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Territorial Enterprise, October 1863

[portion of original]

First Annual Fair of the Washoe Agricultural, Mining and Mechanical Society

Carson City, October 19,1863


Late on Saturday afternoon, after the announcement of the awards in class A had been made, all the stock that had received premiums formed in a sort of triumphal procession, with the band at the head, and the stock following in the order of precedence to which they were entitled by the decision of the Judges, and marched down to the city, through the principal streets of which they paraded two or three times back and forth before final dismissal. The parade of so many fine animals in the streets was really a very fine sight, and was witnessed by everybody with much pleasure, being the first grand parade of the kind ever seen in the Territory.


While waiting at the race course on Saturday for the arrival of some of the officers from the Pavilion, some of the boys belonging to the brass band in attendance concluded to do what they could for the amusement of those present, and so took possession of the platform from which the awards were to be made. One of the party was introduced to the audience as a very eloquent gentleman, who had volunteered to favor those present with a speech on the success of the Fair. The speaker took his position and made a polite bow to his audience, another of the musicians prepared to take down the speech and the third acted in the capacity of bottle older. The speaker soon launched forth, and in a few moments had worked himself up into a tremendous state of excitement. His lips worked convulsively, though no sound escaped them. He pointed toward the rocky peaks of the Sierras, then at the surrounding brown hills, finishing with a complacent wave of his hand toward the broad valley in which he stood. He was leaning far over the railing of the platform in the middle of a most eloquent appeal to the crowd, occasionally pointing heavenward, when his bottle-holder was suddenly overtaken by a violent fit of admiration, which he felt constrained to manifest by a most vigorous stamping upon the boards of the platform - so vigorous that he burst through one of the boards and hung suspended by the arms. A keg of nails was kicked over in the row, and the great oratorical effort came to an end amid the prolonged shouts and cheers of the crowd. I was favored with a look at the speech as taken down by the reporter, and give the following extract: "_____ ! _____ ! _____ ? _____ ! (?)_____ ; _____ , _____ , _____!!! _____." There were some ten pages in the same style, but as your readers will perhaps be better pleased with the extract I have given than with the whole speech, as taken down by the reporter, I will omit the balance.


The challenge of "Deuces" against the field on Friday, for $300, catch-weights, barring "Breckinridge," was accepted by "Kate Mitchell," but to-day she was lame and forfeited. After the failure of these horses to run, a race was gotten up between three Spanish nags, for a purse of $27.50, single dash of a mile. In starting "Grey Dick" and the black nag, "Sheep," got off at the tap of the drum, but the sorrel horse "Split-ear," was held by his owner. "Sheep" and "Grey Dick" dashed forward, when the cry of "Come back!" was raised by several, also by a voice or two on the Judges' stand. "Grey Dick's" rider came back, but the rider of "Sheep" (Johnny Craddock), after riding back a short distance and ascertaining that the drum had tapped, turned about and rode leisurely around the track, winning the race and purse, according to the decision of the Judges and the rules of the Carson Racing Club. The decision was that once the drum was tapped, it was a go - the riders not being required to pay any attention to the calls to come back from anybody. Outside bets were declared drawn. A new race was now made up between the same nags. Theo. Winters paid the entrance fees for the three horses, amounting to $15; purse, $20; single dash of a mile. The horses got a very fair start; on the first quarter "Sheep" got the lead, "Grey Dick" came next, and "Split ear" brought up the rear. "Sheep" still held his own on nearing the home-stretch, but "Grey Dick" soon began to gain on him, and they were soon head and head. Both riders used the whip freely on the home-stretch and the race was more stubbornly contested than any one that has taken place on the track this week. The betting had been very free on "Sheep" and "Grey Dick," "Sheep" seeming to be the favorite, and the excitement was intense. "Sheep" passed the score 6 inches ahead of "Grey Dick," winning the purse; time, 1:58. A purse of $16.25 was now made up, the same horses to run, single dash of one mile. "Grey Dick" had the track, "Split ear" second, "Sheep" third. The horses got a very good start. "Grey Dick" led for the first half mile, "Sheep" following closely and "Split-ear" far behind. "Grey Dick" kept the lead down the home stretch, the others following in about the same order in which they passed the half mile post, and came in three lengths ahead of "Sheep," "Split-ear" being three or four hundred yards behind. "Grey Dick" won the purse; time, 2:8. A purse of $25 was now made up for a slow race - the slowest horse of the three to win - riders to change horses. "Split-ear" had the track, "Sheep" second, "Grey Dick" third. "Sheep's" owners had given him all the water he could drink on the sly, and from the start he was behind and kept at least three hundred yards behind all the way round the track, "Grey Dick" came in first, "Split-ear" second and "Sheep" rolled along far behind. "Sheep" won the race and purse; time 2:17.


