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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
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.
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
"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.