In addition to his daily entries in his diaries, Alf Doten also wrote a regular column in the form of letters to his home town newspaper, The Plymouth Rock, summarizing his Western experiences for Massachusetts readers. He began this practice in 1854 when he was mining in Calaveras County, California and ended it in 1867 when he was working long hours as a reporter for local papers in Virginia City and journalism had become his profession. He published a total of 93 letters that began “Dear Rock.” Eighty of the letters originated in California, with 13 from Nevada. After his first 50 letters, Doten began numbering a “new series,” beginning with NS1 and ending with NS43.0. He saved the clippings for 81 of the letters, and for the rest, he saved his handwritten drafts. Two photostat copies of missing clippings were added to the collection later. The letters were transcribed during the process of editing Doten’s journals for publication in the 1960s, and Walter Van Tilburg Clark included 42 of them in their entirety within the three-volume publication. For most of the rest, Clark included summaries or partial transcriptions. We now present a complete and searchable archive of the entire collection of transcripts of Doten’s letters to The Plymouth Rock, alongside the clippings or handwritten originals. Our assistant Challen Wright digitized the clippings and prepared the transcripts for the project. We hope this online collection will be useful to researchers of the West as the region unfolded during a pivotal time.
Virginia Daily Union
August, 1863 - September, 1864
After moving to the very small mining town of Como, Nevada, in the summer of 1863, Alf Doten signed on with the Virginia Daily Union newspaper as a correspondent, writing a regular column in the form of letters to the newspaper. As a leading figure in the town, he was in a good position to chronicle the boom times of Como. As an officer in several mining companies and the superintendent of a small mine, Doten used his journalism to to promote the emerging mining industry in his new community. This series of articles provide a personalized insider’s view of history of an important settlement in Nevada Territory. When the mines didn’t live up to their promise and the local economy began to fall apart, Doten accepted a job as a reporter for the Virginia Daily Union and moved to Virginia City where he had been making new friends, including Mark Twain.
San Francisco Herald
March, 1869 - October, 1869
During 1869, Alf Doten was a very active journalist, serving as the Associate Editor of the Gold Hill news and submitting articles frequently to other local papers. For more than 8 months that year he was a regular “Special Correspondent” for the San Francisco Herald, providing reports in his letters/columns of the goings-on in Virginia City, which by then was a bustling metropolis. Doten's diary entries were brief during that period, and these clippings of version of the news and cultural events are insights into his life and times as he honed his journalistic skills.
February, 1883 - January, 1885
Alf Doten wrote for the Territorial Enterprise, the largest and most successful newspaper in Virginia City, sporadically from the time he moved to the Comstock in 1864 until the end of his life, as a freelancer and briefly as a “local reporter.” He also filled in for Dan De Quille at times when De Quille was detoxing from alcohol. After a great deal of financial and professional success as the publisher of the Gold Hill News, Doten’s fortunes took a very bad turn in late 1882, resulting in his family’s move in 1883 to Austin, Nevada, a more prosperous town where he might have more opportunities. They stayed for less than two years, but during that time Doten wrote 73 columns, “From Eastern Nevada” that were published in the Enterprise. It was his only steady work, and he gave it his best writing about daily life in Austin, a much smaller and quieter place than Virginia City. If nothing interesting was happening, he fantasized a bit, using fictional characters that typified (but exaggerated) the types of citizens of his new home. This series provides a wealth of information about Austin during the early 1880s