man to replace me here.
March 17, 1884
Silverlode, Utah Territory
Dave Powell, who has barely met my eye these past two years, came into the Emporium today to ask that I meet with Tom Fitzgerald, who is newly in town and has bought the Advocate off of his older brother, Will Fitzgerald. From the day the elder Fitzgerald's proprietorship began until this morning, Dave has asked nothing of me on the Advocate's behalf. By my count, the Advocate has missed printing on four separate occasions for want of printstock, and yet not once did Dave come to my door.
Before Dave's request, I had been inclined to dismiss this Tom Fitzgerald as a man very like his brother. He had not been two minutes off the stage before starting a brawl with Butch Mears; all traffic in the street stopped with the intensity of the betting placed upon the spectacle. The only difference between his arrival and his brother's that I could see was in the quantities of blood spilled and money changing hands. No one died when Tom Fitzgerald came to town, and that was the best I knew to say of him.
But if Dave Powell sees something in this Tom Fitzgerald that he believes to be worth my time, then I will meet with him, for I am heartily sick of Will Fitzgerald's Advocate, and would know if Tom Fitzgerald's means to be any better.
March 18, 1884
Silverlode, Utah Territory
Dear Bishop Aden:
You know that I was long a supporter of the Silverlode Advocate as it existed under Dave Powell's editorship, when it was a friend to both Saints and Gentiles. You likewise know that I have been greatly grieved by Will Fitzgerald's failure to steward the Advocate, and by the ill-feeling that his editorship has fostered between Silverlode and the good people of Adenville.
This week, at Dave Powell's request, I have met with the Advocate's newest editor, Tom Fitzgerald. Mr. Fitzgerald is Will Fitzgerald's brother, but unlike his brother, Mr. Tom Fitzgerald learned journalism at his father's paper, the Boylestown Gazette of Pennsylvania. He has shown me several editorials of his own authorship that were published in that paper; I am convinced they demonstrate his professed commitment to objective and ethical journalism.
Mr. Fitzgerald and I spent several hours in conversation this day. He is new to the Territory, but feels with me that the Saints and Gentiles go best when working in cooperation. As Brigham Young demonstrated so clearly in 1874, Gentiles need the Saints to prosper.
I would not write to you, but that the Advocate finds itself in a predicament it did not face under Dave Powell's editorship: the younger Mr. Fitzgerald has kept his brother's promise to preserve Mr. Powell's employment (for despite the elder Mr. Fitzgerald's other faults, he would not turn a man out of employment as result of a game of cards), and thus the Advocate must support two salaries instead of one. You are well aware that the mines have been declining: if the Advocate is to survive, it will need to find subscribers among the Saints, as well as among the Gentiles.
When Mr. Fitzgerald sends the next edition of the Advocate to press, I ask that you read it carefully. If the new editor seems as sincere and competent in his convictions to you as he does to me, please consider the question of whether the continued existence of such a paper would be to the benefit of the good people of Adenville.
February 20, 1885
Frisco, Utah Territory
I have come to Frisco to see with my own eyes the wreckage of the Horn Silver Mine. It is as Sam reports: a near-total loss. The engineers believe that all levels have collapsed, but it is impossible to get inside the mine to confirm. It is a wonder that there were no casualties!
The owners are intent on restarting production, but the entire mine must be excavated, rebuilt, and re-shored, and already the townspeople are losing confidence and moving on to other towns. There is nothing to be done, I fear, but to close the Emporium and move on to another venture. It may yet be possible to re-open here in a year, depending on the success with the mine. Unfortunately, it may not.
Sam and Sarah and Eva are, as Sam reported, all well, only badly shaken. (Literally, it seems! People in Milford eagerly pointed out two broken windows to me when I came through, in their eagerness to impress upon me the force of the collapse.) I will stay on here to help Sam pack and ship the store. Some of the goods can be sold in Silverlode, but the rest, I believe, should be shipped to you. I will attach a full list for you, along with my proposed distributions. If you do not have need of them, I will find a buyer nearer by.
You have written of being stretched thin in trying to maintain our interests in Stockton while developing new ones in Salt Lake City. With your leave, I will ask Sam and Sarah to accompany the shipment to you, that they may take over the Stockton store for you and Anna, freeing you to concentrate your efforts in Salt Lake. Send advice soonest.