There are some things that kept running through my mind while looking through the city of Carson, and considering the peculiarities of its site, that I cannot refrain from jotting down here, though not coming strictly under the head of the Fair. However, they were suggested by improvements made on the Plaza in preparing for the holding of the Fair, and may, therefore, be considered as one of its legitimate fruits. I think that every person who attended the Fair must have been most forcibly struck with the great improvement made in the appearance of the Plaza by the planting of evergreens on it in front of and about the Pavilion; this first led me to consider the site of the town and the many advantages its location afforded for making it one of the prettiest and pleasantest cities on the Eastern Slope. Situated on a wide, and almost level, plain, at but a short distance from the eastern base of the Sierras, with numerous fine mountain streams tumbling down the hills behind it, Carson might have every street as well supplied with ditches of water as are those of Salt Lake City. The water from these ditches might be made to cause a thousand gardens in the city to "bloom as the rose." At no very great expense, the water of one of the mountain streams near by might be brought upon the Plaza in pipes, and used to supply fountains in various parts of the grounds; about these fountains willows and plats of flowers might be planted, which, with a liberal sprinkling of cottonwood and other trees in various parts, would make it a far prettier place than the "Willows," near San Francisco. With some such improvements Carson would be apt to attract nearly all the wealthy men owning mines and mills, or doing business in this part of the Territory - they would all wish to reside in or near so pretty and pleasant a place. If the Plaza was turned into a park as pleasant and beautiful as it might be made, it would soon become a general place of resort on Saturdays and Sundays for all the young people, and pleasure seekers in general, of all the neighboring towns and cities. If the present Pavilion is allowed to stand where it is, it should be raised at least six to eight feet higher than it is by putting under it some kind of basement; then, with a broad flight of steps at the entrance of each wing, it would be a really imposing edifice, and one that would at once elicit the admiration of every stranger passing through the town. Mr. Curry, one of the most public-spirited men in Carson, has already put a beautiful and substantial fence around the Plaza, and has offered to build a fountain that will throw a stream some twenty-five feet high, provided the Water Company, now about supplying water to the city, would furnish the amount of water needed. The people of Carson have, as I remarked above, the foundations for the handsomest city on the Eastern Slope, and the fault will lie with themselves if they don't make it such.


I have not yet been able to obtain the exact amount of all the receipts of the Fair, and will therefore defer all mention of sums. The receipts in full will shortly be obtained and published; I may, however, say that I heard it stated that the receipts would be much more than adequate to the liquidation of all outstanding liabilities of the Society, and that the $2,000 appropriated by the Legislature could be allowed to stand over untouched for the Fair of next year. A number of the members of the Society have acted most generously, and done much toward contributing to the financial success of the institution. Theodore Winters in the start donated the Society $200; afterwards he presented to the Society all his winnings, amounting to $225, and has in various other ways aided the institution to near the amount of $1,000. The owners of the Carson Race Course, as I took occasion to mention in a former letter, acted in the most liberal and handsome manner by the Society, in giving them the free use of all their grounds and buildings, to say nothing of the fact of their having worked all the week like Trojans for the success of the Fair. Mr. Gillespie, the Secretary, and many other officers of the Society, labored day and night during the progress of the exhibition, that nothing might be left undone that could further the plans or aid the triumphant result of an institution which too many had predicted would die in an inglorious fizzle. But we have no "fizzle" to chronicle. We have not, it is very true, made the grandest display of the kind ever seen on the Pacific Coast, but there have been much worse. We came to the exhibition, many of us, with a feeling of dubiousness in our hearts - half ashamed to tell where we were going, even when on the way. When we came away, we felt quite proud, held up our heads, and said we'd "been to the Fair!" We have most of us been dwellers in the mountains and delvers in the mines, and knew little of the agricultural capacity of our valleys; we had rather supposed that we should be obliged always to look to California for our supplies of such articles of farm produce as we might need; but we have now had a faint glimpse of what may be done upon our soil, and feel no hesitancy in calling upon all who wish to till the earth in a land where the soil yields a bountiful return, and the best market in the world is open at the door of the cultivator, to come and occupy the land lying ready and free for all settlers. All who are now engaged in the cultivation of the soil of Washoe, and were present at the exhibition - and even those who only hear of it from the reports going forth - will now go to work in greater earnestness and with more confidence. Especially will this be the case with those contemplating fruit culture; and we shall expect soon to see orchards in all our valleys and vineyards gracing the slopes of all our hills.

[reprinted in Mark Twain of the Enterprise, edited by Henry Nash Smith, (Univ. of California Press, 1957), pp. 80-86.]

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