Up at sunrise & started for “the City.” Made about 22 miles & camped. Breakfasted on corned beef which one of our party got from the horsemen. A small piece left for dinner. Arrived in “the City” at about 5 o'clock, having had some difficulty in getting through the Toll Gate, as the toll was $10 and we had “nary a red [cent].” Very faint, weak, weary, and homesick. Had only $2 in my pocket. Reached the top of the divide and instead of seeing a city I saw nothing but a collection of log cabins constituting the city of Nevada. Descending the hill with our horses on the run we crossed the gulch and entered Nevada, driving through the only business street the place affords. Our spirits were not improved by noticing that almost every other store we passed was “To Rent.” After driving about 2 miles along the gulch we suddenly came upon Virginia City situated on both sides of the gulch. The stores are of a much superior order to those in Nevada City and half a doz. of them are very fine looking buildings. “Everybody and his cousin” here seems to live in a log cabin and mud roof. Our boys are all broke and I, having only $2 to stand me a month, we were a hungry looking set. One of them borrowed some money from a friend, however, and we went to an eating saloon and filled ourselves, a process of half to three quarters of an hour duration. I felt decidedly famished, not having had a square meal in four days. Sent my horse out to a ranch owned by Cook & Co. at a cost of $3.00 a month. Slept in the dirt in the Saddle & Harness room of Cook's & Co.'s stable. Went to bed early as I felt sick. This is a very dull, desolate looking place. Did not find Johnny Van Ness here as I expected, which added considerable color to the Blues which I had.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Here's another excerpt from the diary of James Knox Polk Miller. The entry, dated June 6, 1865, recounts his arrival in the booming mining camps of Nevada City and Virginia City: