Ten Years in Nevada: Or, Life on the Pacific Coast

Synopsis

Virginia City, Nevada, was "between bonanza and borrasca" when Mary McNair Mathews and her young son went there in 1869 to investigate the murder of her brother and sort out his affairs. The widow from Buffalo, New York, stayed in the West for almost ten years. Out of that time came these reminiscences of life in Nevada and California mining towns, including Virginia City, Gold Hill, Silver City, Sutro, You Bet, Nevada City, and Red Dog.

These pages reveal a proud, independent-minded woman, eccentric and sometimes bigoted. Not without a social conscience, she helped the unemployed and fought intemperance and child abuse. In a hard place, Mary Mathews survived by sewing and keeping lodgers, finally improving her lot by investing her earnings from mining stock in real estate. Ten Years in Nevada is a rare portrait of a businesswoman and small-scale entrepreneur on the frontier.

As Mary Lee and Clark C. Spence point out in their foreword, "Her presence in Virginia City belies the old idea that women went west only with their husbands or as prostitutes or school teachers." How mary Mathews, in many respects an ordinary middle-class woman, responded to everyday problems in a rich, rough mining town is "important to understanding what made nineteenth-century America tick."