The Life and Times of the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise

Start from the beginning

During the years when the nmines were producing most heavily the paper's chief rivals were the Evening Chronicle in Virginia City and the Daily News over the divide at Gold Hill. The Chronicle, which was founded in 1872 and lasted well into the present century ejoyed its largest following in the middle and late 1870s, when it was owned and directed by Denis McCarthy; among its editors during that period was Arthur McEwan, one of the contributors to this symposium. The Gold Hill Daily News was long the personal organ of its owner-editor Alf Doten, whose colorful personality and virorous editorials made it one of the best known political and mining journals in the state. Among others of that period or earlier were the Daily Union,  the Evening Bulliten, and the Daily Trespass in Virginia City, and at Gold Hill, the Daily Morning Message and the People'sTribune.

Nearly all were short-lived, for their prosperity - like that of virtually ever commercial venture on the Comstock - rose and fell with the quality of ore being hoisted to the minheads, and few could survive extended periods of borrasca.

The Enterprise itself was not exempt from that rule. Although during most of its history the paper returned handsome profits to its owners, it too presently came on lean years. For as the richest of the ore bodies one by one were mined out and the big mills closed down, the Comstock towns began a rapid and steady decline. The decline continued year by year until these once populous communities had either disappearwed entirely or - as was the case with Virginia City - were reduced to a block or two of sagging buildings that suggested only remotely the dynaic city that once occupied the spot.

The original Territorial Enterprise ceased publication on Januray 16, 1893, howevcer the paper's prestige was such that its name was used for several other publishing ventures. The first such revival took place less than a year later, and the paper, under a succession of editors, continues until sometime in 1916, when it too gave up on the ghost. Some thirty years later, in March of 1946, a third Terrirtorial Enterprise made its appearance. It lasted only a few months, then left the Comstock without an Enterprise until May 2, 1952, when Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg launched the brightly written Territorial Enterprise & Virginia City News that during the next few years did much to further the town's growing renown as a tourist center. But alas! like its many predecessors, the latest reincarnation of the historic old paper has also suspended publication


1. The story of the Enterprise 

by Dan De Quille

Dan De Quille- his real name was William Wright - was born in Knoc County, Ohio, in 1829, moved to a farm in eastern Iowa 20 years later, and in 1857 continued on to California. After five years of trying, with indifferent success, to support himself as a miner on both sides of the Sierra, he arrived in Virginia City early in 1862 where he found a congenal berth on the Enterprise, He remained a valued member of its editorial staff until the paper suspended publication more than thirty years later. During nearly all that period he was the Enterprise's mining expert, and the probity and sagacity of his day-by-day reports of current activities made him the West's foremost authority on Comstock mines and mining. When young Sam Clemens joined the paper in the summer of 1862 it was Dan De Quille who taught him the editorial ropes. One result of the close friendship that sprang up between the two was that it was Mark Twain's house in Hartford, Conn., that he wrote The History of the Big Bonanza, the book by which he is remembered today. Dan's belief in the future of the Comstock was such that even after all the important mines had shut down and the most of the miners had gone elsewhere, he remained on. It was notuntil the late 1890s that that he left the disintegrating town. He died at West Liberty, Iowa, in 1898.

The Territorial Enterprise was started as a weekly newspaper in the town of Genoa, Douglas County, in the region of the county then known as Western Utah, in 1858, by Jernegan & James. Alfred James was the brother of the late J.E. James, the civil and mining engineer, and John James, also dead, who was prominent in Nevada politics in the Territorial days. The first number of the paper appeared on Saturday, December 18, 1858, about eight months before the discovery of silver. At that time Genoa (first known as Mormon Station) was a place of about 200 inhabitants - the largest town in the country.

The Life and Times of the Virginia City Territorial EnterpriseWhere stories live. Discover now