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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 82

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About four o’clock we started the long walk up and over the Powell Street hill to my mother’s home. Laboriously I lifted my heavy body up the steep grade. Although I was empty- handed, by this time I was plainly feeling the exhaustion of shock, but my pioneer grandmother, who fifty years before had walked the Isthmus with a baby in her arms, took it in stride without a word of complaint. How I wished later I had taken an armful from my grandmother’s room - ornaments, jewelry, lace. Everything was burned, but at that time we did not dream the fire would reach so far. We stopped on the crest of Nob Hill to look at the blazing sheets of flame and smoke stretching for blocks in two different parts of the city: one wall of fire was in the wholesale district to the east, the other in the south far out Market Street, with, in between, a smaller blaze which had started near the Grand Opera House. Those two great curtains of flame would ultimately join the smaller center fire, creating a conflagration that would sweep everything before it. Dr. Tevis, across the street from our home, had opened his palatial residence to some of the members of the opera company, and from time to time we saw Plancon and Gadski and Melba watching the activity from the veranda. All day long Dr. Tevis’ liveried coachman walked his team of horses, hitched to a Victoria, back and forth in front of the house, prepared to move the distinguished guests farther if the fire should threaten. By six in the evening, our immediate family had assembled at my parents’ home. All gas in the city had been shut off, and every chimney had been shaken down. By order of the police, fires of any kind, whether for cooking or for lighting, were forbidden inside buildings. My father, good camper that he was, prepared a wonderful dinner. An excavation in the next block furnished material for the campfire, and Father broiled steaks bought in the neighborhood, heated canned corn, and made coffee. It was the first food any of us had had that day, and we sat on the curb eating heartily. This might be the last meal we would have for some time. All through the evening we sat on the front porch, watching the crowds surging up over the hill. We could see them plainly by the light from the fire in the city - a sickly yellow flush in the foreground, turning into a red glow in the distance. The crowds were very still: no talk, no banter, no quarreling. At last, about two o’clock, it was decided that I would be safer at the home of Nellie Mason, a lifelong friend of my mother, who lived at the edge of the Presidio. Hugh found an exhausted horse and a cab, and we three women started the seven- mile drive toward the Presidio, carrying the same luggage we had brought from the Palace, together with some treasures of my mother’s, She tied them in sheets and piled the cab high with these laundry- looking



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