March 15, 1885
Silverlode, Utah Territory
I should know that I cannot slip anything past your clever eye! In truth, I was not trying to be secretive, but only wished to spare a young woman who has been the subject of too much scandal—and who I am coming to call a friend—from further embarrassment, even if only in front of a sympathetic stranger she may never meet. But you are correct, it will be easier for you to make necessary substitutions if you understand why my orders for the household have changed. The mystery is not so great: some of the "household" items are only for the store.
Abie has spoken of Tom Fitzgerald in his letters to Sol, I am sure—Tom is the editor of the newspaper here, and he and Abie have become friends. Last fall, Tom married Tena Neilsen, who is the daughter of Mormon merchants in Enoch. Her parents opposed the match—Tom is Catholic, and Tena was already betrothed to a young Mormon man—and so Tom publicly abducted her from her family's arms while they were on their way to church. It was badly done, and could hardly have been planned to stir up more ill-feeling against her! Abie had stern words for Tom when he heard. Tom is a better man than his brother, but he has his brother's recklessness, and I am sad to say that he can be foolishly naive. Unfortunately, by that point, there was little help for the scandal.
Tom has not suffered too greatly for his rashness, but Tena has been declared apostate and is shunned in Adenville. She does not say as much to us, but the ZCMI will not sell to her. Unfortunately for Tena, the Mormon wives never buy at Glassman's what they can buy at their ZCMI, and so there are some items that we have simply never sold. The first time Tena came in for dressmaking materials, I had to sell to her from my personal bolt of chintz! (She is already being publicly shamed by the ladies of Adenville—it would never have done for her to wear the fabrics we sell to the women in the dancehalls!) She never said a word, but her cheeks burned terribly when she realized what we had on display, and why I had to go into the back to fill her order.
Since then, I have been endeavoring to keep the front stocked with such items that we would normally leave to the ZCMI. We have had a few additional sales as a result, but neither Abie nor I expect them to fully offset costs. However, I am sure you will agree with us that the difference is of little matter.
Your loving sister-in-law,
August 26, 1866
Silverlode, Utah Territory
Silverlode's bust was more sudden and thorough than we anticipated. We may eventually be able to sell the building, but as matters currently stand, only the grander buildings are finding purchasers—Mr. Stirling bought Father Joe's church, and is having it moved into Adenville for a theater and dance hall. I will leave contact information with Bishop Aden, but I expect little to come of it.
I am negotiating the sale of the rest of the Emporium's merchandise. Mr. Allen at the ZCMI has been obliging, and I expect to find purchasers in Cedar City for the stock that Mr. Allen has no use for. We should be able to join you in Salt Lake sometime in October.
The timing is fortunate; Henry Watters hopes to be able to form a minyan in Cedar City this year. With G‑d's grace, we will both say kaddish for Father. Perhaps come yahrzeit, you and I will say it together.
November 26, 1886
Ogden, Utah Territory
Before I left for Salt Lake City, Bishop Aden expressed to me his admiration for the Advocate, and his desire that it should continue to publish in Dixie. He felt that although Adenville could not support the Advocate now, it may be able to do so in a year's time, and that he hoped to persuade you and Tena to continue in Adenville against that possibility.
I trust that you will not find me too forward if I send you $5.00, plus additional for postage, in advance of a year's subscription to the Adenville Advocate, may it one day exist. You may send my subscription to this address in Ogden, for we expect to be here some time.
If, however, you and your lovely family do not choose to stay in Adenville and instead seek greener pastures elsewhere, I beg that you apply my $5.00 to the subscription fee for your next newspaper, wherever you may find yourself. It is journalism like yours that will one day make this Territory a State, and I would have the weekly reminder of what we are working toward.
Your friendship these past two years has been greatly treasured, and it was an honor to assist the Advocate in the small ways that I could. Fanny sends her best wishes to Mrs. Fitzgerald. We pray that G‑d gives you good fortune, wherever His path takes you.
The next "chapter" is endnotes. It is eminently skippable, depending on your tastes.
Chapter 5: Notes
Historical notes and commentary.
This chapter is entirely skippable, depending on your kinks. A selected bibliography is available at my journal.
Chapter 1: Fanny Glassman, 1874-1876
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Approximately 80% of Silver Reef's population arrived as part of the "Pioche Stampede." Yes, they brought entire buildings with them.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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..."
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.