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26 June, 2013
Mark Twain, A Biography Vol III, Part 2: 1907 - 1910
Appendix C: Mark Twain's Empire City Hoax
by Paine, Albert Bigelow


(See Chapter xli)

THE LATEST SENSATION

A Victim to Jeremy Diddling Trustees--He Cuts his Throat from Ear to Ear, Scalps his Wife, and Dashes Out the Brains of Six Helpless Children!

From Abram Curry, who arrived here yesterday afternoon from Carson, we learn the following particulars concerning a bloody massacre which was committed in Ormsby County night before last. It seems that during the past six months a man named P. Hopkins, or Philip Hopkins, has been residing with his family in the old log-house just at the edge of the great pine forest which lies between Empire City and Dutch Nick's. The family consisted of nine children--five girls and four boys--the oldest of the group, Mary, being nineteen years old, and the youngest, Tommy, about a year and a half. Twice in the past two months Mrs. Hopkins, while visiting Carson, expressed fears concerning the sanity of her husband, remarking that of late he had been subject to fits of violence, and that during the prevalence of one of these he had threatened to take her life. It was Mrs. Hopkins's misfortune to be given to exaggeration, however, and but little attention was given to what she said.

About 10 o'clock on Monday evening Hopkins dashed into Carson on horseback, with his throat cut from ear to ear, and bearing in his hand a reeking scalp, from which the warm, smoking blood was still dripping, and fell in a dying condition in front of the Magnolia saloon. Hopkins expired, in the course of five minutes, without speaking. The long, red hair of the scalp he bore marked it as that of Mrs. Hopkins. A number of citizens, headed by Sheriff Gasherie, mounted at once and rode down to Hopkins's house, where a ghastly scene met their eyes. The scalpless corpse of Mrs. Hopkins lay across the threshold, with her head split open and her right hand almost severed from the wrist. Near her lay the ax with which the murderous deed had been committed. In one of the bedrooms six of the children were found, one in bed and the others scattered about the floor. They were all dead. Their brains had evidently been dashed out with a club, and every mark about them seemed to have been made with a blunt instrument. The children must have struggled hard for their lives, as articles of clothing and broken furniture were strewn about the room in the utmost confusion. Julia and Emma, aged respectively fourteen and seventeen, were found in the kitchen, bruised and insensible, but it is thought their recovery is possible. The eldest girl, Mary, must have sought refuge, in her terror, in the garret, as her body was found there frightfully mutilated, and the knife with which her wounds had been inflicted still sticking in her side. The two girls Julia and Emma, who had recovered sufficiently to be able to talk yesterday morning, declare that their father knocked them down with a billet of wood and stamped on them. They think they were the first attacked. They further state that Hopkins had shown evidence of derangement all day, but had exhibited no violence. He flew into a passion and attempted to murder them because they advised him to go to bed and compose his mind.

Curry says Hopkins was about forty-two years of age, and a native of western Pennsylvania; he was always affable and polite, and until very recently no one had ever heard of his ill-treating his family. He had been a heavy owner in the best mines of Virginia and Gold Hill, but when the San Francisco papers exposed our game of cooking dividends in order to bolster up our stocks he grew afraid and sold out, and invested an immense amount in the Spring Valley Water Company, of San Francisco. He was advised to do this by a relative of his, one of the editors of the San Francisco Bulletin, who had suffered pecuniarily by the dividend- cooking system as applied to the Daney Mining Company recently. Hopkins had not long ceased to own in the various claims on the Comstock lead, however, when several dividends were cooked on his newly acquired property, their water totally dried up, and Spring Valley stock went down to nothing. It is presumed that this misfortune drove him mad, and resulted in his killing himself and the greater portion of his family. The newspapers of San Francisco permitted this water company to go on borrowing money and cooking dividends, under cover of which the cunning financiers crept out of the tottering concern, leaving the crash to come upon poor and unsuspecting stockholders, without offering to expose the villainy at work. We hope the fearful massacre detailed above may prove the saddest result of their silence.

II

NEWS-GATHERING WITH MARK TWAIN

Alfred Doten's son gives the following account of a reporting trip made by his father and Mark Twain, when the two were on Comstock papers:

My father and Mark Twain were once detailed to go over to Como and write up some new mines that had been discovered over there. My father was on the Gold Hill News. He and Mark had not met before, but became promptly acquainted, and were soon calling each other by their first names.

They went to a little hotel at Carson, agreeing to do their work there together next morning. When morning came they set out, and suddenly on a corner Mark stopped and turned to my father, saying:

"By gracious, Alf! Isn't that a brewery?"

"It is, Mark. Let's go in."

They did so, and remained there all day, swapping yarns, sipping beer, and lunching, going back to the hotel that night.

The next morning precisely the same thing occurred. When they were on the same corner, Mark stopped as if he had never been there before, and sand:

"Good gracious, Alf ! Isn't that a brewery?"

"It is, Mark. Let's go in."

So again they went in, and again stayed all day.

This happened again the next morning, and the next. Then my father became uneasy. A letter had come from Gold Hill, asking him where his report of the mines was. They agreed that next morning they would really begin the story; that they would climb to the top of a hill that overlooked the mines, and write it from there.

But the next morning, as before, Mark was surprised to discover the brewery, and once more they went in. A few moments later, however, a man who knew all about the mines--a mining engineer connected with them--came in. He was a godsend. My father set down a valuable, informing story, while Mark got a lot of entertaining mining yarns out of him.

Next day Virginia City and Gold Hill were gaining information from my father's article, and entertainment from Mark's story of the mines.

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