Roughing It - Chapter 34


Roughing It - Chapter 34
About Carson—General Buncombe—Hyde vs. Morgan—How Hyde Lost His Ranch- -The Great Landslide Case—The Trial—General Buncombe in Court—A Wonderful Decision—A Serious Afterthought

A practical joke played on "an emigrant".


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Submitted by scott on

From: Scott Holmes
To: Twain-L
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2013 13:07:51 -0700

I'm just curious if this was something that actually occurred or just
another stretcher from Twain's imagination. I know that at least a few
Twain-L subscribers have more than a passing knowledge of the history of
Nevada Territories and its early statehood. (Chapter 34 from Roughing

Re: Hyde vs Morgan
From: Harriet Smith
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2013 14:01:10 -0700

In the Mark Twain Project's edition of Roughing It(UC Press, 1993), the
explanatory notes for chapter 34 (on pp 631-32) explain the historical
background of the "Landslide Case" sketch, and refer the reader to
additional sources. "Nevada tradition and internal evidence suggest that
the mock trial, intended as an elaborate practical joke on Bunker
("Buncombe"), actually took place in Carson City sometime during the
first two weeks of February 1862, before the courts began their regular
session on 17 February (632, n. 223.18-19).
Harriet Smith, MTP editor

Re: Hyde vs Morgan
From: Robert E Stewart
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2013 18:41:35 -0400 (10/13/2013 03:41:35 PM )

Aaah, my fellow Twainiacs, Hyde vs. Morgan is one of Twain's better
stretchers. Fiction from start to finish. But like the "Genuine Mexican Plug"
(Tom Nye's "razor-back" horse of an Enterprise letter) not without a general sort of source.

At some unknown date in the wayback machine, a huge piece of a mountain did
slide down into Washoe valley, creating what is called "Slide Mountain."
The huge gouge stands out today. It is a cliff above a broad valley of the
sort that hang gliders love.

From time to time, slides do still occur, and one during the 1850s damaged
the overland trail branch down from the Truckee River route. There were
also notorious snowslides that piled snow deep at the base of the slide. Most
recently, the failure of a small dam in the 1983 caused a major slide there.

According to Myra Ratay in Pioneers of the Ponderosa, Dick Hyde was Dick
Sides, who, she says, lived at Franktown, well south of the slide. Dick
Morgan was fictional if the Census is any authority.

I think Twain chose the name "Hyde" because of Mormon leader Orson Hyde
and the Mormon settlers who lived at Washoe City, north of the slide detritus
area, and were recalled to Salt Lake City well before the Clemens brothers
arrived. There was no major earth movement there during Sam's stay in
Nevada, and definitely none that resulted in a lawsuit with the clever beauty
of Twain's Hyde vs. Morgan. Probate Judge Orson Hyde laid his Mormon curse
on the valley in 1857 before returning to the City of Saints. I used to
commute through the valley daily, and in winter we would occasionally joke about
being subjected to Hyde's curse when the snow was a small blizzard making
the freeway through the middle of the valley hazardous chains-only driving.
Marion Ellison's book of the Carson County Utah Territory court cases has
no mention of such a lawsuit, and her husband, Bob, the go-to guy on early
Carson County, UT, People and History (Bob and Marion are both Mormon)
agrees it is a fabrication, perhaps Twain bringing Hyde into the book, and
taking a poke at Atty. Gen. Benjamin B. Bunker, who Lincoln removed from
office in June, 1863 for non-attention to duty and frequent absence from the

Bob Ellison and I have both looked for California newspaper (
references to a mock trial, &c. Present day Nevada historians [names and
example on request] agree that Effie Mona Mack, cited in the notes in Mark
Twain Project's edition of Roughing It [UC Press, 1993], is not a good
source for any serious scholar, though her students loved her.
Bob Stewart

Re: Hyde vs Morgan
From: Barbara Schmidt
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2013 18:49:04 -0500 (10/13/2013 04:49:04 PM )

_The Great Landslide Case By Mark Twain: Three Versions_ with
editorial comment by Frederick Anderson and Edgar M. Branch published
by Friends of the Bancroft Library, University of California (1972) is
also a good source for further insight into the story.