NV earthquakes damage house where Twain frittered away fortune

Kurt Hildebrand
Damage to Nine-Mile Ranch House done by an earthquake swarm on Wednesday.
John Bingham |

MINERAL COUNTY, Nev. — A Mineral County ranch house where famous Comstock writer Mark Twain spent nine days caring for a sick man instead of proving up a mining claim was damaged in Wednesday’s earthquake swarm.

Nine-Mile Ranch House is located a few miles from the epicenter of dozens of earthquakes that occurred southwest of Hawthorne, Nev., early Wednesday morning.

According to Topaz Ranch Estates resident John Bingham, the structure was severely damaged by the earthquakes, which included three that exceeded magnitude 5.0.

Located northeast of Aurora, the ranch house is near the confluence of Rough and Bodie creeks, a few miles north of where Samuel Clemens was seeking his fortune in the mining camp of Aurora, then the second largest in the Nevada territory.

According to “Roughing It,” Twain and a partner had discovered what he called a promising mine and had 10 days to work it to prove up their claim.

Instead of working on the mine, Clemens went north to help care for Capt. John Nye, brother to Territorial Gov. James Nye, who was ill at Nine-Mile Ranch.

Meanwhile, his partner had also left Aurora, so that when the two returned to check on their claim, the 10 days had expired.

Clemens left Aurora in 1862 to work at the Territorial Enterprise where he adopted the pseudonym that would make him famous.

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